David Wagoner has won the acclaim of his peers and been compared with some of the most gifted poets in the English language: Emily Dickinson, James Wright, Robert Frost, and Theodore Roethke. The Antioch Review has ascribed to him a profoundly earthbound sanity, while Publishers Weekly' credits him with a plain-spoken formal virtuosity and a ...
David Wagoner has won the acclaim of his peers and been compared with some of the most gifted poets in the English language: Emily Dickinson, James Wright, Robert Frost, and Theodore Roethke. The Antioch Review has ascribed to him a profoundly earthbound sanity, while Publishers Weekly' credits him with a plain-spoken formal virtuosity and a consistent, pragmatic clarity of perception. His collections have garnered Poetry's Levinson and Union League Prizes, the Ruth Lilly Prize, and nominations for the American Book Award and the National Book Award. For his most recent collection, Walt Whitman Bathing', Wagoner was honored with the Ohioana Book Award in this category of poetry. Witty, eloquent, and insightful, Traveling Light offers new and familiar treasures from a master observer of both the natural and the human worlds. In a style by turns direct and intricate, Wagoner distills the essential emotions from people's encounters with each other, with nature, and with themselves. Through his compassionate but unblinking eyes, we see ourselves and the world that surrounds us more sharply delineated.
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Publishers Weekly, 1999-06-28 William Carlos Williams's dictum "No ideas but in things" has always been inspirational for Wagoner, but always run through his particular wrench: "You've learned what you can about this watery sky,/ Its rearrangement of your slight reflections,/ Its turmoil" declares the speaker of "By a River." While Wagoner can usually be found writing about a familiar range of topics?his native Midwest, the environmentalist concerns of his adopted Northwest (loggers and hunters are main targets), romantic love, and nature's evocation of intimacy, wonder and alienation?his imaginative scope is never confined by his preoccupations. In a manner similar to another steady American, Robert Penn Warren, he's mastered the poetic sequence ("Landscapes"; "Traveling Light"), and in a series on his late father, a steel-mill worker, he colloquially recalls his own sympathetic gestures: "I shook the dying and dead/ Ashes down through the grate/ And, with firetongs, hauled out clinkers/ Like the vertebrae of monsters." Early poems are crammed with advice on surviving life in the woods: campsites will seem "deeply, starkly appealing/ Like a lost home"; a bear "may feel free/ To act out all his own displeasures with a vengeance." Such lessons yield to a sense of physical fragility in the septuagenarian poet: the title poem to the award-winning Walt Whitman Bathing imagines the aging American bard dancing "A few light steps, his right leg leading the way/ Unsteadily but considerately for the left/ As if with an awkward partner." Whether recognizing that the dead "have no need of us" or that a maple's "roots seem/ Barely supple and springy enough, if bent/ From their set ways, to keep from breaking," Wagoner's newest efforts continue to find what it takes for Williams' "things" to become metaphorical. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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