Celebrating Six Seasons of Reading Local in Vermont: MUD

The News From Poems Mud

The News From Poems Mud

Mud poetry from “It could be verse”

“It could be verse” began as a monthly poetry column first published by The Chronicle of Orleans County in Barton, VT in April 2007. Each column features a poem of season and place by a Vermont writer. The purpose of both the column and this website is: to put poetry where people can find it. Another goal is to help Vermonters to “Read Local” (as a natural continuation of the “Buy Local” and “Eat Local” campaigns). Because there are so many extraordinary writers in our communities, the column serves as an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse poetic voices in this state, our literary terroir. This website features a selection of 18 of the 50 original columns (published in The Chronicle from 2007-2011). In January 2012, the monthly poetry column became a syndicated project issued from this site, offered gratis to all Vermont newspapers to publish at their discretion.

April First

by Burt Porter


Now as we watch the snow retreat
We estimate how many feet
Of brown and flattened April field
By melting snow has been revealed.
Dank, bleared ground, long in the dark
Beneath the drifts still bears the mark
Of tons of deep packed trodden snow—
So on this land the marks still show
Of massive glaciers, long ago.

Soon on this field the dandelions
Will glow like twenty thousand suns
And in a world of green and gold
We will forget the winter’s cold,
As in this world of gold and green
With blossoms like a May-day queen
We frolic in the time between
The last and next Pleistocene.

The News From Poems Mud
*It could be verse:
Life after smackdown

I marvel at how the reed canary grass—taller than a man on a tractor—has been flattened in the field behind the house by something as simple as snow. Last summer the nibblesome sheep couldn’t eat it fast enough, and the John Deere, then the borrowed Kubota couldn’t hinder it; it bristled through late autumn storms. But winter, the ultimate smackdown, took it back to the mat, or mud rather. Glover poet Burt Porter reports on what’s left, the look of the landscape after winter’s recession in his poem, ‘April First,’ from his book A Spiral Wind. In this two- stanza poem (“stanza” is the Italian word for “room”), Mr. Porter describes his finding in rhyming lines of iambic. “Iamb” is the Latin word for “foot,” and if you read this poem aloud, you’ll find the rhythm of its syllables nearly matches your own heel-toe, heel-toe (soft-hard) footsteps. Imagine Mr. Porter, who also plays the fiddle, whittling a tune to these lyrics of leaving the room of “the dank bleared ground” and promenading into a field of dandelions “like twenty thousand suns”!

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on April 15, 2009

Living Without

by April Ossmann


Out is never content to stay there.
It’s not enough that we’re in it,
but out must be in us.
Our house in the woods, the wood of our house;
the ants, bees, wasps, flies and mice in our house,
the cold in our house,
the birds we feed at our window.
The lines of separation blur and dissolve until
I can no longer tell where the woods stop
and I begin, the difference between
the feeding birds and my own hungry hands.
We are in the territory of the wind,
and it lets us know, constantly
shifting, clearing its throat,
muttering to itself—under cover of night—
pushing at, and sometimes shoving
the house an inch closer to somewhere
or an inch further away,
until one warm night in March
when we open the bedroom door
and watch the curtain arch into the room,
slim, and grey in the dark,
the wind fiercely and exultantly, in at last,
and never more other than now.
Perhaps it’s the suddenness of the change
I cannot accept.
All month the snow has melted reluctantly.
almost invisibly, it’s white-knuckled hands
guarding the secrets it has kept all winter—
and now, this fierce warm wind in the night.
I close the door and pull the blankets up to my chin—
but the wind is in.

The News From Poems Mud
*It could be verse:
The wind is in

Some magazines have a spread devoted to photos and captions of things the editors are exited about. In Oprah, it’s called ‘Look what we found!’ and it feature purple trench coats, leopard print bangles, lunch boxes shaped like the Parthenon…(okay, I’m making this up, but readers, you know I’m not far off.) Still, I feel a similar giddiness to the baubles editor upon discovering a zero calorie cupcake: look what I found in Anxious Music, a poetry collection by Post Mills, VT writer and editor, April Ossmann. This poem, ‘Living Without,’ considers one of the most distinctive attributes of March (beside dark amber), the whooshing, pressing, pushing, smashing, clashing wind. Listen to Ossmann’s sure voice as she narrates the uncertainty of where her domain begins and ends. Do you hear a tinge of exasperation? Annoyance? Maybe it’s her perverse delight in the mix up of inside and outside, of self and other, of winter and a softer season exchanging places.

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on March 18, 2009

Villanelle In April

by Verandah Porche


One night the beavers breached the dam and fled
Leaving a rutted crater in their wake.
Suddenly her water floods the bed.

Come out and hear the woodcocks court! he said.
How curious the ruckus that they make.
That night the beavers breached the dam and fled.

Two adolescent hawks wheeled overhead.
Later she sees their figure-eights in the dark
As suddenly her water floods the bed.

We’ve had more rain than we anticipated.
The weather hovered over tea and cake
The night the beavers breached the dam and fled.

It’s somewhere between a rock and a loaf of bread:
She laughed. But how much longer will it bake?
Afterwards her water floods the bed.

He sang: The antiseptic scent of melted
Snow, The season opens like an egg!
The night the infant breached the dam and slid
From her. The beavers slapped their tails and fled.

The News From Poems Mud
*It could be verse:
The world, reborn, wet.

It’s April and the birds are bunched in bushes repeating their mantras. The cardinal says, Jeer, Jeer, Jeer. The red-winged blackbird sputters Kronk-ah-lee! Also, scientists studying the Iceman, a well-preserved 5000 year-old corpse found amid glacial slush in the Italian alps, recently determined that he ate his last meal in April. Then poet Verandah Porche of Guilford, Vt. captures something of both these phenomena: the musical refrains, and the way humans are born (or reborn) in a deluge of fluid—both these elements play out in her poem, ‘Villanelle In April’, originally published in Reading Matters by the Vermont Center for the Book.

The word “villanelle” and “villain” derive from the Latin (or Italian) word “villa,” which means “country house” or “farm.” A villain was originally a countryman, and the villanelle is a poetic form, evolved from a “folk song with an accompanying dance, with themes of the joys of country living.”
The villanelle is characterized by repeating lines, first one refrain, then another refrain which swap places as the final line of each stanza as the poem eases toward completion, similar to blackbird calling (Kronk-a lee) and then the cardinal calling (Jeer Jeer Jeer) and then the blackbird (Kronk-a-lee) and then the…you get the idea?

In Porche’s poem the forces at work, the breaching of dams and subsequent floods, permeate both the wider natural world, and the private human one. Coincidentally, the newest research on The Iceman –a country gent himself wayfaring around Alpine Italy, hypothesizes his remarkable preservation is due to his “… feet toward the north and arms hanging down, like a body floating in dense fluid… indicat[ing] that the body moved in semi-melted ice.”

And thus like Spring’s swollen rivers, the beavers’ breached dams, and the broken waters preceding delivery, the Iceman re-arrived in public consciousness via slush and snowmelt. Is it me, or do we all feel as if we have been born again, slick and soggy, after 5000 years in the cold?

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle in April, 2011

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