Words

Unexpected Treasures

A collection for the ages

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

In a town known for its abundance of resident poets and writers, Port Townsend poet Finn Wilcox has long been considered a local treasure. 

For more than three decades he has been crafting clear, poignant and jewel-like poems from distinctly non-literary pursuits—riding freights and sharing rail-side camps with hobos; tree planting and working the rain-sodden Northwest woods; traveling remote districts of rural China with Buddhist bhikkhus; or simply celebrating the joys and travails of family life in the rural Northwest. 

At long last his collected works are available in a handsome volume from Empty Bowl Press. Too Late to Turn Back Now gathers all of Wilcox’s hard-to-find, out-of-print and limited-edition books and adds a generous selection of new poems and prose pieces.

Included is Wilcox’s widely praised first book, Here Among the Sacrificed, a collection of poems, stories and short prose coming from the poet’s experiences riding freight trains. It rings with the clang and gritty dust of America’s freight yards, and takes a compassionate look at the hobos who ride, heirs of a depression-era community who in a metaphoric and very real sense were “dropped off on a side-track.”

In “The Boneyards” the poet, camped by an abandoned warehouse outside Mason City, Iowa, echoes Kenneth Rexroth and offers a playful nod to West Coast nature poems.

Switching modes of transport and geography is “Nine Flower Mountain,” a suite of poems reflecting Wilcox’s travels in southern China with Buddhist scholar and translator Bill Porter and photographer Steven Johnson. Poems evoke pilgrimages to Buddhist temples, to Tu Fu’s grave, Han Shan’s cave, and the Silk Road—its moon brushing “a pearly wash/across the shimmering Gobi.” At Hangchou, poet Su T’ung-Po’s retreat on scenic West Lake, Wilcox reflects, “This charmed and gentle town/could tame a hobo’s rangy heart…But the next day he’ll watch it vanish from the back of a bus/in a rooster-tail of dust.”

Wilcox is refreshingly modest in his approach, and his language carries the tempo and vernacular of common speech. At one point he refers to his own poems as “A lucky pull/of the rabbit/ from a hat.”  But it’s not luck that crafts insightful love poems such as “Close Enough,” “Women,” or “The Walk Home,” a poem that explores Alzheimer’s, quiet dignity and “love as simple courage.” 

The poems and prose pieces in the final section, “Not Letting Go,” are previously uncollected, and new readers as well as longtime fans of Wilcox will find unexpected treasures here. The title piece recounts Wilcox and his wife’s time with poet Robert Sund during the elder poet’s final hours.  Tender and celebratory, it captures the essence of a decades-long friendship—and utters a fierce rejection of the forced resignation death thrusts upon us. 

This section also contains warm and whimsical poems of friendship that celebrate the uniqueness (quirkiness?) of the artists, poets and comrades he has grown to love. “We flipped a coin/for bottom bunk/that time in county jail,” he writes in “Trouble & Beauty.”

Love, travel, friendship, adventure, misadventure and loss. Wilcox strikes universal chords in a fresh and accessible way. His poems and stories come comfortably dressed for any season, neatly packed and ready for the journey. I won’t suggest you carry them the next time you hop a freight to Spokane. Just settle in at home and let Wilcox take you along on his lyric forays to familiar outskirts of the human heart.

Wilcox reads from his collection Sat., Dec. 9 at Village Books. Tim McNulty is a poet and nature writer living on the Olympic Peninsula. His most recent book of poems is Ascendance from Pleasure Boat Studio.

Hotseat Silver Reef
More Words...
The Way Home
No tech, no problem

Mark Boyle is no stranger to remaking himself. In the fall of 2008, he embarked on an experiment in living without money, documenting the experience with the publication of The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living (2010) and a follow-up guide, The Moneyless Manifesto: Live Well, Live…

more »
Paddling With Spirits
An adventure for the ages

Some people throw themselves a dance party for their 40th birthday. Irene Skyriver chose to celebrate hers with a solo kayaking trip from Ketchikan to her home on Lopez Island. 

Years later, she recounted her momentous journey in Paddling With Spirits: A Solo Kayak Journey. The memoir is…

more »
Rainbow Warrior
The fabric of revolution

At its most basic, it’s just a piece of cloth—a nice poly blend, perhaps, or a hank of nylon in a fade-resistant color. There are holes in one end to fasten to a pole or rope, but it’s otherwise simply a piece of cloth.

Yet people have died for it and, as in the new book Rainbow…

more »
Events
Today
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Guided Adventures

10:00am

Summer Reading Bingo Challenge

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

Tall Ship Tours and Sails

10:00am|Squalicum Harbor Marina

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

The Birds

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

NW Raspberry Festival

10:00am|Lynden

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Shakespeare Northwest

7:00pm|Rexville-Blackrock Amphitheater

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Tour de Whatcom

7:30am|Whatcom County

Four routes, endless views

7:30am

Shipwreck Day

8:00am|Downtown Anacortes

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Concrete Saturday Market

9:00am|Concrete Community Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market2333

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

Ayurveda, Eat Right for Your Type

9:00am| Community Food Co-o

Ferndale Renaissance Faire

9:00am|Pioneer Park Soccer Fields

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Summer Book Sale

10:00am|Birch Bay Park

Summer Seersucker Bicycle Ride

10:00am|La Conner

NW Art Beat Studio Tour

10:00am|Skagit County

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Mind, Body, Spirit Fair

10:00am|Center for Spiritual Living

Sand Sculpture Competition and Rollback Weekend

10:00am| Birch Bay

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Your Fall Gardening Starts Now

11:00am|North Fork Library

Camping at the Library

11:00am|Deming Library

Cemetery Tours

11:00am|Lynden Cemetery

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Ask a Quilter

2:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

SpeakEasy 25

4:00pm|Alluvial Farms

Artist Talk with Judy Talley and Elizabeth Sandvig

4:00pm| i.e. gallery

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Feast and Frolic in the Field

5:30pm|Viva Farms

Heart of Anacortes Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Heart of Anacortes

Andrew Rivers

7:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Salsa Night

9:00pm|Cafe Rumba

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Village Books
Tomorrow
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Tall Ship Tours and Sails

10:00am|Squalicum Harbor Marina

Skagit Guided Adventures

10:00am

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Ferndale Renaissance Faire

9:00am|Pioneer Park Soccer Fields

Sand Sculpture Competition and Rollback Weekend

10:00am| Birch Bay

Summer Book Sale

10:00am|Birch Bay Park

NW Art Beat Studio Tour

10:00am|Skagit County

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Vietnam Veterans Car Show

9:00am|Barkley Village

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Forest Immersion Walk

11:30am|Zylstra Lake

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Nonfiction & Memoir Writing Group

3:00pm|Village Books

Deobrat Mishra

4:30pm|Turtle Haven Sanctuary

Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Monday
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Guided Adventures

10:00am

Bard on the Beach

2:00pm|Vanier Park

Fairhaven Summer Repertory Theatre

8:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Smart Trips Adventure Camp

9:00am

Plant Diagnostic Clinics

4:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Women's Backpacking Round Table Discussion

6:00pm|REI

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Trove Web Support Vertical Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1