Synopses & Reviews
"Wagoner's words are a living link to the world, enacting it so vitally that they feel like natural facts."The Seattle Times
In his twenty-fourth book of poetry, David Wagoner reflects on youth, love, regret, and expectation versus reality. Here a master writes at top form, back-dropped by life's curious moments and imagining Jesus as an untidy roommate or considering our final destination in "Beginner's Guide to Death."
"After the Point of No Return"
After that moment when you've lost all reason
for going back where you started, when going ahead
is no longer a Yes or No, but a matter of fact,
you'll need to weigh, on the one hand, what will seem,
on the other, almost nothing against something
slightly more than nothing and must choose
again and again, at points of fewer and fewer
chances to guess, when and which way to turn.
That's when you might stop thinking about stars
and storm clouds, the direction of wind,
the difference between rain and snow, the time
of day or the lay of the land, about which trees
mean water, which birds know what you need
to know before it's too late, or what's right here
under your feet, no longer able to tell you
where it was you thought you had to go.
David Wagoner is the author of two dozen books of poetry and ten novels. A longtime teacher at University of Washington, he was the editor at Poetry Northwest. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
"In his latest collection, Wagoner riffs on his titles 'My Father's Body,' 'Driving,' 'Playground,' 'What the Marine Biologist Told Me' delving deep into particular subjects. In 'Orpheus Practicing,' we are treated to just that: the oft-poeticized musician 'after he'd strung the turtle shell with catgut... deciding which of the strings to pluck.' Wagoner occasionally sounds an off note, as when describing a 'homeless drinking man,' whom Wagoner advises to make 'a house/ out of the blizzard itself.' The poems that prevail are the ones in which Wagoner throws a kink into the expectation that forms when one reads his titles. 'On the Road' tracks a caravan of overindulgent wisdom-seekers whose ambitions are as nervy as the poetry with which Wagoner renders them: 'we'd filled the moat as high as the first drains of the palace/ that should have had a prince and a princess and a king and a queen/ waiting for us inside it, showing us how to be wise, but didn't.' It's here that Wagoner pushes past the subject of his titles into a place of real urgency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
David Wagoners study of American nostalgias is as eloquent as that of James Wright.” Harold Bloom
About the Author
David Wagoner: David Wagoner, often referred to as the leading poet of the Pacific Northwest, was born in Ohio and raised in Indiana. Before moving to Washington in 1954, Wagoner attended Pennsylvania State University where he was a member of the Naval ROTC and received an M.A. in English from Indiana University. Wagoner was selected to serve as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1978, replacing Robert Lowell, and he served as the editor of Poetry Northwest until its last issue in 2002. Known for his dedication to teaching, he was named a professor emeritus at the University of Washington. Wagoner has been compared stylistically to his longtime teacher and friend, Theodore Roethke.