cover image In Search of Small Gods

In Search of Small Gods

Jim Harrison, . . Copper Canyon, $22 (87pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-300-0

Harrison (Legends of the Fall ) has over decades won a durable following for verse and fiction about the wild places, solitudes and the exhilarations of the American West. This 12th book of verse gives familiar, quotable rural pleasures—solitude, ease, forests and big skies—along with a new focus on the poet's advancing years. “I keep waiting without knowing/ what I'm waiting for,” Harrison says in “Age Sixty-Nine”; in that waiting, he adds, “on local earth my heart/ is at rest as a groundling.” In low-pressure free verse, and in the prose poems that make up half the volume, Western American landscapes and beasts soar and roam off the page. (Mexican places and people, unfortunately, do not: they are leaden stereotypes.) People, for Harrison, are beasts as well, “marine organisms at the bottom of the ocean/ of air.” Paying homage to instinct, loyalty, memory and a companionable ferocity, Harrison finds his best subjects, often enough, in dogs. “I know dog language fairly well,” he explains, “but then dogs hold a little back from us because we don't know their secret names given them by the dog gods.” “Barking” brings the poet closer to the canine kingdom still: “I was a dog on a short chain,” he complains, “and now there's no chain.” (Apr.)