Oct 2 2013

“In Things,” a Poem in Response to David Adix’s Native Figure #70

Here's a draft of the poem I'm writing in response to David Adix's Native Figure #70. The poem's title comes from a classic adage about creative invention from the middle of the last century: "No ideas but in things" (William Carlos Williams). I'm sometimes moved to push back against this insight, but I always find myself coming back, with pleasure, to the physical world while making poems. Native Figure #70 is literally stuffed with things: a smorgasbord for someone like me. I keep finding new morsels Read more [...]

Sep 22 2013

Ekphrasis in Downtown Douglas, Michigan

Last Monday I carried my notebook and camera into the Water Street Gallery in downtown Douglas, Michigan, to meet, in person, a sculpture I'd been admiring in photographs: Native Figure #70, by David Adix. The gallery staff had given me the following assignment: respond, in one hundred words or less, to one of the pieces of art in their current exhibition, It's a Matter of Opinion. More precisely, they were looking for my "opinion"--quotation marks theirs. Assignments like these, I've learned, Read more [...]

Aug 5 2013

Mary Ruefle on the Contrast Between Thinking and Creating

It's been a while since I've offered anything up. I've encountered plenty of items of interest over the past few weeks, among them: a tromp l'oeil mural I spotted down an alleyway ("horses" hanging their heads over a "stable door")—the sort of mural that triggers a doubletake and gratitude for human imagination. And then there were the land snails and slug trails I've spotted (the former in the woods, the latter in the backyard) after our especially soggy June. During wetter periods, watch for Read more [...]

Jul 1 2013

Red (Red-eyed Vireo), Yellow (Hairy Puccoon), and Blue (Harebell)

It's harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) season in the Saugatuck Dunes, which also happens to be hairy puccoon season, and red-eyed vireo season. This year's cool, wet, sunny spring has greened and plumped leaves of all kinds, from grass to swamp cabbage, far beyond the norm. Even walking in the dunes, which do not hold onto rain very long, feels sodden. I think more harebells than usual have sprung up this year, their blossoms are more vibrantly blue-purple than usual, and they're lasting longer. Read more [...]

Jun 20 2013

My New Chapbook, Before the Snow Moon

(If you'd like to buy a copy of Before the Snow Moon, you'll find it at Nicola's Books and Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, at Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Michigan, and at the Nines Gallery in Holland, Michigan. Or, contact me. And it's also available on Amazon.) I'm superstitious about writing about my own poems, especially before they've been released to the world, so here are some of the nice things poets have written about the poems in Before the Snow Moon. Artists Melanie Boyle and Read more [...]

Jun 6 2013

Susana Allen Hunter’s Improvisational Quilts

Standing among Susana Allen Hunter's quilts, on loan from The Henry Ford Museum, at the Grand Rapids [Michigan] Art Museum the other day, I felt waves of admiration and gratitude and poignancy. Each "improvisational quilt"—as Hunter's patchwork quilts have been dubbed—has a palette I want to work with, somehow, even though I'm a writer and my medium is words. Many of the quilts, which do indeed as their curator notes feel "abstract, asymmetrical, and modern," are mildly frayed, a reminder that Read more [...]

May 16 2013

Blue and Green: What It Smells and Sounds Like

You can see that the sun was shining on my head, hot but not too. Here's what you can't see: the clean coppery aroma* of last summer's leaves, pale brown and beginning to curl up from their flattened spots under the gone snow. As for the soundtrack, it was peaceful without being silent, another kind of antidote. In the background, like some sort of sonic under-painting, the roar of Lake Michigan's surf penetrated the whole scene even though the freshwater sea itself was hidden Read more [...]

May 10 2013

Wallace Stevens: “There are a lot of things one ought to do”

When is the last time you walked up to a shelf of books—in your house or somewhere else—randomly pulled one off the shelf, opened it up, and began reading? It had been a rather long time for me when I found this the other morning, in a beautiful, archival edition of Wallace Stevens's poems and prose. I'm guessing anyone who's ever felt thwarted by a house overflowing with family energy will get a kick out of these two short letters, written in the 1920s, when Stevens was Read more [...]

Apr 27 2013

Gary Snyder on Remaining Unprepared

There is no substitute for presence. - Gary Snyder, April 24, 2013 Sometimes you have to silence your "this is not sensible" voice in order to find the forage you most need. Wednesday, despite being scheduled to give an evening poetry reading in downtown Grand Rapids, I drove from Saugatuck to Ann Arbor to hear Gary Snyder deliver the Hopwood Lecture. Huge wet snowflakes and a ferocious north wind pushed hard against me as I made my way across the University of Michigan's campus Read more [...]

Apr 26 2013

Woodland Wildflowers in the Saugatuck Dunes

I found a patch of blooming round-lobed hepatica the other day in the still-rather-brown-all-over Saugatuck Dunes. To give you a sense of how tiny these spring ephemerals are, that's a part of a red oak leaf behind the blossoms. Hepatica are usually the first bits of purple I find in the woods around here each April, opening a full month before the violets. A couple of weeks ago, I found one hepatica bud open on a warm day, but the buds have been closed up tight in the cool weather since. They're Read more [...]