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For a Modest God: New and Selected Poems

Ormsby’s work has earned the prestigious Ingraham Merrill Prize and Canada’s QSpell Award for poetry. The present work adds to the impressive body of poems available in his earlier Coastlines (ECW, 1992) and Bavarian Shrine and Other Poems (ECW, 1990) and identifies him as a master of the poetry of sheer observation. A typical poem in this collection focuses on a specific event or object, scrupulously examining it with analytical precision, then teasing from it intimations of, if not immortality, at least the universal order of things. His method demonstrates the delight and potency of pure description, which, with Ormsby, unfailingly exposes the unexpected extraordinary in the ordinary subjects it addresses: a railroad yard in winter, a conch shell, lichens, skunk cabbage, a turtle’s skull, and even the nose. This volume deserves a prominent place in all poetry collections. Highly recommended. – Thomas F. Merril

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