Have you seen Werner Herzog’s film Cave of Forgotten Dreams? Petroglyphs in the American Southwest? Stone circles in Great Britain? These sights fascinate me, propelling my imagination into the past, driving me to speculate about the individuals and cultures who left their artistic and ceremonial marks on the planet long ago. I’m especially interested in possible transition points–a culture’s breakthroughs, crises, turning points–and the art that may reflect these moments. Although pegging “Meaning” to the artistic remains of ancient times is fraught with interpretive pitfalls, I am nevertheless drawn to try. Thus my poetry engages things past and Paleo: myths of origin, defunct deities, legends of encounters with animals and gods, and how humans have traced their stories of these encounters using pigment, branch, and stone.
One angle of vision into the past is, for me, food. What and how do we eat, and more importantly, what meanings do we attach to growing, cooking, eating? As I amend my own family’s diet to incorporate the local and the healthful, I am driven to consider what others eat, and ate, to survive, and what systems of symbolism arose to account for our choices–and what cultural values are revealed in that process. As I grapple with my own reluctance to handle and prepare meat, I consider our human origins as carnivores and the ethical implications of living at the top of the food chain. As I share the delights and frustrations of vegetable-gardening with my five year old, I reflect on the rituals of agricultural peoples present and past.
These experiences find their way into many of the poems I write. For about seven years, now, I’ve been compiling my poems into a book-length manuscript provisionally titled “About the Food Chain, and Other Pointed Questions for the Deity.” So far, this manuscript has failed to find print, either by winning a first-book or a chapbook competition (though one variant of it did make it to the Finalist level of Tupelo Press’s Snowbound Chapbook Award in 2007). That seems to be just as well, however, since the poems keep coming, and the compilation keeps morphing in unexpectedly interesting directions. Thanks for keeping me company as I continue writing my way through these obsessions.
And more, soon, about the “Hiking” part.