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Way More West: New & Selected Poems by Edward Dorn

Too much poetry focuses on the beautiful, the lyrical, the sublime moments of our lives. Though you’ll find all this in Edward Dorn, you’ll just as often find political invective, sharp satire and a critical wit. Dorn is a poet of refreshing originality and honesty, and this new collection of his work highlights his unique and complex vision of America.

Part of the Black Mountain crew and naming poet Charles Olson as one of his mentors, Edward Dorn is a poet of experience. The ground under his feet is soundly American; more particularly he is a poet of the American West, carrying the tradition of the frontier mentality into his sharp poetics. His work is full of the geography of the West and his vocabulary scintillates with the landscape found west of the Mississippi. His knowledge is the reflection of his physical relationship with the places he found himself, and his work throughout this collection shines with the veracity of a careful observer who just happens to be a wry and alive thinker. At times humorous, at times lyrical, at times caustic, there is simply no one in the American tradition like him. Any shelf of poetry that doesn’t reserve a special place for Dorn’s “Gunslinger,” represented adequately in this collection, hardly deserves the pressboard of its composition.

Which is precisely one of the strengths of this new publication by Penguin. Here is collected the selected work of a poet whose work was voluminous and multi-dimensional. From his early poems concerning his Midwest upbringing to the late poems recording Dorn’s experience with the cancer that would finally claim his life, here is a generous helping of the poet’s long and varied work. If “Gunslinger,” his amazing long poem of the American West, is all you know of Dorn then this volume certainly deserves to be placed next to it. And if you are unfamiliar with one of the most singular minds of American poetry, then you are in need of this volume.

In short, here’s Edward Dorn, our poet of impeccable personal smoothness: pick him up, partner.

Or draw.