Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Headwaters, Poems & Field Notes - Saul Weisberg (Pleasure Boat Studio)

Today's book of poetry:
Headwaters, Poems & Field Notes.  Saul Weisberg.  Pleasure Boat Studio.  New York, New York.  2015.

Saul Weisberg's Headwaters, Poems & Field Notes is a master class in exploring the natural world with a tuned and sympathetic ear.  These poems bear a close resemblance to meditations or even prayers.  Weisberg is able to report with such an empathetic voice that you begin to expect that he was the Earth's own lungs given sound.

There is nothing pastoral about these brief accounts although that sentiment is in there, no, Weisberg is closer to Basho with his clipped ease.  These poems are cut to the bone but never terse and never lacking the underlying warmth Weisberg maintains.

What this poetry most certainly is - is celebratory and there is precious little of that these days.  Saul W's Headwaters is marvelously optimistic.

Spring Music

All you need to know
     about my day:

winter wren
     in the morning.

canyon wren
     at dusk.


These poems are calming.  When you read these poems the possibility of a kinder world is obvious. There is nothing naive about Weisberg's wisdom or the world he portrays, it is the authentic thing.

Again and again, in the simplest possible terms, these poems announce genuine consideration of the natural world and create wonder.


The yellow canoe
tied on top of the red car
next to the frozen lake.

Drifting -
it's all right in a canoe,
in life, another story.

when my wind wanders
only the canoe goes straight.

I point my paddles
where I want to go,
the wind has other ideas.

At the edge of the ice
the canoe hovers,
tasting winter.


Weisberg's poems read and sound like things we already know.  At the morning read today everyone had the same reaction to this sublime poetry.  Reverence.

Even Milo was enthusiastic.  He also shaved for the first time since August.  And is wearing a clean shirt.  And is now sitting in the corner with Kathryn, again, and reading Weisberg poems to her.  Her Goth demeanour would seem to be in partial swoon.

Milo isn't just reading to Kathryn, he's giving voice to the Weisberg poems in a quiet but authoritative tone.  He has us all in a short swoon but we know it will lift us up.  Isn't poetry marvelous.

Home Ground

It's good to have a lake close to home,
also rivers, mountains too.
Familiar terrain and the comfort
of well-traveled trails.
In my pocket,
on the torn corner of a map -
directions to a place called home.


Headwaters, Poems & Field Notes takes us to a home that is in our better nature, Weisberg reminds us in every poem of who we are and of who we could be.


Saul Weisberg

Saul Weisberg is the co-founder and Executive Director of North Cascades Institute, a conservation nonprofit with the mission of conserving and restoring Northwest environments founded in 1986. He serves on the board of directors of the Association of Nature Center Administrators, the Natural History Network and the Environmental Education Association of Washington, and is adjunct faculty at Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University. In 2013, Weisberg was given the Environmental Heroes Award by ReSources in Bellingham. He has authored From the Mountains to the Sea, North Cascades: The Story behind the Scenery, Teaching for Wilderness, and Living with Mountains. Saul and his family live near the shores of the Salish Sea in Bellingham, Washington.

Headwaters is a peaceful, joyous book. Its poems open my heart. Yes, every moment is a gift. Every bird, a blessing.
     —Kathleen Dean Moore

Saul Weisberg’s crisp, lyric poems are grounded deeply in his lifelong engagement with the plants and wildlife, rocks and weather of his home ground, Washington’s rugged North Cascades and the Salish Sea. Buoyant, passionate, playful, and precise, these poems echo Basho in capturing mystery within an image and Rexroth in artfully blending themes of nature and love. But the poet’s joyful celebration of family, friendship, community, and place are all his own. This is a clear and welcome poetic voice from one of the West’s most inspiring locales. 
     — Tim McNulty

Headwaters drips with the waters of the wild, sings with the voices of thrush, wren, and owl, dances with the butterflies. How wonderful to have Saul Weisberg’s long-awaited poems together in this handsome book – poems that are worshipful and wry, funny and askance, often sexy, and always perceptive. I am thrilled to have Headwaters at loose in the world at last.
     — Robert Michael Pyle

The sensual poems of Saul Weisberg are powerful connections to the essential elements in nature that enrich and fashion our lives. With economy he fashions an invitation for us to join in the moment and become appreciative witnesses and his companion in nature. With lines such as “The river gathers friends on its way to the sea” and questions likes “What does it mean to become extinct?” we are challenged to expand how we embrace and steward our natural heritage. 
     — Tony Angell

Make room in your backpack for the marvelously condensed wisdom of Headwaters: poems that are intricate as a snowflake, as simple as stone, and the very soul of an educational visionary who has spent his life in the high Cascades. Each of these mountain morsels smiles with gentle truth, and lingers on the mind with honest beauty. 
     — William Dietrich

From the “ecstasy of conifers” and the “infinite ache of wood becoming wood” to rivers that “tremble in their sleep,” Saul Weisberg sees into the heart of the world, revealing all the ways we’re connected to this landscape and to each other. In spare, lyric poems and haiku-like field notes—each one a shining gem—he reminds us how to pay attention, giving us, in poem after poem, “directions to a place called home.”
       – Holly J. Hughes

"Not many people know the spirit of the mountains, rivers, lakes and inland sea of Cascadia like Weisberg does. His reverent attentiveness, subtle humor and deep ecological knowledge are apparent in Headwaters, a volume collecting more than 25 years of his poems and journal entries." 
     — Cascadia Weekly

"Inspired by the landscape around him...Weisberg's work captures the expanse of awe-inspiring wilderness in perfect, distinct moments. Exploring the connection between man and nature, Weisberg's work is is both contemplative and celebratory." 
     — North Sound Life



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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