Tim Shaner’s Picture X is a journey through the “poethics” of nature writing in a time marked by the catastrophes of war and impending environmental collapse. Rather than heed Thoreau’s admonishment to leave the domesticated world behind on one’s walks through the Wild, Shaner does the opposite, bringing the schizophrenic chatter of postmodernity into the built environment of the park, in this case Spencer Butte, a wooded park at the southern tip of Eugene, Oregon. Here, the poet refuses to yield entirely to what Thoreau calls the “subtle magnetism of Nature” in place of confronting the political realities traditionally buried by the picturesque.
Publication date: October 1, 2014
Tim Shaner’s life has been one marked by travel, from growing up in Addis Ababa, to his travels in Brazil as a young adult, to living in West Berlin, London, Brighton, and New York City. He holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University (London) and a Ph.D. in English from SUNY-Buffalo’s Poetics Program. He currently lives in Eugene, Oregon, with his wife and daughter, and teaches writing at Lane Community College.
Praise for Picture X
“In Tim Shaner’s Picture X, a poet from ‘back east,’ floored by the natural beauty of the west, confesses his desire to enter into its majesty without tripping over the undergrowth of clichéd naturalism. Irresistibly drawn into description by the manifold shapeliness of the environment, he registers his resistance through a series of startling, mimetic mindscapes. Many hilarious and/or catastrophic moments ensue. It’s a wild ride! ‘These trees / you know / they’re so / lazy – / they just / stand there …’ Who can blame them?”
“Bemused, bewildered, bedeviled, these poems are imbued with the everyday charm of companionability. Shaner mixes close observations of the social, natural, and linguistic, offering, along the way, philosophical reflections on working, living, and becoming a being being.”
Plumwood Mountain Journal
Excerpts from Picture X
from “Nature Walks”
stretches through the dreamy scene
to touch a startled hand, awakened
by some fellow in the yard below,
embedded in his habitus, who
looks past the forest & the trees
to his morning list. through the
skylight, the sun, angled against
the wall, performs
a triangulated shadow-play.
does he peruse the balcony?
has he read his jean genet? i move
on up into the palm of what i gather
are oaks, whose three fingers
if we are to follow this trope, stretch
high above into the rocketing sky, as if
in the eyes’ movement the trees
themselves move, mapping their history
from seedling to sapling to full-grown
towering redwood inferno, if you will, a new
sublime for the books. mosquitoes swoop
down from the above, trolling
for blood, a noisy feasting amplified
suddenly here in the ear.
I see nothing but song upon song, one negating the other, like some kind
Of Hegelian free fall, backward somersaulting up the butt-hole of history.
Happiness slithers behind its velvet curtain, all smiles like it’s a dirty in-
House joke, or Huh?! What?! That’s why I go all nasty,whether in cubicle
Or at counter, or behind the wheel; it’s all me all the time, swerving here,
Lurching there, screeching and singing and calling out. This living business,
Or busyness, gives off the feeling of replay: whose lines are these coiling off
The prompter, whose greasy elbow leaning on my pleasure key? It’s not like
I’m not like a total original, you know, a bonafide, one-of-a-kind ghetto
Superstar, or an upside down snowflake in the Baselitz mode. As a symptom, I’m
Fighting back warning signs like I’m stuck inside a Jane Fonda cliché.
Fondue, anyone? Or say it’s a fishing trip with the guys, all of us pre-
Twilights, popping Flomax as we reel in the trophies. Free, at last, to pee
As frequently as may be, for the sheer, sweet sensation of its splashy reverie
From “Wonderful Chords”
Moving our tales
like we’re lovin’ it,
We’re the empire
In celebration of the publication of Picture X, Airlie Press has commissioned a limited-edition letterpress broadside of one of Tim Shaner’s poems. Signed and numbered by the author.