Drawing and Rewriting

"1946 Smith-Corona Super-Speed" (by m.a.h. hinton)

“1946 Smith-Corona Super-Speed” (by m.a.h. hinton)

The latest hiatus here at ClimbingSky has been the result of me spending my limited free time rewriting poems and short stories and drawing.

I have spent the past month reorganizing my writing. Trying to gather in one organized place what is ready to be published, what needs some tweaks and a bit of editing, and what needs to be rewritten. It has been a big undertaking. 35+ years of scraps, and lines, and stanzas, and poems, and started short-stories and novels, and nearly finished short-stories and novels….

As I am doing that, I am trying to create sketches to go with various poems and stories. The going is slow. I am learning as I go along how drawing and the 53 app work. It is largely trial and error just like writing ultimately is, at least for me.

In September, Frontier Tales is publishing another of my Western short stories. I am waiting to hear back about a few other short stories and a few dozen poems.

In the meantime, I will be drawing and rewriting. Wish me luck!


Throwback Thursday

Thursdays at ClimbingSky feature re-posts from 6+ years of MontanaWriter and ClimbingSky. This post was previously published on July 18, 2011.

Wright_branchIn the North Country, it is high summer. The heat and humidity weigh upon us and we live indoors as much as possible… just like we do in January. Again, we wonder for the thousandth time who was the first European who said, “this would be a great place to live” (cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey in January, hot as a hell-hound’s ass in July). But when the weather breaks, we will forget it all and flee out of doors again… happy to breathe clean air and to feel real breezes upon our faces.

A week ago Sue and I drove through Kentucky and blue grass horse country. Each time we saw horses in a field, I thought of this poem by James Wright. That is the way of a great poem. And this is a great poem in every sense of that word… one of the most beautiful ever written by an American poet.

James Wright seems to me to be in the peculiar position of being frequently anthologized and quoted but seldom read. I include myself in this. I know some of his poems by heart but have spent little time with his body of work. Maybe after I finish working through Sandburg’s Collected Poetry I will take some time to study Wright. It seems like it is high past time for me to do that.

In the meantime, on a hot July Minnesota morning with horses on my mind, what poem could be better than “A Blessing.”


A Blessing
Just off the Highway to Rochester, Minnesota
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

The Most Subjective of Arts

"Bikes in Den Haag" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Bikes in Den Haag” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Last week’s severe heatwave here in the North Country and now a problem with my foot, has kept me from biking for the last week.

This time of year, with daughters home from college, I am basically carless. Most days during the summer, I bike to and from work– a 13-14 mile round trip. It is good exercise and therapy, helping both my mood and energy level.

A week without biking now is beginning to take its toll, on body and on soul. I think the silence here at ClimbingSky can in part be blamed on this.

Most of the blame, and let’s face it “blame” is not the right word… most of the reason has been time spent editing, re-editing, and prepping my many, many poems to be sent out for publication consideration.

I have always been better at writing than at trying to figure out the publishing game. Mainly because I have always felt like it is the writing is the thing after all… and being satisfied with what you have written.

But now I am combing through notebooks and computer files, editing and rewriting, and just beginning to send things more formally into the world.

The fiction publishing world is much clearer. I write a Western short story. I edit it and rewrite it. And I send it off to the very few places that are clearly interested in publishing the kind of Western stories I like to write.

Not so with poetry. Poetry is after all the most subjective of arts. In poetry, beauty is in the ear of the hearer.

So matching a poem with a publisher or publication is a lot of work. More work than I have generally wanted to do in the past. What little energy and time I have seems better used in writing, or reading, or day-dreaming. So I put off the process, and put it off, and put it off.

The result is notebooks and file folders and computer files and computer file folders of poems and scraps of poems and lines of nearly “finished” and half-finished verse. Decades of verse. Sitting and waiting for me to rediscover them again.

And so my summer goes.

Throwback Thursday

Langston_HughesI first read Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” in 1981 when I was living in Chicago. It was part of a volume of Hughes’s poetry that I bought in a used bookstore that was just north of the Loop near an Irish bar that I used to frequent. In my mind now they were right across the street from one another, the bar and the bookstore… but I suspect that time has minimized distances. They may very well have been blocks apart.

It was a place I went to often to spend the afternoon with coffee or Guinness depending on my mood. I usually sat in a booth off the bar and read, most often Yeats or theology. The day I bought the Hughes volume and started reading it the bartender asked what I was reading. He often asked about the books I was reading. I told him Langston Hughes.

“He isn’t Irish,” he said. “But I like the poem about rivers.”

I remember finding the poem in the table of contents and reading it. Later that evening when I was going to meet some friends, I remember walking along the river with the words of the poem stuck in my head. It has always been one of my favorites

In a week when there has been much talk about the use of another word that starts with the letter in a famous book about a river, Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” has come to my mind many times.

Read the poem once or twice yourself. Then listen to a clip of Hughes reading this poem: click here.


The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Music Monday: More Dead

I am still spending most of my audio time listening to the Dead these days. The ReListen app I have on my iPhone and MacBook has over 10,000 live concert recordings of Dead concerts, a cornucopia of possibilities.

As I have said here before, early in my life I was not at all a Dead fan. Surrounded as I was by so many DeadHeads and predisposed by nature to always be the contrarian, I reacted strongly (and predictably) to their missionary zeal. Not only was I not a Dead fan, I declared, I hated them!

And yet a few years ago when I began listening to them in earnest, I realized that I knew all their songs quite well. Early in life it seems, I had absorbed what I purported to hate.

So now, 40+ years later, a converted DeadHead, I am posting another Grateful Dead tune here. The lesson for missionaries: Do not despair, the seed you plant today may not seem to have taken root, but have faith, decades from now it may grow into something after all.



Throwback Thursday

Thursdays at ClimbingSky feature re-posts from 6+ years of MontanaWriter and ClimbingSky. This post was previously published on November 27, 2010.


Patrick Kavanaugh

Patrick Kavanaugh

Irish poet Patrick Kavanaugh did not write many poems. But did write a great deal of very, very good ones… and a few great ones.

He also wrote one of my favorite literary autobiographies, The Green Fool.

When I was in my mid-20s, I spent a few years reading primarily Irish literature. It began with the year and a half where I read almost nothing but W.B. Yeats, all his poetry and prose that I could get my hands on – including his entire collected poems cover to cover numerous times.

Kavanaugh was the first poet I found when my “Yeats year” was done. For that reason he holds a special place in my memory and my bookcase.

For a number of years, Kavanaugh’s books were out of print. My old paperback version of his Collected Poems is falling apart. The old pages so browned with age that my pencil-marked notes seem like I they could just blow away.

I am gratified to see that there is a Kindle version of Patrick Kavanaugh’s Collected Poems now available as well as a new paperback edition. You could get either here.

There are a number of poems I could pick to showcase Kavanaugh. “Peace” seems as good as any. In it we see the essence of Kavanaugh’s best poetry: rural Irish landscape and themes, musicality, ordinary language, and things made beautiful and eternal.


And sometimes I am sorry when the grass
Is growing over the stones in quiet hollows
And the cocksfoot leans across the rutted cart-pass
That I am not the voice of country fellows
Who now are standing by some headland talking
Of turnips and potatoes or young corn
Of turf banks stripped for victory.
Here Peace is still hawking
His coloured combs and scarves and beads of horn.

Upon a headland by a whinny hedge
A hare sits looking down a leaf-lapped furrow
There’s an old plough upside-down on a weedy ridge
And someone is shouldering home a saddle-harrow.
Out of that childhood country what fools climb
To fight with tyrants Love and Life and Time?

Money and Madness

After a sultry summer day yesterday in the North Country, today promises to be less humid and tropical.

Each year it is the same. I start with idea that this is the year when I will be a diligent landscape-keeper. And then July comes and the weeds come and I flee inside the house and give up, overwhelmed again by nature gone mad.

Everything we do with our yards makes no sense to me.

We plant a kind of grass that is too fragile to grow without fertilizer and tons of extra water, and a lot of money. Then spend the summer fighting the kinds of grasses, crabgrass and quack grass, that grow naturally and are too hardy to kill anyway.

We plant trees that are meant for different climes, and dig out trees and shrubs that grow naturally on their own.

It is the kind of madness that only “civilization” can bring.

So much madness is in the air these days. Commonsense does not seem to have much of a chance.

There is money to be made in convincing people to plant grass and fertilize it. There is money to be made in convincing people that they need more and more guns to protect themselves from the government, their neighbors, and foreigners. There is money to be made convincing people that they need newer cars, more fashionable clothes, new furniture….

Money and madness.

It is difficult sometimes not to despair for the future.

"Butterfly" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Butterfly” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)