For the Latter-day Saint who keeps one eye peeled for the Millennium and the other fixed on the encroachments of Babylon, the publication of Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems is both a satisfaction and a consternation: a satisfying confirmation that many (middle-aged) Latter-day Saint poets are beginning to harvest a literature commensurate with their vision of the Restoration and at least as good as the writing of their Gentile counterparts; and a consternation, a storm warning that at least some (younger) Mormon poets, while achieving significantly as artists, seem to have replaced their Urim and Thummims with self-reflecting spectacles that essentially make these artists no different from other contemporary poets. Harvest is nonetheless a significant gleaning and harbinger, the happy result of editorial collaboration of two accomplished LDS poets and scholars. A respectable but bifurcated, two-toned book, Harvest gleans the best from fifty-eight poets, including five respected Gentiles and ex-Mormons, “Friends and Relations,” whose inclusion underscores the comparatively remarkable accomplishment of Latter-day Saint poets.
The poets included in the first half of the book speak deeply, often movingly, in a variety of voices and visions about life as experienced by men and women deeply rooted in Mormon soil: a Mormon (though not institutional) poetry. The other half of the book speaks, also movingly and with similar variety and poetic skill, about human life rooted in a universal soil. Many of these later poems could have been written anywhere in Western culture and raise the question, Why are they included in a collection of Mormon poems as opposed to a volume of poems by Mormons? The difference is significant for the future of Mormon literature and the future of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.