wood music (poem)

I realized that I have never put my only published poem on my blog. In early 2011 I submitted 5 poems to annual contest of The Iowa Poetry Association for residents of Iowa as a first-time entrant with three in the Adult General category and two i the haiku category.

The following poem was selected in Adult General:

wood music

the music of the forest is old
old as the wood elves from which it has sprung

streaming through the canopy
light and ephemeral as a mote
caught in a ray of autumn sunlight

yet solid and strong as the ancient oak
to which the lungwort has tenaciously clung.

tonight, by the light of the Blood Moon
the wood elves will hunt
their ashen bows tautly strung.

quiet as a shaft of moonlight
clear and bright on the forest floor,

slowly, reverentially, they will stalk
driving the stag forward
until arrow and heart meet as one.

Travel Moon will guide them home
joyous wood music flowing from flute
words from lips sounding, unsung.

the elves of the forest are old
old as the wood music from which they have sprung.


Lindner, Mark R. “Wood Music.” Lyrical Iowa 2011 (2011): 68. Print.

I wrote this to put inside a greeting card I gave Sara the previous year. I had bought several cards each with a specific fairy on it–wood fairy, moon fairy, etc.–to give her. To me, they looked more like elves than fairies so for this card I took the liberty of making it a wood elf instead. [Yes, I did in fact play D&D and I played a fair few elves or half elves.] For whatever reason, I chose to send it in for the contest and it was selected, along with many others from other people.


Thoughts on book-spine poetry and a meta-poem

Recently I started writing (composing? arranging?) book-spine poems. I have been aware of them for a while now but have never tried them. Library Thing has, for instance, done it, and they seem to be inspired by Nina Katchadourian and her Sorted Books project.

I was recently reminded of them and inspired to try my hand at them by @admcgregor3 who I met through DigiWRiMo. Here is the post he shared that nudged me to tryHere is another.

I asked him whether there were any rules (that he followed) and he said “no rules. I just do what I think fits…”.

So here are my thoughts on what I am doing; no real rules but some guidelines for now:

  • Books are stacked from top to bottom—may try some left to right vertically—in reading order.
  • They may or may not have a title.
  • Use the pages side (opposite the spine) of a book as spacer between title and poem or between stanzas or for whatever reason I need space.
  • Subtitles will be generally ignored, although I am free to use as I like.
  • Punctuation may be added freely at the ends of lines but, for now, I will retain punctuation present in a spine title.
  • Generally, one title per line of the poem but free to do as I please.

I also could not resist making a book-spine poem about book-spine poetry, a sort of meta-poem, if you will:

This delicious madness (image 1) - pile of books

This delicious madness (image 1)

This delicious madness (image 2) - another pile of books

This delicious madness (image 2)

This delicious madness

Signs of writing
Describing language;

The image
Beyond snapshots.

Seeking meaning,
Man and his symbols
Figures of thought.

This craft of verse:
The contrast.

How it seems to me:
Verses and versions
Shout out
The art of looking sideways.

My poems so far:

And to see some others around the interwebz just do a Google Image search for book-spine poetry (with or without the hyphen).

No idea how far I’ll take this or how long I’ll continue to putter with it but I have lots and lots of book titles at hand to work with.


On the cusp … (book-spine poem)

Book-spine poem

On the cusp of a dangerous year,
Facing the extreme
In the theater of consciousness,
The eaten heart
Under the jaguar sun
Tastes of paradise.
Look to the mountain top;
Endless horizons
In the light of the moon.
There’s treasure everywhere—
The mind of god—
In the shadow of man.

On the cusp of a dangerous year,
Facing the extreme
In the theater of consciousness,
The eaten heart
Under the jaguar sun
Tastes of paradise.

Look to the mountain top;
Endless horizons
In the light of the moon.
There’s treasure everywhere—
The mind of god—
In the shadow of man.

Rogers, Eating Bread and Honey

Eating bread and honey Eating bread and honeyPattiann Rogers; Milkweed Editions 1997WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This is one of the first books that I checked out from COCC’s Barber Library with my community patron card. I found it just by browsing through the PSs.

Although I did like two poems in here and she comes highly lauded, all in all, I did not care for these poems. Rogers uses language beautifully, But then she chains those bits of beautiful language together until it becomes a constant cacophony of metaphors and comparisons between the natural world and the human-constructed world or the human-constructed world and itself or the natural world and itself, or all at the same time.

E.g., see this excerpt from “The Long Marriage: A Translation” (87-88):

In among the alder’s highest black
branches making a complicated map
of depth and elevation against the dull
white sky, winter waxwings in a flock
settle, coming, going.

They depart, altering the design of cold
and season in the tree, return
in gatherings of six or seven, flying
in quick staccato against a largo
of motion relative to one another,
As if they weren’t birds alone
but a constantly changing syntax
in a history of place and event.

Several sail together over the fallen
field with an expansion and contraction
of pattern that might sound like a wheezing
of wooden organ or bagpipe, were there sound
to vision. And eleven spiral up, angle
into the evening like eleven dead leaves
with stunted wings and no more purpose
nor will than to illustrate eleven
different motives of the wind at once.

Gliding to gully, to river brush, a wave
of them parts easily, rejoins in crossing
familiarities that might impress like lavender
and sage, were there fragrances
to involution and grace.

This poem comes almost at the end of the book. By itself it doesn’t seem so bad. Birds flying, musical metaphors, sensory modalities veering into others. It is actually kind of beautiful. But this is 80-some odd pages in and it has been incessant. I really like the last stanza I included. But as a whole, for me, it is just too much.

If you like what you see here and you would enjoy it in quantity then this book is for you.

Harrison and Kooser, Braided Creek

I was alerted to this book by Dave Bonta in early May of this year, so I picked it up on 5 June from The Book Store in Des Moines and read it on 26 September.

I probably ought just say to go read Bonta’s post as you’ll learn far more about the work and the authors than I can tell you, and I highly suggest that you do read his post, but I want to say a little myself. I will try not to duplicate much.

First, let me say that I am highly grateful to Bonta for writing about this lovely book again so that I might see his review. I have read a couple books by Jim Harrison and although I know he is considered to be an excellent poet what I have read of his has not really grabbed me. As for Kooser, I have read the odd poem here and there but never a book of his poems, although I have read his, The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets, which I truly enjoyed and need to revisit.

As Bonta writes:

Braided Creek is the result of a poetry correspondence between two old, white male poets at the top of their literary game, struggling to come to terms with aging and all its associated ills.

The poems came out of a series of correspondence between the two longtime friends “comprised entirely of brief poems” “[a]fter Kooser was diagnosed with cancer” (back cover).

The poems are unattributed and as the blurb on the back states:

When asked about attributions for the individual poems, one of them replied, “Everyone gets tired of this continuing cult of the personality… This book is an assertion in favor of poetry and against credentials.”

Many of the poems are almost aphoristic:

A coffin handles
leaves a lasting impression
on a hand.

The face you look out of
is never the face
your lover looks into.

Many are quite humorous:

I want to describe my life in hushed tones
like a TV nature program. Dawn in the north.
His nose stalks the air for newborn coffee.

Oh, to be in love,
with all five buckets
of the senses

Almost all of them contain something quite deep and meaningful despite their brevity:

Each time I go outside the world
is different. This had happened
all my life.

Elaborate is the courtliness
of the imagination, on one sore knee
before beauty.

As Bonta mentions, they are four to a page and often seem to go together, some in a call and response sort of way. Nor are they afraid to get into social commentary or politics—as these two contiguous poems do—although they rarely stray there:

So the Greeks had amphorae
with friezes of nymphs.
We have coffee mugs with ads
for farm equipment!

How evil all priesthoods.
All over the earth Holy Places
soaked with extra blood.

Time, memory, nature, beauty, longing, wistfulness. The book is full of these and more:

Last year the snake
left her skin on the floor,
diaphanous like the name
of a lovely girl you’ve forgotten—
but not her flesh.

And then there are the simple truths of a person as they age:

Like an old dog
I slowly lower and arrange myself
in a heap of sighs.

I can definitely relate to that one.

I’ll end with one of my very favorites, to which I also can highly relate:

The moon put her white hands
on my shoulders, looked into my face,
and without a word
sent me on into the night.

This is a lovely book of poetry that is also so much more.

Today, meh

Today hasn’t been that awesome of a day. My stomach had a big knot in it when I went to bed last night, which I thought perhaps came from having the chocolate gelato for dessert after having had a Rodenbach Grand Cru at dinner.

Today the hard knot is gone but replaced by worse, which has really disrupted my day. I did get our ballots dropped off at the drive-thru ballot ‘box.’ We could have mailed our ballots in if we had been a couple days earlier in filling them out. But, the drive-thru was kind of neat. No “I Voted” stickers, though.

Also got a small bit of necessary grocery shopping in but I skipped Haiku Circle, which I had really wanted to attend. It was only the second meeting since it started last month. Also, I wanted to see how many people showed up since there was no reminder and maybe remind them to use the Facebook page or the email list or something.

Not much writing is getting done for DigiWriMo because I just feel pretty crappy. At this point, I am thinking I got a stomach bug of some sort. Whatever it is, I truly hope it clears up fast since tomorrow is the Deschutes Brewery University Barrel-Aged Beer class and I want a solid stomach for that!

Thanks to a tweet from Andromeda (@ThatAndromeda) earlier today, I am signed up for a free Git and GitHub Basics class from GitHub. So this afternoon I got Git installed on my Mac (command line version), set up a GitHub account (MarkLindner), made my first repository and followed Andromeda as she suggested. I hope/think I’m ready for the class tomorrow. I have no idea when I’ll have a real use for Git and GitHub but hopefully I can learn enough to plod along when the time comes. Who knows, maybe that time will be sooner than I think.

Also, in some way, it seems directly related to DigiWriMo, so now is as good a time to learn as any.

Late this afternoon we went to an event held by OSU-Cascades called Brains & Brews, which is where a professor talks about some of their current research while folks sit around and drink at a local establishment. It is so popular that you have to sign up in advance and it isn’t advertised on the faculty events calendar page. It was quite interesting. A couple folks talked about equine-based psychotherapy with folks with PTSD.

Hopefully the evening will remain quiet and my stomach will get itself under control. I guess when I have to eat next, which will be soon, we’ll see.

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge Personal Assessment

In October 2011, after finishing another book reading challenge, which a friend of mine had handled excellently, I decided it was my turn to reciprocate, and I wanted another reading challenge, so I came up with the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

This post is my reflection on how it went for me.

Initial choices

I made a list of 30 books of which I hoped to read 20. Then, because I’m a cataloger/classifier, I divided them into 6 gross categories just to see what areas I had picked and then to maybe lean towards reading at least one from each to ensure my reading stayed broad. (Of course, I read many other books during this timeframe that were not on my Challenge list. Many of those were graphics novels and poetry.) After a couple of months, because of certain timely shifts in interest I non-specifically substituted 2 books.

My full set of initial choices and their categories can be seen at My Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

How it worked out

The following is how it worked out for me. The books listed are the ones I finished (and 2 which I started but did not finish yet):


The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History by Mircea Eliade


In Defence of the Enlightenment by Tzvetan Todorov (substitute)


Pale Fire (Everyman’s Library, #67) by Vladimir Nabokov

The Way It Is by William Stafford

Transformations by Anne Sexton


(Began only) Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet by Christine L. Borgman

(Began only) Libraries and the Enlightenment by Wayne Bivens-Tatum (substitute)


As is fairly evident, I did not do well with the challenge I set myself. I finished 6 books (30%) and began 2 others out of the 20 I was aiming for.

Now, there are extenuating circumstances seeing as we moved halfway across the country this summer, which sucked up an awful lot of time. We also jumped into life in Bend with both feet when we arrived which only made the moving in process longer. (I hope to be writing here about some of the things we have done since arriving in Bend soon).

Extenuating circumstances or not, I am perfectly happy with the way the challenge turned out for me as I explicitly learned something about myself. I was loosely aware of it before, but this just cemented it.

That is, there are too many interesting books out there for me to specify what I will be reading over the next year.

I still want, and intend, to read all of the books on my challenge list. Just as I intend to read many others on previous lists or those on no particular list. There will also be many new books or books new to me that I will read. (E.g., we have acquired 136 books in the 1st 9 months of 2012 (during the Challenge) but that number doesn’t include books acquired in Oct-Dec 2011, nor the many books read from assorted libraries.)

So, the bottom line is, I need a somewhat looser form of reading challenge to be ‘successful’ by any sort of standard measure. Maybe as vague as “I’ll read x number of books in the next year” is the best I can do. I would hope to be able to provide a little more structured early guidance to myself perhaps, but I’m not sure I know what that is. While my reading choices are not fully based on whim by any means, they are heavily influenced by a wide variety of input mechanisms—friends (in assorted ways), sites like Goodreads or Library Thing, tweets by others, the book catalogs that two librarians (us) receive in the mail, browsing shelves in multiple places, book reviews stumbled across, and so on and on.

There simply are too many books out there waiting to be read for me to be so scheduled about what I will read. And I am perfectly happy with that.

I hereby declare the Two-Thirds Book Challenge a success for me. I look forward to seeing how the other participants assess their own personal Challenges.




Sound the Deep Waters: Women’s Romantic Poetry in the Victorian Age

Sound the deep waters Sound the deep waters: women’s romantic poetry in the Victorian ageedited by Pamela Norris.; Little, Brown 1992WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This lovely book is full of assorted poetry under four heads, with 12 poems in each: Love’s Bitter-Sweets, Moments of Delight, Dreams and Realities, and Last Songs. The poets are all women, British and American. Each and every poem is paired with a painting from the period, many are by the Pre-Raphaelites or in that style, many are quite famous (e.g., Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt), and many were painted by women. The poems and painting usually have a thematic connection of some sort.

The Keepsake by Kate Elizabeth Bunce, which is paired with C. Rossetti’s A Birthday

The Keepsake by Kate Elizabeth Bunce, which is paired with C. Rossetti’s A Birthday

The poets include the Brontë sisters (individually), Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Emma Lazarus, Amy Lowell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, and several others, including less well known poets.

The title is taken from the first line of Rossetti’s poem, “Sleep at Sea,” which was too long to be included (10).

Sound the deep waters:—
Who shall sound that deep?—
Too short the plummet
And the watchmen sleep.
Some dream of effort
Up a toilsome steep;
Some dream of pasture grounds
For harmless sheep.

An introduction by the editor, Pamela Norris, gives a quick overview of the stereotype of the Victorian woman as ‘The Angel in the House,’ and then goes on to provide a glimpse as to how these women poets’ reality was different as they often pushed against the stereotype, and sometimes even shattered it.

‘Love’s Bitter-Sweets’ shows that “while love was a favourite topic” it often was considered bittersweet, and thus these poems show ambivalence towards their topic (9).

‘Moments of Delight’ “celebrate life’s pleasures, which turn out to be manifold” (9).

“‘Dreams and Realities’ explore what might be termed ‘philosophies’: the poets’ attempts to read meaning and pattern into life” (9).

‘Last Songs’ explores another frequent topic, death.

There is, of course, overlap between sections. The last poem in ‘Dreams and Realities,’ Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” may well be a ‘philosophy’ but it is also certainly about death.

Hope in the Prison of Despair by Evelyn de Morgan, paired with C. Rossetti’s Up-Hill

Hope in the Prison of Despair by Evelyn de Morgan, paired with C. Rossetti’s Up-Hill

The book ends with 5 pages of short bios and text acknowledgements.

I chose to purchase and read this book as I liked its pairing of poems with images; I like the Pre-Raphaelites and their ilk enormously; I took a class on Victorian lit which I truly enjoyed; I have read Christina Rossetti’s complete poems (except the juvenalia) and while I don’t like every poem I do adore her [by the by, those were read on an iPod Touch], and I am always interested in issues of gender and the disruption of stereotypes.

Purchased 5 June 2012 from The Book Store in Des Moines $7.40

Norris, Pamela, ed. Sound the deep waters: women’s romantic poetry in the Victorian age. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992. Print.