More on Ursula K. Le Guin – Part One of a Two Part Series

At the 2015 Oregon Literary Awards – acclaimed writers and dear friends, Luis Alberto Urrea and Ursula K. Le Guin

In class, she said, “We writers are the raw nerve of the universe. Our job is to go out and feel things for people, then to come back and tell them how it feels to be alive. Because they are numb. Because we have forgotten.” In class, she said, “We have forgotten our rituals. Out tribal practices. There is no more tribe. We don’t know how to tell our elders our dreams around the morning fire. There is no morning fire. We can’t receive insight from the mothers.”

Luis Alberto Urrea, from a tribute to Ursula K. LeGuin from his Website: http:/

On Second Hill

Where on this wild hill alone
a child watched the evening star,
let these bits of ash and bone
rejoin the earth they always were,
the earth that let her sing her love,
the gift that made the giver
here on the lonely hill above
the valley of the river.

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) from Narrative On-Line, July 29th, 2018 and So Far So Good: Poems 2014–2018, Copper Canyon Press, October, 2018.

What a discovery: this new poem and others of Ursual K. Le Guin published today in Narrative On-Line. Oh, to hear these words written at the end of her life!  Oh, how I hope her bones are on that hill so they rejoin the earth they always were, the gift that made the giver….Oh, how we need her wisdom these fraught days. Oh, how much we all need to come alive!

I have been thinking a lot about  le Guin (life won’t let me forget), the  famed Sci-Fi novelist who died earlier this year. For a link to my January 23rd blog post celebrating her life please click here.

And of course, Ursula was so much more than a writer of a certain kind of fiction writer or poet and non-fiction author. She was a wise and outspoken thinker whose writing embodied the issues that engaged her all her life. Issues summed up so well in a book just released, Ursula le Guin – Conversations on Writing with David Naimon. Namely, her concern for amplifying the voices of the marginalized and under-represented. In that list she would include our endangered planet, I am sure!

Naimon was reading Ursula’s most recent editing changes for their little book in January when he learned she had died. And her forward is dated October 2017. So wonderful to read her strong voice just months before she died. And with a new poetry collection coming out this Fall how wonderful to have even more new words of hers as if coming from the grave and beyond!

I am grateful to Naimon for focusing me back on Ursula. And as if I needed even more reminding, Le Guin came up again in a mesmerizing lecture by the much-celebrated Mexican/American author Luis Alberta Urrea while I was at a writers’ conference a week or so ago at Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington.

Ursula took Urrea under her wing when he was struggling as a writer in her 20’s. She became a critical mentor for him. He writes about her impact on him in a tribute published on his blog after her death. To read that piece click here. And let me say Le Guin chose well in her decision to mentor Urrea. He may be the finest in-person story teller I have encountered. He read a passage from his most recent book to us at Centrum without any notes. Unbelievable. If you get a chance attend one of his workshops or readings!

But last word to Ursula in part one of this two part blog post. Her willingness to die, her fear her body would hang on, what a theme for a poem! And her body granted her wish. It let her free to go on through the open door!

Desire and Fear

A willingness to die is my desire,
not of the mind alone
but of the weary heart and weakened bone.
My fear is that the body, always wanting more,
will clutch at flames of fire
sooner than leave me free to go
on through the open door.

From  Narrative On-Line and So Far So Good: Poems 2014–2018,Copper Canyon Press, 2018.


  1. Eileen Evans
    Posted July 29, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Love Ursula LeGuin, this is a very good poem. I read all your posts, and would like sometime to visit there. My son lives in Cobble Hill, but I don’t go often.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted July 29, 2018 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    So pleased to hear from you. Thank you for letting me know you read and enjoy the blog. Makes a difference to me!

  3. Iain Benson
    Posted July 31, 2018 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Richard. I met Ursala and her husband at a Conference he attended in the dame facility we were at for a different conference c. 1992 just outside Sidney V.I. She was a friend of another great but lesser known writer and philosopher Richard Purtill of Washington State who died in recent years. Purtill came to Bowen Island several times in the late 1990’s. Fond memories.

  4. Richard Osler
    Posted August 1, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    iain: So great you met her. I met her at a Writers festival event once in vancouver. Fierce person! So clear. I had a first UK edition paperback of wizard of earthsea. She hated the cover!!!!! Said she never liked it. Hope you are well. All best Richard

  5. Sandy O'Reilly
    Posted August 1, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I always loved LeGuin as a sci-fi writer. I never knew that she published poetry also. I will go find it now. Thanks Richard for bringing that to my atttention

  6. Richard Osler
    Posted August 1, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Glad to point this out. She was a woman of so many gifts. But above all a student of her and our human natures! The good, bad and the ugly!

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