Samuel Western writes of the human heart, at home in the modern American West and abroad throughout the the world and throughout history. His scenery is both rural and urban, contemporary and historical. He writes of real people—people he has known and loved, people he never met but undertands nonetheless.

Every one of these pieces—the author calls them prose poems—tells a story; that means something happens to someone. Someone changes, often because of a choice, but also because of elements out of our control: weather, hard work, the aging process, and the surprise of love. People are changed by events as big as death and as small as the sound of machinery and the color of food.

These poems, or sketches, or stories, take us far afield: to Rome and London, to Nova Scotia and New England, to Colonial Rhodesia. But always they return to the mountains and prairies of Wyoming and the Dakotas. The collection is full of weather; there’s a lot of winter in this book. Also a lot of hard work, by both farm laborers and farm machinery. Life is struggle, and Western celebrates the struggler.

He also celebebrates the best of human relationships, even when they, too, are hard work: answering a young son’s questions about how homosexuality works, or dealing with the same son’s jealousy over his (the father’s) private love life. Many of Western’s pieces deal with love, sex, and the frustrated longing when the love’s not quite there.

Sensuality is not just in the sex. It’s also in the food and drink: the pinot noir, the cassoulet, the asparagus and strawberries, the cherry tomatoes plucked from the garden at night by a lover in her underwear.

These honest, stylishly crafted prose poems are to be read and reread, so they can give up their pleasures in layers with each new reading.

Samuel Western has served in the Swedish merchant marine and worked as a commercial fisherman, contract logger, longshoreman, and hunting guide. He is the author of the book Pushed Off the Mountain, Sold Down the River: Wyoming's Search for Its Soul, and he has published poems and pieces in The Economist, Wall Street Journal, LIFE, Sports Illustrated, High Country News, Northern Lights, and Owen Wister Review. He holds an MFA from the University of Virginia—where he also taught English—and is the recipient of a Wyoming Literary Fellowship.  He lives and writes in Sheridan, Wyoming.


A Random Census of Souls
Prose Poems
by Samuel Western
ISBN 978-156474-478-4
ISBN 156474-478-1
80 pages, paperback, 14.00

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