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 [...]

Apr 20 2013

Keith Taylor’s New Chapbook

This winter I saw an exhibit of Ellsworth Kelly's plant lithographs. Large scale and deceptively simple, they felt to me to be nearly perfect art because they seemed to embody, not just the physical being of the various botanical specimens, but a certain person's encounter with them in a certain moment. I walked around the gallery from print to print, several times. Each visit with each print turned up new details. I've been responding to Keith Taylor's newest chapbook of poems Read more [...]

Apr 5 2013

Analog Clocks

Analog clocks—I love them. I photographed these last weekend. Anybody recognize them? When you look at the hands and face of an analog clock you're looking at the past, present, and future, at once: a half day, so to speak, at least a kind of map of a half day. The hands (which are really more like arms) sweep around the face (which has its features, when it has them—numerals or dashes or, say, songbirds—arranged around the outside edge). In comparison, the little lit green Read more [...]

Mar 22 2013

Blackout Poetry in Rural Michigan

The other evening, on my way out of a middle-school basketball game, several towns southeast of home, I was stopped in my tracks by a wall arrayed with taped-up book pages, each one, blacked over, line by line, except for a bright scatter of words, a kind of reverse highlighting. Even from a distance, it looked interesting. "I wonder if they know about Mary Ruefle!" I exclaimed to my husband and daughter as we walked up to take a closer look. Mary, who's now quite well known for Read more [...]

Mar 14 2013

The Next Big Thing: We Live Here

Thank you Holly Wren Spaulding for tagging me in this community effort to talk about our book projects with each other. This set of questions is all over the web right now, with answers from people who are working on books. It's not the easiest thing in the world to write about your own writing. See what you think about how I've done. I've tagged Patricia Clark and Libby Wagner. They'll be answering the questions too. Holly is a poem whisperer, the real deal. Along with making Read more [...]

Jan 18 2013

Art As Breathing Pause: Rebecca Brand

Last month—December, the month of blur for me, every single year—there were a few memorable moments of clear. I am grateful for every one, and in particular, for Rebecca Brand's BFA Thesis Exhibition at the Richmond Center for Visual Arts on the campus of Western Michigan University. Rebecca named her exhibit Within and Apart because this comes closest, for her, to describing in words what she explores when she makes art: the human relationship to the wild world. I stood Read more [...]

Dec 8 2012

Love, An Index–Poems on Love and Grief

Poetry might be the wildest retro-thing going in the literary world, especially when it appears in print inside an artful hardcover that can be carried anywhere and accessed forever off the grid, especially when it appears to be "powerful emotion recollected in tranquility"--without being too tidied up, or too spontaneous. Rebecca Lindenberg's Love, An Index (San Francisco: McSweeney's, 2012) is such a book. I've been reading it for months, as I often do with books of poems, and I'm still encountering Read more [...]

Nov 30 2012

I Need to Keep Reading Terry Tempest Williams

We can no longer deny the destiny that is ours by becoming women who wait—waiting to love, waiting to speak, waiting to act. –Terry Tempest Williams What if your mother, whom you have always been very close to, dies too young after a long struggle with cancer. (She is 52.  You are 34.) What if, as she is dying, she tells you--her "dearest friend"--that she wants you to have her journals. What if, after you have honored her wishes by opening the first of the hardcover Read more [...]