A couple of items to put into my personal "good news" column:
I have been invited to read at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin, at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, April 27th. In addition, I may stop into a class or two on campus, either earlier the same day, or the next day before I head for home.
And I have just gotten word that my two proposals have been accepted for presentations at the Wisconsin Writers Conference at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County on June 9-10th. I am particularly excited about being able to discuss "Lorine's Toolbox: A Working Poet Explores Niedecker's Poetics." My proposal for the presentation reads this way:
Lorine Niedecker took words and weeds and water and sky and made of them something which resonated far beyond her marshes, poetry which speaks across all boundaries and borders, so that a poet the stature of Cid Corman felt compelled to include our humble Lorine in the company of Sappho and Emily Dickinson and to term the three of these "the greatest of the world's women poets." What does Lorine do that she earns such august company, and how does she do it? These are questions I'd like to answer by looking first to Lorine's eye, what she sees and how she sees it, to her wonderment and her understanding that poetry is in the small things; and looking second to the poet's ear, to the turn of her language, how she measures her words, how she uses the vernacular, the carefulness of her line, the placement of her words on the page, the resonance of her sounds, the cohesion of her images. In my search for answers, I will explore some representative poems from Niedecker's Collected Works (Jenny Penberthy, editor; University of California Press, 2002) in order to understand the ways she handles her materials to create such high art of them. I will bring a working poet's perspective to the question of how Niedecker used the tools she had at hand, and how she made the highest art from the lowest things.
The other presentation will be a reading of selections from my poetry and prose which relate to my farm background. I intend to offer excerpts from my longpoem "Making Hay" and my series of farm poems "When the Sun Goes Down, the Sky Turns Dark," as well as extracts from such essays as "Shelling Corn," "Butchering Chickens," and "Cutting Pigs" from my memoir Curlew: Home. The work I'll offer comes out of farm life as I knew it, out of the rhythms of that hard work, a report on that life but also something of a celebration:
Ah, the poetry of scooping corn! The sheer blood rush of it, the physical pulse of motion, the clock work turn and return, the long muscles ofone's back pulling and reaching and pulling. The slide of aluminum shovel ove rthe wooden floor, under and into the corn, a little rock of the shovel to work corn loose, the turn and sweep and shove of it. Unless you've done physical labor and loved physical labor you cannot fully appreciuate the joy of it, the intense physical release of it, the silver tingle and jangle and run of it, the animal part of you functioning fully, your heart pumping, your blood screaming yes, yes, yes.
Life seems good: Ah, Ben. Say yes, say yes again!