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Reading a Poem: Barrett’s “The American Dream”

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One of the pluses of getting accepted in a print journal is receiving a small book of poems by many poets, at least some of whom are likely to be new to me.

scan0002I am currently reading my way through the 2017-2018 issue of Red Coyote, out of the University of South Dakota, which includes two of my poems, “Hold On, Let Go,” and “Corners.”

I’m finding a lot to like.  One poet new to me is Carol Barrett.  Of her three poems I am particularly impressed with “The America Dream,” a short and subtle piece.  Here is the poem, by permission of the author:

The American Dream

Frosted grasses
bear the shadows
of pines

once peopling these plains.
Cars laden with dust
loom on every hill

along the path
paved to make our journey
swift.  A bluing sky

melts the crystalline
landscape, and on we plow
oblivious to those

who forage here,
to any shade
or sorrow.

As I was reading this, my mind made a series of pictures, some way off base, it turned out.  In the first stanza—what’s the connection to the title?—the immediacy of the grasses made me think of walking beside them.  Having this image in mind, I saw those looming cars on an Interstate above the path.  Paved?  Yes, where I live they persist in paving walking paths.

It’s only as “swift” sank in, and I felt the distance of “landscape” that I “got it.”  The paved path is a road; I’m on that Interstate, if it is one, not beside it.

Because she doesn’t name it as road, and because she delays the fact that the pines are gone and doesn’t spell out why or how (removed for farming? cut down to build the road?) I have wandered inside her poem and so find myself complicit at the end in all that taking the fast road ignores or denies.

Thank you, Carol Barrett, for this reading experience.  Carol has two books, Pansies, just out, and Calling in the Bones.  I’m looking forward to reading both.

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First Spring Blooms

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It’s March and the wind is blowing.  That’s how you know it is spring in Las Cruces.  And yes, things are beginning to bloom.

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The first flowers to appear in my yard are volunteers.  My neighbor across the cul-de-sac is a very diligent and experienced gardener.  Last summer he planted these bright orange flowers in the section between sidewalk and road.   He pulled them out when they began to get shaggy, but they had sent out seed.

Orange 2This spring I have one between sidewalk and wall, and two tiny ones between sidewalk and road.  My next-door neighbor has a few in what used to be his lawn.  The neighbor across the way has several.  I’m waiting to see if he pulls them out.  As I’ve noted before, I like volunteers and won’t pull these.  But they won’t last long.Orange0112

 

 

Two days later I find the first poppies in my back yard.  Spring has definitely arrived.

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Sin Fronteras Journal Issue #23 is Out

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SF 23 coverSin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders Issue #23 has just arrived from the printer.  It features the work of 48 contributors, mostly poets.  Six are from southern New Mexico, seven from other parts of the state, a few more from the greater southwest.  Others are from all over the country, from Washington State to Massachusetts to Florida, and three live beyond our nation’s borders.

Some poems speak directly to southern border issues.  Others focus on different kinds of borders: between people, their communication and miscommunication, or between people and wildlife, or people and their pasts.  The editors were pleased to have a rich mix to draw from.

The cover art is by Deret Roberts, local artist and gallery owner.  You can learn more about his gallery at www.artobscuragallery,com.

If you’d like to obtain a copy of this issue, or submit for the next annual issue, go to the Journal’s own website: http://www.sinfronterasjournal.com.  Be sure to check the guidelines and notice that submissions sent to the email address before April 1 will not be read.

 

 

 

 

We Love Lit in Las Cruces

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It’s February and once again the Sin Fronteras folks will be presenting a “For Love of Lit” reading as part of “For Love of Art Month.”

The event will be Saturday, February 23, 10:00 to 12:00, at the Branigan Cultural Center, 501 N. Main Street, Las Cruces.  Outside the Farmers and Crafts Market will be in full swing.  Come inside and sit down for a while.

Fifteen readers have signed up to read.  If you’ve attended in previous years, you’ll notice a mix of familiar voices and new ones.  Here is the line-up, if all goes as planned: Dick Thomas, Lee Ann Meadows, Peter Goodman, Joanne Townsend, Richard Miles, Alice Wallace, Gerry Stork, Ellen Roberts Young, Joe Somoza, Dael Goodman, Charles Harper, Joanne Turnbull, Bruce Holsapple, Michel Wing, Frank Varela.

Michael Mandel will be the master of ceremonies.

 

Energy in the Study

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The house we live in was built to order for a family with three children.  We can tell because the master bedroom is on one side of the living area and at the other are three small bedrooms, each with a small built-in desk and a set-back window with a storage box in front of it.  One of these rooms is now my study.

In my sporadic reading about feng shui, one thing that has stuck with me is that if a window is placed opposite a door, energy (chi) will come in the door and go straight out the window.  So it is good to have a plant to divert that energy.  That is how my study is arranged.  For some time I have had some grass heads from one of our grass plants on the box in the window.  Recently I acquired a parlor palm, hoping it will like the northern light.  This week I decided it was time for flowers.

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Looking at this, I get an image of the chi going around these three in figure eights until it gets quite dizzy, and never gets over to me at my desk at all.  There can be too much of a good thing.  But I don’t really think that’s what’s going on, because they give me so much pleasure.

I should stop admiring the scene and get that palm into a pot worthy of its size and growth potential.

Becoming a Bigger Fish

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my bookshelf

. . . in a small pond.  I was surprised and pleased to receive an honor this past weekend.  The Friends of the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library made me an honorary life member.

It was a surprise because I haven’t done very much with them (in my estimation).  I’ve been busy serving on the Library Advisory Board, which serves as liaison with the City Councilors, for the last eight years.

True, I did encourage support and pay attention to the Friends, come to book sales and every other event I could get to, and work toward a closer connection between the two organizations. (The Advisory Board can’t raise money; it advises and supports the Library Administrator on financial and other matters.  The Friends do raise funds and receive a wish-list from the Administrator for items beyond the city budget.)

So they decided to thank me. In the bio I wrote for them I did stress the importance of libraries in my life.

Libraries have been important to her from her childhood in Campbell, California to taking her sons to the Ardmore library in Pennsylvania, to research in the Philadelphia Free Library and the Library of Congress.

I didn’t mention that when I had a career module in early high school, I didn’t have the courage to find a writer to interview, so I interviewed our local librarian.  It has always seemed to me the next best thing.  If you can’t write books, take care of them.

I’m sure I’ll be hearing from the Friends of Branigan Library about further support.  That’s how these things work.  That’s just fine with me.

For more on the Branigan library, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Branigan_Memorial_Library

Celebrating the Kerf

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scan0001I have a poem in the current issue of the Kerf, a small journal out of College of the Redwoods in northern California.  This journal is part of the Del Norte Center for Writing of that college, which is located in Crescent City.

I want to spread the word about this journal because there is a lot I like about it, beginning with the fact that they have chosen a very nice selection of poems in this issue, mostly – but not all – by people I’ve never heard of.  Other features I like:

  • They only do poetry. They take formal as well as free verse poems, and two page poems as well as short ones.
  • They don’t organize the poems in alphabetical order by the poet’s last name; they make creative juxtapositions. (As a poet whose last name begins with Y, I really appreciate finding my poem on page 12.)
  • They often include more than one poem by an author, but put them in separate places.
  • They advertise an interest in “humanity and environmental consciousness” which turns out to have a wide scope.

And they operate without a website or email submissions.  This is one reason I want to spread the word about them.  They advertise annually in Poets & Writers, but they’re hard to find elsewhere.

My poem, Human/Nature, explores some of the contact points between humans and the rest of nature, especially as found here in the rapidly growing city of Las Cruces.  My favorite part, if it is possible to have a favorite part in one’s own poem, is

A puma is sighted near
the new subdivision.
As in a child’s puzzle, which
of these things does not belong?
The puma does not go willingly.

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The reading period for the Kerf is about to begin.  Unsolicited manuscripts are accepted between January 15 and March 31. Include name and address on all manuscripts, enclose an SASE and send to:

the Kerf
College of the Redwoods
883 West Washington Blvd.
Crescent City, CA 95531-8361

A copy of the journal is available for $5.00, a good price for 54 pages of varied and stimulating poems.

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