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. 

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Issue #12, Winter 2017

Most of Word Fountain‘s Winter Issue is live on the website version now, and the rest is coming this week. BUT, you can still get gorgeous print copies of these babies with this luscious cover art by Ainslee Golomb. and you can

And you can submit to lucky issue #13, the spring-summer edition! The deadline is March 31st.

Just follow the links to find out how to do all that. Any donations you make go toward our printing, shipping, and operating costs. It’s a Continue reading “Issue #12, Winter 2017”

Poetry Month Then and Now

English: Signature of Shel Silverstein.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night Rebecca, George, Magda and a small group of library patrons celebrated National Poetry Month by gathering in the reading room at the Osterhout Free Library for Wilkes-Barre’s first Third Friday Art Walk of the season.  Patrons stopped in, some to watch and listen between checking out the historic photographs and paintings on the wall, and some to spend a little time reading with us. The majority of the poems were from books of children’s poetry. We had everything from A. A. Milne and Shel Silverstein to Robert Lois Stevenson and Sherman Alexi.

Next month we’ll be celebrating the release of the new Word Fountain literary magazine, which has been on hiatus for the last two years. Recently some other new library employees agreed to join me in editing a relaunch. The submission deadline was April 1st, and we had no idea how many submissions we would get. Thanks to Duotrope adding us to their database, and promotion through the library and sites like NEPA Scene and Poets of NEPA, we were overwhelmed by the response! So if you submitted and haven’t heard from us yet, we’re down to making the difficult, last-minute decisions, so you’ll hear from us soon.

line art drawing of catbird.
The Catbird (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before going back to finish up Word Fountain though, I’ll be taking this week off to spend time with one of my best friends in the world, as fellow poet and member of the original triumvirate who led the old GayFatherhood.com website, Vincent Creelan comes to visit from Northern Ireland. We’ll be trekking through the woods, looking for birds and geologic rock formations, drinking wine and reading poems together. So, I know I’ll return back to you refreshed for next week.

And while gathering things like binoculars and field guides today, as I do a bit of house-cleaning in preparation for Vince’s arrival, I thought of a poem about birds that I wish I had shared with the group at the library last night. By this point in my life I could probably recite this poem by memory, but here is a video of me reading the poem in King Street Park, Northumberland as my family was celebrating National Poetry Month about this time four years ago. We don’t always gather in local parks with sidewalk chalk, poetry books and a guitar, but when we do, we certainly get the neighborhood’s attention. Then again, they probably just think, ‘Oh, it’s that weird Bauman family again. They’re always doing stuff like that. Bunch of hippies.’

The Kitty-Cat Bird

The Kitty-Cat Bird, he sat on a Fence.
Said the Wren, your Song isn’t worth 10 cents.
You’re a Fake, you’re a Fraud, you’re a Hor-rid Pretense!
–Said the Wren to the Kitty-Cat Bird.

You’ve too many Tunes, and none of them Good:
I wish you would act like a bird really should,
Or stay by yourself down deep in the wood,
–Said the Wren to the Kitty-Kat Bird.

You Mew like a Cat, you grate like a Jay:
You squeak like a Mouse that’s lost in the Hay,
I wouldn’t be You for even a day,
–Said the Wren to the Kitty-Cat Bird.

The Kitty-Cat Bird, he moped and he cried.
Then a real cat came with a Mouth so Wide,
That the Kitty-Cat Bird just hopped inside;
–Did the Kitty –the Kitty-Cat Bird.

You’d better not laugh; and don’t say “Pooh!”
Until you have thought this Sad Tale through;
Be sure that whatever you are is you
–Or you’ll end like the Kitty-Cat Bird.

Theodore Roethke

Spring Poetry Readings

Sunday, April 3rd

1278011_605442046179825_1740252407_oI will once again have the honor of being the featured poet at the Priestley Memorial Chapel in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. This time it’s April 3rd, the first Sunday in National Poetry Month. So if you are anywhere in the Central Pennsylvania region that weekend and are up for a 9:30 am poetry reading, let me know! I’m hoping to hit a few folks up for brunch after!

The musician for the program is pianist David Levengood from Bucknell University. The tunes will range from classical to improv jazz.

Do not worry my faithless friends, this is not a church service. From PriestleyChapel.org: Priestley Chapel Associates presents an informal program of words and music from 9:30 to 10:10 am on the first Sunday at Joseph Priestley Memorial Chapel, 380 Front Street, Northumberland, PA. Programs begin at 9:30 am and conclude at 10:10 am.

Friday, May 20th

wb-library-osterhoutThere will be a reading of poetry and prose during the Official Release Party for the “Come-back” issue, the Spring/Summer volume of Word Fountain, the Literary Magazine of the Osterhout Free Library on May 20th at 6:30 pm. The festivities will take place at the Osterhout, 71 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA as part of the city’s Third Friday Arts Walk.

Interestingly enough this venue, while no longer a church, is located in the former First Presbyterian Church, built in 1849. It’s served now as a public library for 127 years. See more information about its history at Osterhout.lib.pa.us.

I should note that at the time of this writing there are still 9 days left until the deadline for submissions to that issue. And while we still need to get an editors’ bio section up on that About page, I can tell you that you already know one of the four editors. He has this weird blog about poetry, family and of all things, very occasionally, birds! Check out Word Fountain’s submission guidelines for details and then send us something we’ll love!

Other Poets Reading in North Eastern and Central Pennsylvania this Spring

Click on the links for details and directions:

And those are just the events I know about! There are surely plenty more. Who are those idiots who keep claiming that poetry is dead? I think I have seen that in enough national rags by this point.

Now, I apologize to my many readers who live in other corners of Pennsylvania, other parts of the country, other nooks in the continent, or outside the continental US altogether. You actually outnumber my local readers, but I couldn’t help bragging on my home turf here.

But in the comments, it’s your turn. Please leave a comment if there is a poetry or literary event in your area this spring that you have information about. Hey, you never know, a simple google search could lead a potential attendee right to your information here, so feel free to provide links, and all the info you can in the comments below. Thanks you so much. And at the risk of verbing, poem on!

An Announcement: We’re Gonna Make It.

English: Postage stamp depicting the main buil...Postage stamp depicting the main building of the Tampere City Library (“Metso”), designed by Raili & Reima Pietilä (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes! Finally I can tell you some things. There are still struggles; there are still problems. Some of these I can’t talk about, mostly because I wish to maintain the privacy of those involved. Other issues I won’t bother to mention, basically because we all have these problems. The car breaks down. Your indoor cat somehow gets fleas.

And while it’s good to purge sometimes, I prefer selective and productive dumping, so as not to pollute the public’s emotional water ways. Sometimes others need to hear the specifics of your struggles, so that they do not feel alone. This isn’t one of those days. Today I need to share a bit of good news, because the gods know I have been needing some good news. And in this way, I hope to bring some encouragement, not through commiseration, but through celebration, and tangible reasons for hope.

So let’s boil this down. My beautiful 100-year-old building was bought by new owners this year. I was a little worried because frankly I’ve been living here pretty cheaply, and that allowed me to take that leap and quit the restaurant biz, go full-time at the library, and start working on that freelance editing thing. But the first time they raised the rent it was only by 25 bucks. Whew. Then, like my knee, the car broke down. No problem, we have another car and I can walk up the street to work. It will take time, but we’re gonna make it, I thought.

My table that I don't sit a often enough.
My table that I don’t sit a often enough.

Then in July we got the news that the rent would go up again, with the promise of a further hike coming in January. All totaled that’s a 200 dollar rise in rent in their first year of owning this place! Hey, if I’m going to pay that I want at least a postage-stamp-yard, not just a stone courtyard, with stones that are only there because friends and I drove the truck and put them there (with sweat, and little help from the previous landlord).

For that price I want a place with more light, not a cave tucked in between these dark buildings. I want a view akin to what I had when I was up on the third floor, when our family was smaller, a view that looked over the building toward the hills along the river, not this view of an ugly wall. For that price I want the stained tiles in my kitchen ceiling replaced, like the landlord promised months ago. A little insulation in the place would be nice too. The cheap rent only served to offset the high cost of heating and cooling.

There are nicer places (and we don’t need one quite this big now that the boys are older) for that price. But even so, I couldn’t afford the two hundred-dollar hike, not yet. The budget really was that tight. It meant a change in plans, and honestly taking my wounded knee and my battered heart back into waiting tables just wasn’t an option. I love my job at the library here. For the last year and a half I’ve been happy going to work, not dreading it (even when the computer lab tech issues seem to be conspiring to bring me down!). But circumstances were just making it clear that I needed to adjust my plans.

And to keep this story from taking up your whole day, here’s the news: After some inquiries, two interviews, and several weeks, I have accepted a job offer that (once I get past all the moving expenses–thank you to my friends who are offering assistance!) will get our heads above water again. No, we won’t be living lavish life-styles of the rich and famous, but we’ll be in much better shape and on our feet financially again.

They were a tad younger here.
They were a tad younger here.

It’s a little further from my sons, but my sons are well above driving age now, and really the few extra miles just make sense. We’ll be closer to Brian’s family, and that will save him his monthly week-long absences to work with his brother and father. And we have friends in the area too, so while we will miss our Northumberland-Lewisburg crowd, we will not be adrift or alone.

I’ll be supervising a small branch library and learning a little each week in the large home library downtown too. There is a local, active arts, music and poetry scene, and I’m looking forward to getting involved once we settle in. I’ve scouted out birding opportunities in the vicinity–it’s important! There’s even a little fall hawk watch south of town. And of course, we can pay the bills, rather than juggle them, without my having to do any more damage to my body on restaurant floors.

So that’s the scoop. The picture in the video below makes me chuckle, because while we are not exactly moving to “the big city,” for this country boy, it’s pretty close. So allow me a little artistic license here. As I’ve said elsewhere, “I’m a poet, not a historian.” EDIT: It seems the original video has been deleted, so by way of explanation, the image was a city-scape, and was meant to be a visual commentary for this well-traveled country boy. So I’ve come back and substituted this classic performance, introduced by “Hoss.” I hope you’ll call him that. 😉

It’s interesting, as I type this post in the editing window, WordPress is suggesting tags that include Star Wars, Nazi concentration camps, World War II, and the Associated Press. These are big life changes going on for us, but thanks for the contrast, WP Editor; It’s really not that bad. Here’s Little Milton (no, my cat is not named after him) with “We’re Gonna Make It.”

Cross Keys Poetry Update, Art in the Garden

IMG_1694Last year in July, you may remember my mentioning that we started a poetry group at the library where I work. It was an enthusiastic group to start, but there was a lot happening over this past year. Chad got a new job north of here. Sharlene landed a professor position, and had to teach later. Dylan got the chance to travel on the road with a band, and Tom, now retired had the opportunity to spend more time with his beloved wife. Not bad things, just the opposite, good life changes.

Micah and I had our own challenges this year too, and sometimes my son and I were the only ones this winter to show up at events. Part of that was the cold and the snow. But part of that was also my being internet savvy, but not local, small-town, newspaper savvy. And some of it was that a good thing takes some time to work around by word of mouth. Either way, we’ve learned a few things and grown, and most importantly, stuck with it.

This summer, Faith M. Saxton Gallo, one of our members, came up with the idea of setting up her easel in our Library Garden, and inviting other artists to join her where passers-by could see, while the rest of us opened up our poetry journals and notepads at the picnic table.  Now we don’t have a lot of foot traffic in this little town, but until the bypass (if it ever) happens, we do have a lot of motor traffic coming by on route 11. So it gets a little visibility when our active library community goes outside.

Faith M. Saxton Gallo
Faith M. Saxton Gallo

Last night we had the opportunity to overlap the garden use with our incredible children’s library, and the end of their summer reading program. It definitely caught the interest of a few parents. We’ve also had some time and staying power to reach out to local artists and authors, like John Moore, whose face you see in the sketch by my friend Mary, who surprised and delighted me by showing up last night. It was also a joy to have my work-buddy, writer, and budding blogger, Steve, The Accidental Poet, join us at the picnic table. Tamara, one of our interns joined us and talked about her love for photography and her plans for art classes at Kutztown University. I don’t think we could have asked for a better evening.

We have a lot of ideas, and are putting them into motion. And once it gets too cold to be outside, we have plans for the Cross Keys Poetry Society to host a Story Time for Grown-ups series, with time for an open mic afterward. Poetry can be a small community in a tiny town, so we want to reach out to other artists and create space where we can share and learn from each other. Where better than at the local library? I’m feeling really positive about the organic way in which this group is finding ways to make a home in this community and invite others to do the same.

John Moore by Mary
John Moore, by Mary Irene Jack

What’s happening outside your door? Is there a group you wish you could join, if there only were such a thing near you? Well, if you have some patience and some love, you can start one yourself! Just don’t be afraid to let it grow into it’s own thing while you’re planting and watering that garden.

Here’s a bit of our evening last night, with music by my future husband, Brian P. Kelly, as he plays Loreena McKennitt’s musical adaptation of Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott.” Now, I could just share the YouTube video with you, but I’m also kind of proud that Jeff, our library director gave me the opportunity to do the redesign of the library’s website. Apparently it’s getting noticed too.  So indulge me, if you would and take a peek at PriestleyForsyth.org when you have the chance.