Poem: Signs seen from Chincoteague, 2016

Coffee & Karma

Orbital ATK

Donate Your Boat

Shoe Show

Pocomoke River

Wine Liquor Cordials

50,000 Songs in a Row!

Dover, Delaware 68 miles

If You Love Someone, You Need Life Insurance

Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art

Harriet Tubman UGRR

Bay Bridge 42 miles

Speed Awareness Zone — next 3 miles

Rural Life Museum

Wanted Guitar Player

The Best U-Turn You’ll Ever Make!

Asparagus / Double Yolk Eggs

New Blood

Mariners Church

 

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#160423

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Poem: Signs seen to Chincoteague, 2016

Easton — 2nd most livable city in Maryland

Choptank River

The Pretzel Factory

Snow Hill Road

Pop-Pop’s Produce

Mitchell’s Martial Arts (on the move)

Passerdyke Creek

Smith Island Cakes Ordered Here

Natural Resources Police Fishing Rodeo May 7

 

Littering is Illegal

Drive Thru Vape and Smoke Outlet

NASA Badging and Deliveries

Caution: Low Flying Aircraft, High Noise Area

Wildflowers — Do Not Mow

NOAA / NESDIS

Sandy Pony Donuts

Ham Cabbage Breakfast

Prohibited: Nudity

No Fishing From Bridge

 

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#160418

Poetry: spatial analysis

I have written poetry while living in 2 watersheds:

 

07120004           Des Plaines                                       Illinois

02060003           Gunpowder-Patapsco                   Maryland

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Paper copies or video versions of my poems were created in, and/or have travelled to 16 watersheds:

 

01040002           Lower Androscoggin                     Maine

02030201           Northern Long Island Sound      New York

02060006           Patuxent                                          Maryland

02070010           Middle Potomac–Anacostia–Occoquan                               District of Columbia

03020201           Upper Neuse                                    North Carolina

03030002           Haw                                                   North Carolina

04110002           Cuyahoga                                           Ohio

05020005           Lower Monongahela                      Pennsylvania

05100205           Lower Kentucky                              Kentucky

05140102           Salt                                                     Kentucky

06010105           Upper French Broad                      North Carolina

10270104           Lower Kansas                                  Kansas

11100303           Deep Fork                                         Oklahoma

12030103           Elm Fork Trinity                             Texas

13020102           Rio Chama                                       New Mexico

17110019           Puget Sound                                      Washington state

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Book Review (poetry): Vilnius Diary by Anna Halberstadt

I eagerly anticipated reading Anna Halberstadt’s Vilnius Diary, about her childhood in Lithuania and immigrant life elsewhere, because I was close to my mother’s parents, who were the children of immigrants from Lithuania, and whose own first languages were Lithuanian. My grandparents also spoke multiple languages, but not nearly as many as Halberstadt: her poems include lines in Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Yiddish (all translated), and untranslated bits of German and French that can perhaps be inferred from context.

Vivid images abound within memorable lines:

  • Green lakes, full of crayfish and drowned schoolchildren;
  • intricate jewelry of St. Ann’s gothic needles;
  • tongue got stuck / around syllables / like on poorly made crowns;
  • blood mixed with the black earth / producing fragrant dark Lithuanian bread.

I was reminded by turns of Ilya Kaminsky’s Dancing in Odessa, Frank X. Gaspar’s A Field Guide to the Heavens, and Stephen Kuusisto’s Eavesdropping. And yet, if not for writing this review, I would not have finished reading the book.

I think Halberstadt’s collection would have benefited from being much shorter: there are 69 poems on 116 pages. Ilya Kaminsky’s book, which deals with similarly grim events, is exactly half the length of this one, but also employs ample white space.

I found little humor, and it, generally bleak: “Who invented family holidays? / Hitler?” (p. 21); “Fish tell him things he understands since he stopped / getting the meaning of human attempts to communicate.” (p. 108). The only time I felt good about laughing was reading her ex-mother-in-law’s words: “I don’t understand / how one can be sad / at twenty three. / I’d be hopping / on one foot and singing / if I were twenty three.” (pp. 32-33)

People in Halberstadt’s poems are frequently miserable, despairing, and waiting for disaster to strike, again. The Holocaust, which killed her grandparents and assorted distant relatives, makes a frequent appearance, despite having occurred before she was born.

Given how often she mentions her profession (psychology), I would have expected her poems to offer more insight. But beyond that, Halberstadt has a great deal of sympathy for her family, her friends, and occasionally her coworkers; she seems almost contemptuous of everyone else.

The book’s theme can be found on page 85:

“Do we really get better with time or just bitter? / More like aged wine or like vinegar?”

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Originally written, January 2015