Winter texts publishes renowned poet-anthropologist’s collection

Posted 7/22/21

Dowsing is a technique used for searching under the surface.

Poet, anthropologist, and Harvard Divinity School professor, Michael Jackson has created a new book of poems using dowsing as a …

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Winter texts publishes renowned poet-anthropologist’s collection

Posted

Dowsing is a technique used for searching under the surface.

Poet, anthropologist, and Harvard Divinity School professor, Michael Jackson has created a new book of poems using dowsing as a metaphor. He uses the image and the art of this technique to explore different topics and to illustrate what’s running beneath the surface.

“It’s kind of a collection of the poems from the last couple of years that he’s been writing; reflecting on his life and career as an ethnographer and reflecting on just the world as he’s been experiencing it,” described Winter texts’ publisher and Port Townsend resident Conner Bouchard-Roberts.

Winter texts recently published this collection of verse called “Dowsing,” finding ways to reach Jackson’s global audience while also connecting the work with readers in the Pacific Northwest.

This connection was facilitated through the words of Tom Jay, a late Port Townsend-based artist, sculptor, writer, and dowser.

When crafting the book, Bouchard-Roberts pulled a quote of his for the epigraph.

“It’s kind of fun to be able to connect the two worlds,” he said, intertwining Jackson’s globe-trotting fame with Jay’s more localized acclaim.

The book is packaged in a stark and minimalist design, bound in a steely blue this is reminiscent of dark waters and somber skies.

As for the poems themselves, Bouchard-Roberts said they don’t meander.

“They’re all short. There’s not many long lyric poems. They’re all images. They’re all moments in time that you kind of descend into and then reflect upon.”

Many of the poems take place in the present-tense, but examine the past moments of a lived life. Bouchard-Roberts described this style of poetry, this looking back as “trying to convey a certain whole-hearted integrity about that experience without holding too much moral judgement about it.”

The final pages of “Dowsing” include an essay from the author where he looks back over his life of writing, reflecting on both his professional and artistic journey.

As an ethnographer with extensive fieldwork experience and as an author of numerous anthropology books, Jackson’s academic work is strongly influenced by critical theory and existential thought.

However, as he wrote his existentialist philosophy manuscripts and these deeper drives into ethnography, poetry remained extremely relevant to him, explained the publisher.

“Through his work as an ethnographer for so many years, he finds that poetry is often the best answer to some of those ethnographic questions,” Bouchard-Roberts continued, adding how Jackson uses poetry as the “most economical use of language to describe the same things.”

“[Poetry is] obviously not going to fill an anthropology manuscript or be able to portray some of the same arguments, but it’s able to trace around these moments in a much more intimate and compassionate way.”

The publisher described this book as an experiment in and of itself for Winter texts. Compared to the other recently published works, “Dowsing” is the most contained object, Bouchard-Roberts said.

“The other [books] have these sort of tendrils that sneak out in all these different directions,” he explained.

“Dowsing” is a collection of poetry. It’s not really trying to be anything else. It’s not bridging genres or bringing together pieces of a larger work. It is just good poetry.

The Winter texts storefront is currently being run out of the Green Room in The Castle. You can also find a copy of “Dowsing” at Imprint Bookstore, Seal Dog Coffee Bar, online at wintertexts.com, and eventually more bookstores around the Sound.

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