Delicate and perceptive, Robin Magowan’s eighth poetry collection is an invitation to witness an artist’s life recounted through the warm slant of memory. Whimsical, physical sensations are grounded firmly in concrete visions of the natural world. Magowan digs deep into his past to recount memories that stretch across both oceans and decades: from the political uprising in 1960s Berkeley to the salted air of Greece and mind-altering substances in Death Valley. This collection coaxes readers into Magowan’s world of earthly delights, calling forth the riches he witnesses in the poetry of nature and in the nature of poetry.
In Lifelines, his latest collection, Robin Magowan has composed a rich medley of broad and deep practical knowledge of the natural world, as well as his anchored knowledge of his own always alert expansive life in the natural and the human world. In attitude, Magowan’s poems are willing again and again—with narrative poise or a haiku’s memorably striking delicacy—to “march into late night’s surprises: / honey in a glass / rain sifting down.”
For Magowan, both eye and mind are organs of his own restless love affair—at once sexual and intellectual—with the world, and I love how his tirelessly far-flung mind and restless kinetic eye give all he encounters its own distinct lyrical shimmer.
Enough to say that Lifelines offers its readers the complex satisfaction of riches (human, natural, personal, or impersonal) rendered with refined lyrical tact into cherished possessions. As with the Romantic poets themselves, Magowan has a bracing capacity for imaginative identification: one minute rejoicing in the mysterious spectacle of cranes dancing, at another it’s the touching sight of grebes “gathering the glisten where the moon is salt.” In a word, then, there are so many treats here that all a grateful reader can do is thank the poet who says, “come in, enjoy the feast.”
—Eamon Grennan, author of Plainchant