This “portable Carruth,” edited and introduced by Sam Hamill, gathers the essential poems from a major American poet. Over his long and prolific career, Carruth has been one of the most rigorous and inventive technicians of a generation that will long be celebrated for its brilliance and variety. This volume presents lyrics and short and long narratives, as well as comic, meditative, and erotic poems, and reflections on the natural world. Ever engaged with radical politics, rural poverty, and the poet’s cultural responsibility, Carruth’s work is alive with a rare courage and clear-eyed conviction. Like the jazz he so loved, Carruth’s poetry ranges from the formal to the spontaneous, from local speech to righteous oratory, from sublime complexity to elegant understatement.
“For Carruth, ‘the poem is a gift, a bestowal,’ and the reader sees the fruits of that belief throughout Toward the Distant Islands… an extraordinary record of an extraordinary life in the second half of the 20th century.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Carruth’s long and protean career includes his editing of The Voice That Is Great Within Us (1970), a still-standard anthology of American modernism; a high-profile stint as editor of Poetry magazine; and periods of rural seclusion. His books encompass Frostian tales of farm life with New England eccentrics, compilations of haiku, long and unguarded poems of erotic devotion, autobiographical laments, and sensitive odes to jazz greats who understood that ‘Freedom and discipline occur / only in ecstasy, all else / is shoveling out the muck.’ All sides of Carruth’s oeuvre find a place in this welcome volume.” —Publishers Weekly
“As much as anyone’s, [Carruth’s] is a poetry of direct statement. The voice is one that can be trusted; it seems without guile or pretense.”—North Dakota Quarterly