Sunday, August 31, 2014
This River Will Be Published in December 2014
Painting of Storm on the Volga River near Kostroma by Vera Belikh.
This River: A Long Poem is going to be published December 1, 2014. Written in 1990-91, when I had been to Russia to the ancient city of Kostroma in early August of 1990 to begin exchanges through Sister Cities of Durham for writers in Durham and in Kostroma, it has waited over twenty years to go into print. Last year Finishing Line Press published my chapbook Beaver Soul, which was written in 1992 and is a sequel to This River. I think you’ll like this new one.
I wrote all thirty poems while I sat on my poetry rock by the Haw River above the dam in Saxapahaw. The publisher is Wild Embers Press in Ashland, Oregon, and this will come out from their new imprint Watersongs. This River is definitely a water song, about the love that comes into being when real people meet from either side of the ocean as the Cold War barriers are breaking down. River imagery helped me articulate these powerful feelings which, in many ways, felt taboo. Sometimes it’s hard to go out there to the public with real feelings, but for me, at age seventy-seven, it’s time.
I’m working with Antoinette Nora Claypoole, who loves the book and is a warm, sympathetic, but sometimes fierce editor. She has formerly published mainly Native American stories and poems which have a warrior spirit. I’m grateful to her for wanting and loving This River.
In the weeks to come, I will be offering pre-sales. If you want to be on my book news list for details about buying the book, readings, etc., let me know. This will make a fine holiday gift. Few people read poetry today, but I’m told my poems are very readable and even hard to put down. The painting above by Vera Belikh is one of the paintings we’re considering for the cover. The book will also include drawings which were in the Russian edition of Beaver Soul, by Mikhail Bazankov, who edited, designed, and published that book back in 1997. So, stay tuned. More soon. Below you will find the first poem from This River. Judy Hogan
He: Let it be better for both of us that we got to know each other.
She: You kept talking about this river...
Every leaf of every resurrection fern is alive
and well-watered on the rocks along the
banks of the Haw. This river carries its
burden of mud and sloshes it over the
rocks; it cakes and cracks along the shore.
Today, as I watch the Haw rush recent
rains toward that ocean which you say
is the only barrier between us, I know
you are also saying there is no barrier.
Down here among the roots in my soul,
it is easy to agree. We are working
together beside our two rivers which,
though six thousand miles apart,
rush toward the same ocean. You
could swim across the Volga, and
I would be there. Yet I am here,
watching this river cover and water
her banks. They flourish; I flourish,
too. This new mud is fertile. At first
the leaves along the shore are painted
brown. Then sun dries them. Mud
peels off. New rains return their shine
to the bright leaves of summer, green
and gold, reluctant to fall. We have
August in October. Even the season
tries to stay where we were then.
Your absence is easier because the
leaves still shine. Sun celebrates
midday as if no chill had entered our
houses during the night; as if we had
not baked ourselves in the woodstove
I have no names for this
place where I live now. Did you change
my heart into your beloved river, and
that’s why, when I look at this mud brown
Haw, so intensely full of itself, I feel
your presence? You walk uphill from
that shore. Even your eyes are smiling.
You live with me on this hill, with its
trees and its blowing leaves. Some of
them are orange now. They flutter like
caught birds, eluding the wind. Fronds
of the cedar, the pecan’s lower branches,
and the smooth, shining magnolia leaves
reach me the way your words do, stirring
the air between us with a barely moving,
gentle passion that turns suddenly bold
and gusty. You are here where I am,
as near me as the sun and the wind, as
eager to move this air around me as you
were then to take the stairs two at a time
to show me you would keep pace, not
be left behind. Where I went, you
would follow. Because your heart had
been stirred, your feet would go quickly.
We have need of the little stray winds,
which we harness to help us. But the
river’s current is already ours. It runs
through our souls as one, my Haw and
your Volga. Both muddy, both healing;
both intent on their way to the sea;
running with a newfound power that
transforms every circumstance here
or there. We are hinged together by
ocean. That’s why we are whole;
passionately healed, and well.
To learn more about Wild Embers Press www.wildembers.com
For Watersongs: http://watersongsbooks.blogspot.com