Comments about A Walk by the River (published 2004):
I've come to conclude that Dale Jacobson's A Walk by the River is a
masterwork, which I won't undo with the usual quibble, "minor." It
is as it is as no long poem has been since Thomas McGrath's lovely
Letter to an Imaginary Friend-- a trek to define identity without the tricks
of rhetoric, without reliance on a particular time or tradition, and
with only suggestions f the bare edges of rough science, and so an
exposition of the lineaments of self, the lone walker along a river
that leads, over a period of personal desolation, to questions at the
heart of the organizing power of personality-- justification,
self-congratulation, evasion, aging, all joining hands. The reach of
A Walk by the River is for a rest from that. The rest is pursued with
excoriating patience until life songs lift up, and the dark valley and
chasms of existential defeat are spanned in the manner of a leap of
faith. There must be love, the narrator seems to discover, in a kind
of starstruck wonder: "the seal's wide, spindrift gaze toward
paradise," as Hart Crane put it.
It's a book all manner of people should read.
--Larry Woiwode, Poet Laureate of North Dakota
Dale Jacobson’s A Walk by the River is a masterfully written poem, full
of depth and resonance, and quintessentially American. The poem’s
current pulls you in and sweeps you along on its spiritual journey.
This is a river that can take its place proudly beside Williams’
Passaic, Twain’s Mississippi and Thoreau’s Concord and Merrimack.
“I cannot imagine my own annihilation.” said Walt Whitman, but Dale
Jacobson imagines this very thing in language that Whitman would have
loved and in ways that he would have cheered. A Walk by the River is
filled with metaphysical musings, inquiries into mortality, and memory,
but this Dante does not descend into the underworld for answers; he
stays under the stars, on the banks of a discernibly Midwestern river,
trusting his own imagination to carry him on, endlessly.
One of the central and most generally-averted themes of our times.
-- Jack Beeching
“the lovely Jacobson poem, a meditation with a current like a river,
and a weighing of things in all our minds (whoever "we" are)."
--W.S.Merwin (in letter to publisher)
Regarding Metamorphoses of the Sleeping Beast:
Dale Jacobson is a poet of lyric praise and political vision. Like Tom
McGrath, Jacobson’s late friend and mentor, he comes to his topics
growing up and working in the farms and canning factories of the great prairie
of the northern mid-west. If there is a politics in his poetry as there is in McGrath’s,
it is as spiritually suffused with nature as William Blake’s, as imagistic
and allusively argued as Neruda’s, and as American as a coyote on a hilltop
outside town waking us up with his lyrical, plaintive song.
Throughout Metamorphoses of the Sleeping Beast, Dale Jacobson speaks for
the unspoken, the victimized, the disillusioned, and does so eloquently, forcefully,
in a voice filled with beauty and moral indignation. Metamorphoses is finally
about hope and, like all good poets, Jacobson forges a compassionate pact
with the world; it is one that in the end sustains and confirms– the poet's life,
ours, and the great healing powers of the language.
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