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Climbing the Divide

Climbing the Divide

Walt McDonald

A ForeWord Magazine “Book of the Year Award” Finalist in Poetry

“I spent one whole amazing fall morning engrossed in this book. What impresses me most is the love and music and startling intelligence with which, for all of us, Walt McDonald charts the territory beyond mid-life.” —Jeanne Murray Walker

“For years, I’ve wondered in amazement how Walt McDonald does what he does, poem after poem, book after book. He sings like no one else. In Climbing the Divide, McDonald has made his strongest collection of poems yet.” –David Citino, author of The News and Other Poems

Climbing the Divide must have been written with a pen Walt McDonald dipped into his heart. Crisscrossing generations, poems detail watching a grandfather with knuckles the size of walnuts carve a grizzly bear out of oak, taking car keys away from a father ‘who drove tanks for Patton’ and thinking about nights in the jungle of Vietnam while pushing a granddaughter in a swing because her father is training overseas for Desert Storm. Binding us to his Texas world in sensual detail about men with big-boned fists who inhabit a land where the moon pockmarks the sky, Walt McDonald refuses to let moments of communion be swallowed by ‘war on every channel.’ His poems stay lodged in the heart to remind us why we need to celebrate, even in a world that threatens to drown out song.” —Vivian Shipley, author of When There Is No Shore

The poems in Climbing the Divide celebrate with praise and amazement the wonders and risks of wilderness and family, of friends before and after the war. The boy in these poems grows up during World War II, feisty in spite of losses and the harsh, hardscrabble land where he lives. Surrounded by heroes, he learns ranching and faith from parents, extended family, and neighbors.

In pilot training and war and back home with friends and memories of friends missing in action, he finds delight with his wife, who makes “magical hammocks at bedtime” for their children. Despite heartache and rage, they discover more hope and joy than they thought possible while growing older–jogging at 65 in winter, hiking grizzly country with bells, and “climbing the divide,” knowing they’re nearer each day to “the dark, hollow halo of space.”

ISBN: 978-0-268-02280-8
106 pages
Publication Year: 2003

Walt McDonald is the author of nineteen collections of poetry and one book of fiction. More than 2,200 of his poems have been published in journals and magazines, including The American Scholar, The Atlantic Monthly, Boston Review, First Things, New York Review of Books, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), London Review of Books, The Nation, The New Criterion, Poetry, and The Sewanee Review. McDonald served as Texas Poet Laureate in 2001, and as poetry editor for Texas Tech University Press from 1975-1995. He retired in May 2002 as Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of English and Poet in Residence at Texas Tech University.

“Like no one else, McDonald can stay in the moment—can BE—and then write with crisp clarity from such intense BEing. Here, this allows him to approach aging with intelligence and wit.” — North American Review

“[P]robably his most impressive, book. . . . [T]he poems in Climbing the Divide are immensely moving. In this book, McDonald, the former poet laureate of Texas, has once again shown the continuing effects of the Vietnam War on an aware consciousness and that a great writer never stops producing memorable works." — The VVA Veteran

“Walt McDonald’s 19th collection, Climbing the Divide, is full of narrative meditations on family and place rendered in direct, compressed language and braced by details drawn from a rancher’s life.” — North Dakota Quarterly

“Like feathers, [McDonald’s] poems have both lightness and strength; he understands the poetic virtue of understatement and the human virtue of humility. These are not experimental poems; they are deeply, originally traditional, and just as deeply accomplished.” — ForeWord

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Climbing the Divide

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 Climbing the Divide
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

A ForeWord Magazine “Book of the Year Award” Finalist in Poetry

“I spent one whole amazing fall morning engrossed in this book. What impresses me most is the love and music and startling intelligence with which, for all of us, Walt McDonald charts the territory beyond mid-life.” —Jeanne Murray Walker

“For years, I’ve wondered in amazement how Walt McDonald does what he does, poem after poem, book after book. He sings like no one else. In Climbing the Divide, McDonald has made his strongest collection of poems yet.” –David Citino, author of The News and Other Poems

Climbing the Divide must have been written with a pen Walt McDonald dipped into his heart. Crisscrossing generations, poems detail watching a grandfather with knuckles the size of walnuts carve a grizzly bear out of oak, taking car keys away from a father ‘who drove tanks for Patton’ and thinking about nights in the jungle of Vietnam while pushing a granddaughter in a swing because her father is training overseas for Desert Storm. Binding us to his Texas world in sensual detail about men with big-boned fists who inhabit a land where the moon pockmarks the sky, Walt McDonald refuses to let moments of communion be swallowed by ‘war on every channel.’ His poems stay lodged in the heart to remind us why we need to celebrate, even in a world that threatens to drown out song.” —Vivian Shipley, author of When There Is No Shore

The poems in Climbing the Divide celebrate with praise and amazement the wonders and risks of wilderness and family, of friends before and after the war. The boy in these poems grows up during World War II, feisty in spite of losses and the harsh, hardscrabble land where he lives. Surrounded by heroes, he learns ranching and faith from parents, extended family, and neighbors.

In pilot training and war and back home with friends and memories of friends missing in action, he finds delight with his wife, who makes “magical hammocks at bedtime” for their children. Despite heartache and rage, they discover more hope and joy than they thought possible while growing older–jogging at 65 in winter, hiking grizzly country with bells, and “climbing the divide,” knowing they’re nearer each day to “the dark, hollow halo of space.”

ISBN: 978-0-268-02280-8

106 pages

“Like no one else, McDonald can stay in the moment—can BE—and then write with crisp clarity from such intense BEing. Here, this allows him to approach aging with intelligence and wit.” — North American Review

“[P]robably his most impressive, book. . . . [T]he poems in Climbing the Divide are immensely moving. In this book, McDonald, the former poet laureate of Texas, has once again shown the continuing effects of the Vietnam War on an aware consciousness and that a great writer never stops producing memorable works." — The VVA Veteran

“Walt McDonald’s 19th collection, Climbing the Divide, is full of narrative meditations on family and place rendered in direct, compressed language and braced by details drawn from a rancher’s life.” — North Dakota Quarterly

“Like feathers, [McDonald’s] poems have both lightness and strength; he understands the poetic virtue of understatement and the human virtue of humility. These are not experimental poems; they are deeply, originally traditional, and just as deeply accomplished.” — ForeWord