Monday, March 28, 2016

Au revoir, Jim Harrison

I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend. We did, except that mine was marred yesterday when I learned of the death of Jim Harrison, a poet and writer whose work I enjoyed and admired. Although Harrison's first book of poetry was published while I was an undergraduate, I had completed my baccalaureate degree in English a short time before Harrison's first novel was published, so I never studied him in college. In fact, I was late to the party in "discovering" Harrison's writing and was more of a fan of his poetry than his fiction. Had the timing been slightly different, I've no doubt his zest for living and writing would have made him someone I'd have aspired to model myself after. His descriptions of place(s) were crafted in a way that reminded you of what it was like when you were there or made you want to get there and see if yourself what it was like.



Harrison collaborated with another of my favorite poets, Ted Kooser, on the book Braided Creek, A Conversation in Poetry, in which there are no attributions for individual poems. "This book is an assertion in favor of poetry and against credentials." That sentence, plus their individual talent and craftsmanship and depth of friendship, tells almost all you need to know about why I will miss Harrison and am grateful we still have Kooser with us. In fact, my spirits were heartened yesterday, when, after having learned that Harrison had walked on, I saw a notice that Lawrence Ferlinghetti, yet another of my favorites, had recently turned 97 in San Francisco. I can only hope that next time around I get to live as robustly as Harrison, as wisely as Kooser and as long as Ferlinghetti. I may even work on some of that this time around.

As far as I know, Harrison's major linkage to Minnesota is based on his fans here and the fact that he no doubt would have fit in almost anywhere in rural Minnesota. "The grandson of farmers, and son of an agricultural extension agent, Harrison grew up in small Michigan towns — Grayling, Reed City, Haslett — where he developed a love of books and a primal bond with the outdoors, "bone- and marrow-deep."

In Memoriam, please enjoy these brief excerpts from:

BRAIDED CREEK
A Conversation in Poetry


To have reverence for life
you must have reverence for death.
The dogs we love are not taken from us
but leave when summoned by the gods.

You asked, What makes you sure?
I have the faith of the blind,
I answered.

I hope there's time
for this and that, and not just this.

Buddhists say everything is led by mind.
My doubts are healed by drinking
a bottle of red wine in thirty-three minutes.

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