I first encountered James Richardson through his aphorisms. Large numbers of these are reproduced in Interglacial: New and Selected Poems & Aphorisms (Ausable Press, 2004), and dipping into them is one of the pleasures of the volume.
The road you do not take you will have to cross.
Who had to beg owes you nothing.
The first abuse of power is not realizing that you have it.
It’s easy to renounce the world till you see who picks up what you renounced.
The flexibility of that ‘you’– sometimes yourself, sometimes oneself, sometimes another…
The book also includes poems from volumes published from 1977 on. I’ve been particularly enjoying some of the longer poems. ‘The Encyclopedia of the Stones: A Pastoral’ is in 63 short parts; it’s reminiscent of notes from anthropological observations – referring, for example, to stone mythologies and views, many of which relate to their experience of time:
Some say they were prayers
until they lost confidence;
others, the ashes
of the shrieking cold.
They are fond of each season in its turn,
regretting only brevity.
They suspect this world was not made for them.
They are fond of the phrase after all.
The title of the poem sent me to the dictionary – why ‘encyclopedia’? (the circle of learning? a general course of instruction?) – why ‘pastoral’? And stones, their multiplicity in our language and imagery.