Poetry and Fiction

When thinking back over the poetry that we printed last year, the first item that comes to mind is the still lingering effect of Sharon Auberle’s stunning volume of poems remembering her parents, Saturday Nights at the Crystal Ball, Cross+Roads Press # 31. One of the hardest things for me to imagine is putting painful family memories into present poetry. Yet Auberle does this with infinite patience, grace and caritas. Her book is a garland of blessings.



My second impression comes from the recent news of Estella Lauter sharing first place in the adult division of the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Contest conducted by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. In our interview, she recounted how she wrestled with the problem of political poetry for some time and recalled her liberating experience of internalization as presented by the Chinese-American poet Li-Young Lee – that is owning the problem from the inside out, as it were.



In their poetry this past year, Auberle and Lauter both demonstrated the healing power of art reaching outward from within. By offering up their own craft-tempered work to others, they demonstrate that potential for all. In so doing art allows us to take the world personally but in a way that can transform the world. Another poet once said, “Those also serve who only stand and wait.” One wonders if that option is still open to us.



On a more personal note, two other poetic experiences spoke strongly to me this year. The first was the collaboration with Judy Roy to remember the poetry of the Holocaust. We presented a collection of such poems during April poetry month and repeated it later on. These are difficult poems from a horrendous time; they are hard to read and hard to hear but, as with the issues cited above, all such events must be taken personally and remembered until the whole race says, once and for all of the rest of the time we have, both personally and as a species, “enough is enough.”



Finally, it was a great pleasure to spend a weekend in Fort Atkinson to celebrate the life and work of Wisconsin’s own Lorinne Niedecker. Like Emily Dickinson, Niedecker was little known in her own lifetime, writing from the seclusion of a small cabin out in the great Where-in-the-World all year and flood bound every spring. Yet, as with Emily Dickinson, Niedecker’s art becomes more and more known with time and as it does we once again discover the value of a single, solitary voice struggling to unveil the purity and power of words – it’s what poets do and the more we read Niedecker we realize how well she did it. For example: My friend tree / I sawed you down / but I must attend / an older friend / the sun.



For all the fine poets in Door County, it’s harder to find good fiction, especially with our tight spatial restrictions. Fred Schwartz regularly provides us with fine work, as do the likes of Gary Jones and occasionally Judy Drew. Jean Casey contributed some wonderful tales she wrote for her own grandchildren and there are more of those on the way.



The surprise of the year, however, was the discovery of what a poet can do when she applies the precision of her first craft to the larger craft of fiction. In our ever so fast-paced world with instantaneous communication world wide, it is more and more the case that the Less has to serve the More. Nancy Rafal came up with a pair of stories that illustrated this necessity to a T. In the original printing, these two stories took less then a thousand words to tell, introduction included, and like poetry, they rise out of one heart to speak directly to others. They are like fine delicious chocolates that entertain and nourish – without costing the reader a single calorie.



~ H.C.T.