Robert Pack is a narrative master blessed with a keen ear for everyday speech. In poems that recall Robert Frost's meditative regard of nature, Pack's newest collection, Elk in Winter, asks what meaning can be found in a seemingly indifferent universe. But as always for Pack, universal questions find their resolution in the particular, the personal, and the intimate. With this focus, Pack's essential meditative stance challenges and enlarges itself - a man watches himself watching the landscape, through which a herd of elk passes on a winter morning: "As silence deepens / Into deeper thought / the watcher, unresistant to the spell / His watching adds to the still woods, / hears footfalls softly / Crunching in the shadowed snow, / step upon sure unhurried step." This rich and varied volume moves from comedy to elegy, from lyric to narrative, in which individual characters are revealed and rendered symbolic by the stories that enclose them.
Pack locates beauty, consolation, and even happiness in those commitments that we will into fulfillment in awareness of loss: "Your absence is as bright / as sunlight on the sea, / illuminating the receding depths of air, / blue fading into deeper blue as if / some random thought of fading blue / extended everywhere." What finally unites the poems of Elk in Winter is Pack's desire to appeal to the ear as much as to the heart, and to discover and reveal the passionate music of ideas.