Philip Booth’s list of accomplishments is impressive, and his reputation is international, but he was, most of all, a humanist speaking to an individual audience, one person at a time. Although he is widely identified as a regional poet who wrote of life in a harsh, cold northern climate, Booth’s subjects cover the whole range of human experience. The powerful forces of nature and how humans relate to them play prominently in his work, but his poems also speak of other human concerns: love, sex, marriage, children, aging, poverty, death, and the mysteries of existence. In his earliest collection, Letter from a Distant Land, his poetic patterns are fairly traditional; however, later poems exhibit less attention to traditional form and sometimes an abandonment of rhyme and stanza. In all Booth’s works, the struggle of form and matter are present; his themes are of human loneliness and vulnerability set against the impersonal forces of nature. This struggle is never fully reconciled, but the poet examines the need for the coexistence of humankind and the natural world.
Letter from a Distant Land
In the sonnet “Good Friday, 1954,” which appears in Letter from a Distant Land, the number of lines and the rhyme scheme follow the traditional pattern, but the poet uses slant rhyme, with “lodged” and “judged” ending the sixth and eighth lines. The poem’s final line reveals Booth’s closeness to the New...
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