Jim Gustafson’s When we've come farther than we have to go is filled with uncertain wisdoms that are hard-won and offered to the reader with a generous diffidence, and often with humor. “Be ready,” he warns us, “for the certain moment/ when uncertainty arrives to change/ all you think is true.” The speaker of these poems is past platitude or sermon— “In the short days of certainty,” he tells us, “the earliest of years /I was confident in my preaching. Now I dig/my old sermons up like a hound digging a bone /in the garden// and wonder.” Though he is now well aware that “Fathoms deep/sharks pick their teeth” he remains among those “who seek to understand,” and thus “still cast our lines.” Despite a loss of faith in there being “another side” after this life, despite knowing, or perhaps, because he now knows ‘there is only this side,” in these poems Gustafson casts his lines still, finding in memory and in the here and now something like acceptance, something enduringly like hope.
~ Christine Gelineau, Appetite for the Divine
When we've come farther than we have to go
These poems are as rich and satisfying as a casserole. Gustafson takes us from childhood memories in Wisconsin’s North Woods to an enlightened look at his own aging process. The tone is wise, tender and sweetly nostalgic even while addressing topics like crime, immigration or vicious attacks on weeds, toads and turtles. These poems are serious and funny, down-to-earth and literary, with something here for everyone. In “Nobody Cares” he wonders if it’s a mistake to care too much about who sees his words. I predict readers will adore this collection and the poet himself.
~ John Cuetara, Mixed Messages and Away with Words
I am reading through Jim Gustafson’s new book of poems for a second time this morning. I will be reading them for a third time, and a fourth. These are poems one wants to know, not just read. He’s that good. I wait with Jim on his 22nd birthday at a train station, waiting for Kay. A book about Paris with etchings in his hand. The book is in French, “the language she said she loved more than her own.” These poems will, with a language learned from a lifetime of noticing, nudge you closer to the edge.
~ Brady Peterson, At the Edge of Town