"With this work, Whitsel allies himself with a cadre of contemporary male poets concerned with the domestic and the wild, with family relationships and gardens and faith. Belonging to a lineage that includes poets such as Gary Snyder and William Stafford, he nevertheless makes his own place, word by silty word.
As language evokes landscapes past and present, as bridges and orchards, streets and rivers, villages and houses take shape in these poems, as we enter them as we do rooms, we enter too an emotional and spiritual landscape that is dimensional, substantial, beautiful and fraught.
One of the book’s projects is to describe the trajectories of longing that make up a search for home. What does it mean to reside here on earth, among forests and rivers, our relationships with humans and non-humans and places, the past and its corollary, memory? How do we know when we’re home?" - Sara Burant
WISH MEAL by northwest poet Tim Whitsel is now available from Airlie Press. In Whitsel’s poems, we encounter places, rites, decades and nights of perishable abundance. He nurtures apple trees, secrets, prize tomatoes, fascinations and bewildering kids. He journeys between the burden of an heirloom faith and the transcendence of Oregon rivers and skies. The WISH of belonging becomes Whitsel’s grist, his MEAL subject to blemish and ferment.
Tim Whitsel navigates huge swaths of geography and time in search of home. This pilgrimage of the self makes for a bold poetic space where anything might strike. And strike it does. With introspection, longing, and lyric invention, WISH MEAL takes us to the headwaters of the poet’s deepest concerns. The gifts in this book run deep.
[WISH MEAL] is beautiful, and I read it just now in one sitting and find much grace, lyric, and firm land-- things honest, and real. These are poems of skateboards and youth, retrospection and longing, acute observation, and most of all, music. Nature, loss, longing, and none of the feckless musing of the young poets I often encounter, trying to spin the small into false significance and eloquence. There is no strain, just an assuredness, free of pandering, that here in the world is mystery and greatness.... it is outstanding.
— Mike Copperman, Oregon Writers' Collective and host for the Barn Light Reading Series.
Tim Whitsel’s poetry is rife with the pleasing desperation of the blues’ stance: "I’m so far down I might never get back up. But by bein’ down, if you’ll get on down here with me, baby, we just might find us a way through". These poems ride out moments of bare survival, of hopefulness and beauty, and of complete brokeness with equally keen attention and articulation, often creating solace through an acuity of perception to events that would otherwise be without solace. I couldn’t put WISH MEAL down.
— David James Duncan
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Tim’s remarkable metabolism of making sense details his own—whether of food or climate or human nuance—combines with his huge lexicon, not only rich, but ready at hand. Too much, maybe? Every sense and syllable choking and piled until they dynamite the splash dam?
Addressing a younger daughter, “Avionics” is about the speaker’s grown children and pets flying away from the nest. It is about achieving height, as in this daughter’s alto and the osprey’s perch on a tall snag. This father is feeling bereft, like the orphaned horse, or the osprey whose “roost is brittle and dense.” Yet he asserts his love for the daughter, which is “musical, sporting, candid, immediate,” and may always be so. Her voice, the real flight that the father would love to follow in “Be Thou My Vision Oh Lord of My Heart,” brings tears to parishioners. With the ache of that hymn, he releases her to a wide open sky.
Detail and diction—Tim’s maturity catches at and withstands their gale winds. Yet what does a tall spruce see? The vision in this poem and throughout WISH MEAL is an incarnate Christianity—love of community and family, a steward’s care for the gifts of land and harvest, a wish, in a scattered, broken world, for all to be well. Tim’s main stem: seeing through and seeing together.
— Erik Muller