Out Here: Poems and Images from Steens Mountain Country
Poems and Drawings by Ursula K. Le Guin
Photography by Roger Dorband
I’ve been dipping into a fair bit of poetry lately, mostly revisiting favorites here and there, but rarely reading a books straight through. This book is the exception. I went last year to see Le Guin and Dorband at Powell’s books when this first came out, and Le Guin read several of the poems, which were stellar. Her poetry has resonated only intermittently with me throughout the years, and this collection works better for me than the ones which have come before. Or perhaps I’m older now. With Le Guin, it’s always safer to assume that the fault lies with the self rather than the writing.
Dorband’s photos are lovely. I would that the book were much larger format so I might examine them more minutely. I can’t wait to go to see this country with my own eyes.
Here’s my favorite poem from the book:
HAWK AND VOLE
I see you but I do not notice you,
a little dusky scurrying of fur.
I ply a hard trade, and I take my due.
To me you are a shadow from the blue,
and I am gone before you can appear.
I see it, but I do not notice you.
I see my shadow flying as I do
but on the ground; sky is my kingdom, where
I soar and only stoop to take my due.
Rich with the gathered grain, I tunnel through
a darkness kinder than the light by far,
those shadows where there is no trace of you.
Owl owns the shadows, for I never flew
but in the shining of the sunlit air.
I live by light and blood, and pay my due:
I am your death. It will be quick and true.
I am your life, and your immortal share.
We are and shape each other, I and you.
We ply a hard trade, and we take our due.
-Ursula K. Le Guin