Tuesday, September 13, 2011

And Know This Place

One foot in front of the other. Determined not to abandon this blog! It has brought me good things in the past - new poets discovered, friendships formed (that's the best part). The next thing I need to do is to start catching up on all y'all: friends, bloggers I don't know personally but like to follow - I have been missing out on a lot. Just call me the Prodigal Blogger.

But since it got late and I'm tired, this is just a quickie bit of shameless self-promotion, although it's a bit of others-promotion as well! There's a gorgeous new anthology in town - And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana, published by the Indiana Historical Society Press, edited by Jenny Kander and C.E. Greer. In the works for several years, this big (nearly 400 pages) volume includes Hoosier poets past and present, everyone from James Whitcomb Riley to Ruth Stone to Etheridge Knight to, well, yours truly. There is even a cool geographical index in the back, with a map of Indiana so you can find the places mentioned in the poems and the birthplaces of those poets who were actually born in the state.

The physical book itself (yes, this matters) is a hardcover - solid, hefty, with paper that feels good to the hand, well-chosen typography, and enough white space on the page to make the poems a pleasure to read. Bet you anything you will find some old friends here, perhaps some poets you didn't realize had an Indiana connection, as well as terrific new poets you hadn't encountered before. The poems aren't all "about" Indiana though many of them do evoke a strong sense of place; the foreword by Roger Mitchell puts this balance of inner and outer landscape in perspective as well as outlining a bit of Hoosier poetry history. It's an anthology I am very proud to be a small part of, and one I'll be digging into for quite a while.

And people, this puppy is a bargain - the list price is only $24.95. You can order it via the Indiana Historical Society's gift shop, or via the usual Barnazon & Amanoble megastores.

(Anyone out there working on a syllabus for a "poetry of place" type class or anything about Midwestern literature? This would be a fantastic title to include!)

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Yeah, I'm still here. Slowly easing my way back into poetry, and since this is supposed to be the blog in which I talk about mostly poetry/writing-related stuff, I think maybe I'll be easing my way back into blogging too. I hope so - I do miss it, and the community I found via blogging.

I've had a couple of readings lately - a featured spot in the Brick Street Poetry Series up in Zionsville, IN (really fun), and a spot on the Spoken Word Stage at the 4th Street Festival of Arts & Crafts last weekend (fun, but it was 102 degrees and the "stage" was in the middle of the street in full sun, which meant only the truly dedicated stayed to listen). I'll write a post soon about the new anthology that's just come out, And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana (it's really, really lovely). That's about all the poetry news 'round here though.

I've about had it with the media blathering on about the tenth anniversary of 9/11/01. There's little new to be said, I suspect, though if it can be cathartic or healing for some people, then I'm glad for them. Instead of adding to the 9/11 blather, I'm going to post my poem about 9/10, and that desire we all have when something terrible happens to go back to the moment before and hold on for dear life. The sestina seemed like an appropriate form for this one, since you keep going back to the same end words and using them over and over again, holding on to them. (Sorry 'bout the small font. I'm trying to keep the lines from breaking all over the place. If you have trouble reading it, you can enlarge the text in most browsers by hitting control-+ on Windows machines; I'm sure there is a Mac equivalent...)

9/10/01: Sestina

It was the day before.
I rode six miles out to sea to look for whales.
As we drifted nearly out of sight of land
we spied a small whale in the distance
alongside a larger whale, its mother, diving, lifting flukes.
As we approached the calf began to breach.

The morning sun struck the back of the calf, shining, as it continued to breach.
The boat drew closer. I’d never been so close before.
So often, as the boat pulled near, a whale would dive with one last thrust of flukes
but the morning of September 10 was a good one for watching whales.
The seas were calm, Provincetown’s monument familiar in the distance –
a reassuring glimpse of home, of land.

That small whale buoyed me as I flew home that night, my plane the last to land.
I could still feel waves rocking me, a breach
in the solid wall of my landlocked life. Traveling such a distance
alone – something I hadn’t dared before –
felt as brave as those whales,
as graceful as the lifting of flukes.

I’d bought a silver necklace shaped like flukes.
I clutched it like an amulet all the next day as news broke about “war in our own land.”
Provincetown seemed a lifetime ago, the sea, the joy, the whales.
Like everyone I stood stunned, complacency utterly breached.
What to say? How to respond? All the words I’d used before
fell away silent into the distance.

All I wanted was to return to that distance,
sun glistening on morning seas, the curve of flukes.
I held on so hard to before.
As events unfolded I felt lost in my own land,
each day’s news trumpeting some new security breach.
But somewhere out to sea there are still whales.

Part of me stayed out there with those whales,
the calf leaping into air, others in the distance,
the way he hung there for a moment mid-breach,
pure bone and muscle, fin and fluke.
I want it not to matter, what happens on distant land.
Somewhere it is always the day before.

What did I know, before I saw whales?
I was a land mammal dreaming of the distance.
Now I clutch the grace of flukes, the animal exuberance of the breach.

-Anne Haines
published in Breach (Finishing Line Press, 2008)