Looking in All Directions by Peter Kane Dufault

“The seventy-eight-year-old American poet Peler Kane Dufault is not well known on either side of the Atlantic, but he deserves to be. An earlier Selected Poems impressed by its syntaetical fluidity, the poet’s sense of “prosody in the bedrock and roll of the world”, his ability to (as Ted Hughes puts it on the cover) snatch “those uncatchable moments – like snatching a “butterfly out of the air’. The poems are engrossing; representative of the best of the American ‘Wilderness School’, with nothing of the Ouija board about them, but a real spiritual hunger. There is something of the late A. R. Ammons’s way of looking:’ dense philosophical speculation, exploration of science and science’s big questions. Dufault can even do “really short poems”:

One while hush the whole day.
No wind. Just endless in
-exorable cliche,
the same old stuff again
and again …. We need old stuff sometimes: As in liturgy.
Or a declaration of love.
No frills, just infinity.
(‘More Snow Falling’)

But there is a wry, detached note that sounds even in his intensely inward-looking pieces. He observes the physical world keenly, and idiosyn¬cratically, and frequently serves the ‘didactic muse’, but he can sing from the heart, 100. Even at his most personal (as in “Oneiric”. in memory of his daughter), he is reaching for something fundamental about the relationship between man and nature.

Looking in All Directions is substantially the same selection as New Things Come into the World (1993), but is better produced, should be easier to find and includes forty pages of magnificent new work. It is surprising that other publishers have ignored Dufault; but Worple Press have done him proud.”

John Greening, Times Literary Supplement, April 27 2001


“Guiding us, through marvel, from the rare happenstance to the wittily construed hypothesis, Dufault’s inquisitive poems amuse as they instruct.”

Poetry February 2002


“This year the great excitement for me, bookwise, is that the American poet Peter Kane Dufault has at last found an English publisher – Looking in All Directions (Worple Press). I have been a fan for years and find my praise of him quoted on the cover – ‘A nature poet for grown ups’, which is what he is. Ted Hughes was also a fan – ‘so nimble and delicate’. He has gone on for years, resolutely being good in a way considered unfashionable, which perhaps is the case no longer.

There has been bluff editorial comment in this magazine concerning ‘rhyme’, ‘metre’, suggestive of nostalgia for the hymnody, so here is a short example of PKD in which rhyme (or half-rhyme) and cunning line-breaks are the armature on which the cadences hang, though Hymns Ancient and Modern it ain’t – ‘More Snow Falling’:

One white hush the whole day. No wind. Just endless in¬exorable cliche,
the same old stuff again
and again … We need old stuff sometimes. As in liturgy.
Or a declaration of love.
No frills, just infinity.”

The Spectator, 25th November 2000


“The back of this bookdeclares that the work of American poet, Peter Kane Dufault, ‘been admired’ on both sides ‘of the Atlantic, yet remained virtually unavailable to readers’ . As far as UK goes, we are told his poems have appeared in magazines including London Magazine and that he has twice been Visiting Poet at the Cheltenham Festival. Among those quoted offering commendations are Ted Hughes (I suspect Dufault has been a definite influence on Hughes) and P.J. Kavanagh, who, with some justification, declares Dufault to be ‘a nature poet for grownups. We need him.’ It seems astonishing that the work of such a fine poet, now in his late seventies, should have taken so long in becoming generally available. It’s almost as if, till now, he’s been a well-kept secret. I, for one, am glad the secret is out.

Kavanagh’s title ‘nature poet’ is misleading – that is unless we accept nature, in the way Dufault does, as meaning God, the Universe and Everything. Certainly he is able, in a couple of words, a few lines, to recreate vividly-perceived nature-moments that remind one of Clare, Frost and of that faith in the self-containedness of flora and fauna we find in Lawrence. He is a poet I suspect Jonathan Bate, whose book The Song of the Earth makes an impassioned plea for the saving grace of environmental consciousness expressed in poetry, will – if he is not already familiar with the work – want to trumpet to the world.

Here is Dufault fishing:

Plover-like peering off-shore,
where nothing is certain, save the
infrequent rational gleam
of the lure, like a drowned Bare,
on its long retrieve

And in the start of a poem about a turkey:

A friend (better him than me) basted an old turkey. One.
A goitrous bird, the head
like a loading-book
from a drowned galleon, cal-
careous with corals and whelks; feathers a dun desert of dandruff and lice;
fan like a shattered snowfence; and feet two blasted elm stumps. (It doesn’t walk, it uproots – first one
then the other.) Nevertheless,
it gobbles, it totters, erects
its toothless-smile of a tail, all
by itself in the dust and mulch-hay.
But to what end, then, or for whose pleasure the production?

Dufault writes about the natural world with the Big-Country confidence of a Whitman and from the perspective of one who contemplates the local in the context of the whole universe, in no way nervous of playing an evangelical role, that of poet as spokesman and prophet. He will tackle big subjects most British poets flinch at, critically take on American history and its stated ideals with the gruff frankness of a Mailer:

That I have aged into a face pig-lidded, chop-fallen. a scare-mask and memento mori. That the U.S. isn’t looking good either; hypocrite, paranoid, bully, assassin of the so-called
free world, caught murdering and lying one week and crying “Credibility” the next …

Dufault is a poet who speaks right out, speaks his mind, tells it as it is. His metaphysics are not the gentlemanly ones of churchwarden Eliot; they are punchy, blunt.”

Matt Simpson


“A nature poet for grown ups. We need him.”

P.J. Kavanagh


“Every poem has a surprise. So fresh and new … Wonderful stuff”

Ted Hughes