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Dead Man's Float

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  371 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Jim Harrison's final book of poems, published only a few months before his death

"[Jim Harrison] is still close to the source...Dead Man's Float is, as its title would suggest, a flinty and psalmist look at mortality and wonder."--Los Angeles Times

"Mr. Harrison's novels and poems over the last two decades have been increasingly preoccupied with mortality, never so much as i
Hardcover, 156 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Copper Canyon Press (first published October 13th 2015)
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Average rating 4.47  · 
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Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Conversing with the poet-novelist is somehow akin to watching his dogs work the cover for birds. They race off on tangents, describing broad loops and arcs, or tight circles, always returning in a controlled, if circuitous, pattern that is at once instinct, training, ritual, and play.

Harrison is a man of prodigious memory and free-wheeling brilliance and erudition, as well as great spirit and generosity, lightness and humor; so the reader should imagine wild giggles and laughter throughout, and
Simon Robs
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'At my age you don't think about the future because you don't have one.' And with this book, his last, it was fait accompli. The back cover photo shows it "Buzzard" an' all. More reason this cut-to-bone collection that recapitulates the penultimate loves of nature in forms of birds, birddogs, rivers and estuaries, apple trees, April, killed and/or avoided snakes and enduring love for Lorca. He yearns a nymphet still and always, lush of maidenhood, Moonbeams and fish rises. I called him the 'Buzz ...more
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gritty, poetry
Gritty and gorgeous poetry. This collection was published just months before Jim Harrison's death, and it's a moving portrayal of the tail end of a life. Each poem paints a vivid picture - just a handful of words capture an experience of hard living, of liquor and women, of favorite dogs, of the desert landscape, of dreaming about the hereafter. It's a bit like watching found footage of someone's last moments on earth, a bit like listening to a ghost. ...more
Natalie Tyler
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jim Harrison’s final collection of poetry, Dead Man’s Float, seems to have been written in the full knowledge that he did not have much longer to live. Approaching age 80, the poet sings of death and birds. The opening poem is our vade mecum:
“Where Is Jim Harrison?”
He fell off the cliff of a seven-inch zafu.
He couldn’t get up because of his surgery.
He believes in the Resurrection mostly
because he was never taught how not to.

The poems that follow will deal with these themes—falling, Eastern conce
Nicholas Trandahl
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was late to the "Jim Harrison" party, and for that I'll always be regretful and embarrassed. However, the beauty of literature is that even when the authors are gone (Harrison died the day before Easter in 2016), their work and legacy will remain. And what a legacy Harrison seems to have left us.
I'm a poet and I'm drawn to poetry, but I'm also pulled by solid fiction. I'm pulled by honest and truthful prose, artful blemishes left behind until what remains is a purified section of prose that ca
Peycho Kanev
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Junk Pile

God throws us out the back door
onto a huge junk pile in another
galaxy. There are billions of bodies.
It’s 1,000 degrees below
zero but compacted souls don’t need heat.
It’s logical because we
came in the front door. All of us die
in the caboose not of our choosing
but then we’ve always seen life
disappearing behind us, most always
into what we clumsily call the past.
Most of the girls I loved are now crones
with me a geezer, shuffling toward the moon.
So many years ago the girl with brown legs
in t
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
Dead Man's Float
by Harrison, Jim

These are poems of a man reflecting on his collection of decades, his single thread of story weaving through relationships and places. Harrison’s writing is not restrained. He gifts us his words which are our words, but we usually hold them back and don’t say them, thinking of a softer way to say it. Yet, deep within, we’re thinking the same thing. Harrison doesn’t do that. This makes his writing the voice of an unrestrained human — the voice of a free man.

I migh
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jim Harrison is at a point in his life that in addition to his usual subjects, he writes about unrelenting physical pain and frustration, which, for me, gave even more depth to his poems.... The authors photo on the back of the dustcover is in itself worth the price of the book. a big thank you to Jim harrison.

another reviewer on this site describe Jim Harrison as, "a unrestrained human voice". I find that to be a apt description.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dead Man's Float by Jim Harrison. Excellent collection.
The subjects of many of these are other poets. Lorca and fellow Spaniard, Machado, make repeat visits; also Mandalstam (Russian), and Rumi (13th C., Persian).
And, as with Braided Creek (see below), many are about aging, about death, about birds. In two poems, in fact, he witnesses an unlikely sight, the moment of death of two birds, from natural causes:

Meanwhile, seventy-four years of birds
have passed. Most have died of course
so I should
Dan Wilcox
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
birds, rattlesnakes, Lorca, Machado, girls (in memory), & whatever the thing is he calls "spirit."
"It's up to poets to revive the gods." (from "Nuthatch Girl")
"Birds are poems I haven't caught yet." (from "Tiny Bird")
Kurt Kemmerer
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Must read more Jim Harrison poems.
Andrew Blok
Sep 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I might not know how to read poetry anymore.
Some incredible writing here. Definitely want to read more of his work. And Lorca.
Mark Noble
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jim Harrison died in March of this year. I had a copy of Dead Man's Float on my shelf. This slim book of poems was his last published work and I thought I should read it in tribute to his amazing career. His poetry does not fit into the classical mold, with rhyming lines and specific beats. It is a free form style maybe better described as word paintings. His language can be quite beautiful and he manages to convey complicated ideas and emotions in a minimum of words. As could be expected from a ...more
Jun 02, 2016 rated it liked it
I've always had trouble getting into the kind of poetry that, on the surface, seems merely descriptions of nature. The birds fly, the flowers are nice to look at, the fields are empty, etc, and then it's over. Robert Bly does it. Jim Harrison does it. There's undoubtedly a lot of that here.

But set against the reality of a year battling illness, shingles, surgeries, and the ever present knowledge that death would be visiting soon, this final literary work from as important an American author as
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Had this on my shelf, unread, when I heard Harrison died on Saturday. This collection of poems, matched with "The Ancient Minstrel," are two books of the novella and poetry written by someone who knew he hadn't much time left, but wrote strongly until the end. I wonder if he has anything else in line to be published, but if these were his last two books, they would be the last two works I would expect of his amazingly prolific and insightful (if daffy and a bit too enamored of the charms of wome ...more
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My work piles up,
I falter with disease.
Time rushes toward me —it has no brakes. Still,
the radishes are good this year.
Run them through butter,
add a little salt.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
These are very enjoyable poems...most of them just didn't find the right listener in me, hence the rating. I would like to try reading some of Harrison's other poetry collections, though. ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a book I am keeping through old age, no matter where I go. It is poetry for the hopeful man living out the end of his life. The struggles are included, but nothing counters the force of life and outlook of his spirit. He communes shakily with nature, with writing and everything else. He observes as he always does and writes what feels effortless, like jottings in a notebook. I'm not sure if this is his last work, but, if it is, it is a great monument to what feels like the last great Ame ...more
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poemetry
Poems by an old guy who could write good and then died.

“ The cost of flight is landing.”

“ Time rushes toward me it has no brakes.”

He Dog
I’m a very old dog,
much older than most dogs.
I can’t give out my wisdom
because I bark loudly and virtually
no one understands this barking except
a few other dogs of my peculiar species.
I don’t bark at cars. they’re beneath contempt.
I bark at the rising sun when it rises
red out of a forest fire.
I bark at thunder out of pure envy,
the mighty noise this sky d
Emilie Marshall
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jim Harrison is one of my most favorite poets ever. His poems are so simple and easy to understand but with layers and layers of meaning, feelings, and emotions that wrap around you like thick cozy sweaters. His poetry glows like lights on a Christmas tree on a snowy night. His awareness of the world and her small secret gifts makes you feel like a kind stranger just put a starburst in your pocket and lucky you its a pink one. If you're the kind of human that forgets why life is so wonderful and ...more
Kelsey  May
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book will make you remember why you're alive. I am so heartbroken that I will never meet Jim Harrison. What a soul. What a thinker and a genuine lover of the earth. These poems made me weep. Jim got it. He got life and purpose and cosmic scaling. He got birds and fish and land and sky. I read a borrowed library copy of this book and plan to buy it, as it deserves a place on my bookshelves.

4 out of 5 stars because there are a few lines where descriptions of people could have been more inclu
Tim Weed
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
With a focus on nature and one man's interactions with it, this deceptively simple poetry collection manages to be vivid, funny, grim, bracing, and spiritually enriching all at the same time. That this is Harrison's final book—and contains his very last poem—makes it all the more poignant. I am filled with admiration for a man who could summon the fortitude to write so beautifully in the shadow of what he clearly knew was his own rapidly approaching demise. Along with Harrison's other collection ...more
Mike Dennisuk
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I start by saying I have not read much poetry. I am a fan of some of Robert Frost’s work but not much beyond that ... until now. I read Harrison’s True North and decided to give this a try. Amazing!! I love this collection of poems. I read it daily for the last month and a half. Savoring a poem or two at a time. It is a feast ... enjoy!!
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is my first time reading Jim Harrison, and I am in awe of his power and the near elemental nature of his work. This collection satisfies the mind in a way that feels spiritually and intellectually nourishing, while never sacrificing its sense of wistfulness and wonder, woven into a braid.
Leonardo Paley
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jim Harrison’s final collection of poetry brings with it Harrison’s profound ability to mix the fantastical with the realistic in his signature brand of a faux neo-transcendentalism. Meditative and melancholic it is a beautiful capstone on a titanic career.
Richard OConnell
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
To love this mans work is to feel it to you’re core. This was his last book of poetry before passing. I feel he saw his end coming and decided to expose the rawness of his experience. Some say Harrison is an acquired taste. Well it’s tasting amazing to me.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Top notch stuff here.
Joy Schultz
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Understandably preoccupied with death. About as evocative as his other work.
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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

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“Rumi advised me to keep my spirit

up in the branches of a tree and not peek

out too far, so I keep mine in the very tall

willows along the irrigation ditch out back”
“Christ rose so long ago but the air
he rose through hasn't forgotten
the slight red contrail from the wounds.”
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