From boating on Lake Superior to hiking Utah canyons, poet Jan Minich finds grace in nature in his new collection.
Jan Minich’s new collection begins in “Reflection Canyon,” and in classic poet fashion his words do double duty, describing the physical reflection on the water where he is “anchored in a graveyard of trees, / oddly shaped skeletons” before going on to write of reflections of another kind, of memory and history and more psychic skeletons. Similarly the title poem reveals that Grace Harbor is both a real place and a state of mind, where “a tree that fell parallel to shore” is “like an old man / moving back and forth / between going on and getting ready to turn back.” Minich writes from the perspective of that pivot point, even when he doubts the efficacy of language: “I don’t wonder at my loss for words. / I’ve used too many for any lake / or river to care.” But for his readers who do care, his words are themselves a state of grace: “We’ll all hold onto one another / but sometimes we’ll let go / to be able to swim to shore.” Most of his poems take place in and on the water, with the pace and flow of water, adrift in space and time for “There’s no certain point in water.” And in the absence of certainty, Minich finds grace, as in his closing image “Turning a heavy coat inside out / I watch a man beside me, / a father or son with that same / expression on his face” — all of us, across the years, “Coming Home.”
Jan Minich was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and grew up near fields, ponds, and lakes in Poland, Huron, and Lisbon, Ohio. He received a BA in Literature and Writing from the University of Arizona, an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and a PhD in English from the University of Utah with specialties in American Literature and poetry writing before moving to Carbon County, Utah, and teaching at USU Eastern/CEU, where he co-hosted a long-running Readers' Series, was Director of the Wilderness Studies Program, and where he is now an Emeritus Professor. Always drawn to water and the outdoors, Jan cruises Lake Superior in the summers in a small boat, and in winters hikes Utah's canyons. His books include The Letters of Silver Dollar, WILD ROSES, and History of a Drowning. Jan lives in Wellington, Utah with his wife poet Nancy Takacs and their two dogs. Their son Ian Minich is a photographer in Salt Lake City.