Jim Peterson is the author of six collections of poetry, three chapbooks, numerous plays, and a novel, Paper Crown, published by Red Hen Press and recently made available on Audible. His poetry collection The Owning Stone won Red Hen Press’s Benjamin Saltman Award for 1999. His newest collection, Speech Minus Applause, was released by Press 53 in 2019. His poems have appeared widely in journals including Poetry, Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, and many others. His stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Review, South Dakota Review, and The Laurel Review. A collection of stories, Many Small Fires, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. Retired Coordinator of Creative Writing at Randolph College, he is on the faculty of the University of Nebraska-Omaha Low-Res MFA Program in Creative Writing. He lives with his charismatic corgi, Mama Kilya, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The Sadness of Whirlwinds
Publication Date: November 2, 2021
The Sadness of Whirlwinds explores the world as we know it but tinged with magical possibilities that challenge our expectations. A small dog leads a man into the backyard of a blind woman who has drawn him forth from a forgotten past. A man becomes trapped between walls in his favorite restaurant. The author of a book of questions meets the author of a book that has the answers. An encounter with Mr. Death offers insights into Mrs. Birth. A woman unhappy with her life enters into an exploration of the world of whirlwinds. A man decides he must leave his dog lying beside him on the couch in order to enter the Inward City. A man travels to the remote and eccentric country of Fallada and meets the beautiful, bewildering woman known as Keeva. A woman must break through the boundaries of her comfortable grief in order to face an irascible man and unravel the mystery of her stolen dog. These and other explorations into the unknown make up the character of this new collection by Jim Peterson. Mysterious and challenging, these tales invite readers to their own inquiries into the nature of reality.
The stories in Jim Peterson’s The Sadness of Whirlwinds lead readers through inscrutable realms of both the known and the unknown, provoking them to challenge their own notions of love, death, truth, and reality.
“The Sadness of Whirlwinds is a fantastic book of fictions. At times magical and humorous, sad and heartbreaking, compelling and dramatic—Jim Peterson’s writing celebrates what James Dickey once called “the creative possibilities of the lie.” Peterson dares to write the impossible. His characters, and their desires, are so immediate and alive that I believe anything they imagine or experience, no matter how extraordinary. A great pleasure in these stories is found in Peterson’s poetic eye and lyrical writing: how he invents transformation in the briefest of spaces. The short, flash-like fictions are wonderfully intimate and impactful. The structure Peterson has crafted is organic and full of energy, each section reading like its own brief book or movement in music, as memory and conflicts begin to intertwine across characters and stories. And though there is an ennui characters can’t quite perceive in these stories, at the heart of Peterson’s writing is a compassion and joy in experiencing, as whirlwinds do, moments where we are “stunned and amazed, feeling [we have] entered into a new life.”” —Fred Arroyo, author of Sown in Earth: Essays of Memory and Belonging
The Horse Who Bears Me Away
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
In the first section of The Horse Who Bears Me Away, “The Fall,” an assortment of characters descend inwardly to the point of personal despair. In the second section, “Anywhere but Omaha,” they begin, with difficulty, to see more clearly who and what they are and to climb their way out of the nadir. In the final section, “Mutation,” the characters embark on a path to transformation—an awakening into a new way of seeing and existing in a world that is constantly testing the validity of their identities. This collection of poems, Peterson’s seventh, challenges readers to consciously embrace the dark side of their American psyche and to reach past it to a new way of being at peace with both the known and the unknown, which is called freedom.
Jim Peterson’s poems arise from that place where the world we know touches against the world we have always suspected might be there. In this place, we hear the wind “lisping her two or three words / of prolonged astonishment.” A dream becomes “the body of a forest.” I have been a follower of Jim Peterson’s work for almost four decades and have rarely read a poem of his that did not surprise me. The poems in The Horse Who Bears Me Away are no exception. In flights of lyric glory and narratives that gallop heedlessly forward, these poems offer the delight of “knowing who we are and who we’ll never be.” Here are new delights. Draw close and savor them.—Al Maginnes, author of The Next Place
This is the work of a mature poet who has risen to new heights. There’s heartbreaking beauty in these words—and in the feelings and insights behind them. On page after page, Jim Peterson grabs the treacherous, turning world by the throat and forces out its secrets. If you want to know what poetry can do for the spirit, read this book. Then read it again, and be even more thankful.—Clint McCown, author of The Dictionary of Unspellable Noises
The poems in Jim Peterson’s The Horse Who Bears Me Away live and breathe within the world of flesh, through bodies that discover and rediscover themselves in strange and miraculous ways. Voices, too, animate these pages—the voices of laid-off laborers, hobos, crows, cougars, slash pines, wind “voicing its concern,” mockingbirds, lost and dying friends, and waitresses in places where “hands know their roles by heart.” From the stunning prologue, where the speaker merges with the body and spirit of a horse, to the epilogue, in which a dream strips him bare “as if fresh from creation,” Peterson invites us, his lucky readers, “to ease into these hands and feet, / pulling this body on like an old coat / that was made for you.”—Rebecca McClanahan, author of In the Key of New York City
The Owning Stone
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
What do you do when you can’t throw away the stone that contains your dead father’s possessive spirit? When a 38 caliber handgun comes knocking on your midnight door? When the woman you desire inhabits an ordinary world so alien to yours that you can only look at her when she’s asleep? When all of the women of your town–mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers–run away and leave you alone with the other men? When the very best thing in your life is throwing a ball for your worshipful dog? When two young men wearing slim black ties show up at your door pushing bicycles and want nothing less than your soul? These provocative narrative poems–what Peterson prefers to call “situation poems”–attempt to provide answers to these and to many other such questions. With surprising yet apt metaphors and images, with language tightened to the point of breaking, the poems of this new edition of The Owning Stone dramatize the situations that capture and hold us, and the potential paths of escape and transcendence that can free us.
The Bob and Weave
Publication Date: February 28, 2006
“Despite the lyric tenderness and subtlety of their voices, the poems in the Bob and Weave are simultaneously surreal, spooky, and full of brave love for the world’s mysteries, visible and invisible. Like an unpredictable wind, this work finds its way into the cracks between everything you think you know, then overflows them.”—Claire Bateman
“Jim Peterson’s poems are filled with the things of this world–its horses, hands, stones, and baseball players–but are not themselves its inhabitants. Rather, this poet moves in a realm where ‘there is / a space between him and the world and he / tunes it like one string of a violin.’ Equally committed to nature, to spirit, to dreams, and to the touch of another human body, Peterson constantly expects ‘a message / from something that isn’t me / or even like me.’ The tensions evolving from this anticipation are by turns erotic, mysterious, and instructively frightening.”—Steven Corey
“With the Bob and Weave, Jim Peterson announces himself as a major American poet. These poems offer insight into both the quotidian and the eternal, and while we hear echoes of his near predecessors–Dickey, Merwin, Hugo, Roethke–the voice in this new collection–assured, resonant, vatic–is entirely Peterson’s own.”—David Starkey
Publication Date: March 1, 2005
Blending features of speculative fiction, the occult, and the spiritual quest, Paper Crown details an unusual story of initiation. Traumatized by the mysterious circumstances of his mother’s death, Chuck runs away from his Southern California home and lands in Colorado Springs where he becomes involved with Frank Posner and his mother, Lyuba. Leaders of an ancient and highly secretive family of travelers who have incredible powers, they take Chuck on a psychological journey in which he must face his disturbing past and confront a frightening and uncertain future. With a cast of vivid and sometimes bizarre characters, Paper Crown unfolds a classic story of loss, struggle, and renewal.