Not Much Love for August

Poet Sonia Greenfield shared on her Facebook page an essay written by Haley Mlotek, “Against August” (The Paris Review) and I think it’s pretty damn wonderful. Yes, August is well-planted within summer months, but it doesn’t carry the late-spring anticipation of May, the giddy affection of June, or the full-blown buzz and hum of July. In fact, my reply to Sonia’s thread consisted of this: August is to muck around in the mire of all least favorite things: summer’s end, teacher in-service, and rain, rain, and rain, at least here. I am especially keen on her borrow of a few lines by poet Marge Piercy to make her point about August. In her poem “Blue Tuesday in August,” Piercy writes,

The world smelled like a mattress you find
on the street and leave there,
or like a humid house reciting yesterday’s
dinner menu and the day before’s.

Perfect!

But what I do appreciate about August is that it’s close enough to my own rambling off island, to road tripping, exploring, savoring, enjoying … other. And I’ll leave it at that.

I was never into listening to traveler Rick Steves prior to Covid years (local public radio KCAW 104.7 Saturday 2:00 slot), but the silly show caught my ear at times, so much so that nights I couldn’t sleep I’d Google the Hebrides and plan out a future adventure there when the world was open again.

Today’s show is no exception. In Program 579a: Kerouac’s Firewatch; Erosion; USA National Parks, Steves speaks to author Dan Richards about his book, Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth. They speak at length about Jack Kerouac’s two-month stint as a fire lookout in Washington’s North Cascades. He also interviews Terry Tempest Williams, and speaks to another guest about park visits.

Anyway, today’s return has me thinking about all those nights I couldn’t sleep. And I count myself lucky to be throwing another book in the Amazon cart and *not* booking tickets to the Hebrides. Not this day, anyway. One is clearly a cheaper option than the other. But I am clearly thinking already about the wait and anticipation for yet another summer and where its roads might take me. Plenty of time to figure out, and maybe that’s the greatest gift of August.

Vancouver, BC
Heading east to Haines Junction, YT



The Great Scattering:  Reading John Palen’s Riding With the Diaspora

My favorite line in John Palen’s new chapbook is unpacked in the final poem, “Riding With the Diaspora,” which is the shared title of his book.  He writes, “At 6:00 on a winter evening / we’re all diaspora, all a little homesick.”  Even in the thick of summer, in the wander-about in full sun and high temperatures, this line takes me straight into the heart of winter, into that collective confusion from where is it we actually hail.  Never an easy answer, really, as Palen’s poems sing.  The entire collection is one of crossings; of time, of family. I half-wondered in the start of my reading if his collection would read similarly to that of a memoir.  Perhaps there are elements of that included, but Palen’s collection exceeds this.  His poems consider the displacement of the Indigenous, the Migrant, the Enslaved, the Refugee.  They venture along the borders of the aged, the destitute, the ailing in poems that are poignant in both their pain and beauty.  This vibrant collection challenges readers to consider their own “Where We’re From.”  Chances are the reflection will not yield an easy answer, but the reading will be savored.