The Shape of the Voyage


Cover Art by Russell Chatham, from 1989’s The Theory & Practice of Rivers and New Poems (Clark City Press).

Jim Harrison (1937-2016), of whom I have written before, published The Theory and Practice of Rivers (Winn Books) in 1986. He included the poem of the same name in a later collection, as well. Here, I offer an excerpt from that lengthy poem–the first two stanzas. They appeal to me on this wintry December day that provokes the same sort of self-reflection found in Harrison’s poem.

The Theory and Practice of Rivers

The rivers of my life:
moving looms of light,
anchored beneath the log
at night I can see the moon
up through the water
as shattered milk, the nudge
of fishes, belly and back
in turn grating against log
and bottom; and letting go, the current
lifts me up and out
into the dark, gathering motion,
drifting into an eddy
with a sideways swirl,
the sandbar cooler than the air:
to speak it clearly,
how the water goes
is how the earth is shaped.

It is not so much that I got
there from here, which is everyone’s
story: but the shape
of the voyage, how it pushed
outward in every direction
until it stopped:
roots of plants and trees,
certain coral heads,
photos of splintered lightning,
blood vessels,
the shapes of creeks and rivers.



5 Responses to “The Shape of the Voyage”

  1. Jack Wallingford Says:

    This book is no longer available from Harrison’s oevre. I have tried on Amazon and rarely do i find it at book sales. Anyone have an extra copy?


    • Kenov Says:

      Yes. Surprising that it is out of print; I assume there must be some copyright related reason for that.


    • Hanna Says:

      I actually found it on Amazon. The only Problem, it’s around $130… and the collectors edition is 400 bucks even. I would have bought it otherwise but that’s a little over the budget I had in mind.
      Maybe there will be an eBook released soon, let’s hope. Until then I would appreciate if you could post a little excerpt every once in a while. Thanks a lot!


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