Hummingbirds, Moths, & Analogous Convergent Evolution

Astonishing creatures, these nectar sucking fast movers. Every shot I got was not able to capture the wings in anything other than a blur. We’ve had the good fortune to have the company of a ruby-throated hummingbird grace us with frequent visits this summer, so when this particular friend buzzed me as I moved near the Bee Balm one day  I thought it was hummy stopping in for a feeding. Fortunately, I had my tote slung over my shoulder and could wrangle my phone out of the bag to manage a handful of shaky one-handed shots.

The species of this beauty is Hemaris Thysbe and was first described as such by Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius in 1775. It’s likely that the red band on the furry abdomen evoked Thisbe’s blood-stained scarf in Ovid’s Metamorphosis for the insect lover and observer. Ill-fated lovers did not come to mind watching hummoth hover for the nectar in the balm; this passion was surely fulfilled.

The hummingbird moth and the hummingbird are examples of analogous convergent evolution. The latest common ancestor in each did not carry the hovering flight behavior and yet they each, independently, converged on this trait.

Why do I go on about this? It is a note to self to remember there are forces greater than I can imagine at work in the world. But if I get lucky, I get a glimpse.*


*Which is not to give short shrift to the imagination, nor poiesis (humans making), but to bow before mystery. Yes, awe.

Revision Comma June

That is the gig folks. That’s what the writer is doing this summer: revising the current manuscript. Fortunately it’s also gardening season and the similarities are striking. I wheedle my fingers down into the dirt, feel which leaves or shoots need picking off or what roots need more room, scan the yard for where to put all those overflowing pots of lilies and Rose of Sharon sprigs that are taking over. This bodily relating to world with an eye toward shaping is perfect training for writing. In fact, finding wormholes in the manuscript where I can enter, plant, water, pluck feels so kindred to the circling the house I do on a writing break, spade or water can in hand, that the processes are beginning to blend together. If I am stymied in one area (Stymied gardening you might wonder? Why yes. No clue what to do with all those extra lilies – really.), I move to another.

Siri Hustvedt writes about her relationship to these living things, to her garden, in an essay called “Flowers”. For her this engagement is pre-reflective; it precedes language. In this way it is a reprieve from the narrating, naming mind. I quite agree. I love that lingering in the flora of the world helps me to bring my creature-self to the word.

Now, what to do with those lilies. IMG_9055

 

New Work, Reading From

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There’s audio coming, but meantime I’ll note that this past afternoon at Olana was such a boon to my practice. There’s nothing like getting new work up on its feet in a room with an audience to feel just what the heck you’re up to, amirite?

Matthew Friday showed slides and spoke about his place based collaborative work and the ecology of human-land interaction and the fantasy of returning to the Garden. Thems my words on it, but I think they are suitable to give an inkling. Something like thinking we will return the starlings to the birthplace of Shakespeare is fallacious in the way that we will never remove the non-native species from our backyard let alone an entire region so it really is time to adapt and invent.

Then I read two new stories. One had been published in The Brooklyn Rail (thank you fiction editor Donald Breckenridge), but the other is entirely virgin and 100% in the vein of the current manuscript I’ve been working on for a few years now. It features my partner (in real life Jon Lathrop who was also in the audience and snapped the above pic) and is me attempting to live my politics. Or just how does one live as a political individual who also wants to (needs to) earn an income? Soon as I’ve got it answered, I’ll send it off to the agent. Poet Matthew Klane was there with his wife Amy Nowak and apparently Matt said to Jon that he (Jon) really is the hero of the story. That makes me my own anti-hero. Too true.

Amy Hufnagel and Chris Funkhouser and Lori Anderson Moseman and James Carr from my Arts Council writing workshops and Lee Gough who curated the afternoon were all in the room. Others, too, and Sumac beverages. We talked a lot of shit after and then a few of us went up the hill to see Frederic Church’s paintings connected to Humboldt’s pre-Darwin cataloguing of the natural world. And now I’ll get back to that manuscript…

May

Yeah, that’s all I got for clever as far as title goes. Short, sweet, true. Same as this post. Just popping in here to note a few things….

First is about my last interview for the last issue of Bookslut. I’ve so enjoyed talking to other writers for this venue. Here’s the link to my conversation with Mary Rakow on her lyric novel This Is Why I Came.

Next is a reading notice for a May 15 gig at Olana with writer Matthew Friday. From their site: “Friday and Benson make art about landscape and commerce: What is our currency; what is spent? What will we declare when we take inventory of our landscape through travel and notation? What cultural edges and borders appear in maps of our resources?” This takes place Sunday, May 15 from 1 to 3 pm. If you’re in the Hudson Valley, consider coming up the hill for it.

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Olana South Facade

 

 

Playing on the Page

Poet Cara Benson [that’s me] will lead a Poetry Workshop, “Playing on the Page,” as a part of Roeliff Jansen Community Library’s Poetry Month celebration. The workshop is open to beginning and experienced poets, and will run from 1:00 until 4:00 pm, Saturday, April 23. [That’s tomorrow.]

“Laugh, cry, prickle, twinkle, be silent. Do this or that or nothing. Whatever it is in a poem that makes you want to do those things is what Dylan Thomas called the poetry of it. Sounds pleasurable, doesn’t it? It is! Let’s have some fun with language. We’ll pour it all out, then play with where the words go. Never made a poem before? Not sure what one is? Jump in – the water’s fine! Been loving poetry for decades? You’ll fit right in, too. We’ll read, write, talk, and respond to each other’s work with kind attention. We’ll come away with a few new poems.”

The workshop fee is $15, and pre-registration is required. Some scholarships are available. Call the library at (518) 325-4101 to inquire about waiver of fee or to register.

Roeliff Jansen Community Library, which is chartered to serve Ancram, Copake and Hillsdale, is located at 9091 Route 22, approximately one mile south of the light at the Hillsdale intersection of Routes 22 and 23. For information on hours and events, call 518 325-4101 or visit the library’s website at http://www.roejanlibrary.org. Follow the library on Twitter: @libraryroe.

Writing with Others

I’m leading a workshop starting on April 7 at The Arts Center in Troy, NY. Join us! Even if you write prose (fiction, non-fiction, essays, etc.), poetry can feed your creative work. This kind of attention to language can help you in any genre.

*Poetry: Playing On The Page
Thursdays at The Arts Center in Troy, NY
April 7, 2016 to May 19, 2016 — 06:00 PM to 08:00 PM

Laugh, cry, prickle, twinkle, be silent. Do this or that or nothing. Whatever it is in a poem that makes you want to do those things is what Dylan Thomas called the poetry of it. Sounds pleasurable, doesn’t it? It is! Let’s have some fun with language. We’ll pour it all out, then play with where the words go. Never made a poem before? Not sure what one is? Jump in – the water’s fine! Been loving poetry for decades? You’ll fit right in, too. We’ll read, write, talk, and respond to each other’s work with kind attention. We’ll come away with a small batch of our own poems.

Maximum enrollment: 16.
Member: $151 | Non-Member: $168
For details on the venue and to sign up visit The Arts Center.

pearson-creative-writing

Hudson, Brooklyn

Both on the same river. One a city in upstate NY that grew through the whaling industry. Also the home of Spotty Dog Books and Ale which hosts the Volume Reading Series where I’ll be reading next Saturday, March 12. The all-star line-up of writers includes Andrea Kleine, Jim McDermott, and Rebecca Keith. And there will be a DJ named DJ Salinger. Starts at 7 PM. There’s an event page at the link.

The other is a city borough  state of mind, some say. Also included in the name of many a cultural publication, but the one in particular I would like to point your attention to is The Brooklyn Rail wherein I have a new short story up. And in print. In fact, if you happen to see a copy will you pick me up one?

Here for your viewing pleasure is a picture of Lucy Lippard reading an issue.

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