Thursday, March 3, 2011

Alaska Poet John Haines Dead

He was a sane man. He left much of society behind in favor of homesteading in Alaska's interior, and he wrote great poems about nature. I say that to differentiate great nature poems from great poems about nature. There are writers who show the natural world in all its magnificence (Mary Oliver, sepia-toned) but I find Haines more, well, real. Oliver's poems seem to glorify while Haines tends more to describe, and let you draw your own conclusion. This quote is from a lengthy article in the Contemporary Poetry Review.

John Haines is well known as a writer who has communicated not only his rare experience of homesteading in Alaska, but also a view of modern society as seen from the perspective he gained there. Ever since I discovered Haines’s poetry in an anthology in the late 1980s, I have returned to it many times for its sane values and contemplative intensity. Recently I read for the first time his prose memoir The Stars, the Snow, the Fire (more memoir pieces are in the earlier Living off the Country). I was taken with his economical, clear depictions of hunting, trapping, building, and surviving in Alaska, where he lived on and off for twenty-five years, of the land and the plants and animals around him, about which he seems to know every feature, habit, and use. What a fascinating, enviable life he led at the Richardson homestead, north of Fairbanks. More.

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