As Water Moves by Roger Mitchell


The largest section of As Water Moves made up mostly of reconstructed or remembered events in the poet’s life, necessarily isolated from one another to support either narrative or argumentative coherence or both. Towards the end of that section (“One Lane Road”) and in the “Letters From Kepler” section he ventures into the broader question of what life might be. Life is difficult to describe for him, but it is likened to water or air, the mind’s attention, love, time, rushing to get a train, in that it flows. As far as we can tell, the flowing never stops. So, the poems in this book rely heavily on specific encounters with the smaller elements of the cosmos, but a few of them try, one might say, riding a bull, where like a bull rider, the poet, is bucked off. The section called “Manhattan” celebrates Mitchell’s love of the city that never sleeps. The “Prairie Warp” section continues his long interest in identifiable biotas (Adirondacks, tundra in Half/Mask, and The Everglades in The One Good Bite in the Saw-Grass Plant), in this case the vast ocean bottom known as the North American Prairie, as encountered in Canada’s Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan. Finally, the “Letter to Maira Azam” is a kind of poem rarely written now, a letter of thanks to a living stranger.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 170
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: November, 2023
  • ISBN  978-1-953252-93-7


Roger Mitchell’s As Water Moves plots its assorted earthly and celestial topographies with the mettle of a fervent cartographer. Though “you need a map to get there,” the point of arrival proves to be more ideation than locale, the place “where one thing follows from / another. Not follows, follows from.” Along the way, Mitchell fixes his attention upon the smallest things that – if not always immanent with meaning – offer the least leaf and wing a resolute thingness that suffices. His notion, then, of life “being an idea” stitches one thing to another, its trail of ink made by and made of the life lived, as well as the one not. —Kevin Stein 

In his stunning new collection, Roger Mitchell discovers “that the hill we stood on / looking off in the distance / for the thing was the thing itself.” Like William Carlos Williams, Mitchell searches for an ever-flowering present in the things of this world and practices deep attention to people, place, and memory. As Water Moves brilliantly charts the fluidity of attention, moving between natural observation, familial recollections, local relations, and compassionate perception. These poems present a riverous map of the psyche, tributaries of thought leading to a larger body of knowing where the observer and observed become one. As Mitchell says, “The edges of things turn toward each other / as though there were no otherness or kind.” I have been reading Roger Mitchell’s poetry for forty-five years and always find in it nourishing streams and wellsprings of human compassion. As Water Moves is his latest gift of a poetics that seeks the fruits of a deep practice of generosity and love. —George Kalamaras

“All around us forgotten knowledge stirs,” writes Roger Mitchell in this soulful collection that reads like Basho’s The Narrow Road for the Hudson River watershed. We’re riding shotgun, meandering from the Adirondacks to Manhattan and back, meeting funky neighbors and bobcats and the ghosts of the poet’s past along the way. Mitchell offers the long view at every turn, measuring time in collapsing barns and “the wailing of nails drawn slowly out of the barns body.” For as long as I’ve been a poet, Roger Mitchell has been my guide. I’d follow him anywhere. —Dobby Gibson


(“You Sent Me Out Here”)

You sent me out here, and I went.
Every six seconds I send
a picture back. Galactic dust,
astral refuse, warp of star light.
You asked me to exhaust myself.
I will, since there will come a time
when the atmosphere won’t support
the deepest dream you have of me,
my million pixels, mineral
capacitors, my pure clear eye.
Before I go, though, before I
pass through whatever veil it is
that lies between us, back from which
no picture can be sent, nor knowledge
reach, let me show you what I’ve seen.
Whole galaxies, greater than ours,
invisible except to me.
More even than my eye can count,
and beyond that, more. And more besides.
You cannot come here, but some day
something not unlike you, some need,
the echo of a life lived once,
even among you, might attach
itself to the visible dust
of its own body, might stand up,
might make a way to be that we,
since by then I, too, will be a wash
of scattered molecules, once made.
By now you know that everything
in your growing understanding
of the word ’everything‘ will go,
completely, disappear, back
into a state of having never
been. Love, then, what you have and are.
You are its object and its glory.
I’ll keep sending, but at some point
the signal has to fail. I won’t
be back, or, hoping I’ll learn how,
forget how hard you strived, how long.
Or how the sunlight draped itself
across your mountains like a scrim
through which the multiverse emerged.


Roger MitchellRoger Mitchell is the author of 12 previous books of poetry, most recently Reason’s Dream (2018) and The One Good Bite in the Saw-Grass Plant (2010), poems written in The Everglades while on an AIRIE Fellowship. New work can be found in Stand, Tar River Poetry, Blueline, Poetry East, On the Seawall, Mudlark and other journals. He has recently published Their Own Society, a collection of reviews and essays, and completed a biography of the poet Jean Garrigue. He lives in Jay, New York, with his wife, the fiction writer, Dorian Gossy.

Additional information

Weight 10 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .5 in