sna poems, #115: baxter’s hollow

our day in the baraboo hills started in earnest at baxter’s hollow, a broad gorge formed in the bluffs by otter creek with the largest stretch of unbroken forest in southern wisconsin—almost 6,000 acres, some still held in private hands. a rugged path marches thru the main site, but it feels very remote inside.

snow fell much of the time, but the sun peeked out toward the end of our hike. then we spent some time down by otter creek as we made our way out. a serious sanctuary for many aquatic insects, wildflowers, mammals, and especially birds who live away from edges. we exulted in the quartzite.

first id of hermit thrush—saw a few!

a.

marsh marigold fresh

into bloom

along the spring run

b.

under a light snow

moss growing

on tumbled quartzite

c.

in the leaf-bare wood

hermit thrush

flits from branch to branch

d.

reaching out fair limbed

under clouds

the oak against time

e.

below the white pines

the otter,

a wary spider

you can’t see her from this the distance my wife took this picture, but the spider named in the lune above was trepidatiously crawling on my knee here.

and now, the liverwort we found by otter creek, up late this year it seems:

lenten essay (about jokes) in _spirit & life_

for all those who keep the season of holy fasting we call “lent” in english (or those who are interested in world religions for whatever reason), i’ve got a new essay out in the benedictine magazine spirit & life.

it’s based on an interaction i had with some other guys here in milwaukee last year as well as some studying of the nature of christian atonement i did years and years ago now (when i first read william langland’s tremendous poem, piers plowmanread piers if you haven’t!).

all i’ll say here is that the essay involves the devil as a monstrous fish and the holy cross as a tricky hook. enjoy!

two new poems in _better than starbucks_

very much on the coattails of this weekend’s publication, i’ve got two new poems out in the february issue of the journal better than starbucks.

a free verse meditation on fairy parental duties is here, while a prose-poem cri de coeur on a long-ago night in boulder, co is here.

there’s much to read throughout the issue, with a number of twitter-community folks on the formal poetry page whom i respect a great deal—check them out too if you can.

happy february!

sna poems, supplementum anthropocenum #13: atlas pit (aka kiwanis pond)

it’s strange to me that i haven’t yet visited this site for the series. atlas pit (it was re-named ‘kiwanis pond’ but i can’t bring myself to call it that from long and early association) is a former gravel quarry a couple blocks from where i grew up in janesville, wi (rock county).

the old story goes that atlas sand & gravel dug until they hit a spring and then it filled in. i haven’t been able to fact-check that to my satisfaction, but the pieces of confirmation i’ve found have lined up with the general story. sounds like it filled up in the ’50s.

my childhood neighborhood was at the top of the quarry, and the pit was down the hill in a green corridor near a large wooded park, another pond, and a golf course. i learned in my research on wisconsin natural history during the pandemic that my hometown sits atop one of the outwash fans of the last glaciation, and my neighborhood above the rock river is at the edge of the fan. so it actually makes very good sense that there’d be a gravel quarry here, and there are other quarries in the area.

we used to come down here to play frequently, and back then it felt like a forest, a real wild place. it’s not quite so expansive now as an adult, but there are still pockets that feel more remote than it really is. when i visited the wind was blowing on a cloudy morning, and it smelled of childhood and good life.

first id of common cocklebur!

a.

here goldenrod bends

in the breeze

and i never knew

b.

this the native air

where we found

fraternal snappers

c.

glassy algal pond

quarry-wrought:

so good to see you

self-portrait

new poem and translations in _dappled things_

dappled things has just released their new issue, in which i have one original poem and three translations of old english galdru. while i do encourage any and all to buy a copy, thankfully, they’ve made mine accessible on the issue’s webpage as well. you can read the original here and the translations here.

this is a particularly satisfying publication for me because 1) the poem is about my extended family and our time together in different areas i have great fondness for, 2) the translations are of galdru (“charms”) which i think are some of the most interesting material remnants of early medieval culture, and 3) dappled things was where my first ever poem, a triolet about st. levan’s in cornwall, appeared almost a decade ago now. thanks, dappled things!

here’s that triolet, in case you have an interest:


st. levan’s well

we walked along a forest path

and drank from selevan’s well.

for a moment, we lived the past;

we walked along a forest path.

and tho’ we knew it wouldn’t last

as the spring flowed to the wind-swept swell,

we walked along a forest path

and drank from selevan’s well.

New Personal Essay on Contemplation in _Spirit & Life_

I’m always grateful for the support of Spirit & Life, the Benedictine magazine that the congregation of sisters I’m affiliated puts out every other month. But especially so right now. On the occasion of the Exultation of the Cross coming up on the 14th of this month, they’ve published an essay of mine that brings together American neo-bohemia, altered states of consciousness, devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and contemplation. (!) You can find it here.

This is by far my most personal essay so far, and I find it’s getting easier over the years to just say what I want to say. Spirit & Life has helped foster that growth for sure—if you like what you see there, please subscribe; it’s free and a very pleasing material publication!

pax inter spinas

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!

state natural area poems #25: sapa spruce bog a & b

a.

downed logs saturated

cobbles for white-tail hooves

spring thru grass and water

b.

sumac flair

prevents entry—

bog country

sapa spruce bog is a black spruce-tamarack bog (southernmost instance in wi) located in a kettle hole left by the receding glacier at last ice age’s end. it’s very acidic and has what is called “houghton muck” for soil–wow. we stopped by the northern edge (access is restricted to research) to see and smell the hardwood swamp habitat and met a buck wandering along the road. he quickly disappeared into the bog with lots more knowledge of such things than us.

thanks to the university of wisconsin-milwaukee field station for tending this pristine bog.