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The Chanter's Reed
March 2020

The World Shouldering I

James Ragan

ISBN: 978-1-908836-46-5

Page Count: 80

Publication Date: Friday, February 15, 2013

Cover Artwork: Calvin Sweat

About this Book

James Ragan is an internationally recognized poet who has been praised by Pulitzer winner Henry Taylor as “a snake charmer whose words work real magic.”  In his newest collection, Ragan hails the imagination as the spirit that links us, “I am the sky’s shadow wish / writing this only to breathe its light.”  With this line he shares in a poetics of moral responsibility, echoing Seamus Heaney’s “I rhyme to see myself / to set the darkness echoing.” Ragan sees the role of the artist as one who shoulders the burdens of himself as well as those of a beleaguered world.  For his vision and compassion, playwright Vaclav Havel has called him“ an Ambassador of the Arts.” Indeed, these poems advocate for striking one’s own note in the face of a future whose business it is to be dangerous. Here is a gallery of marvels — poems of nature, love, jazz, family, and where some address the despairing tragedies of history, all remain affirmations of hope, reassuring  and buoyant, a seasoned craftsman, combining the quotidian with a Yeatsian high poetic. Nowhere is this more eloquently expressed than in the opening poem “A Good Sky” whose sonorous textures call up earlier praise from Publishers Weekly, “he continues his song through the centuries in language that echoes Rilke.”  These are poems of conscience, a voice to set the darkness echoing. 


“James Ragan’s poems are satisfying and distinctive, 
full of arresting collocations and striking phrases.”
U.S. Poet Laureate Richard Wilbur

“Ragan dominates the art of image, the art of poetic line, and 
the art of poetic narration with insight that marks major poets.” 
Nobel Prize Nominee Miroslav Holub

“Fine-grained, a remarkable range of history, thematic variety, 
and tonal dexterity.”
Pulitzer Prize Winner  C.K.Williams

“I admire James Ragan’s sense of history and, 
within that, his instinct to praise.”  
National Book Award Winner  Jean Valentine

Author Biography

James Ragan is an award-winning poet and playwright. Translated into 12 languages, he has authored 8 books of poetry including In the Talking Hours, Womb-Weary, The Hunger Wall, Lusions, Selected Poetry, Too Long a Solitude, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s Collected Poems (co-editor).  He has read for six heads of state and at the United Nations and for audiences in China, Japan, England, France, Spain, Brazil, and the Czech Republic. In 1985, he was one of three Americans, including Bob Dylan and Robert Bly, invited to perform at the First International Poetry Festival in Moscow.  Honors include three Fulbright Professorships, two Honorary Doctorates, the Emerson Poetry Prize, 8 Pushcart Prize nominations, a PSA Citation, and the Swan Foundation Humanitarian Award.  Ragan’s plays have been staged in the U.S, Russia, Greece, and China. For 25 years he directed the Graduate Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California. In 1996 BUZZ Magazine named Ragan one of the “100 Coolest People in Los Angeles: Those Who Make a Difference.”

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