Ursula K. Le Guin

The first novels I read by Ursula K. Le Guin were her Earthsea books.  In graduate school I read and later taught The Left Hand of Darkness.  So it was with foolish but thrilled surprise that I discovered she wrote poetry, that she has written and published poetry for years.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2013, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many honors and awards including Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud. Her most recent publications are Finding My Elegy (New and Selected Poems, 1960-2010)and The Unreal and the Real (Selected Short Stories), 2012. [From her website.]

I’ve savored my slow reading of Finding My Elegy since I purchased it last year.  I’m only about half-way through the book, but that is enough to recommend it.  Le Guin is a writer, a story-teller.  In the poems I’ve read so far, I’ve sensed echoes of Earthsea and other of her worlds and characters.  She unashamedly writes her love of land, of California.  All the elements I adore in her fiction dance and twirl through her poetry.  Happily for me, this volume is collects earlier works as well as containing previously unpublished poems.  If you’ve never read Le Guin, then your reading of her poetry will be fresh.  If you have, you’re certain to hear the familiar hearthtale voice.

I had a hard time choosing, but here are three short selections from Finding My Elegy (New and Selected Poems from 1960-2010).



I love my native language
the viola
the great advantage

a mouthful of pebbles
a welling of water
crashbangs   faint echoes

the word if you can find it
for what is and
what is beyond it



We make too much history.

With or without us
there will be the silence
and the rocks and the far shining.

But what we need to be
is, oh, the small talk of swallows
in evening over
dull water under willows.

To be we need to know the river
holds the salmon and the ocean
holds the whales as lightly as the body holds the soul
in the present tense, in the present tense.


For the New House

May this house be full of kitchen smells
and shadows and toys and nests of mice
and roars of rage and waterfalls of tears
and deep sexual silences and sounds
of mysterious origin never explained
and troves and keepsakes and a lot of junk
and a flowing like a warm wind only slower
blowing the leaves of trees and books and the fish-years
of a child’s life silvery flickering
quick, quick, in the slow incessant gust
that billows out the curtains for a moment
all those years from now, ago.
May the sills and doorframes
be in blessing blest at every passing.
May the roof but not the rooms know rain.
May the windows know clearly
the branch and flower of the apple tree.
And may you be in this house
as the music is in the instrument.


About T A Smith

Just one of the literacy scholars on this site who wants to explore writing in all its complexities.
This entry was posted in Favorites By Others, Interesting Blogs, Poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Ursula K. Le Guin

  1. aqua dragon fruit says:

    These are amazing selections. Thank you for reminding me about her. I’ve missed you! Where are you now? And how are you?!


    • Yousei Hime says:

      😀 I chuckle because I read your comment on the dream poem first and thought, “Wow, this person is so exuberant!” You’re the one I haven’t seen. Ok, you’re right in that I haven’t written/posted much. I’ve missed you too. I’m still here, still job searching, but I’ll update you on the rest soon.

      LeGuin is awesome, right? So glad you read these. You should think about getting the book. I have really enjoyed reading it a bite at a time. Big hugs!

  2. Pingback: “The Farthest Shore” by Ursula Le Guin | Zezee's Link

  3. Yousei, have you read “Always Coming Home”? That’s a wonderful novel of LeGuin’s that contains poetry, plays, recipes, all kinds of things within it — it’s basically an anthropological examination of a group of people who live on Earth in the future, interspersed with their own stories and other literature in their own words. Amazing, amazing work.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      Thank you for the recommendation. I haven’t read that particular novel, though I’m familiar with it. It sounds like it has similar bits and pieces of fictional culture in it just as does The Left Hand of Darkness. I’m curious now. After I finish my current writing project, I’ll tackle that book with pleasure.

  4. stopped by with a handful of cherry blossoms for your day

  5. Yousei! Those 3 of hers I would’ve picked too. What a talent! She has the touch of the ocean and the stars in her words. I appreciate you introducing me to her.

    We make too much history, true. 🙂

    As the French say… “C’est Magnifique, ce poem-ci!!)

  6. Thanks Yousei, you know I had to read The Wizard of Earthsea at high school. I remember thinking oh no…not wizards and really hated the thought I had to read it. I absolutely loved it… such a great memory you bring back with this post. I didn’t know that she wrote poetry so it will be a pleasure to seek some out. Wonderful post!

    • Yousei Hime says:

      Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and memories it recalled. I think one of my favorite aspects of the Earthsea books was how important a name was. That has stayed with me for years. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on her poetry.

  7. sanjuktaa says:

    Much enjoyed. Thanks for sharing, Yousei!

  8. brian miller says:

    nice…thank you for the introduction to another new poet….the short bits you gave us are def intriguing….i don’t know if i have read her books either…i seem a bit out of the loop on this one…smiles.

  9. ladynyo says:

    Oh, I didn’t know this! But I came to Le Guin late, only reading her the last few years.

    Amazing poetry…..embedded with experience and wisdom.

    thank you, Rabbit, for bringing this to our attention.

    Lady Meow.

  10. I didnt know she wrote poetry have to check her out/ thanks
    smiles to the rabbit

    • Yousei Hime says:

      You are in the vast majority in your surprise. Many good poems in the collection. Let me know what your favorites are if you read from this volume (or any of her other ones). Thank you for the comment and the smiles. 🙂

  11. Luke Prater says:

    Didn’t know she was such a great poet. Love the ‘English’ one in partic. but then I would 😉

    • Yousei Hime says:

      I didn’t know it either, though I shouldn’t have been surprised because her prose is so rich. The “English” poem is the one that inspired me to post about her book, evidence I favor it as well. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  12. purple says:

    Hi, I was going through OLD saved bookmarks and wandered back to your blog. It has been a long time. I look forward to visiiting again and enjoying your words. I was also surprised to learn LeGuin writes poetry. I have collected her books for many years and have never seen any poetry by her so I am running off to Amazon to look for the poetry collection. Hope all is well with you and I am glad I wandered in. Take care.

  13. ManicDdaily says:

    Dear Yousei, thank you so very very very much for this. I have long loved Ursula LeGuin – really all the Earthsea books – they are so great – such favorites – my children and I have re-read them many times. I had no idea that she wrote poetry and such poetry! They are wonderful wonderful poems. I cannot thank you enough for posting them and letting me find them. Agh. They are so great! Thanks.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      I love her writing too and foolishly assumed she only wrote novels. Hardly anyone else does, so I’m not sure why that was stuck in my head. I’m delighted to share this with you. It’s available for Kindle too, if that is of interest. Come back and share your favorites and thoughts after you’ve read the collection. 🙂

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