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The Alberta Clipper

Books by Rasma Haidri

 

The “paperback revolution” in the English-speaking world began on July 30th, 1935, with the publication of the first Penguin book. Inexpensive books with large print runs, “Penguins” sold in unconventional locations such as department stores, railroad stations, and drugstores. Rasma Haidri’s ode to the printed word, “Books,” was published in the spring 1998 issue of Prairie Schooner; this spring followed one of Lincoln’s hardest, snowiest winters, which had netted 44.6 inches of snow. Cooler than average, the mean temperature that spring was 49.8°F, with over a foot of precipitation.

by Tory Clower

 

Rasma Haidri

Books
for Silje

Without shame I throw them into the fire.
New Yorkers, APR journals, Esquire,
after each is taken from the knee-high pile in my closet
and read. Still more arrive each week

and the pile increases: magazines, journals,
catalogs of new books, Daedalus remainders,
free offers from QPB, BOM, humble Spring Church selections.
They fill my bookcases and I buy more,

more books, more cases, the library
spilling into all the house. My daughter’s collection
forcing her toys into drawers under the bed.
Books are recycled friend to friend,

mother to daughter, new store to used,
read and reread until ultimately they perish.
Like the small paperback I placed
on the grate last night. Snug and trim as a log,

it took flame. Sucked smoke through curling pages.
My daughter stopped short and wailed –
But I haven’t read that book yet!
No matter that it has no pictures,

no matter that she is five and this
a fitting end for a 1970 marriage manual
called Strike The Original Match.
I take her weeping into my arms.

The moment palpable – how she believed
she would read every book ever written.
Small love, there are so many.
Read, and more will be written.

Consume, and more will be brought forth –
in you, and by ones like you
who love the written word
and would reach for it through fire.

Ode to Wallace Stevens by Marcia Southwick

 

On June 24th, 1993, Dr. David Gelernter became the twelfth victim of the Unabomber. A professor at Yale, Gelernter was critically injured after received a mailbomb sent by Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski, whose bombs killed three and injured twenty-three, was arrested three years later and is currently serving life in prison without possibility of parole. In Lincoln in 1993, the average temperature for June was 68.8°, with a high of 92° and a low of 42°. This weather was lovely for the attendees of Lincoln’s third-annual free outdoor concert series, Jazz in June, which is now in its 22nd year.

by Tory Clower

Marcia Southwick’s “Ode to Wallace Stevens” was published in the fall of 2009.

Ode to Wallace Stevens
for Landt Dennis
The world is ugly, and the people are sad—
   -
Wallace Stevens

A drainage worker from Coco Beach has just climbed through
spider-filled pipes, strapped a 435-pound manatee to a stretcher
& delivered it in stable condition to Sea World. Is this ugly or
   sad?
There’s sadness & ugliness of course. McDonald’s is extending
north into the Arctic circle & straddling the international date
   line,
spreading all the way to New Zealand and Western Samoa.
A shopkeeper in Lincoln, Montana, sells Home of the Unabomber
t-shirts because Ted Kaczynski had ridden his bicycle daily down
Main Street. The Dahoney Eye & Tissue Bank of Los Angeles
has harvested corneas from the dead without permission from
   families.

In Italian They Call the Bird Civetta by Robert Penn Warren

 

Robert Penn Warren is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry; he also served as the US Poet Laureate from 1986-87. His first Pulitzer in poetry was awarded in 1958, just one year before the Prairie Schooner published his poem “In Italian They Call the Bird Civetta” during the cool autumn of 1959. With an average seasonal temperature of 50.7°, 1959 fell in the bottom 10% of Lincoln’s coldest falls.
 

by Tory Clower

 

Robert Penn Warren

In Italian They Call the Bird Civetta

The evening drooped toward owl-call,
The small moon slid pale down the sky,
Dark was decisive in cedars
But dust down the lane dreamed pale:
My feet had once stirred that dust there,
But I see that Kentucky scene
Now only behind my shut eyelids
As in this far land I stand
At the selfsame ambiguous hour
In the heart’s ambiguity,
And Time is crumpled like paper
Crushed in my hand, while here

                  The thin moon slants pale down the pale sky,
                  And the small owl mourns from the moat.

This small owl calls from the moat now.
That other owl answers him
Across all the years and miles that
Are the only Truth I have learned,
And back from the present owl-call
Burns backward the blaze of day,
And the passage of years, like a tire’s scream,
Fades now while the reply
From the dew-damp and downy lost throat spills
To quaver in that home-dark,
And frame between owl-call and owl-call
Life’s bright parenthesis.

                  The thin moon slants pale down the pale sky:
                  The small owl mourns from the moat.

Symposium by Maxine Kumin

 

June of 2008 netted 8.59 inches of precipitation, garnering it the title of Lincoln’s ninth-wettest June; October of that year also held sway in the top 10 of Nebraska’s wettest Octobers. The summer between saw 266,644 people visiting Lincoln’s 10 public pools; a rose garden renovation in Antelope Park; and the CDC declaring Lincoln the healthiest city in America.  Maxine Kumin’s “Symposium” was published in the Prairie Schooner that summer as well; she had earlier held the position of Poet Laureate of the United States from 1981 to 1982.

by Tory Clower

 

Symposium

Last call for the symposium at 4 p.m.
to examine the works of W. H. Auden
whom  I remember always in carpet slippers.

X from Hum. 101 will discuss the early poems,
Y from Eng. 323 will discuss the later poems
in the symposium that opens at 4 p.m.

Spender famously said, Poor Auden; soon
we’ll have to take off his face and iron it to see who he is.

Perhaps he had bunions, thus the carpet slippers.

Lord Byron, Faustus, Yeats, September 1
1939
, these poems should head the list
of works discussed in the symposium at 4 p.m.

which will reaffirm the poet’s place in the pantheon:
wittier than Eliot, more readable than Pound,
both too erudite to read in carpet slippers

but knowing how all the instruments can disagree
and cleverest hopes expire, let us revere
his pleated face in the symposium at 4 p.m.
while I revisit him on stage in carpet slippers.

Words for Dr. Williams by Daniel Hoffman

 

Between the years of 1887 and 2009, the autumn of 1963 was Lincoln’s hottest with an average seasonal temperature of 60°F. October of that year also ranked #1 for Lincoln’s hottest, with an average temperature of 65.5°F for the month; denizens of Lincoln were able to enjoy the warm weather at the newly opened Pioneers Park nature preserve and wildlife sanctuary. Daniel Hoffman, who went on to be the US Poet Laureate from 1973-1974, was published in the Prairie Schooner that fall with his poem “Words for Dr. Williams.”

by Tory Clower

 

Words for Dr. Williams

by Daniel Hoffman

Wouldst thou grace this land with song?
Well, go yodel your head off
But if it’s poems you want then take a town
With mills and chimneys, oil
Slithering down the river toward the falls,
Grit in the air, a man
Just off the night shift turning, tired yet strong
To watch the girl who hurries
Toward a timeclock step down from the bus--
Slim ankles, one,
Two, and click click click swings past. The sun
Glints on her raincoat. There’s
Your muse and hero. Stick around this town
Where people speak American
And love is possible—You, passionate
Among the factories,
Stethoscope held to our arteries
In sickness and in health
Showed us some places where our own poems grow.

Allhallows Party by Josephine Jacobsen

Lincoln’s spring weather in 1957 included heavy snowfalls (8.4 inches on March 24th) lasting well into the spring. In fact, April 11th was the date of the last snow that year, which put 1957 in the latest quarter of springs from 1948-2010. As if the snow wasn’t enough, a tornado tore along the northwest edge of Lincoln on May 20th, captured in photographs here. A poem featuring a very different season appeared in the Prairie Schooner that spring, penned by future Poet Laureate Josephine Jacobsen, who would go on to hold the post from 1971 to 1973.

                                                          by Tory Clower

 

Allhallows Party
Josephine Jacobsen

Down the wet-leaves steps comes the tiger-head
slowly. Five feminine years timid and proud
move the striped stuff toward joy; the limp tail slips behind.

Follows the smaller skull-capped cautious shape,
fraternal, one-footing after the tufted tail-slip.
The terrace swarms with lavorious monsters of the maternal mind.

Leaves. Years. Years. Leaves…the play will turn more gruff.
There will be treats; and certainly tricks enough.
In some weather she will meet her tiger, his skull will come true.

But they acknowledge that future now and step down, near,
into, the toothy jack-o’-lantern light with fear
and courage. Though watched by witches they shall have their due.

Immolation

 

The twentieth poet laureate of the United States, William Stafford, held that position from 1970 to 1971. Twenty years earlier, his poem “Immolation” had been published in the Winter 1950 edition of Prairie Schooner. The first snowfall in Lincoln that year occurred on November 8th and culminated in a total of 19.9 inches of snow for the season; the average winter temperature was a moderately balmy 25.8°F. 

by Tory Clower

 

Immolation

William Stafford

The murder was accomplished
     cleanly.
Quietly the morning-glory eyes
     were lidded.
Weakly, with suffocation,
     the bird-answering voice gave up the ghost.

Two curls by warm temples
     were witnesses of the slow strangulation.
Innumerable drinkers of tea nodded with
     tea-drinking
Enthusiasm at the impeccable
     assassination of the years.

The dismayed daughter—
     frightenedly smiling—
Left yesterday
     for a conservative graduate school
With
     her mother.

The Revised Version

Lincoln in the fall of 1987 was quite the hopping place! A slightly cooler-than-average autumn played host to several notable events. Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid concert series, then in its third year, came to UNL’s Memorial Stadium in September, helping to raise awareness (and funds) for the plight of the family farmer; in keeping with the theme of civic duty, the Lincoln Recycling Office was also founded that fall. An unseasonably early first snowfall on October 10th (Lincoln’s fourth-earliest snow) didn’t quench the “smoke,…burning,…and the ash” of Howard Nemerov’s “The Revised Version,” published that autumn in the Prairie Schooner. Nemerov had been the US Poet Laureate from 1963 to 1964 and would soon regain the position from 1988 to 1990.

by Tory Clower

 

The Revised Version

by Howard Nemerov

The common curse forbidden to the young
When we were young – our grownups got it wrong,
Maybe from reading in a bad translation;

It wasn’t so much a curse as an invitation
To the great world’s permanent floating cocktail bash –
The scent, the smoke, the burning, and the ash.

A grownup in my turn I say the spell:
It isn’t Go to Hell, it’s Come to Hell.   

Sleeping at the Shamrock Hilton

Randall Jarrell was the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—the position now known as United States Poet Laureate—from 1956 to 1958. A poem written during this period, “Sleeping at the Shamrock Hilton,” was published posthumously in Prairie Schooner many years later, in the fall of 1973. The fall of ’73 was very typical in Lincoln, with an average temperature of 52.8°F and total precipitation of 14.2 inches.

by Tory Clower

Sleeping at the Shamrock Hilton

All night, tending a roar,

The patrons feed a leg into an eye,

An eye into a—

something half
An eyeleg, half a legeye, inches achingly

Into the light of night and, on the hour,

Is severed by a blade of the machine.

Men, bending from a belt, reach out to it

And measure it and leave it on the floor:

This cornerstone the building has rejected

When, compared to a standard cornerstone and found defective,

It was found, compared to a standard cornerstone, defective

Compared to a—O air-conditioning machine

Of the fifth floor of the Shamrock Hilton,

Be quiet and let me wake!

1958

The World Book Salesman

Something rather noteworthy happened in the summer of 1968: in Lincoln that August, the Canadian swimmer Ralph Hutton set the world record for the Men’s 400 meters freestyle swimming event. In addition, the novelist and poet Raymond Carver had a piece published in the Prairie Schooner. These events took place during a moderately warm yet rainy summer; September of that year still ranks among Lincoln’s top-ten wettest Septembers.

by Tory Clower

The World Book Salesman
Raymond Carver

He holds conversation sacred
though a dying art. Smiling,
by turns, he is part toady,
part Oberführer. Knowing when
is the secret.
Out of the slim briefcase come
maps of all the world;
deserts, oceans,
photographs, art work—
it is all there, all there
for the asking
as the doors swing open, crack,
or slam
In the empty
rooms each evening, he eats
alone, watches television, reads
the newspaper with a lust
that begins and ends in the fingertips.
There is no God,
and conversation is a dying art.

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