For Fall

The ripe, the golden month has come again…

                                     — Thomas Wolfe

October. Crisp evenings. Bonfires. The brilliant blaze of autumn leaves.

Here in Florida, not so much. Summer will soon be over, and hurricane and love bug season will have passed. It may still be hot here, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the same season of pumpkin spice in our lattes, store bought chrysanthemums, and on Halloween night, trick-or-treaters who will be wearing sandals instead of jackets.

Growing up in Virginia, fall was the best. Our apple and pear trees left fruit on the ground, a sharp, melancholy scent that drew bees. The days grew shorter, the light, softer. Of course, there were the shimmering valleys of the Shenandoah, but I was lucky enough to have a sugar maple right outside of my bedroom window. I could hear its leaves rustle, watch them spill over into the most riotous of reds– the brief and collective lifeblood of summer easing into the wind. 

I’ve included an autumn poem I wrote which was inspired from a news headline some years ago.

With that said, here’s to this tilt of hemisphere. To all things pungent in their skins. To the thistled over and the goosed downed and the cindered. To patterns of migration. To surfaces gone stark enough to echo. Here’s to “Fall…begging us to dance and sing and write with just the same drama and blaze.” (Shauna Niequest)

Family Lost in a Corn Maze

It wasn’t till they noticed the twitching

shadows had eclipsed their path that they began

to worry. Tromping through the split

crop in spirals that had no point

of origination, no flailing ends

from which to exit into the stubbled pasture

where they’d started, where

surely someone would be

shouting for them. Here.

We’re over here. Horizonless,

they wished for

the north star amid constellations

kerneled in silk and shuck. Stalks

so dense they could stifle a scream.

Pumpkins and straw bales,

(sometimes the same ones)

rendered into cubes and spheres

by the fading light & artfully arranged

against the random splay

of convex and converse, this quiet

nuance of peeve to panic. Moon,

the gleam of a dull-bladed sickle.

They could eat the corn if they got hungry

enough, fold the stems to the ground,

trample a plea across this kindling-dry

labyrinth stoked with straw bodies.

But when the children began to cry,

the walls tightened and hissed, admonishing:

Shhh…shh, my darlings, remember this—

that echo you hear is just a circle

opening wider; nothing’s ghosting—

just the dark gulp of soil, where your words lie

smothered whole and buried in syllables.

September’s Poetry Palette

Paint Chip Poetry—

Paint Chip Poetry 3

We had a colorful workshop yesterday at the Leesburg Library creating poetry using paint chips! Aside from being such a powerful expression visually, color itself is personal. It brings up memories, emotions, and senses that are unique to each of us. Color fleshes out what is penciled in lightly; it gives perspective and creates mood. It makes images rise and float, or become so thick and nourishing, you need a spoon.

In “Color in Poetry,” Dorothy Lasky says, “Color is special because there is no way to pin it down. It has a live wire that illuminates its frequency. Of course, a poem does that, too.”

One of my favorite poets who made such deft use of color was Anya Silver (there’s even color in her name!) Yesterday, I shared some examples of color in her poetry:

On her childhood:  “…my sister and I floated upright in the mountain’s green shadow.”

On fireflies: “To me they were traces of magic/ in the ordinary dusk, like the beauty you find in the surprised faces/ of girls, or in the gold coins that tumble from saints’ open mouths.”

On her cancer’s tragic return: “(I) wore the word survivor like pink nimbus…all the while knowing you’d catch up to me one day. I’m holding the black backed mirror to your face. Look into it.”

In our workshop, we chose the colors and the fabulous creative names of colors on the paint chips to which we were drawn, and then we processed them through our own sensory experiences, memories, and emotions. Some amazing poetry came through as well as beginnings to stories that have been waiting to be written!

Paint Chip Poetry 1

More for Fall:

There’s an open mic every third Sunday at W.T. Bland Library in Mount Dora at 4:00 P.M. Please come and join in this wonderful and varied venue of poetic expression!Joe again

Last but not least, my book of Lake County poems from Bell Ring Books is now available!

Poetry is alive and well in Lake County! Stay tuned for lots of events happening throughout the fall and beyond.

 

 

The Trees Will Remain

This is the title of my new book!

It’s a book of poetry about Lake County, about the vibrant and gritty and beautiful industry of life within these rolling green hills. It’s full of orchids and orange groves and lush heat and longing. It speaks to the underrepresented population of migrant workers whose lives parallel the residents in seasons of want and of plenty. The earth is fertile here, but it’s also rife with relics and ghosts. There’s a bomb shelter beneath the orchards, and hothouses of conjured exotics. There are coyotes and hurricanes and fruits that hang “like little taunts” at the memory of venturers who lost it all in the citrus industry. But there is also an unbroken spirit here; “I can almost touch the veins of her.” Connected beneath us all, there is the ancient aquifer, “a current braiding in the hollows.”

I’ve just signed a contract with Bell Ring Books, and I’m grateful for their passion for poetry, their absolute zeal to have it read and heard and spread wide across the horizon. Not only that, but they are creative and efficient, which means the book should be out by early fall.

As always, I’ll be posting details for future poetry events. Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake County Writes and Writes

There’s a new writing group in town.

We’re called First Friday. Coincidentally, that’s the same name as the first writing group I ever attended. We met monthly at Rollins College in Winter Park. Speaking of firsts, I remember how the words trembled on my paper from my own hands. I also remember meeting some great people there, feeling encouraged, and getting some darn good insights on my writing.

That being said, I hope you’ll join us! And if you dare, we’ll be having our first meeting at Serendipity Cafe, a coffee house in downtown Mount Dora, on August 2, 2019, at 6:00 P.M. I’d love to hear from you beforehand to know you’re coming. When you do, bring something you’ve written and prepare to unearth, to dig a little deeper.

And…as long as I’m plugging this new writing group, I want to be sure to include another that has been meeting at the WT Bland Library in Mount Dora every third Sunday at 2:00 P.M. They’re called the Bland Writers, and I’m sure they’re anything but. As always, if you’re interested, contact the library for more information.

Yes, there’s more. Starting on September 15th, 2019, again the WT Bland Library will be hosting a monthly poetry reading which will feature a poet and an open mic to follow. This venue will run every third Sunday from 3:45-6:00. If you’re interested in leading the read, you can contact Joseph Pascale at josephapascale@gmail.com.

Did I mention the Spoken Word poetry event at the Leesburg Library? Step up to the mic. Emerge. Reverberate. Resonate. Every first Thursday at 5:30 starting again in September.

The hills of Lake County are alive with the vibrant words of writers. Come and listen. Hope to see you when you do.

 

Fences2

 

There’s something about June

“Here in Florida the seasons move in and out like nuns in soft clothing, making no rustle in their passing…For the seasons…are marked, not by calendar, but by fruits and flowers and birds.”  — Marjorie Kennan Rawlings

June, in some ways, is a new beginning. Not unlike this blog! Speaking as a teacher, it heralds in a season of rest and renewal. Early morning alarms and weekly schedules become a thing of the past…at least for a while, at least for me.

I love the winding down of June, the slowed rhythm around me. The smell of the earth after a rain. The broad lacy shadows of the oak trees in the moonlight. Jasmine scented nights that have given way to the season of magnolia, those heady, high branched blossoms that drop their petals, thin as eggshells on the ground. It’s the season of blackberries and mockingbird nests and thunderstorms and delicious novels with sand in their spines.

This poem, appropriately enough called “June,” was published in Sky Island Journal last summer. Wishing you some lush and languid June days and thanks for joining me on this journey!!

June

The word itself, a break point

on the skin of a peach: succulence,

a texture that still tastes green.

That musters bees. Rose & magnolia

sweetly shedding their hypnotics.

Words disappear suddenly from the

tip of your tongue. It’s the sun,

someone will tell you. Wear a hat.

But, it’s this stillness. This. Stillness,

an inward ripple going slag & sweet.

Blackberry. Whippoorwill. Sand

flanneling your heirlooms and you

don’t care. Ice, a dull chime in your

sweating glass. Fan blades tsk-tsking.

Something nectared’s on the trellis.

Even the shadows are lush. The heat,

a white static. Cicada? Leave the garden

hose on. Shutter the cumulus clouds

& dream: a woman riding next to you

in a convertible loosens the flowered

scarf knotted at her throat, and it flutters

away. The hair at the nape of her neck

is humid and baby fine. Let’s drive

to the sea, she says in a honeyed voice.

Catbird blue eggshell eyes.

Her smile, tipped open to the sun,

is a tender, unruly horizon.

–Laura Sobbott Ross