My old pal Justin Gardiner is making good. He's a wilderness writing fellow out in Oregon right now, and, as winner of the Larry Levis stipend from the Warren Wilson College MFA program, he'll be publishing his first book, Naming the Lifeboat. Couldn't happen to a kinder person. There's not anyone -- not a one! -- with a more passionate genousity for literature and storytelling. We're talking about a guy who is wont to recite The Catcher and the Rye on late-night mini-hikes in the North Carolina woods, to write letters in the cover of chapbooks while sitting in trees, to punctuate bonfires with the sharing of miles-long Mark Halliday and, yes, Larry Levis poems. There's the dancing, too -- its own kind of poetry. He makes poetry a three-dimensional thing, alive in the world.
Justin is spotlighted in The Missouri Review feature of five of his poems. Here's his author note:
“It was hard to be a great writer,” Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “if you loved the world and living in it and special people. It was hard when you loved so many places.” And I think that tension is there, underlying most everything he wrote: how, despite his dedication to art, he was also always being pulled toward the unmitigated joys of just living his life. While hard to pinpoint as a governing aesthetic, I hope a similar tension shows through in my first manuscript, Naming the Lifeboat. Only a handful of the poems therein are set down in Antarctica, but they are a culmination of sorts, of many of the other poems of travel and nature, and I am happy to have several of them appearing together in this issue.
And, the title poem: a twisting, think-ful piece. To me, it has the taste of hard art. Earned.
The phrase calls to mind two scenarios:
Naming the Lifeboat
By Justin Gardiner