Sunday, November 29, 2009

David Citino, Poets, and Baseball

My thesis director at Ohio State was a kind, positive, generous man named David Citino, who was nothing less than an institution at an institution of some 50,000 students. Yesterday I ran across this blog entry from the editor at Valparaiso Poetry Review, a solid online journal (and not just because they published a poem of mine long ago).

Below is what was quoted from David's book The Eye of the Poet: Six Views on the Art and Craft of Poetry from VPR's blog. I just wish my students, and even me, would heed this advice on a more consistent basis--you can't become a poet of the future if you don't open up to some humility and learn the poets of the past and the now (the good and the bad). I think my job, especially in poetry workshops, is split 50 / 50--be encouraging, a guide, a co-writer, and also to humble my students to the point of feeding / spurring their desire to learn the craft and give themselve to the process (and to get used to being humbled... I was humbled twice last week. That's not a euphamism.).

"I went to a ninth-grader to learn how to throw a curve ball. He showed me. “You grip the seams. You snap your wrist down, as if you held a match a second too long.” Then one day the coach of my little league team, with even more wisdom won from age, told me not to throw a curve at all until I reached sixteen and started to get my grown-up body, or I’d do irreparable damage to my elbow. (Perhaps there are moves, twists, and velocities that younger poets should wait to try. I need to investigate this further.)

Years later, an opposing coach, after his team had knocked me around quite smartly, my best pitches whizzing back past my ears, told me that he had alerted his team to the fact that, whenever I threw the curve, I tipped my hand by sticking out my tongue a little, as if I were concentrating.

“Son,” he said to me, “you have to learn, when you throw the bender, to keep your damn tongue in your mouth.”

Live and learn. I hadn’t known that the art is to hide the art. A pitcher or poet needs (I hope this doesn’t mix the metaphor too violently) a poker face, so as not to announce to the batter or reader his or her intentions. I’ve never forgotten this kindness extended to an enemy—nor have I forgotten the importance to the poet of having a reader with a good eye and ear. Those paunchy, grizzled men sitting in dugouts are there for a reason. Those poets—women and men—sitting on benches back in the mists of time also are there for a reason. It’s all about coaching and being able to take constructive criticism. The hardest lesson young pitchers and young poets have to learn is that their job is to listen, and to read, carefully.

The young have it over the older generations in everything but those degrees earned in schools of hard knocks. Many of the birds setting off on migrations and falling into the sea or getting lost under a maze of spinning stars—each year tens of thousands of birds never make it on their long and arduous journeys—are young ones who never made the trip before. Birds, baseball players, and poets need to find out what was in order to understand better what is. I tell student poets that the best way to develop is to read poetry of all ages and all cultures, to ask of every poet, Who in the world do you think you are? The answer varies of course from poet to poet (as it does from pitcher to pitcher), but also from poem to poem."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Delicious Thanksgiving Stuffing

This technique has been passed down in my family for generations, and it's tried and true.

Of course, this year we'll be enjoying our Nueske's ham. You've not had ham until you've had this expensive smoked hog. It's like eating pig Godiva. (If you are vegetarian I apologize, somewhat.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tasting The Dust -- Poem by Jean Janzen

The way he brings it in,
leaves falling from his hair,
then kisses me, you would think

that gardening is pleasure,
which he says it is, digging deep
to kill bermuda roots, piercing

his hands on roses.
Sweat drips into my eyes
from his forehead, physician

curing himself with soil.
Sometimes I join him, raking
the pages of leaves, but the garden

is his, the place which gathers
struggles from his hands
and returns its own --

the story of dust, an origin
so deep and dense, it rose
like fire to make the mountain,

a narrative of tumble
and breakage from its sides
the wet roar of ages

under the slow beat of the sun.
The mountain offering itself
in mud, sticks and stones

for his space, his touch,
to make of it a shape and fragrance,
to taste the center of this earth.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monarch (Poop) In Space

Following the monarch cats up on the space station I never stopped to think about feces. Now, I know from personal experience monarch merde needs to be cleaned up every day, maybe every two days, before it starts turning into white cotton-ball like fuzzy type things with teeth (Monty Python?). But look at this poop fest:

These cats are "currently passing over the monarch overwintering areas in Mexico. The overwintering monarch butterflies on Earth are at an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet and have travelled at most about 2,500 miles (in up to 10 weeks) at a rate of 12 mph or so. In contrast, our "astropillars" are at an altitude of approximately 1,100,000 feet and have traveled a bit more than 3,000,000 miles (in just under 1 week) at an average rate of over 17,000 mph."

I wish I was a baller, I wish I was a monarch astropillar, I wish I had a girl that was phat, I would call her....

Check out more poop pics.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Fall Color -- In 18 Images

Many pics of final fall color over the last two warm weeks. This cornucopia of color has to hold us all until April and May, so imbibe deeply (and those stupid icicle Chistmas lights where only a few odd sections blink irregularly do not count). One good thing about wandering the garden this time of year is finally seeing all the places where the monarchs got their pupation on. I found an empty chrysalis on the dwarf arctic blue willow deep inside the branches.

I'm quite happy with the form and color of the garden--the form is something I can see much more clearly with no leaves vs. with gaudy leaves and flowers in the way. But I realize this garden really isn't as big as I once thought it was. I would love to plant more chokeberries (brilliant red fall color and fruit), but don't have the scratch. Or the itch to dig.

There is always two sides to every garden.

'Cascade Falls' Bald Cypress

Aster tartaricus

'Fineline' Buckthorn

Bee with pollen on aster.

Eupatorium 'Wayside'

I call it Golden Smokebush because the cultivar name escapes me at the moment.

Doesn't this lovely ground sedum (unknown) look like you could eat it and it'd taste like rainbow suger? I felt like Richard Brautigan there for a second.

Even the Geraniums do stuff.

Two yards of mulch. I'm not like Mr. Renegade Gardener who doesn't mulch his stuff. I need to improve my clay and protect fall transplants.

Unknown Fothergilla.

'Royal' Smokebush

'Ogon' Spiraea all decked out like a kaleidoscope colliding with my eyes.

'Coppertina' Ninebark. Let's hear it for shrubs that look sweet all year long, transforming themselves into at least 4-5 different ones throughout the year!

Sedum and Amsonia hubrichtii

'Little Henry' Itea loves you super long time with lasting color.

Spiraea 'Goldmound' also a rainbow of delight. Anyone else want some sherbet?

A terrific image if you click and expand. The low afternoon sun created such a delightful haze (get it?) backlighting the various colors of leaves and stems.

Next post may not be for a while. Sad, I know. Hope the five of you can manage.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pics of Monarchs in Space

Not exciting, but here's the link for them.

I'm fascinated by the prospect of their orbital pupation. Maybe because I want my own orbital pupation. I like the phrase "orbital pupation." Pupate with me, but orbitally.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

LST-325, A WWII Amphibious Transport

This past weekend I went to Indiana for my 10 year college reunion at the University of Evansville (which has the swankiest new union I've ever seen in my life--I got shafted!). Besides catching up with several friends I'd not seen in at least eight years, I visited the LST-325 docked in Evansville on the Ohio River. And, like an idiot, I didn't bring my camera along, but go here for good ones.

LST stands for "landing ship tank." It's a 327 foot amphibious transport, having a draft of only 2' at the bow and 7' at the aft, with lots of 40mm and 20mm guns for defensive purposes (and bigger than you think--the 40mm took a two man crew just to aim and fire). At only 1,600 tons empty displacement, or 4,000 full, it ain't that large (I once visited the HMS Belfast in London, a light cruiser, and it was "small" at 10,000 tons). Still, the 325 was larger than I'd figured. There's irony.

Stuck on France at low tide. Notice the blimps in the background, designed to discourage German planes from strafing allied ships.

LST-325 was in the fray landing front line troops and tanks at Sicily and Salerno. It was part of the backup "B" landing at Omaha Beach in France, but even though it didn't see the intense fighting of the first landings, I was honored to stand on the deck of a ship that made the trip, and caried wounded and dead soldiers back to England. I've been to the beaches at Normandy twice before, and it was easy to let my imagination run wild.

I made my wife go along on the tour, which was a fast 2 hours. I thought she'd hate it, but she kept asking questions of our super-informative Korean and Vietnam War vet tour guide--who graduated from UE on the GI bill decades ago. The 325 still houses vets who are restoring the ship, and has a working galley (spaghetti the day we toured), and a washer and dryer. Two dozen old vets brought the ship over from mothballs in Greece a decade ago, and 325 looks decent given its age. Hard to imagine 21 sherman tanks in the belly, and as many jeeps and artillery pieces and supplies on the deck. I can't imagine riding the 40 trips back and forth across the English channel during the war on a boat with a flat and high bottom--vomitous.

Apparently, Evansville was the top builder of LSTs during WWII, making over 500. And of course, the labor force was largely women. 325 was built in Philadelphia in 1942. Our tour guide said that at first, it took the workers 1-2 months to build one ship, but by the end of the war they'd crank one out every week or two. Amazing. Today, the old vets take the boat on tours along the Ohio and Mississippi, and other rivers. What a life, a life I'm thankful we can freely live.

Today on the Ohio River.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sesame Street Goes Green (For 2 Years)

"Sesame Street's 40th season aims to educate children about the wonders of the natural world and teach them about concepts such as habitats, hibernation, and migration.

No matter where they live, "we want kids to know there's nature in their neighborhoods," Truglio said. In tomorrow's premiere episode, Michelle Obama—fresh from harvesting the White House's new organic garden in the heart of Washington, D.C.—will help Elmo and Big Bird plant vegetables in the ersatz inner city of Sesame Street."


"Elmo and Abby decide to help Bert find this pigeon, and in their search they run into all these other kinds of birds. After kids watch this show, they'll be able to identify chickadees, blue jays, robins, and blue bar pigeons by their shape, size, and birdcall."

and finally

"Global warming and deforestation—those are really adult concepts, and it's just too scary for children," said Rosemarie Truglio, vice president of research and education at Sesame Workshop, the New York City-based nonprofit that produces Sesame Street.

"The place we're coming from is, 'Let's love and care for the Earth, because it's so beautiful, and we appreciate its awe and wonder, and we're going to respect it.'"

Sesame Street's producers hope that children who learn to love and respect nature early on will grow up to become passionate advocates for our planet.

"When you love something," Truglio said, "you want to take care of it."

To see the full National Geographic article, allons-y.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Monarchs in Spaaaaace

"The next Space Shuttle launch is scheduled for November 16th.
Atlantis will carry three 4th instar monarch caterpillars to the
International Space Station (ISS) in a small rearing chamber. This
chamber will be placed in an incubator aboard the ISS where the
developing monarchs will be monitored. Still and video cameras will
continually capture images, which will be made available online."

from Monarch Watch

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Sad Discovery

I have a habit of piling up mail order nursery boxes on my patio / deck. They might stay there for two months, protected from wind and rain. A few days ago, though, the last of my fall cleanup days was spurred on by 70 degrees and rare sunlight, so I went out to toss some trash and cut down the cardboard for recycling. Here is what I found.

A female monarch, crisply dessicated. I'm not sure how a caterpiller found its way up the deck, up a chair, then around and into this box, because it was closed with another box stacked on top. The cat could apparently get in, but, of course, the butterfly could not get out. I wonder how long she struggled--being buried to death by her own drive to survive. And why did she have to be female? Tooth and claw I suppose, but I have a special affinity for monarchs. You can rest assured my boxes won't remained piled out there from July to September--prime monarch season for me here in Nebraska.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Embalming--Early 1900s Style

If you're ever in Weatherford, OK, check out this undertaker's diorama at the Heartland of America Museum (get it? Die-o-rama?). It's a phenomenal small town museum which is HUGE and VERY detailed. I enjoyed pondering the use of the medical instruments. No. I did not. And I now want a coffin with a window, just like I want an office on campus with one.