Reviews & Commentary on Absence and Light and the poetry:

 David Rains Wallace (author of fourteen books, including The Klamath Knot, and winner of the Burroughs Medal for nature writing): “Absence and Light is a pioneering book in the way that Walden is. It has the same virtues of transgressive integrity and worshipful irreverence, and it takes literature into a ‘place no one knew’ by integrating poetry, philosophy, and natural history. John R. Campbell should be required reading for anyone who thinks about the landscape.”


Douglas Carlson in The Georgia Review, Winter, 2005: “The prose is careful, beautifully descriptive, and thoroughly engaging.…The book moves easily within the possibilities Campbell has set for himself, always aware of presenting his landscape as a process to his audience—sharing, showing, and enabling. Campbell’s awareness of the natural world as process allows him to abandon the usually stationary eye of the speaker so as to observe the unseen, to capture nuance, to enter and exit at will.”


Sarah Gianelli, in The Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR): “Absence and Light is at once a heartfelt, poetic work of nature writing and an eloquent discourse about how humankind must rethink certain beliefs in order to slow Earth’s destruction…. For Campbell, the beauty of the marshes is a vehicle that takes him deep within. Not only does he delve fearlessly into issues of an ‘incomprehensible scope,’ but he never loses sight of the reader, from the first glimpse of the heron. . .through the complex annals of thought the image inspires.”

Lori D. Kranz, in The Bloomsbury Review: “In the best tradition of natural history writing, his powers of description are marvelous. . . Campbell sees in the American West a ‘poignant ground for unfathomable pockets of life, whether they be desert marshes, itinerant birds, or frail and terrible human bodies.’ His Absence and Light is a book of great spirit, both poignant and full of life.”


Scott Slovic (University of Nevada, Reno), the noted expert on Literature and the Environment, described Absence and Light  as “offering a rare mixture of lyricism and philosophical vigor” and “exploring an extraordinary range of topics, from the concept of borders to the meaning of animals in the lives of human beings, working with short, exploratory essays . . . like musical riffs. This is a gem of a manuscript.”

Greg Orr (University of Virginia), in selecting the winner of the Poets and Writers/Writers Exchange Award, wrote that “John R. Campbell sees with equal precision of eyes, intelligence and tongue, so that together they braid phrases whose urgency reminds us that Coleridge insisted poetry involve not merely pleasure at final arrival, but maximum pleasure in the word-journey itself. Though his poems are anchored in the physical world, in concrete situations, they nevertheless unhesitatingly quest for further revelations and connections. With a deft intensity and an unerring ear, he probes at the mystery of things, insisting that the density of existence yield secrets that will sustain us.”

Link to Ken Pirie's review of Absence and Light in Terrain: A Journal of the Natural and Built Environments.