WITH WIDE CLOUDLESS SKIES

The poems of my newest collection, Noble Blue Liberty, include some of my earliest published literary work, along with some of my most recent. They range across the continent of my mind and heart to find home.

They revive the wonder of entering the wide cloudless skies of the Great Plains or youthful opportunity.

What opens with a dance tune here deflects into the reaction to a blow or injury, to a fly fisherman’s reel, the canisters of a movie, or even a soaring eagle. These poems span experiences of touch and coupling, however chaste at times, and of flight and emerging lightness. To be light on one’s feet, then, and lighthearted in the end, if not a little dizzy.

They could even be what poet John Haines has called “horses in the night.”

~*~

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

A TITLE OR A POEM OF ITS OWN?

I often delight in a phrase or term that takes on a life of its own, apart from a particular content or meaning. The poet Jack Spicer, drawing on his training as a linguist, was a master at this.

Overhearing one conversation recently, my mind’s eye took the Black Joker who met the Red Herrings on a Non-Tour in a much different direction. My choir buddies, Mike and Kate, knew who they were talking about, and where. It was all about Morris dancing. For me, though, it was pure magic on its own.

Words can, after all, exist in their own sound and space. How short can a poem be, anyway? I have a few that weigh in at one word apiece, while two or three words can make for a nice verbal dance.

The title of my newest poetry collection, Noble Blue Liberty, is one of those. Years ago, I warned the mother of three children I’d run with her lofty impression, and I have. Actually, the title could stand as a poem all its own.

I have similar feelings about some of my other recent releases.

~*~

Noble Blue Liberty
Noble Blue Liberty

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

I’M FASCINATED WITH THE INFLUENCE OF SPECIFIC PLACES ON OUR LIVES

A major element in my literary writing has always been an awareness of place, and when it comes to my fiction, I’ve often considered the surrounding landscape to be a character of its own. Called it the local vibe, if you will, but the soil and locale can embody and influence the inhabitants who interact within it. Or so I heard in the ashram when our teacher returned from her first trip to India.

The awareness has stuck with me as I’ve moved across the country, from my native Midwest to both coasts and points in-between.

Another major element, to my surprise, is work and, in a larger sense, economics.

My Hippie Trails novels – Daffodil Sunrise, Hippie Drum, Hippie Love, and Subway Hitchhikers – follow a young photographer who works for newspapers through the turbulent era, and rural Indiana, small-town Northeast, and New York City all have their place in the arc.

As a rundown farm, Ashram is a center of yoga life surrounded by forest and deer.

The Northwest Passion series, meanwhile – Promise, Peel (as in apple), and St. Helens in the Mix – leaps from the Midwest to the interior desert of the Pacific Northwest. In the background we see Jaya’s struggles as a rising executive in nonprofit organizations.  And then Kokopelli’s Hornpipe … plays …

With a Passing Freight Train of 119 Cars and Twin Cabooses, Along the Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang, and Third Rail … are rife with the mix.

The balance tips, though, with Hometown News, which is set in the newsroom of the daily newspaper serving a small industrial city beset by the emerging conglomerate corporations headquartered elsewhere.

And then we have Big Inca versus a New Pony Express Rider, with its young apprentice managed by a mysterious Boss he never meets face-to-face as they transform a backwater town into a secretive factory involving international intrigue. Yes, there’s major locale, but the focus is on the day-to-day banter of what would otherwise be an office while bigger questions – including the very nature of the company paying the bills – remain nebulous, befitting its international distance.

A third central element has been spirituality and religion, especially the strands that veer away from the mainstream. Often my exploration has been for the awareness and nurture these can provide individuals and small circles of kindred spirits. But sometimes my perspective has been critical, especially when clannish identity, superstition, or custom override faith.

It should be no surprise that my next novel will also combine the three elements – it’s set in a family-run restaurant in a college town in the Midwest. But this time, family will be yet another central issue. Please stay tuned.

ASSUMING A CLUSTER OF IDENTITIES

As humans, each of us assumes a cluster of identities – some of them chosen and changeable, others immutable. My grandfather, for example, proclaimed himself Dayton’s Leading Republican Plumber, invoking a host of other identities as well: Mason, Protestant, Middle Class, Married. I don’t think “grandfather” was high up in his awareness. Being male or female or teenage or elderly, on the other hand, are simply givens. And the history of what we’ve done or failed to do cannot be altered, except in our own perceptions and retelling.

The range of identities is astounding. They include but are not limited to race, religion, nationality and locality, occupation, family (household and near kin to genealogy itself), education and educational institutions, athletics, hobbies and interests, actions and emotions, even other individuals we admire, from actors and authors to athletes, politicians, and historic figures. They soon extend to the people we associate with – family, friends, coworkers, neighbors. And, pointedly, our phobias and possessions.

Curiously, it becomes easier to say what we are not than what we are specifically. That is, set out to define yourself in the positive and you’ll find the list rapidly dwindling, while an inexplicable core remains untouched. Turn to the oppositions, however, and the list becomes endless. I am not, for instance, a monkey. Sometimes, moreover, a specified negative becomes truly revealing: “I am not a crook,” for instance, as the classic revelation.

Listen carefully – especially when others talk of their romantic problems or other troubles – and another portion of a mosaic appears. This collection of poems builds on such moments, constructing a cross-section of community like a web of each one of its members. Sometimes, a place appears; sometimes, a contradiction; sometimes, a flavor or sound or color. Even so, in this crossfire, then, we may be more alike than any of us wishes to admit. We may be more like the part we deny, as well. Our defenses wither. Our commonality and our essential loneliness are both revealed.

~*~

For my Village of Gargoyles poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

WITH AND WITHOUT OUR MASKS

Behind the masks of public life – our occupations, religious affiliations, social status, economic positions, family connections, educational accomplishments, and so on – each of us engages in another struggle, an attempt to find inner balance and direction for our own life. As we do so, we soon face a plethora of interior and exterior forces that must be reconciled. We get glimmers into this struggle – both within ourselves and within others – in statements that begin “I am” and “I am not,” as well as “I have been,” which recognizes the history and habits we accumulate and carry with us. There are also the voices – “he remembers” or “she insists” – that also recur in our lives, defining and redefining ourselves both within, as conscience or the angel or devil on our shoulders, and without, as any of a host of authority figures and friends or family members.

~*~

Village of Gargoyles

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

ALONG WITH A BREAKTHROUGH, FREE TO PLAY AND TINKER

Somewhere in writing poetry I turned to the concept of “working in series.” Quite simply, this meant investigating a subject repeatedly, often in a similar form. The process allowed multiple takes from different angles and in different lighting, as it were. In music, it could be seen as a theme and variations.

As I recall, the practice for me originated with Braided Double-Cross, itself inspired by The Sonnets by Ted Berrigan, and quickly led to Blue Rock and Long Stemmed Roses in a Shattered Mirror, each with its unique structure and inspiration. (Anne Waldman, for the former; Diane Wakoski, the latter.)

Village of Gargoyles is the latest, often with a specific structure for each of the 10 sections. Some forms run longer than others, which introduces variety. And within each, I’m free to play and tinker.

Admittedly, the 200 poems of my Village fall short of John Berryman’s colossal Dream Songs, but it’s still a prolific output.

~*~

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

 

LOOKING FOR AN IDENTITY

How truly does anyone know himself or herself, much less others, in the end? The poems in Village of Gargoyles spring from experiments in self-identification that spread into human interactions.

While many of the individuals within this collection are identified by occupation, their confessions typically reflect the more intimate concerns of their lives – relationships, activities, even the weather. These are, then, overheard snippets more than public proclamations.

What began as an exercise in self-definition breaks out nonetheless into an entire spectrum of personalities. Do we know any of these people? Or are they somehow eluding us, masked by the bits that are revealed? Those we recognize, moreover, happen by accident – none of these are portraits of actual people, as the disclaimer would go, but rather the inventions of the poet’s imagination and craft.

Chaucer had his pilgrims. I have my village.

Like an actor, you’re invited to slip into each of these 200-plus characters.

Tell me. What makes a community?

~*~

Village of Gargoyles

To see the full collection, simply click here.