Synopses & Reviews
Surrender to a wild river and unexpected things can happen. Time on the water can produce moments of pristine clarity or hatch wild thoughts, foster a deep connection with the real world or summon the spiritual.
River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir is centered in one manand#8217;s meditations and revelations while traveling on a river. John Morgan spent a week traveling the Copper River in Southcentral Alaska, and the resulting encounters form the heart of this book-length poem. The riverand#8217;s shifting landscape enriches the poemand#8217;s meditative mood while currents shape the poem and the pacing of its lines. The mystic poet Kabir is Morganand#8217;s internal guide and serves as a divine foil through quiet stretches that bring to mind questions about war and human nature. Artwork by distinguished Alaska artist Kesler Woodward is a sublime companion to the text.
A combination of adventurerand#8217;s tale and spiritual quest, River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir takes the reader on a soulful journey that is both deeply personal and profoundly universal.
[In Ammons's poetry] the scientific world is beautifully in balance with the perceptual one. (Helen Vendler)
A Coast of Trees represents A. R. Ammons at his strongest and most eloquent in the lyric mode. (Harold Bloom)
andldquo;A journey by raft down the Copper River becomes the source of this meditative poem set in the Alaska wilderness and against the backdrop of the Iraq War. Kabir is the poetandrsquo;s interior companion, lively and loquacious, prodding him to acknowledge 'a past / that had lost its way' and a present in which personal loss and political deceit may be tempered with 'this shifty worldandrsquo;s profane embrace.' Kabir says, 'This worldandhellip; / springs / out of one word and everything / inside that word is full of light.' This poem by one of our finest poets draws upon such incandescent, creation-laden words to reveal the andldquo;authentic wilderness' that flourishes within us and, yes, without us. River of Light dazzles with the pure pleasure of its passage.andrdquo;
andldquo;I love the complexity of experience and voice in River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir.and#160;So many layers hereandmdash;the narrator's experiences on the river trip, Kabir's voice, other folks on the river trip, the war(s) close by and far away, and memories of other places and trips. Most impressive! The free verse lines are spot-on, capturing both the flow and the layering of the journey's breath-taking moments, interactions with others and the natural world, and those sometimes long stretches of time during which the mind wanders wonderfully.andrdquo; and#160;
and#8220;River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir is a book-length poem that takes readers on a weeklong raft trip down a river in southcentral Alaska. Bears, eagles, moose, seals, otters, and salmon inhabit the poemand#8217;s world, and the landscapes shift between glaciers, mountains, rapids, and waterfalls.and#8221;
and#8220;River of Light takes readers down the Copper River in the company of masters. . . . [Woodwardand#8217;s] artwork is a riot of subtlety.and#160;Only someone in full command of his or her powers could fashion this. The paintings and drawings are well-suited to Morganand#8217;s writing, which also exudes subtlety.and#160;Employing understatement and a minimum of words, he does the work of a truly skilled poet, leaving most of the page empty so the reader can fill it in.and#160;Itand#8217;s easy to see why he and Woodward have collaborated.and#160;Their approaches are greatly complementary, and one hopes this will be the first of more joint ventures.and#8221;
"Through precise language and observation, these poems suggest a profound way of living and responding freshly to each day. In addition, the book makes a powerful statement for the preservation of our threatened environment."
“Natural beauty is the essence of what you get from Tom Sexton. ‘The aim of all art,’ another poem wryly says, ‘… is to lead us toward light / even when the artist’s eye is cold or dark.’ These few tightly made lines of verse go to the essence of what philosophers and artists from all the ages have tried millions of words to explain. . . . These poems, like stars, offer extremely well-made flickers of light to whoever tends to look up at the sky rather than downward to the darkness.”
"Sexton is clearly at the top of his game in this book. One senses the hand of a master with pen poised ready to capture wolf, bird, landscape and people and
weave them into zen-like sketches."
Of this volume, the noted critic Harold Bloom has written, " represents A. R. Ammons at his strongest and most eloquent in the lyric mode. The book is an achievement fully comparable to his and . Among the poems likely to assume a permanent place in the Ammonsian (and American) canon are the majestic title lyric and 'Swells,' 'Easter Morning,' 'Keepsake,' 'Givings,' and 'Persistences.' Again Ammons has confirmed his vital continuities with the central Whitmanian tradition of our poetry, and his crucial place in that panoply."
This collection of shorter poems won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1981.
River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir
and#160; is a book-length poem that takes the reader on a week-long raft trip down a wild river in southcentral Alaska. Regional wildlife inhabit the poemand#8217;s world, and the riverand#8217;s shifting landscape energizes and enriches the meditative mood as the riverand#8217;s waves and currents influence the shaping and pacing of its lines. Because the raft trip took place in 2003 during the second Iraq War, war is on the narratorand#8217;s mind; but the trip is a spiritual journey as well, since the poem incorporates commentary by the fifteenth-century Indian mystic poet Kabir, who serves as a kind of mentor for the poemand#8217;s narrator.and#160;
This volume includes artwork by the distinguished Alaska artist Kesler Woodward. Appropriately, the artist, who participated in the original raft trip, appears in the poem.
When watching old men releasing their caged birds at dawn in New York City or a ladder of cranes rising from a field in Manitoba or even willow catkins in Alaska, Sexton is a keen observer of the interconnectedness of the natural and human worlds. Here we meet the wolf of Gubbio when he is old and lame and Li Bai chanting to a Yangtze River dolphin centuries ago, but no matter where he takes us we always come back to the landscape and people of Alaska; to cloudberries in a marsh and a wedding in the village of Ninlichik where he held a crown of gold over the head of the bride. Sexton carefully notes it all in his familiar practice of traditional forms and free verse. The tensions of his formal influences, Chinese and European, force the reader to experience these spare lines and tight observations in new ways.
Whether watching men releasing caged birds at dawn in New York City or a ladder of cranes rising from a field in Manitoba, Tom Sexton is a keen observer of the interconnectedness of the natural and human worlds. The former Alaska poet laureate takes to the road in this new collection, wending a lyrical and at times mystical path between Alaska and New England.
Travelers along the way include the fabled wolf of Gubbio, old and lame and long past his taming encounter with Saint Francis of Assisi, and Chinese poet Li Bai chanting to a Yangtze River dolphin. Yet, while Sextons journey crosses bordersand occasionally centurieshis ultimate destination is always the landscape and people of Alaska. A Ladder of Cranes showcases Sextons mastery of both traditional forms and free verse. The tensions of his formal influences, Chinese and European, force the reader to experience these spare lines and tight observations in stunning new ways.
About the Author
is professor emeritus of English at the University of Alaska Anchorage and was Alaska's Poet laureate from 1994 until 2000. He is the author of several collections of poetry including For the Sake of the Light
and I Think Again of Those Ancient Chinese Poets
, both from the University of Alaska Press.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Chitina, Alaska, July 2003
The Three Worlds
The Cosmic Beast
Amid Mucus and Blood
A God-Like Flame
The Breath Inside the Breath
A River of Light
A Note on Kabir