"The Essential Poems of Jim Harrison is distilled from nearly 1,000 poems that appeared in fourteen volumes--from visionary lyrics and meditative suites to shape-shifting ghazals and prose-poem letters. Teeming throughout these pages are Harrison's legendary passions and appetites, his meditations, rages, and love-songs to the natural world. The New York Times concluded a review from early in Harrison's career with a provocative quote: 'This is poetry worth loving, hating, and fighting over, a subjective mirror of our American days and needs.' That sentiment still holds true, as Jim Harrison's essential poems continue to call for our fiercest attention"--
I have always considered his poetry to be, over the course of his life, uneven. Part of that is the typical element of time changing both the poet and his approaches. That said, there is far more here of interest, even when some are taken out of the context of the larger initial collections of which they were a part of a larger work. Don't be fooled by blustery "reviewers" and, here is the joke, "critics" who seem to judge entire poems, if not entire oeuvres, on the pithiness of solitary lines taken out of context and form. But in their minds they know best, though those are mighty small minds. Methinks jealousy creeps in on these wannabes, but they have opinions like the rest of us, they just happen to smell a bit more.
If you're more familiar with Harrison's prose work you will find a great deal of similarity between the two. Flow and subject matter are fairly consistent between both, even in his essays to a smaller degree.
I am hesitant to recommend poetry as sweepingly as I do fiction or nonfiction. People read poetry for so many different reasons. I would recommend finding a few of Harrison's poems and reading them. If they sound like a mindset you'd like to explore, this book would be an excellent next step. Some of his collections really need to be read in their entirety to appreciate, so the next step might be to find those volumes after reading this broader, career-spanning collection.
Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via Edelweiss.