My Forthcoming Book and William Paley’s Bridge


My collection of poems, Made and Remade, about William Paley’s book, Natural Theology, and the famous watch metaphor, has been accepted for publication by WordTech Editions.  In considering ideas for a cover, I came across a picture of a bridge, built in 1796, across the Wear River in Northern England.

Photo: Sunderland Public Libraries / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo: Sunderland Public Libraries / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

William Paley used this bridge as an image for the structure of the ribs in the human body.  He wrote (in 1802):

The manner of it is this: the end of the rib is divided by a middle ridge into two surfaces . . . . Now this is the very contrivance which is employed in the famous iron bridge at my door at Bishop-Wearmouth . . .

The new bridge delighted William Paley as all mechanical devices and constructions did.  He found in many of them analogies to natural forms.

Though new and wonderful to Paley, the bridge has been replaced, but the image still serves to represent Paley’s fascinations and interests. Until a cover is created for Made and Remade (due out in 2014) this image will serve as an icon for the book.


The Way It Used to Be?



Sometimes the little guy wins.  Driving toward home on Interstate 40 we planned to stop at the Shell plus Dairy Queen between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa.  It had closed.  Our next opportunity, ten miles down the road, was this little gas station.  That white door on this side of it is the post office of Newkirk, New Mexico, a town which scarcely exists since the Interstate came through.   The market at this gas station had regular coffee with dry creamer.  No cappuccino machine?  How quickly we grow accustomed to our travel patterns.  But they did have small bottles of milk so we could skip the dry creamer.

For all its tiny size and old-fashioned look, this gas station has been redone, perhaps more recently than the road.  Route 66 is only to be found in sections, where the Interstate didn’t cover it up.  Back when I came through New Mexico with my parents, it was the main road.


These pictures are uncropped because for me part of the delight of New Mexico is the expanse of sky.  How is it different from the Midwest?  Perhaps it’s the dryness that makes it sharper.  Perhaps it is just that it is home.


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This is an alphabet that seems to me full of good suggestions.  Pick one to ponder.

Rethinking Life

Art is a way of seeing  Believe in yourself  Cats are purrfect  Do something you love everyday  Eat without guilt or fear  Feel good about yourself  Go out and enjoy life  Hug those you love  Ice in drinks makes them taste better Just take life one minute at a time  Know that some questions don’t have answers  Love doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone  Money isn’t the root of all evil–people are  Never trust those in power  Only you know and understand your personal truth  Put fun into your life  Quite taking things so seriously  Realize that you are one-of-a-kind  Stop wishing that things were different than they are  Take time…

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Maine Woods


woods early

A few pictures from a hike I took recently through woods toward a beach.  It was a warm day, good to be walking among the trees, in and out of the sun.

path 2

The path was often exposed roots.  Apparently trees don’t mind being crowded.

barred island

The destination was this bar formed by low tide.  It is a real beach, and a popular one, though that doesn’t show here.  Two children were building sand castles at the far side; other people were set up with awnings and towels.  A lot to carry in for a mile, I thought.  I soon returned to the shade of the woods.

woods return

Recommendation: Poet Diane Kistner

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I received “Falling in Caves” by Diane Kistner through Goodreads.  It is a selection from poems she wrote many years ago.  It is a great pleasure to read. The poems are very musical, often songlike, though the material is mostly serious and even grim (in one case, “Father and Son,” I want to spell that Grimm).  As I tried to pinpoint what I like about the style I realized that what makes these poems musical are the very things I have been repeatedly instructed by friends in workshops to avoid: repetition, phrases with of and the, little words like and.  These poems show what skill can do with material that less experienced poets are leery of, and chastise each other for using.  An example of this is the opening of “Shell”:

After the bell,
the fading bell,
last bell to be heard,
he walks the dark beaches,
far from the vain, curled alleys,
far from the world’s grave sanity.

Among the twenty two poems in this small collection, I particularly like “Ten Vain Attempts” (to get rid of anger) and the title poem.  “Falling in Caves” starts with a child’s fall while running, moves to the cave as a discovery of the past, and ends with:

There in the cave’s jaws
the first wheels started turning my head around.
They are turning still, down root-deep inside me,
meshing time’s slow, certain teeth.
We are falling into forever,
and there’s nothing to keep it from us.

My favorite of these poems is “The Walls”:

Four years old
with colored crayons,
you have discovered the walls.
Not old enough yet to know better,
you have covered the white expanse
of your boundaries
with castles and kings and queens
from your Mother Goose book.
You have walked
in your own enchanted forest.
You have flown bright flags
against a sky of dreams.
You have skipped down to a sea
of fishes, walked upon the beach,
built castles of sand
and danced
and laughed
when the waves
washed your castles away.
Crayon in hand
and queen of your land,
you believe
you can always make more.
When I spank you,
you cry you hate me
and stare with those dark yet
not yet extinguished eyes.
I wash and wash at your pictures
with soap and rags, trying
to make the walls dull
and white again.
How long will it be
before you stop fighting me,
I who am grown up
and see all colors at once,
undone, whirled into oneness?
How long will it be
before you accept the walls?

And I want to say to the child “Don’t accept the walls!” though I know we have to.  This poem takes its time to describe a familiar subject, both the literal four year old and the one inside each of us, and I enjoy every moment of it.

“Falling in Caves” is published by FutureCycle Press: http://www.futurecycle.org/PressTitles.aspx.    Another book in their catalog which is well worth your time and money is “Mosslight” by Kimberley Pittman-Schulz.  Both of these authors turn keen observations into music.  I found Kistner’s “Falling in Caves” the more satisfying, but both books suggest FutureCycle Press is a good source for finding poetry by good poets you might not have heard of before.