Vagrants and Accidentals, the second full-length collection from poet Kevin Craft, is part vade mecum, part songbook, whose taut lines and adaptable stanzas traffic in the personal effects of emigration and estrangement, exile and return. In ornithology, a vagrant or accidental is a bird that appears out of its natural or normal range, blown off course by a storm, or inadvertently introduced into a new environment by human trade. Likewise, Craft is interested in things taken out of context - Greek myths in the Pacific Northwest, the potsherd or megalith stranded in a museum, excess carbon in the atmosphere, American pop songs in a Roman piazza, adoptions, estrangements, dangerous migrations, the constant shuffle of human beings from place to place-asking how we reorient ourselves in the crossfire of constant, rapid, global transformation.
Organized into four parts, the collection moves from the deeply personal to more global issues of interconnectedness. In language intensely lyrical, grounded in prehistory and science, Craft evokes questions of family and belonging that underscore a lifetime, gradually revealing the forces that shape us from the deepest reaches of time and place. As some birds sing to define their territory, so his poetry calls between the raggedness of daily life and our deeper yearning for coherence.
Kevin Craft is the executive editor of Poetry Northwest Editions. He is the author of Solar Prominence, and editor of five volumes of the anthology Mare Nostrum. He is the director of the Written Arts Program at Everett Community College, and teaches in the University of Washington's Creative Writing in Rome Program.
"It is not news that 'things fly out of our hands,' as Kevin Craft writes in Vagrants and Accidentals. Rather it's the insistent attention this wonderful poet pays as those things fly-and their beautiful 'fugitive' remnants, our recollections in their absence-that marks the soulful, lyric richness of his new book. Vagrants and accidentals are, he reminds us, terms for wayward birds and musical miscues, but Craft deepens the conceit as he traces the constant surprises of nature, family, and social engagement, until 'on a scale of extravagant / to frugal, we fall everywhere / between.' Dislocation and disruption become like guideposts in his poems, not to be ignored but heard, heeded, and embraced in the natural disorder of things. It's all part of Craft's patient, shining wisdom."
-David Baker, author of Scavenger Loop: Poems
"There is nature on the pages, there is heartbreak set in loved landscapes, there is archaeological wonder. . . . Kevin Craft tends the Pacific Northwest's garden of verses. And his work is vital to our poetic health."
-Daniel Lamberton, Humanities Director, Walla Walla University
"I admire the weave of the personal narratives with the richly textured imagination that consistently ignites the moment. Vagrants and Accidentals is a book of full-measures, with a mind behind its heart."
-Stanley Plumly, author of Orphan Hours: Poems
"'I do my part / to hold up one loose end of it,' writes Kevin Craft at the start of the luminous 'One Atmosphere'-but the lovely and wistful poems of Vagrants and Accidentals belie this modest beginning and find Craft doing so much more than one poet's small part. Everything and nothing is accidental in these poems, in which the sudden appearance of an exotic songbird, of the memory of a parent, of Mark Rothko's ghost, or of any of the other varieties of beauty that populate this precious, pluralistic, and precarious planet might befall or confront us at any moment."
-Troy Jollimore, author of Syllabus of Errors: Poems
"Kevin Craft's Vagrants and Accidentals is by turns melancholic, enigmatic, and tender. The camera swoops and veers from poem to poem, surveying the liminal spaces between outer and inner landscape, both civilized and wild. And Craft's impastoed, often-impressionistic lyrics are delivered via incantatory wit and wordplay that never fail to surprise and delight. Read these poems out loud, and loudly."
-Nicky Beer, author of The Octopus Game
"Evoking the steadfastness of calendrical weeks and a card deck's volatility, these 52+1 poems meditate on the unforeseen directions a life can take. Like the prism that serves as a quietly recurring trope, these poems are sites of gather and scatter, as flickers of classical beauty get projected out of fracture. An encomium to drift that places figures 'steeped in disappearance' in the foreground of its long, historical view, Vagrants and Accidentals suggests that being blown off course is the course."
-Andrew Zawacki, author of Videotape