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© 2006, West End Press
Down Wind, Down River
New and Selected Poems
This selection from six volumes of poetry and translation tells the story of a hard life of resistance to misfortune and commitment to social justice. Witherup’s poems explore manual labor, nature and animals, love and the loss of love, and political realities and how they impact our lives. Several of the most moving poems relate to the death of his father, a long-time worker at Hanford nuclear facility in eastern Washington, from cancer. The book also includes translations from four significant and undervalued writers: Antonio Machado, Vicente Huidobro, Enrique Lihn, and Olzhas Suleimenov.
“No poet writing today catches [so well] the complexity, the valence, the hysteria of being alone, of being up against it, of being driven by forces little understood; this feeling of isolation is Witherup Country, and that well may be the most significant emotion of these past decades.”—James B. Hall
“His strength is the impulse that moves his shyness to find its voice in understatement, the art that leaves implication suspended until its images explode in depth.”—William Everson
Short for El Rito. The town dog.
They broke his back, but not his spirit.
We brought him to my place,
He wouldn’t be still; refused to be sick;
I dug him a shallow grave by the creek,
Shot him between the eyes with a .22—
for Rito, the town dog—a free spirit!
6 x 9 inches • 175 pages • ISBN 0-931122-99-6 • $16.95
Bill Witherup was born in 1935. He grew up in eastern Washington, around Hanford from the time his father took a job there.
After graduating from the University of Washington, he moved to San Francisco in 1960, later dividing his time among rural retreats near Monterey and Big Sur in California and a ranch outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.
His poetry darkened following the death of his father in 1983. While Witherup has endured periods of breakdown and hospitalization during his adult life, his dedication to poetry has remained unrelenting.