In an academic setting, poetry can often feel inaccessible. While we examine and dissect it in order to understand what is underneath, it is easy to think of poetry as a science and forget to appreciate the art. James Ragan’s collection of poems “Too Long a Solitude” is like a tidal wave that sweeps readers away and pulls them into the ocean. The poems are an adventure not only through the natural world, from equatorial jungles to Arctic icebergs, but also through the world of human emotions, from heartbreaking loneliness to euphoric human connection.
Ragan’s solitude is not a stationary one; in fact, it is quite the opposite. His lack of connection is always moving and traveling, never staying anywhere long enough to create an attachment. This takes place across breath-taking landscapes, described so masterfully by Ragan that one can easily picture them. As connections are made, the compulsion to keep picking up and moving begins to disappear. “Solitude” gives Ragan and his readers a chance to communicate with nature, unhindered by other people. As the poems evolve into expressions of human connection, we can feel a similar reverence for the world of human emotions and intimacy to Ragan’s reverence for his journey through the natural world.
The journey from solitude to closeness is a literal one. The three different sections of the book are “I. A Measure of Solitude,” “II. Mapping a Road,” and “III. Crossing a Boundary.” We start out alone on an iceberg in the artic, and eventually find ourselves at one with a lover, showered in moonlight. Throughout each stage on the journey from solitude to communion, Ragan portrays a soulful intimacy. The poems are so visceral that it does not simply feel like watching another person’s journey; rather, readers really get to become a part of the evolution.
Ragan understands all of our worries and fears about being alone, and about being with other people. The book explores metaphysical questions, yet still manages to feel very personal. What I love about Ragan’s word choice is that he does not just go for two feelings or allusions, but often three with a possible fourth, maybe just waiting to be read as well as felt.
This is the perfect book of poetry for people who do not often read poetry as well as seasoned poetry readers. “Too Long A Solitude” is something everybody can love and relate to. Ragan’s poetry can be easily understood and paraphrased, but at the same time it is brimming with lyricism that can only fill the reader’s heart. This is one of my favorite companions for introspection.