Jim Harrison (1937-2016)
Jim Harrison, one of America’s most versatile and celebrated writers, died last Saturday. He was the author of over thirty books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, the most well-know was probably Legends of the Fall, a trilogy of novellas. His latest poetry collection, Dead Man’s Float, was published earlier this year. His death came on the heals of Ancient Minstrels, also a collection of novellas, which launched in March.
Jim Harrison’s essays on food and our relationship to it are among my favorites and as I searched my bookshelves over the past few days, The Raw and the Cooked, Adventures of a Roving Gourmand is one of the two books of his that seem to have survived my downsizing. That’s an issue of shrinking real estate not regard.
Food – according to Jim Harrison – is more than food. It is a metaphor for life and living. The trick is to enjoy as much as you can without killing yourself because then you couldn’t continue to eat. Some of the meals he describes sound truly epic.
In 2007, Harrison was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
A rough and tumble sort, his preference was for the out-of-doors and he spent his time between Montana and Arizona.
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I’m hoping to be astonished tomorrow
by I don’t know what:
not the usual undiscovered bird in the cold
snowy willows, garishly green and yellow,
and not my usual death, which I’ve done
before with Borodin’s music
used in Kismet, and angels singing
“Stranger in Paradise,” that sort of thing,
and not the thousand naked women
running a marathon in circles around me
while I swivel on a writerly chair
keeping an eye on my favorites.
What could it be, this astonishment,
but falling into a liquid mirror
to finally understand that the purpose
of earth is earth? It’s plain as night.
She’s willing to sleep with us a little while.
Excerpt from In Search of Small Gods, © Copper Canyon Press, 2010; the photograph is from Jim Harrison’s Amazon page