So Far So Good
Ursula K. Le Guin was a popular and influential novelist, essayist and poet. She completed this final book of poetry, So Far So Good, shortly before her death in 2018 at the age of 88.
"I am such a long way from my ancestors now/ in my extreme old age that I feel more one of them/ than their descendant." In this book, she is a "little grandmother," the chickadee of her first poem who "gazes critically/ at autumn's entropy." The voice of extreme old age is a rare one in literature. Le Guin conveys much of her emotions and sensations, her pleasures and middle-of-the night thoughts with integrity and precision. Many of her poems, as with much of her other work, deal with human life in relation to the natural world. They are populated by trees, birds, animals, familiar landscapes, tides, the open ocean, seasonal change. Stray memories appear, too--a red pear set on a jar, the blackout curtains of her childhood in World War II Berkeley. The section "So Far" contains 12 poems in the voice of William Bligh, who lost his command of the ship Bounty to mutiny, and navigated "an overloaded open boat four thousand miles from Tonga past the Australian coast to Timor." She considers her approaching death, and the final section of the book, "In The Ninth Decade," is devoted to her old age: "The wire/ gets higher/ and they forget/ the net." --Sara Catterall