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Distributed for University of Alaska Press

River of Light

A Conversation with Kabir

Illustrated by Kesler Woodward
Surrender to a wild river and unexpected things can happen. Time on the water can produce moments of pristine clarity or hatch wild thoughts, foster a deep connection with the real world or summon the spiritual.

River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir is centered in one man’s meditations and revelations while traveling on a river. John Morgan spent a week traveling the Copper River in Southcentral Alaska, and the resulting encounters form the heart of this book-length poem. The river’s shifting landscape enriches the poem’s meditative mood while currents shape the poem and the pacing of its lines. The mystic poet Kabir is Morgan’s internal guide and serves as a divine foil through quiet stretches that bring to mind questions about war and human nature. Artwork by distinguished Alaska artist Kesler Woodward is a sublime companion to the text.

A combination of adventurer’s tale and spiritual quest, River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir takes the reader on a soulful journey that is both deeply personal and profoundly universal.

68 pages | 13 color plates | 8 1/2 x 7 | © 2014

Art: American Art


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“A journey by raft down the Copper River becomes the source of this meditative poem set in the Alaska wilderness and against the backdrop of the Iraq War. Kabir is the poet’s interior companion, lively and loquacious, prodding him to acknowledge ’a past / that had lost its way’ and a present in which personal loss and political deceit may be tempered with ’this shifty world’s profane embrace.’ Kabir says, ’This world… / springs / out of one word and everything / inside that word is full of light.’ This poem by one of our finest poets draws upon such incandescent, creation-laden words to reveal the “authentic wilderness’ that flourishes within us and, yes, without us. River of Light dazzles with the pure pleasure of its passage.”

Michael Waters, author of Gospel Night and editor of Contemporary American Poetry

“I love the complexity of experience and voice in River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir. So many layers here—the narrator’s experiences on the river trip, Kabir’s voice, other folks on the river trip, the war(s) close by and far away, and memories of other places and trips. Most impressive! The free verse lines are spot-on, capturing both the flow and the layering of the journey’s breath-taking moments, interactions with others and the natural world, and those sometimes long stretches of time during which the mind wanders wonderfully.”  

Christianne Balk, author of Bindweed and Desiring Flight

River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir is a book-length poem that takes readers on a weeklong raft trip down a river in southcentral Alaska. Bears, eagles, moose, seals, otters, and salmon inhabit the poem’s world, and the landscapes shift between glaciers, mountains, rapids, and waterfalls.”


River of Light takes readers down the Copper River in the company of masters. . . . [Woodward’s] artwork is a riot of subtlety. Only someone in full command of his or her powers could fashion this. The paintings and drawings are well-suited to Morgan’s writing, which also exudes subtlety. Employing understatement and a minimum of words, he does the work of a truly skilled poet, leaving most of the page empty so the reader can fill it in. It’s easy to see why he and Woodward have collaborated. Their approaches are greatly complementary, and one hopes this will be the first of more joint ventures.”

Alaska Dispatch

“A significant addition to the author’s strong oeuvre and is a testament to the mystical power of the northern landscape and its denizens.”

Northern Review

Table of Contents


Prologue: Chitina, Alaska, July 2003

The Three Worlds

The Cosmic Beast

A Muse

Amid Mucus and Blood

Not Cheap

Wanton Wish

A God-Like Flame

The Breath Inside the Breath

Amazing Things

A River of Light

A Note on Kabir


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