Saturday Songs with Lucy Dacus

Wyoming Valley Pennsylvania
Wyoming Valley Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Hint: It doesn’t look like this anymore.

I’m going to give my friend Raul Clement a bit of a plug for his excellent work at New American Press just because they put out damn good writing. Check them out, and send them some of your best work (after thoroughly reading their guidelines, of course). I met Raul maybe two years back when I first moved up here to the Wyoming Valley, which is, oddly enough, nowhere near Wyoming (Northeast Pennsylvania. Weird, right?).

They were doing a reading series at a local Irish pub, and one of the Wilkes University professors told me about it.  I was seriously impressed, and since they did a little combo discount, I bought four or five books from the fiction and poetry writers who were there to read their work that night.

Since then Raul and I have only gotten to know each other on Bookface, but hopefully, I’ll get to visit him in his new home in Chicago eventually. One of the many things I’ve learned is that he’s got excellent taste in music, and when he says he likes a song, I want to check it out. I’m not sure how I missed Lucy Dacus when she did her NPR Tiny Desk concert two years ago, but I’m happy to have found her now.

So here for the Saturday Songs feature is Lucy’s song that came out last year. I love a good song that, as Raul said, “actually goes somewhere.” Below that video, you can enjoy her eleven-minute mini desk concert, just in case you missed it too. You’re welcome.

Poetry Month, Week Three: Barbara Crooker’s Towhee

A male Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus...
A male Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) searching for food on the ground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the immortal Bard once said, “A Tohee / by any other name would sing the same.” Okay, I admit it, I might have misquoted. But you get the idea. Birds’ names sometimes evolve, usually because, in the process of studying them, we learn new things about them.

In this case, the Rufous-sided Towhee was once thought to be one species. And though I still tend to think of the Towhees I see while out birding in Penn’s Woods as Rufous-sided, they have officially been designated a separate species from the Spotted Towhee of the west. The folks at Audubon’s “Birdnote” have a nice little summary of the way bird names have changed over the years. It even includes a bird I saw yesterday, the Northern Flicker, which went the opposite direction. Instead of two species, Yellow-shafted and Red-shafted, it is now considered one species with multiple variations.

Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whew. And then there’s the pronunciation. I’ve always said it like this: “Toe Hee.” But when I listened to the recording in the above link, my heart sank. I had already recorded today’s poem, but what the heck was this lady was saying! “Towy?”

So I went into research mode and discovered that it can be pronounced both ways. Several articles and every dictionary (for what it’s worth—I’m not sure they actually consult ornithologists) seemed to mention only the pronunciation I have used for years. And while it doesn’t discuss how to say Towhee, Kevin McGowan’s article did a lot to soothe my nerves. As he says:

If it bothers you when people say it differently than you do, lighten up. They’re just birds, for goodness sakes, and THEY don’t care what you call them.

None of these name-changing or pronunciation issues do anything to lessen the deceptively simple beauty of today’s poem by Barbara Crooker. A few articles were rather vague about how the Towhee’s name had something to do with it’s “che-wink” call,  but you can clearly hear in the bird’s song the comforting encouragement to “Drink your tea.”

The poem’s epigraph is from another favorite poet of mine, Jane Hirschfield. Thank you, Barbara Crooker, for writing this poem, which I discovered for the first time today, following so aptly the time I spent in the forest this weekend.

More on that next time.

You can read along in the winter 2014 edition of Little Patuxent Review: A Journal of Literature and the Arts. (Check out more from that issue by clicking here).

A River Town Homecoming, Reading at the Ross Library

Ross Library Benches in Snow
That’s what it looks like now,  but don’t worry. I think the reading will be inside.

I’ve been updating my Events page with more and more upcoming poetry readings and what not. One of the most exciting is rather poetic. Next Saturday, January 27th, I’ll be reading in my old hometown. Just weeks after starting a new job as a library director, I’ll have the honor of going back to my very first library, the one I used to hide in when I was a kid, the one where I taught myself how to use the old card catalog. And there I’ll be giving my first public reading from Moons, Roads, and Rivers, my debut poetry chapbook from Finishing Line Press. I’m so excited!

It’s miles away for most of you, thousands of miles for some, but if you can be in central Pennsylvania next weekend, I’d love to meet up with you at the Ross Library, 232 West Main Street in the riverside town of Lock Haven, Pennsylvania at 2:00 pm. Just between you and me, I confess to feeling tremendously tickled to see my name in the old county libraries’ upcoming events list. I’ll have books with me for sale, of course. Or if you’ve already pre-ordered one, just bring it along and I’ll gratefully sign it!

(The above snowy image is from the Ross Library website)

The Chapbooks Are Here!

Poetry Chapbook Moons, Roads, and Rivers by David J. Bauman. Cover, midnight blue looking up through trees with moonlight. books, desk, mac, laptop, micraphone
Ready to sign and record!

Finally, my author copies of Moons, Roads, and Rivers have arrived! The press was running behind, and the holidays slowed things down even more, but here the little lovelies are and I’m very happy with them.

Since my batch came straight from the printer, the preorder copies will be a few days yet before they arrive at your doors. Thank you! If you haven’t ordered yet, you can by visiting Finishing Line Press’s site, or by contacting your favorite, hopefully, indie bookstore.

I say all of this because several people have contacted me saying that they are worried that their order got lost. Probably not. Just a very overwhelmed press with a release time too close to the holidays. From what they are saying, it might be until the 16th before some of you have your copies. I am so very sorry about that.

If you don’t have yours by the 17th of January, please email them directly at MissingBookOrders@finishinglinepress.com. Tell them you ordered Moons, Roads, and Rivers by David J. Bauman, and be sure to mention your correct shipping address. They will have someone look into this email daily in case of missing orders.

Cover image of poetry chapbook Moons, Roads, and Rivers by David J. Bauman. Dark trees, midnight blue and moonlight white lettering serif font
Cover by Michael B. McFarland

If you are new here and haven’t been subject to my incessant self-promotion, Moons, Roads, and Rivers is my first chapbook. It’s a collection of both old and newer poems. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time on the road and a fair amount of time on, in, or by the river. I grew up along the West Branch of the Susquehanna and now live on the far North Branch. In between, I lived where the two branches meet. But the poems also recall college days in the flatlands of Indiana as well as the wooded hills of central Pennsylvania.

I was divorced from my sons’ mother for most of their lives, so I’ve racked up a lot of driving poems, and since much of that driving was at night, the moon showed up frequently in those pieces. It seemed like a good idea to combine these works and see how they might come together in a small collection, and I think I’m very happy with the result.

Title page of Moons, Roads,, and Rivers by David J. BaumanMostly, I think these are mood and memory pieces. From childhood to fatherhood, it’s the feelings evoked by those travels, those surroundings that permeate these poems, more than any particular “message.”

I hope you enjoy them and order a copy of the chapbook for yourself. I’ll be sharing some information about upcoming readings (You can also check my Events page) and, of course, as is my habit, I’ll be recording a few on SoundCloud and Youtube soon!

 

Moons, Roads, and Rivers

Bauman_David_COV4
Cover photo by Michael B. McFarland

UPDATE:

Moons, Roads, and Rivers, my first chapbook, is about to be released from Finishing Line Press. Click here to order your copy!

The printer is running a few weeks behind, but it looks like any pre-orders should arrive by Christmas or the New Year at the latest.

Moons, Roads, and Rivers is a small collection of poems set along highways and side roads from Pennsylvania to Indiana, from backyards and bar stools to graveyards and broken-down cars. Continue reading “Moons, Roads, and Rivers”

God, Dad, and Cars

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker this morning. Unfortunately, my boss asked for his promotional postcard for my upcoming chapbook to be sent to the main library. So the impression was that I was being pushy since we received “multiple” postcards (I think really only the two unless she’s referring to the other branches as well).

Ah, sometimes the negativity bugs that crawl around work places–they just show up, no matter how good your intentions. The first question asked was why the library wasn’t getting donated, signed copies. I quipped (half-jokingly) that I didn’t write the book to just give it away. But I eventually assured her that copies were being bought and donated to all the branches and I would happily sign them. I just wanted my coworkers to know about it and share my joy.

Then she said that she didn’t “get today’s poetry.” I confess I was annoyed for a half second, expecting the old “but it doesn’t rhyme!” complaint. But then I thought, well, it’s really a fair, albeit broad statement. I mean, I’m not crazy about some poetry today either.

She and I don’t work together often, only once or twice a week when I am down at the main branch. And it occurred to me, what a great opportunity this was to talk about poetry! So I asked what she liked and she quoted the opening lines from “The Children’s Hour.” In response, I shared a recitation from memory, “Ask Me” by William Stafford, which she was surprised to discover she very much liked. “It’s beautiful, and it flows!”

I told her it was a favorite of mine, that the poet had died a few years back, and that he was one of my heroes. While my writing is not as brilliant as his, he was certainly an influence. I like to play with sound and line endings, to find a rhythm in the language that might not be expected, and often isn’t traditional.  Then I pulled up the following poem, originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine. I told her this is a small sample of what’s in this chapbook, though there are some other more surreal pieces as well.

She looked over my shoulder at the screen as I read it aloud to her. She seemed to brighten even more and said she liked it. I’m hoping this was a step toward making a convert.

God, Dad, and Cars

I’m 8 years old, perched
on a headlight under the raised hood
of our white four-door Chevy,

which has somehow stranded us
at Uncle Bob’s farm.
But this isn’t like the time before,

in Canada, when we broke down
along a country road, far from home.
Across the back seat Crystal and I

had played cards with mom while you
paced, and raged how God must hate
you. I wondered, why you thought

He’d bother a little family like ours,
only on vacation. Wouldn’t He
have more important things to do?

No one home at the farm,
but you know where the tools are—
your hands gloved in grease.

You are in control, under sweat
and sun. I hold something in place
while you work. Afterwards,

when the engine cranks,
you thank me, slap me on the back.
“Thank God you were here,” your smile

wide and rare as the words you say:
“I couldn’t have done it without you.
I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine, August 2013

Please consider pre-ordering the chapbook, Moons, Roads, and Rivers, from Finishing line Press. Just click here.