A new collection from the world-renowned lyricist
Acclaimed American poet James Ragan begins this newest collection of poems by asking whether “a rope could swing us / long and light across a widening trough / of all that fails us in our lives.” With these very first lines, Ragan draws readers into his world of vivid metaphor and evocative imagery, a world tinged with an aching sense of loss born of “a mind bereaved by solitude.”
Yet if Ragan needs solitude to construct his poems, we are inspired to join him. In Too Long a Solitude, he takes us on far-flung journeys from equatorial jungles to Arctic icebergs and from heartbreaking loneliness to ecstatic human connection. Readers become travelers, with Ragan their insightful guide.
“Ragan’s fine-grained poems move us through a remarkable range of total dexterity,” says poet C. K. Williams, and a strong streak of Wordsworthian nature-worship runs through the book. In “Bowing Trees,” this contemporary lyricist sings of saplings tending “to their ground as if the space were an altar.” His itinerant attention focuses in turn on the hills of London, rural roads in Belgium, and a garden wall in Vienna. Some journeys have the specificity of a scene witnessed (a Paris alley that might have entranced Picasso); others are journeys of the mind (a ride caught on an ice floe heading north out of Hudson Bay).
Too Long a Solitude migrates from isolation to communion. Beginning alone on an iceberg, we eventually find ourselves at one with a lover in a moonlit vale. As solitude lifts and the journey ends, the poet finds he need no longer travel to find solace. But we’re glad, all the same, to have shared the journey with him.