From July 2010 to December 2013, the two years following Mark’s stroke and brain surgery, he struggled to regain lost cognitive and physical ground. The hemorrhage occurred in the back of the right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex in an area of the brain that supports eyesight. During the stroke he lost more than half of his field of vision. On the day we figured out that something momentous had occurred and I rushed him to the hospital, he cocked his head to his left side, like a bird, to see the doctor and nurses. We caught the stroke too late so some of the vision loss became permanent. The change in his vision disturbed him most at night when the house turned foreign. Every little object on the floor or crease in a rug transformed into a confusing and dangerous obstacle. Continue reading The year of the fox by Patricia Karamesines
After a slow start to Wilderness Interface Zone’s Love of Nature Nature of Love Month, we’re opening our LONNOL haiku chain. It’s our hope that readers will join in this winter and post-Valentine’s Day celebration of the logic of the heart harnessed with images of nature’s splendors and subtleties.
A haiku is a classical Japanese poetical form, usually 17 syllables all in a single line in Japanese, but there are longer and shorter forms. In English, haiku often take the form of one short line of 5 syllables, a long line of 7 syllables, and a short line of 5 syllables, but there are many ways–all versions are welcome here.
There’s no deadline for this activity and the only requirement is that you focus your feeling in a nature-oriented haiku. You can link your haiku to an image in a preceding one or simply forge a link out of new images altogether. The chain runs as long as participants carry it along.
Traditionally considered a mindfulness practice, writing haiku brings perception and language together in a splash of imagery and aperçu. Can you distill you deepest feelings and sheerest insights to 17 syllables? Give it a go.
Here is my opening LONNOL haiku:
From plot twists in sea,
shore, savanna, city, this
departure, this love.
Glancing at Belle, I can tell she needs water, and soon. I lead her away from the beaver ponds before she’s tempted beyond her ability to resist to drink from its giardia-laced teapots. I hurry her to the shade of a big juniper, another of my stops, and sit down in the dirt beneath a broken branch that hangs across the trail. Obviously, Belle needs more water than I can provide by cupping my hand. I relent and pour her a drink in the canteen lid. She laps four or five lids full then lies down in the shade without my prompting, her shoulder pressing against my knee. She pants rapidly but seems to have gotten enough to drink, refusing another offered lid.
Looking around inside the juniper’s shadow, I notice a single penstemon blossom, looking like a wind sock on a pole, glowing red against the litter. Its color leaps to the eye from a backdrop of live blue-green and dead brown juniper stubble; last year’s curled, tawny oak leaves; green wisps of grass growing in a clump; spider webs clouded with dirt and other debris; and round, purplish-blue juniper berries dropped into grey-toned soil speckled with blacker grains, probably of decayed organic material. From somewhere up-canyon, a canyon wren’s laugh pipes its downward-falling scale. Continue reading Field Notes #12: Who Has Seen the Wind? (Pt.3) by Patricia Karamesines
We are the Day Society:
See how we skirt surefooted as goats
the Crevasse of Desire.
God is in the well-placed step that bears us above Death,
while Beauty weeps for us beyond the goat paths.
By day, the way is clear, so complete,
the ground floor and ceiling blue.
We see where we are and name it alone and only.
On our tongue, world settles into a few words—
unanswered, unanswerable shouting.
Then sunset’s splinters—orange, mauve—
fade to night’s raw transparency
and the first call of a star.
Perfect, calling silence, star following star
like deer stepping from shadow or heavy forest
into the dark’s open, stream-curled meadows.
Now we’re in sterner metaphor,
the embrace of the abyss,
brought by goat paths
to the brink of wilderness.
Patricia Karamesines has won numerous awards for her poetry, essays, and fiction, including awards from the University of Arizona, the Utah Arts Council, and the Utah Wilderness Association. She is the author of The Pictograph Murders (Signature Books 2004), an award-winning mystery novel set in the Four Corners area. Her poetry appears in the anthology Fire in the Pasture (Peculiar Pages 2011). She writes for the Mormon arts and culture blog A Motley Vision and runs the nature writing blog Wilderness Interface Zone that advocates for the “greening of human language”. She has taught English classes at USU-Eastern off and on since 2006 and now tutors English students for the NASNTI Grant program–a job she dearly loves. She lives with her husband and three children a stone’s throw from beleaguered Recapture Canyon, has put in plenty of foot-time in the canyon, and is currently completing a work of creative nonfiction about her strange and wonderful experiences there.
Divorced from their meanings,
some words have lovely sound.
with its soft plosive puh,
the same oo as in moon,
a word poets are fond of.
could be a beautiful vine
with violet petals unfurling
around the kitchen bay window.
might refer to the delicate,
pale collar bones
of a water nymph.
could be generic for sanctuary,
a garden with no corpse flowers,
no odor of decay.
Bashar Hafez al-Assad
could be the name of a saint,
Saint of the underdog, of lost
buttons, of broken crockery.
Dayna Patterson is Poetry Editor at Psaltery & Lyre. For more, go here.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons by Doronenko, 2012, of an abandoned Jewish Cemetery in Trstin.
Today WIZ launches a project to advocate for the bettering of the environment in a new and perhaps radical way. Continue reading Wilderness Interface Zone is going
Thanks to a gorgeous stream of entries, WIZâ€™s 2011 Spring Poetry Runoff Celebration ran even deeper into the season than did last year’s.Â And indeed, this year’s Runoff has been an inspiring show of green and fertile language, above and beyond what I had hoped. In fact, I’ve been wowed, not just by the craftsmanship of the poems that came in but also by the wide range of styles.Â Many thanks to those who joined the dance in whatever way they did!
Now, Dear WIZ Readers and Poets Participating in the Contest, it’s time to have a little more fun and play at being poetry judges for the next six daysâ€“part of the informal nature of this contest.Â But rather than limit each judge (thatâ€™s you) to just one vote, weâ€™re asking each voter to choose her or his 3 favorite poems of the 25 contest-eligible entries. Â The poll opens today and runs until 10:00 p.m. (Utah time) Saturday, May 14.
While readers and participants choose the winner(s) of the Spring Poetry Runoff Contest Popular Vote Award, WIZ admin will be choosing the winner of the Spring Poetry Runoff Admin Award. Â Winners of both awards will be announced in a post on or shortly after Monday, May 16 and will receive their choices of Mark Bennionâ€™s Psalm and Selah: A Poetic Journey Through The Book Of Mormon (Bentley Enterprises 2009), A Metaphorical God: Poems (Persea 2008) by Kimberly Johnson, or The Clearing (Texas Tech University Press 2007) by Philip White.
Rules for voting:
1.Â Each voter should select his or her 3 favorite poems of the 25 eligible.
2.Â Each voter can vote only one timeâ€“no multiple-vote-ballot-box-stuffing shenanigans, please.
3.Â Voters are encouraged to read every poem before voting. Â Click here to read all of the eligible poems.Â Please note: Because there are 25 poems total, youâ€™ll need to click on â€œPrevious Entriesâ€ twice in order to read them all. The full text of longer poems wonâ€™t display on the list pages, so right clicking and opening each poem in a new tab or window is a good approach.
4.Â Participating poets and WIZ readers may encourage friends and family members to read and vote.
5.Â All participating poets are encouraged to vote whether their poems were published in the contest category or in the non-contest category.
Instructions for voting:
Click on the small square box next to the name of the poem that you wish to choose.Â A green or black check mark will appear in that box.Â If you accidentally check mark the wrong box or change your mind, simply click on the box again and the check mark will disappear.Â After you have check-marked your 3 favorite poems (you will see 3 check marks on the page), click on the â€œVoteâ€ box at the bottom of the page. Â Clicking on that box will end your voting session, so be sure youâ€™ve finished voting before you click â€œVote.â€Â To see the tally of votes so far, click â€œView Results.â€
Light’s rise sparks bright blooms:
birdsong, fields of it, vining–
spring’s first green flourish.
These mornings, I step outside my back door to hear the hush of winter thrown off by a clamor of birdsong–the crackle of starlings, jazzy riffs of purple house finches, a lonely two-syllable call from a flycatcher,Â screeches and churrings of magpies, ravens’ gravelly croaks, a woodpecker drumming a juniper tree, jangling songs of meadowlarks outshouting everyone.Â Quite stunning, this send-off of the season of low, cold light.Â And I can’t help but detect in the intertwining of different avian dialects the bloom of flowery beauty and signature fragrances of meaning.
The language of the birds, or the green language, is the mythical, magical language of wisdom and divine insight thought to pass between birds and those humans with ears to hear the music of the cosmos with which birdsong is thought to be impregnated.Â Some traditions equate la langue verte with the adamic or perfect language.Â Many folks might consider any relation between birdsong and human utterances and comprehension illusory.Â But if you listen closely, you will hear chirps in the language of many species ranging from rodents (prairie dogs’ alarm calls sound bird-ish, and the noisy grasshopper mouse chirrups constantly) to cats (chirps and trills) to amphibians (our Woodhouse toads pip at us) to insects to puppies to people–especially babies.Â My nearly 19-year-old disabled daughter, who can understand more words than she can say, chirps, hoots, and trills in response to questions and other words of address.Â After nearly two decades of studying her bird-like, tonal language, I think I can rightly claim that I’ve gained from it deep, magical insight–including into the quiddity of human expression.Â Because of my experience with her and what I think I hear in the language of birds and other animals and insects, I’ve begun to wonder if, rather than acting as the basic phoneme ofÂ a foreign language spoken by creatures with which we think ourselves to have little in common, the chirp might just lie at the root of human expression.
Whatever else it’s said to be, the mythical language of the birds is highly poetic, layered with multiple strata of meaning, playful, punful, sliding, gliding, beguiling to the ear when performed aloud, and, when conveyed in written interchange, deeply engaging of the mind’s inner ear.
For WIZ’s 2011 Spring Poetry Runoff and Celebration, let’s see if we can outshine the birds in their spring ceremonies.Â Human language can be just as green and gorgeous, just as textured and as alluring as the language of the birds.Â And when it comes to the opening of new prospects and possibilities, human language can have no rival.Â Even the language of the birds lags behind the best effects of the best human language: opening-the-possibilities acts of authentic creation.Â Poetry, with its multifaceted, many-leveled effects and metaphoric prowess–its strength for getting across–can create, so to speak, more world.Â As John D. Niles says in Homo Narrans: The Poetics and Anthropology of Oral Narrative, “It is through such symbolic mental activities [as storytelling and poetry] that people have gained the ability to create themselves as human beings and thereby transform the world of nature into shapes not known before.”
So this Spring Poetry Runoff, let’s go green in our language.Â I don’t mean Green, as in supportive of social or political movements touting environmental protection.Â In some cases, that language is the least green of all.Â I mean let’s go green, as in producing living, doing, being language that acts to open possibilities by virtue of its creative Ã©lan.Â I mean let’s give out words that don’t just describe experience, they create experience, providing raw materials that others can recombine for their own narrative needs, thus altering, here and there, world and worlds. Â Referencing John Miles Foley, NilesÂ calls this cosmoplastic, or “world-building” energy of human language, “wordpower.”
During this year’s Spring Poetry Runoff Contest and Celebration, we’ll not only be running the poetry contest with prizes in the Most Popular Vote Award and Admin Award categories but also an open-invitation haiku chain (a developing tradition on WIZ), a non-competing category for those poets wishing to participate in the Spring Poetry Runoff just for fun, the Runoff Rerun (re-publishing of one of last year’s poems), and other activities.
Hope you join in.Â It’s spring.Â Let’s sing it up.
To review submission deadlines, rules, voting procedures, and prizes, go here.
Photo of singing western meadowlark by Alan Vernon.