While he was poet laureate of the United States (1990-1991), Mark Strand selected this book for publication with special funds administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, saying, “No first book in memory has so much wisdom, so much lyric conviction as Michael White’s The Island. I find his poems astonishingly mature, profound, evocative.”
White’s poems rise from the dark interstices of memory and imagination, his brief love poems of uncannily bright phrasing providing counterpoint to his mastery of elegiac meditation. He knows the water-world of rivers and bays and boats so intuitively that his rhythms of language and image often convey a parallel sense of time and motion, his eye for luminous detail elevating an already impressive gift for narrative.
White’s imaginative world is like no other in contemporary poetry. He evokes Emersonian themes as comfortably as he explores a range of verse forms, his landscapes gravitating toward an art of fleeting illusory grace.
“The figures that the speaker presents are haunting… White is interested in the fleeting beauty of this life.” —Publishers Weekly
“White’s lyric poems might be better expected in a fourth collection than a first. He has a great eye for the natural image, whether of the mountains or the sea, and he knows the names of the objects he describes. White’s talents overwhelm. Beautifully packaged by Copper Canyon Press, and very highly recommended.” —Choice
“[White’s] greatest gifts to us are his vivid, precise and complex descriptions of natural phenomena… There are many poems here touched by greatness, each testifying to the genius of an unusually gifted young poet.” —Western American Literature
“As a collection, it has a remarkable narrative and thematic cohesion… The language is lush and graceful… His poems have a way of seeing, then seeing again, which is unusual and haunting.” —Harvard Review