N ear Muted Swans

A likeness like an electrocardiogram
fire bleeding a blood orange running
into what can only be called corpse paint grey,

then rust wet waterline.
I’m playing this game with the top of the food chain
in the boats docked along the canal,
with a long way to go through a Confederate
town at night while muted swans fill a bend in the river.

(from Something Burned Along the Southern Border, forthcoming from Mansfield Press, Fall 2009)

I work as the editor of a weekly newspaper in LaSalle, Ontario. On several occasions from summer 2007 to winter 2008, I stood with my camera on a dock outside of an ice-cream parlour overlooking the Detroit River, hoping to photograph a bald eagle I was told fished in the shallows there. Despite the ice-cream proprietor’s assurances that the eagle came almost every day, months passed without a sighting. (That scenario turns up in the poem “The Ice Cream Hour,” which will also be included in my first collection of poetry, Something Burned Along the Southern Border, out with Mansfield Press in Fall 2009.) But, on one particular January day, while waiting for the bald eagle, I was watching a whiteness of muted swans float in the river bend and snapped a shot of the corrugated steel breakwall and promptly wrote the first draft of “Near Muted Swans” in my reporter’s notebook. It also contains a reference to the folksong and children’s book The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.

More photos at my photoblog, glasspoeme.

Aside from working in newspapers, I instruct creative writing workshops at Mackenzie Hall as part of the City of Windsor’s Parks & Recreation programming. One thing I’m always impressing on beginning writers is the enormously important role that reading plays in the whole process. It’s surprising how many aspiring writers, particularly of poetry, don’t immediately see the connection between input and output. One of the things I hear the most from workshoppers (and these aren’t children either; I’m usually the youngest person in the room) is that they don’t know where to find good contemporary poetry, and if they know where to find it, they don’t know who they should read. I would hate to be in that situation. I also love making lists. So here’s a list of cool, eye-opening collections of poetry I’ve read in the past six months or so, in no particular order:

All-American Poem by Matthew Dickman (APR, 2008)
The New Layman’s Almanac by Jacob McArthur Mooney (M&S, 2008)
Seven Notebooks by Campbell McGrath (Ecco, 2007)
Emergency Hallelujah by Jason Heroux (Mansfield, 2008)
The Death Notebooks by Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin, 1974)
Word Comix by Charlie Smith (W.W. Norton, 2009)
The Border Kingdom by D. Nurkse (Knopf, 2008)
Pigeon by Karen Solie (Anansi, 2009)
Why Are You So Sad? by David W. McFadden (Insomniac Press, 2007)
Hard Rain by Tony Hoagland (Hollyridge, 2005)
The Ghost Soldiers by James Tate (Ecco, 2008)
American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry, Cole Swensen and David St. John, eds. (W.W. Norton, 2009)

Alice Burdick at Seen Reading’s 30 in 30

Joe Rosenblatt on poetry and socialism

The NaPoMo Questionnaire: Stuart Ross

Steve Venright reading

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