Summer, Again

On this first day of summer, mock orange blooms beneath our bedroom windows — an enormous bush that nearly reaches to the second floor — its scent so sweet it’s nearly liquid.

Yesterday, a day that perhaps reflects our summer world: chaos combined with a languid beauty winding through. The chickens fly over their fence. My two jobs clamber for my attention. My oldest daughter coughs. My bank account teeters on dipping into the red.

And yet, a small dog named Dammit wanders through the library. The little children play in the sandbox for hours, digging with bent spoons and old trucks. That evening, I return to the library for a novelist to read. Four kids whose mother is at the food shelf follow me in. They check out books. I give them handfuls of bookmarks and Reading Rocks! tattoos. The youngest plays on the floor with the dollhouse, eating potato chips, sharing her life story with me.

Each summer I bring friends out
to note and share the (garden) display and produce.
Here is life’s habit on grand exhibit
and the hard work hidden.

— Leland Kinsey

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White Mountains, New Hampshire

Leland Kinsey, Vermont Poet

A few years ago, when I was a bookseller at The Galaxy in Hardwick, I was reading a book of poetry, Winter Ready, when the poet himself called to order a book for a relative. The book was a gift for a child, and in his polite way, he took great care with the order.

The poet, Leland Kinsey, crossed over into the world beyond last night, no longer part of this slowly-golding-to-autumn realm where the rest of us around here still dwell.

Leland Kinsey, premier among Vermont writers, exquisitely gifted, a man who wrote of the myriad ways the earth giveth – and the earth taketh.

Here’s his lines…

…. His mother’s pickles, whose recipe
he thought would, perhaps should,
die with him. A crock in a cool place
that holds enough for a year.
The ripe smell when fishing
The doubly ripe pieces out.
All this is your heritage now,
as it is preserved here,
make of it what you will.

Leland Kinsey, “An Old Man’s Recipe for Tongue Pickles” in Galvanized

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September, 2016, Vermont

 

Happy April is Poetry Month

The other night I heard Leland Kinsey read from his new book of poems, Galvanized, at the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick. Leaving home on a weeknight is always a pain, with homework rearing up, dinner dishes, and – although it’s only ten minutes – the ten minutes in the car to drive. I’m always glad when I get to the bookstore, though. The company is familiar and jovial; the books are terrific.

I’ve been to many, many readings at this Hardwick bookstore, but this reading was particularly fine. I’d brought my knitting, but I left it in my lap, untouched. A couple in the back had come with their baby, and the little one’s babbles wove beneath Leland’s voice. Leland hails from a lengthy line of Vermont farmers, and his poetry is strewn with glacial erratics, swallows, ponds  – with a keen awareness of mortality, of hard physical work, of human frailty, and love. Perhaps what I admire most about his poetry is that constant thread of beauty, winding all through his words like that baby’s murmur.

Galvanized is a collection of poems suffused with life, penetrating into the deepest recesses of our lives, a book of laughter and tears and beauty, the matter of our everyday lives. Isn’t that what poetry is all about?

…. The same uncle said recently about a blue suit,
“I bought it to be laid out in;
now I’m wearing it to the wakes of others.
Life takes so long.”

Wear.

From “Deer Camp,” Leland Kinsey, in Galvanized

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Barre, Vermont/Photo by Molly S.

 

Ready

A year ago, I finally wrote the query email that sold my book. With no internet access at home, I wrote the email in a corner of a public hallway in Montpelier, my back up against the literal as well as proverbial wall. I began, I’m going to go out on a limb here…

Later that afternoon, in a cold December rain, the day before Christmas break at my daughter’s school, I stood on the asphalt talking with her teacher, who, in his kind way, asked about our vacation plans while I willed myself not to begin crying. My entire world, interior and exterior, was suffused with dreary rainfall. I had no idea what would happen that afternoon, let alone in the next two weeks.

That was almost exactly a year ago. Did it take all of my life to write those words? To edge so far out on that limb there was no conceivable way I might crawl back?

The press published Leland Kinsey, a Vermont poet of phenomenal strength and beauty, a poet whose vision of the world cuts sharply, bloody at the bone, with rare grace. So much has happened in this year of my life, and yet, every time I sit down to write, I remind myself again that’s what I’m aiming for: push.

TO OUR VERMONT FATHER ON HIS EARLY WINTER BIRTHDAY

Our father who is in hospital,
hallowed be your name
though you are hollowed.
Your kingdom gone,
your will undone
on this earth, and there is no heaven.
You gave us, until this day, our daily bread.
and you forgave us our debts,
though you could not forgive your other debtors.
A fierce Scot, you were not led into temptation.
and tried to deliver us from evil.
You worked your life in the Northeast Kingdom
with power,
and no glory,
ever.

— Leland Kinsey

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Lake Elmore, Vermont/Photo by Molly S.

Shells, Sea Glass, and Stories

My daughters have no school for a few days, so they came to work with me today, around Mt Elmore, around Mt Mansfield, and along the beautiful Winooski River valley. Inevitably, the drive is longer than I think, after a hurried jumble to get out, we need to leave in the morning, then coffee drinking in the car while the girls either laugh or bicker. The clouds all the way along the interstate were shot through with dark gray and glimmering gold, as if the weather itself couldn’t decide whether to shine or cry.

At the very end of my drive, I arrive at a street’s crest and the city suddenly dips down, and there’s the lake, the great expanse of it, white-capped over cold slate, undulating upward as if twisting deep in its marrow.

My daughters walked off on their adventure, while I went into my windowless office and set my mind fiercely to work. Later, finished, my proofs for weekend work tucked into my bag, I stepped out of that building. The parking lot edges up to a railyard where train cars are stored on dead-end lengths of track, besides enormous piles of gravel, and seagulls swoop down over the lot, hungrily screaming. With my face up to October’s meager’s light and the wind gustily blowing, I thought of the college class with aspiring writers I sat in yesterday, where we talked about the story beneath the story. This odd lot was rife with stories, stretching on out to the mighty granite block building at the corner, where commence a hundred years ago must have once teemed at the lake.

My daughters returned from their exploration along the lake’s edge, where they discovered diminutive shells and sea glass, more bits of stories carried out of the lake and into their hands.

Everything that does not migrate
has fattened up, bedded down,
cocooned up, and seeded itself.
Life’s two principles–
reproduce; survive to reproduce again….
And by this process, even beyond
the evident hand of man, the world
slowly changes utterly.

– Leland Kinsey, Winter Ready

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Beside Lake Champlain, Vermont