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Starting from Anywhere

Starting from Anywhere

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"Starting from Anywhere is based upon the generous belief that poetry can begin with anything: a painting, a line from another poem, or even how perfectly ordinary things can 'balk account'. The urgency underlying these quiet poems reveals how the eye and imagination can, must, or perhaps simply will, remake the world.

"From the first poem, 'In My Alternate Life', through the volume's mid-point - a short prose piece called 'When Fictions Are Facts', which explains that the writer, adopted as a child, must imagine his own origins - to the end, which promises 'there is always something more', this book sings. The poems may start everywhere, but they teem with carefully observed, sensuous details: tayberries, deodar cedars, 'the mucus of slugs', the whole 'earth, the ripe impossible school'. Reading Lex Runciman's poems, we are invited to see our world with new eyes."
Lisa Steinman



Warm in full sun, we use the largest boulders as seats,
unlace our shoes, pull off our socks, swerve and dawdle
into wind, and someone must watch the waves ashore.

Gulls caw. Pelicans love a line along a swell.
You notice, watching the waves ashore, how singular
each wave is. You notice, watching the waves ashore,

some pools blue deeper than knees. Sanderlings hurry.
Cormorants dive. And someone, someone, someone,
someone - someone must watch the waves ashore.


Birds call and call. A low eastern sun rises warm.
Wind eases among palms, over the floral hedge,
drifts over the steady gather and small roar -

the shore break, salt water neither cool nor warm,
vague green as it fluffs and swirls coarse sand
that goes deeper underfoot until you swim

awkward, as land muscles unknot and lengthen
into a rhythm, inhale and heartbeat, one sea
inside, the other filling your ears.

Each swell lifts you a foot or so, the beach from here
a postcard: sand and palms. Hang onto this -
qualities of air, how, resting, buoyant, you look up:

on water whirling through all the empyrean
you are floated by the earth

Born and raised in Portland, Lex Runciman has lived most of his life in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Starting from Anywhere is his fourth collection of poetry, following Luck (1981), The Admirations (1989) which won the Oregon Book Award, and Out of Town (2004). He holds graduate degrees from the writing programs at the University of Montana and the University of Utah. A co-editor of two anthologies, Northwest Variety: Personal Essays by 14 Regional Authors and Where We Are: The Montana Poets Anthology, his own work has appeared in several anthologies including From Here We Speak, Portland Lights and O Poetry, O Poesia. He was adopted at birth. He and Deborah Jane Berry Runciman have been married thirty-seven years and are the parents of two grown daughters. He taught for eleven years at Oregon State University and is now Professor of English at Linfield College, where he received the Edith Green Award in teaching in 1997.