Throwback Thursday

Thursdays at ClimbingSky feature re-posts from almost 7 years of MontanaWriter and ClimbingSky. This post was previously published on December 21, 2010.

A poor scan of a great cover

A poor scan of a great cover

There remain hundreds of books on my reading “to do” list, yet sometimes I find myself re-reading an old favorite. With poetry this is a fairly straight forward venture. I browse through the volume looking at notes I have made, lines I have underlined or otherwise marked in some way. It is interesting to see where my tastes have changed, to be reminded of lines, to see again poetic influences I may even have forgotten about on anything but a sub-conscious level.

With a novel or book of non-fiction this is a different experience altogether by definition. Re-reading a novel or full length non-fiction work is more of commitment. And since it is more of a commitment, it needs to be a real special book.

Ernest Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa is such a book for me.  It is special for me because it was the book, more than any other, that introduced me to real writing and real literature. It was the book that made me want to read something more than comic books and sports biographies.

I spend a part of every working day in and out of a middle school media center (library). In middle school, juvenile fiction is king. It has also become huge business. In the early 1970s, there was not a lot of juvenile fiction… and what there was did not interest me in the least.

In 1972-73, I was in 7th grade and 12 years old. I did not want to read about kids like me, I wanted to read about men. I knew about the kid world… what I wanted to know about was the world of adults… the real world.

One day I pulled down a copy of Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa from the library that was in our English teacher’s classroom. I suppose I liked the cover and that it was about Africa and hunting. Who knows why we choose some of the books we do?

Whatever the reason, that moment changed my life. Until that moment, when I had to read something I always chose non-fiction (and that is probably another reason I chose it). As soon as I finished Green Hills of Africa, I started The Sun Also Rises and after that… book after book, novel after novel, poetry book after poetry book until this day.

I am pleased to say that The Green Hills of Africa holds up well. It is Hemingway. It is memoir in muscular prose. Ostensibly it is about a safari he and wife, Pauline, took to Africa in 1933. It is more than mere travelogue though, for Hemingway intersperses with details of his hunting, discussions of writers and literature: Twain, Dostoevsky, Stendahl, Flaubert, and Tolstoy. All these writers I began reading within a few years of having first read The Green Hills of Africa, precisely because Hemingway recommended them.

When I am in the middle school media center, I will often look at the books that are there. There is no Hemingway. There are plenty of books about boys and girls, and many of these are very well written… but there are few about men and women doing the kinds of things that I was interested in as a middle schooler.

My life was changed because I picked up The Green Hills of Africa and discovered great writing and great literature, because I found out about Tolstoy and Stendahl and Dostoyevsky. I am forever grateful for that serendipitous moment. I am forever grateful that I had access to adult-level books like this in my classroom when I was just 12 years old.

Upcoming Publications

"Analog Journaling" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Analog Journaling” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

As I have mentioned here before, while I have always been relatively good about finding the time to write, I have never been good about doing anything with what I have written.

In the analog days, it meant filling notebooks that went into boxes to be ignored. In the digital age, it has meant creating files that sit in folders on hard drives to be ignored.

Last summer I began the process of searching computer files and old backup hard-drives for poetry I have written over the years. I still have a few back-up hard-drives to go through and have not yet tried to tackle the few notebooks that still exist.

I have been editing the poems I find and putting them into a database. At the same time, I have been using that database to begin submitting work for publication.

The ability to digitally submit work has certainly made the process much easier than it was in the analog days. On the rare occasions that I ever tried submitting work in those days, you needed a big envelope, a couple copies of your work, a second envelop for your SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope), and a trip to the post office.

It always seemed like a lot of work for little payoff. And so I seldom bothered.

Now I have no excuses.

Here is a list of upcoming publications. I am thankful to the editors of these publications for liking my poems enough to publish them. I am honored.

Awaiting Publication

  •  Aji Magazine: “Disturbance at Drumcliffe”
  • Temenos: “Crow is Reborn,” “Crow Sings”
  • West Texas Literary Review: “Larix,” “Dust,” “Into the Snow Sea”
  • GFT Press: “The True Nature of Philosophy”

I will post links once they are published and to any other publications as they happen.

Throwback Thursday

Thursdays at ClimbingSky feature re-posts from 6+ years of MontanaWriter and ClimbingSky. This post was previously published on May 5, 2011.

libraryA reader recently sent me an email critical of my poetry reviews. She said she found MontanaWriterwhen she was doing a paper for school. She did agoogle search of a poem she was working on… and my review of that poem – she did not mention which – came up. She said she was writing to me to let me know that she was disappointed with my review because I did not “analyze” the poem per se, but rather talked about “everything but the poem.” Upon further investigation, she said, that was true of all my “reviews.” She said I should call them something else. She did not, however, offer any suggestions.

I have never been comfortable with poetry analysis in the same way that ultimately I have never been able to make peace with that peculiar discipline called “biblical criticism.” Though I suspect that there is much merit in both, most of the time what passes for literary or biblical criticism/inquiry is merely another self-congratulatory exercise in academic mental-masturbation that only succeeds in missing the point of whatever is being examined. To me, poetry… and the bible… matter too much for that kind of bullshit.

Having gotten that little rant off my chest, I will say that my emailer does have a good point. Looking back over my poetry reviews I see that I do go far afield in my “reviews,” as I go far afield in most of what I write here. It is, alas,  in my very nature to wander and to wonder about things.

In my defense, however, a quick internet search for a definition of the word review comes up with these two definitions, among many:  1. To look over, study, or examine again. 2. To consider retrospectively; look back on. Certainly my reviews fit that definition quite nicely since many are retrospective in nature… or more properly, “reminiscent.”  But in the end it hardly matters. My emailer was looking for and expecting to find poetry analysis and, of course, my reviews are anything but that.

I sent a nice response to my emailer… I have so few readers that I cannot afford to offend any. I wished her luck with her paper and thanked her for taking the time to read MontanaWriter and to write to me. She wrote back and said that she had found some real “first-class” analysis at some other sites. She did, however, say she liked the picture that I had with my review and that she was going to use it. I wrote back and said, “I am glad that I could help.”


Sunday Sermon

Sunday Sermons: For a brief period early in my life, I preached a Sunday sermon. When I left that vocation behind, I could not imagine ever wanting to write a “sermon” again. The recent election has changed all that. In the face of Post-Truth, Donald Trump, FoxNews, and the intentional de-semination of un-Truth, the best defense we have to redeem ourselves and our world is biblical language. For awhile you will find Sunday Sermons here.

assumption “Truly I tell you, all sins and blasphemes will be forgiven for the sons of men. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin. He said this because they [the Pharisees] were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit‘.” Mark 3:28-30

In most legitimate Christian contexts it is not popular today to use terms like evil or demonic.  It is with good reason. So often those terms have been turned upside down by the “leaders” of the ironically named Christian Right (Heretical Wrong) and applied to what is merely human weakness, little sins (lowercase “s”) which are merely personal failings with little consequence beyond the individual.

Little sins are forgivable. True evil is not.

These words from Mark tell us what true evil looks like, and make clear why it is truly unforgivable.

Every word Jesus spoke was Truth because every word was from the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees who did not like hearing the Truth tried to deceive the people into believing that the Truth was something other than what it was. This is the definition of demonic, the intentional distortion of Truth, of what is holy and good and beautiful.

The Pharisees were committing the unforgivable sin because they were knowingly trying to distort Truth to lead the people astray.

This is the Sin (capital “s”) against Reason that Donald Trump, FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh commit almost every time they open their mouths. This is the sin that some members of the G.O.P commit every time they work to delegitimize the science behind Global Warming. This is the Sin that the tobacco executives committed when they knowingly tried to distort the dangers of tobacco. This is the Sin the NRA and their lawmaker lackeys commit when they prohibit the study of the true cost of gun violence. This is the Sin that Paul Ryan and the GOP leadership commit when they refuse to allow a study of the true cost of repealing the Affordable Care Act. This is the Sin that GOP leaders commit when they falsely claim voter fraud to make it hard for minorities and the poor to vote.

This is the Sin that holocaust deniers commit. This is Sin that Fundamentalist Christian “leaders” (the modern day Pharisees) commit when they deny Evolution and the Big Bang.

This kind of Sin can only be committed by leaders, and by the wealthy and powerful. It is why Jesus said “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

In this world, those to whom much is given… much is expected.

Truth sets people free. So the temptation is always there for the rich and powerful to distort Truth to keep what they have. Oil company executives are tempted to intentionally distort the Truth about Global Warming because they have so much to lose. Gun manufactures are tempted to intentionally  distort the Truth about guns because they have so much to lose. Catholic Church leaders were tempted to distort the Truth about sexual abuse because they had so much to lose. Donald Trump is tempted to distort the Truth about…just about everything because he has so much to lose.

Yes, brothers and sisters, Evil does exist. But it never has the last word.

Judgement Day is coming. And as Jesus said in Luke 17:2: “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.”


Throwback Thursday

Thursdays at ClimbingSky feature re-posts from 6+ years of MontanaWriter and ClimbingSky. This post was previously published on May 15, 2011.

(photo © m.a.h. hinton)

(photo © m.a.h. hinton)

May has been a cool month so far… and wet. In the North Country, we have at last said goodbye to winter. Driving around town this past week I have seen swans, ospreys, assorted ducks, and even a fox hightailing it across a busier road. At the feeders in my backyard, there have been goldfinches and warblers, along with the usual house finches, sparrows, and chickadees.

We do not take the time to plant bulbs at our house. But around our neighborhood I see tulips and daffodils and flowering trees. Spring is at last here… and its coming lifts a burden off of us.

Knowing about death is a burden. Winter is, if nothing else, a seasonal reminder to those of us who live in northern climes that decay and death are an inevitable part of life. It is as inescapable as the north wind, as falling leaves. But for now we can put such thoughts behind us – to pretend for awhile that we do not know what we know we know.

In May we watch the sky for signs of spring and the ground for signs of green. We search for life… and find it.

The search for life is as ingrained in us as the knowledge of death. They go hand in hand after all… hope and despair, belief and doubt, growth and decay, life and death. Eons ago, from ancient plains and darker caves, the first humans set out in search of life. We living today are a living testimony that they found it, and a living reminder that the search needs to go on.

In the fall, most birds head south, only a few like cardinals stay. Moving between trees and feeders, cardinals fight the cold and snow to stay alive. Against winter’s whiteness they look gloriously red, lighting up even the bleakest day. In early spring we have the tulips and daffodils to lighten dreary, rainy days… hope blooming in despair.

Tacoraptors and Warmer Days

The bitter cold of a North Country winter can takes its toll. Dark, cold days stuck inside an office with no windows drain the soul.

Fleeing the dark days, Sue and I headed south to Texas this week to visit her parents on South Padre Island. We walked the beach, rode bicycles, went on a dolphin cruise, and drank margaritas on outdoor patios.

We also went to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.

I have mentioned here before that I enjoy bird watching. We keep four bird feeders in our backyard and there is little I enjoy as much as walking along the Minnesota River Valley on a nice spring day  with my binoculars in hand.

At the Birding Center we took a guided tour. We saw 5 alligators and 27 (!) different species of birds, most new ones for my birding life-list.

Scan 1Looking at the list now, I see I left off my list for that day my favorite bird that we saw all over the island every day, the Great Tailed Grackle.

Great Tailed Grackles are ubiquitous there, especially in places that serve food. Reading up on them I came across this wonderful note in Wikipedia:

In Austin, Texas, it is commonly found congregating near the city’s numerous food trucks. Its aggressive behavior of snatching food from unsuspecting outdoor diners has earned it the nickname “tacoraptor.”