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FALL 2020

The Horse Who Bears Me Away by Jim Peterson

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The Horse Who Bears Me Away by Jim Peterson

The Horse Who Bears Me Away
Poetry by Jim Peterson

In The Horse Who Bears Me Away, characters fall into the depths of an American darkness, but in the end struggle back into the light where clarity and freedom are possible.

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


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.

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