Poetry

PoetryPaul J. Willis’s poems have appeared in hundreds of publications, including the 1996 edition of Best American PoetryPoetry magazine,Wilderness, and Christian CenturyGarrison Keillor has read his poetry on the Writer’s Almanac, and four of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Getting to Gardisky Lake

Getting to Gardisky Lake Book Cover

Even for somebody who has known and admired Paul Willis’s work for many years (this reader, for instance), the poems in Getting to Gardisky Lake are remarkable in their amplitude and reach. Here, ranging between parking lots and high meadows, vaulting decades, naming names, are all the pleasures of Willis’s nimble wit, fresh metaphors, and weather eye for the sacred in the commonplace. Without a whiff of didacticism, these satisfying poems offer—in fact are—ways and means to “balance upon what disappears.” They invite us, finally, to step “off the map, into the world.”
Catherine Abbey Hodges, Author, Instead of Sadness

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Say This Prayer into the Past

Say This Prayer into the Past Book Cover

With reverence and wit, with delightful homage to the musical properties of language, Paul Willis gives us these poems of his family, his classroom, the wilderness terrains he loves. Lucky us. Whatever Willis touches on these pages quickens under his wry, wise gaze, becomes vividly “green with life.” In both open and fixed forms, he follows his own dictate “… to make sure of the meanings / of words, then to invest them with holiness.…” His poems are a most welcome and needed gift—a balm he offers to “this beautiful, suffering world.”
Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate

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Rosing from the Dead

Rosing from the Dead Book Cover

We journey with Willis, our expert guide, from one California wilderness to the next—like Wordsworth through his Lake District—with their stunning vistas, vegetation, rock formations, and rivers. Through his words, we glimpse the Sequoia National Park, John Muir Wilderness, Death Valley National Park, San Rafael Wilderness, Mojave Desert, Kings Canyon National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and other regions with their singular wonders. We quickly realize that Willis does not simply write about these places; he has inhabited them, climbed them, breathed their atmospheres. He could not describe them so sharply otherwise.
Shanna Powlus Wheeler, Christianity and Literature

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Visiting Home

Visiting Home Book Cover

As someone who has spent a good deal of time in the company of ancient trees and mountain ranges, Willis writes poetry from that place of tension between the physical, touchable earth and the unknown, the mystery it pushes us toward.
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In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare

In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare Book Cover

In a Fine Frenzy follows on the heels of earlier anthologies recording literary responses to Shakespeare, but as editors David Starkey and Paul J. Willis point out in their introduction, there are few books that go beyond what they call “bardolatry,” and most contain more prose than poetry. They also wanted a poetry anthology that was American and contemporary.… Here humor is the mode of engagement for most poets, even when the theme is dark.… Yet there are wholly serious poems too, tender, lyrical, grieving.
—Charlotte Innes, Poetry International

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How to Get There

How to Get There Book Cover

Many of the poems in Paul Willis’s How to Get There are quite literally like letters: they address the reader directly, and are newsy narratives we are invited into so that we may discover that we are reading stories about ourselves as well. We might apply the term “accessible” to Willis’s work, except that these simple narratives are often so subtle that we cannot too carefully, too closely analyze exactly what is going on in them. Rather, we must, as William Stafford claimed was true of poems, see them out of the corners of our eyes, like faint stars. Look at them directly, and they disappear.
—Carmine Sarracino, Prairie Schooner

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