Robert Morgan’s writing is like a mind clawing back to consciousness in the early morning after deep sleep and finding the ordinary things left behind in darkness in a new freshness of elemental clarity that is at once startling, divine, and beautiful. Morgan’s language is itself startling, divine, and beautiful and is as elementally fresh as the waking miracle it gives lasting solidity to.
No contemporary American poet can rival Robert Morgan’s range and depth of knowledge—nature, astronomy, literature, science, music, history, physics, philosophy—and few can match his range of poetic forms; however, his craft and knowledge ultimately center on the wonders of human existence, and thus are as deeply moving emotionally as they are stimulating aesthetically. In these fourteen poems Morgan again confirms why he is our country’s finest poet, especially in the collection’s title poem. In addition, The Oratorio That Was Time offers three excellent new short stories, including “Survey,” in which an Englishman’s 1711 journey into southern Appalachia culminates in a haunting vision of what the land has been and what it will become.
At the heart of Robert Morgan’s latest and much anticipated collection The Oratorio That Was Time is reverence: in time, geographical setting, humming memories, and the shadows of consecrated narratives known as history. Sensually measured by objects of the past, by the regal sense of their shattering, both his stories and poems unspool between the marvelous and mundane, between the fantastic and fact, between memory and cross-generational history. Morgan is without comparison in writing about intergenerational history and geography, places where we can uproot ourselves but never quite shake off the soil.
—Helena María Viramontes