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In Search of Small Gods

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  408 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
“Jim Harrison has probed the breadth of human appetites—for food and drink, for art, for sex, for violence and, most significantly, for the great twin engines of love and death. Perhaps no American writer better appreciates those myriad drives; since the publication of his first collection of poetry . . . Harrison has become their poet laureate.”—

In Jim Harrison’s
Hardcover, 120 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Copper Canyon Press (first published April 1st 2009)
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(showing 1-30)
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Peycho Kanev
Jan 13, 2011 Peycho Kanev rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The Home

If my body is my home
what is this house full of blood
within my skin? I can't leave it
for a moment but finally will. It knows
up and down, sideways, the texture
of the future and remnants of the past.
It accepts moods as law no matter
how furtively they slip in and out
of consciousness. It accepts dreams as law
of a different sort as if they came from
a body well hidden within his own.
He says, "Pull yourself together," but he
already is. An old voice says, "Stay close to home."
Heather Shaw
Nov 06, 2008 Heather Shaw rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry

by Jim Harrison

A ratty old man, an Ojibwe alcoholic who lived to be eighty-eight and chewed Red Man tobacco as a joke, told me a few years back that time lasted seven times longer than we “white folks” think. This irritated me. We were sitting on the porch of his shack drinking a bottle of Sapphire gin that I brought over. He liked expensive gin. An old shabby-furred bear walked within ten feet of us on the way to the bird feeder for a mouthful of sunflower seed. “That bear was a puissant
Jun 01, 2010 Jessie rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Though a few poems don't achieve lift-off for me, Harrison is fanciful and meandering, a poet inventing endlessly from the detritus of his day and from the detritus of his memory. He's a scallywag but I like him (and who isn't a scallywag?)

My favorite are the prose poems, portraits mostly, full-bodied stories of whole lives: one comprised of advice from an Ojibwe alcoholic; one about a 96-yr-old Estonian working extra shifts as a deckhand just to get more daylight, having suffered too much darkn
Dan Butterfass
Jan 16, 2009 Dan Butterfass rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Another gift from a master.

I don't know if this is his "best" work yet, but what does it matter?
Many many passages are as spirit-haunted and beautiful as any Harrison has ever written. As one reviewer put it some time ago, reading Harrison "is to feel the luminosity of nature in one's own being."

Here's Hayden Carruth on Harrison's oevre:

"No one has advanced and expanded the American literary ethos in the latter part of the twentieth century more cogently, usefully, and just plain brilliantly t
Moriah Pearson
Aug 08, 2015 Moriah Pearson rated it it was amazing
"I tell them that this is a world where falling is best." - Jim Harrison, from New World

This book is almost always in my purse, what more is there to say?

I have a friend who describes poetry and short prose like Harrison's as so: "If you ain't over 30, you ain't gonna like it." That's mostly because it isn't about tinder, text messaging, or how you are a beautiful phoenix; it also isn't about the newest pop album or something that will remind you of how much your ex-boyfriend sucked.

But I'm 25
Jun 15, 2009 Kim rated it it was amazing
I love pret'ner anything that Jim writes, but I am in awe of his poetry. Absolutely in awe. This collection is wonderful and not to be missed. Thank god for Copper Canyon Press for continuing to publish amazing poets like Jim Harrison.
Ryan O'grady
Nov 15, 2011 Ryan O'grady rated it really liked it
Jim Harrison
In Search of Small Gods
Copper Canyon Press, 2010

Human beings faced with the reality of their own mortality often turn to God for comfort. Poet Jim Harrison, approaching age seventy, looks not to Heaven for answers, but to the “small gods” here on Earth. He finds meaning in life’s simple pleasures: dreams, memories of youth, and the beauty of the natural world. The poems which make up In Search of Small Gods record his reflections on death, his observations of the life surrounding him
Tyler Koslow
Feb 16, 2011 Tyler Koslow rated it really liked it
“In Search of Small Gods”
by Jim Harrison
Copper Canyon Press

In his latest work of poetry, literary veteran Jim Harrison dips deep beneath the surface of everyday living to find the beauty and pain within life and death. His collection, “In Search of Small Gods”, is summarized perfectly by the title itself. Harrison uses his observing eye and thoughtful mind to discover the inevitable paradoxes we are all wrapped around, pleasure and pain, light and darkness, and of course, life and death. Th
Garret Mischenko
Mar 05, 2015 Garret Mischenko rated it liked it
In search of Small Gods is a book that is easy to reject yet begs of acceptance, it is a book that sits next to my night stand at work (North Slope of Alaska) and I treat myself to reading one or two of the poems each night to make the collection last and help me escape from the reality of life if only for that short moment.His insight into nature and the translation is superb. I want to read more and more....

I Believe/Jim Harrison

I believe in steep drop-offs, the thunderstorm across the lake
Oct 31, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Long a fan of Jim Harrison's novels (Dalva, True North, and The Great Leader, to name a few), In Search of Small Gods is the first of his poetry collections I have read. I remember hearing that Harrison, who has written dozens of books from long novels to collections of novellas to non-fiction, thinks of himself first as a poet. Any fan of his novels would be a fan of his poetry. The themes and the images are the same, and Harrison's signature voice permeates every poem, from the short free-vers ...more
Aug 12, 2013 Marsha rated it it was amazing
I love Jim Harrison's writing. It's luminous, darkly funny, tender and insightful. This is one of his many books of poetry, prose poetry, free form. Here's part of one of them.

Sunday Discordances

This morning I seem to hear the nearly inaudible
whining grind of creation similar to the harmonics
of pine trees in the wind. My outrageously lovely
hollyhocks are now collapsing of their own weight,
clearly too big for their britches. I'm making notes
for a novel called The End of Man, and Not Incidentally
R.G. Evans
Mar 06, 2015 R.G. Evans rated it liked it
What I knew about Jim Harrison before I read In Search of Small Gods:

1) He wrote Legends of the Fall.

2) My friend Mark once drove from New Jersey to Michigan and camped on Harrison's front lawn.

3) He's a gourmand who ate and wrote in The New Yorker about a 37-course lunch he ate in Paris.

What I know about Jim Harrison after reading In Search of Small Gods:

1) He can write some amazingly powerful and sublime poems (see "Prayer" or "Small Gods").

2) He can write some dreadful, seemingly endless poem
Michael Vagnetti
Mar 08, 2013 Michael Vagnetti rated it really liked it
Ranger's writing. A rugged and thirsty walking stick, that takes sinewy routes to get you there. You are trying to catch your breath even though you are young and dusk is falling. If it's coarse, it's tolerable. If there's avarice, there's generosity. He's probably walked with death a thousand times. The writing roams over the past, too, in central Michigan, where I travel to frequently. There are prose poems about all of wild oracles that knew you.

It's always going to be weird to be making thin
Jan 02, 2013 Charles rated it it was ok
The experience of reading this naturalist book primarily about aging, the contrast of the real and imagined life, and the act of observing transports the reader thoroughly into the mind of the narrator. While a particular line might jump out at me from time to time as memorable, The Penitentes is the only poem or prose poem I loved unabashedly from start to finish. I have read better approaches to naturalism, even from Harrison himself, and far more interesting language. Finding enough fascinati ...more
Sep 05, 2016 Jsavett1 rated it really liked it
Many people know Jim Harrison as the fiction writer of the wonderful Legends of the Fall. But he's a poet too, and really good one. In fact, that's how I discovered him. I read his book Songs of Unreason, which I loved.

Harrison was one of our great nature poets. His poems almost ALWAYS include a dog, a star, trees, dirt. But like the other poets with whom he shares this affinity, these references are almost always about us, as he reminds us in this collection "we are nature too, and some of us
Apr 29, 2014 Chanti rated it really liked it
4+ stars. Maaaan, I really dig this one. So often earthy poetry has a sort of heaviness to it, but not this one. Jim Harrison is so lucid, light, and straightforward while still carrying such an elemental richness to his work. And I love his fascination with birds, though I suppose that anyone worth their salt finds a certain magic in birds...

Just a solid, down-to-earth, full of awe, simple, light, rich look into the twin sisters of life and death, of wildness and tameness, and of things just a
David Guy
Sep 09, 2010 David Guy rated it really liked it
I've read every word Jim Harrison has ever written, many of them several times. I'm a huge fan of his novels, his essays, and his poetry, though I'm not otherwise much of a poetry reader. In this volume he has some prose poems that seem like passages from his novels; they develop fascinating characters in just a few lines. This isn't necessarily the poetry volume I'd begin with; he has a large selection entitled The Shape of the Journey that is a real feast. But everything the man writes is wort ...more
Apr 23, 2013 Rwildfon rated it it was amazing
This is a STUNNING book of poems.

Jim Harrison lives with the wild and tamed and writes exquisitely about them both -

ah, how I would love to go walking with him

he would shake his walking stick at rattlers,

I would watch for the lioness likely

peering over some canyon wall.

we could dream birds together -

I the little white throated sparrow, or veery, or wilson's snipe

and he - of course -

whomever he chooses.

Would he ever come to our New England beaver pond

to listen for the hermit thrush at even
Jul 23, 2009 Keith rated it did not like it
I like Jim H. A few of the poems in this collection are engaging. The long, long, long paragraphs are not. And it seems a bit silly to search for small gods after acknowledging the "big" one who took on "the beast of history." As for the Indian gods he attempts to syncretize into some kind of system, I find the discussion of such gods by James Welch, Louise Erdrich, Mark Turcotte, and Marnie Walsh much more compelling. Sorry. Its hard to write poems, I know. But I just did not find this slim vol ...more
Jun 07, 2013 Phyllis rated it it was amazing
I never heard of or read any of Jim Harrison's work before this book. I really liked his poetry, especially his list poems "Child Fear" and "I Believe." His poems are full and bring the reader through a full sensory experience from the first line to the last line. My other two favorites are "Calendars" and "Larson's Holstein Bull," the first dealing with the passage of time and indirectly with death, time's endpoint, and the second talking directly about a specific death. Recommended even for pe ...more
Dec 25, 2012 Justin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Kind of a mixed bag. Some of the poems are amazing, while others are middling. Harrison has a strong voice throughout, and I love the way the western landscape comes alive and how he relates himself to it, but I couldn't always connect to the way he sees things as a 70 year-old man (no surprise).

Overall, I found it to be a good, occasionally great, collection of poetry, but not up to the same level as his excellent novels and novellas.
Jul 13, 2009 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010, poetry
This is a book to savor. I received this as a Christmas present and have been reading a poem or two at a time. These poems are like splashes of ice cold water in the face.

Brilliant, brutal, and beautiful.

Highest recommendation.
Feb 13, 2013 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Enjoyed it here and there but didn't love it. Second to last poem was lovely, and I enjoyed part 2, the more prosey stuff, as it resembled his fiction moreso than the other stuff, but still wasn't (his fiction). Lots of nature, lots of blood. Talk of blood specifically, versus say violence.
Lawrence Sullivan
Jul 20, 2009 Lawrence Sullivan rated it it was amazing
Harrison is an American treasure and this is perhaps his very best book of poetry (among 12). If I were asked, however, I'd recommend reading them all. There are also the 10 novels, 5 novella trilogies and the non-fiction. It will keep you busy and splendidly entertained for awhile.
Aug 21, 2009 Liam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
He writes of rattlesnakes, all kinds of birds, water, women, and place and a seeming fondness for gods that touch his life in these places. Well worth reading because he asks us to look at the familiar with a different set of eyes.
Nicholas Trandahl
May 06, 2016 Nicholas Trandahl rated it it was amazing
The late Harrison is, as always, the quintessential American poet. The simplicity of Hemingway dances with the roughness of Raymond Carver and the childlike wonder of Mary Oliver. Jim Harrison was a true master and has become one of my most evident inspirations and favorite writers.
Michael Williamson
Jan 08, 2010 Michael Williamson rated it it was amazing
Jim Harrison proves again he is a great poet, first and foremost. This collection reflects many of his usual themes such as nature and spirituality, but augments these themes with ruminations on aging.
Joy Schultz
Apr 07, 2016 Joy Schultz rated it it was ok
Bright images, curious ideas, unmoving words.

Admittedly, I may have been left unmoved because I was hoping for more evidence of Michigan than the mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and penstemons of Arizona.
Aug 23, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I don't read much poetry. I found "After Ikkyu and other poems", zen poetry by Harrison to be beyond me. This one I loved. If you are a naturalist, this is a good way into poetry.
Hannah Messler
Feb 23, 2010 Hannah Messler rated it it was amazing
I like him very very much.
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Jim Harrison was born in Grayling, Michigan, to Winfield Sprague Harrison, a county agricultural agent, and Norma Olivia (Wahlgren) Harrison, both avid readers. He married Linda King in 1959 with whom he has two daughters.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

His awards include National Academy of Arts grants
More about Jim Harrison...

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“Death steals everything except our stories.” 49 likes
“I'm hoping to be astonished tomorrow
by I don't know what.”
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