Cover image for Traveling light : collected and new poems
Traveling light : collected and new poems
Wagoner, David.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
301 pages ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PS3545.A345 T69 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Aims to offer familiar treasures from an observer of both the natural and the human worlds. This work distills the essential emotions from people's encounters with each other, with nature, and with themselves.

Author Notes

David Wagoner, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and editor of Poetry Northwest, teaches at the University of Washington. In addition to many collections of poetry he has published ten novels, including The Escape Artist, which was made into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Wagoner has written 10 novels, one of which Francis Ford Coppola filmed, but is best known as an intelligent, adroit, remarkably consistent poet. This generous retrospective, drawing from some 45 years of published work, confirms his reputation. He writes poems about nature based on his hiking and camping in mountain wilderness, about urban angst and paranoia based on his everyday urban existence, about American Indian legends out of acquaintance with knowledgeable Indians, and about literature, love, and death out of personal experience. Although occasionally surrealist, he is more accessible than even Frost, whose work, sans the open moralizing, his frequently recalls. He has a certain midwestern plainness of diction and evenness of tone that he never gooses into portentousness ala Sandburg, whom he meets and raises stakes on in such poems as "A Day in the City" and "The Apotheosis of the Garbageman." Nor does he ever bore. In fact, it is hard to think of another living U.S. poet more pleasurable to read--and reread. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

William Carlos Williams's dictum "No ideas but in things" has always been inspirational for Wagoner, but always run through his particular wrench: "You've learned what you can about this watery sky,/ Its rearrangement of your slight reflections,/ Its turmoil" declares the speaker of "By a River." While Wagoner can usually be found writing about a familiar range of topicsÄhis native Midwest, the environmentalist concerns of his adopted Northwest (loggers and hunters are main targets), romantic love, and nature's evocation of intimacy, wonder and alienationÄhis imaginative scope is never confined by his preoccupations. In a manner similar to another steady American, Robert Penn Warren, he's mastered the poetic sequence ("Landscapes"; "Traveling Light"), and in a series on his late father, a steel-mill worker, he colloquially recalls his own sympathetic gestures: "I shook the dying and dead/ Ashes down through the grate/ And, with firetongs, hauled out clinkers/ Like the vertebrae of monsters." Early poems are crammed with advice on surviving life in the woods: campsites will seem "deeply, starkly appealing/ Like a lost home"; a bear "may feel free/ To act out all his own displeasures with a vengeance." Such lessons yield to a sense of physical fragility in the septuagenarian poet: the title poem to the award-winning Walt Whitman Bathing imagines the aging American bard dancing "A few light steps, his right leg leading the way/ Unsteadily but considerately for the left/ As if with an awkward partner." Whether recognizing that the dead "have no need of us" or that a maple's "roots seem/ Barely supple and springy enough, if bent/ From their set ways, to keep from breaking," Wagoner's newest efforts continue to find what it takes for Williams' "things" to become metaphorical. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Containing samples from Wagoner's long career (most recently Walt Whitman Bathing, LJ 8/96), this volume becomes more frustrating as it goes along. In his early work, Wagoner insists on pontificating to an abstract "you." His kinship with nature is at first enchanting: protective and critical of such enemies as those chopping down redwoods in Washington. Continual prayers for nature become prayers for both himself and humankind. But love poems, because of their generality and the landscape as backdrop, veer dangerously close to sentimentality. Poems from Wagoner's earlier Who Shall Be the Sun? (LJ 11/15/78) are imitations of Indian myths, and his trespassing on territory not his own is doubly annoying. Still, Wagoner can come up with some extremely good poems, particularly when writing about his family and childhood: "Bums at Breakfast" and "The Laughing Boy" should not be missed. Since many of the best are in the "New Poems" section, it might make sense to wait for his next volume.ÄRochelle Ratner, formerly poetry editor, "Soho Weekly News," New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

From Collected Poems, 1956-76
The Wordsp. 3
Staying Alivep. 4
Talking to the Forestp. 7
Talking to Barr Creekp. 8
Do Not Proceed Beyond This Point without a Guidep. 9
Lostp. 10
Sleeping in the Woodsp. 11
Working against Timep. 13
One Ear to the Groundp. 14
Report from a Forest Logged by the Weyerhaeuser Companyp. 15
Riverbedp. 16
Fire by the Riverp. 17
The Lessonp. 18
Standing Halfway Homep. 20
The Gathering of the Loonsp. 21
An Offering for Dungeness Bayp. 22
A Guide to Dungeness Spitp. 24
The Osprey's Nestp. 26
Observations from the Outer Edgep. 27
The Other Side of the Mountainp. 29
Tumbleweedp. 31
Water Music for the Progress of Love in a Life Raft Down the Sammamish Sloughp. 32
Leaving Something Behindp. 34
Clancyp. 35
Talking Backp. 36
Nine Charms against the Hunterp. 37
In the Open Seasonp. 38
Moving into the Gardenp. 39
By the Orchardp. 40
The Fruit of the Treep. 41
Snake Huntp. 42
The Death and Resurrection of the Birdsp. 43
The Singing Lessonp. 44
Sequence: Traveling Light
Breaking Campp. 45
Meeting a Bearp. 46
Walking in a Swampp. 48
Trackingp. 49
Missing the Trailp. 50
From Here to Therep. 51
Being Shotp. 53
Waiting in a Rain Forestp. 55
Traveling Lightp. 56
After Consulting My Yellow Pagesp. 58
The Labors of Thorp. 59
This Is a Wonderful Poemp. 62
The Shooting of John Dillinger Outside the Biograph Theater, July 22, 1934p. 63
The Burglarp. 66
The Holdupp. 68
The Visiting Hourp. 69
The Night of the Sad Womenp. 71
At St. Vincent DePaul'sp. 72
Bums at Breakfastp. 73
A Valedictory to Standard Oil of Indianap. 74
A Touch of the Motherp. 75
Elegy for a Woman Who Remembered Everythingp. 77
For a Man Who Died in His Sleepp. 78
Doorsp. 79
Out for a Nightp. 80
Closing Timep. 81
Free Passagep. 82
A Day in the Cityp. 83
The Apotheosis of the Garbagemenp. 85
To My Friend Whose Parachute Did Not Openp. 87
Speech from a Comedyp. 88
Come before His Counternance with a Joyful Leapingp. 90
Plainsong for Everyone Who Was Killed Yesterdayp. 91
Musep. 93
Words above a Narrow Entrancep. 94
The Poets Agree to Be Quiet by the Swampp. 95
Advice to the Orchestrap. 96
That Old Gang of Minep. 97
Every Good Boy Does Finep. 99
Diaryp. 100
The Calculationp. 101
Going to Piecesp. 103
Making Up for a Soulp. 105
Walking in the Snowp. 106
On Seeing an X Ray of My Headp. 107
The Inexhaustible Hatp. 108
Waiting on the Curbp. 109
House Huntingp. 110
Lullaby through the Side of the Mouthp. 111
The Breaking Pointp. 112
The First Law of Motionp. 113
Song Off-Keyp. 114
The Trail Horsep. 115
Song to Accompany the Bearer of Bad Newsp. 117
From Who Shall Be the Sun? (1978)
Searching in the Britannia Tavernp. 121
Old Man, Old Manp. 122
Fogp. 123
Salmon Boyp. 124
Who Shall Be the Sun?p. 126
Hoy Coyote Became Rock's Brotherp. 128
How Stump Stood in the Waterp. 130
How Raven Stole Lightp. 131
Song for the Bones of Salmonp. 133
Song for the Coming of Smallpoxp. 134
Song of a Man Who Rushed at the Enemyp. 135
Death Songp. 136
Burial Songp. 137
From Through the Forest: New and Selected Poems, 1977-87
After the Speech to the Librariansp. 141
Sharp-Shinp. 143
Return to the Swampp. 145
The Author of American Ornithology Sketches a Bird, Now Extinctp. 146
Thoreau and the Snapping Turtlep. 147
Bearsp. 149
Gamesp. 150
Photographing a Rattlesnakep. 151
Washing a Young Rhinocerosp. 152
Sitting by a Swampp. 153
Loons Matingp. 154
Whisper Songp. 155
Kingfisherp. 156
Chorusp. 157
The Sourcep. 158
Getting Therep. 160
Feedingp. 161
Boy Jesusp. 163
The Junior High School Band Concertp. 164
My Father's Gardenp. 166
My Firep. 167
The Best Slow Dancerp. 169
Looking for Nellie Washingtonp. 170
My Father's Football Gamep. 172
My Father in the Basementp. 173
My Father's Ghostp. 174
Elegy for My Motherp. 175
In the Dream Housep. 176
Their Bodiesp. 177
Stump Speechp. 178
An Address to Weyerhaeuser, the Tree-Growing Companyp. 180
The Shapep. 182
Three Ways of a Riverp. 183
The Excursion of the Speech and Hearing Classp. 184
Driftwoodp. 185
On Motel Wallsp. 186
Applying for a Loan with the Help of the Dictionary of Occupational Titlesp. 187
Poem about Breathp. 188
Catching the Big One at Lone Lakep. 189
Eulogy for Richard Hugo (1923-82)p. 191
Elegy while Pruning Rosesp. 193
The Death of the Moonp. 195
The Astronomer's Apprenticep. 196
Lament for the Nonswimmersp. 198
The Naval Trainees Learn How to Jump Overboardp. 199
Canticle for Xmas Evep. 200
Your Fortune: A Cold Readingp. 201
The Calmp. 203
Reading the Skyp. 205
Landfallp. 207
For a Woman Who Doubted the Power of Lovep. 208
Falling Asleep in a Gardenp. 209
The Orchard of the Dreaming Pigsp. 210
Waking Up in a Gardenp. 211
A Woman Feeding Gullsp. 212
A Woman Standing in the Surfp. 213
Lifesavingp. 214
That Momentp. 215
A Guide to the Fieldp. 216
Getting Awayp. 218
Our Blindnessp. 220
By Starlightp. 221
For a Third Anniversaryp. 222
Downstreamp. 223
First Lightp. 224
From Walt Whitman Bathing (1996)
The Pink Boyp. 227
The Laughing Boyp. 228
Dizzyp. 230
My Father Laughing in the Chicago Theaterp. 231
My Passengerp. 233
My Mother and Fatherp. 235
Walking around the Block with a Three-Year-Oldp. 236
A Woman Photographing Holsteinsp. 237
A the Mouth of a Creekp. 238
Walt Whitman Bathingp. 239
The Rosebushp. 241
Love Still Has Something of the Seap. 243
A Young Woman Trying on a Victorian Hatp. 244
The Padded Cellp. 245
Blindmanp. 246
Bearp. 247
A Pair of Barn Owls, Huntingp. 249
For a Woman Who Phoned Poetry Northwest Thinking It Was Poultry Northwestp. 250
Living with Snakesp. 251
Clacy the Burro's First Day in Heavenp. 252
For the Young Vine Maplesp. 254
For a Young Shield Fernp. 255
Sequence: Landscapes
Mapmakingp. 256
On a Mountainsidep. 258
By a Waterfallp. 260
On the Plainsp. 261
In a Pasturep. 263
By a Riverp. 264
On the Forest Floorp. 265
In a Field of Wildflowersp. 266
New Poems
The Silence of the Starsp. 271
In the House of the Dragonp. 273
Recitalp. 275
Recitationp. 276
A Letter Homep. 277
A Summer Storm in Navarre, Ohiop. 278
The Young Goatsp. 280
In a Gardenp. 282
Alexandra and the Spidersp. 284
In the Shadowp. 285
Looking for Shiva in the Public Marketp. 287
The Return of Orpheusp. 289
Night at the Zoop. 291
Elegy for Some of My Poemsp. 293
Plainsong against the Raising of the Deadp. 294
At the summitp. 296
Planting a Red Maplep. 298
For a Row of Laurel Shrubsp. 300
Acknowledgmentsp. 302

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