Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Passing for Spring

photo of sunset
© harrington
For the last day of National Poetry Month [and thanks for sharing it with me], I think we should revisit one of Minnesota's best known poets, Robert Bly. One of his poems in Eating the Honey of Words fits well with April's exit.
AN EVENING WHEN THE FULL MOON
ROSE AS THE SUN SET
The sun goes down in the dusty April night.
"You know it could be alive!"
The sun is round, massive, compelling, sober, on fire.
It moves swiftly through the tree-stalks of the Lundin
       grove as we drive past....
The legs of a bronze god walking at the edge of the
      world, unseen by many,
On his archaic errands, doubled up on his own
     energy.
He guides his life by his dreams,
When we look again he is gone.

Turning toward Milan, we see the other one, the
     moon, whole and rising.
Three wild geese make dark spots in that part of the
     sky.
Under the shining one the pastures leap forward,
Grass fields rolling as in October, the sow-colored
     fields near the river.
The rising one lights the pair of pintails alert in the
     shallow pond.
It shines on those faithful to each other, alert in the
     early night,
And the life of faithfulness goes by like a river,
With no one noticing it.
Robert Bly

photo of moonrise?
© harrington
Here's the short version of Snyder's nature poetics points and my assessment of Bly's poem: nature literate? yes; grounded in a place? yes; Coyote as a totem? yes; Bear as a totem? I believe so; find further totems? yes; fear not science? unh-huh; go further with science? Bly almost always raises "awareness of the problematic and contingent aspects of so-called objectivity"; study mind and language? when has Bly ever done elsewise? crafty and get the work done? usually, notably here. What do you think? Has this been interesting? Want to try something like it again next year? As the saying goes, don't be sad it's over, be glad it happened. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here at My Minnesota.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Owed to waterfowl

photo of Canada gees on pothole
© harrington
Thanks for stopping by. I hope, when you're reading this, that it's after you've finished enjoying this beautiful weather and not instead of being outside in it. In fact, although I shouldn't say this, I wouldn't be terribly upset if you held off on reading this until we're back in the wet, unseasonably cold weather forecast for later this week. Did you have a good weekend? If you're a regular reader, you know that I did. If you're not, scroll down (after this piece) and see why I say that. Since we are now down to only two days left of National Poetry Month (for this year), I'm going to finish my Prairie Suite by sharing the last stanza.
POTHOLES
                      Would you wade
Ponds and potholes left by
Olden glaciers’ graves midst rolling hills
Trysting places for waterfowl and shorebirds
Hidden in plain sight
Outside
Lying summer-still in the
Endlessly
Susurrating prairie
Minnesota's western border and southwestern corner is part of prairie pothole country. I've hunted ducks around Morris and geese at Laq Qui Parle. Blue-winged teal streak past so fast an inexperienced hunter can go through boxes of shells (steel shot only) to get a limit of a handful of ducks. Being on a hillside at Lack Qui Parle when 80,000 Canada geese decide to leave for breakfast by flying out the side you're not on turns into a non-consumptive use of wildlife but a truly stunning thrill. It made me wish I'd been around during the "old days" when the skies were regularly full of waterfowl. It may have been William Cullen Bryant who first highlighted waterfowl as totem. We are very, very fortunate to be able to count wetlands and waterfowl among the treasures in our Minnesota, at least for the next few years. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Prairie perspectives

photo of Wild River State Park prairie undergoing restoration
© harrington
Hi. Thanks for coming. This is one view of the prairie restoration at Wild River State Park. Since we're now down to a very few days left in National Poetry Month, and I haven't finished sharing my Prairie Grasses Suite, today I'm including two stanzas. I hope you enjoy them and what's left of Minnesota's prairies.
photo of fiery sunset
© harrington
WILDFIRE
             Have you been there
When winter's melted snows
Inflowed prairie soils
Leaving aged grass
Dry as bison wallows and
Fast as pronghorns
Incendiary tongues
Raced across stale sod
Ending grasses fallow plight leaving prairie

ROOTS
photo of emerging cinquefoil
© harrington
                               Are you anchored by
Roots reaching deep into darkened soils
                                              beneath the
Odor of hot metal from the drought-dry
                                        dusty top-soil to
Organic layers damp and deliciously fecund
To catch nourishment
Seeping from wild fire ashes next to prairie

POTHOLES
I suspect the similarity between ocean horizons and those of the prairie help account for my attraction to our prairies, wherever located. That and the waterfowl and other creatures that are drawn to prairie potholes. One thing I learned yesterday is that pasque flowers are found in Carlos Avery (somewhere) and, maybe, William O'Brien State Park, but not in Wild River (nor in Chisago County). Perhaps something about the soil grain size of the lack of limestone buffering in the Wild River soils. Another thing I learned is that the folks working on the restoration try to take into account things like the emergence of overwintering snakes and, later in the summer, hatchlings, when they figure out when to do a controlled burn. As a long time snake lover, I appreciate that. You might want to think about marking your calendars for August, when many of the prairie flows are usually in bloom on the Wild River prairie (and hatchlings are underfoot). Maybe I'll see you there? Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. Come again when you can.



Saturday, April 27, 2013

Home grounds

photo of nesting geese in moonlight at dawn
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping. Although many of the larger lakes are still ice-covered, the Sunrise River pools in Carlos Avery WMA are open water. The pair of geese are still looking or have already picked out a muskrat mound for nest building. One reason the photo's not brighter is that it was taken during that magical time before moonset and sunrise known as dawn. This morning was spent in a much drier location, the sand plain prairie (restoration) in Wild River State Park. The Women's Environmental Initiative sponsored a learning session and hike led by Dave Crawford, Retired DNR Naturalist & current Volunteer Naturalist. It was part of the 2013 Prairie School Series. If any of you, like me, keep thinking that prairies are only found in western Minnesota, please adjust your mental map. They're not in their standard biome, but there are prairies in eastern Minnesota. Some of the pictures taken today will no doubt show up here from time to time. After last week's snow, being out in 70 degree sunshine was a definite culture shock. Actually, that was less of shock than the results of my search for a poem that fit today's report. I found one that fits so well it proves again that no amount of planning will ever replace dumb luck. There's a book of poetry called "County Lines." It's a League of Minnesota Poets anthology of the work of 130 Minnesota poet's from each of 87 counties. It was published in conjunction with our recent sesquicentennial celebration of statehood. In the Chisago County section [Wild River State Park, where the learning session occurred, is in Chisago County], Jane Levin has
 Devotion

ten little blue stems at sunset
the minyan stands tall
bends in unison
whispy heads bob to earth
then sky
            then earth again
whiskers quivering
                       East
 For someone who basically doesn't believe in coincidence, I'm at a loss to explain the fit. There were twelve learners, plus the naturalist. I suspect, to varying degrees, wach of us is devoted to the beauty and preservation of natural places. We spent time talking about big and little bluestem grasses whose stems bent in unison in the breeze and whose heads bobbed toward earth, then sky. Perhaps Ms. Levin has visited a prairie in Minnesota? Perhaps in Chisago County. Perhaps not. It's been quite some time since read "County Lines." I didn't consciously remember that poem. I just looked for Chisago County. What do you think about this kind of coincidence? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Friday, April 26, 2013

First time, again

photo of setting full moon
© harrington
Well? Was it good for you too? The first 70 of the season. We went of to the Taylors Falls drive-in for dinner. Today was their first day of the season. The cormorant flocks are moving north. The spring calves were out in the pasture at one of the local farms (probably at more than one but only at one farm did I see any). Poplar trees have gone from buds to leaves as small as they can be and still be called leaves. We have a few days left in National Poetry Month. I had thought that we had taken a look at Barton Sutter's poetry, but a search of My Minnesota says "no results." That means we can follow up on the northward moving Spring and cormorants and read from Barton's "The Reindeer Camps" his poem How to Say North.
How to Say North

Nothing says north like a white pine
Unless it's a maple gone red to maroon
Except for the way cedars lean from the shoreline
Nothing says north like a white pine
But birches so bright that they shout about sunshine
And then there's the tamarack's gold in the gloom
But nothing says north like a white pine
Unless it's a maple gone red to maroon
This is both a nature poem and a poem about place, but you knew that. I can think of several of Snyder's points that, if they're in this poem, are extremely non-obvious. The trickster's there. Bear's there in his cave, hiding between the lines. Science links trees to location. Language and mind as wild? Maybe not so much. If you reread Snyder, I don't think he's absolute about whether nature poetics needs to meet each of the points he mentions. What do you think? Non-spam comments welcome. Thanks for listening. It's time now for me to go play with my new blond girl friend. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Becoming native to this place (thanks to Wes Jackson)

photo of Spring waterfowl in the marsh
© harrington
Open water, waterfowl, Spring! (Since I'm not writing poetry here, I can freely, but not excessively, use exclamation points.) Thanks for stopping by. Did you get out to see the sun! and the blue! skies? I hope so! Today I promised (or threatened, depending or your perspective) to bring another view of nature poetry to your attention. Can Poetry Save the Earth? A FIELD GUIDE TO NATURE POEMS by John Felstiner, claims, in a wonderful example "We grasp the natural world in poems even when it feels beyond our ken -- skyscraper redwoods slowly swaying, deer leaping a high fence seeming paused in air. Think of Helen Keller, deaf and blind from infancy. One landmark day, Helen's teacher signed W-A-T-E-R in her palm while pumping water over it, and the girl's whole face lit up. Poems speak that spontaneous sign language, wording our experience of things." The field guide is more prose about poets and poetry than poetry itself. It is, nevertheless, thought inducing. It makes me wonder how you would word your experience of our Minnesota? We have bison and prairies, trout and trout lilies, coyotes and timber wolves in the boreal forest, barred owls, waterfowl, Summer, Fall, Winter Spring (are you old enough to remember the princess by that name from Howdy Doody?) We also have Native Americans, who were here living with the earth before the arrival of Judeo-Christian capitalism and the creation of globalism. Native Americans, as you may recall, had their own names for things. Many now write contemporary poetry describing their experience of things. There's an anthology of contemporary poetry by Native Americans, edited by Kenneth Rosen, that you might enjoy. It's titled Voices of the Rainbow and contains, among other exemplars, this stanza excerpted from INDIAN SONG: SURVIVAL
           10
You lie beside me in the sunlight
              warmth around us and
               you ask me if I still smell winter.
Mountain forest wind travels east and I answer:
                 taste me,
                       I am the wind
                touch me,
                       I am the lean gray deer
                running on the edge of the rainbow.
Leslie Marmon Silko                   
That captures much of my experience in, and why I love, My Minnesota. How about you? Have you ever tasted the wind? Try it some time if you get a chance. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. (Side bar note: yesterday, we were saved again by a rescue dog. This time, a beautiful, 10 month old yellow lab nicknamed CeCe came to live with us and save us from ourselves. She and Franco are adjusting nicely, thank you. Photo soon.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A breath of Spring

photo of Spring field with sandhill crane and spruce(?) tree
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. Do you realize that National Poetry Month is starting to wind down? Less than a week left. As the old Dr. Seuss (or is it Zen) saying goes: Don't be sad it's over. Be glad it happened. Plus, we still have much to cover and I wouldn't be surprised if we visited poetry from time to time throughout the year. Today, though, I'd like to share a poem of Jim Heynan's, a Minnesota poet, that I found in an anthology titled Urban Nature, published by Milkweed Editions.
I Think That I Shall Never See . . .
Seeing a tree as a praying figure is somewhat hackneyed.
                              --FROM A POETRY WRITING TEXTBOOK

I know what I see:
the blue spruce outside my window
is kneeling for morning prayers.
Meanwhile, the oak across the street
scratches the back of the tired sky
and a small bush next door
embraces the innocent sparrow.

And I know what I know:
how the seasons forgive
and restore the dormant and listless:
butterfly, moth, scorpion, insatiable
medfly, militant hornet, who knows what.

Let's face it: everything needs help.
Even this cocoon where my mind
takes solace in its barky recesses
can feel the reverent trees' new breath.
Any second now: exultant branches!
a choir of leaves! Oh!
I'm going to trust you to read this with Snyder's nature poetics points in mind. I'd like to share some other thoughts. Working from the bottom up, this poem uses up all of the exclamation points! a poet supposedly is allowed in a lifetime. From basic declarations, we go to exclamations. Feels to me like the transition from early Spring to late Spring. The mix of creatures listed in the second paragraph, insects plus a scorpion, reminded me that scopions are arthropods, like spiders, which we consider to be insects but aren't. Insects have six legs, not eight. Certainly supports "who knows what" which is antithetical to "I know what I know" and "I know what I see." Now, we come to what I know I see as the "best part." The title (thank you Joyce Kilmer)  has become shopworn and hackneyed. The excerpt is from a poetry writing textbook? Can you say oxymoron? Heynan has breathed freshness into the title and given the trees the help we all need. There's often lots to be learned from a "nature poem" well beyond what Snyder refers to, although I don't think you can go far wrong starting with him. Tomorrow, we'll look into whether poetry can save the earth. Thanks for listening. Stop by again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here in My Minnesota. (By the way, as a reward for reading this far, did you notice the bird in the photo? It's a sandhill crane.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wading into Spring

photo of Spring's open water
© harrington
Yes, Virginia, there is open water. Hi! Thanks for stopping by. The photo was taken this afternoon just up the road. The snow highlights the remaining ice cover, which accentuates the open water. We're getting there. I can't decide whether we're sneaking up on Spring or it's sneaking up on us. While walking Franco, the rescue dog, on the way to take this photo, we saw a pair of sand hill cranes fly by. Franco seemed unimpressed. I, on the other hand, seem to have caught crane fever from my wife. In honor of cranes and open water, today let's visit Mary Oliver's Blue Iris, Poems and Essays in which we find:
Grassy Pond, Which Really Is a Swamp

Although it was
   as level
      as anything
         could be

it seemed
   a thousand
      black mirrors
         were trying

to hold me;
   I imagine
      it was just part
         of a swamp's

stickiness
   and general
      entrapment,
         why else

would I have enjoyed
   so much
      sinking
        so deeply

into the mud,
   imagining
      what beautiful baskets
         someone could make

from the rushes,
   why else
      would a bird
         rise up

at just that moment
   white and shining,
      lover of swamps
         with feathers like floss,

looking,
   though long-necked
      and long-winged,
         like a basket
            of flowers?
Oliver: nature literate, place? Clearly. Coyote and bear as totems? Transformation of birds into baskets of flowers, enjoying sinking in mud? Yes. Flowers or egrets as totem? Works for me. Take another look at Snyder's points and see what you think of the rest of them. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections (sometimes on open water) served daily here at My Minnesota.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The name is not the thing

photo taken early Spring 2012
© harrington
Hi! Welcome. Are you among the millions of Minnesotans complaining about the endless Winter of 2013? Or, are you among the millions of Minnesotans intentionally psyching themselves to be positive and not complain about the missing Spring of 2013? Those are the only two classes of Minnesotans left, based on unscientific, personal, random observations undertaken today. The photo was taken at the beginning of April of 2012. This year we've achieved the snow-free grass, several times, and the open water in the stream. No real buds opening or leaves developing yet this year. That's a good thing. The snow last Thursday and Friday brought down four of the trees near our driveway. If there were more leaves for the heavy, wet snow to cling to, we probably would have lost more. Never-the-less, it's April 2013, which means it's still National Poetry Month and I'd like to follow up on our consideration that a new nature poetics "study mind and language..." by today looking at an excerpt from a poem by Heid E. Erdrich in "Where One Voice Ends...."
Poem for Our Ojibwe Names

Those stars shine words right
into the center of the dream.

Gego zegizi kane
Gego zegizi kane
Maaji'am
Maaji nii'm
Maaji gigidoon


So it is when we have our names.

We will not fear.
We start to sing,
to dance, to speak....
Since we don't have the entire poem, we need to focus on the mind and language concept. Have you ever been a stranger in a strange land, where you couldn't speak the language? It's rare for white, middle class Americans to conceive of being a minority. Have you ever heard of or read The Ugly American? How much language is central to our identity! Language is also central to poetry and to "mind." Heid Erdrich has another poem in the anthology titled Offering: Words. It might benefit you to find a copy and read it, plus the rest of Ojibwe Names. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here at My Minnesota.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rapt in words

photo of eagle pair courtship flight
© harrington
Welcome. Yesterday we enjoyed blue skies in My Minnesota. At least the skies were blue long enough to enable the writer to take this photo of what he believes are a pair of eagles in a courtship flight. [If you follow the link, you'll also find a Walt Whitman poem The Dalliance of the Eagles.] The opportunity to see eagles n Minnesota far exceeds what was available in New England as I was growing up there. That makes an experience like yesterday's uniquely Minnesotan for me. There's no comparison. If you pay careful attention, you might notice the lack of any reference to the continuing snow cover, last night's light dusting, and today's gray dreariness. I'm not writing about Winter any more this season. We've been harried enough by unseasonable weather. Let's now be rapt or at least joyful. Since we've settled that, let's take a look at part of one of Leslie Adrienne Miller's poems in Where One Voice Ends:
The Harriers

                                                ... Harrier
is from harrow, to torment, harass, assault,
also a cultivating implement set with spikes
for pulverizing soil. Significance falls apart
in my hands like a mist, though the harriers
have warm blood and four-chambered hearts.

The world they are offers no architecture
for an ethic: one dead language simply
rises through another, raptor, rapture,
and rape, for example, all sharing one
Latin root, rapere, to sieze. The harriers
are only beautiful and will not be pressed

into resurrections....
One of the reasons I like this selection is it provides an opportunity to think about one of Snyder's points that we haven't explored much. Snyder, in several of his essays, uses etymology to explicate the point he's trying to make. For poetry, he says "That it study mind and language -- language as wild system, mind as wild habitat, world as a 'making' (poem), poem as a creature of the wild mind." I think the excerpt above can be looked at as an explicit example of what Snyder has in mind. Two words are tracked to their dens. Yes, no? [An OED subscription would be an indulgence.] Language obviously evolves. English, with its mix of sources, perhaps more so than most. The parallel between language as a wild system and mind as wild habit in the making of poetry fascinates the fledgling ecologist in me. Please share any insights you might have. Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily, snow or shine. Come again when you can.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

As it was, and may be again

photo of blossoming pear tree, April 2012
© harrington
Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. As I write this, the morning's  temperature is 17 (about midway above zero, below freezing). Last year, the pear tree was in blossom. This year it's in shock. In several areas in Minnesota, it's lambing time. Imagine the transition shock for those poor little creatures. Thank heavens for barns and body warmth. Speaking of bodies, I bet your mother used to tell you "don't pick at that scab, it'll leave scars." I think of my mother from time to time when I once again start reading and thinking about practicing zen. I've been doing it for years the same way I used to absent-mindedly pick at a scab. If I haven't lost you yet, here's the connections. Today's poem is by someone, Peter Levitt, whose only known (to me) connection to Minnesota is the fact that I, and perhaps some other Minnesotans, have read some of his poems. Further, I found the work below in a book titled "Essential Zen" and the work mentions, inter alia, birth of a lamb. See, isn't that clear now that it's been pointed out?
Either hoeing the garden
or washing bottles at the well,
making soup for a sick man
or listening to someone else's child,
studying books, stacking logs,
writing to the local paper
or pulling that stubborn lamb
into our world, I hear
the song which carries my neighbor
from one thing to the next:
Earth feeds us
out of her empty bowl.
Peter Levitt
Nature and place? Clearly. Trickster? I think he can be found. Look behind the list of actions to find the singer/player of the song. Bear? Perhaps, but lacking a degree or two of ferocity. Science and further science? Is psychology a science or an art? New totems? Earth's empty bowl. Getting the work done, crafty? Look again at the list of work getting done and where the whole poem leaves us. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily in My Minnesota.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ground cover

photos of pines in snow storm
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for slushing by. What do you think the world is coming to? Terrorist bombings in Boston; explosions in Texas; and Mother Nature acting like a terrorist in My Minnesota. Bostonians shut in per police order; we were shut in by heavy, wet snow; and folks in West, Texas were apparently lucky to have an "in" left in which to be shut. During the storm last night, I tried waving a white flag of surrender. Apparently Mother N. couldn't see it through the snow. Do you think we need an international agreement to change the color of truce and surrender from white to florescent orange or lime green so it could be used in Winter or "Spring?" Could we get both houses of congress to approve it, or would the fact that it needs to be international mean that some members would raise the flag of socialist, UN conspiracy? Do you recognize the bipolar, manic symptoms of SAD and cabin fever combined? Shall we move on to today's poetry? Yes, let's. We can return to Where One Voice Ends... and read Angela Shannon's 
Carrying Home
I am carrying home in my breast pocket:
land where I learned to crawl,
dust that held my footprints,
long fields I trod through.

Home, where Mother baked bread,
where Papa spoke with skies,
where family voices gathered.
In my palm, this heap of earth
I have hauled over hills and valleys.

Releasing dirt between my fingers,
I ask the prairies to sustain me.
May my soil and this soil nurture each other,
may seeds root and develop beyond measure,
may the heartland and I blossom.
Nature literacy? Yes. Grounded in place? Yes. Coyote and Bear totems? I think so, but not in an obvious way. Look at "spoke with skies" and "nurture each other." Further totems: soil as totem. Science and further science: person and place co-evolving and blossoming together. Language, craft, getting the work done? I say absolutely. "Planting" a new "home" for your "transplanted" life works for me. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring? Sprung? Sprang?

photo of scenic sunset
© harrington
Hi! Come in out of the snow, take your boots off and put your feet up. This is what sunset looked like on tax day. There's even more snow there now. It took me almost three hours this afternoon to drive from Minneapolis to home. I'm hoping this heavy, wet snow doesn't bring a large tree onto the house. A medium size pine came down across the driveway this afternoon. The daughter's Significant Other was in the vicinity at the time and didn't jump far enough, fast enough and it caught him on the back of the head. For revenge (and to clear the driveway) he cut it up. Nice guy. 
Today was/is Poem in your Pocket Day. I should have mentioned it yesterday. You would have been able to find out about it earlier if not for the above mentioned long drive home. Now that we've segued from snow to poetry (we have, haven't we?), I want to commend to your attention a book published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press titled Where One Voice Ends Another Begins, 150 Years of Minnesota Poetry, edited by Robert Hedin. Kay Boyle (1902-1993) has a poem whose title is so apt for today:
O This Is Not Spring
O this is not spring but in me
           there is a murmuring of new things
This is the time of a dark winter in the heart
           but in me are green traitors

The dead lie apart with their throats laid full with sorrow
And the blood of the living moves slow in the cold...
Please go find a copy and read the rest on pages 29 and 30. My reading is that this poem conforms to some, but not all, of Snyder's points. At a minimum, I'd question the Bear as totem, and, maybe, the science points. On the other hand, I'm not sure we're being fair to Ms. Boyle, because her intent may not have been to write a "nature poem." What do you think? Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here in My Minnesota.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Turtles and owls and dragonfly, oh my

photo of dawn redwoods
© harrington
Hi! Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. Today's picture was actually taken almost 3 weeks ago. The dawn redwoods have been successfully transplanted and continue to grow. Obviously, the photographer still hasn't mastered depth of field techniques and requisite settings. I suppose it's possible I'm trying to attain the impossible. It wouldn't be the first time and probably won't be the last time I've done so.
It's been awhile since I posted the points Gary Snyder proposes we use to assess nature poetry. I'm going to summarize the key items to help us remember:
•    That it be literate--that is, nature literate.
•    That it be grounded in a place--thus, place literate
•    That it use Coyote as a totem--the Trickster
•    That it use Bear as a totem
•    That it find further totems “Depth ecology.”
•    That it fear not science.
•    That it go further with science
•    That it study mind and language
•    That it be crafty and get the work done.
 Now that we have them fresh in our minds, let's take a look at another of our local treasures, Freya Manfred. I hadn't encountered her work before I found a copy of SWIMMING WITH A HUNDRED YEAR OLD SNAPPING TURTLE in a local, independent book store. I couldn't resist the title. Here's a sample poem:
The Owl Cries At Night

The owl cries at night,
and I imagine her wide gold eyes
and feathered ears tuned
to the trembling woods and waters,
seeing and hearing what
I will never see or hear:
a red fox with one bloody paw,
a hunch-backed rabbit running,
sand grains grating on the shore,
a brown leaf crackling
under a brown mouse foot.

With so much to learn,
I could stop writing forever,
and still live well.
In some ways, this is reminiscent of Loren Eiseley's All the Night Wings. On the other hand, it is uniquely Freya Manfred. If I had a third hand, I'd now write: One the other hand, again, this time I'd like to turn things around and ask what you think of Snyder's points as a basis for assessing nature poetics. I think they work extremely well, even discounting my bias. I also think that, to some extent and with some leniency, The Owl Cries at Night meets just about all of them. To discover more of her magic yourself, you can buy Ms. Manfred's books through Red Dragonfly Press or Amazon. You might also check with your local library. Please consider it. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here in My Minnesota.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Home, again?

photo of Duluth harbor
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for coming. Today's photo you may recognize. It's Duluth harbor. It's there today to remind me of where I came from, Boston, another harbor city. I'm proud of being a New Englander. I'm even more proud of being a Bostonian, born and raised there. Today, my heart is full of sadness for my fellow Bostonians and even more full of anger at whoever bombed us. On the drive home today, Minnesota Public Radio had a newspaper columnist from my hometown talking about the aftermath of yesterday's horrific event. He said something to the effect that "we are a belligerent people who care mostly about sports, politics and revenge." I thought, "that's me" in that portrait, even after a generation in Minnesota, a place I have come to love, but not my home. Home, to some, is found in Robert Frost's great definition in The Death of the Hired Man from "North of Boston,"
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”
To me, home is where I am most comfortable, most "at home." That is, and always will be, Boston, with its non-grid streets that I memorized as I learned to drive them. With its "T" and its harbor and its harbor islands and  Back Bay and Dorchester, the neighborhood where I grew up in the middle flat of a three-decker with my grandmother and uncle living on the floor above and "the tenants" down below. In Minnesota, it is still April. It is still National Poetry Month. In Boston, home will never be the same. I believe that at least some of My Minnesotans know that feeling. Louis Jenkins would be one. Here's his prose poem, Back Home, from "The Winter Road" [Holy Cow Press, Duluth].
BACK HOME
The place I lived as a child, the sharecropper's farmhouse with its wind-bent mulberry trees and rusted farm machinery has  completely vanished. Now there's nothing but plowed fields for miles in any direction. When I asked around town no one remembered the family. No way to verify my story. In fact, there's no evidence that any of what I remember actually happened, or that the people I knew actually existed. There was my uncle Axel, for instance, who spent most of his life moving from one job to another, trying to "find himself." He should have saved himself the trouble. I moved away from there a long time ago, when I was a young man, and came to the cold spruce forests of the north. The place I thought I was going is imaginary, yet I have lived here most of my life.
Maybe tomorrow we can pick up again with Gary Snyder and nature poetry. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. When you gotta come here, we gotta take you in. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Monday, April 15, 2013

S'no time like now

photo of sun through the trees
© harrington
Here we are again. Thanks for visiting. It's midway through National Poetry Month. Time for Minnesota's first poet laureate, Robert Bly. He has addressed the question of nature poetry in his Recognizing the Image as a Form of Intelligence in which he writes: “We do feel a gap between ourselves and nature. We can remain in the gap, and let the two worlds fall apart farther and remain separate. Or a human being can reach out with his left hand to the world of human intelligence and with the right hand to the natural world, and touch both at the same time…The power that makes us able to touch both is called ‘imagination’.” This concept makes me think of the science demonstration of electricity passing through our bodies from our finger tips to make our hair stand on end. Bly writes prose poems, among other forms. I am particularly fond of prose poems. In honor of National Poetry Month, the ides of April, and Robert Bly himself, here's an apt prose poem for this season. It's from Reaching Out to the World [White Pine Press].
SNOWED IN AGAIN
    Snow has been falling for three days. The horses stay in the barn. At four I leave the house, sinking to my waist in snow, and push open the door of my writing shack. Snow falls in. At the desk there is a plant in blossom.
   The plant faces the  window where snow sweeps past at forty miles an hour. So the snow and the flowers are a little like each other. In both there is the same receiving, the longing to circle slowly upward or sink down toward the roots. Perhaps the snow and the orangey blossoms are both the same flow, that starts out close to the soil, close to the floor, and needs no commandments, no civilizations, no drawing room lifted on the labor of the claw hammer, but is at home where one or two are present.
    The two people sit quietly near each other, In the storm, millions of years come close behind us. Nothing is lost, nothing is rejected. The body is ready to sing all night, and be entered by whatever wishes to enter the human body singing.
I had been going to write that Bly's poetry is often more mystical than Snyder's. Fortunately, I stopped before a made a fool of myself. Between them, Bly and Snyder probably have covered the poetics of mysticism, or the mysticism of poetry, from most conceivable, and several inconceivable, angles. If you think SNOWED IN AGAIN misses any of Snyder's new nature poetry points, please comment and note which point or points you think were missed. I think he nailed it, but I'm obviously biased. Thanks for listening, Come again when you can, Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fishing for Spring

photo of blue Spring sky with leaf buds
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting. For those of you who, like me, may have forgotten what fair weather looks like, the photo is a picture of blue sky. Feel free to let me know if you need a high quality version suitable for framing, hanging on the wall and making sacrifices to, so that it may someday return to Minnesota. Yesterday I noticed that the willows are turning more golden, the local poplars are starting to loosen their buds winter tightness and develop the beginning of leaves. That's good because yesterday was the opening of Minnesota's stream trout season, which is also supposed to be a sign of Spring. You do realize, don't you, that, if this were March, we'd be right on schedule, except for the trout fishing? Enough of this weather talk. Another highlight of this weekend were the Minnesota Book awards. The poetry winner was Patricia Kirkpatrick for “Odessa” which, based on reviews, explores the existence of self after brain surgery to remove cancer. Congratulations to each of the winners. For an alternative perspective on self, let's see what can be found in John Voelker's/Robert Traver's Testament of a Fisherman. Under his pen name, Voelker wrote this in the mid-1960's. (He's also the author of Anatomy of a Murder.) He was from Michigan, and I can find no direct linkage between him and My Minnesota except that many of my fellow Minnesotans fly fish and I'm met quite a few who share the sentiments expressed in the following (prose) poetry. In honor of Spring's stream trout opener in Minnesota:
Testament of a Fisherman
"I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful,
and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the
television commercials, cocktail parties and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world
where most men spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of
delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or
impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect
that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip; because
mercifully there are no telephones on fishing waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without
loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup tastes better out there; because maybe someday I will
catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I
suspect that so many other concerns of men are equally unimportant -- and not nearly so much fun"
Robert Traver/John Voelker
Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

A well-tempered season

photo of hoar frost covered landscape
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for the visit. March of 2012 was much warmer than normal. By April last year the plants were budding, blossoming, erupting, growing. This year, we're about as far behind "normal" as we were ahead last year. Before we had the unseasonably warm Spring last year, we had several days in February with  hoar frost creating incredible beauty like that in the photo. Much as I hate to admit it, my frustration with our current weather patterns probably says more about my unrealistic expectations than it does about our weather. Are we trying to impose mechanistic schedules and regularities on an organic system we're constantly disrupting? (Can you tell I've been reading Gary Snyder again?) I've also been re-reading Sam Hamill and J.P. Seaton's anthology The Poetry of Zen. That, and our never ending snow flurries, inspired me to make the following (Americanized) haiku:
Bare branch snow covered
Spring rides a too slow donkey
on ground snow coated 
I know that we can "force" bulbs into premature blossoms. I suspect we're doing the same thing with our home's climate. Premature blossoms fade prematurely. I hope we're not going to see the same outcome for our home.

We're approaching mid-month, so here's the last segment of the first half of Prairie Grasses Suite.
photo of wind turbines to the horizon
© harrington
HORIZON
                         Have you seen the
Heavenly, hellish receding line
Over prairie grasses
Reaching beyond reach
Infinity experienced
Zestfully
Ontologically
Naturally, sometimes clouded by prairie
WILDFIRE
 Thanks for coming. See you again? Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Barn again

photo of red osier dogwood in the snow
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for stopping in. The good news is it's Friday; at the moment it's not snowing right here. The bad news is we're back to being surrounded by snow-covered fields. The good news is that, after watching carefully and paying attention the whole drive home, neither the robins nor the cranes nor the geese have panicked and headed south again. I saw the robins robining, the cranes craning and the geese geesing (goosing?). If the people that have to live out in this unseasonable weather all the time can take it, who are we to complain? We're not quite halfway through National Poetry Month. I decided while on the way home today that I wanted to share one of my all time favorite poems, Jane Kenyon's Let Evening Come. I was reminded of this poem in part because I took the scenic route home past several barns, some functional, others not.
Let Evening Come
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through the chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.
Reading this makes me want to quit my job and just spend all my time trying to write something this wonderful. Using Gary Snyder's points, I'd say this is nature literate (fox, sandy den; wind dying down as evening comes); place literate (light moving up the bales as the sun moves down); Coyote as totem (done by the bottle in the ditch, the scoop and the air); Bear as totem (let evening come); further totems (cricket chafing); science and further science (dew collected, stars appear, silver horn); poem as creature of wild mind (self evident); crafty and get the work done (done, Done and DONE). Thanks for listening. Stop in again soon. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Neap tide

Welcome. Come in. Where I am at the moment, it's neither snowing nor sleeting nor freezing nor raining nor some combination of those, the way it was when I drove to work this morning. We'll see what the rest of the day brings. This being Spring in Minnesota, there's lots of options for Mother Nature to choose from and she does. I grew up near the ocean in a location where the average rise and fall of the tide was about 12 feet. Whether the tide was rising or falling, the waves were always incoming. They'd run up the strand and then withdraw but each time either closer to or further from high tide markings. You're probably wondering what that has to do with a state that's in the middle of the country and about equidistant by more than a thousand miles from any sign of a tide. Think about our Spring. One day it's warm and sunny. Next day it rains. The day after it snows. Then the sun comes back, but this time it's even warmer than it was the last time we saw it. That weather waves pattern continues until there's no more snow on the ground or falling and we start to enjoy warm weather (and mosquitoes). You're probably fed up with this kind of equanimity and just want it to be warm and sunny, here. It will be. Soon.  In the interim, here's the next (third) segment of Prairie Grasses Suite.

WIND
Have you heard it
Whistle through seedheads
Implode among grass stems
Never stay in one place
Dance across distances limited only by the
prairie
HORIZON

Thanks for listening. Come again. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sing a song of Spring

photo of dreary Spring day
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for curling up with us this dreary afternoon. The photo is from the end of March six years ago. Today the backyard looks pretty much like the picture, establishing that what we're going through is typical for Spring in My Minnesota, global warming or not. Cross your fingers and say a prayer, if that's your style, for our neighbors in southwestern Minnesota. An inch of ice on roads and wires makes for real problems. If we had more insulation (lots more) and our homes were less draughty, we could stay warmer, longer, with our without power. Something to think about some other time. Now it's time, again, to think about poetry. Mary Oliver has been to Minnesota several times. I'm claiming that that's enough of a connection to qualify for inclusion but her most recent book published, "A Thousand Mornings," includes another Minnesota connection. Here's part of
AND BOB DYLAN TOO
"Anything worth thinking about is worth
          singing about."

Which is why we have
songs of praise, songs of love, songs
         of sorrow.

Songs to the gods, who have
         so many names.

Songs the shepherds sing, on the
         lonely mountains, while the sheep
                  are honoring the grass, by eating it.

The dance-songs of the bees, to tell
        where the flowers, suddenly, in the
                  morning light, have opened....
I know I don't yet have every book of poetry Ms. Oliver has published. I'm still working on that part of my bucket list. The thought of seeing her and Gary Snyder reading at the same event gives me the shivers. So, what happens when we read the excerpt above in light of Snyder's new nature poetics? Nature literate and grounded in place? Yes and not in this poem, respectively, in my opinion. However, many of her other poems are clearly grounded in and on Cape Cod. My reading of the poem credits Coyote to the "gods, who have many names" and the reference to Dylan, a trickster if ever we had one. Science lives in the dance-songs. Why don't you go to your local library and see if you can get your hands on a copy of A Thousand Mornings to finish the poem and the close reading? Thanks for listening. Come again. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Old snow, new snow

photo of chickadee in Spring rain
© harrington
Wet, gray, rainy day. Snow in the forecast. I'd be more upset but I saw this year's first red-wing blackbird and remember the year it snowed three inches into my boat at mid-May's walleye opener. Enough weather, let's look at poetry. I've written about Connie Wanek, poet from Duluth, in past postings. Today's extracts are from "On Speaking Terms," which is her third book of poetry. This one published by Copper Canyon Press. We're going to look first at part of
Dog Days
Call it selfishness. Call it self-preservation.
We need ignorance,
a day on the water without the chatter
that pours out of the television,
without the picture that requires a thousand words
to disarm. We need the pines
that have stood through two hundred winters,
and the insects that live only a few hours.

Surely the planet will mend behind us
as water heals behind the canoe.
Cruelties in the fossil record are cruelties no more.
It seems our wrongs spring from our right
to pursue our own happiness,
which is a red fox running before the dogs,
dying in their teeth....
There's an awareness here of the necessity of our connectedness to nature. A speaking to the idea that we don't always know or do what's in our own best interest, or at least, if we do, we don't behave that way enough. Have you ever been in a canoe? It's path over and through water is very different than a motor boat's. Water does indeed heal behind canoes, and sail boats. Happiness is hounded by its pursuit of itself? Now, to help us celebrate our persistently tardy Spring, let's take a look at a little of
Old Snow
Thaws have taken their toll,
and once rain fell across the white hills.
The snow is half ice now,
granulated and industrial, and the men
in the yard have lost their coal teeth
and are hollow-eyed and helpless.
They've been loyal to the picket line
all winter, watching scabs come and go,...
Nature literate and grounded in place? I think there's no doubt. Trickster? What else would you call toothless snow men? Crafty and getting work done? Both, captured in picket lines and scabs. Can you fill in the assessment of Snyder's other points? Will you look for Connie's work the next time you're at your local, independent book store? Thanks for listening. Come again. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily in My Minnesota.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Fire and ice

photo of Spring sunset
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for dropping in. The photo above was taken close to the first day of Spring in Minnesota. It's also, in my opinion, stunningly beautiful. In Minnesota, Spring frequently entails snow cover remaining, snow storms persisting, and Minnesotans wondering if Winter will let go before the first day of Summer. All of which is a round-a-bout way of introducing you to today's National Poetry Month book, The First Day of Spring in Northern Minnesota, poems by Jim Johnson. Because we still have ice out to look forward to, I want to share the beginning of Jim's poem
The Return of the Shaman, Later the Weather Report
April is the ice that leaves the edge of the lake,
then comes back again,
leaving and coming, leaving and coming
in with the wind, and
back out again. The same lake that shows at the edge
leaves the honeycombed ice
black, then
returns, returns only to leave
again, this time leaving the white
behind. It is always changing,
taking many forms never the same....
The "always changing" is evocative, I think, of Coyote. The language clearly reflects an awareness of the ice out process (grounded in place and nature literate). Why don't you consider the other points proposed by Snyder then find Jim's book and buy it so you can read the rest of this poem and all of the next one I hope to tempt you with.
The First Day of Spring in Northern Minnesota
I awoke to the cold I did not want to awaken to.
The woodstove opened like a book,
a black book
I would not have otherwise opened. I crumpled
yesterday's news. The dog sniffed it.
I laid birch sticks
crossways. Thought if our current gods
don't visit soon
they too will be reduced to heroes and our heroes
forgotten--then what? I lit a match. And waited...
Are you saying to yourself "what's lighting a fire in a woodstove got to do with nature?" The answer, we all know if we stop to think about it, has to do with whether we see humans as part of nature or apart from nature. Check out some more Jim Johnson poems. Think about it. Are we in or out of nature? Thanks for listening. come again soon. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Of fish and dogs

Hi! Welcome and thanks for stopping by. Last night my wife and I attended the world premier of Nice Fish, inspired by the prose poems of Louis Jenkins. I came away from the performance with the impression that the play involves existentialist angst, the absurdity and surrealism often associated with prose poetry, a Minnesota perspective as frequently captured by Howard Mohr and Garrison Keillor, and about 30 minutes worth of dialogue and dramaturgy some might find in excess. The poet himself was in the audience several rows in front and to the right of us. I think I'd love to know what he thought of the outcome of the collaborative effort and last night's whole performance. I have a concern best described in Robert Frost's comment "Poetry is what gets lost in translation." (This may easily be accounted for by the fact that I'm an aspiring poet, not an aspiring playwright or there may be a large element of truth to its fit with Nice Fish.) Now, after spending this time talking about Louis Jenkins and prose poems, I bet you can guess who wrote today's poem to help us continue our celebration of National Poetry Month. Mr. Jenkins has a number of books of prose poems published. One of my favorite pieces comes from The Winter Road's poem "Three Dogs."
BLACK DOG
I don't own a dog and I don't want one, but every now and then
a black dog accompanies me on my walk out on Winter Road,
which is strange because there are no houses nearby, yet he
seems well fed and content. He usually approaches from behind
silently and walks alongside me. The first time he appeared it
caused me to jump, but I've come to expect him. As company
he is only a little better than my own thoughts, ranging ahead or
lagging behind to sniff at something in the ditch. We walk
along, each without acknowledging the other, and when we part
at the end of my hike neither of us says good-bye.
I'll start you off on the assessment: Nature literate, grounded in place? To my reading, yes. Keep going with Snyder's points. Think about dog, as totem of? Thanks for listening. Come again. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Totem, poem

photo of woods full of snow cover
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for stopping by. The road side at the bottom and right edge of the photo is clearly snow free. Snow cover remains not only in the deepest dark forests, but also in the forest fringe where the sun's warm fingers can't easily massage the soil to warm it. It occurred to me this unsunny morning that I probably hadn't provided a context for Snyder's references to totems although we've been talking about his nature poetry points for almost a week now. That's unfortunate, since, if I had, I could have pointed out the linkage between totems and Minnesota. Among the tribes indigenous to Minnesota, the Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) are credited with providing their word (doodem) to the English language as totem. It's also probably time for me to discover how totems walked the path from clan symbols to spiritual helpers. I'll let you know what I learn.
Today's poem is the second part of the Prairie Grasses sequence that was a winner last year in the Writers Rising Up contest. [Full disclosure, I've recently joined their board.]
photo of flock of ducks against the sky
© harrington
SKY
                                    Have you
Soared where Gulf warmth meets Arctic chill
Known by hawk and hopper
Yielding showers and sun for forbs, sedges and grasses -- home to prairie
WIND

Thanks for listening and for sharing National Poetry Month with us. Come again. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Friday, April 5, 2013

American lives have a second half

photo of ice covered Spring pond
Welcome. Thanks for coming. If you compare today's photo with yesterday's, you'll have proof positive that last year Spring was early, or this year it's late, depending on your perspective. Early or late, I think it's time we looked at a poem by Joyce Sutphen, Minnesota's current (and only the second) poet laureate. I'm particularly fond of her poem Crossroads from "Straight Out of View," her first book of poetry. The second stanza concludes with language that particularly resonates with me during this season of transition. Carefully consider:
The second half of my life will be swift,
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder,
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road.
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed,
fingers sifting through fine sands,
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet.
There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.
The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always up.
Nature literate, yes. Grounded in place, yes [fenceposts, gravel shoulders]. Coyote as totem? I think so [new dreams every night, keys into a deep well]. Bear as totem? Again, I think so [open drapes]. Further totems? What do you think? Fear not science and go further with it ? Yep [fire -->smoke-->upward]. Study mind and language, crafty, get the work done? Yup, yup and yup. [you can figure it out yourself] Truly a nature-worthy poet laureate for My Minnesota. Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A prairie pair

photo of very early Spring woods
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for coming. This is what the pond down the road looked like one year and two days ago. Today it's still 90% ice covered but is starting to open up in spots along the north side, where there's the greatest exposure to the southern sun. Have you ever dreamed you were flying? Without an airplane, I mean. I used to, occasionally, but don't remember having a dream of flying for a long time. Today, while taking Franco the rescue dog for his afternoon walk, we saw a flock of 16 to 20 sandhill cranes up high and headed easterly. I flashed back to dreams of flight, unencumbered, self-powered, looking down on the landscape, untouchable. Franco tugged at his leash. Reality returned. However, today's reality was full of pleasant surprises in addition to the cranes. Audrey Kletscher Helbling, in her Minnesota Prairie Roots blog, has shared as part of National Poetry Month, a wonderful poem she wrote. This Barn Remembers captures a time we'll see too little of in the future, I fear. Farming is becoming industry more than craft factory more than home. Her photography is haunting and her explanation of how she writes poetry is as useful to the aspiring poet as anything I've read by Ted Kooser or Mary Oliver. My Minnesota's contribution to National Poetry Month today is the first of an 8 poem ensemble submitted last year to Writers Rising Up Prairie Poetry contest. Over the next month, from time to time, the other pieces will show up here.
PRAIRIE GRASSES
What if
Pasque flowers dwarfed you as you
Reclined under prairie stars
All heaven-scattered above prairie grasses
Infinite in their reach
Reminding you of your diminished
Insignificant role in a universal scheme of
things where
Even the prairie and the grasses are ever
changing

Where now can you see
Great horizon-sized bison herds, when what
Remains are only clustered preserves of an
Antique land that was carved into plough-
sized plots
Sliced into fading fragments
Shorn of natural wealth
Ebbing from grass stems to corn stalks
growing beneath prairie
Sunshine, starshine, embedded in a prairie
SKY
 I'll leave to you the assessment of how this, and the subsequent pieces, measure up to Snyder's points. Thanks for listening. Come again. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Holm is where the heart is

Hi! Happy National Poetry Month [again]. Thanks for swinging by. I hope swans return to Carlos Avery again this year. I haven't seen any sign of them yet. We had a nesting pair in 2010, and a pair that stayed for a few weeks last year then disappeared. They really improve the character of the neighborhood. Speaking of neighborhood characters brings us to today's poet, Bill Holm. Bill may have been better know as an essayist, but those who knew him claim poetry was his true love (along with music, Iceland, Minneota, and box elder bugs and ...). In 2008, Bill was named the McKnight Distinguished Artist. I am lucky enough to have a copy of the book published on that occasion, which includes the following poem from Playing the Black Piano, 2004 [Milkweed Editions].
The Sea Eats What It Pleases
If you turn your back to the ocean
Do you think the tide will not find you
If it decides to rise a little higher
Than usual, to swallow an extra helping
Of gravel, to suck on your bones to clean
Its palate? The sea eats what it pleases
Whether you face it or give it your back.
No use having opinions about this.
But the sea does not hate you, or imagine
That you have wounded it with your avarice.
You cannot blaspheme the honor of water
Or insult the tide for tasting of salt.
Only humans, so newly risen from fish,
Imagine drowning each other for reasons.
I grew up next to the sea, actually, the Atlantic Ocean. I can assure you that Holm has it right. I believe this poem misses using Bear as totem, but covers almost all of Snyder's other New Nature Poetic Points. Impressive that someone from Minneota, Minnesota writes so well about the sea. Could be his Icelandic heritage speaking. No rants here today, just raves and reflections. Come again tomorrow and see if that holds.