Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Books: The Collected Poems of Ursula K. Le Guin


Ursula K. LeGuin: Collected Poems 

By Usrula K. Le Guin; edited by Harold Bloom - LOA #368

Library of America; hardcover, $40.00; available today, Tuesday, April 4th

April is National Poetry month, and the best way to commemorate it is by reading this beautifully-produced collection of the work of Ursula K. Le Guin, whose career started and ended with poetry. This first-of-its-kind book begins with her earliest collection, Wild Angels (1974) through her final publication, the collection, So Far So Good, which she brought to her editor just one week before her passing in 2018.

The themes that Le Guin explores, which resonate in all her works, but especially poetry, are: exploration as a metaphor for both human bravery and creativity, the mystery and fragility of nature and the impact of humankind on their environment, the Tao Te Ching, marriage, womanhood, and even cats. 

Le Guin's poetry usually has a traditional form, but never in its style, which is earthy, surprising, and lyrical. This volume restores to print much of her poetry, and it also includes 68 uncollected poems.

It has a new introduction by Harold Bloom, which he wrote before before his own death in 2019, and he reflects on the power of her poems, which he calls "American originals." There are also helpful exploratory notes, a chronology of Le Guin's life, and a generous selection of her introductions to and reflections on her poetry.

Bloom (1930-2019) was Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University and a Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard, and the author of more than forty books, including The Anxiety of Influence, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, The Western Canon, and The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon. He received many awards and honorary degrees, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for Belles Lettres and Criticism, the Catalonia International Prize, and Mexico's Alfonso Reyes International Prize.

In his introduction, Bloom writes, "Le Guin in her prose fiction is of no genre. She fiercely defended science fiction and fantasy yet seems to me a master of romance in its true sense, best exemplified in English by Sir Walter Scott. In some ways I find her indescribable. Politically she was an anarchist, religiously a Taoist, socially a feminist beyond feminism, and one of the most eloquent prophets against our despoliation of air, water, earth, and its creatures, foliage, woodlands. Reading her I almost learn how it is to be a tree.

"For many years I have wondered why her poetry is relatively neglected. Her lyrics and reflections are American originals. Sometimes I hear in them the accent of William Butler Yeats and occasionally a touch of Robinson Jeffers, yet her voicing is inimitably individual."

About The Library of America: An independent nonprofit organization, the Library of America was founded in 1979 with seed funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation. It helps to preserve our nation's literary heritage by publishing, and keeping in print, authoritative editions of America's best and most significant writing. 

Library for America editions will last for generations and withstand the wear of frequent use. They are printed on lightweight, acid-free paper that will not turn yellow or brittle with age. Sewn bindings allow the books to open easily and lie flat. Flexible, yet strong binding boards are covered with a closely woven rayon cloth. The page layout has been designed for readability, as well as elegance.

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