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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Never Enough Quiet Summer Morning

Work ongoing

Five a.m. The trees are silhouettes against the lightening emptiness behind them. The tree guy worked until 10 last night, felling and grinding popples, and now at last, as we’ve imagined for so long, the big, old silver maple southeast of the farmhouse stands almost alone (work not done yet), apart, in all its healthy, aging majesty. The dog and I go out in the gloaming (shouldn't morning as well as evening be describable with that word, as 'crepuscular' can describe either?) to experienced our changed reality. I look and look and feel the breeze on my arms and face, and she sniffs and sniffs.

Back on the porch to finish a book left open the night before, and after its satisfying last page the coffee is ready. But already it is 5:40! Soon to be six o’clock! This time goes too fast.
These are the hours I like most, when everyone is asleep and the place is mine and I can move from my own dream life to the life of writing.  
-       Mary Gordon, Seeing Through Places: Reflections on Geography and Identity
While hers is the epitome of city dwelling, and my own life is deeply rural, many of her passages speak to me of my own way of being-in-the-world, and none more than her sense of mornings, alone: “It is my time – and there is never enough of it....”

For me, this time is not exclusively for writing (although
Morning songster
sometimes for stretches of time it is so), however; the few brief weeks of heaven we call summer in northern Michigan make of morning very much a time for me to be immersed in outdoor air, in the song sparrow’s sleepy, happy greeting of the day, the raucous scolding of distant crows, the restless, busy fluttering of leaves, dew on the grass, my dog’s contentment matching my own as the two of us, eager sponges, breathe deeply and soak up and absorb our surroundings until we are saturated and then go on taking in more, overflowing with well being.

Mary Gordon’s “here,” the place for which she feels so much gratitude over being able to call it home, is a New York apartment. Mine is a scant, irregular, near-five-acre piece of ground in northern Michigan. But like Gordon, coming at last to her urban, academic life, I feel here that this is “the here that was always the here for me.”

I am not a second- or third- or fourth-generation native on this land, do not possess a family name in common with my neighbors, and have no ancestors’ graves to visit up at nearby St. Wenceslaus. Whatever feelings attach the established old families to their land I will never know firsthand. But their attachment is only possible because someone, once, came from somewhere else, stopped here, and decided to make this home. I am not forgetting Native Americans when I say this, either, many of whom came up along the shore of the Lake from southern Michigan or down from Canada to Leelanau. I feel personally, intimately, rooted here. Isn’t this what a feeling for home is? And is my feeling less than anyone else’s? For me it is an absolute, as all experience is absolute (“personal experience” a redundancy), not measurable against that of another person. My strawberries are no less sweet, my meadow no less lovely, my shade in summer no less refreshing, my snow in winter no less deep or cold, my back no less tired after mowing or shoveling.

Strawberries from my garden 
The greatest portion of my summer day, however, is spent indoors, in town, at my bookstore. I see many people during the day – bookstore customers usually delightful, often fascinating – and in front of my building there is constant street traffic and lots of noise and dust. In the close quarters of a small village, moreover, interests at times conflict, and conflict resolution is not always quick or easy. “What do you think of _____________?” I am often asked, the subject filling the blank changing from one week or month or year to the next.

The truth is that I only think about _____________ when my attention is forcibly directed to it, and even then I often do so reluctantly and have little or nothing to say about it. In general, when I’m at work I’m thinking much more about selling books –  also about reading and writing about books, as well as about finding time for reading and writing and visiting with friends, about what to fix for dinner and how to make time for outdoor projects and about paying bills. I think about bricks to lay and jam to make at home and laundry that’s never done for long, and I long for chickens, obsess over keeping autumn olive at bay, keep meaning to order a peening jig and hammer, and daydream of mowing my meadow with a scythe – all  home matters to which my workday mind is drawn again and again, even while I’m in my bookstore. Home and bookstore – both rewarding, both demanding.

What do I think of _____________? Living out in the country, as I do, means doing without the conveniences of town, so why should I take on the psychological burdens of village life, too? “Because you have a business,” I’m told. But how does being drawn into discussion of controversies do my business any good? Argument and gossip pay no bills and buy no groceries. I’m not on salary, and neither do I get paid by the hour, so I must save my breath to cool my porridge.

Am I an “outsider,” in the village and/or in the country? The question only arises for me in town, never in my old house, never outdoors, never on my home ground.

Thunder in the distance as the wind picks up.... At six-thirty a driving rain arrives. I love the sound of it on the metal porch roof, even though I have to close the window on the south end of the porch so it won’t blow in. The storm increases my sense of being sheltered and protected by the old house....

Gradually the pounding slows to pattering. The rain has given me the gift of time this morning, as I won’t need to water gardens now for at least 24 hours. And if more rain comes and our evening with friends tonight must be on the porch instead of outdoors, so be it. Being together will be good either way.

The morning is (was, as I wrote this earlier) still quiet, still mine. And that’s good, too. Pen and paper – that is, Staedtler pigment liner, bought for drawing, and cheap, spiralbound, “college ruled” notebook. Do students take notes any more? How, if the younger generation can’t write cursive? “Write cursive” – that looks and sounds awkward. Well, but – pen and paper, coffee, rain on roof, dog at my feet, David sleeping in another corner of the house. I am here, and I am at home.

And that, dear new friend out on the Atlantic, is how I feel about that.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Time for a Downtown Update

Tucker's of Northport
Let's start as you enter town, making that left turn onto Waukazoo Street. Whoa! What's that enormous new building?

Looking north on Waukazoo Street
Tucker's of Northport is a boutique bowling alley and entertainment center with restaurant and bar, and yes, it's open, with lots of new jobs for local kids. Just to the north there will soon be a new village parking lot (with bike racks, too, I hope and pray). Across from Tucker's (not pictured), the building with the blue awnings is the restaurant now called, as of last year, the Soggy Dollar, with bar and full dinner menu.

Parking lot-to-be
On last year's map, the next commercial building north would have been Motovino, but that great little wine-tasting and gourmet shop has moved over to the Big Store on the opposite corner, the building that also houses Northport Fitness and Lelu Cafe (Lelu now thoroughly remodeled and open again for dinner), and where Motovino used to be you'll find Dorothy Irvine's antique shop. Below is the west side of the north end of our block of Waukazoo Street.

My end of the block!
New Motovino/Lelu entrances on Nagonaba Street
Garage Bar Grill is still going strong, and George is doing lots of gumbo this year -- don't miss it! Then come Red Mullein, Dog Ears Books, and the David Grath Gallery. Eighth year already in this location for the bookstore. (Where have the years gone?) And across Nagonaba from Deep's Store (gas & sundries) is Mary Kent's well-known clothing boutique.

Up on the north side of the T-intersection of Waukazoo and Nagonaba, there have been teasing signs for weeks that Northport Brewing was getting ready to open very soon, and finally word came out: 5 o'clock on Wednesday, June 25th! It's quiet again this morning, Thursday, but all that outdoor seating signals more fun in the offing.

Northport Brewing Co.
Turn right on Nagonaba and just past Tom's Market you'll see a beautiful renovation taking place, as the old Ship's Galley is transformed into the Tribune Cafe, a nod to newspaper history in Northport. This place is going to be so cool!

Front seen from east
Back deck in the making

All the way down by the marina parking lot, the old Depot building and caboose have gotten more than a facelift. They are beautiful! And from the looks of things, the Depot shop will be open very soon. Many new and interesting features have been added (while retaining historic charm), and the antique gas pump and Little Free Library are a couple of them, but I want to call special attention to the solar panels behind the caboose.

Caboose behind Depot

Solar panels behind caboose
Ours is, there's no denying, a small village, dependent on summer tourism, with a shrinking school population and a growing number of retirees. But Northport is hardly asleep at the switch, as this investment in solar power demonstrates.

Other big news is the new golf course (not opened yet) and clubhouse (ditto) north of town, out past the cemetery -- look for those to welcome you in July -- and get a load of what else is out there: more solar panels and in the background (difficult to see on this slightly overcast morning) a wind generator tower.

Golf course clubhouse is moving forward
More alternative energy investment

North End is still serving great meals; Kampgrounds Kreamery and the Willowbrook and Pennington Collection going strong, along with Dolls and More, Barb's Bakery, Nature Gems, and Here Shops the Bride. You'll remember the Wright Gallery and Joppich's Bayside Gallery: they're still here, too. Idyll Farms out on Peterson Park Road is very lively, with not only goats (for the cheese) but also chickens and miniature horses.

I think I've figured out that morning traffic concentrates on Mill Street and the post office block of Nagonaba, while later in the day the crowds shift a block west on Nagonaba and all along Waukazoo. Friday morning crowds concentrate down by the marina, as farm market day in Northport is on Friday, beginning at 9 a.m. Rain or shine, the vendors are there, and they love coming to our village because, as one told me, "Whatever the weather, Northport shows up!"

Music in the Park begins this Friday, June 27th, also, with the Ron Getz Quartet. Summer in Northport wouldn't be summer without music down in the marina park on Friday evenings. Bring a picnic and a blanket. The concerts are free, but donations are appreciated and help keep this tradition alive.

Gardens around the village deserve a post all their own, and as for all the activity in the countryside, there'd be no keeping up with that, so I'll simply close for today with this old, quiet photo from last year about this time. The Feast of St. John, like the summer solstice, is already past, but the St. Johns-wort is just now coming into glorious bloom. There are dasies and coreopsis, too, along with the less colorful but fascinating blooms of bladder campion, visible in this little picture if you look hard enough and featured over on my drawing blog, also. Long before the roses bloom, there are reasons to slow down and appreciate our surroundings.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

In Which I Meet a Family of Long, Long Ago

Silas Durand, the eleventh of fourteen children, was born in Herrick Township, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, on June 5, 1833. He began teaching at age 18 and then went on to read law in Wilkes-Barre, PA, thinking to make the law his career, but after being “received” into the fellowship of the Old School Baptist Church of Middletown and Wallkill in 1864 his sense of calling grew so rapidly that by December of that year he was ordained a preacher. After traveling for three years as an evangelist, he settled down to a succession of churches, wrote sermons, published a book with his sister, edited a hymnal, and died in 1919. All of this information and more can be found online, where the brief sketch of his life closes with the following words:
Elder Durand was a lovely man, an able preacher, fluent writer and bold defender of salvation by grace. He was a highly esteemed gift to his church, and his labor of love and devotion to the cause of truth was appreciated by his brethren.
The story of his early years told by himself can also be found online but with one serious error: in it the date of his birth is given as 1855 rather than 1833. But I have to be somewhat sympathetic to the person transcribing Silas Durand’s work for online publication, however, because the numeral ‘3’ was written very differently in the nineteenth century and gives me trouble myself at times.

In “Early Life of Silas Durand,” the writer tells us that the ancestor of his family in America was John Durand, who came over from France in 1685 to escape the persecution of the Huguenots pursuant to the revocation of the Edict of NantesThis interests me because the Hudson River School painter, Asher Brown Durand, claimed the same founding ancestor in America.

But what do I care at all about this family? I am not related to them in any fashion, nor do I personally know anyone who is.

Diary of Silas Durand
You will not be surprised to learn that it all began with a book, but in this case it was a particular kind of book, and, within its kind, unique. It is, you see, a handwritten diary, and the diarist was none other than Silas Durand, beginning his journal in 1853. During the years he kept this journal, he taught school and then went to H. P. Wright’s office in Wilkes-Barre to read law. I am reading my way slowly through the diary, learning to distinguish ‘3’ from ‘5’ and to recognize the double-s (as in ‘passenger’), which was also written very differently in the 1850s from the way we are used to seeing it now, and other handwriting puzzles. The last entry of the diary is Christmas, 1858, but I’m not going to cheat and read that far ahead yet. I’ll get to it in time. I look forward to an hour or so in the evening with Silas.

The youthful, idealistic Silas joined a debating society and took up writing and giving speeches. He seemed surprised at himself for doing it, but it must have been good preparation for his later career as a preacher. He had an active social life, too. Much of it involved going to hear preaching (he visited churches of various denominations to hear noted preachers of the time), along with political lectures, but there were also dinners and sleigh rides, and even an excursion to an “ice cream saloon.” And there were mentions of young ladies, too, mostly Miss This and Miss That, but a few named by their first names only. One “Cassie,” in particular, came in for high praise, and I can’t help wondering (despite a Miss Andrews he liked and others who figure in his sketchy journal entries) if Clarice E. Pusey, whom he eventually married, was the wondrous “Cassie”! On Saturday, the 30th of October, 1858, the brief diary entry reads:
Bought a coat for nine dollars, to be paid in 4 weeks. Also pair of drawers for $1.25. In the evening I went over to Mr. Church’s. Cassie was there and Miss Munson. Cassie is one of the best girls I know and I am almost in love with her.
Oh, I do hope Cassie was Clarice! “Why?” David asked. “They’re all dead now.” “Really? Do you think they are?” They don’t feel dead to me.

sample diary page, partly pencil, partly ink

In his diary, Silas often mentions receiving letters from his brother James, who was in a law office in New Orleans at this time, and tucked into the diary I found a letter from James to Silas, along with another from James to their younger sister, Rosina. I read the letters aloud to David, and they held his interest. “That’s 160 years ago!” he exclaimed. The style was somewhat old-fashioned but very lively, not stuffy at all, and it was almost as if the letters had arrived in yesterday’s mail.

Silas began his journal entries at one end of the little book, and he flipped it over to record daily expenses beginning at the other end. Thus I know that he paid twenty-five cents for the blank, lined book. It’s held up remarkably well. I only wish he had written always with a pen and not, as he frequently did, sometimes with a very soft pencil.

He struggled at times with depression, this teacher turned lawyer turned preacher of the mid-to late 19th century, and other times experienced what sounds like elation. In fact, he wrote often of what he was feeling from one day to the next. Here is one descriptive entry:
I haven’t any very clearly defined feelings today. The outward world looks somewhat dreary – and as for the inner world – there are times when a veil seems thrown over every bright prospect, a general veil like the gloom of a November sky – and this is such a time.
He says following these sentences that he “doesn’t feel bad,” so this particular day was not one of the gloomiest, but not “fine” or (his word for the best days) “glorious,” either. On the “glorious” days, his enthusiasm knew no bounds. It must have been in reply to a letter written from a “glorious” mood that James cautioned Silas very directly:
If you are crazy, tell me so – if you are in love tell me so – and if you are both (which I fear is the case, for the two diseases generally go together) tell me so. – Oh, Miss Jenny! Miss Jenny! Thou art the syren whose enchanting spells have nearly put at nought the man of philosophy, as the Syrens of old nearly decoyed Ulysses on his return to Ithica, and would have done it, if they had been permitted by the gods! 
 ...I meet with those every day whom I might “make love to” with all the pleasure in the world. I meet with those who are full of “spiritual influences” and who imbue one with “electrical sympathies.” But I look ahead, and in the mist I see shadowy forms of little flaxen headed urchins, munching bread and butter, and I cannot discover the “great loaf and the cow.” I see the outline of a beautiful figure, and the features of a pleasant face, but I cannot see the hearth, the parlor, the generous table. Call me “calculating” if you please. I am calculating, and I calculate to have the wherewithal to procure me a “cottage in this wilderness” before I take any gentle creature from the comforts of a father’s house to share life with me.
Closing signature, James to Silas
It’s clear the two brothers were on intimate and confiding terms and that James took his role of older brother very seriously, even if the last line in his letter to Rosina did say, when Silas was visiting him in New Orleans, “I am going out with Silas to see three very interesting young ladies tonight.” Safety in numbers, perhaps?

The diary and letters and what information I could find online inspired me to order a couple more books. The first is an account of Asher B. Durand’s life and work, written by his son, another John Durand, who died in Paris in 1908. Almost as fascinating as the account of his father’s life is John Durand’s description of the little New Jersey country community into which Asher was born.
The house in which my father was born was built midway up the mountain; below it, on the opposite side of the road, came the barn, an apple orchard, cherry and other fruit trees, corn and wheat fields, meadow land, and a stretch of woods beyond.; behind it were the sheds covering the oven and wash-house. The woods reached to the top of the mountain, where the eye ranged over a vast expanse of lowland, consisting of nearly unbroken forest; a spire on the horizon beyond a blue expanse of water indicated the site of New York City. - John Durand, The Life and Times of Asher B. Durand. Hensonville, NY: Black Dome, 2007; orig. pub. By Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894.
As interesting to me as the geographic description is the way the artist’s son described American society of his father’s childhood era.
American villages in colonial times resembled each other in one particular – every man was obliged to get his living according to his aptitudes; the chief end of man in all was to ensure the welfare of himself and family to the best of his ability or opportunity. Nobody profited by inherited capital or superior rank; if anybody possessed money enough to buy the land he cultivated – he was comparatively rich, and that was all; but he had to labour like the rest, and derive his support, as well as added wealth, mainly from the crops he raised.
This was the agrarian society beloved of Thomas Jefferson, an 18th-century ideal that seems to have persisted in our country through much of the 19th century. No wide extremes of income inequality in those days, according to John Durand.

Since Asher Brown Durand was a descendant of the first John Durand in America, as were James B., Silas, Rosina, Bessie, and the rest of that sibship, there must be a cousin relationship of some kind between the two branches of the family. I am not rabid on the genealogy aspects, however; I’m simply pressing my nose up against the windows into the past. David says I have become as obsessed with the Durands as Sarah is with chipmunks.

Sarah's latest obsession
Asher, the artist, was apprenticed to an engraver and did so well that by age 26 he was commissioned to copy a painting of a group of patriots from the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was through engraving, and only through engraving, that copies -- prints -- of paintings could be copied and made available in the early United States. Engraving was also, at that time, the only branch of art that provided a livelihood for American artists.

Silas was keeping the diary I have before the Civil War, his brother James was living in New Orleans, and Silas visited him there at least once, but there are no rumblings of approaching war in the diary. Neither are there any abolitionist sentiments expressed by the preacher-to-be, who doesn’t even mention slavery in the daily record of his thoughts and feelings. They must have spoken of these things, and one wonders what their thoughts and feelings were on the subject.

James to Rosina
The Durand women are even more elusive, though Silas wrote affectionately in his diary of both Rosina and Bessie, and James wrote charmingly to his sister Rosina. Here is a passage from a letter James wrote to Rosina on May 30, 1856, from New Orleans:
I have fitted you out with a Papier Maché Desk with every thing necessary to carry on your correspondence, and I think you will discover the hint which I wish to convey by such a present. You will find in it all kinds of letter and note paper and envelopes, besides transparent wafers [?], sealing wax, a box of pens, pencils, paper knife, visiting cards etc. I want it particularly understood that the small sheets are not intended for you to write to me on. I have put into the desk plenty of such paper as this one sheet of which I expect to see again almost every week. You must not let Silas have it for his ordinary writing speeches etc. Foolscap is good enough for such purposes. You will also find postage stamps for the use of you and Bessie. Besides the desk I send you a light silk dress, which I hope will please you.
When the second book I have ordered arrives, I may be able to share more information about Bessie Durand, another sister. For now I have many diary pages yet to decipher. Ah, yes, I am as intrigued by the Durands as Sarah is by chipmunks, and the obsession is already taking me on many interesting pathways into American history. Who knows where it will lead me next?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How I Am (Already) (a Little) Like a Farmer

Contented cattle

 I lay awake most of the night, tossing restlessly, quizzing myself on prices and inventory, worried whether anyone would even shop with me or appreciate the food that I’d worked so hard to grow. At the same time, I worried that we might be so busy I’d need to serve two lines at once. The uncertainty only fueled my anxiety. 
...Filled with nervous energy, we speculated about what the customers would think of us and reminisced about how far we had already come. I couldn’t ignore the butterflies in my stomach.  
-       Forrest Pritchard, Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm
The quotes above were Forrest recalling the first time he and his father trucked grass-fed beef, pastured chickens, and fresh eggs to market, hoping to realize a profit. A few chapters later he recounts his experience at another market in a different town, where two women asked innumerable questions about the pullet eggs for sale, growing more and more amused by the minute.
The two of them enjoyed a long laugh, leaning against each other as they walked away from my stand. They didn’t buy anything. I ended up selling about sixty dollars’ worth of food that day, including three cartons of Itty Bitties [the pullet eggs] at a dollar apiece. I could have turned more of a profit selling grape slushies at the local convenience store.
Last Friday morning, when I woke in the dark with more than enough time to do my morning tasks and got up to read a while first, Forrest’s stories brought tears to my eyes. It wasn’t that I felt sorry for him (and they were certainly not tears of laughter) but that I recognized from my bookselling experience what he must have felt: Here are my precious offerings, invested with my time and energy – with my life! – and people are just walking on? Entertained?  Ah, yes! I'll probably never forget the well-dressed woman who asked so many curious questions about my business and then turned to her well-dressed husband and exclaimed in delight, "What a cute hobby!" And they bought nothing.

But while some people have simply walked by – or driven by – or strolled in and out again empty-handed – enough visitors to Dog Ears Books have become customers that, five locations and 21 years later, I'm still in business in Northport. As Pritchard realized early in his farming career, it isn’t enough to raise high-quality food -- or, for me, to stock high-quality books. In order to stay in business, one must have buyers

My customers of the past 21 years, though, have been much, much more than merely buyers. Many of these loyal independent bookstore patrons have become good friends. Some live nearby, while others visit only once a year, but our various connections and reconnections through books and dogs and other common interests discovered in conversation mean a lot on both sides -- even (I'll be honest here) when we can't immediately recall one another's names.

Friendships with writers have flourished in the bookstore, too. (And yes, writers buy books, too!) I had a few writer friends back in Kalamazoo days but have met many more through my bookstore than I would have come to know without it. What marvelous people they are! So appreciative! So generous!

Poets! Poetry! In 1993, in the little shed down the street where the huge bowling alley and bar/restaurant complex now stands, on those summer days that always began, back then, with butterflies in my stomach (oh, Forrest, I know those butterflies well!), over and over again I was surprised and pleased at the number of people who asked, “Do you have a poetry section?” And yes, we did!  So having 13 poets (a baker’s dozen) on Friday the 13th of June, anticipating by a few weeks our official July 4 anniversary, seemed an appropriate way to celebrate our 21 years in business. Here is post #1, in case you missed it, and here is post #2, for a closer introduction to each poet with us on Friday.

What could be more special? Anne-Marie Oomen, Mary Ann Samyn, and Teresa Scollon have done readings with me in recent years past (follow links for each name to revisit their visits to Dog Ears Books); the other guest writers I met on Friday for the first time.

Friday the 13th, 2014, was a day that will shine in my memory as a once-in-my-lifetime event. Many superlative Michigan poets and an appreciative, standing-room-only local audience. Truly, it seems reality, and not mere wording, to say that Dog Ears Books has come of age this season, 21 years to date from our modest beginning. 

Faith, hope, hard work, and appreciative customers: these are what save family farms and independent bookstores alike.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Teasing Tastes of Superior Poetry

Angela Williams, Mary Ann Samyn, Joy Gaines-Friedler, David James, Dennis Hinrichsen, Patricia Clark, Linda Nemec Foster, Keith Taylor, Anne-Marie Oomen

 Alison Swan, D. R. James, Teresa Scollon, Bill Olsen.

“I recall the lifeboat, wooden on a wooden rack, paint peeling/there, for so many years behind the foredunes,/miles from any road....”
- Alison Swan, “Lifeboat”

“I’m on a writing retreat, see—complete with/balmy breezes and solitude, convinced the word/connotes respite, relaxation, and introspection—“
-      D. R. James, “On the Eve of My 35th Year of Teaching”

“Here in our town on July Fourth, it was good/ for us to see you. It was good for you to hear us/calling to you.”
-      Teresa Scollon, July Fourth

“They don’t know the summers are getting longer./They have no idea. They can’t even imagine us.”
- William Olsen, “Leafdom”

“How many moonfish would the river hold/if you squeezed the banks together for an instant?”
- Angela Knauer Williams, “Almost Savages”

“Once I was a little girl who tried to write it./Now I do twenty years’ worth of looking every afternoon.”
-      Mary Ann Samyn, “My Life in Heaven”

“What have the suburbs to offer me now?/
The city feels comfortable in my hand./
Like a found rock.”
-      Joy Gaines-Friedler, “Detroit”

“The man waits for spring when he hopes to reassemble for another year, to piece himself together with what’s left from the bitter winter months.”
-      David L. James, “His 53rd Autumn in Michign”

“Fraudulent river, how can/
I believe anything you/
-      Dennis Hinrichsen, “Drown”

“How can I go down to the river,/
nudge the car into my usual spot/
and walk?”
-      Patricia Clark, “Missing”

“Look at this landscape, the place/
that takes nothing for granted./
The sun rises like a sleepy, swollen eye....”
-      Linda Nemec Foster, “Copper Harbor: Early October”

“You’ll hear a hermit thrush/
calling, hidden in the pines/or in a cedar swamp....”
-      Keith Taylor, “Directions to North Fishtail Bay”

“She dreads the starved waifs in the milking barn,/cold mewing on her back step,/snarling dead run for house scraps/when all their mouse hunting is done....”
-      Anne-Marie Oomen, “Good”

These are the thirteen poets who were with us in the bookstore on Friday evening, June 13, reading their poems from the beautiful book, Poetry in Michigan, Michigan in Poetry. Each poet also read another piece from the book by a poet unable to be with us. What you have here, from me, are the merest tastes, a few words to stimulate you to want more of the excellent writing offered in this book. And there is visual art, also -- paintings and photographs and lithographs by Michigan artists in full-color, full-page reproductions.

I should probably apologize to the poets for my amateur, candid shots, taken from a back corner of the room with a zoom lens while they were reading, but it's important for me to show readers far from Northport that we did have live poets on site, thirteen of them in one room, reading to a packed, SRO house. 

What struck me as each poet read the work of an absent colleague was that he or she read the other's work as carefully and beautiful as his or her own poem. 

The afterglow of the celebratory evening continues for me, and I am still overwhelmed by the generosity of poets.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You Haven't Heard the Last of This!

 When an event is planned as far ahead as yesterday's, there are months and months in which to invent concerns and worries. Then the closer the event comes, the steeper the anxiety curve. As usual, all the anxiety was for naught. Everything went swimmingly. Having more people than chairs, a crowd that overflowed out onto the sidewalks, after all, is not among the usual worries of an independent bookseller. This post is one I'm putting up in a hurry, while the pictures and afterglow are fresh, but I'll have more to say in future about these poets and this wonderful book, Poetry in Michigan, Michigan in Poetry.

Artist husband set up chairs for me. We had to squeeze in a lot more!

Creative caterer David Chrobak...

..."took liberties" with requested wording.
(He said, "Because you love your bookstore." I couldn't argue with that.)

Poets begin to gather....

Crowd assembles.

Bookstore angel and poet, Mary Ann Samyn
Mary Ann, bless her heart! She organized all these poets. The whole thing wouldn't have taken place at all, if not for her. 

Another view of part of the crowd

All "my" poets!!!


And Again!!!

Afterward on back porch of Soggy Dollar

Poets relax convivially after reading.
As I say, I'll have a lot more to say about this. It was an evening to remember, for me probably a once-in-a-lifetime evening.