Archives of the Air
Page Count: 68
Publication Date: Friday, March 13, 2015
Cover Artwork: “An Intimate Gathering,” fiber art by Karin Franzen. Commissioned by Bill Stringer in memory of his wife, Sandra.
About this Book
As caribou encounter the oil pipeline on Alaska’s North Slope and cranes navigate their way through the towering mountains of the Alaska Range, Archives of the Air brings the reader into contact with the strange and fascinating world of the far north. A day-long canoe trip on an Alaskan river, and poems from Morgan’s residency in Denali National Park, combine with explorations of history, art, and family in this wide-ranging collection by one of Alaska’s most celebrated poets. Archives of the Air is John Morgan’s sixth book of poetry.
John Morgan studied with Robert Lowell at Harvard, where he won the Hatch Prize for Lyric Poetry. At the Iowa Writers Workshop, he earned an MFA and was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. In 1976, Morgan moved with his family to Alaska, where for many years he directed the Creative Writing Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and many other magazines. In 2009, he served as the first writer-in-residence at Denali National Park. Annie Dillard writes that Morgan’s poems “are strong and full of carefully controlled feeling. They are tender and precise evocations of the moral and sensory life of man.”
Read a sample from this book
Ten below and ice-mist on the river
when “Oh,” she says, “a butterfly!” as it
comes wobbling from the sun-room, settles
on the floor. We offer sugar water
in a spoon and watch its sucking tube unroll.
It sips, then flutters to the windowsill
and folds its scalloped wings against the chill.
By noon, bright sun, and full of spunk it beats
against the glass, in love with light. The ground
outside, a spanking white, looks welcoming.
Its wings, like paisley, red and brown, quiver
as it paws the pane, embodiment of
summer in late fall, cold-blooded thing,
whose hopes will never be this young again.
Followed a fox toward Polychrome Pass.
with black along its lean rib-cage,
it rubs its muzzle on a former meal,
impatient poet on its tail.
Then nearing the overlook, sun shearing
through low clouds
transmutes the view to glitter. Everything’s
golden, scintillant. I feel like a seedpod wafted
into space and
check my shaky hands on the steering wheel.
As the road crests over its top, boundaries
dissolve. Beside that
sheer intractable edge, I greet my radiant center,
discharge all my terms. How easy it seems
to channel between
worlds, my old self dying into a new,
with nothing firm to hold me here
but love. And that’s
what nature has it in its power to do.
PSALM (AFTER NIETZSCHE)
That day is coming soon when our people,
all the cousins, pets, children
will begin to disperse like the insects
of summer after the petals fall.
And where do they go, those bees,
those dragonflies? Into the soil
where they break into pieces, a wing,
an antenna, a thorax, absently dreaming
of spring, as the long cold settles over
them, their buzzing and sipping forgotten.
And a great age passes like those
lumbering eras we learned of
in grade school, or the unbelievable time
it takes to make a star and its planets and
evolve a living world—all gone to ground,
and trillions of years slip by in silence
under the earth, but then one day, one
millennium, a gentle humming and something
oozing, gripping, reaching, this relentless longing
toward light—urgent, fantastic. It could happen.
Copyright © John Morgan 2015