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2006 National Book Award Finalist, Poetry
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Photo credit: Cindy Love
James McMichael
Capacity
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

About the Book
McMichaels’ first new poetry collection in a decade addresses one by one the things that people need to live – land, water, sky, food, shelter, thought, talk, sex, and generation.

About the Author
James McMichael is the author of five other collections of poetry: Against the Falling Evil (1971), The Lover’s Familiar (1978), Four Good Things (1980), Each in a Place Apart (1994) and The World at Large: New and Selected Poems, 1971-1996 (1996). Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and the Shelley Memorial Prize. He is the director of the Master of Fine Arts Poetry Writing Program at the University of California, Irvine.

Suggested Links

http://www.poems.com/britimcm.htm

Excerpted from CAPACITY by James McMichael
Copyright © 2006 by James McMichael.
All rights reserved.


POSITED

That as all parts of it
agree in their low resistance to flow,

so should it be agreed to call it water.
To say of water that it floods both
forward and back through places
difficult to place demands that the ensouled


themselves make places for their parts of speech,
the predicates arrayed in
front of or behind the stated subject—


water, in the case at hand. Water


attains to its names because it shows as one thing
speech is about.
It shows as water.
To say no
more than that about however broad a sea is


plural already,
it says there must be something


else somewhere,
some second thing at least, or why say
how the thing shows? Before it can be taken

 

as a thing, as sea,
there have to have been readied for it other
possible-if-then-denied pronouncements—land,
the sky. Possible that
somewhere in the midst of waters there could


be such things as might be walked on,


hornblende and
felsite, quartzite, remnant
raised beach platforms, shales,
a cliff-foot scree.


Until given back accountably as
extant and encountered,
nothing counts. Nothing counts until
by reason it is brought to stand still.
Country. That it stands over


against one stands to reason. Not without
reason is it said of country that it
counters one’s feet. To count as


groundwork for a claim about the ground,


reason must equate with country.
To be claimed as that, as country,
sand blown inland from the dunes must
equal its having landed grain by grain.


All grains have their whereabouts.
From emplacements in their clumps of

 

marram grass and sedges, some will be
aloft again and lime-rich
grain by grain will land.


Country is its mix of goings-on.
For these to tally, befores from
afters must at every turn divide.
Before it turns,
a cartwheel has its place to start from. It


stands there in place. In place an
axle’s width away, another


parallel wheel is standing.
Not for long.
After each wheel in concert leaves its
first place for a second,


it leaves again at once a third and more. No more nor


fewer are its places on the strand than it has
time for in its turning.
Imprinted
one at a time,
these places are the lines the cart


makes longer at each landward place.
Not late for what goes


on there as its heft at each next place bears
down onto the loams and breaks them,
the seaweed-laden

 

cart is in time. Time is the cart’s


enclosure.There for the taking,time is
around the cart,
which takes it from inside.Around
stones in the dry-stone dyke are


times out of mind,
those times the stones’ embeddings let them go.
The hill-grazings
also are in time, and the three cows.
The blacklands are in time with their


ridged and dressed short rows of barley.
As it does around


bursts that for the places burst upon
abandon where they were before,
time holds around


the moving and the resting things.


 


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