“Harrison’s poems derive from a curiosity and passion for the out-of-doors. The poems
seek to answer questions that probably cannot finally be answered. Yet out of necessity
Harrison perseveres. ‘I need to scent again / the mountain air // in that high camp
/ up on Cutthroat Lake,’he writes. ‘I need that light, / that god, / the sun.’”
His animal kingdom remains a mystery, but its ‘timeless burning / pulse’ conceals
wildness beyond the reach of the human mind. Among these wonders are the great blue
heron, the snowy egret, the coyote, the Canadian goose, the fence row ‘ripe with
plums, grapes, sunflowers, coneflowers / and beyond, vast fields of golden corn and
beans.’ A place where, ‘from high heavens a dark hawk / unlocks its talons teaching
a snake to fall.’ This ‘glorious chain of mysteries goes on,’ and that, in itself,
is perhaps the deepest mystery.
Harrison’s poems are beautifully crafted, with just enough rhythm to deflect the
craft. Most of the poems are written in free verse, but from time to time he introduces
a conventional form—as, for example, ‘Go Gently On,’ a strikingly lovely villanelle.
Individually and collectively these poems offer a marvelous and compelling journey
into the animal kingdom, a journey that ‘sets us spinning / out once more into the
awe-filled everlasting . . .’”
—WILLIAM KLOEFKORN, Nebraska State Poet
“A dog’s run leads us into an opening in the continuum, into wildness intercepted
by man, taking us into the precise pulse of it all, in this wild place we all know.
Whether ‘Under thrumming streets in the city of dreams,’ or ankle-deep in prairie
grass, watching as ‘A spattered black iridescence / feathers each small body / floating
/ like a living heaven full of stars,’ we are changed and made over in this reading.
There’s a bard on the river in this spectacular ‘dream-world built of words,’ this
bridge between existences. Like Orion, he’s carrying a bow to feed us all, Sirius
alongside. This book is nourishment. Take from it.”
—ALLISON HEDGE COKE, Reynolds Chair of Creative Writing; Platte Valley Review, Senior
Editor; University of Nebraska, Kearney
NEIL HARRISON has worked as a livestock-market yardman and night chute-man, feedlot
worker, construction worker, house painter, machine-gunner in the 325th Airborne
Infantry, casket bearer in Arlington National Cemetery as a member of the 3rd U.S.
Infantry, farm and ranch hand, block-layer’s assistant, gas-station attendant, plumber’s
assistant, masonry crew worker, and postal clerk, with various episodes of schooling
scattered throughout. Among his most memorable experiences was a one-day excursion
as a carpet cleaner, negotiating rush hour traffic in Omaha in a hot-pink minivan
with the company’s proud logo, TICKLED PINK, writ large on either side.
At present, Harrison teaches English and Creative Writing at Northeast Community
College in Norfolk, Nebraska, where he coordinates the Visiting Writers Series.
“Back in the Animal Kingdom, is rooted in the immense landscape of the Plains. Harrison
is attuned to nature and all living things, and draws us into the terrain he knows.
He scans his memory for those moments that remain clear and shining years after they
happen. Above all, he sheds light on his past and ours in celebration and sorrow.
These poems pay attention, and they force the reader to do the same.”
—MARIA MAZZIOTTI GILLAN, Winner of the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from
Poets & Writers, 2011; American Book Award for All That Lies Between Us (2008)