sna poems #97: browntown oak forest

browntown oak forest is a southern dry and dry-mesic forest situated on a st. peter sandstone ridge in the driftless area. the variable topography and soil types nurture a diversity of plant communities. one part of the slope has sandstone outcrops.

the trails (such as we could find) were going feral, which restricted our movement into the forest somewhat, but a jaunt down the ridge to the sandstone was freeing.

first id’s of tall bellflower, st. john’s wort, and knapweed; also first coral fungus spotted since i started these.


me and this hickory

outcropping here

on sandstone slabs


coral fungus

glows on log:

a shimmering bouquet


rough and rounded spawn

of oak, walnut, hickory

jewel the forest floor

then over to baumgartner’s in monroe for serious cheese sandwiches…

New Poem in St. Katherine Review

The first State Natural Area I visited here in Milwaukee County, Cudahy Woods, is a 40-acre plot that never got logged or developed and so is old growth in the middle of Wisconsin’s most urbanized county. It’s a delightful place and close to my heart because it’s where I started the project of teaching myself about Wisconsin’s flora and natural history.

And today I’m delighted to share that St. Katherine Review has graciously published one of my poems about this old-growth treasure. You can read it here, and do check out other work on their site—it doesn’t disappoint!

sna poems, series anthropocenum #11: washington park, milwaukee

washington park was formed on the city’s west side back in the 1890s, and it’s still a gem. right in the middle of the urban landscape and bordered on one side by highway 175, it’s a fine mix of rolling park, open pond, and small wetland, with some gorgeous old trees and an art-deco ampitheatre. the city is celebrating the bucks’ championship win today w/ a parade, so we had to stay north of downtown, and glad we did.

a few great blue herons were flying about, and first id’s of cardinal flower and monkey flower! also, the spotted touch-me-nots are back.

thanks to my daughter for suggesting the walk, thanks to the urban ecology center for tending the site and providing programming in the park, and a couple photos here are credited to my wife.

cardinals and saffrons trumpet

a lance living and angled

the festive city surrounds

cardinal flower more impressive in person even than i had expected

spotted touch-me-not with insect friend

columbine still blooming

great blue heron taking a break from wading

joe pye weed

monkey flower, arresting and unassuming

wood sorrel

if you made it this far, it looks like these were cicada parts…

sna poems #96: york prairie

on to green county! my dad and brother were along for the trip this time, and we did a day-long tour of the county with five sna’s.

green county is in the driftless area, the part of wisconsin (and neighboring minnesota and iowa) that was not smoothed and altered by the wisconsin glaciation, as the rest of the state was. different terrain but still southern wisconsin.

our first stop was york prairie, which contains remnant tallgrass prairie, a multitude of native plants, and rare and threatened plants. the sandy soil and rocky terrain were a new experience in prairie for me, and a light shower gave the walk a different energy part-way thru. first id of hoary vervain and golden alexanders!


mullein blooming

rough and heavy

to the touch


prairie valley sings

with yellow throat song—

shocks of stalk and sepal


below leaf and stem

under rain and sky

bedrock glimpses prairie

sna poems #95: logan creek

logan creek sna lies on the northern side of clark lake and is dominated by a northern wet-mesic forest. a small prairie buffers the parking lot from the woods.

we had a fun time running thru the beeches and hemlocks, cedars and birches. critters mammalian, amphibian, and reptilian darting off the path ahead of us left and right. one of the board walks was out, and we were losing daylight, so we weren’t able to see the lake, but hopefully we’ll be back some day.

first id of ramps by the flowers.

thanks to the ridges sanctuary for tending this land!


amphibians rustle and pause

reptiles in the evening sun

a grasshopper hanging low


we admire the fungal beech-ring

and slumping birch graveyard,

mourn the absent hemlock

if you made it this far: here’s a good reminder to keep your wits about you. this birch fell completely along the trail. if someone had been on that bench, they’d have had quite a view of the fall…

Webinar for Paraclete Press with Abbot Primate Gregory Polan on the Divine Office

I had the distinct privilege yesterday of having a conversation with Abbot Primate Gregory J. Polan, OSB and Rachel McKendree of Paraclete Press about the practice and virtues of the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of the Hours) and my new book, The Saint Benedict Prayer Book.

We discussed a bit of the history but more so the vision of reality that is conveyed by the performance of the Hours, why it matters as a form of prayer in the world today and how it shapes who we are. It was a fabulous discussion with much wisdom from Abbot Primate Gregory.

If you have an interest, you can watch the full conversation here, and you can pick a copy of the book here.

Pax et Bonum!

sna poems #94: whitefish bay dunes

it was a hot one. i visited whitefish bay dunes—what the wdnr calls “the largest and most significant Great Lakes dunescape in Wisconsin”—when it was in the mid-90s. tough going but very focused, and not many other folks on the trails. the dunes range from open beach right on the lake to heavy forest a couple dunes back.

i took the northern trail to “old baldy” (the highest dune in wisconsin at 93 ft above lake level), which came out of northern mesic forest into open glades of juniper and fern, not to mention all sorts of small, ground-hugging plants i hadn’t the slightest clue on. very unique habitat inhabited by very unique flora. after climbing up baldy i took the southern trail back, which lulls thru a forest of balsam fir, white cedar, and birch on the backside of the fore dune—very fragrant and pleasant despite the heat, especially along the hollows.

(by the way, i love that the wdnr uses the word “dunescape.”)


thimble berry thick

on the midday sunning earth

dune asks nothing


porcupines are there somewhere

behind aspen stumps

and miniature fountains of moss


juniper and fern

are friends

in the dune-glen


solitude here on tallest dune

as aspens crest-quake

no one else so foolish in the heat


words are bountiful

but no smell of balsam fir

touch of outcropping

if you got this far: look at this snail doing her balancing act on top of a small forb (about six inches tall at most). it was eery and delightful.

More Benedictiana: 6th century poem on St. Benedict in _Spirit & Life_ (+ audio)

I’ve come back from vacation to find my translation of a Latin poem on St. Benedict in the latest print issue of Spirit & Life, the magazine that the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration publish every couple months.

It’s a middle-length poem by a monk named Mark of Monte Cassino, and it’s the earliest attestation we have of St. Benedict’s existence—in plenty of time for his feast day on July 11th. The Latin is set in elegiac couplets, and I’ve translated them into alternating 12-syllable and 10-syllable lines modeled on French syllabic lines.

So, if you’re interested in arcane Benedictine texts (as you know I am), have a read here and a listen below if you like! Also: you can sign up for a free subscription to the magazine here.

Post(s) on Blessed Itala Mela Featured at Paraclete Press’s Site

In celebration of all things Benedictine and in the wake of The Saint Benedict Prayer Book coming out, Paraclete has also recently posted a brief life and translations of prayers I’ve written up on the first (modern) Benedictine oblate to be beatified, Blessed Itala Mela.

If you have an interest in Benedictine history, the liturgy, or arcane mystics that you didn’t even know were a thing, I hope you check it out, and support Paraclete while you’re at it if you’re able to.


_The Saint Benedict Prayer Book_ Released by Paraclete Press

Very happy and humbled to announce the publication of The Saint Benedict Prayer Book. Those who read this blog from time to time for my verse might not be as familiar with my work on western monasticism, but Benedictine culture and thought are primary passions and preoccupations of mine in professional and personal capacities. Years of practice as a Benedictine oblate and of studying the texts that Benedictines have left us from the tenth thru the twentieth centuries have come together in this book in a way that leaves me grateful.

The volume features Little Offices, Commemorations, and Litanies, many of which have been sitting unused for centuries in manuscripts and for decades in scholarly editions. As Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB says in his Foreword, these prayers are “deeply rooted in the liturgical life of the Church,” with most of them serving as a kind of “adornment” for the Liturgy of the Hours in the Latin Church’s offering of prayer to the Father thru the Son in the Spirit.

Any monastic, oblate, or anyone who is just curious about a 1,500-year tradition of religious life, culture, and liturgical experimentation should find something of value in this book. I offer it to the world ut in omnibus glorifecetur deus.

If you’re interested in a preview or a copy, you can find it here on Paraclete’s site. Thanks for reading!