Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Crab Creek, Sugar Creek, and Spoon River

When the mail did arrive yesterday, in answer to my question, “Where’s the mail?”, it brought the new issue of Crab Creek Review, where, in a wonderful random coincidence, I found myself back-to-back with Marie Gauthier, the lovely poet I also mentioned yesterday as having just been reviewed at Fiddler Crab, home of the poetry chapbook review! Marie’s poem “Dispatch from the Sick-House” is on page 17, and my poem “Waking Up Fragile” is on page 18 of the winter issue of Crab Creek, with its marvelous magical rowboat cover! I hope it is all right to reproduce it here, sending you to more of Lucia Neare’sTheatrical Wonders here!

This particular photo reminds me of a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the woods of Saginaw, Michigan, many years ago.  I was Titania (and Hippolyta) and was rowed across to a clearing for one of the scenes. Of course, I was not the one wearing the ass head.

Then yesterday I was gazing into the cold but rippling water of Sugar Creek, snow and ice on its banks, as we stacked a tower of freshwater mussel shells for a new ad to go with a new logo for Spoon River Poetry Review, now edited by Kirstin Hotelling Zona, who wants to make a clear distinction between the review, named for the actual Spoon River, and Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters, a completely different poetic endeavor.

Spoon River, as Zona explains in her introduction to issue 36.1, the winter/spring 2011 issue of SRPR, “was itself purportedly named for the palm-sized freshwater mussels to which it was home, bivalves whose shells, so the story has it, were used by the region’s Native Americans in preparing and serving food.” 

Yes, as spoons.

So that’s what we were doing: stacking shells like pancakes in a heap, or pearly inside up as spoons, and strewing them on the crackly ice and snow in that “certain slant of light” (not at all oppressive) of a winter afternoon.

Here’s how this came about: in “Amelie” fashion, when Kirstin asked if any of us Sugar Creek and Spoon River poet naturalists might have some photos of stacked mussels, or a set of mussels to stack, I recommended Dennis Campbell, a biology professor, whose class I’d once accompanied down to the banks of Sugar Creek to find and sort mussel shells.*

Soon after that field day, I wrote a wacky poem incorporating the wacky names of freshwater mussel species in Illinois. Look for it to appear in a forthcoming issue of SRPR! I connected Kirstin and Dennis by email, because, hey, that’s what I do, and sure enough he drove up from Springfield, stopping in Lincoln, to pick up mussel shells from his Lincoln College lab, and we spent a lovely afternoon under the blue sky, looking at water, and taking pictures of shells.  Look for them in a forthcoming ad for SRPR.

*Dennis and his class also found the world’s largest woolly mammoth on another field day that spring!  Look for it (in pieces) in the Illinois State Museum and the soon-to-open Environmental Center at Lincoln College! Both tusks were found (and I got to stick my arm up one), a partial jaw, and other pieces, and perhaps there will be more (mammoth) to come!

So, from Crab Creek to Sugar Creek and Spoon River, from freshwater mussels to woolly mammoths, all in one blog entry. That should get us through the hump of the week!

For me, it’s back to the “exquisite dark beauty” of Crab Creek Review, as editors Kelli Russell Agodon & Annette Spaulding-Convy call it in their Editors’ Note. Exquisite, indeed.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Wahoo on the publication and having your poem nestled next to Marie G.'s, like two mussel shells spooning.

Thanks for the awesome pictures as well.

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Sandy. Yes, I love all this spooning and, of course, the various coincidii!

Thanks to Dennis for the photos--by coincidence sent by email this morning as I was composing the blog entry!

Kim said...

Love those photos!

Kathleen said...

Kim J. Kimmel! We should all go a mussel gathering sometime!

Photographe à Dublin said...

A really enjoyable piece of writing. Our weather is so foul it was pleasant to be reminded that being out of doors is actually fun.

Happy New Year.

Kathleen said...

Thank you, Dublin! It's gorgeous today, too! And a happy new year to you.