Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About Merrill Gilfillan

BURNT HOUSE TO PAW PAW
CHOKECHERRY PLACES
GRASSHOPPER FALLS
LIGHT YEARS
MAGPIE RISING
MOODS OF THE OHIO MOONS
RIVERS AND BIRDS
RIVER THROUGH RIVERTOWN
SATIN STREET
THE SEASONS, VOL I
SWORN BEFORE CRANES
TO CREATURE




Burnt House to Paw Paw:
Appalachian Notes
Copyright © 1997
by Merrill Gilfillan
Hard Press Editions
How to Buy

Merrill Gilfillan is the award-winning short story writer and poet whose Magpie Rising: Sketches from the Great Plains, won the first PEN/Martha Albrand Award for non-fiction. Five years later, Gilfillan returns to the genre with a new collection of poetic essays that grew from his travels along the folkloric backroads of Appalachia. — from the publisher



Chokecherry Places:
Essays from the High Plains
Copyright © 1998
by Merrill Gilfillan
Johnson Books
How to Buy

In this new book detailing his travels through the American Great Plains, author Merrill Gilfillan continues to elucidate for us, and add to our appreciation of, one of the most ignored and misunderstood areas of our vast American landscape. Like few American writers, Gilfillan has a deep feeling for, and understanding of the western grasslands, which give both dignity and a deep historical sense to our sometimes forgotten heartland.
Gilfillan's sense of the land encompasses the plants, wildflowers, and small creatures; the birds that he writes such wonderfully detailed descriptions about; the rivers, watering holes, and butteframed vistas; and, very importantly, the legacy of the Plains tribes of Native Americans who loved this land and fashioned myth and legend about it. By overlaying these myths onto the modern plains landscape, Gilfillan invokes a poignant sense of loss, yet we are also ennobled by the profound sense of the landscape that his vision imparts to us. Gilfillan is a tour guide like no other. His readers are given lovely, lingering descriptions of the overlooked and forgotten, the out-of-the-way and underfoot. — from the publisher

Prose doesn't get any better than this. — Tom McGuane

Last night I read "Chokecherry Places" by Merrill Gilfillan and was quite swept away as I had been with "Magpie Rising," "Sworn Before Cranes," and "Burnt House to Paw Paw." If anyone writes better prose in America I am unaware of it. He is an improbably acute student of natural history and his prose frequently passes Matthew Arnold's test of poetry: Does it raise the hair on the back of your neck? — Jim Harrison


Grasshopper Falls
Copyright © 2000
by Merrill Gilfillan
Hanging Loose Press
How to Buy

The rolling, billowing, delicate landscape of Nebraska’s Sandhills; the tombstone of Billy the Kid—stolen so often that it must be caged and shackled—in Fort Sumner, New Mexico; an intercontinental ballistic missile trundling down a highway under heavy guard in Weld County, Colorado; cottonwoods and cranes, faded hotels and abandoned trailers painted aqua and purple; the ghosts of Pawnees, Cheyennes, and Kiowas and generations of settlers whose descendants now grouse in a café in Heimdahl, North Dakota, or roar off to a bikers convention in Sturgis, South Dakota. These are some of the things that catch Merrill Gilfillan’s eye and ear in this radiant collection of essays. Written with a poetic economy that often attains grandeur, Magpie Rising is an exhilarating tour of the Great Plains—its geography, wildlife, history, mythology, and food, its vast spaces and weirdly synchronous time. This is nature writing at its most evocative and insightful. — from the publisher

Merrill Gilfillan's short stories are natural extensions of his eloquent and lyrical accounts of Appalachia, the Great Plains, the Western mountains. Each character is given the same quiet respect that he gives to nature. They rise out of the land, share its timelessness. Their feelings seem as inevitable and natural as erosion or an avalanche. We finish each story with a sense of connection to them and their place, a reassurance of balance and symmetry. Gilfillan's writings often seem to be of another time, evoking Hopkins and Hudson and Melville, but they are about our time, about how much "major earthly wonder" remains. They remind us that there is still the space so powerful as to render time silly." No other author today writes such thoughtful, lyrical and majestic prose. — Lucia Berlin

A feeling for life on the Great Plains and a respect for fictional resonances lend Gilfillan's 15 stories a quiet glow. In precise, glistening prose, the poet and award-winning essayist (Chokecherry Places) presents a slim collection of vignettes that include historical anecdotes, sketches of contemporary reservation life and extended observations on the vagaries of existence. — Publishers Weekly

... invariably interesting and humane. ... steady-eyed, fine, and always interesting, from "Pie for Breakfast" on through the wonderfully seriocomic "One Summer by the River." "Regionalism" that shows what honest, true writing is—and what it can do. — Kirkus Reviews

Grasshopper Falls is an impressive collection of Merrill Gilfillan's short stories and serves admirable to further document his literary talents. — Internet Book Watch

Grasshopper Falls is an impressive collection of Merrill Gilfillan's short stories and serves admirable to further document his literary talents. — Midwest Book Review



Light Years:
Selected Early Works, 1969-1972
Copyright © 1977
by Merrill Gilfillan
Blue Wind Press
How to Buy




Magpie Rising
Copyright © 2000
by Merrill Gilfillan
Hard Press, Inc
How to Buy

The rolling, billowing, delicate landscape of Nebraska’s Sandhills; the tombstone of Billy the Kid—stolen so often that it must be caged and shackled—in Fort Sumner, New Mexico; an intercontinental ballistic missile trundling down a highway under heavy guard in Weld County, Colorado; cottonwoods and cranes, faded hotels and abandoned trailers painted aqua and purple; the ghosts of Pawnees, Cheyennes, and Kiowas and generations of settlers whose descendants now grouse in a café in Heimdahl, North Dakota, or roar off to a bikers convention in Sturgis, South Dakota. These are some of the things that catch Merrill Gilfillan’s eye and ear in this radiant collection of essays. Written with a poetic economy that often attains grandeur, Magpie Rising is an exhilarating tour of the Great Plains—its geography, wildlife, history, mythology, and food, its vast spaces and weirdly synchronous time. This is nature writing at its most evocative and insightful. — from the publisher

This is a book to be read as a poet’s experiment in prose, slowly and with attention to the language. — New York Times Book Review

Magpie Rising [is] one of the keenest encounters with the western spaces since Meriwether Lewis’s journals. — ISLE

Gilfillan is a careful observer of the outward elements of the land — its shapes, its plant life, its birds. ... His pieces sparkle with invention and insight when he merges the landscape with interior voices of history and myth. — Kansas City Star

The author has crisscrossed the backbone of the North American continent from Texas to Alberta, driving, camping, hiking, observing land and life forms. Poet Gilfallen presents impressionistic, kaleidoscopic images of the landscape interwoven with threads of its past, both natural and human history. His writing ranges from lyrical to earthy as he travels the minor roads, small towns and river valleys of the Great Plains. Gilfallen celebrates this region as Edward Abbey and Gary Nabhan have the desert West, and John McPhee in the mountain West. The book will have immense local interest, and may kindle a desire among Western buffs to explore the Great Plains. — Publishers Weekly



Moods of the Ohio Moons:
An Outdoorsman's Almanac
Copyright © 1991
by Merrill Gilfillan
Kent State UP
How to Buy

Here is an intriguing concept for a book — understanding nature by observing the rhythms of the moon ... — Publishers Weekly


River and Birds
Copyright © 2003
by Merrill Gilfillan
Johnson Books
How to Buy



River Through Rivertown:
Appalachian Notes
Copyright © 1982
by Merrill Gilfillan
The Figures
How to Buy




Satin Street
Copyright © 1997
by Merrill Gilfillan
Moyer Bell
How to Buy

The strongest poems feature a solitary, omniscient observer responding to the sky and land in Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota. Details set off personal associations: "we look at the winterberry, sole color/ of the January worth it, dry scorched red/ like a crimson peppercorn on the mud-dark twig/ and think, together, ocotillo/ in bloom..." Most poems employ a spare and beautiful imagery characteristic of Chinese or Japanese nature poetry. ... Deceptively simple, these poems reveal new beauties with each reading. — Publishers Weekly



The Seasons: Vol I
Copyright © 2002
by Merrill Gilfillan
Zephyr P
How to Buy

Gilfillan's observations, quotations, etymologies, and classical forms are constructed by equal parts scholar and aesthete. He is a master of Low Distance. Gilfillan watches and then watches again. His writing is workman-like in the sense of what words are like, and luminous in its experimental directions. — from the publisher

Several periods of the poet's life are chronicled in these wry and animated speech-driven poems set all over the United States. In his 11th collection, the award-winning poet and essayist Gillfillan (Satin Street; Magpie Rising: Sketches from the Great Plains) presents acute observations of urban and natural settings balanced by an impeccable ear and wit. — Publishers Weekly


Sworn Before Cranes
Copyright © 1994
by Merrill Gilfillan
Orion Books

astonishing ... Some of the purist, most concentrated fiction in American prose literature. — Booklist

heart-wrenchingly well written stories. — Kirkus Reviews

The plots are uncomplicated, the prose clean and descriptive; each tale invokes a quiet heroism, and none fails to affect the reader. Whether written in the first or third person, these narratives have the unstudied quality of oral history. The author's easy naturalism, combined with his elevated metaphors, gives a fresh feeling to the stories, which seem to tap a new vein of the American literary heritage. — Publishers Weekly


To Creature
Copyright © 1975
by Merrill Gilfillan
Blue Wind P
How to Buy

redball.gif Bibliography
redball.gif Selection
redball.gif Buy a Book
redball.gif Merrill Gilfillan's Page
redball.gif Writers On-Line



Return
to
The Rock

Nebraska Center for Writers