One finds a poignancy and a sorrow, laced always with a profound sense of humor, on page after page of Robert Pack’s  comprehensive volume: TO LOVE THAT WELL: Selected and New Poems, work composed over the past six decades of this extraordinary poet’s life.

A scent of late autumn drifts through these pages, in these rich, accessible, distinctive missives to us -- a harvest gathered against the encroaching dark. Pack’s voice continues to be reassuringly resonant with a laughter born of his deep and abiding love for what he knows by nature cannot remain.
            Paul Mariani, author of Epitaphs for the Journey:
                               New, Selected, and Revised {Poems


Robert Pack’s LAUGHTER BEFORE SLEEP delighted and moved me. It is a richly unified book which ranges from the names and colors of wildflowers to family memories to jokes about the gods.  There is an elegiac tone in many of these poems, yet the poet gives full expression to the passions, especially longing and sympathy. I am grateful for both the music and the stories in this book.
-- John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home

Harold Bloom has praised Robert Pack’s recent books for their “eloquent pathos,” and their “mature, deeply seasoned courage to surmount suffering in their exaltation of the common life.” Of Pack’s newest volume, Bloom says that: “Robert Pack has weathered the lifelong influence of Robert Frost, without being overwhelmed by it, or becoming disloyal to the example of his prime precursor. Pack’s new volume, LAUGHTER BEFORE SLEEP, returns to Frost’s hard wisdom of stoic endurance, and to the music of that endurance: a somber joy.”
--Harold Bloom, author of The Anxiety of Influence

This is an exceptionally readable book. The story poems are deeply moving, filled with great tenderness, charm, and wit.--Mark Strand

LAUGHTER BEFORE SLEEP displays Pack's usual occasions: the ordinaries of nature, of domestic life, of family and familial recollection are profoundly meditated, and, as in the past, the voice and the tone are entirely his own. In the typical Pack poem the instigating observations are close and shrewd, leading to a kind of playful teasing of possible interpretations and then to the provisionally satisfying end. The sought-for conclusion is an acceptance, just short of celebration, of fragile, limited ordinary human life. The mood is neither stoic nor serene, but comic, as Pack invokes and immediately rejects both pretense and transcendence. So the first poem in this collection, "Late Mountain Spring," ends in a Chagall-like vision of "the late Bob Pack" ascending to the heavens bearing love for all mankind, to the amusement, of course, of modest Bob Pack. In the lovely poem called "Woodpecker Reprise," he sees himself in all modesty as having served as nature's medium between the woodpecker and the suet block from which it feeds.
       These things emerge in the poems, moreover, with a feeling of inevitability. I know of no other contemporary poet who is so fluently and effortlessly in command of rhyme and meter and stanzaic forms. And this is true not only of Pack's tight forms, like the occasional sonnet, but also of his more discursive poems, which have their own rhythms. He is simply masterful, never more so than in the present volume.
-- Professor Marcus Klein, author of After Alienation

Robert Pack writes out of the fullness of years, a poet who has mastered every aspect of his craft. The poems in LAUGHTER BEFORE SLEEP are, in the best sense, ripe. They are the harvest of decades, and they show a poet of tender feelings and sharp ideas, a man willing and able to write about Freud and the Nazis in one poem, being a grandfather in another, the call of the loon elsewhere, or -- in a sublime moment of comedic insight -- the nose of Charles Darwin. These poems are often narrative in structure; but their strength lies in the lyric line, as in "Only the Evergreen," where he summons the tamarack, “the only evergreen not always green.” Many of these poems – “Inheritance” or “Worms,” for example -- strike candid autobiographical notes. Indeed, this collection might well be taken as a memoir in verse. At every turn, however, there is a deeply philosophical mind at work here, digging into the substance of the universe, finding meaning -- even beauty and grace. This is a vivid collection by one of our finest contemporary poets.
-- Jay Parini, author of “Promised Land”.

There’s a poignancy and a sorrow, laced always with a complex sense of humor, one finds on page after page of Bob Pack’s latest volume of poems, LAUGHTER BEFORE SLEEP, poems composed in the ninth decade of this strong poet’s life. Having read—and cherished--his work now for the past forty years, and having come to love this crafty voice (in all senses of that word), a voice with its admirable admixture of Shakespeare, Freud, Hardy, Yeats and Frost, compounded with a music which often echoes the playfulness of Bach and the emotional intensities of Beethoven, it is hard to read these poems without feeling a sense of impending loss as the sun goes down. And yet the poems remain, refusing the seductive enchantments of night even as the poet faces the inevitability of diminishment and death in these rich, accessible, distinctive letters, if you will, which the poet—yes, the poet--has gathered against the encroaching dark, his voice still reassuringly resonant with a laughter born of loving what by nature cannot remain.
 -- Paul Mariani, author of Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life

ELK IN WINTER is an outstanding collection of poems by one of America’s most distinguished poets. Of late twentieth-century poets, he is the one most influenced by Robert Frost, writing in the same heavily stressed iambs meant to sound like common speech and leaning on Nature to provide instruction and occcasion for many of his poems. But Pack differs from his master in several significant ways. He depends on modern science rather than common sense as the conduit of what is reliably true; he speaks more intimately of his family than Frost ever did, and his focus is as much on his own consciousness as it is on anything around him. His poetic range is impressive. He can be oddly funny as in the frog poems or in the brilliantly ornate and somewhat rueful “Clone.” Pack is a man measuring out his solitude not only in the space around him but in the distance he is from his past. Pack has always been a master of the use of verse forms, and he displays his mastery here. But what is most moving and significant about his collection is its project, which is to find “what can connect my sense of me/ from where my life has been/ to where I’m sitting now.” -- Mark Strand

STILL HERE STILL NOW contains all the various pleasures that I would expect from a collection of Robert Pack’s poems. Pack’s poems, I'd say, are quintessentially funny, lyrical, jokey, scientific, personal, didactic, serious, clownish, poignant, often alternately, though more often all at once.I admire, indeed sometimes stand back mouth agape, at the poems' chutzpah : the desire to entertain is always hand in hand with the compulsion to instruct--jokester become storyteller, become teacher, become prophet, with no one persona ever really giving up any of the others. I found myself often particularly taken and touched by the endings of many poems--say the lovely and unsettling balance of "Forever gone and irreplaceable" that ends "Another March." I like best the gestures that seem to surround themselves with an unspoken resonance, a kind of complication the poem seems to share with or even turn over to the reader. So, for example, I'm quite won over by the last line of “Mountain Dawn”: “the shadowed slopes and shaded crevices," a moment that seems to trust the delicacy of its image, and the pure loveliness of its sound, that lets me rest in its aura.  -- Lawrence Raab,

After years of teaching at Middlebury and Breadloaf, Robert Pack, the much-published poet has moved to Montana and the state University, a change that may have inspired this marvelous new collection: ROUNDING IT OUT a cycle of sonnetelles, a form of sixteen lines invented by Pack that borrows from both the sonnet and the villanelle, repeating lines and rhymes and only slightly varying its iambic pentameters. Despite the tight form, there’s nothing claustrophobic or monotonous: Pack’s light metaphysic deepens as his plain-style verse accumulates its compound-adjectives and its monosyllabic clarity. Divided into four sections of twelve poems each, the sequence reproduces the cycle of the day: morning, midday, evening, and night. Cyclic time is at the center of the entire collection: how the seasons change our perceptions of the natural world; how we fit into the larger scheme of cosmic time and recurrence--all of it, like the grove in “dewdrop,” “contrived for symmetry.” Throughout this skillful sequence, Pack plays with the notion of observer and thing observed, the desire for the self to merge with nature, and the ever-present reminders of impermanence. Even though the sun itself will explode in time (as Aubade” notes), all the momentary joys in nature-- a perfect tomato, the lilac’s aroma in May, a moose standing in the still silence, a dewdrop on a maple leaf—uplift the soul. Pack’s best lines have a Keatsian intelligence: his simple puns and crisp vocabulary, more reminiscent of Hardy or Frost, also invite us to find “solace in grief when grief is rhymed” -- sound advice from an expert -- The Kirkus Review
Though some of the new poems in ROUNDING IT OUT have very large concerns -- our relation to nature, the future of our earth -- they are faithfully centered in the scenes and loves and persons to which Robert Pack's work has always been true, and which the reader may revisit in such touching poems as "Counting." The cycle in general is elegiac in mood, and that mood is well served by a form of Pack's invention whose flexible meters and recurrent lines are especially successful in such poems as "Lilacs" and "Waterfall." This is a book that I have much enjoyed. -- Richard Wilbur

Robert Pack must be the most devoted nature poet left as he is surely the best informed scientifically. His new book, ROUNDING IT OUT, consists of a cycle of 48 mellow autumnal meditations on the natural world, all in a new form invented by Pack -- the sonnetelle, he calls it -- an ingenious combination of the sonnet and the villanelle. Others have not yet taken up this form, but here it is, laid out for us, ripe for the taking, and a challenge too. -- Donald Justice

No one writes like Robert Pack. No one makes such central concerns so radically available. He is one of America's passionate originals. Not only is he in a class by himself, he is his own school -- Mark Strand

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. If this arc is the sky, then he also broadens and deepens an ocean of consciousness in which we are immersed and by which we are buoyed up. Masterfully, all this is given an advancing edge by terrific thoughtfulness by Pack's own marvelous art. -- A. R. Ammons

In MINDING THE SUN Pack's ear and his graceful, reposed lines are consistently pleasing, as are his imagery and staid, chaste landscapes...Absence, in Pack's book, becomes an object to be observed, noted, and perceived--not a gap that one must fill. Here we find the projection of the speaker's mind onto the surrounding landscape, a strategy that suggests either an intense reciprocity between the poet and nature or a domination of nature by the poet's sensibility...Pack's virtuosity and range are everywhere apparent. His variety of stanzaic arrangements and rhyme schemes displays a supple, lively formalism as well as a sustained rigor. These aspects of his work are indeed daunting... But the "story" that underlies the collection is, finally, the loss of the personal and immediate relationship to nature that consciousness of evolution brings about. Pack's cool and scientific tone, particularly in the last poem, "The Trees Will Die," sounds like an environmentalist's last plea. -- Peter Lurie, Boston Book Review

FATHERING THE MAP has the eloquent pathos of being elegiac even when it intends to be celebratory. At their best, these poems legitimately find an honorable place in the American tradition that culminated in Robert Frost. -- Harold Bloom

The precious contacts of science and poetry are now sadly rare, but Robert Pack in FATHERING THE MAP revitalizes the ancient union with incisive poems that sing with lyricism or bite with insight --but always seem to add wisdom to the scientist epigram. -- Stephen Jay GouldRobert Pack's poems in FATHERING THE MAP are among his best, each refreshingly itself, not to be confused with anyone else's. Pack's speaking voice has become even subtler in its windings and turnings, even as it makes itself heard within the constraints of rhyme and stanza or blank verse. The new poems range, with agreeable variations in tone of address, from personal to universal matters, from domestic and familial concerns to environmental and cosmic ones, and there is an attractive humor in the way Pack treats his subjects. Pack's poems are instilled with an intelligent consciousness that, although burdened with memory --sometimes painfully so -- won't give in to gloom. One feels the affirmation has been earned -- a claim that can be made generally for Robert Pack's convincing reflections. -- William Pritchard, The Boston Globe