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This is the inaugural issue!
For the first issue of this newsletter, I thought I’d share a brief story from fourth grade.
A very important thing happened to me in fourth grade. I learned how to write a haiku. In 1977, my family lived in the country amid a rural farming community in central Kansas. I attended a small consolidated school, and my fourth-grade classroom was on the ground floor and abutted the cafeteria. I recall lining up for lunch one year to the Knack’s “My Sharona” blasting out of the lunchroom speakers. Good times.
It was in that modest little classroom, with its long horizontal set of windows above the bookshelves that looked out to the playground, that Mrs. Sundgren, with her buzzed hair, octagon glasses, and quick smile, taught us haiku in the autumn of 1977.
A good math student, I was immediately drawn to the idea of counting syllables. Living in the country, I loved playing outdoors, and the coyote howls at night seemed more exotic to me than scary. Mrs. Sundgren taught us that the haiku used nature and a surprising turn or twist. I liked mystery stories (and Encyclopedia Brown), so the twist enticed me as well into perfecting this particular assignment in Language class. I don’t have any haiku saved from that time, but I credit that exercise and Mrs. Sundgren for sowing in me that first seed for the love of poetry.
I share this story for another reason - because one afternoon while in that some classroom, a real wicked storm blew in. The long skinny windows on the far wall revealed a sky that was all dark brown. Mrs. Sundgren calmed us down as best she could and had us huddle beneath our desks for the tornado drill until thankfully the storm passed. Whew. That experience was long seared into my memory, and so I used that as fuel for the poem, “Tornado Drill,” which is featured in my new book and serves as its title.
In March of next year, my newest book of poems, Tornado Drill, will be released from Aldrich Press. Yay! It’s been a long time comin’ as some of these poems are half as old as our mini-schnauzer, Bowie who’s nearly twelve!
Many of the poems in TD reflect the imagination and wonder I felt during my early childhood in rural Kansas with critters, coyotes, and big sky (and yes, that occasional tornado). Other poems reflect my love for the Ozarks. All of the poems reflect my great appreciation for the written word.
Thanks, Mrs. Sundgren!
Read about Tornado Drill here.
Recs & Deals.
Bo knows recs and deals . . .
Here are some things I’ve been reading, watching,
or buying that I recommend.
PRINT: Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (1977).
I realize this is an older book; however, if you are not an indigenous American, then Ceremony serves as an extraordinary way to understand, in this case, Laguna Pueblo culture.
PRINT: May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude (1973).
Yes, another older book, but it feels timely if you’re a person who is in solitude or wishes to understand solitude more deeply - or maybe you’re just feeling like, “hey, what is it about solitude that interests me?” I heard about this book through TheMarginalian.org (formerly Brain Pickings). It’s a good winter read, as Sarton lives in chilly New England during the year she journals.
AUDIO: Brené Brown, Men, Women, and Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough (2012).
I am indeed on a Brené Brown kick. She’s not for everyone, but for me, she’s my cup of (Texas, self-improvement) tea. Over the years, I’ve sometimes been a people-pleaser (when I doubted my own worthiness), and this audio book explores the idea of being worthy and the importance of not measuring up against other folks. Cuz when you do that, it ain’t helpful!
FILM: Squid Game (Netflix, 2021)
Ted Lasso (Apple TV 2020-21)
Squid Game is violent and dark (so if you can’t handle blood, please avoid this one), but yet against this theme of darkness, there is hope.
Ted Lasso showcases a good number of emotionally mature adults - love that! - and if you like the theme of personal redemption, this one’s for you.
MUSIC: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) by Vincent Guaraldi.
Snow Angels (2006) by Over the Rhine.
Absolutely love both of these albums. And both are perfect for this time of year, especially when you get tired of the same old Christmas songs. While Charlie Brown is a jazzy classic, Snow Angels is bluesy and soulful.
DEAL: MPIX for prints, cards, and the like.
If you need an alternative to VistaPrint or Canva (yet I do heart Canva!), you might check out MPIX. They are located in Pittsburg, Kansas (yes, another Kansas connection here!), and they do fantastic work at good prices. If you sign up for their email list, be aware that they will blast you with a ton of email, but that’s the only drawback. I’m very impressed with their print quality, particularly their giclée prints.
Tools for Writers.
For this first issue, we’ll start with tools for poets. I often get asked, “What books do you recommend to help me write better poems?”
My top suggestions are:
1. Ted Kooser’s Poetry Home Repair Manual
2. Poetry 180, an anthology edited by Billy Collins
3. Robert Wallace’s Writing Poems.
These are all books by dudes. So if you know a great resource that is not inked by dudes, please let me know; I’d love to share it.
Next month’s tips will be aimed at: Screenwriters.
You go: Which is the best
Harry Potter film?
This year marks the third year that Jenni and I are doing a Harry Potter Marathon. I have my favorite movie - though it’s a close race for second…
Reply to this email, and share your favorite Harry Potter flick!
I am a poet and writer who lives in the Missouri Ozarks. I studied literature at Ottawa University and Indiana State. I’m a Midwesterner through and through. I love nature, running, quinoa with greens, and cheating on my diet regularly with chocolate. This year, I’m reading all of Shakespeare’s works, and I might start quilting again this winter.
My work is supported in part by my literary patrons at Patreon.
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Thanks for reading.
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Warmly from the Ozarks,