A Flutter of Birds Passing Through Heaven: A Tribute to Robert Sund
Call it an appreciation, a gathering, a do-it-yourself biography, what this amounts to is an authentic tribute to an important American poet. Robert Sund (1929– 2001) lived and worked the woods country of Washington state as poet, artist, musician, teacher. Author Tom Robbins wrote in 1969, “Sund is likely the finest poet now practicing in the Pacific Northwest.”
What editors Allen Frost and Paul Piper have done is assemble a rich collection of Sund’s own writing and honest recollections and tributes to the man and his work. These include some of the best writers from that era or area: Kenneth Rexroth, William Carlos Williams, Gary Snyder, Robert Bly, as well as his more intimate friends and fellow artists: Charlie Craft, Tim McNulty, Arjuna (Diane) Barton, Joseph Stroud, Frances McCue, and about 40 more.
The book is beautifully laid out and lush with graphic images of the poet and friends, but also with copies of some of the correspondence and posters of events. Sund lived extremely humbly in a fisherman’s shack, often off of the good will of friends. Each element fills in a story that the reader constructs without a narrator’s bias.
Sund’s own poetics are summed up in his description of The Sullivan Slough Review publication, which he edited briefly: “We are interested most in silence, and in great agedness. We want to publish the work of poets, who are like insects, free from dogma, fully a part of their world, alive, solitary members of the brotherhood of poetry, religious, thoughtful, full of clarity, and related to everything.” Fortunately for the readers such poetry, his own and others, fill this book. Here is a poem from his running journal dated September 22:
Invited to stay here, there is a room
upstairs. Going to live in Bellingham
now, there is a fine spirit coming alive
here, a warmth that is present from house
to house, casual friendship but springing
from deep concern. This is a very large family.
This book emanates from this generous spirit.
Robert Sund is perhaps best known for the books Bunch Grass, Ish River, Poems from Ish River Country: Collected Poems & Translations, Taos Mountain, and Notes from Disappearing Lake: The River Journals of Robert Sund. There are also a host of beautifully done chapbooks.
It is entirely appropriate that two poets, Frost and Piper, from Bellingham, Washington, should produce this essential book from a small literary press, Good Deed Rain.