"Poet of the Wild" John Haines Dies

March 8, 2011 By: Marshall Cutchin

John Haines, who created memorable poetic images of wilderness living in the 20th century, died last week at the age of 86. In The New York Times, Douglas Martin says Haines’s “experience hunting, trapping and surviving as a homesteader in the Alaskan wilderness fueled his outpouring of haunting poetry of endless cold nights, howling wolves and deep, primitive dreams….” Harper‘s critic Hayden Carruth called Haines “one of our best nature poets, or for that matter one of the best nature writers of any kind.”
From “Rain Country” (1978-83):

All that we loved: a fire
long dampened, the quenched
whispering down of faded
straw and yellowing leaves.
The names, and the voices
within them, speak now
for the slow rust of things
that are muttered in sleep.
There is ice on the water
I look through, the steep
rain turning to snow.

From The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1993)
(Thanks to reader Robert Tomes for the NYT link.)