About the Author
Derek Sheffield is the author of Through the Second Skin, finalist for the Washington State Book Award. He is coeditor of Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, poetry editor of Terrain.org, and a
professor of English at Wenatchee Valley College.
“Derek Sheffield writes with a marvelous dual vision, coalescing details of the natural and human worlds, illuminating moments that sparkle and shimmer within.” —ARTHUR SZE
, author of Sight Lines
, winner of the 2019 National Book Award
Derek Sheffield writes with a marvelous dual vision, coalescing details of the natural and human worlds, illuminating moments that sparkle and shimmer within.—Arthur Sze, author of Sight Lines, winner of the 2019 National Book Award
In Not for Luck, Derek Sheffield achieves something of inestimable value: a trustworthy, convincing voice.—Mark Doty, winner of the 2008 National Book Award and author of What Is the Grass
“I felt like a pane of glass,” says Derek Sheffield in Not for Luck, his immersive poetry collection. Exquisitely observed, crystalline in its imagery, this book is indeed an act of vision, bringing us the world up close: “cottonwood shade mixed with leaf murmur,” “the lightbulb face” of bull kelp, the “bright, untied, ready-for-anything voices” of his young daughters. Keenly attuned to time’s passage and the inevitability of loss, these poems unspool patiently, slowing us down so that we may dwell in “the aggregate beauty of every trout and star-clotted night.” Like the wood rat in “The Seconds,” Sheffield is a collector, a historian “who would make hill after hill of all the years…” Lucky us.—Ellen Bass, author of Indigo and Like a Beggar
Here is a true voice in our Western landscape.—Gary Soto, author of New and Selected Poems, finalist for the National Book Award
Derek Sheffield’s poems are familial in a bracingly unfamiliar way. Their moments of tenderness are fragile and earned. Their melancholy is serene. Their passages of greatest power tend to portray beauty at the moment we realize we cannot keep hold of it without destroying it, and so release it like a grown daughter or wild trout. The moments of light dazzle. The moments of darkness haunt, yet remain ever alert to the eerie, breakable beauties of this Earth and its human and other families. Not for Luck is a skilled, true, deeply lived collection.
— David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why
Not for Luck is a quintessential collection of poems that examines the narrative intersections of nature and nurture. With pitch perfect descriptions, Derek Sheffield sharpens our senses to the world around us, a world in which the natural order of things invariably involves loss and rejuvenation. Sheffield's natural world, a place of learning that never stops, is a world of hope, a place of resilience where “what we know / of the tribe whose / steps have fallen / before ours,” makes clear our way forward.
— Colleen J. McElroy, author of Blood Memory and Here I Throw Down My Heart
In this richly satisfying collection, Derek Sheffield's displays an apparently effortless ability to rise from the most physically grounded data drawn from the natural world into the rapt region of lyrical daydream:
Have the thinnest veil of dusk,
fog, or drizzle, call stillness
near, her sister, silence, here.
He can ascend seamlessly, so, from the world that surrounds his ever vigilant eyes and ears, a world of any explored landscape or just “dusky gnats” and “that whitefaced dog” to where we may “tilt our faces / toward a crater’s living steam.”
In short poems or longer stretches, I love how Sheffield's language inserts itself subtly but decisively into the world of specific facts, animating it all with a poetic language that is both concrete and inventive, offering, for example, a simple stream that “purls and moils / wrinkles into flats.” What this poet offers in generous measure are poems of the sympathetic imagination, an imagination prompted equally by the natural world or the affecting, sometimes fraught world of family and fatherhood, especially in some lovely poems of his daughter: “She opens her eyes and sees / the frost in my beard. Her laughter ignites another fire.”
In brief, Not for Luck,
displays a poet working at the top of his talent, creating an often radiant display of crystalline moments drawn or filtered out of the ordinary passages of life—as father, husband, son, teacher, environmentalist, and most of all (to bring all these together) poet.
— Eamon Grennan, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and author of There Now