Haiku Moments

Maple close up

The maples are spectacular right now.  Always last to show and always worth the wait.

We raked and raked leaves yesterday and by mid-morning today the lawn was full of them.  I moaned about all the leaves still on the trees but my husband said, “Just look at how beautiful the maples are.  It will be worth raking more later on just to experience this.”

The mindfulness of paying attention and finding one haiku moment each day used to be so important to me.  I don’t know why I stopped, but I have resumed the daily practice of keeping a haiku diary.

Here is my favorite haiku from the past week.

leaf clings

to rain-soaked windshield

never give up



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Poetry Festival

Poetry Walk at the Wisconsin Poetry Festival

Poetry Path at the Wisconsin Poetry Festival

A poetry festival that includes readings, round tables, workshops and a walk along the Rock River – not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Several ideas for new poems came to mind during the 2014 Lorine Niedecker Wisconsin Poetry Festival in Fort Atkinson, October 10 and 11.  If you are not familiar with Lorine, here is a website with lots of good information http://www.lorineniedecker.org/

The newsletter of the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Solitary Plover, recently published two of my poems.  The guidelines for submission call for poems that honor Lorine in theme, style or content.  For me, that means poems about nature and about place. *

A popular question for the leaders of one of the Round Tables at the Poetry Festival was “Where do your ideas come from?”  Both poets talked about the importance of keeping a pen and paper handy to jot down that thought you think you will remember but will not.

The photo above is one of the poems written on the Poetry Path, which extended from the Farmer’s Market in downtown Fort Atkinson to the Dwight Foster Public Library.  It’s a haiku, consistent with the Festival theme, “The Short Poem.”

I thought the instructions were to write six words about yourself.  Here’s my Poetry Path poem.

Curious Explorer / Creates / Her own map

*  See pages 8 and 9 of the Summer 2014 issue of Solitary Plover for my poems Dedication to Sound, March to June and Oak Savanna.  http://www.lorineniedecker.org/documents/Summer2014web.pdf


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The Poetry Reading

Dunlop family cemetery near Mazomanie, WI

Dunlop family cemetery near Mazomanie, WI

I always wanted a career I could continue into my old age.  Alas, given the choices I made, it was not to be.  However, poetry is something that I can do until I am quite elderly as evidenced by some of the readers at yesterday’s reading.  Poets from this area whose poems were for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets 2015 Calendar, read at a local bookstore Sunday afternoon.  Using walkers or canes as needed, sometimes having difficulty speaking, they read some really good poems about children and grandchildren, gardens and birds, lost loved ones and dear friends.

The poets at the reading – young and old and in-between – all wrote about some small slice of their experience that touched them enough to write about it.  Poetry is really distilled emotion.  Maybe that’s why people turn to poems when they are grieving or need to smile.

The “best” poems at a reading are usually the ones that evoke laughter from the listeners.  So now I have a small but growing, I hope, file of humorous poems.  For Sunday’s reading, we each read our Calendar poem and had the option of reading one more.

I read a poem I thought had a pretty good punch line, and the audience laughed when I finished.  It was ridiculously gratifying.

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Take a Share



I read a lot of poems.  I like some, I don’t get some, a few are amazing.  I ran across one recently in The New Yorker by Clive James that was in the latter category.  It is called Japanese Maple and the voice is an old man who contrasts his imminent death with the longevity of the tree outside his window.  He says, “Whenever the rain comes it will be there,/Beyond my time, but now I take my share.”

I read this morning about a Hindu monk who spoke in Madison.*  He advised listeners to greet each day with gratitude and to take at least 30 seconds to pay attention to the body and mind we have been given.  It would be like taking a share of yourself while you can.

In the marsh, we have egrets.  I have only ever seen them in Florida.  But several have stopped here this September.  I missed the pelicans – thirty of them, I heard – but Sandhill Cranes come and go each morning and evening as do geese.  I saw a heron land tonight at dusk.

A trail of ducks crossed the street from pond to a yard.  I tiptoed through them so they could continue their walk but behind me a young man on a skateboard clapped and disbursed them into the air.

While we all wait for the inevitable cold, the Honey Locusts are scattering their leaves like golden confetti.  Take a share of bullion while you can.

*The speaker’s name is Baba Shuddhaanandaa Brahmachari, and his most recent book is called, Making Your Mind Your Best Friend.

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Thornton W. Burgess

Entrance to the Wild Flower Garden at Green Briar Nature Center

Entrance to the Wild Flower Garden at Green Briar Nature Center

On a recent visit to Sandwich, MA I discovered that Thornton W. Burgess had been a resident and his home was open for visiting.  The name sounded familiar but it was not until I saw a drawing of a small rabbit that it clicked:  The Adventures of Peter Cottontail.

Burgess wrote children’s books back in the 19-teens.  With titles like Old Mother West Wind, The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad, Jerry Muskrat at Home and The Adventures of Prickly Porky, what is not to like?  Well, I’m sure the books are very tame to children raised on Where the Wild Things Are, but the stories are no doubt as charming as the illustrations, most executed by Harrison Cady.

The Burgess House in Sandwich, MA is no more, sadly.  The house still stands, but barely.  It is too expensive for the Burgess Society to keep up and the cost to renovate for a private home would be prohibitive.  Still, the Burgess Society soldiers on at Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen in East Sandwich, MA.

Burgess’ work as a naturalist and conservationist continues at the Nature Center.  I love that he encouraged children to join the War Bond effort with the formation of the Happy Jack Thrift Club in 1917.  The Burgess Society preserves Thornton Burgess’ legacy of books and articles plus maintains a focus on preserving and conserving natural resources.

However, the Jam Kitchen is where the real work of preservation is done.  In operation since 1903, the Jam Kitchen also prepares sun-cooked fruits in the oldest commercial solar-cooking operation in the U.S.  The names are enough to make your mouth water:  Apple Pie Jam, Beach Plum Jelly and Peter Rabbit’s Carrot Marmalade (with carrots, lemons and almonds).  The sun-cooked fruits are prepared with rum, vodka or Brandy.  ‘Mmmmmm!

The Jam Kitchens products are for sale in the Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen gift shop or on-line at  http://www.thorntonburgess.org/JamMailOrder.htm

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Advice for New Poets



The question, perennial I think, is what advice is best for writers just starting out.  Since I consider myself an emerging writer, what follows is advice I follow myself.

Study modern poetry.  One great resource is Coursera’s Mod Po, which starts September 6.  It’s free and worth every minute you spend on it.  https://www.coursera.org/course/modernpoetry

Get a book.  I’ve found The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux is one of the best.  There is material on what to write as well as the craft of writing it.  http://books.wwnorton.com/books/The-Poets-Companion/

Join a group.  Most states have a poetry organization like the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (WFOP).  http://www.wfop.org/   You’ll meet poets who live near you.  The organization will likely hold regional readings, sponsor workshops and conferences and other poetry related activities, and may be able to connect you with a critique group where you can get feedback from fellow writers.

Keep writing.  Remember, it’s the process not the outcome you need to focus on.  Here’s a recent blog post on the Lake Region Writers Network, that drives home that point very nicely.  http://lakeregionwriters.net/

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War Imagery in Textiles

Bench Overlooking Pond

Here is a review of War Imagery in Women’s Textiles.  I posted it as a Library Thing Early Reviewer.  Library Thing is an on-line cataloging service for readers, authors and librarians.  The Early Reviewer program offers the chance to obtain free books before they are put on the market.   You can read about Early Reviewers at  http://www.librarything.com/er/list

I first encountered war imagery in textiles when I attended an exhibit called Weavings of War:  Fabrics of Memory at the University of Wisconsin’s Design Gallery.  I was shocked by the images.  Huey helicopters were the focal point of a quilt and bullets formed the borders.  Appliquéd bits of red fabric depicted blood spurting from a woman who was shot on a bridge while appliquéd soldiers marched appliquéd peasants through appliquéd rice paddies and corn crops.  Rifles repeated in brown patterns looked like trees in a forest.

War Imagery in Women’s Textiles: An International Study of Weaving, Knitting, Sewing, Quilting, Rug Making and Other Fabric Arts by Deborah A. Deacon and Paula E. Calvin documents war as subject matter for textiles.  The authors, both art historians, review the Western tradition of depicting war in Europe, the US and Canada.  In Europe the story starts with embroideries such as the Bayeux Tapestry in the Middle Ages, and includes knitting campaigns during World War I and rugs woven by Bosnian women in the 1990’s.

The U.S. story begins with Betsy Ross, sewing flags for the new nation, a product of revolution.  For both the US and Canada, the authors explore the work of Native Americans affected by westward expansion and the 20th century wars.  Subsequent chapters explore the war textiles of women in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.  In Africa, the authors discovered there is not a tradition of using textiles to express reaction to war.  However, African art does incorporate reactions to colonialism.  In South Africa, apartheid is remembered through memory cloths.  However, neither of these artist traditions contain images of violence.

The pieces I saw on exhibit were made by women from Afghanistan, Kashmir, Pakistan, Somalia, Guatemala, and Peru.  The textiles depicted civil wars, colonial wars and foreign invasions.  There were designs showing men rounding up soldiers, peasants herded off their farms and people shot and left to die, unknown, anonymous pawns in national and international war games.

After the soldiers leave, the women do what they have always done:  they make quilts and other textiles about what they know.  They use the traditional patterns and colors and techniques of their grandmothers to sew planes and bombs and dying peasants.  In making the textiles, in recording the horror, the women remember the dead:  a sister, a husband, a child, a parent.  All people with names and hopes and dreams, who laughed and loved and who were loved, but who have been lost to war.

War Imagery in Textiles is thoroughly researched with detailed notes and a lengthy bibliography.  There is also a helpful glossary of textile terms.  The book necessarily traces the historic development of textiles independent of war imagery.  Most of the historical textile artists are anonymous, but each chapter notes the names and biographies of contemporary textile artists.  There are some black and white photos that illustrate historical subjects and a collection of color prints of contemporary subjects.  An index allows the reader to search for topics of interest.

In cutting and stitching, women re-claim themselves in color and texture and story.  They sew the past so they can live again.


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