Ronald Johnson described The Book of the Green Man as his “attempt, as a brash American, to make new the traditional British long seasonal poem.” This Poundian endeavor to “make it new” stemmed from a visit that he and fellow poet Jonathan Williams made to the United Kingdom in the autumn of 1962, in search of all things “most rich, most glittering, most strange.”
The first edition of the poem, published in 1967, describes how The Book of the Green Man “encompasses a year, October to October: on foot for a month in the Lake Country; a walk in Spring from the mouth of the Wye, up its winding valley, to its source on Wales high on the flanks of Plynlimmon; and various excursions to gardens, follies and grottoes, to Gilbert White’s Selborne, and the carved foliage and green men of the Chapter House at Southwell Minster.”
Writing on the dustwrapper to the same edition, the distinguished poet and translator Christopher Middleton praised The Book of the Green Man “as a remarkable piece of work. The surprise is this: he presents an image of England, or, to be precise, of sundry English scenes, with a vividness and a strangeness beyond the reach of any English poet, and unknown, I venture to say, since the days of Blake, Calvert and Palmer. Ronald Johnson has unearthed an England which most people have forgotten… his observation is microscopic, but his sense of place drills through to the mythic substrata.”
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