Gone to Earth by Eleanor Wilner
Gone to Earth brings to light, late in the long, distinguished career of poet Eleanor Wilner, her early uncollected poems—an unveiling of the first stages of a vital, imaginative process, in whose evocative, imagistic landscapes is enacted a drama of emergence from entrapment. In the often-painful drama of new birth, from the deadly strictures and oppressions of the older social forms, come the living forces undermining them—new life seeded out of a decaying order: “a wet nose / breaks the earth, and sniffs the river air.” Written during the poet’s immersion in the civil rights movement and the protests against the Vietnam War, an inner liberating struggle is tuned to a collective channel where communal memory and vision are undergoing transformation.
“The distinguished poet Eleanor Wilner is widely celebrated for the chiseled elegance of her verse and the breadth of her vision. Wilner can sizzle with outrage as she exposes the sordid roots of violence and greed, or distill the substance of critical mythopoesis into essential poetry. We see qualities in the early poetry collected in this volume—the profound ethical sensibility, the meticulous observations of nature and society, the stringent wit—that will come to define this great poet’s mature work. In these sparkling poems, we discover her fierce compassion in incipient form. And in the trenchant personal poem (‘What do myths have to do with the price of fish?’), we glimpse the patronization that an aspiring young poet coming of age in the middle of the last century confronted as she made her way. Gone to Earth is a beautiful gift of a book!”—Cynthia Hogue, author of In June the Labyrinth
“Haunted by history, grounded by mountains and rivers, irradiated by myth, torn between rage and the love of life, made enchanting by the voluptuous music of its language, Wilner’s early poetry is lit with insight from within. In a poem defending the uses of myth, there’s a scene where ‘silent / women in outdated robes walk slowly, / as figures move through centuries, / like the memory of patience.’ Oh, but there’s Marianne Moore, and a bit to her left, there’s Muriel Rukeyser. Wilner is factual, prophetic, and a shaman for our times.”—Alicia Ostriker, author of Waiting for the Light
Eleanor Wilner has published eight books of poetry, most recently Before Our Eyes: New and Selected Poems (Princeton University Press, 2019) and Tourist in Hell (University of Chicago Press, 2010). Her awards include the 2019 Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement from the Poetry Society of America; fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the NEA; the Juniper Prize, and three Pushcart prizes. Her poems have appeared in more than fifty anthologies, including the 2014 and 2016 editions of Best American Poetry. She has taught for many years for the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.