A collection from one of contemporary American poetry's finest craftsmen
Through birdcalls and ancient songs, rain patter and a child's scribble, the poems inFar-Fetched "sound the empty space / to test how long / how far." They follow the contours of Appalachian hillsides, Missouri river bends, and remote Australian coastlines, tuning language to landscape. They register emotional life with great care; this is a work of fierce and delicate attention to the world. It is also poetry meant to be heard, alert to the pleasures of sound. As August Kleinzahler has observed, "In Devin Johnston's poetry every syllable is alive; the vowels and consonants combine tomake a distinctive, lovely, austere music."
“Sparkling with energy and intelligence, these poems are like chips in a mosaic, spare, hard, precise, and with a classic humanity and grace.” —David Malouf on Sources
“Traveler is Johnston's sixth book, and his fourth poetry collection, followingSources (2008), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. Johnston writes in the long shadow of William Carlos Williams' dictum, "no ideas but in things," but Johnston proves words are things. He is not a dictionary poet, but readers will find that visits to the dictionary are rewarded. The title poem, about the migration of a Blackburnian warbler, includes "pinnate leaves." Pinnate means feather-shaped. So the coincidence of the bird arriving in Johnston's black walnut tree becomes consequential, an excess of meaning unearthed like a fossil from the sediments of English. Even if his subjects are prosaic, Johnston is not a poet of the quotidian: his closely observed poems find meaning at these nerve-endings of word and world. "Iona," the longest poem in the book, includes many uncommon words, as if new geography and geology opened new leaves of fine print. He is one of the finest craftsmen of verse we have.” —Michael Autrey, Booklist (starred) on Traveler
“Devin Johnston takes you with him when he goes down Route M or ambles along the shores of Iona, the sacred island. His anecdotal veneer is studded with a luxurious lexicon . . . Capturing the excitement of new places, Johnston paradoxically stirs up a sense of ease and belonging . . . Johnston pushes sound like few contemporary writers can or care to, producing tensile intensity in columns of lines that scan beautifully . . . Ultimately,Traveler is about life's passages and the quest for identity and community. This gifted wordsmith offers us a precious passport.” —Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, The Brooklyn Rail on Traveler
“This lovely book begins with a survey of land traversed then turns deftly toward the more mysterious journey of a child's birth and early years. A hospital monitor ‘illuminates / the rugged range / of your estate, from deep crevasse / to trackless slopes.' Johnston's images and short lines might tempt some to label him a minimalist, but that would belie the richness of these poems' textures, their cunning rhymes and meters: ‘across an ocean, / skimming foamy paragraphs of Ossian.' No matter where his gaze travels, Johnston evokes the world with the wonder it--and his book--deserves.” —Dave Lucas, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) on Traveler
“There's much to delight in here . . . The sense of reserve in Johnston's poems often serves them well: they are momentary stays against confusion, sensitive to their and our momentariness . . . Whether to ward off a psychotic trance or ride it out, they are worth following, if only to see where they may take us . . . It is good to travel with these poems.” —Scott Challener, The Rumpus on Traveler
“There's a Thoreauvian sense of wandering in all [of Devin Johnston's] prose and poetry -- a wandering over the landscape, language, and history of the United States -- coupled with a mastery of form uncommon in an American poet.” —Tim Ellison,Ploughshares
“'Two poetries are now competing.' Robert Lowell said in 1960, 'a cooked and a raw' . . . Johnston's poems are not merely cooked; they are tenderized, trimmed, aged, gently marinated, then braised until the finished product practically shouts, 'Care has been taken in this preparation!' although Johnston's poetry is so instinctively restrained the shout is more of a charged whisper. 'Far Fetched' is Johnston's fifth poetry collection, and it continues a project that has only gotten more impressive . . . The point is not that the poem is cooked or raw, made or found, but that when we look at it, we believe we see its wings move and its bright body shifting.” —David Orr,New York Times Book Review
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