LONG WAY FROM, LONG TIME SINCE: "Letter to Bly Thirty-Nine Years After Your Note to Me"

"Bly’s poetry is often categorized as part of the deep image school of writing, in which the poet employs a system of private imagery; however, Bly’s wish is not to create a personal mythology, but rather to describe modern American life through powerful metaphors and intense imagery. [...] Hugh Kenner, writing in the New York Times Book Review, remarked that 'Bly is attempting to write down what it’s like to be alive, a state in which, he implies, not all readers find themselves all the time.'"
The Poetry Foundation

Robert Bly at the Poetry Out Loud Minnesota Finals at the FItzgerald Theater. 2009. Photo by Nic McPhee.


Letter to Bly Thirty-Nine Years After Your Note to Me

by George Kalamaras


So my hound dog has pulled it off the shelf
this evening. She has great taste. Sometimes
it’s a Jimi Hendrix cd, or maybe something

from George Harrison. Tonight it’s your book,
Robert, This Tree Will Be Here
for a Thousand Years
. Apparently,

it is, to her sense of hound-dog time—stable
as a floating rib. Something to inhale and paw
and wag over and—if given the chance—

mouth and tear apart, leaves of a book
and the autumn fires with which you signed it
thirty-nine years ago. And I weave my way

back, gently taking it from her, opening
to page forty-five, “Pulling a Row Boat Up
Among Lake Reeds,” a page which holds

your footprint. How did it get there?
What were the karmic steps it took
to draw me to that book one autumn

and to your reading that evening? I remember
the scent of fall. 1979. The book just out.
A packed auditorium

in Bloomington, Indiana. You had
forgotten it. Asked if someone
in the audience could lend you a copy.

And I was there. Shy, young poet
who needed a nudge from—unknown
to him—his soon-to-be-wife

to lend you his book from which you
read and danced and sang, playing
your bouzouki, hair wild as a hawk’s

nest in a storm as if you were
an ancient bard
dropped from an Aegean island

at some faraway port where windy languages
meet. Later, you signed the book for me
in your customary green ink

so that I might always remember,
I suppose, the fertility of your words
in your poems and in what you wrote

to me: With thanks for the loan
of this book, during the reading,
and for the loan of your face

with so much liveliness and aliveness.
The soil you planted in me, through me,
all these thousands of days

as I walk here to there, Robert,
among hound dogs and weeds
and crunched catalpa leaves

aching underfoot.
Like pulling a rowboat up
among lake reeds 

where I see
love-blossoms
and grief-flowers

or where I imagine
love blossoms
and grief flowers.

Nouns only, or nouns
and verbs? The way
our words do two things at once

like stepping into a book and
into the world. You left your footprint
indelibly in this book,

as you set it on the floor
between poems, telling stories, dancing
and reciting, ecstatic as Kabir and Rumi

before you, marking page forty-five
with the steps you had taken to arrive
all those years into my life in Indiana

that certain evening, though
it just as easily could have been
page thirty-eight, stamped

with your weight
into my favorite poem
the book still opens to

naturally, as if it is always
about to speak
what I most need. So tonight,

my dog had hound sense—
some moon-wood path in her
snout—pulling it off

the shelf to remind me
how my voice is in hers,
yours in mine. And the moon’s

in all of ours. All three at once.
For what we think
must surely be a thousand years.


 

In this installment, George reads and comments on the work of poet Robert Bly (1926-- ).


About George Kalamaras:

 Photo by Jim Whitcraft

Photo by Jim Whitcraft

George Kalamaras is a former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016) and has published fifteen books of poetry, eight of which are full-length, including The Mining Camps of the Mouth (2012), winner of the New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM Chapbook Award, Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck (2011), winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Contest, and The Theory and Function of Mangoes (2000), winner of the Four Way Books Intro Series. He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.

Meet George (and his beagle Bootsie, among other animal presences) in an audio interview at Radio Free Albion. The interview celebrates, in part, issue 13 of Court Green, including George's poem “Dream in Which Kenneth Rexroth Counts to Eight.” Follow George on YouTube, the Indiana Poet Laureate page on Facebook, and at the Wabash Watershed.

* * *

Read George Kalamaras's previous letters to:

Thanks, George, for bringing these voices to us through your own.

* * *

Long Way From, Long Time Since features letters written from writers, to writers, living or dead. Send us your queries and inquiries, your best wishes and arguments, and help us explore correspondence as a creative form. For letter submission guidelines, visit our submissions page or email cutbankonline@gmail.com for more information.


BURN PILE: "In the Shadow of a Mountain." From National Walkout Day to March for Our Lives, students are demanding a saner, safer world.

In the Shadow of a Mountain

by Bryn Agnew
Editor-In-Chief, CutBank

On March 14th, 2018, students from the University of Montana participated in the National Walkout Day to protest gun violence in schools.

The signs read WE CAN END GUN VIOLENCE, EDUCATED PEOPLE DO NOT NEED TO CARRY GUNS, MOMS DEMAND ACTION, and MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS. Someone starts a chant: “Enough is enough,” yet no one joins in. As far as protests go, the Walkout at the University of Montana is pretty tame. The signs, a single megaphone, a moment of silence. Letter writing materials are distributed. People register to vote. Sitting on a bench, just behind the crowd of my fellow students, a man sits down next to me and talks about the difference between fishing for trout in the Kootenai and fishing for bass at Lake Fork, TX. Looking at the crowd of students, he says, “I don’t do this gun stuff.”

Washington DC, National Walkout Day
Photo by Lorie Shaull

There is no way to know what he means. The verb is weak, the statement vague. But I wonder why he tells me this, on the bench away from the crowd. I can’t help but think that he doesn’t consider me a part of the crowd, and I wonder if I’m even a part of them.

In the weeks since the Parkland shooting, I walk the UM campus haunted. To my office in the LA building, to the UC for lunch, to class in the afternoon, I wonder where the shots will come from. At the Walkout, sitting on the bench, I cannot will myself to stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow students for fear of being an easier target. I am a traitor to them.

After, I text my friend saying, I think it is tragically American that I could not will myself to stand in the crowd for fear of being shot. I think of the statistics we are constantly being reminded of: you are statistically more likely to be struck by lightning while being chewed in half by a great white shark than to be shot in school. We are reminded that we are irrational. That this will never happen to us. I shame myself for my own fear.

Pennsylvania Ave March For Our Lives
Photo by Shawn Thew-EPA

Yet, this fear is all many of us have known. On April 25th, 1999 I was eight, sitting in church with my parents. The pastor walked to the pulpit and said the most searing words I’ve ever heard: “This week was hell.” Five days earlier, the Columbine shooting happened. Fifteen dead, twenty-four wounded. I learned what the word “hell” actually meant.

There are students at UM who were born after Columbine, who have lived through the constant fear of being shot at school, who grew up participating in active shooter drills the same way I grew up participating in fire or tornado drills, the way our parents hid under their desks hoping the ply-board and cheap metal would save them from the mushroom cloud. Please, listen to them.

Mt. Sentinel looms over UM, and by the bronze statue of a bear, they—we—gather. Because it is tragically American to be shot in school. We don’t want to be good Americans. We want to be the Americans the “good” ones hate. Apathy is a privilege. Yet, sacrifices to the gods of gunpowder should never afford apathy. Approximately 7,000 children have been killed by gunshot wounds since Sandy Hook in 2012.

We gather under the mountain because the fear is not irrational. Our institutions of knowledge, growth, and creativity are plagued by the fear. A shadow over the campus. This is how we live, fearing what could happen to our school, to us.

I am proud of my fellow students and our educators all over the nation, looking out of the shadow, saying however we can, “Enough. Not one more.”


"March for Our Lives: hundreds of thousands demand end to gun violence." 
The Guardian, U.S. edition.

Leni Steinhart on A.M. Joy:

“We were just in New York just last week, doing a panel there, and a couple of students were coming up to us and saying you’re inspiring to us, we’re looking up to you, we’re going to fight with you, and I just tell them, first of all thank you, but we’re just students who want to create change, and we hope that they march along with us today.”


What are your thoughts?
Let's keep this conversation out front. 

Talk to us. We're listening.
We'll add you to this post and tweet to our readers. 

Send your comments directly to cutbankonline@gmail.com.


A BURN PILE of Post-it notes to self. There are good things all around. Great things. Pick one. Click it.

The Force of Decency Awakens

by Paul Krugman. Opinion in The New York Times.

"Suddenly, it seems as if the worst lack all conviction, while the best are filled with a passionate intensity. We don’t yet know whether this will translate into political change. But we may be in the midst of a transformative moment."

* * * 

Swing Your Partner

New fiction by Jean-Luc Bouchard at Pithead Chapel.

"When I asked everyone their opinion, they all said the same thing: “You always seem happy to me.” So I took their words to heart, because if the whole world tells you something, it’s probably true."

* * *

If I had a dog I’d name it Virginia Woof.

Literary Pet Names Using Puns Unworthy of Their Namesakes

A list of laughter by Kristen Arnett and Mary Laura Philpott at McSweeney's.

* * *

Honeysuckle and Jasmine

Fiction by Rachel Abbott at The Stockholm Review of Literature.

"We did not notice at first that we were aging out of our games. The restlessness of early adolescence settled over us one summer like an itchy blanket. The Beanie Babies became lifeless, fuzzy sacks. It wasn’t that we realized we couldn’t time travel or dig all the way to China; we just didn’t want to try anymore."

* * *

 Is it too late to write about AWP? Because I feel a thread coming on. Rereading my notes from the WRITING BAD ASS & NASTY WOMEN panel, I’m finding so many gems that seem appropriate to share as students protest & as I’m thinking about misogyny yet again.  https://twitter.com/MaureenLangloss/status/974012009749581824

Is it too late to write about AWP? Because I feel a thread coming on. Rereading my notes from the WRITING BAD ASS & NASTY WOMEN panel, I’m finding so many gems that seem appropriate to share as students protest & as I’m thinking about misogyny yet again.
https://twitter.com/MaureenLangloss/status/974012009749581824

* * *

Joshua Mohr at LitHub: The Time I Robbed a Liquor Store

On Confession, Guilt, and the Impossibility of Absolution

"[D]o our mistakes really deserve mercy? Can something as simple as time erode the severity of our indiscretions?"

* * *

Forgive Me South Dakota

New nonfiction by Vivé Griffith in the latest Hippocampus.

"My grandmother didn’t tell me 20 miles can be so many things. Bend after bend. Rising and falling. The road blocked, buffalo illuminated in my headlights. Beep the horn before the one-lane bridge. Use the brights. Squint into blackness, turn another curve."

* * *

On Hysteria

Nonfiction by Renée Branum at The New Limestone Review.

"Wanda was prone to fits of hysterics, was known to fall out of her chair laughing on occasion. She would quiver on the carpet, folded up like a hand that couldn’t quite make a fist. And because she was old, was always old as far as I can remember, this was a little frightening."

* * *

The Male Glance

By Lili Loofbourow at VQR.

"The male glance is how comedies about women become chick flicks. It’s how discussions of serious movies with female protagonists consign them to the unappealing stable of “strong female characters.” It’s how soap operas and reality television become synonymous with trash. It tricks us into pronouncing mothers intrinsically boring, and it quietly convinces us that female friendships come in two strains: conventional jealousy or the even less appealing non-plot of saccharine love. The third narrative possibility, frenemy-cum-friend, is an only slightly less shallow conversion myth. Who consumes these stories? Who could want to?"

* * *

The Magazine Interview: the American Gods and Coraline author Neil Gaiman on his outsider status and open marriage

“This isn’t doomsday, this isn’t armageddon... I guess fundamentally I’m an optimist.” 
Interview by Helena De Bertodano

* * *

A Place You Can See the Stars

Fiction by Cathy Ulrich

It’s different here, he says, than in the real world. He calls it the real world. He lives on a street with lamps all up and down it, a place where it’s never dark.

He says: I come here so I can see the stars.

* * *

What makes a good short story?
With Chris Power – books podcast

David Sedaris once said: “A good [short story] would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit.”

* * *

Why this? Why not?

* * *

Best of the Net 2017 at Sundress Publications

"This project continues to promote the diverse and growing collection of voices who are publishing their work online, a venue that continues to see less respect from such yearly anthologies as the Pushcart and Best American series. This anthology serves to bring greater respect to an innovative and continually expanding medium in the same medium in which it is published."

* * *

Stormy Daniels is crushing President Trump at his own game

"One remarkable feature of Stormy Daniels' chess match with Trump is that shame — this White House's usual instrument against its adversaries — isn't working. Porn stars don't find shame especially useful, and Daniels is no exception. This poses a problem for the president: Daniels (aka Stephanie Gregory Clifford) is utterly unembarrassed about profiting off her connection to him. She's unembarrassed in general. As the president's most virulent defenders have come after her, she's parried their attacks with jokes that defang them. Cracks about her age earn GILF humor, cracks about her being a prostitute have her crowing with glee. She's so good at this that her attackers often end up deleting their tweets; it's just not worth it."

* * *

Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223

Interviewed by Paul Winner

"Huddled in a hoodie, Williams made coffee with almond milk before sitting across from me at a pine table. She got up several times to retrieve objects or fuss with the dogs. When the talk was over, she drove us into town for a martini and we returned after dark. There was a fat moon. She cut the truck’s headlights and moved, very slowly, through the herds as they sniffed and stepped aside, hides glowing with moonlight.

“Forget the interview,” she said. “Write about this.”

* * *

Does Recovery Kill Great Writing?

As I emerged from alcoholism, I had to face down a terrifying question.

By Leslie Jamison

* * *

BLUE ROOM: “IN THE SKIN” BY KATIE FLYNN

Katie Flynn reads from “In the Skin,” and we interview Associate Editor, Essence London, on why she voted for the piece. Listen here for an glimpse of our latest issue and insight into our selection process.

“In the Skin” was originally published in Indiana Review 39.2, Fall 2017.

* * *

To the Future Readers of Lucie Brock-Broido

By Stephanie Burt

"I remember her telling early-nineties students, often for the first time, about Jane Miller, Denis Johnson, Frank Bidart, and on and on. I still have the photocopies, some divided into categories that she made up (for example, The Swerve)."

* * *

Why Reading Sherman Alexie Was Never Enough

As the #MeToo spotlight moves to Indian Country, epidemic violence against Native women meets tokenism in publishing.

* * *

THE STRANGENESS WITHIN THE KNOWN

A Mud Season Review interview with Lynne Feeley

Our nonfiction editor Mindy Wong recently had this exchange with Lynne Feeley, our Issue #36 featured nonfiction author. Here’s what she had to say about her writing and revision process, her inspirations and influences, and the research involved in crafting her essay “The Measurer of Ruin.”

 

* * *

Christ in the Garden of Endless Breadsticks

The agony and the ecstasy of America’s favorite chain restaurant

by Helen Rosner ( @hels )

* * *


Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can't and that is why
They know not if it's dark outside or light


LONG WAY FROM, LONG TIME SINCE: A Letter to Gerrit Lansing (1928-2018), by George Kalamaras

"The writing/riting of poetry is for Lansing a testing of the human imagination against the creative and destructive powers of nature and the universe. It is the most serious of games and should only be played by those who would risk everything, but for those, there are worlds to gain."

"The Metaphysics of Gerrit Lansing"
by Robert Baker


Letter to Gerrit from Aurora

by George Kalamaras

On the plains east of Denver, near Aurora, sod huts lift a pioneer past. Say how the earth rises up to eat us. Kali Ma—you told me, the night we met, Gerrit—devours her young, transforming careful cattle-step into cosmic crust. It hurts to love this much. This deep. A weed is not the enemy. A dirty word. I repudiate the icicle of summer. I am completely Arctic, Hudson in my fur, in my response to the readings for the day—from Cixous, to Bakunin, to Francis Ponge, and The Secret Life of Plants. The decisiveness of a doorknob. The switchblade’s flung-sung. Music of the rib, especially when the breaths cease. The monstrous mustache of vulnerable underarm hair. The Heavenly Tree, you wrote, Grows Downward. The tree of yoga, body inverted, has hair as roots. Pushes particles of groin-fire up, back into the coal-shiver of the brain. Was it Sumeria or here in Aurora where we first met? How many lives ago? Friendship like ours doesn’t just speak. Which of us wrote a love note to the moon, begging it to enter, slantwise, our throat? The Lansings of Albany—our friend, Don Byrd, told me—spoke beauty. The lancings of Medieval England bloodlet disease, perforating the pluckings of a lute. When Wang Wei played his lute, pine trees bowed before him to drink of the willow? No. Wang Wei painted his toenails with turmeric, plants rising to coat his throat in strange hermit sage. How many men kneeled? How many women in sod huts died during childbirth? How many souls rushed to incarnate—at that place, at that time, on the Colorado plains—only to leave a three-day-old infant and return to the great edge of an echo?

My neighbor died this morning, passing one breath to the next. Eighteen years we breathed through one another, across the driveway, through the cedar siding, as we slept not thirty feet apart. It was sad as the sudden dust of childbirth up-thrust from the plains. Suddenly, I am middle-aged. More than sixty. I almost brought home the stray bluetick coonhound yesterday, even though my wife refused again and again. The blue and gray mottled ticking of my life is all mixed up, showing more and more through. Something clocked in Colorado’s sun-dead pines.

Last summer, the power stopped. Mary Ann and I fled a weekend to air-conditioned relief. Each night, outside the hotel so my beagle could pee, I saw a gorgeous short-skirted woman enter and leave with various men. She complimented my dog. Each morning, we small-talked—my hound sniffing weeds—over her first cigarette of the day. Baggy t-shirt, bare feet, no makeup mornings. The beautiful sore of her somewhat hoarse voice. Still, that gorgeous ass. Belle Watling. Bree Daniels. Baby Doe Tabor. I remembered all the wrong. The unsung drive keeping men alive. Killing them, one lay at a time.

There is a whalebone corset complaining my throat. The Garland of Letters, you told me, was the book I need. You told me your heart beats weak. I hear it across the continent loud as mouths, clacking Conestogas rutting the ruts. Here in Aurora with its sad-dried sod. Huts. Aching the ache. Deepening the Missouri Breaks.

(for Gerrit Lansing)

("Letter to Gerrit from Aurora" appeared originally in Talisman: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, Issue 43, 2015)


About George Kalamaras:

 Photo by Jim Whitcraft

Photo by Jim Whitcraft

George Kalamaras is a former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016) and has published fifteen books of poetry, eight of which are full-length, including The Mining Camps of the Mouth (2012), winner of the New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM Chapbook Award, Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck (2011), winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Contest, and The Theory and Function of Mangoes (2000), winner of the Four Way Books Intro Series. He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.

Meet George (and his beagle Bootsie, among other animal presences) in an audio interview at Radio Free Albion. The interview celebrates, in part, issue 13 of Court Green, including George's poem “Dream in Which Kenneth Rexroth Counts to Eight.” Follow George on YouTube, the Indiana Poet Laureate page on Facebook, and at the Wabash Watershed.

* * *

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Gerrit Lansing

by Ruth Lepson

The 11th way of looking:
"11. Emerson was one influence on Gerrit, but it’s impossible to list all the influences, so wide-ranging are his knowledge and the depth of his understanding. He knows the history and practice of Tarot, Eastern and especially Western magic, gnosticism and hermeticism, Daoism, Vedanta and Zen, and wicca, sometimes speaking at esoteric gatherings in Salem on subjects unknown to and hidden from most of us poets. Certainly he’s a poet of the imagination and of non-dualism and eroticism. Add to that deep reading in depth psychology, phenomenology (especially of the Merleau-Ponty type), natha–a tantric form of yoga, linguistics and social theory, ecstasy and enstasy, the imaginism of Douglas Fawcett, Carl Ruck and his study of ecstatic ritual, Wallace Stevens, Coleridge, and Yeats, whom he loved but whom, he realized, it would be deadly to imitate."

* * *

George recommends:

"How We Sizzled in the Pasture" at the Poetry Foundation.

"The Heavenly Tree Grows Downward" on the Nomadics blog.

And also, that you enjoy:

Gerrit Lansing on Close Listening

Program One:
Gerrit Lansing reads selections from his collected poems, The Heavenly Tree / Northern Earth (North Atlantic, 2009) (26:40)

Program Two:
Gerrit Lansing talks with Charles Bernstein, and guest Susan Howe, at Lansing’s house in Gloucester, Mass.  (55:43)

Heavenly Tree Northern Earth Gerrit Lansing cover.jpg

* * *

Gerrit Lansing, the author most recently of Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth (2009), presents a “conspectus” of poems from his early years through to recent work. Introduced by Ruth Lepson, the recording session is followed by a brief oral history conversation focused on an array of subjects, including Gerrit’s friendships with John Latouche, Frank O’Hara, Charles Olson, Stephen Jonas, and John Wieners (among many others), as well as his role as the editor of the 1960s magazine, SET.


Read George Kalamaras's previous letters to:

Thanks, George, for bringing these voices to us through your own.


Long Way From, Long Time Since features letters written from writers, to writers, living or dead. Send us your queries and inquiries, your best wishes and arguments, and help us explore correspondence as a creative form. For letter submission guidelines, visit our submissions page or email cutbankonline@gmail.com for more information.


LONG WAY FROM, LONG TIME SINCE: A Letter to Bill Tremblay

"Poetry, art in general, had to speak honestly in favor of life. Or shut up."

What I read, among the younger post-World War II generation, was an immense urgency. An emergency. Apocalyptic. The atomic bomb, the Death Camps, the fact that the Germans and the scientific geniuses of the United States had created this condition where the only two choices were transcendence or annihilation, this sense that humanity’s leaders had already abandoned individual moral choice, had abdicated to a systematic machinery, what I call the global Operating System—isn’t that kind of what Ginsberg meant by “Moloch”?—for making decisions, because what person with a shred of conscience could live with the incalculable horrors attendant on thermonuclear war? So, there was already this end of days feeling. Poetry, art in general, had to speak honestly in favor of life. Or shut up.

From "An Interview with Bill Tremblay" by William Ryan


Letter to Tremblay from Tie Siding

by George Kalamaras
 

I’m going to call you by your last name in the title,
Bill, because you’re football-coach tough. Something
that sometimes hurt, as if what you taught me
wasn’t just poems but how to loosen the nails
on the siding of the house. My house. The one
with shame. 1980 seems a long life away. July.
U-haul packed with stuff I didn’t much need.
I thought I was coming a long way to Fort Collins.
In some ways not. You were younger then
than I am now—by a decade and a half—
and you seemed so old. You were born old,
is what the father in It’s a Wonderful Life
told his son. And you were too. Which is likely why
you could see it in me. The boards. The doors.
The scaffolding that one day needed to be pried. Loose
in Tie Siding, I’m just eight miles across the border
into Wyoming. Cowboys still calm here
the plains. The only building in town,
a combination post office and flea
market, could be a set for a lonesome
Western script. Somebody inside
is surely tough, tearing to songs of lost
love, itching through a drunken grin
for a fist. I was never tough in that way,
but there was strength. Somehow
divorce at age three can skin a boy alive
and leave the carcass to rot. Only the farm kids
wore coveralls. There’s teenage cologne.
Years of jokes.  Booze, which brings its own dying
scent. Something you knew, cleaning the vomit off Crumley
that night in the parking lot of the Charco-Broiler
off Mulberry in the Fort. Your whiskey vomit too,
there as reflux for the fathers
you nor I had. I’ve always loved
Tie Siding because it’s simple. How much
can possibly fuck-up in one sad tree lot
by one sagging ceiling off a lone Wyoming road?
How much is obscured? Seen? Cut
log upon cut log. Like lines
of a poem that can make or break.
Lines that might leave us looking pretty
without delving down into the urgency of now.
My house was rough. Untreated cedar planks
from Cedar Lake. Till Indiana teen years
brought splinters and the wet. Yours
was football stadium noise, not unlike
“the Big House” in Ann Arbor, though you came
from further east. And you tried to silence
it—even the cheers—drunk, in those days, with football
and the angels of Blake. Pioneering a town
like Fort Collins back then, wearing a hat
with the Star of Mao, made you tough up
at the bars among all the Stetsons. The body gets stiff,
holds the past. Shoulders ache. Words get stuck.
If we’re not careful the poems slow, leeching off
into others like cut blood. Fathers abandon sons.
Sons hide it in siding. All the untreated
years that absorb stain. I don’t much like
extended metaphors unless, of course, they elongate our lives.
Which is what our poems must do, even if the lengthening
is not time but depth. Remember our friend
Gene Hoffman? He said, Time is wider than it is long.
Which means only depth in this country
we claim big-sky wide. You meant that too, pushing
finally the bottle away, prodding
me into saying what needed to be
dead, even where it hurt. Now,
the tie hacks are gone since the railroad
tie industry quit many years
back. Too many trees were floated down
the Poudre from the North Fork
into a logjam in LaPorte. Things got stuck.
They needed to pry. Even dynamite
could only free so much. Okay, if we want
what poetry can grieve, metaphors too must die
to the hurt we need to speak inside.
You taught me that, although in saying so
just now my phrase goes flat.
Let me say thanks and leave it at love. 
 

    (for Bill Tremblay)

 

("Letter to Tremblay from Tie Siding" appeared originally in Court Green, Issue 12, 2015: 73-75. You can download that issue here.)


About George Kalamaras:

Photo by Jim Whitcraft

George Kalamaras is a former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016) and has published fifteen books of poetry, eight of which are full-length, including The Mining Camps of the Mouth (2012), winner of the New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM Chapbook Award, Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck (2011), winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Contest, and The Theory and Function of Mangoes (2000), winner of the Four Way Books Intro Series. He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.

Meet George (and his beagle Bootsie, among other animal presences) in an audio interview at Radio Free Albion. The interview celebrates, in part, issue 13 of Court Green, including George's poem “Dream in Which Kenneth Rexroth Counts to Eight.” Follow George on YouTube, the Indiana Poet Laureate page on Facebook, and at the Wabash Watershed.

* * *

Bill Tremblay at the Jacob Edwards Memorial Library Source JE lib tremblayjacob.jpg

For  more info about Bill, his life, and career, visit A City of Words, from the Worcester Writers Project, and the amazing interview on the University of Louisiana at Monroe's turnrow site.

George recommends the following poems as an introduction to Bill's work:

 

Wellesley College welcomed award-winning poets Yusef Komunyakaa and Bill Tremblay to the Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities Distinguished Writers Series on September 24, 2013.

Watch the video at left, or click here.

* * *

Long Way From, Long Time Since features letters written from writers, to writers, living or dead. Send us your queries and inquiries, your best wishes and arguments, and help us explore correspondence as a creative form. For letter submission guidelines, visit our submissions page or email cutbankonline@gmail.com for more information.

Read George Kalamaras's previous letters to:

Thanks, George, for bringing these voices to us through your own.


Big Sky, Small Prose Contest: And the winners are...

Big Sky small prose contest logo.png

BIG Congratulations to Allie Mariano, winner of this year's Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest, for her 1st place piece, "Water."

Here's what our judge, Zach VandeZande, had to say:

What drew me most to "Water" was its sense of wonder in the midst of tragedy. The best fiction offers us a way to make sense of the world, as in it creates for us the real on the story's own terms, and in doing so gives us a reason to hope. "Water," with its images and with its lyrical prose, does this effortlessly, and I'm grateful for the time I got to spend with it. I think you will be too.

Allie Mariano lives in New Orleans. Her writing has appeared in Saw Palm, Day One, and in New Orleans’ Times-Picayune. She is the nonfiction editor for Midway Journal. She is working on a novel, and she’s happy to be here.

Congrats also to our awesome runners up:

"A Posture of Grace" by Kim McCrea

"Holding His Fire" by Daryl Scroggins

We'll have more info soon, but we couldn't wait to shout out the news!