Sunday, January 2, 2011
When I read the very first poem, "Black Dirt Girls," I knew I would love this book, as I grew up on the fertile prairie, too, all that black dirt, and "tall grasses, / bent by heads bursting with grain, were lit / with hosts of lightning bugs tilting like drunks." Great image, huh? We see the fireflies and the grasses, but it also sustains itself factually, with grain alcohol intoxicating the metaphorical heads of the prairie grasses, or wheat.
Of course, I mostly saw the fireflies in corn rows, or hovering over beans, whatever was planted that particular year. And still do, as my parents still live in the same place, and I spend lots of time at their farmhouse, in all seasons.
Sandy Longhorn is a poet I have met here in the blogosphere--hers is the Kangaroo blog in the blogroll!-- and we exchanged books at Christmastime! You can click to buy her book at her blog, or here, the Anhinga Press site, where you can also see sample poems and the full book design credits. The cover photo is by George Byron Griffiths.
And the title of her blog is an Emily Dickinson quotation, a memorable phrase from one of her letters to Thomas Wentworth Higginson. So you know I was bound to love Sandy. I sent her an Emily Dickinson collage bookmark with shiny rain and a button on it, and she sent me one of her poetry collage cards. (So now I admire her ability with glue as well as poetry.)
OK, and another coincidence of love--the title "Black Dirt Girls" is inspired by the title of an Emmylou Harris song, "Red Dirt Girl," as Sandy says in the notes at the back of the book! Yay, Emmylou! I confess I have looked at the Notes before finishing the book--I am halfway through--as this is a full collection, not a chapbook, and I need to read it slowly and to re-read it; poetry takes great attention.
Remember yesterday, attention, and that river of stones? So here is what I wanted to tell you. The poem "Fence Line to Hill Rise" tells about the boulders left behind by the Laurentide Ice Sheet, huge rocks that encounter the plow, glacial residue that contributes to the good black dirt, and then here's the last stanza:
Smaller stones rise up each year,
heaved to the surface by frost
to clank against the disk blades,
forcing us to reclaim the fields.
The earth gives birth to what it wants,
fodder for cairns at the fence corners.
(Ah, again the words do their double work--"frost" is what it is, and the earth does what it does, and the rocks are there for building cairns, but in the background of this poem is Robert Frost's poem, somehow, "Mending Wall," without any trouble at all--of course, Frost's name is its own metaphor--just "echoes of receding ice.")
On a granite boulder in the poem "Labor Day on the Bremer Blacktop" you can see the "sun catching mica flints / in the rock's grain, / dazzling as any city skyline at dusk."
There was mica in yesterday's book, too, Stone for an Eye, by Karen Craigo, in poem VI:
I like to think it's mica
that glistens in this stone--
they make windows
from mica, and that's
a handy metaphor.
I first encountered mica, or "fool's gold," in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and was forever charmed by it, still caught in the glitter of childhood memory.
Back to Blood Almanac, and "June," in which Sandy Longhorn provides a list poem, inspired by the structure of a Lucie Brock-Boido poem (credited under the title and in a note at the end of the book), of what "I am," as "June" comes in a section of 12 self-portrait poems, each a month of the year. In "June,"
Am six river pebbles sucked dry...
I'm just about to start the "Listening in the Dark" section now, which will contribute to my January attentiveness, I'm sure. But here is an image and a stanza from "December" for you, that relates to Craigo's mica windows and the month we've all just finished:
Winter is made of this muteness and these windows
and the long view of white fields through icy glass
where nothing moves and nothing raises its voice.
braggadocio--and having to look them up or ask my mom, and, oddly, the actual page and typeface. I probably got the book from the library. I remember being concerned about snakebite.
And who recalls the snake in the grass scene from Elsie Dinsmore?! And, ah, Emily Dickinson..."A narrow fellow in the grass."
Anyhoo, I loved the film, seen yesterday at the theatre. I always forget how loud movie theatres are, but my mom didn't forget. She remembered not to wear her hearing aid!
And what a delightful surprise at the end of the film to hear my girl, Iris Dement, singing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"! But if I start talking about Iris Dement, I'll never end this blog entry. Bye for now.
Except to remind you that there's lots of blood in True Grit, and there will be more to come from the Blood Almanac!
OK, one more tiny river-of-stones coincidental thing: this morning I paid attention to frost on the window glass! OK, two little things. Blood Almanac also makes me think fondly of "Sestina" by Elizabeth Bishop, with its recurring almanac! OK, really, goodbye. You hang up. No, you hang up.