Tag Archives: Mormon nature literature

Storm Watch by Bradley McIlwain


for Brian G.

A ghost-like stillness

descends over open

Tornado weather.
From the window

you scramble to
recover the CD’s

and boom box, but
Metallica is already

electrified. Party on,

as silhouettes bloom
origami boats

paddling like ants
against the current.

Bradley McIlwain will be familiar to WIZards as a previous contributor and Spring Runoff contestant. He lives in Ontario, Canada.

Photo by Robert K. Bonine via Wikimedia Commons.

Northern Summer by Jeremiah Burrow

Winhall River in a dry month by Jeremiah Burrow

Five days good rain:
river wide as hips,
color copper.
Dog-happy to be outside
with Cold Mountain
squinting at pages
radiant under sun
breaking cloud cover.

Jeremiah Burrow lives an insanely domestic life in Vermont, where the winters are long, with his wife, four children, two dogs, and cat. He frequently dreams of the wild.

Cold Mountain, also known as Han Shan, was a 9th century Chinese Poet.

Photo by the poet–“Winhall River (Vermont) in a dry month”

Open on the Plain by Mark Penny


The plain stretched tritely left and right,
Flat as the sky it laughed at,
Which was gray
And rolled like prairie, but less wild.
Bands of rain scented the slow wind with their sweat,
Stalking through grass as yellow as a sun
Ripe on the lowest branch of waning time.
They’d be here soon, but not before I fled.
I sat with the dogs,
Facing the ruins of a fire:
Surly white stones speckled with planet dust,
Stained with the feeble fingerprints of flame.
The oil pump on a neighbour’s farm
Browsed on the beasts its shape bore memory of:
Big head, long neck, deadly indifference,
Sucking the black blood of the earth
The way mosquitoes have since blood began.
A piece of charcoal wound up in my hand,
Scraped a few lines of very basic art
On the disgruntled face of one white stone.
Meant to be Cat,
Looked more like Bison.
Something with spear and arrows in me danced
And caverns shook with earthy reddish light.

For recent work, a bio, and additional links, go here.

Image: Altamira Bison by Ramessos.

Deer Skull on Giant Stump by Mark Penny

I’m locked and loaded on a night of curtailed sleep
Curtailed at starting end
The movie was too good to sleep through
What was it called?

That paragraph I wrote for English-with-Foreigner 1-15
Is in my head like the aftershock of a bad-apple head-on with a truck
It gongs and dongs with it
So I’ll tell it here

It was the story of a day
So many days ago I laze to count
Thirty-six years of days, I guess

Remember jamborees?
Great, gaudy gumball gatherings of boys Continue reading Deer Skull on Giant Stump by Mark Penny

Backyard Georgics by Lance Larsen

It takes a calendar one damp day to declare fall,
weeks of dying mums to second the motion.

* * *

Gone the homeland, gone the father, nothing left
but invisible north to magnetize your doubts.

* * *

Not eulogies or hearses but the sandwiches after,
estranged cousins chewing under one umbrella.

* * *

One clock for errands, one for midnight
trysts, though neither will hurry a slow train.

* * *

Prairie is not the floor nor sky the coffered ceiling.
Even a scarecrow is wise beyond its straw.

* * *

Look down: a river of grass. Look up: a velvet lost
and found. Look inside: no straws to drink that dusk.

* * *

A woman’s watch thieved by a jay—ah, to be lifted
like that, to be carried like time across lapping waves.

Lance Larsen will serve as Utah’s poet laureate from May, 2012 until May, 2015. “Backyard Georgics” originally appeared in Poetry. For an introductory essay and Larsen’s bio, go here. For additional poems, go here and here.

Some Minutes by Lance Larsen

After Rolf Jacobsen

Some minutes pinch us in a crowd, some cheer us up,
some dangle us from the Golden Gate,
then at the last instant pull us to safety.
Some minutes wobble, then rise,
a homemade kite with a tail of torn pajamas.
In some minutes you say I do,
in some you vow In this life I would never . . .
Some teach us the difference between “oh” and “o.”
Some say, What’s the use, we’ll all get audited,
whether by God or a flunky at the IRS.
Minute one: you believe in bigfoot.
Minute two: you doubt your ability to boil water.
Minute five: you put on a paper crown.
Meanwhile, minutes three and four join
other unskilled minutes and compose a weekend
trapped inside a snowy misunderstanding
called Montana. In some minutes, a blind man
reads by the light of his wife’s snore.
In some, a tiny girl peeks into a birdbath
to see if she still has a face. Some minutes count
mistakes at a recital, some dream
in neon blue, some keep vigil with the dying
and write down every pause and sigh.
Napoleon whispers, “Josephine.” Oscar Wilde
says, “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”
Anna Pavlova, ballerina, leans forward,
squeezes your hand: “Get my swan costume ready.”

Lance Larsen will serve as Utah’s poet laureate from May, 2012 until May, 2015. “Some Minutes” originally appeared in Backyard Alchemy (Tampa, 2009). For an introductory essay and Larsen’s bio, go here.

WIZ’s 2012 Spring Poetry Runoff Contest and Celebration comes to an end

RodneyLoughWaterfalls public domain

Last year, spring in the Four Corners region of the desert Southwest was comfortably cool; this year, mixed business temperature-wise, but brittle-boned, tinder dry.  When the summer rainmakers come, they’ll find plenty of fodder to feed their range fires.  So far, mosquitoes have been rare and the black gnats–“flying teeth,” as a friend once called them–pretty thinly spread, causing little trouble.  The hummingbirds and orioles that frequent our feeders drain the cups twice a day, which is pretty serious sugar water quaffing for May–especially with those thread-like tongues that the hummingbirds have to work with. So far this spring, I’ve removed one hummingbird and one fence swift from the house.  Because of dry weather, the globe mallow–O, ye of the lovely, sherbert-orange blossoms!–is blooming a bit closer to the ground than it has during previous springs.  The invasive alfalfa that over the last five years had built quite a stronghold in our yard is struggling everywhere except in my garden area where I water the peach trees (which, by the way, surrendered all hope of fruit to a week’s worth of chill o’ the night frosts … except for one tree, which put out two flowers two or three weeks after the rest).  The claret cup cacti is blooming out.  Engleman’s hedgehogs are beginning to flash pink frills.  Prickly pear buds have sprouted like toes on the wide green pads of those be-spined plants.  The creek in Crossfire Canyon has gone thin and muddy, then, in places, flaky or sandy and dry-stoned.  The snowmelt on the Abajos to the north seemed to have skipped its trip south to the San Juan River via Crossfire Canyon and cascaded straight up into the air.  The beavers remain the water barons in the canyon, gathering together the springs at their canyon bottom outlets with mud and vegetable dams to hold constant the water levels of their modest ponds.  The last time I entered the canyon, about 30 black Angus cows and calves were strung out along the beaverworks, which provides the only significant, native water for miles.

Unlike the melt-off from the Blues, WIZ’s Runoff has been pretty impressive.  But like all runoffs, it has tapered off. The last poems have posted and deliberations to choose which of the 31 eligible entries might win the Spring Poetry Runoff’s Most Popular Poem Award and the Admin Award are about to begin.  Voting for the Most Popular Poem will be conducted by public poll beginning Monday, May 28 or Tuesday, May 29.  Poets, please come back and vote, and invite your friends and family members to come vote, too.  Winners of both awards will be announced on or around .

Thank you so much, writers, for participating so well.  Poets, readers, and commenters who have already put so much time into the Runoff—prepare yourselves to vote, starting next week.  Each voter will be able to vote for his or her three favorite poems!  Please, participants–enter three choices for your favorite poems.  It’s more sporting than just voting for your single favorite poem, and it provides other poets feedback for their hard-wrought words.

Again, good work, participants, and thank you, readers, for sticking with us and reading all the entries.  There were many delightful surprises in this year’s offerings–a lot of poetry I’ve been proud WIZ hosted.  Remember: Choices for this year’s prizes are Fire in the Pasture, an anthology of contemporary Mormon poetry, edited by Peculiar Pages, and the novel The Scholar of Moab, by Steven L. Peck and published by Torrey House Press.  Which, by the way, opened up to accept submissions on April 25.

It’s been a vibrant spring so far, thanks to all your flowers of speech. (Does anybody besides me remember that phrase, “flowers of speech”?)

Breakfast by Greg Gibby

Out the front window
I see
A robin
Scouring the grass for
A worm

With a precise lunge
Her beak drops to the earth
And returns with
A wiggling prize

Most of us will enjoy Spring
Those who remain uneaten

Greg is an actuary. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and three kids. Once, he wrote a bunch of Haiku about actuarial exams while proctoring one, which he has posted here.

*Competition entry*

Robin’s Hospice by Cynthia Hallen

Spring came Early – Winter stayed Late.
The Pumpkin Cat Savaged its Fate.
Now I See with the Robin’s Eye –
Now I Sing with the Robin’s Cry.

His Burial was in the Air.
His Body warm – I could not Bear –
Below the Soil to crush his Rest.
His Feathers breathe in last year’s Nest.

2 April 2008, Orem, Utah
This is Cynthia’s third entry in the 2012 Runoff. For more (and a bio), go here and here.

*Competition entry*

Natural Day of Prayer by Cynthia Hallen

Because it is May, and the sun
Yawns over the mountain –
The birds turn into accountants –
Grass dews under the Day

Because it is Thine, and the trees
Grow next to the hedges –
The way connects to the edges
Of sky – And life is mine

Because it is Spring, and the air
Dawns out of the canyon –
The east reviews golden banners –
Nature’s prayer bids us sing.

7 May 2009, Provo, Utah
Cynthia Hallen is a poet and professor living in Utah. Her full bio is available here.

*Competition entry*