Copyright ÂŠ Duncan George
Written River is a literary journal published by Hiraeth Press which focuses on poetry and non-fiction prose exploring nature and our relationship to it. Published quarterly in digital format, we strive to encourage the discipline of ecopoetics and return the voice of the poet to the body of the Earth. Ecopoetics is poetry in which the energy of the ecosystem flows through the poem, creating a written river of words which ebbs with the creativity of the entire Earth community. Written River marks the confluence of many streams and many voices as they flow back into the nourishing ground of the watershed.
Submission Guidelines for Written River Written River accepts unsolicited submissions. Our Journal primarily publishes poetry (any form as long as the verse is theme-relevant), nonfiction, (essays, autobiographical stories, and travel writing), interviews and book reviews. Please send a short cover letter, biographical statement and a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx) attachment of: Up to 5 poems not exceeding 15 pages. Please send a query letter and an excerpt if you would like a long form poem to be considered. Nonfiction work of 5000 words or less. We prefer electronic submissions. This is currently our only method of accepting submissions. Email submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We usually respond to submissions within 4-6 weeks. Submitted works should be previously unpublished. We are open to publishing a limited number of poems/ essays may have appeared in print or online, but the author must hold sole rights to the work.We do accept original artwork/photographs. We request that images be scanned with a resolution of at least 300 dpi and attached it to the query email, which should also contain a cover letter. Simultaneous submissions are permitted; however, we ask to be notified promptly if your submitted work is accepted elsewhere. NOTE: If your work is seasonally themed you should consider our issue deadlines below. Written River Submission Deadlines: Winter Solstice Issue: October 20th Summer Solstice Issue: April 20th
winter 2011 issue volume 2 issue 2 7 · Letter from the Editor 10 · Mountain as Mandala: An Interview with the filmakers of Shugendō Now Frank Owen 17 · Wild Earth Poetry Prize 20 · Terra Incognita Rara Avis 21 · The Ataxic Queen of the Lasius Niger Andrea Witzke Slot 22 · Riddle in October 23 · Early February, Southern New Mexico Autumn Shape of Flow, Foothills of the Franklins Robin Scofield 24 · Alone in the Mountains William Cullen, Jr. 26 · At the Mountain Top 27 · Black Hills Peter Neil Carrol 30 · A Preview of Border Crossings Ian Marshall 36 · Head food! It is . . . T. Parker Sanborn 37 · Small News Item in the Midst of War 38 · seel: to stitch closed the eyes (of a falcon) during training Francine Tolf 40 · Misty Mountain Memories Jamie K. Reaser 41 · Along Aquohee Way King Coal 42 · Field Guide Jenny Ward Angyal 43 · . . . with honey. 44 · An Excerpt from Night, Mystery & Light J.K. McDowell 51 · Contributor Biographies
Letter from the Editor
rom beneath a bare thorn tree down in the valley, I can see the Snowdonia mountains of North Wales rise into icy mist. It is the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. Despite the finger-tingling cold, despite the six hours of half light we have here, my heart glows. There is something about the grey and green lines of this landscape, the way it tumbles like a mountain rill over slate and granite, that is mirrored in my skin, in the neurons of my brain, in the way my hair falls around my shoulders. My musings like the mist rise up into dense cloud cover. A shiver runs down and then up my spine, the same aesthetic chill I get when listening to powerful music, to ancient poems, or to a film’s dialogue. It is vajra-like, a diamond lightning bolt cutting through to my core. It’s an experience of being made exposed to the world for all to see who you really are. Here on the slopes of Dyffryn Nantlle and Drws-y-Coed, I remember how much this place is not just mountains, not just crag, gorse, heather, birch and thistle, not just hawk, red kite, wild goat, black cattle, sheep and song bird--nor is it just the stone cottages, little chapels and the little mountain people who live here. This place is also my psyche. Sometimes, I wonder if I shouldn’t be called Jennifer anymore, but Eryri, the Welsh name for the tallest mountain in Wales and for this mountain range too. It means “highland.” When someone says this place’s name, I turn around and answer. The 9th century Chinese poet Han Shan would have understood. His poetry collection depicts the entangled identity of person, psyche and place. In one poem, he writes: People ask the way to Cold Mountain but roads don't reach Cold Mountain in summer the ice doesn't melt and the morning fog is too dense how did someone like me arrive our minds are not the same if they were the same you would be here1 For Han Shan, whose name means “Cold Mountain” like the place itself, the man, his mind, the mind of the mountain, and the mountain itself all intermingle as one and the same. Such intimate identification, where human and place are embedded in one another, has never stopped since humanity first evolved. What it means to be human and what it means to be wild are not mutually exclusive. It’s our minds who have forgotten how interdependent we are with the wild, whether that wildness is found on a mountain top, a river or an inner city’s towering apartments. It is our task then to return our minds to the wild. We never really left it, for it's in our bone and blood and breath. But we have to remember the place of our origin - that is the Earth. As Alan Watts said, “You didn't come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.” Remembering our place in the wild is the spirit and purpose of this journal and the work of Hiraeth Press. This midwinter, wherever you are in the world, we hope that the words of Written River flow through you and flourish with the place, the human, the wildness that you are. Yours from the mountains, Jenn / Eryri
1. Red Pine, trans. The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. Revised and Expanded. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 2000. 47
Copyright ÂŠ T.P. Sanborn
Mandala “The mountain is our mother. Our body re-enters our mother’s womb, returning once more for rebirth.” —Hisagishi Shinsei, modern shugenja
An interview with the filmmakers of Shugendō Now Frank Owen
11 From the very first sounds we encounter in the film Shugendō Now, we realize we are in for a highly textural, sensual film-viewing experience. Water droplets, wind, and subtle vibrations radiating out from metal chimes all coalesce with various kinds of imagery, ranging from pristine natural places to bustling cityscapes in modern Japan. We then see words on the screen that put indicate we are entering a spiritual geography: “The yamabushi are those who enter the mountain to seek experiential truth. They perform austerities and ritual actions adopted from shamanism, the kami tradition (Shinto), Esoteric Buddhism and Daoism. This syncretic tradition is called Shugendō.”
Believed to have first been organized by a 7th century mystic named En no Ozunu (a.k.a. En no Gyōja), Shugendo is not one isolated tradition but various expressions of spiritual practice that share common practices and similar aims. Ozunu—who is venerated as a bodhisattva—authored the Sutra on the Unlimited Life of the Threefold Body, a central text used by shugenja. A map appears, stylistically produced as a landscape painting of the Kumano mountain range in Japan, including Mt. Omine (one of the pilgrimage sites and holy mountains of this ancient tradition). As we hear reverberations from a temple bell, the “geographic map” fades backward and an image rushes forth to meet us, namely ancient Japanese iconography depicting the buddhas and bodhisattvas that occupy the Womb-Realm and Vajra-Realm mandaras (Skt: mandala, a circular design depicting images of religious significance). Without overtly interpreting or over-intellectualizing, the intuitive filmmaking and editing style of Shugendō Now softly guides viewers into understanding: the mandalas are the mountains, the mountains are the mandalas, and practitioners of Shugendō journey through the mountainsas-mandalas to the dwelling place of the kami and buddhas. The filmmakers, both from Montréal, are Mark Patrick McGuire, a humanities professor at John Abbott College, and Jean-Marc Abela, a talented self-taught filmmaker. Driven by my own “haunted familiarity” with elements of Shintō and Japanese tantric Buddhism, I watched the film earlier this year and reached out to Mark and Jean-Marc to connect with them about their beautiful film. —Frank Owen
WR: Written River MARK: Mark McGuire JEAN-MARC: Jean-Marc Abela WR: First of all, Mark and Jean-Marc, thank you for taking the time for this dialogue. You’re both men-on-the-move, with lots of creative endeavors and projects, so I’m grateful for your willingness to discuss your film – Shugendō Now. MARK / JEAN-MARC: We thank you for the opportunity to share our reflections on the film! WR: You have created a compelling documentary that will appeal to readers of Written River for different reasons. What was your initial inspiration for the film and how long were you in Japan filming? MARK: I was initially attracted to these places and practices as a first-year graduate student looking for a field site to do my Ph.D. research. It was about to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and become a global hot spot for tourists and curiosity seekers, so I wanted to learn as much as I could about its past and present and chart the changes that would occur in the future. After having the chance to participate in some of the mountain ascetic practices and spend time with some of the priests and lay practitioners, my attention shifted to the motivations each had for participating in these traditional practices. They come from a fast-paced, modern age, so my interest was in the ways diverse urban pilgrims apply what they learn in their daily lives, in urban centers like Tokyo and Osaka. The stories they told me about what took them to the mountain—and what they came home with—inspired me to collaborate with Jean-Marc in trying to represent the practices and places through an accessible documentary film. WR: Briefly describe the tradition for Shugendō for readers of Written River. MARK: Shugendō is a Tantric vehicle, which means that its practices are only for the initiated and features some hidden or secret practices only transmitted from teacher to student. It brings together ritual practices from the kami tradition (Shinto), Shamanism, Tantric Buddhism and Daoism with a premium placed upon a physical experience of the teachings’ truth. So, practitioners enter mountains, forests, waterfalls, caves and streams in order to have a visceral contact with
12 the sacred. As Tanaka Riten of the temple Kimpusenji explains at the beginning of the film, “For us, these mountains are the dwellings of the kami and buddhas. If you want to simply enjoy trekking, you can go hiking on your own time.” WR: I have known about the traditions of the shugenja, or yamabushi, since the late-1980s when I began practicing Aikido and learning about the life and many influences of O-Sensei, Morihei Ueshiba, its founder. Like Shugendō, Ueshiba was influenced by the kami tradition, Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism, Zen, and Daoism; while it is not immediately obvious, the worldview of Aikido is shaped by all of these streams. Later, I encountered Shugendō as a topic in my undergraduate studies in Japanese religions. It is fascinating to see these ancient traditions depicted on film, and a truly soul-stirring component is seeing modern people (many of them from highly congested urban settings) taking part in pilgrimages, honoring nature, participating in a nature-based spirituality. What were your own personal impressions about these juxtapositions – ancient-modern, nature-technological, etc.? JEAN-MARC: I think we all have a deep connection with nature. That may sound like an obvious statement but in our modern and urban lifestyle it needs to be stated. Of course, cities offer great cultural experiences and places of refuge, but nothing seems to compare to standing in a forest. The sounds, the vibrations, the smells, and sight of it all, I think, bring great peace within all of us. Therefore, the people who live in highly congested urban settings have an even greater need to get out there and breathe the forest into their lives. Many viewers tell us after watching the film that they want to go for a walk outside the city after watching the film and this is how we hoped people would react. WR: Like Shugendō’s own characteristic weaving of different facets together, your film does a magnificent job of weaving different elements: stunning footage of the natural world, documentation of a unique spiritual tradition, and investigating certain key questions. Was the theme of the film already in place at the outset, or did it organically evolve as you were documenting these traditions? JEAN-MARC: From the start of the project we wanted to weave together urban and natural spaces. The question that remained was how we would achieve this without hitting any of the clichés normally associated with Japan. The opening sequence was the scene used to explore this. I started editing it while shooting in Kumano.
Before I left Japan, I had several different versions of the opening. Returning home, I continued this exploration, from very drastic juxtapositions of images and sounds, but it never felt quite right until I decided to keep the sounds of nature throughout the opening sequence, which included scenes of cityscapes. When we watched it together, Mark instantly approved and observed that this was more in-line with our views on the subject: that nature is everywhere around us. MARK: There were two important juxtapositions that we wished to highlight: that of the productive tension between the mountains and the city, and the different personalities, efforts and intended audiences of our two main characters (Tateishi Kôshô and Tanaka Riten) as they sought to creatively re-invent the traditional practices for busy, urban people. On the surface, these men are very different personalities, with different approaches, who, in turn, attract different individuals. However, at their core, what they are doing is very similar. As for how we illustrated these juxtapositions with our footage; that came together organically both during initial shooting and post-production. Jean-Marc is a highly intuitive, self-taught filmmaker with an excellent eye for detail and pattern, so I was comfortable giving him full creative decision-making power over the direction the film would take. WR: In the film, you offer viewers an inside-view of the preparations that some of the practitioners of Shugendō undertake. How did you make these connections, meet these practitioners, and secure permission to be part of their sacred ceremonies? JEAN-MARC: Each connection is a little bit different. Mark had a previous relationship with Tateishi Kôshô and Tanaka Riten. These were important people to know as they each gave us access to their respective temple and the participants who visit them. I think this says a lot about the relationship that Mark cultivated with the head priests over the years. He has a very respectful and sensitive approach as an academic and a filmmaker. A good example of this is the story around the release forms that we got each person in the film to sign. I had brought examples from previous projects, but of course they were in English and they needed to be translated into Japanese, which Mark did. When he presented to me his translation, the new version of the release form was no longer written in cold, direct legal language, but was much softer. It also shared the goals of our film and what we intended to do with it, offering our responsibility with the
13 material we were filming instead of just asking people to sign away their rights. From there, I knew I wanted to proceed carefully as a camera operator and I found that I was much more welcomed by the people as they now understood our intentions and wanted to help create this film. WR: In one part of the film, we see a large gathering of people (men, women, children, families). Sacred arrows are shot into the air and offerings are made to a ceremonial fire (goma). Describe for us your experience of this gathering as both filmmaker but also as an individual awake-and-aware spiritually. JEAN-MARC: All of the Goma ceremonies we filmed were special in their own way. It’s a very powerful shamanic experience and I personally feel a deep connection to the transformative powers of fire. I didn’t feel the need to know exactly what they were saying and Mark informed me that even most Japanese people didn’t know as they were talking in an older dialect. The significance of the fire ritual is universal. As a cameraman, I try to fuse with the subjects I am filming, and so I got taken into a trance with the drumming, chanting and fire. Of course, while I try to fuse as much as possible, I also need to step out of the moment, look around, and see how I can best capture it. This is the job of a documentary cameraman: sometimes it’s a sacrifice not to be able to totally participate in an event so that you can capture it and share it. But, sometimes that journey brings its own benefits and discoveries. WR: One of my favorite parts of the film is your documenting the life of Tateishi Kôshô. What a compelling figure! Just to make readers aware, Kôshô lives on a Shugendō compound (complete with temple) beneath the Kumano Mountains; he performs the role of priest but is also a guardian of the land. In the film, we see that some expressions of the Shugendō traditions restrict women from access to certain sites and holy mountains; yet Kôshô-san has broken off on his own, practices more of a householder (family, villagecentric) expression of the traditions. He seems to have a remarkable ability to balance things in life. He practices a minimum-impact lifestyle, raises his own rice, and sees cooking as an extension of Shugendō practice. On the one hand, he has an apprentice, and performs the duties of a yamabushi, yet he also has a family and plays the role of environmental activist for a specific patch of ground. Tell us more about this man. JEAN-MARC: I first learned of Tateishi Kôshô in
Montréal when Mark told me about his idea for this film. My first response was, “This man would make a perfect subject for a film!” Mark replied, “I know. It’s why I’m telling you so much about him!” Tateishi Kôshô has many facets to his personality. His activities range from cooking, playing music at sacred ceremonies, tending to the forest and his experiences as a priest and traveler. Discussions with him always make for fascinating stories. When I first met him in Kumano, we were in the middle of a typhoon, and we spent the night cooking, drinking, playing music, sharing stories and ideas. I was instantly enamored with this man. Later on, I realized that spending 21 days with him would only give us a glimpse into this amazing person. I learned that he had lived in New York working in business, travelled in India for a few years as a musician, and had been part of a butoh dance group as well. I think this is what cinema does so well. Without ever sharing some of his stories or telling the audience more details about him, people tell me that they get a good sense of his personality just from watching the film. You can sense his rich lifestyle in everything he does. This is how I see this man: a rich person because he fully enjoys each little thing that life offers him as a precious gift; and this gratefulness he experiences is in full expression each time one of his devotees sends him a gift, which he quickly takes to his altar. WR: The account he gives of combating unchecked dumping and pollution is inspiring. It is, in effect, an expression of “engaged Shugendō” (spirituality meets environmental and social activism). You were afforded a very intimate view of this particular expression of contemporary Japanese environmental activism. What were your impressions? JEAN-MARC: Kôshô-san expresses himself quite clearly on this issue throughout the film. For him there is no separation between his devotions to the Buddhas and kami, and his work as an environmental activist. They are one and the same. I fully agree with him. I think this is true for everything we do, and one of the great challenges of our modern lives is to find a way to live in our actions the values that we hold dear in our hearts and minds. We are constantly swayed towards a lifestyle of consumption that contradicts what we know to be more important issues, such as social welfare for workers around the world and environmental protection. Finding that balance is difficult. As Kôsô-san shares with us: “We must not become ‘eco-fanatics’ because we might not enjoy the process or we might become too rigid and lose sight of our purpose.”
Sanro Frank Owen For fools like us wandering always goes on for a long time. Cycling through lifetimes hooked to our compulsions obsessions sufferings until we step off the spinning wheel. In that moment we graduate from the allure of the Floating World. But the cycling goes on through bodies and names names and bodies. Until we remember who we really are, names are nothing but blind horses. They carry us for a while but they cannot find the Other Shore. This is why we have to earn and re-learn our true names.
• The only name for me now is the silent one.
The one first taken so long ago beneath the moon at Kugami. The spirit that breathed those lungs then breathes these lungs now. The only practice for me is the one that was given: Pushing a deep eye past the veils to paradise. That is the shape of this remembering memories-before-memories. The rest —tea, sitting, poetry— is just that original breathing coming back down from where the mountain became a living mandala.
Copyright ÂŠ Jamie K. Reaser
All Photos Copyright ÂŠ Teresa Conner
Wild Earth Poetry Prize
2 01 2
Copyright © Teresa Conner
Beginning in 2012 Hiraeth Press will only be accepting poetry submissions through our Wild Earth Poetry Prize. If you are an author who has recently penned a poetry collection and are interested in submitting your manuscript to Hiraeth Press we welcome you to enter. A prize of publication, 10 complimentary author copies and a generous 30% royalty contract are given annually for two poetry collections. To enter submit a copy of your manuscript of 50 to 125 pages by December 1st, 2012. The entry fee is $10. The winning manuscripts will be published in 2013. The winning authors will each receive a feature spread in Hiraeth Press’ biannual journal, Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics. To enter, the poetry collection must be previously unpublished. The author must hold full rights to their work. International entries are welcome; however manuscripts must be in English. A limited number of individual poems may have appeared in print or online but the poet must hold sole rights to the work. Multiple entries by a single author are welcome but a separate entry forms and fees must be paid for each entry. For those of you entering by post mail please include the following in your entry: The full manuscript A cover letter A brief biographical statement Check made payable to: Hiraeth Press Self-address stamped postcard (Should you desire confirmation of receipt of your entry.) Please note that manuscripts submitted to the contest via post mail will not be returned. Please do not send us the original copy of your manuscript. Post entries should be send to: Hiraeth Press Attn: Wild Earth Poetry Prize PO Box 1442 Pawcatuck, CT 06379-1968 United States of America Please see our website for information on submitting your manuscript and entry fee by e-mail: www.hiraethpress.com/ submissions/poetryprize
18 Copyright ÂŠ Duncan George
Terra Incognita AndreaWitzke Slot I have scaled unknown ridges and cliffs, only to abseil downward, dropping inside the holes of caves where stalagmites pierced the floors of darkened rooms. I have found mines deep within the crevices of sleeping mountains, waded in underground springs of manatees, minerals, sand. I have upturned rocks, searched the roots of trees in acres of eclipsed valleys, hiked along shores,
of falcons and the distant morning dove, the sun glinting off pines that reached upwards with outstretched hands.
But do not tell me that love makes us into fools. I know the shadows that pause within the folds of these hills, still miles from where I stand.
I’ve heard the secrets farmers keep, irrigation and rotating crops, when to move in, when to start a fire. I’ve seen the red skies. I know the warning of dawn.
a star on a night when meteorologists say seeing stars will be impossible,
I want to show you how frozen waters can once again flow, how fields will blaze anew, if touched by the sun. Blame me, but I will open the curtains. After all, I have lived here for a million years and am long past finding my way home.
aurora borealis, exploding above an obscure horizon, heat turning darkness into color, clarified, even when we are too many days, persons, problems apart, even when I dream dark dreams of breakage. It is then I know it to be true: a star will emit light for billions upon billions of years, even when it no longer exists.
Copyright © Jamie K. Reaser
lakes, becks, running streams. Once I stopped for days at a single hillside, made a bed inside, woke to the sound
The Ataxic Queen of the Lasius Niger AndreaWitzke Slot Witness the birth of a nation, of a billion lives, a billion elfin daughters, grubs no less who spin themselves into silken cocoons, tiny balls of life, living off their motherâ€™s spit and piss, for there is little else to take. But just wait. Soon they will morph into princesses: sexless sisters emerging with the desire to build a new worldâ€” the angiogenesis of a colony, a thousand tiny veins running toward the pumping heart of their single, martyred mother. All blood leads to her: one powerful, immobile Queen, who will never again see the sky, who left their father, now dead, on their nuptial flight. For a few days, she was so alone, never to be that alone again. Did she know what she was doing when she slipped off her wings, disappeared into the dirt, and spawned an empire?
Riddle in October Robin Scofield Sunset erodes the hour, dayâ€™s mandala, a circling crow. The western-sloping ravine gashes clouds, tumbling boulders polished as jewels. My hand is a fractal, repeating plum and yellow vines that snare my snake boots tracking the three hills. Cirrus clouds flower outside history. Seeds fly, bits of paper that hurtle, unlike meditating dragonflies whose vision encompasses 360 degrees, incomplete as the drumming stars on a wind the spiraling hawk catches and forms.
Copyright ÂŠ Teresa Conner
Early February, Southern New Mexico Robin Scofield When the late snowstorm kisses Sierra Blanca the Mescalero Apache bless the weather as the spirits of skiers lift and return to the slopes after a thirsty season. Elk stand the cold and eat late apples that fall in the snow puddles, grazing after thaw and refreeze, good for farmers, hunters, and their ilk. But for the migrating monarchs spring is best humid above freezing. On their way to Michuacan, they stop in the Gila, above the cattle factories and milk plants, far from the bulldozers and shoppers and dangerous headlamps. Thereâ€™s been no sun for many days. When rays do light the chips of flame, orange icicles drip down mottled pines to white slopes. Chill precipitation, the Goddess who matters.
Autumn Shape of Flow, Foothills of the Franklins Robin Scofield
The key to a diary, hidden in a tree, was lost for many years, and bees built a hive there, and the words turned into honey, for the diary was lost in time. I wish Wordsworth had likened the mind to mountains not to mansions, or to yurts, to which I could retreat up the serrated seam, following the gouges of waterfalls, the shape of flash floods. Slag from an ancient mine carves time into chunks, but I donâ€™t sell my hoursâ€” I climb the waterfall and the next hill, see rusted pipes, bottles, and railway ties. My footsteps scrunch. I sit on a granite rock among the limestone and write what I have written out before again in the present moment.
Alone in the Mountains William Cullen, Jr. I toss the last bit of wood my old walking stick on the campfire giving me just enough light to finish reading John Muir as the smoke drifts like a ghost down the trail.
Copyright ÂŠ Duncan George
At the Mountain Top Peter Neil Carroll
Kayford, West Virginia
The mountain man points across a half-mile gap to a hill where silver leaves shiver in strong gusts, to family graves, centuries old, unreachable without permission from the coal company.
At the sunny crest, the mountain man guides us past a yellow crack the size of a barbeque pit. He calls it land rupture; I lean over to see where it leads—down, down, a ragged black shaft.
Coal keeps the lights on, the company brags. On in the funeral parlor, the mountain man says, inviting Jim and me to visit what’s left of his hill since the last dragline shovel devoured Appalachia.
Dynamite’s ripped open the belly, gutted the hill from below. He says, please be careful, you don’t want to fall in. We walk on toes by spindly trees until the light opens to face the stark precipice.
Face smudged, boots soaked in sludge, the old coal miner still hoists hammer and pick to a rocky ledge, sets charges, chokes on dust, coughs blood, dies hard.
The mountain next door has vanished, dropped into the planet’s bowel, an entire forest gone. A few hawks fly around aimlessly; the wind carries the insistent whine of motors nearby.
And now comes the behemoth, ten stories high: with a button’s push it swallows the mountain, each bite 50,000 tons of sandstone and root, heaves its maw into the hollows below.
At the brink stands one ghost tree, black roots sinewy, naked in mid-air, branches stiff as bone. The mountain man studies the bark. Don’t fall, he advises. No one will come to save you either.
Soil, forest, whatever’s above the black seams, the company calls waste or overburden. Inside the shovel the word is spoil, and once the river’s sunk, fish killed, they speak of fill. Taking the miner out of mining means 8 billion pounds of explosives; 800 million acres of forest; 500 mountains collapsed—leaves fresh yellow-painted signs saying hazard
do not eat bass beyond this point •
We take the risky ride over washed-out gravel. Dark leaf canopy, walls of sheer rock shadow the way. Mud ditches raise the peril, coal trucks racing down, hogging the road.
Black Hills Peter Neil Carroll “all mortal greatness is but disease.” Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851) 1
Before coyote’s howl, before the buffalo moan; before aspen, pine, cottonwood rustled the wind; before the black forest in the distance played feather songs— first came the rumble of falling waters.
The billboard honors the genius of desecration, chiseler of Rushmore’s faces—thumbing presidential noses at Lakota chiefs who said the Black Hills weren’t for sale. Come visit the Wild West. Crazy Horse Mountain Helicopter Tours. Pay here.
The springs feed pink-finned chub; woods hide bear, elk, deer. Patches of forget-me-nots lie like blue carpet torn from the sky.
**his legend will enrich your patriotism**
Through the musk of damp earth, waterfalls still veil steep red rock, squirrels in pairs chase under brown brush, yellow-throats skim over shallows—
Two exiled buffalo bend on a low crest, the falling sun tints their hides, blue flies circle around woolly ears. The dry wind sways through sage, long yellow grass, shimmering butterflies.
until in midstream giggly voices rise, pony-tailed girls testing slippery rock, put your right foot in, put your right foot out, do the hokey-pokey. . . . Laughter of morning, bodies awakening, their exuberance disturbs an old man’s solitude: so what, I admit. 2 The bruised bark of every frail aspen carries the heart of Tom, dk or Chickie, each enchanted with Myra, Sam, or Blossom and one anonymous, grieving girl has engraved a two-tree sonnet to her Joey apologizing for being drunk last night. Graffiti, least of sins, next to stripped forest once dark as moonless night, where lovers of the sacred circles from birth to death to birth became spoils of war.
A single cloud throws a momentary shadow, flash of dark stopping my thoughts, of romance, rage, undoing loss.
Copyright ÂŠ T.P. Sanborn
coming spring 2012
A Preview of Border Crossings from the introduction
here comes a moment on a backpacking trip—not on the first day, but maybe on the second or third—when, for just a moment, the weight on your back disappears. You start out walking fully aware of the pack at every step and your internal monologue fully preoccupied with it and other similarly weighty matters. Geez, that’s heavy, you think—what do I have in there? Anything I don’t need? Ought to loosen the shoulder strap some, so it doesn’t pull so hard. How far have I gone? How much farther to go? Geez, that’s heavy. But eventually there comes that moment when you’ve found a rhythm beyond the litany of complaint, when you’ve been gliding along, taking in whatever lies along the trail—a nameless flower blooming and not seeming to miss the name—the intricate pattern of bark on a pine—a cloud sliding out from behind a tree, as if the tree’s canopy had detached and drifted away— another one of those flowers—and you are caught up in the rhythm of the walk, unaware not only of the weight of the pack on your back or the thud of each step on the trail but of any conscious thought at all. In that moment the boundaries between self and world dissolve. The cloud and the flower, and your movement and the cloud’s are all part of the same flow. We call it oneness, but it could just as easily be called nothingness for there is suddenly no you that exists separate from the world around you. Maybe it’s everythingness. That is the moment of what I call “packlessness.” Of course, as soon as you realize that it has arrived, as soon as you say to yourself, hey, for a moment there I forgot about the weight of the pack, I forgot about everything in fact, even about me, myself, and I . . . well, in that moment the weight is back. And you walk on. You walk on thinking about the metaphoric implications of the pack, that it is all the things that weigh you down, an unfinished task at work, an unsatisfying exchange with a colleague, the things you should have said but didn’t, the things you did say but shouldn’t have. Deadlines. Things to do. And then in the middle of thinking of all that, there’s another one of those flowers, five petals, yellow, darker yellow in the middle, you’ll have to look it up later in the field guide, and then the weight is gone again, but then you realize it’s gone so it’s back. And you walk on.
1. the day of the knife edge . . . Sunday, August 17, 2003, Roaring Brook Campground, 9.8 miles
fter two days driving, we’re in the woods at last, and setting out on the trail in the morning I recall John Muir’s giddy line in one of his letters: “I’m in the woods woods woods, & they are in me-ee-ee.”1 We’ll get to that point of reciprocal presence, I suppose, perhaps on today’s planned route up Mt. Katahdin via Chimney Pond and the Cathedral Trail, then along the Knife Edge and back to Roaring Brook. Or perhaps we’ll find it somewhere en route between Katahdin and the trail’s end in Quebec’s Parc Forillon. Over morning coffee I commence work on one of my trail assignments—to read a bit of Bashō’s Narrow Road to the Deep North each day on the trail and to see how Bashō’s experiences on a trip long ago and far away might inform my own experiences on the IAT—and vice-versa. Though I too will be headed north to a realm of mountains and coast, I know that Bashō’s metaphoric footsteps cannot serve as a trail guide to the literal terrain I’ll be walking. But I do look to Bashō as my guide to the concept of a haiku journey. The opening pages of Narrow Road, in fact, begin with a meditation on the journey theme. Time itself, says Bashō, is a journey, the “months and days are . . . wayfarers,” and “the years too, going and coming, are wanderers. . . . [E]ach day is a journey, the journey itself home.” Time is a meandering thing, it seems, wayward in its progression, leading who knows where (or when), and he is himself at home on the road. For years, he says, “drawn by a cloud wisp wind,” he has been “unable to stop thoughts of rambling,” and with “a sky of spring’s rising mist” he has decided to hike north.2 Among Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, what Bashō describes is known as “spring fever,” the perennial desire to step out of the busy, clock-driven, hum-drum world of routine and to hit the trail again. On Bashō’s day of departure, friends gathered to see him off “at the crossroads of unreality.” I suppose that even then, the civilized realm was viewed as the “real world,” which in effect renders the natural world somehow less than real. His parting was occasion for widespread lamentation, and
32 he imagines even the creatures of sea and sky joining in: “departing spring-- / birds cry, in the fishes’ / eyes are tears.” Here, early on, is a classic haiku worth pondering. It is typical of haiku in taking seasonal change as its subject, as all the natural world mourns for the “departing spring.” But the prose before this, all about Bashō’s own preparations for the journey, makes it clear that the subject is also his own departure in the spring. So there is ambiguity: is the world mourning the passing of time and the seasons, and by extension the inevitability of change and the whole lifedeath recycling scheme? Or is all of nature upset because a certain poet is feeling a little uneasy about venturing off into the woods? With the latter possibility, the hyperbole becomes hilarious. The birds are crying—but isn’t that what they always do? And they are doing so not to express their sympathy for our troubles but to mark territory or attract a mate. And even funnier—Bashō says the fish have tears in their eyes. Aren’t their eyes always at least a little moist? Or if their tears are the source of the water, the wellspring, it’s as if the fish have literally cried him a river, or an ocean. The description is so over the top that we sense some self-mockery. Bashō is projecting his own emotions onto nature, of course, anthropomorphizing outrageously, and thereby exposing our tendency towards the pathetic fallacy—that is, to imagine that all nature exists in order to sympathetically reflect or comment upon the human experience. If you are “versed in country things,” as Robert Frost’s poem has it, you would know that the fish don’t have salt water in their eyes because you’re leaving on a journey. Not everything that happens in this world is about us. The challenge to an anthropocentric view of the natural world, the seasonal awareness, the possibility of multiple meanings even in a short utterance, the humor—these are all characteristic traits of haiku.3 We set out from camp, spindly-legged but full of enthusiasm. Leaving Roaring Brook behind, I note that it’s not exactly roaring on this sunny late-summer day, but I may have heard it chuckle a bit as we departed. (A few streambed stones may have wet themselves with laughter.) At Basin Pond a short side trail takes us to a view of the northeast side of Katahdin and the steep cirque walls above Chimney Pond. It’s a double view, really, or the same view twice, once in the air and once, upside down, pictureperfect, in the still, clear waters of the pond. We meet a trio there, two young women and a guy my age wearing a Captain America bandanna. “Nice painting,” I say, nodding to the landscape, which is too perfectly gorgeous to seem quite real. They don’t miss a beat. “Thanks! We just finished it!” I look at the cirque walls, the vivid greens of spruce and fir climbing the mountain, the rich indigo of the sky, even in the reflected version, where a lone cloud dodges a pond lily. “Oh, yeah,” I say, “I can see where the paint is still wet.”
We laugh together, then trade where-ya-froms. And for the rest of the day I’m thinking about art and nature, about our tendency to express our awe at nature by seeing it as art—as if art is the highest expression of beauty, and so to praise the beauty of nature we must see it as art. And then, ironically, we compliment art by regarding it as “natural” or true to life. As a literary scholar I wonder, with Henry Thoreau in “Walking,” where is the art that gives true expression to nature—not to capture it, mind you, but to express it, to convey it—on its own terms, without the framework or lens of art predetermining how and what we see. The closest we get to that, of course, is haiku, with its focus on the natural world—looking outward at the world around us rather than inward at the self or soul or human spirit, and with its eschewing of metaphor (by which we see one thing in terms of another), and with its ideal of “wordlessness,” in which language refuses to call attention to itself, as if it is not even there intervening between us and the world called up by those few words. At Chimney Pond, we step into the canvas of the painting we earlier admired from afar. It’s an incredible spot—clear, clear water, sandy and stony bottom, surrounded by cirque walls. We’re looking up, up to the spiny ridge of the Knife Edge, where we’ll be in a few hours.
Chimney Pond upcliff to cloud the morning fog But if cloud is the equivalent of smoke in this chimney analogy, does that mean the water must be fire? No, it’s the fuel of the hydrologic cycle, and evaporation is the slowburning fire. After a snack at Chimney Pond, we head up the Saddle Trail, not quite as steep as the Cathedral Trail. I’m juiced by adrenaline, and the closer to the Table Land I get, the faster I go, even as the trail gets steeper and requires a bit of hand-over-hand scrambling. Then up Baxter, climbing the mountain, climbing the mountain, and we’re at the peak by lunchtime. • In addition to reading Bashō’s Narrow Road as accompaniment to our journey, I have also set myself the task of meditating on a principle of haiku each day on the trail. Today’s topic is “selflessness,” the first of thirteen Zen qualities of mind conducive to the reading and writing of haiku as identified by Robert Blyth. His four-volume study Haiku, appearing in the late 1940s and early 1950s, has been enormously influential in North America, beginning
33 with its impact on Beat Poets like Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac, who were fans and practitioners of haiku. A volume of Kerouac’s haiku came out just a few years ago, many years after his death, and one of Snyder’s most recent books, Danger on Peaks, is basically a collection of haibun. One of the form’s attractions for the Beats was Blyth’s identification of haiku as a kind of Zen practice, a claim which many recent haiku critics challenge. But even so, Lee Gurga notes that “it is useful and instructive to revisit Blyth’s Zen-based aesthetic principles.”4 By “selflessness” Blyth means the state of “selfidentification with nature” or “with all life, with life as a whole.” Snyder has called it “freedom from ego.” My tendency to see and admire Katahdin as a painting presupposes a self positioned outside nature, looking at it from some point outside the scene, framing it with cultural and aesthetic assumptions. I recall Paul Shepard’s view that the use of perspective in art, introduced during the early Renaissance, was the beginning of our culture’s alienation from the natural world. To view nature objectively means to be separate from it. Geographer Dennis Cosgrove has made even more damning charges, suggesting that to view a landscape, especially from an elevated prospect (like the top of a mountain), is to assert dominion or control—think of the phrase, a “commanding” view—and thereby to take possession of it. All of that is a far cry from selflessness.5 Think about the whole process of admiration. Generally, we don’t admire what we are intimate with, and certainly not what we are one with. My gushing over Katahdin all this day—“it’s so beautiful!”—amounts to an iteration of my distance from it, even as I get ever closer to the summit. But at least thinking about these things makes the uphill climb go smoothly. In fact, I’m so wrapped up in my thoughts about painting and perspective that for a while there I forget that I’m climbing the mountain. It’s surprisingly sunny and warm on Baxter Peak, high point of the Katahdin massif, warm enough for us to stay in shorts and tee-shirts. Usually there’s a sharp wind blowing here. This is my third time on this peak, and, like Sam McGee said while being cremated in the boiler fire of the Alice May, it’s the first time I’ve been warm. There’s quite a crowd of hikers on top. M and I snap photos, meet and greet Captain America and his friends, get one of them to take our picture with our chins perching on the summit sign, fingers curving over it—the “Kilroywas-here” pose. A sign informs us that it’s 2160 miles to Springer Mountain, Georgia, starting point of the Appalachian Trail. The sign says nothing about the seven hundred miles or so to Cap Gaspé. The truth is that the Baxter State Park authorities choose not to recognize the presence of the IAT through the park. Perhaps they fear that hikers on a trail running through the park would have some sense of entitlement to the trail and would neglect to
obtain their backcountry permits. The “official” IAT route goes around the Park on logging roads and highways, and while the route over Katahdin and through Baxter Park is considered an alternate route by IAT officials, it is not labeled the IAT. We leave the summit and cross the ridge to South Peak and Pamola, delighting in incredible views along the Knife Edge and down into the Great Basin. But the Knife Edge gets hairier and scarier the further we go. At times, we’re hanging on the sides of vertically-tilted slabs of boulder, looking straight down, when we dare to look, to Chimney Pond. As the wind picks up, I get more than a little nervous. Perhaps my fear is another sign of my inability, this early in the trip, to forego ego. How can I be afraid of falling off the mountain if I am not separate from the mountain? Isn’t that, in fact, the “final lesson of them all” that the protagonist Ray learns from “Japhy Ryder” (Gary Snyder) in Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums? “You can’t fall off a mountain,” says Ray.6 Scrambling over the jagged rocks along the Knife Edge, I should be more in the present moment. Each individual hairy/scary spot is doable—there are always hand-holds, even when at first glance the next outleaning rock looks like it might be too big to squirm around and to offer too little in the way of handholds. What gets to me is the cumulative effect—not another one, I think, I don’t think I can do more of these precarious clambers. What I should do is take them one at a time, and not worry about the next one or the ones that went before. But mostly my thoughts turn to self-preservation. That, and wondering who was the numbskull who first took a look at the Knife Edge and thought, “hey, that would be a good place for a trail!” We come down the Helon Taylor trail, very rugged— long steps down, lots of planting the walking stick and leaning on it to drop down a foot or so from boulder to boulder. Blueberries grow between rocks, to whet the appetite after the Knife Edge. We get to camp about six, tired. Quick cold dip in Roaring Brook, then pump water through the filter and hang food precariously on a dead branch near the tent. Build a fire and talk over the day as night envelopes us. A great day, exhausting and full and spectacular. Going to sleep, we hear the brook telling the story of its descent from the mountain.
Copyright ÂŠ T.P. Sanborn
Head Food! T. Parker Sanborn It’s time to tuck in – the ample South Mountains table is set for my solitary feast, a sentient feast to end my fast
Thence to Little River Falls to my new garrulous gibbous friend We ruminate bits of evening thought loosed with January’s icicle toothpicks
Vasque boots, wool socks my utensils of the day serve a steep trail appetizer basted with angular morning sun;
Upon my reluctant return to the parking lot, sated I push back from the table from soul’s home to fast again
then an eyeful of crisp greens: fern, lichen and ground pine sprinkled with holly berry red enough for a wandering ruminant My impoverished palette is prepared for Chestnut Knob Overlook commissary for comestibles of esurient senses, salivating for crunchy scotch pine cones bare rocky bones of the earth heaps of cumulus on mountainous views and a side dish of doughy piedmont I guzzle gallons of liquid sun to slake an Appalachian thirst, to wash down seconds of everything slathered thick with solitude Now a moment to digest . . . an aperitif of pine air the melic wind in the trees the snowmelt waterfall a mile below My head is full, my hairline bulging hat stretched so tightly it hurts Still I indulge in a snow patch sorbet then afternoon sweets at Kathy Creek
It is . . . T. Parker Sanborn It is a rare time Delicate dogwoods reveal themselves with white exclamations of confidence ahead of a full-term forest canopy that will birth their anonymity for months to come Soon they’ll retake their understated place in the under story With virginal modesty and a bold, common voice they seize the day It is an ephemeral time In a few days I will be engulfed in green Our tilt toward the sun nears the equinox; the sun vaults higher in the sky and bounds along the horizon at sunrise and sunset The low winter sun was not so piercing The surprising lightness exposing the deep forest now feels unfamiliar Here I am revealed, naked, even fetal like the fiddleheads at my feet
37 It is an impatient time This feeling will not be long lived in the approach of spring, hurtling I will be clothed again when the forest veins and capillaries reach for their lifeblood and create a filter for the sun The bleak beech cemetery of ghostly gray buttresses will soon push back the sky Their sapling corpses huddled underneath and cloaked still in crisp, brown leaves quiver nervously for their part preserving the blizzard of fall Soon these youngsters will drop their deathly, retrospective garb and explode into youthful life again It is an introspective time My consciousness is at its peak I welcome and value this gift without fear as I explore the forest of my humanity I embrace this opportunity to pull the bark off my fallen limbs; to poke a stick into the mud cataloging my nematodes; to examine my crawling things that came to life since last I looked; to turn over rocks hidden by a safe summer canopy It is an exciting time Underneath, many things are lurking while the supple, new covering will make all things pleasing to see This burgeoning new growth even the leaves of the prickly holly will be soft and verdant for only a short, precious time I am in need of spring’s renewal This season I will grow again too my limbs, leaves and roots reaching for a space I have not yet occupied I am my surroundings – we are expressed with renewed promise
Small News Item in the Midst of War Francine Tolf It could be chance that out of our own darkness and the world’s, out of sleep and that hour before dawn, the first sound we hear, if we are lucky enough to live where they make their homes, is the liquid questioning of a bird, testing the day’s reality with her song. And maybe the bubbles that cluster like clear beads on stems in vases are chance too, and the elaborate feathers of ice that form on windows in winter. Beauty could be an accident. So I must not make too much of the bird I read about who built her nest from the scrap of detonated land mines: who absolves, every morning, the wreckage of a greenless field with notes that sound beautiful.
seel: to stitch closed the eyes (of a falcon) during training Francine Tolf What transparent thread, what sure and small fingers ignoring the pulse in a slender throat: fingers forced to hem yards of cloth by the lamp of one candle, transform rage into seamlessness. When his sky is sewn shut, the bird will fly in darkness, learn to obey one whose sons will make coats out of leopards and ash trays from the severed hands of silverbacks. Four hundred fresh elephant tusks decorating a reception hall in Brussels, a hill of bison skulls on which poses a white man who has personally shot twenty thousand head. Nations of animals gone, yet this moment stays with me, a serf girl of delicate build stitching shut the lids of a living creature for the pleasure of a man who owns her as well. Pain slipping into, then out of, trembling tissue.
Copyright ÂŠ T.P. Sanborn
Copyright ÂŠ Jamie K. Reaser
Misty Mountain Memories Jamie K. Reaser On winter mornings in the mountains the mists roll in, enfolding the wings of dawn. On some mornings the mists arrive like a ghostly patchwork quilt seeking still to cover bodies of the homesteaders that once worked these now-Nature-reclaimed, inclined fields and who piled rock fireplaces and rock walls and fern-rimmed, rock-lined wells from which they sipped cold, thirst quenching spring water. It was clean enough to drink back then. On other mornings, such as this one, the mists arrive like wispy, outstretched fingers yearning to touch me and the land on which I live. They do, and I think we both open under the caress. These are the mornings that I think of you, wishing you could visit upon me so easily. Sometimes, I wonder if you haveâ€Ś And I ponder whether memories arenâ€™t but mists that travel our inner landscape when the sacred elements combine at dew point.
Copyright ÂŠ Jamie K. Reaser
But the knots and tangles of her brain won’t hold to recent memory. She steps between thick branches, out of shadow into a sunlit, silent glade where—yes— the mourning cloaks still gather, more abundant now than ever, and rise in gyres dark against the sky.
Jenny Ward Angyal She is old, though not so old as the mountain. But the mountain is gone and she remains. Outside her window at dawn the mockingbird has forgotten his voice, sings only the beep and grind of machinery. She rises early to peer from her window at the huge uprooted boulder that teeters high above her house. Still there— she must be still alive. She lies back down to plunge beneath the alien tangles in her brain, thick as kudzu on the slopes above, to go deeper and deeper into the farthest forests of memory, under the layers of brown dust that turn to sludge in every rain, past the boarded windows, the looted houses of her neighbors.
Along Aquohee Creek Jenny Ward Angyal
Her ruined mind is free to wander the lost coves in search of goldenseal and ginseng, though she finds the healing herbs have strangely lost their power. She climbs through hickory, maple, sassafras and cherry, toward the graveyard she can visit now without an appointment or a hard hat, without that coal-company fellow dogging along behind. She pauses to gaze over the lines of hills, blue beyond blue. The clarity of light pierces deep inside her mind, stirs up two words she’s often heard but cannot grasp—demented and overburden. Mountain and forest, poplars aching toward distant sky, the song of the wood thrush melting down the bones, stone and oak and doe and the shimmering mayfly’s wing— all this—they call it “overburden.” She calls it home. And that other word, “demented”— that’s what they say is wrong with her, yet she’s not the one who turned the world all topsy-turvy, fertile Earth buried under barren rock, veins choked and valleys filled with rubble crushed from the mountain’s ruptured heart.
In the syllabary Sequoyah made for his peoples’ tongue, the marks that stand for rivercane look like letters spelling Tao, the Way— the way this relict patch of rivercane still stands shoulder to shoulder, rooting the riverbank to home. The way the people wove it into their homes, their baskets, and their lives. The way the cane, when hollowed, sent flying home the darts fletched with thistledown, and all the fluted notes that echo home to the hearts still hidden here among the sycamore’s white bones. The way the turkey hen bustles in canebrake and the meadow runs with quail. The way the water rings the heron’s leg with gold and flows downstream like tears.
Field Guide Jenny Ward Angyal Here among the blue hills— creased, battered, worn, ground down to earth and melding into sky, raked and scrubbed by sun and the swiftly scudding shadows of bright clouds— here among blue hills I need a field guide to the light: Ridge Light: pale blue tessellations caressing the sinuous mountain’s spine. Smoke Light: falls straight down among the silent shafts of trees; lights each dust mote rising. Rain Light: shatters into droplets; reflects the many colors of the soul. Print it small on leaves as thin as gamma rays yet still its pages, numberless as stars, would never fit my pocket as I walk out among the waves and particles of paradox, the shards and shimmerings that so accost the eye— Brook Light: burnishes alike the pool, the eddy, the fool’s gold, and the seaward-running flow. Light, Species Unknown: Emitted by dark mica and the white moth’s wing at dusk. Penetrates the shut lid, illumining the dream.
. . . with honey. J.K. McDowell Where did I first meet him? In the drinking halls Below street level, counting the forenoons and Afternoons, full of whiskey notes and traded promises. Beauty and Truth, these are mountainsides exposed By the dawn sun but I have overslept and My critical eye is blind to what I need to be shown. The swarm: crawling layers of warm regret and Swollen disappointment. What are the right weapons In this wrong fight? A double blind study of promise. Now that you see the Truth behind the pasteboard mask Can you really go back to that well worn turn by turn? The polished shield becomes the polished mirror. These emotions scar a blank sheet in the notebook Of some poet. Silent secret leers are stolen Between glances of greed – afternoon turns to night. Golden lichen faithful to the crumbing limestone. Step carefully James, Beauty is underfoot in All directions. This absinth is sweetened with honey.
Copyright © Teresa Conner
An Excerpt from Night, Mystery & Light W
hen we read a good poem, we fall into it. For a moment we live within the poem, touching its sides, breathing its atmosphere, absorbing its unique view of the world. Some poems pull us in comfortably and we know exactly where we are. We can almost imagine what will happen next, even before we read it. The poems of J. K. McDowell lead us elsewhere, into a labyrinth of places and settings, rare moods and disturbing possibilities. Here our uncertain windings often bring unexpected gifts as we touch its walls of images and wander its hallways of feeling. The ghazal is a poetic form originally created by sixthcentury Persian mystics. A form at the fringes of western poetry, touching Goethe and Garcia Lorca with its expressive potential. McDowell writes a modern and personal form of ghazal poetry that wonderfully creates a world of tension that has one foot in the commonplace objects and events and the other foot in the world of dreams and reverie. The voice of this poet asks, suggests, wonders, and sometimes answers, always moving onward to discover a further world of important questions about the meaning of our lives. As we read, we ride his questions, and follow his answers, and share in his rich discoveries. We feel the exhilaration that he does as he surrenders to the momentum of the symbols and images that carry him (and us) through the poem. One characteristic of the ghazal is that the poet’s name sometimes appears in the last verse. McDowell often ends his poems with a challenge to “Jim,” a question usually asking him to make sense of his life. Yet as we feel our way through the earlier stanzas, living within their diaphanous walls, we overhear this ﬁnal question as if it were directed at us. One of the joys of reading McDowell’s poetry is precisely this—that his questions urge us to make deeper sense of our own lives. You will discover, along with him, the almost seamless way the ordinary and non-ordinary realities of our soul’s deep dreaming support and create a multi-layered world to live in. It is a world that intrigues us while reading the poem and that lingers long after we lay the poem aside. Like traditional ghazals—like poetry in every trad ition—McDowell’s themes include love, longing, melancholy, separation, and the metaphysical questions that can keep us up at night or send us to poetry such as this for comfort, support, and enlightenment, or as he says in one poem “a shining endarkenment.” This collection of poetry will appeal especially to poets and to everyone who sees the world through a poet’s eyes. Many of the poems address the joys and sufferings, the pain and healing that accompanies
the man or woman who boldly sets pen to paper to write a poem. Robert Frost wrote that a poem is a “momentary stay against confusion.” And in McDowell’s poems we are keenly aware of how that stay is truly and only momentary. In his poems, reality is a shape-shifter, and the poems ready us for the scars of confusion that can come to the seeker who tries to understand this constantly shifting world. As he says in one poem, “Your search for inspiration has not led to many/Casualties but there are teeth marks beneath the ﬂesh.” In another poem he muses, “I heard that the dreams of fools change reality.” Another poem implies “we have slept too long in/The moonlight.” Moonlight and fools, dreams and long slumbering, teeth marks and inspiration—these are just some of the turns along the labyrinth where you may want to pause and wonder as you follow J. K. McDowell through his dark-bright worlds in the poems of Night, Mystery & Light. —Tom Cowan, foreword to Night, Mystery & Light . . . the sinking. So tell me, did you pray that this day would come? The Beloved will bring you farther and further Than this. Make ready my Friend for the next embrace! Early sunlight sweeps the kitchen quiet. Beyond The window bees buzz on some flowering bush. Footsteps come with fresh picked blueberries for breakfast. A Gift? Here, I give you these tears from my eyes. Sweet as dreams of Peace, quickly taste them, they dry so fast. Elsewhere the coastline disappears without a word. The palms touch lightly, the head bows slightly, the Eyes close tightly. Hope does not deny that victory And defeats are assured – Sacred battle awaits. Careful, many of the things in your field of vision Look back and sometimes into you. The eyes turned Inward or outward can be doorways to the Soul. You never told me Jim, how you chose the river rocks. In silence Virginia filled her pockets. Smooth, heavy, reassured for the sinking.
Copyright ÂŠ Duncan George
Copyright ÂŠ Jamie K. Reaser
Contributor Biographies Jenny Ward Angyal lives on a small organic farm in Gibsonville, NC, with her husband and one Abyssinian cat. She grew up wandering woods and fields in Connecticut and wrote her first poem at the age of five. After attending a one-room schoolhouse, she spent a number of years studying and writing about biology, and a number more teaching nonverbal children how to communicate. Now retired and braiding up the strands of her life, she can give more time to trying to communicate through poetry and to exploring the relationships between poetry and science, between psyche and Gaia. Her poems have appeared in a number of print and online journals including Anatomy & Etymology, Avocet, Earthspeak, The Ghazal Page, Lynx, Magnapoets, Moonbathing, Pinesong, Ribbons, and Tanka Splendor. Her poems may also be found online at http://grassminstrel.blogspot. com. Peter Neil Carroll is the author of a volume of poetry titled Riverborne: A Mississippi Requiem (Higganum Hill Books, 2008), a recently re-issued memoir, Keeping Time (Georgia, 2010), and poems that have recently been published or are forthcoming in POETRYBAY (online), Poetry Flash, New Mexico Poetry Review, Heavy Bear (online), and Blue Moon Literary Review. He lives in northern California with the writer/photographer Jeannette Ferrary. See his website at http://poetspace.poetscoop.org/user/22. Teresa Conner is a self-taught photographer, writer, and aspiring poet living in the woods of Northeast Alabama. Her interests lie in preserving the traditions, sacred sites, customs, and languages of her Gaelic forebears, as well as aiming to meld bioregionalism and deep ecology into her Gaelic spiritual lifeway. She is currently hard at work on various writing endeavors. You can learn more about Teresa by visiting www.teresaconner.com. William Cullen, Jr. has had his poems published in a number of journals over the years including Asahi/International Herald Tribune, Boston Literary Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Farming Magazine, Grey Sparrow Journal, Home Planet News, Mainichi Daily News, Modern Haiku, Plainsong and Willows Wept Review. Bill works at a non-profit in Brooklyn, New York. He’s married and has two college-age sons. He was nominated for a Pushcart prize for a poem that appeared in the journal Magnapoets in 2010. Duncan George is a London based landscape and nature photographer. His work has been published in print, on the
web and he has won several photographic competitions. Although Duncan has held a lifelong passion for photography his principal career to date has been as an executive in the media industry. In the last two years however he has focused solely on developing as a photographer with a portfolio which includes work from the UK and from wider travels. His favoured style is one of minimalistic, uncluttered compositions with a natural colour palette. See more of Duncan’s work at http://500px.com/duncan_george. Ian Marshall is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona and a former president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. Ian is the author of Story Line: Exploring the Literature of the Appalachian Trail (Virginia, 1998), Peak Experiences: Walking Meditations on Literature, Nature, and Need (Virginia, 2003), and Walden by Haiku (Georgia, 2009). J. K. McDowell is an artist, poet and mystic, an Ohioan expat living in Cajun country. He is the author of Night, Mystery & Light, a collection of poetry published by Hiraeth Press in 2011. Always immersed in poetry, raised in Buckeye country by a mother who told of “Sam I Am,” “Danny Deaver” and Annabel Lee” and a father who quoted Shakespeare and Omar Khayyam. In 1990 like so many others, McDowell learned of Robert Bly and began to experience a deeper importance to poetry, especially in the translations of Persian and Spanish poets. In the last decade a deepened study of poetry and shamanism and nature has inspired a regular practice of writing poetry that blossomed into the works presented in this collection. McDowell is an artist and appreciator of blown, cast and fused glass as well as an artist and appreciator of ancient bookbindings. Lately, mixing Lorca and Lovecraft, McDowell lives twenty miles north of the Gulf Coast with his soul mate who also happens to be his wife and their two beautiful companion parrots. Frank Owen is a poet, writer, and lifetime student of cross-cultural contemplative and shamanic traditions. He first encountered the subjects of Shugendo and Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism in the writings of Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido. His poetry can be found at bodhiyatra: bodhiyatra.blogspot.com Jamie K. Reaser has a passion for bringing people into their hearts, inspiring the heartbeat of community, and, ultimately, empowering people to live with a heart-felt dedication to Mother Earth. She has worked around the world as
52 a biologist, international policy negotiator, environmental educator, and wilderness rites-of-passage guide. She is also a practitioner and teacher of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), ecopsychology, nature-based spirituality, and various approaches to expanding human consciousness, as well as a poet, writer, artist, and homesteader-in-progress. Jamie has published four books through Hiraeth Press – Courting the Wild: Love Affairs with the Land, Courting the Wild: Love Affairs with Reptiles and Amphibians, Huntley Meadows: A Naturalist’s Journal in Verse, and Note to Self: Poems for Changing the World from the Inside Out. She makes her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Please visit her poetry blog at: www.talkingwaters-poetry. blogspot.com. We invite you to follow the blog on the Talking Waters Facebook page. Robin Scofield is the author of And the Ass Saw the Angel and the forthcoming Sunflower Cantos. She has poems appearing in The Mas Tequila Review, The Warwick Review, and Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine. Her poems have also appeared in The Paris Review, The Texas Observer, and Western Humanities Review. She writes with the Tumblewords Project in El Paso, Texas. Andrea Witzke Slot (also known as Andrea Witzke Leavey) teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is an editor at RHINO Poetry. Her first poetry collection, To find a new beauty, which will be released by Gold Wake Press in 2012, borrows its title from a line of H.D.’s and explores the more difficult qualities of beauty and desire in life, nature, and art. Her work has appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Translation Review, Chiron Review, Connotation Press, Sea Stories, Alba: A Journal of Short Poetry, The Pacific Review, Southern Women’s Review, and PENA International, among other online and print journals. She has lived in many different cities in the U.S. as well as in Wales and in England, where she worked as a primary school teacher for several years. T. Parker Sanborn is a chemist by formal training, but more optimistically described as a self-taught photographer and an emerging writer. With human psychology and the soul, relationships and the natural world as sources of his written explorations, he has had an interest in creative writing for more than 10 years and only recently submitted material for publication. Both the Main Street Rag and the Iodine Poetry Journal in Charlotte, NC will publish works in upcoming issues. Whether with pen or lens, he hopes to share unusual perspectives or capture a subject at its most basic level. Francine Marie Tolf is the author of Rain, Lilies, Luck, her first full-length collection of poetry, and Joliet Girl, a mem-
oir, both from North Star Press of St. Cloud (2010). Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including Water-Stone, Rattle, Spoon River, Poetry East and Southern Humanities Review. Visit her website at www. francinemarietolf.com.
Editorial Team J. Kay MacCormack is editor for Hiraeth Press’ semiannual publication: Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics. Currently, she studies and researches emotion in the disciplines of psychology and anthropology. Before that, she lived for four years in North Wales, UK, where she studied Welsh language and literature before returning to make her home in the Neuse River basin of North Carolina. She discovered written language at the age of three and has been writing ever since, merging her love of people, places and psychology together in the form of poetry and prose. A bioregionalist, Ms. MacCormack’s main artistic interests center around the human-place relationship. Jason Kirkey is the founder of Hiraeth Press. He grew up in the Ipswich River-North Atlantic Coastal watershed of Massachusetts. At the age of twelve he began his long apprenticeship to the earth. Jason holds an interdisciplinary degree in Contemplative Psychology and Environmental Studies and a Master’s in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. His work is influenced by the myriad landscapes in which he has lived—the temperate forests and old mountains of New England, the red rocks and high desert of Colorado, Irish mountains and rivers, the Pacific coast and redwood trees of California—as well as Eastern philosophy, ecology, and the Celtic traditions of his ancestry. Jason is the author of several volumes of poetry, the latest of which is Estuaries, and a nonfiction book, The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality. Jason currently lives in North Carolina where he is finishing a new book. L.M. Browning grew up in a small fishing village in Connecticut where she began writing at the age of 15. A longtime student of Religion, Nature and Philosophy these themes permeate this young writer’s work. Raised a Catholic, she studied both the Traditional and Apocrypha doctrine before her spiritual search crossed into the other religions of the world, compelling her to investigate: Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, Celtic Earth-Based Spirituality and Shamanism. Browning is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet. In 2010 she penned a three-title contemplative poetry series: Oak Wise: Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith, Ruminations at Twilight: Poetry Exploring the Sacred and The Barren Plain: Poetry Exploring the Reality of the Modern
53 Wasteland. In 2010 Browning became a partner at Hiraeth Press — an Independent Publisher of Contemplative and Ecological titles. She is an Associate Editor of the bi-annual e-publication, Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics. And she is Founder/Lead-Editor of Homebound Press, an imprint of Hiraeth Press’ devoted to fiction. Balancing her love of writing with her love of learning, she is currently working for a degree in Philosophy through The University of London External Programme.
Poetry is the language of the Earth—not just poems but the slow flap of a heron’s wings across the sky, the lightning of its beak hunting in the shallow water; autumn leaves and the smooth course of water over stones and gravel. These, as much as poems, communicate the being and meaning of things. Our publications are all poetry, whether they are poems or nonfiction, and reflect the ideal that falling in love with the Earth is nothing short of revolutionary and that through our relationship to wild nature we can birth a more enlightened vision of life for the future. We are passionate about poetry as a means of returning the human voice to the polyphonic chorus of the wild.
Written River Copyright © 2011 Hiraeth Press All poems, photographs, and essays copyrighted by their respective authors. Front cover photo © Duncan George Back cover photo © Jamie K. Reaser
Published on Dec 22, 2011
This issue features an interview by Frank Owen from Bodhiyatra Poetry with the filmmakers of Shugendō Now.Also featured in this issue of Wri...