Cover image for Lifelines : selected poems, 1950-1999
Lifelines : selected poems, 1950-1999
Booth, Philip, 1925-2007.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 291 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PS3552.O647 A6 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In the long shadow of Robert Frost--at whose feet he literally sat as a student--Philip Booth's voice speaks from a deep-rooted sense of place and of how one lives and finds oneself among others, and otherness. As Anthony Hecht wrote, "Booth has carefully mastered and cultivated a poetry of fierce and terrible calm. It represents a devotion of years, a self-mastering valor, and honesty that only the finest poet dares. He writes with all of New England's eloquent spareness and self-effacing courage." Lifelines knits together resonances from fifty years of writing--not least, his love of Thoreau--and includes a significant number of new, previously unpublished poems. From lyrics of sea, woods, and fields to lines on love, uncertainty, and responsibility, this is a monumental opus from "a master of descriptive metaphor, one of the best" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

Author Notes

The poet Philip Booth (1925 - 2007) was first published in book form by Viking's legendary editorial advisor Malcolm Cowley in 1950. His numerous books of poetry included Letters from a Distant Land , The Islanders , Weather and Edges , Margins , Available Light , Before Sleep , Relations , Selves , Pairs , and Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950 - 1999 . Booth was a fellow of the American Academy of Poets.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Booth's poems are lifelines in several senses of the word. They can be used to "keep contact," as Webster's has it, with someone in peril, and they are, no doubt, "regarded as indispensable for the maintaining or protection of life" by the poet. Lifelines are found on boats, and the nautical is everywhere present in Booth's work, most of which is set in Maine, where his family has lived for five generations. His stanzas rise and fall like waves, and his carefully chosen words generate multiple shades of meanings like ripples stirred by the dip of an oar. His poems embody a profoundly consistent sensibility and connection to place, recording nearly 50 years of frosty New England winters and quickened summers, of looking to the sky for guidance, and of intimacy with boats and tides. Booth's long poetic practice has imbued his gentle poems with grace, which takes on an even finer luster in his newest work. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Booth (Relations) has spent half a century writing humbly meditative lyrics and quiet, compassionate verse about his life amid the people and sights of coastal Maine. This generous collection offers most of the work from his previous nine books, along with 17 new poems, many of them moving evocations of old age. Booth brings in Maine's ocean, boats, houses, terrain and longtime residents, from lobster traps to "Four straight days/ below zero," to rock-climbers "feeling for handholds... cheek to cold stone," to boat-builders and log-choppers, to the "rip-tide/ paint" in John Marin's canvases "that, flooding,/ tugs at your vitals,/ and is more Maine/ than Maine." Alongside this regionalist agenda come invocations of saintly writersÄThoreau and Chekhov, among others, put in repeat appearances. Booth seeks to be comprehensible to all his readers, and to offer simple wisdom. His aurally careful, short-lined and abstract free verse may remind readers of Robert Creeley, who also aims "to/ say the feeling, its/ present shape." But too often Booth relies on flat, abstracted exhortation, and on oversimplified psychology. In "Cleaning Out the Garage" he resolves "to let go what won't do"; later he "mean[s]... to let light/ fall where it would," "to revise his whole life," "to be alone with/ myself," "to learn with/ myself to be// gentle," "to keep believing in love." (Italics his.) Booth does better when describing ill-fated lives: "Calendar," for example, offers a spare, deeply frightening account of a woman's stroke. If Booth's self-imposed limits hinder his poems for some, the same traits will make him a cherished companion for others, who will enjoy his attempts to make his verse embody compassion and self-restraintÄnot to mention his sensitive pictures of Maine. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

For many readers, the half-century of poetry collected here will recall Robert Frost--the lines are laconic, reflective, and often informed by Booth's New England background (in this case, Maine). Of course, Booth would not be so admirable if he simply waxed poetic about snow falling from the roof. What makes these poems remarkable is the way he calmly looks life--and death--in the eye and doesn't blink. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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