cover image Songs of Unreason

Songs of Unreason

Jim Harrison. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $22 (140p) ISBN 978-1-55659-389-5

It wouldn’t be a Harrison collection without the poet, novelist, and food critic’s reverence for rivers, dogs, and women, but that’s not to say Harrison has grown stale or uninteresting in his late poems. Often, as in “A Part of My History,” which finds the poet tracking the ghost of García Lorca through Granada, his poems stun us simply, with the richness of the clarity, detail, and the immediacy of Harrison’s voice. “We visited the site of the murder, drank a little wine,” he writes, “and I stared at the Sierra Nevada/ glistening with snow that was somehow somber as/ the jewelry of the dead.” Pushing his formal boundaries, Harrison closes the collection with the meditative “Suite of Unreason,” a piece that boils down his sharp, epigrammatic lines into a sequence of fist-pumping short poems. But it also wouldn’t be a Harrison poem without the hard melancholy that has come to define his voice. The beauty of Harrison’s suite is that it allows the same voice that tells us “I will sing even with my tongue sliced/ into a fork” to tell us that “the sun forgot to rise/ and for a while no one noticed/ except a few farmers, who shot themselves.” (Oct.)