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Whether watching men releasing caged
birds at dawn in New York City or a ladder
of cranes rising from a field in Manitoba,
Tom Sexton is a keen observer of
the interconnectedness of the natural
and human worlds. The former Alaska
poet laureate takes to the road in this
new collection, wending a lyrical and at
times mystical path between Alaska and
Travelers along the way include the
fabled wolf of Gubbio, old and lame
and long past his taming encounter
with Saint Francis of Assisi, and Chinese
poet Li Bai chanting to a Yangtze
River dolphin. Yet, while Sexton’s journey
crosses borders—and occasionally
centuries—his ultimate destination is
always the landscape and people of
Alaska. A Ladder of Cranes showcases
Sexton’s mastery of both traditional
forms and free verse. The tensions of
his formal influences, Chinese and European,
force the reader to experience
these spare lines and tight observations
in stunning new ways.
Through precise language and observation, these poems suggest a profound way of living and responding freshly to each day. In addition, the book makes a powerful statement for the preservation of our threatened environment.
—The Juneau Empire
Natural beauty is the essence of what you get from Tom Sexton. ‘The aim of all art,’ another poem wryly says, ‘… is to lead us toward light / even when the artist’s eye is cold or dark.’ These few tightly made lines of verse go to the essence of what philosophers and artists from all the ages have tried millions of words to explain. . . . These poems, like stars, offer extremely well-made flickers of light to whoever tends to look up at the sky rather than downward to the darkness.
—Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel
Tightly made lines of verse go to the essence of what philosophers and artists from all the ages have tried millions of words to explain. . . These poems, like stars, offer extremely well-made flickers of light to whoever tends to look up at the sky rather than downward to the darkness.
Sexton is clearly at the top of his game in this book. One senses the hand of a master with pen poised ready to capture wolf, bird, landscape and people and weave them into zen-like sketches.
—The Quoddy Tides
Tom Sexton is professor emeritus of English at the University of Alaska Anchorage and
was Alaska’s poet laureate from 1994 until 2000. He is the author of several collections of
poetry, including For the Sake of the Light and I Think Again of Those Ancient Chinese Poets,
both from the University of Alaska Press.