One of America’s most eminent nature poets, Robert Pack has won the acclaim of writers, critics, and readers from Stephen Jay Gould to Mark Strand. In his latest collection,Laughter Before Sleep, Pack carries on his themes of family and friends, responsibility to the natural world of evolved diversity, the transience of life, the fragility of happiness, and the consolations offered by art and music.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS Is proud to announce the publication of Robert Pack’s new collection of poems, STILL HERE, STILL NOW Robert Pack is one of America’s most eminent nature poets, and his virtuoso talents are on glorious display in Still Here, Still Now, his nineteenth volume of verse. With styles ranging from lyric to narrative, and themes stretching from biblical concerns to meditations on contemporary science, Pack’s poetry is composed in strongly rhythmic cadences and a diction that is direct and accessible.
Ripe with many years, Pack remains a vital presence in American letters. Still Here, Still Now is an affecting and graceful addition to the oeuvre of a poet whose compelling and distinct voice will continue to resonate among his loyal readers.
“I can’t think of anyone else now writing who is so at home with traditional metrics and who controls them so easily and unobtrusively to sound so thoroughly himself. Pack’s poetic powers are at their peak. Still Here, Still Now will appeal to new readers as well as to his faithful followers.”— J. Paul Hunter, editor, The Norton Introduction to Poetry.
“Still Here, Still Now expresses the culmination of Robert Pack’s long engagement with a world of meetings, loss, and memory. For lovers of poetry and the earth it is a treasure.”—John Elder, author of The Frog Run: Words and Wildness in the Vermont Woods.
Robert Pack, Abernethy Professor of Literature and Creative Writing Emeritus at Middlebury College, is currently Distinguished Senior Professor of Humanities at the Honors College of the University of Montana. He is the author of nineteen books of poems, most recently of Elk in Winter, Minding the Sun, and Rounding It out –- all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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This cycle of dramatic monologues in which, unlike soliloquies, one character is talking to another in an intense moment of revealing intimacy, portrays a wide range of personalities in various circumstances and situations. The poems are inter-related so that, for example, a poem in which a father speaks to his son is counter-pointed by a poem in which a son speaks to his father. Though they are not the same father and son, the themes of family conflict and love binds the poems together. In sum, the book presents a complex image, like the branches of a tree, of the human family in its vicissitudes and gratifications. As the novelist John Irving said about this book: “These monologues are riveting because of how much of us they reveal.”
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ELK IN WINTER ranges from elegy to comedy, from lyric expressiveness to narrative definition, in which individual characters are revealed and rendered symbolic by the stories that enclose them. When the poems are spoken by an autobiographical self the longing inherent in memory is brought into a resolving presentness. This book is replete with descriptions of the Montana landscape, its wild-life, forests, and mountains; the sense of place exists in its own right and yet is also experienced as a projection of the mood and mind of the poetic observer. Harold Bloom said of this book: “It is mature, deeply seasoned by the courage to surmount suffering, and wonderfully benign in its exaltation of the common life.”
ROUNDING IT OUT ROUNDING IT OUT is a lyric sequence exploring circularity as a musical principle and as a paradigm of the human experience. The imagistic content of the poems, as well as their structure in four sections—morning, midday, evening, night—recall nature’s primary rhythm of departure and return, and the dust to dust cycle of a completed lifetime. The poems take delight in the sensuousness of language as a defense against mortality and loss.
Donald Justice said of this cycle: “Pack must be the most devoted nature poet left as he surely is the best scientifically informed. Written in a form invented by Pack, the sonnetelle is an ingenious combination of the sonnet and the villanelle.
In MINDING THE SUN Pack muses, replete with his characteristic puns and paradoxes, on art, technology, romantic and marital desire, and the stubborn longing for some kind of transcendence. Yet Pack’s strongest commitment is to the cherishing and protecting our vulnerable planet and the living creatures that share our temporary residence here. The poet A.R. Ammons wrote: In MINDING THE SUN, Robert Pack recalls and creates anew the whole arc of our consciousness from the earliest glimmers to the greatest achievements of recent art and thought. Masterfully, all this is given an advancing edge by terrific thoughtfulness by Pack's own marvelous art.
FATHERING THE MAP is a collection of poems unto itself, but it also contains selections from all Pack’s previous books. This new volume contains poems that celebrate family life and the natural landscape, but they also concern themselves with the human proclivity for war and violence, and for the despoiling of the environment. Many of these poems are rooted in philosophical and scientific wonder. Richard Wilbur has said of this book: “Robert Pack’s poetry is deeply rooted in his own family life, and yet his imagination has always included us all.” And Cynthia Ozick has written: “We rejoice as we read.”