"Poetry," wrote Wordsworth, "is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is the countenance of all Science." Robert Pack's new book is a heady mixture of the finer spirit.
A selection from his last five books, along with a collection of new poems, Fathering the Map takes us from the personal reflections distilled in the lyrics of Waking to My Name (1980) to the worldly reckonings of Inheritance (1992) and back again. In the dramatic monologues of Faces in a Single Tree (1984), in the narrative of a wayward life from womb to double ending in Clayfield Rejoices, Clayfield Laments (1987), in a cosmic tour conducted by the physicist Heinz Pagels with Before It Vanishes (1990), Pack has fashioned poems of intimate experience, scientific meditations, philosophical wonder, poems that breathe the knowledge of man and woman, young and old, artist and human animal.
Pack's work has won the acclaim of writers, critics, and readers from Robert Penn Warren to Cynthia Ozick to Stephen Jay Gould, who comments that the "precious contacts of science and poetry are now sadly rare, but Bob Pack revitalizes the ancient union with incisive poems that sing with lyricism or bite with insight—but always seem to add wisdom to the scientist's epigram."
"The poet improves his style and spirit as he extends his reach," Howard Nemerov has written, and in his new work Pack reaches back to some of his earliest memories, and so forward to a personal mythology that circles from the primal instant to the present ecological crisis. "Robert Pack's poetry is deeply rooted in his won family life," Richard Wilbur has remarked, "and yet his imagination has always included us all."
And Cynthia Ozick has said of Pack's poetry: "We rejoice as we read."