Path of the Veteran Deer by Lucas Shepherd

Whitetail deer buck  West Virginia by ForestWander

Through tangles of blackberry canes gallops a regal creature of the timber: Odocoileus virginianus, or the white-tailed deer. This one is a buck with cracked antlers, his coat birch brown. He sniffs the air before crossing the man-made paths. This veteran has survived so many hunting seasons because of his respect for orange vests and the pump of a twelve gauge shotgun. The whistle of a meadowlark shrills in a nearby gorge and the deer hops out of sight, perhaps to find an alternate path to the overflow creek where he can drink to his content.

No matter where I travel in the sprawling Sockum Ridge Woods in southeast Iowa, evidence of deer persists, whether in the form of flattened foxtail grass where a fawn hid from the strange newness of this world, a discarded antler on the winding path to Lookout Hill, or the beating sound of a herd moving through the hickory and oak trees to a safer location. At the turn of the 20th Century the white-tailed deer was hunted to devastatingly low numbers, but a regulated hunting system and conservation programs saw a steady proliferation in many sections of the United States. In Sockum Ridge, if you sit long enough in one spot and acclimate yourself to nature, you will surely see the white-tailed deer moving over the carpet of dead leaves, silent as Sunday School. If you are lucky enough, you will spot the patriarch of the royal family: the twelve point buck. Continue reading “Path of the Veteran Deer by Lucas Shepherd”

Green Children by Jenny Webb

tomatoes in the garden-1 by Jenny Webb

Like me, my first children arrived in March. Looking down at them now, their branches bowed and thick with ripened weights, green through the sun’s steady warmth €”these unruly creatures bear no obvious relationship to the sweet brown seeds carefully tucked into flimsy plastic trays and lovingly carried outdoors on the days spring chose to trail her warmth along the soil, stirring their pale souls toward the light. In the beginning, when we planted our garden, we worried over our sprouting family, Nick more than I. He cradled the trays as he moved them about the yard, seeking the sun with a visionary faith in our vegetable family. We figured that if the plants lived, we might qualify for a cat by winter and eventually, human children. Continue reading “Green Children by Jenny Webb”

State of the WIZ 2012

WIZ logo photo boot and deer hoofprints

Permit me to take a bit of virtual space to talk about Wilderness Interface Zone and its doings. I think it smart to revisit aspirations as well as mark recent changes and give notice of coming ones.   When William Morris helped me set up the site, I thought I’d build it, as the “About” page says, “to develop, inspire, and promote literary nature and science writing in the Mormon writing community.   WIZ’s intent is to open a frontier in Mormon arts, demonstrating in the process that it’s okay to write nature literature ….”

These were my earliest goals. I think WIZ has begun achieving some of them simply by staying alive for almost three and a half years. However, where I believe WIZ reaches highest expression is in its building an open venue for community members to celebrate or explore their relationship with nature, a relationship often sealed with the kiss of language. I might have begun WIZ, but readers have toted tons of necessaries to the literary barn raising, making it a unique, energetic, community-driven site.   Because of the wide range of voices speaking at WIZ, I’ve come think of it as a potential haven for narrative and rhetorical diversity, which, as I say so often that people are probably growing weary of hearing it, I think of as kinds of biodiversity. In the interest of providing ground for heterogeneity, then, which in nature supports the overall health, beauty, and potentiality of a place, WIZ will never turn nature writing away because it doesn’t follow a hot trend in the genre or pitch its voice to match those of dominant artists telling stories about people, other creatures, and the planet.   WIZ is an exploratory, let’s-see-where-this-takes-us site.   It’s a many-voices-mixing-may-give-rise-to-new-ground site. Continue reading “State of the WIZ 2012”

Winners of WIZ’s 2012 Spring Poetry Runoff Announced

Snow_river by Ranveig Thattai

Wilderness Interface Zone’s poets came through once again to present a full field of colorful and mind-brightening spring poetry during this year’s Spring Poetry Runoff.   Spring couldn’t find better heralds of its arrival or celebrants of its renewed greening of those parts of the world that are fortunate enough to get True Spring.   The WIZ admin (that’s Jonathon and me) were thrilled with the participation.   We’d like to express our profound gratitude to both writers and readers who picked up ribbons on our Maypole of vernal verse.

As usual, we had many strong contestants.   And as usual, we feel that we can’t award enough people enough prizes. However, those who did not place sometimes receive consolation prizes as other publications rummage through WIZ’s Runoff poetry, come up with a handful of some Spring Runoff poems–winners and worthy contestants–and republish them.   Dialogue did so last year and Sunstone is doing it this year.   So don’t be surprised if you’re thumbing through Sunstone’s upcoming stewardship issue and discover WIZ poems among the sheaves.   WIZ is pleased to be a gateway for both emerging and established writers to win wider attention for their work.

WILDERNESS INTERFACE ZONE’S 2012 SPRING POETRY RUNOFF WINNERS

The Most Popular Poem Award: Not to belabor the obvious, but James Goldberg’s crowd-pleasing and tender reflection on fathers and sons set against a warm spring background within which stirs snakes and memories managed to pull away from William Reger’s also quite skillful and intriguing “First Robins.”   This was, hands down, the most exciting Most Popular Poem vote in WIZ’s three years of running the competition.   Thanks to both Will and James for putting on a spectacular show and for drawing in a record number of 212 voters.

WIZ admin’s comments on “Since he was weaned”:

Jonathon: What’s not to like in James’ “Since he was weaned”? Spring may be delayed here, and when it comes the fever breaks quietly, cumulatively. It is never much more than implied in bones needing rest, and in the sullen, housebound winterwork the father does. But he is, from the start, infected with love and wonder, and the son for his part with that urgency to Go! we all have carried in our bones, carry still if we are blessed to: an impulse caught in winter worries (where there’s Winter) and released, uncoiled, where there is Spring.

Patricia: Relationships. The world needs more relationship poems as convincing as this one, and, of course, more poems advocating kindness toward snakes. And as a reader, thus a participant in James’ word-world, I felt the language welcome me to its story.   Jonathon speaks of the father becoming “infected” with love and wonder; from “Since he was weaned” emanates simple, native magnetism that likewise draws in the reader affectionately. I have a powerful, sympathetic response to the boy’s whole-body hunger to launch himself (with Papa’s company and aid) into that wider world.   An authentic poem, fully approachable yet artistically savvy.

The Admin Award: Every year since the Runoff competition began, WIZ administrators (that’d be me for the first 2 years; this year, Jonathon and myself) have dipped in and chosen their favorite poem from the Runoff.   The overabundance of truly worthy poems always makes choosing at least somewhat painful; this year was no exception.   This year, the Admin Award goes to Mark Penny for his lyrical, sprung sonnet, “I Miss That Time of Year I Know as Spring.”

WIZ admin’s comments on “I Miss That Time of Year I Know as Spring”:

Jonathon: The comment section on Mark’s “I Miss that Time of Year” bears out that “rain-chaffed ions” was an accident, but a happy one, reading Spring as a harvest of the dormant seed of Winter with its “white-robed monarchs” in their “white-leaved bower,” and its cold but coursing water. There’s something of Dylan Thomas at work here–“cloud-licked,” “herd-lord”–but restful, clean, and sober at a holy sonnet, at a sonnet as altar.

Patricia: When I read “I Miss That Time of Year I Know as Spring”, I thought, “That gets it for me–that longing for spring that makes the mind ache.”   I find the poem a satisfying answer to WIZ’s call for poems to sing up the season.   I loved that line, “Of white-robed monarchs in a white-leaved bower”–thrilling and chilling.   As Jonathon points out, “I Miss” is a sonnet, yet the rhyme scheme dances about freely.   And yes, there’s something holy about Mark’s poem–even in that reflection, ” … dream / Never quite shaken off, a dream of chills.”   “I Miss” scratched my spring itch.

For your enjoyment, below you can read or re-read the two winning poems .

I Miss That Time of Year I Know as Spring by Mark Penny

I miss that time of year I know as Spring:
The rain-chaffed ions on the air, the air
Breathed by the shrew and hawk, the wheat and tare,
Stirred by the green-leafed lyre and the wing.
I miss the swift, infant quaking of the grass
In the first stumbling steps of cloud-licked wind,
The boastful lowing of the herd-lord sun,
The warbling riot of the wild morass.
I miss that setting forward of the hour,
That lunge of drowsy muscles from a dream
Never quite shaken off, a dream of chills,
Of white-robed monarchs in a white-leaved bower,
Of cold blood coursing in the veins and streams,
Of all that revels lying prone and still.

Since he was weaned by James Goldberg

Since he was weaned, my son’s been hungry for the open sky €”
so that now, at eighteen months, he’s a seeker and a maker of signs.

A simple knock at the air
comes first.
It means: open this door
and let me ascend the concrete steps
to that greater bliss and those long lines of sight.
It means: let there be light!
Or, if the light is already waiting, let me rise to it.
Let me bask today.

Then there’s fetching the shoes;
that’s much more forceful.
To bring his own shoes is to say:
I am prepared! And don’t let this journey be withheld from me!
To bring my shoes €”yes,
to cradle the massive, worn load of each size fifteen ship
and to dump it abruptly, for emphasis, at my feet €”
this means:
the time has come, my father,
and can you deny your own destiny?

If all else fails,
there’s the incantation,
the syllable of power.
The hard €˜g’ means: pay attention!
(in the prophets’ terms: behold!)
And then the long €˜o’ either swells into a
bright sound of hope,
or else drags out long and plaintive:
an aching lament, the age-old burden
(the pain of separation the prophets once spoke).
Armed with this spell, he walks up to me like Moses to Pharaoh.
Go? he says. Go. Go!

When he asks, I am always busy.
When he asks, I have work to do. Feet to rest, and bones.
But when my son struggles for these signs
like a drowning man for air,
who am I to resist?
Who am I not to offer him the sweet relief
of knowing absolutely that he has been understood?

We go outside (I tell myself)
for two minutes. Just two minutes.
But soon spring is thawing my tundra-hard heart,
Soon, we cannot be contained even by the backyard.

Under the concrete of the driveway, garden snakes are stirring.
My son and I see one’s striped body from behind a leaning rock
and I remember my father, who taught me love and reverence
when he pulled our van over all at once and stepped out,
when he carried a snake away from the dangers of the road’s warm asphalt,
when he laid it down safe on the soft ground
one spring. Long ago.