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Untended Garden by Grant Hier is a questing meditation, a searching in language and experience for a sense of self in place and time, a journey through the long history of inheritance in body and song , a definition of beginning, a recognition of finality. Questions abound within the poetry. "Could it be that all is present, that everywhere / is contained in where we are?"  Contemplation is a hallmark and a pleasure in this book.

"There is nothing stable in this world; uproar’s your only music,” says John Keats. And, what music is made of flux in Untended Garden. Grant Hier reaches back into natural history, social history, and personal history and marries the histories in song in this marvelous long poem. This is a book of questions, rather than answers. He wants to “plunge deep into the song of the common tribe—”

 

This is a poetry that honors the mystery and beauty of daily life and sanctifies the ground on which we live , whether shaded by ancient trees or the memory of their shelter.

The first time I read this poem,  I knew it was destined to become precisely such a comprehensive, prestigious, ground-breaking, MAJOR publication as Untended Garden. Here is a poet of high standing, with a superior control of language, observational awareness, willingness to probe one’s own depths, a mastery of both traditional and innovative forms, and a first-rate intellectual acuity. 

 

This is a "Song of Myself" epic , written over the course of twenty years, and similarly ambitious. It sets its scope from the Big Bang to now, containing multitudes, one might say.
It is for the ages, both past
and future. A deep, penetrating, scintillating, readable exploration of personal, familial, and communal history."

Grant Hier’s Untended Garden is a poem that should be chanted by firelight at the entrance to a cave.

 

It is a journey of self-discovery, shifting back and forth in time, propelled by rhythms of creation and sensations
of the natural world.  It is a
well-wrought psychic quest
for a life rooted in the contemporary while still in ancient sympathy with the earth.

 

Read this book; then join me in saying, “Bravo!"

Winner of Prize Americana, Grant Hier's Untended Garden is a quest narrative set in the suburbs, a long poem in the spirit of “Song of Myself” that weaves personal history, natural history, and American history. A passionate exploration of identity by examining the often forgotten lives and landscapes that existed here before us, Untended Garden becomes a celebration of diversity and remembrance, an argument for inclusion, a re-affirmation of our connectedness.

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"The various gestures of appreciation, of care and carefulness seem built-in to this re-examination of Self and selves and the psycho-geography of memory, one which will be favorably compared to writing by DJ Waldie, Mike Davis, Susan Suntree and others who have simultaneously immersed themselves in the landscape but also exercised some distancing, scholarly authority, become reliable docents on their tour of our ecosystem and, significantly, the ethnographic story."

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"This prize means a lot to any poet, but perhaps even more to Hier, (pronounced "higher") whose ambitious if completely satisfying poem seems in its Whitmanic style pretty darn unlikely for a local boy from Anaheim, California, Orange County, USA of all places. But, yes, Hier has completed the home stretch, creating a literary document which will take its place alongside other So Cal recollections, memoirs, reminiscences of the region, if perhaps done more artfully than the prose writers but with the same eye for accuracy and fairness, with documents and footnotes and cross-referencing; something, as they say, for everybody."

"It's still a very personal story. In one of my favorite sections, the kid from Anaheim goes on a walkabout, through the neighborhood and also the stacked and scattered touchstone available in the period, late Sixties, exploring his own capacity for awareness and engagement with getting lost.  He discovers a storm drain, for us, now, an obvious conduit of precious and contentious water but also, of course, the subconscious.  Reverie and panic and dream ensue, as is possible when you're a special, blessed, sensitive kid.  A vision, a la Whitman or Blake, in a cement culvert!"

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"The rhythms are exquisite. The way the lines wrap and pull at each other, driving the reader onward while also whipping his mind back around, expanding and contracting, creates a lovely swift tension."

"Hier also shares with Jeffers the theme of (ideal) human connectedness to the natural world and its inheritance. Hier’s verse is more forgiving than Jeffers’, and more personal, much like contemporary Pattiann Rogers, or the poems of Richard Hugo."

"The journey is Whitmanesque in its telling, a modern-day version of traipsing about the untouched stretches of Long Island. It is brilliant and suspenseful and such a wonderfully loaded symbol of all that Hier is bringing together in the poem that it takes your breath away (it did mine)."

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"Hier, like Whitman, works on a canvas that is both grand and shimmeringly specific. As the milky way and the roots of civilization flow through the book's three sections, the poet lights down constantly on images of the moment: fruit falling from the vine, birds twittering, classical music playing two rooms down as the narrator bathes in his tub."

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