Galvanized: New and Selected Poems by Leland Kinsey
By David Nilsen
Galvanized, the new collection from Vermont poet Leland Kinsey, is a document of the hardship and rough-hewn beauty of living close to the land, in reach of its temper but also its embrace. Kinsey grew up on a Vermont farm, the child of a long line of such folk who clung to existence in the face of a cold north wind, working impossibly hard because to do less was to starve. These poems–some new, most from his seven previous books since 1991–are more closely tied to a particular place than any others I’ve read, and bring Vermont into a vivid focus, painting a landscape and a way of life I had never associated with the state.
Kinsey’s poems are beautiful but brutal pastorales, uncompromising in their depictions of the strain and heartache of living off the land. At times these poems feel like catalogs of woe, running through lists of injuries and tragedies, but they are never self-pitying, and they are never dishonest. The occasional joys of such hard lives are also given their turn, from necessary late night swims in glacial ponds to wash off the sweat and chaff after a day of baling, to summer baseball games, to barn dances to thank the neighbors for helping rebuild a burnt down farm building. Kinsey remembers sledding as a child, the near-suicidal danger of this diversion, the danger less impending than that of their farm work because it was chosen:
“We mostly slid at night to tell
if cars were coming,
no stopping at the corner
except by ditching at forty miles and hour,
blood and fractures either way.”
– page 97
More than anything, these poems chronicle survival, an endeavor that for Kinsey’s family was often a fraught and unforgiving one, but one that laid down from time to time in the shadow of joy. There is a wry humor underlying much of this poetry, rarely spotlighted but often teasing at the edges of harder truths, a humor that undoubtedly served its own role in the family’s endurance. In “Riding in the Open,” Kinsey recalls countless rides on top of farm loads in his youth, experiences that were sometimes fun, a chance to rest, and sometimes quite dangerous, and often both:
“I think of how we mostly could not talk,
cheeks puffed out by the force of wind,
any conversation blown back passed us,
ears wind stopped,
and of the holding on,
and in the face of the black despair
we were all prone to,
– page 96
There is a section of the book containing poems from his 2004 collection In the Rain Shadow, a series of poems he wrote during his extended visit with his cousin in Tanzania. These poems present a jarring change of landscape and culture initially, but it quickly becomes apparent to the reader–as it did to the poet–how much there is in common between the experience the inhabitants of this impoverished nation have had in trying to scrape a living from the harsh African environment and the struggle Kinsey’s own family and ancestors had in prying a living from the glacier-scoured hills of northern Vermont.
Galvanized concludes with selections from Kinsey’s most recent collection, 2014’s Winter Ready. Living as close to (and off of) the land as Kinsey and his family have, many of his poems deal with the seasons, the heavens’ rationing of sunshine and rain, and the cruelties and wonders of winter, but this final section hones in on the way the calendar in a cold-weather climate bends around the gravity well of winter. Spring is about escaping it and planting as soon as the ground warms. In summer it can almost be forgotten as crops grow high and the sun beats down. But by fall, everyone knows what’s coming. Crops are gathered, wood is chopped, repairs are made, food is laid in. Winter will spare no one who isn’t ready. These poems perfectly encapsulate the simple clarity with which Kinsey documents the hardship of living as he and his family have, wasting little regret or resentment over the fairness of their lives. There simply isn’t time for it, and nature is as unforgiving with human life as it is with animal. In one of the new poems in the book, he summarizes this while talking about a recent fishing excursion. He set two trout eggs on a rock by the river, and while he had his back turned, they were snatched up by an opportunistic gull he hadn’t noticed a moment before:
“Eggs, and no gull noticed,
gull, and no eggs to be seen,
no one’s rights involved,
just, quick as that,
– Fish Eggs, page 7
I was unfamiliar with Leland Kinsey before this anthology, and I look forward to backtracking through his work in the future. He is a singular poet, deft with his words but aware his greatest asset is the strange and wondrous life he’s lived; he forefronts those experiences over flourishes of language, using his narrative skill to show us a scene, a people, and a place, and he trusts in the raw beauty and grace and pain of those details to do the work for him, which they certainly do.
Leland and many of our GWP aithors will be at BOOKSTOCK Literary Festival this summer! You can read about them here: http://bookstockvt.org/2016-presentations/
MARGARET SWEENEY, Editorial Intern and Publicity
Margaret Sweeney is a native of Brattleboro, Vermont and a recent graduate of Bennington College, where she studied literature and writing. While at Bennington, she interned for the literary organizations Poets House and the Center for the Art of Translation and served as co-editor-in-chief of plain china, the first national anthology of undergraduate student writing. She now lives in Western Massachusetts and works as a part-time bookseller at Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley.
JESSICA JAUNDOO, Editorial Intern and Marketing
Jessica is an upcoming sophomore at Bennington College and was born and raised in Boston, MA. She has always had a lifelong interest in nature and her friends always find her trying to adopt any animal or critter into her life. With her interest in the field of Biology and the Environment still in its exploitative stages, her long term hobby has always been writing her own stories and coming up with ideas with friends. Inspiration never fails to strike her at any moment and many who know her are curious to see which book she may publish in the future.
RON ANAHAW, January-February Field Work Intern and 2016 Summer Fellow
Ron Anahaw has three things close to his heart:
his loved ones, writing, and Korean fried chicken. With a hand on playwriting, poetry, journalism, and fiction, he considers himself a jack-of-all-trades in writing. He is a big believer in trying to keep the world habitable. He is as quick to crack a joke as he is to ask you to collaborate. Ron is a first-year student at Bennington.
KAIYA LEWIS-MARLOW, Editorial Intern
Kaiya is a first term Bennington student with a passion for literature and social change. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and was raised with close ties to the local farm movement and community there. In her spare time, she enjoys writing speculative fiction, hiking, and making jewelry out of found mechanical objects and polymer clay.
KAITLYN PLUKAS, January-February Field Work Intern and 2016 Summer Fellow
Kaitlyn is a first-year student at Bennington College with a passion for any and everything Literature oriented. She firmly believes in the power of literature; both in the way it completely transforms perceptions of the world and in the way it inspires unity amongst communities. Her many years as a Girl Scout and Gold Award recipient have inspired her to enact social and environmental change. Kaitlyn is an avid sock collector, an outdoors adventurer, and is a right-handed writer who is preferential to pens.
April is National Poetry Month and we have news to share!
POEM CITY, Montpelier, Vermont is one of our FAVORITE annual events….
On April 13 at 7:00 pm in the Kellogg-Hubbard Library, Leland Kinsey, Pushcart Prize nominee, will be reading from his new book Galvanized: New and Selected Poems, published by Green Writers Press in April 2016. Kinsey is also author of Winter Ready and six other books of poetry. He writes of the hard, dark life of the countryside in a haunting, spellbinding manner. Join Kinsey for an evening of poetry at the Library.
Later in the month . . .
A Round-table Discussion on Nature Poetry with GWP publisher Dede Cummings & Vermont poet Diana Whitney at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library.
April 30th at 1:30 at PoemCity 2016
Kellogg Hubbard Libray in Montpelier VT
AND NOW ONTO EARTH DAY (BIG) NEWS!
I’m super excited that The Order of the Trees is on the Nature Generation’s Green Earth Book Awards shortlist! I’m thrilled to see us—a Vermont based publisher — on this list with the major New York publishers. It is an honor to be included in this collection which features books that have a strong environmental stewardship message.
The winner and honor books will be announced on Earth Day, April 22nd 2016. Stay tuned!
HERE IS A PHOTO OF THE AUTHOR—This is the kind of reading she does for kids at libraries and schools . . .
EARTH DAY IS COMING! Green Writers Press is so pleased to help promote our fantastic children’s list for Earth Day. Along with The Order of the Trees, we have another exciting children’s book series we’d like to tell you about—our 2014 title/first in the series Josie Goes Green.
Green Writers Press is proud to publish the first children’s fiction book about taking action on climate change. Josie and the Fourth Grade Bike Brigade is the first in a forthcoming series about Josie Garcia, a feisty nine-year-old girl from Brooklyn who becomes a crusader for preventing disastrous climate change and other environmental threats. In each book, Josie takes simple, ingenious actions that bring real changes to her neighborhood and the world. The book is for ages 7-11 and is appropriate for schools, school districts, children’s social issue book clubs, and families. Nine-year-old Josie Garcia is an ambitious girl from Brooklyn who becomes an advocate for preventing disastrous climate change and other environmental threats. The feisty heroine in “Josie and the Fourth Grade Bike Brigade,” Josie was inspired by the children of P.S. 321 in Park Slope. Kenny Bruno; his wife Beth Handman, assistant principal of P.S. 321; and their daughter Antonia Bruno, who went to school at P.S. 321, co-wrote the new children’s book, which they refer to as children’s “cli-fi” — climate fiction.
Families and book lovers of all ages are invited to “Go Green With Josie” to learn about children taking action to preserve our planet this Earth Day 2016.
The book just came out as an audiobook, too, narrated by the wonderful Rosi Amador!
A GREAT EARTH DAY GIFT 🙂
Thanks for helping kids feel like they CAN make a difference on Earth Day!
AWP—The Association of Writers and Writing Programs—had their 39th annual convention and book fair in Los Angeles at the beginning of April. Dede went out and had a GWP table. It was thrilling to be around so many writers and avid readers and here was a great deal of interest in our press!
PARTIES! We love ’em!
Don’t forget our two big bashes in April.
The Hopper Launch Party is April 15th from 6:00-8:00PM at the Dianich Gallery at 139 Main Street in Brattleboro.
Our 2nd Annual GWP Earth Day Celebration at Next Stage Arts in Putney, Vermont, is on April 24th from 5:00-8:00 PM with readings/slides/music. Hosted by Vermont’s celebrated writer, Howard Frank Mosher.
LINK for info: http://nextstagearts.org/event/green-writers-press-second-anniversary/?instance_id=19674
Happy Spring (though we just got more SNOW in VERMONT!
new novella, ‘Marly’
on Sunday, February 7, at 4 p.m.; admission is by donation,
and proceeds benefit the Women’s Freedom Center
Latchis Arts, in association with Green Writers Press, presents a dramatic reading of Peter Gould’s new novel, “MARLY,” starring Jonny Flood and directed by Gould on Sunday, Feb. 7, at 4 p.m., in the Ballroom Theatre at the Latchis.
This event, also presented by New England Youth Theatre, will benefit the Women’s Freedom Center of Brattleboro. Admission is by donation, all of which will go to the Women’s Freedom Center
“Marly“ is dramatic climate fiction in a new literary form. To find out what that means, read it, or hear it read aloud, or both. Green Writers Press is a new Brattleboro-based publisher lighting up the New England literary landscape with high-quality books on ecological themes. Come to the reading, and talk with Dede Cummings, founder of GWP, and her Bennington College interns. Gould, author of three well-known published novels, is a professor in the Conflict Transformation Program at Brandeis. He’s the smaller, quieter half of the renowned theater duo, Gould & Stearns. Jonathan Flood has been doing theater non-stop with Peter since he was 12 years old. He’s the director of several “Get Thee to the Funnery” youth theater camps, and he’s also the new Education Director at NEYT.
The fictional female character, Marly, teaches at a small Vermont College, where she specializes in forestry, wildlife habitat, chainsaw technique and self-defense for women. She’s a survivor of domestic violence; strong and self-actualized as she is, she still suffers from the after effect of the attack.
Please come and enjoy the reading, support the Freedom Center, and join the discussion. You’ll be home in plenty of time to watch the Super Bowl, if that’s your thing.
Copies of the novel will be on sale. I hope I see you here at the Latchis,
Jon Potter | Executive Director, Latchis Arts Inc. | Latchis Corporation
50 Main Street | Brattleboro VT | 05301
802.254.1109×3 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Preserving the Latchis | Promoting the Arts
From inside Amy’s Bakery, you can watch the ice floes drift on the Connecticut River like a herd of large, groggy fish moving downstream, or somewhere, or nowhere.
Alongside this, I’ve learned a lot during my first week in Brattleboro. I’ve learned: how to code manuscripts; that I have a hidden love for Thai food, courtesy of my host family; that copy editing is far more backbreaking than I expected; that when it’s cold enough, you can ice skate on the Meadows; and that Dede Cummings and her vibrant personality is a cure-all for gloom, doom, and any other word that can threaten your day.
I always pictured myself romping around in New York City
with a Didion-esque experience ahead of me
I’ve also learned that I’m happy to fork over pretty much all my money to Mocha Joe’s, as long as their magic brews helps me stay up long enough to finish work for a press as great as Green Writers Press. And, thanks to my irresponsible nighttime-sips, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Brattleboro’s sky from dusk to dawn.
I’m eating, laughing, exploring, learning, and most importantly, I’m doing work that I love. While I always pictured myself romping around in New York City with a Didion-esque experience ahead of me, yellow curtains and all, I’ve learned that I’d be happy to work away in a place like Brattleboro, for a place like Green Writers Press. (As long as I can get some of Bamboo Garden’s pad Thai, that is.)
—Ron Anahaw, Bennington College intern/Field Work
A note from the editor: The American Library Association’s 2016 Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits took place January 8–11 at the Boston Convention Center. GWP had a table for the first time. Our resident Bennington College interns Ron, Kaitlyn, and Emy love libraries! Our far-flung interns, Ferne and Kaiya, are holding down the fort and Skyping in from New Orleans and Chapel Hill, respectively.
We are lucky to have such a great group of hard-working students from Bennington College!