Non-Fiction: A North Country Life by Sydney Lea

Vermont poet laureate Sydney Lea puts both his talent and his love of the sporting life front and center in A North Country Life (Skyhorse).

This is not a politically correct look at the world out of doors. Lea is a lifelong hunter and fisherman whose appreciation for outdoor life is unhampered by contemporary social mores. So imagine Bryson’s AWalk in the Woods, but overlaid with poetic language. And guns. It’s a reach. It’s a stretch. And if you’re not a PETA sympathizer, it’s a lovely book.

The essays collected in A North Country Life touch on the “Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife’ mentioned in the subtitle. Written over a number of years, lovingly handle a lifetime relationship with the regions he includes here. Lea has taught at Dartmouth, Yale, Wesleyan and others. He founded the New England Review in 1977 and his essays, poems and stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and others, but here he is rough and ready, passionately sharing his experiences and his relationships in language that is measured, beautiful, insightful, and sometimes quite funny.

“I remember a time when,” he writes at one point, “like many another hyper-hormonal young man, and in fact like too many anglers even now, I yearned to smack a big trout over the head on every outing.”

It is sentiments like these that seem intended to rile the PETA crew, but one gets the impression that Lea has other thing to care about. ◊

Jones Atwater is a regular contributor to January Magazine.

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