A writer and citizen scientist, I currently live in Northfield, Minnesota. Three recent books are Following the Earth Around: Journal of a Naturalist's Year, Brevities, and Rice County Odonata Journal: Volume Four.
Saturday, July 11, the Anderson Center in Red Wing will host its 16th annual “Summer Celebration of the Arts” from 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. This is one of the premier arts festivals in the state and showcases the work of more than 100 local and regional artists, craftspeople, writers, and musicians. Work featured includes paintings, pottery, furniture, weavings, jewelry, wood carvings, photographs, textiles, stained glass, and much, much more.
As part of this celebration, Red Dragonfly Press will be hosting poetry readings by three, prize-winning poets.
2:00 pm Joseph Rios will read. Rios is a current Anderson Center resident 2015 John K. Walsh Residency Fellowship
2:30 pm Francine Sterle will read from What Thread? (2014 David Martinson–Meadowhawk Prize)
The poems in Modern Love & Other Myths explore, as Elizabeth Bishop phrased it, “efforts of affection” in our contemporary world. Sutphen’s appraisals—both personal and general—resonate deeply with all who have mapped the story land between “hello” and “goodbye.” The title invites us to examine what we mean by myth, and whether, in fact, love can ever be regarded as modern. Wise and inquisitive, the poems in this collection travel across continents as easily as into the heart.
Read an excerpt at Small Press Distribution “Peek Inside“
Diane Jarvenpa has long been a favorite poet of mine, ever since reading her first book, Divining the Landscape. Like many of us she leads several lives: poet, parent, Finnish folk singer. Ok, that last role is, admittedly, rather unique and remarkable and something she does under the stage name, Diane Jarvi.
Ten years ago, in 2005, I printed her chapbook Ancient Wonders: The Modern World. This modest chap, six poems and six matching illustrations by Sheralyn Barnes, sold out faster than any chapbook the press has published, with the possible exception of Superman: The Chapbook by Dorianne Laux. Because copies are no longer available, I thought I’d try scanning the pages and constructing a digital facsimile as small compensation for the vast majority unfortunate enough to miss the original print version.
About a year ago, Diane recorded Ancient Wonders and allowed me to make an experimental digital version. The result of that experiment is an ebook with embedded audio and is available only for iBooks.
And if you’d like to own a print version of the poem sequence, it’s included in her full length collection, The Tender, Wild Things (New River Press, 2007). Highly recommended.
The poet Thomas R. Smith visited this morning to go over some proof pages and to answer some questions I had about design possibilities for his forthcoming collection, The Glory. While we worked inside, winter held sway outside. The weather and the visit put me in mind of an earlier collection of poems by Smith, one published ten years ago, Winter Hours. Of Smith’s numerous books, this might be the most overlooked.
The design is as stark as a January parking lot at midnight in a blizzard. A lot of white space, a minimal amount of ornamentation. The author has playfully referred to the book as his “White Album.”
The book itself consists of forty poems. Each poem is seven lines long. Written during the winter of 1998-1999, these small poems lodge some daily aspect of our yearly travail through this often difficult season. Fittingly, there are a fair number of grim realities, but I think the uplifting surprises win out, glittering snow, bright sunlight, warm company. Here’s a poem that contains a little wishful thinking during our current week of below zero temperatures:
BEGINNING TO PUT WINTER BEHIND US
The sun comes out with a flash, as if taking
earth’s photo. The sky preens its blue feathers
on the telephone line, and sings. One can hear
a drone of lawnmowers, from the future….
Why don’t I feel happier? A small, weak hand
is tugging at my sleeve, the way an old person
who can no longer speak up says, “I’m still here….”
With Valentine’s Day just ahead, it seems a good moment to revisit a chapbook filled to the brim with desire, overflowing with thoughts about longing, love, and eros. The chapbook is Perfect Harmony and it contains a poem written eight centuries ago by Ibn El Arabi, an Andalusian Sufi mystic and poet. Over the course of this poem, love at first sight is elevated to the level of philosophy and religion, ecstasy intensified “to the point of perfect harmony.” That this poem remains immediate and passionate all these centuries later and in another language has much to do with labors of Timothy Young; always good to have a poet translate a poet.
100 copies were printed in 2009 with the assistance in the print shop by the translator. The Spectrum type was set by hand, letter by letter, then inked and impressed upon pages of Ingres paper. Autonomous drawings by Dalyce Elliott accompany the text. These pages are sewn into Khadi wraps. The paper and type alone are a kind of Valentine.
In addition to the chapbook version, this poem is included in Timothy Young’s most recent book, To the Palace of Kings: Selected Longer Poems (Red Dragonfly Press, 2014) and is available on a CD, Perfect Harmony. The latter, an union of spoken word and brilliant musical accompaniment, comes highly recommended, is only available direct from the translator: mail $10 per CD plus $3 shipping to Timothy Young, 1610 Fernwood St., St. Paul, MN 55108.
Library Land was published in 2008. At that time the author, Jane Graham George, lived and worked in Minnesota, her job a reference librarian at the Dakota County Public Library in Eagan. Not unlike the stacks and shelves among which the author moved during her workday, the poems hold a lot of variety in small compass, from swine judging to the Book of Kells. Shortly after the book’s publication, the author changed residence, moving with husband and horse to the Kapiti Coast, northwest of Wellington, New Zealand. Here’s the opening poem:
Houses vault up like medieval cathedrals
on land where once there were pastures,
oaks, raspberries, space for long walks.
Chevron-winged killdeer heralded the chaos
of buying and selling, backhoes and downed trees.
Today through the picture window of the largest home,
I imagine the heavy Belgian who used to pull a plow
in the sorghum and sweet corn right here in the 60s,
flying now over a white leather sofa, a dream version
of himself, chestnut Pegasus in slow motion.
Floor lamps and tables shatter behind his mane,
plate glass shards strike me as if they were the myrrh
of a priest’s censer, the house made transparent,
drafty and strangely like its own aspirations, Chartres
and St. Michel, the haunt of angels or ghosts.
Not of that faith, the Belgian and I stand outside,
bound as in the days of chivalry and before,
where we do no harm, are pure in friendship
and the knowledge we haven’t yet lost all ground
and live still in the green time of the world.
I’ve always admired the way the glass of the suburban window gets shattered by the poet’s vision. It’s not justice, exactly, but an elegiac acknowledgment of the overtaking sprawl of growing populations that overwrites most any pastoral or wild landscape. And I value the poet’s stance, almost optimistic, certainly fierce, when she states that “we haven’t yet lost all ground / and live still in the green time of the world.”
Library Land is now available as an e-book.
(Print copies are still available as well: click here)
Edited by poets Marilyn Zuckerman, Christopher Butters, and Robert Edwards, Continuous Performance: The Selected Poems of Maggie Jaffe presents a substantial collection of this poet’s most important work. As Robert Edwards intimates in his introduction to this collection, “Once Maggie found her voice, she created a kind of poetry that was relentlessly stripped to the essentials, everything superfluous burned away in the underlying fury that inhabits these poems.”
“Maggie Jaffe’s poems have a rare power and beauty. She writes about Mayakovsky, Van Gogh, Kafka, Jean Seaberg, and other extraordinary figures of our time…but never in a predictably political way, always in a way that astonishes us and that says something profound about the world we live in.” – Howard Zinn
Maggie Jaffe (1948 – 2011) was author of six books of poetry. Both 7th Circle and The Prisons, won the San Diego Book Award for Poetry. She taught at San Diego State University in the English and Comparative Literature Department. She was also the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a California Arts Council Grant.