Composed by Elena Ruehr, b. 1963
The peonies, too heavy with their beauty,
slump to the ground. I had hoped
they would live forever but ever so slowly
day by day they´re becoming the soil of their birth
with a faint tang of deliquescence about them.
Next June they´ll somehow remember to come alive again,
a little trick we have or have not learned.
Poet Jim Harrison has spent much of his life in Michigan on a farm near where he was born. His connection to rural landscapes is evident in his free-verse, imagistic poetry, which often explores human and animal drives set against an unforgiving natural world. Noting the poetry’s relation to Hemingway’s prose style in a review of Harrison’s Selected & New Poems 1961–1981, poet and critic Richard Tillinghast declared in the New York Times that “Mr. Harrison has few equals as a writer on outdoor life, the traditional heritage and proving ground of the American male.”
Educated at Michigan State University, Harrison taught briefly at SUNY Stony Brook. After the publication of his first collection of poetry, Plain Song (1965), he returned to Michigan, where he worked as a freelance journalist and laborer until he began to earn a living from his writing.
Harrison has published more than a dozen collections of poetry and has also built a reputation as a fiction writer, publishing numerous novels and collections. His bookLegends of the Fall (1979), received considerable critical acclaim and was made into a 1995 feature film. Harrison has written several screenplays for Warner Bros. and other studios.
Harrison has been poetry editor of The Nation and co-editor of Sumac. He wrote a food column, “The Raw and the Cooked,” for Esquire magazine, and his collection of essays, Just Before Dark (1991), includes some of his food writing along with literary and nature essays.