For Love of the Muse

"All that matters now is poetry

In which the feeling is the thought."

—from "Paysages Legendaires"

When writing about the poet Peter Russell, it is hard to know where to begin. First, there is the matter of his prolificness, and the sheer vastness of his oeuvre: Russell, who describes poetry as being "dangerously near the natural functions for me," has published well over 30 volumes of verse and has written enough poems to fill scores of others. Then there is the extraordinary diversity of this poetry: from works that range in length from a handful of lines to hundreds of pages (his unpublished epic—ironically titled Ephemeron—is over 2,000 manuscript pages long), and vary in style from free verse to formalist, from the scabrous epigrams found in his book Malice Aforethought to the lush, sweeping lyrics that suffuse The Golden Chain and Theories. As Russell remarks in his poem "My Voices":

How many voices tell in me,

I cannot say how many call

Night and day insistently,

Or distinguish them at all.


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