cover image FOR THE CENTURY'S END: Poems 1990–1999

FOR THE CENTURY'S END: Poems 1990–1999

John Haines, . . Univ. of Washington, $25 (104pp) ISBN 978-0-295-98145-1

The severe, ecology-minded Haines has long been known for verse and memoirs about the Alaskan wild, where he made his home for over a decade: volumes like The Stars, the Snow, the Fire and News from the Glacier garnered him a loyal audience and a passel of awards. Fans will expect the now Missoula, Mont.–based Haines's new poems to offer a gritty spirituality and a deep sense of nature: they'll find what they seek in the book's first sections, which enact a mystical quest: "I leave my house to the creditor wind," Haines declares, to "descend, deep into rootland," pitting "this blind human craving" against unyielding earth. The book then considers Western society, politics and technology in tones that suggest that Haines knows all are doomed. The long sequence "In the Wax Museum" presents history as "pride, and stupor of evil"— from "a man…hanged at Damascus Gate/ with a hook through his gut" to Nixon, who "steps towards us,/ as if to greet a voter." After such knowledge, Haines has no trouble imagining post-nuclear or post-apocalyptic worlds, with "children wandering from one/ burned suburb to another." These well-made and vivid visions filter the perspective of Jeremiah through a stringent three-beat metric reminiscent of Stanley Kunitz. By contrast, Haines's more lyrical, more domestic poems can seem less strongly felt. Half in sorrow, half in anger, Haines's attitudes may seem grim: they make, however, for a powerful book. (Dec.)

Forecast:This book, Haines's 14th poetry collection, is the first in UW's Pacific Northwest Poetry Series, edited by poet Linda Bierds (The Seconds). Expect excellent sales from Alaska to California; national review attention is possible given that this is Haine's first full-length collection of all new work since 1990.