Beach Grass In Winter, walking along Park Point Beach on Lake Superior, near Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
It’s a beautiful Fall Sunday in Minnesota. I’m feeling reflective, pensive. Like the perennials on the deck that I need to transplant, my body is beginning to prepare for the long, dark winter ahead.
Fall is my favorite time of year. The diminishing light leads me to take long walks along the trail by the house, then settle in to write. I anticipate large pots of soup simmering in crocked earthenware, and bits of flakey ice dotting the windshield. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’m heading out to the garden after this post to dig a few holes for planting. Ted Kooser is on the table beside me. The native Nebraskan would understand the restlessness and listless turn toward hibernation that implants itself in Midwestern souls this time of year.
I started out wanting to post two of his poems on art. But as I’m writing the introduction, I’m drawn to a monotone photograph taken while walking a cold, windy beach in Duluth last winter. So I’ve decided to include his poem, Memory. It harkens to the land and the associative connect-the-dot qualities of memory that lead writers to write the things they write.
Below is his poem from Delights & Shadows, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The book is set in New Caledonia, designed by William A. Dwiggins in 1939 after the Scottish faces of the 19th Century. It is printed on archival-quality Glatfelter Authors Text. The book design is by Valerie Brewster. The cover art, August Night At Russell’s Corners, by George C. Ault.
by Ted Kooser
Spinning up dust and cornshucks
as it crossed the chalky, exhausted fields,
it sucked up into its heart
hot work, cold work, lunch buckets,
good horses, bad horses, their names
and the names of mules that were
better or worse than the horses,
then rattled the dented tin sides
of the threshing machine, shook
the manure spreader, cranked
the tractor’s crank that broke
the uncle’s arm, then swept on
through the windbreak, taking
the treehouse and dirty magazines,
turning its fury on the barn
where cows kicked over buckets
and the gray cat sat for a squirt
of thick milk in its whiskers, crossed
the chicken pen, undid the hook,
plucked a warm brown egg
from the meanest hen, then turned
toward the house, where threshers
were having dinner, peeled back
the roof and the kitchen ceiling,
reached down and snatched up
uncles and cousins, grandma, grandpa,
parents and children one by one,
held them like dolls, looked
long and longingly into their faces,
then set them back in their chairs
with blue and white platters of chicken
and ham and mashed potatoes
still steaming before them, with
boats of gravy and bowls of peas
and three kinds of pie, and suddenly,
with a sound like a sigh, drew up
its crowded, roaring, dusty funnel,
and there at its tip was the nib of a pen.
-poem by Ted Kooser, from Delights & Shadows, Part II: The China Painters, Copper Canyon Press, 2004
-about Copper Canyon Press: The Chinese character for poetry is made up of two parts: “word” and “temple.” It also serves as pressmark for Copper Canyon Press. Founded in 1972, Copper Canyon Press remains dedicated to publishing poetry exclusively, from Nobel laureates, to new and emerging authors. The Press thrives with the generous patronage of readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, teachers, students, and funders – everyone who shares the conviction that poetry invigorates the language and sharpens our appreciation of the world.
-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, September 9th, 2007