Complete Poems contains every poem Harrison published over his 50-year career, as well as a section of previously unpublished Last Poems. Here are the nature-based lyrics of his early work, the high-velocity ghazals, a harrowing prose-poem "correspondence" with a Russian suicide, the riverine suites, fearless meditations inspired by the Zen monk Crazy Cloud, and a joyous conversation in haiku-like gems with friend and fellow poet Ted Kooser. Weaving throughout these 1000 pages are Harrison's legendary passions and appetites, his love songs and lamentations, and a clarion call to pay attention to the life you are actually living.
From the beginning, Harrison wrote about two primary and intertwined themes: pleasure and death. The pleasures of Harrison’s writings tend to the Hemingwayesque, and are set largely in his native Midwest ... The influence of Buddhism is reflected in the fragmentary and imagistic structure of much of his poetry, an approach that emphasizes the present moment over a remembered past and hypothetical future ... It is also reflected in the simplicity and elemental purity of many of the images he draws upon and continually returns to; and, as well, in his skepticism about accepted categories and hierarchies.
Harrison belonged to the honorable American tradition of tale-teller rather than intellectual laborer; his poems, while they don’t spin the narratives his novels and novellas do, share with them a deep grounding in landscape and geography. Harrison did not quite have the flawless ear of his hero James Wright, and his lines move along with a certain prosiness, but he had wit and feeling, plus a good eye ... In a collection that spans decades of living and writing, there are poems of every character, many of them superb ... This immense volume will bring great pleasure to readers of James Wright and John Haines and may be the perfect lure for ardent readers of Harrison’s fiction; they will find many poems to cherish.
Complete Poems is a gustatory, erotic, and sensual delight. A romp with a lover who in a single poem might call upon the spirits of dead poets ... With the posthumous publication of this prodigious volume...we possess the completion and culmination of a life in verse, gifted with some of the best, most iconoclastic lines written over the second half of the 20th century and into the new millennium ... A gift of enormous grace and energy for readers ... This densely rich book, which places Harrison among the pantheon of our best American poets, will make readers wish in the coming years that he could still send more poems and missives from that barefoot heaven.