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Not for Luck


About the Book

Michigan State University Press, January 2021
Winner, Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize, Selected by Mark Doty

Not for Luck is a testament to the beauty, grace, and resilience that lives at the heart of a father’s relationship with his daughters, a relationship that is rooted in an ecology of place and time. In poems that meld narrative and lyric forms and acknowledge the agency of other beings, with language clear and bracing as a mountain creek, Sheffield honors the moments and many interconnections we are as part of the living Earth.

Sample Poems

The Wren and the Jet at a Research Forest near Fort Knox, Seventy-One Years since the Bombing of Hiroshima, Eight Months since the Photo of a Three-Year-Old Syrian Boy Facedown on a Turkish Beach, His Red Shirt, His Blue Shorts

Fish Like These

The Science of Spirit Lake

She Gathers Rocks

Selected Reviews

“Poetry to make you long for moments in the wild.”
Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions

“One of the best books about fatherhood I’ve ever read.”
Tim Green, editor of Rattle

“In Not for Luck, Derek Sheffield achieves something of inestimable value: a trustworthy, convincing voice.”
Mark Doty, winner of the National Book Award and author of What Is the Grass

“Exquisitely observed, crystalline in its imagery, this book is an act of vision, bringing us the world up close. Like the wood rat in ‘The Seconds,’ Sheffield is a collector, a historian ‘who would make hill after hill of all the years…’ Lucky us.”
Ellen Bass, author of Indigo and Like a Beggar

“Derek Sheffield is a master of the quiet poem.”
Zach Eddy, Poetry Northwest

“Derek Sheffield writes with a marvelous dual vision, coalescing details of the natural and human worlds, illuminating moments that sparkle and shimmer within.”
Arthur Sze, author of Sight Lines, winner of the National Book Award

“In Not for Luck, post-romantic nature poet Derek Sheffield translates into language a morality beyond nature’s potential use and exploitation by humankind.”
Judith Harris, The Critical Flame

“Here is a true voice in our Western landscape.”
Gary Soto, author of New and Selected Poems, finalist for the National Book Award

“Such is the generosity of trust and transparency in the close encounters of these poems. The poems then become gifts and guides, allowing us to trust and turn towards our own rapt attention to the ordinary/extraordinary moments of our lives. I’d call this a poetics of love.”
Anne Haven McDonnell, Sugar House Review

“Savoring these poems is tutoring in how to care about aliveness. How to take it in upon the tongue and palm and eye. And how to act accordingly: with love and intentionality toward the living world.”
David Oates, 3 Quarks Daily

Not For Luck is not a book that engages the current flash and dazzle; it’s a steady book full of well-made poems with heart and intelligence that engage and enrich us, and, as Gary Snyder once wrote, return us “to the real work, to / ‘What is to be done.’”
Jon Davis, Terrain.org

“…refreshingly authentic. A straightforwardness—a genuine, unapologetic sincerity—communicates an abiding empathy for disappeared and surviving Native Americans, for children, friends, insects, “a crow-mobbed eagle,” kelp and mountain streams: facets of the world’s every-day beauty, its existential crises.”
John Whalen, Colorado Review

“Not for Luck is a skilled, true, deeply lived collection.”
David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why

“Not for Luck displays a poet working at the top of his talent, creating an often radiant display of crystalline moments drawn or filtered out of the ordinary passages of life—as father, husband, son, teacher, environmentalist, and most of all (to bring all these together) poet.”
Eamon Grennan, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and author of There Now

“Derek Sheffield has created a collection of love letters to the earth, its varied landscapes, atmospheres, weathers, and living things.”
Rhina Espaillat, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize and author of And After All

“Each poem in the volume feels as if it could not have been said any other way.”
Todd Davis, New York Journal of Books

“Like master dancers Gregory Hines or Gene Kelly, there is an easy grace to the way Sheffield moves through a poem.”
Kali Lightfoot, Broadsided Press