My Bear Star Press editor Beth Ann Spencer writes the delightful blog There’s a Bear There. A few days ago she posted a kind note about The Kilim Dreaming and quoted “Parable of Shadows” from “The Book of Joel,” one of the 4 sequences in the manuscript. Follow the Bear to read on.

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Recent good news: my MS of three long narrative sonnet sequences, plus one sonnet-sequence elegy, was taken by Bear Star Press in California as the winner of the 2010 Dorothy Brunsman Prize. The working title is The Kilim Dreaming. Go to http://www.bearstarpress.com/ for more prize/publication/ordering details.

The three narratives explore the Eden conundrum–how do you create or sustain companionship after you’ve been kicked out of paradise?–with three pairs of people, none as conventionally paired as Adam & Eve. They’re contemporary stories set in San Francisco, North Carolina, and Antalya (Turkey), and each involves some sort of garden. The 19-sonnet elegy, “The Book of Joel,” is for the son of friends who died just shy of his 19th birthday.

I won the War Poetry Prize for 2009, the second time since 2004. It was announced just after Veterans Day at the following link:
http://winningwriters.com/contests/war/2009/wa09_long.php.

I’ve put the 3 poems up on the War Works page here; they’re also easy to find by googling “Robert Hill Long” war poetry. And on YouTube, I’m reading them in my backyard. (I don’t endorse watching the video, but listening may help guide your reading of the texts.) There’s some nice background music–the neighborhood jays and crows, someone firing up a lawnmower. You might faintly hear my pond fountain, where a hummingbird occasionally bathes in mid-air.

In this month of holidays after Veterans Day, let’s consider how war goes on despite the poems, the fall colors, the ordinary music of jays and crows and pond fountains.

About the 3 poems:

“Wolverine and White Crow” is a documentary poem–the story is based on an encounter with a Cheyenne in a Eugene park where I was writing one summer day. Save for Leroy White Crow’s name, which is fictive, and some of the dialogue, 90% of the information in the poem, including the police stop, is factual. I tried to buy him some food (I was there to write, after all), but he kept telling me his story–in part to wear me down to buy him a drink, but in part simply because I was willing to listen, to not judge, to ask questions when invited. Clearly PTSD, but layered onto a personal/cultural history that includes poverty, alcoholism, the rez, the iron road of ‘manifest destiny’ that runs over the bones of many tribes. This poem is now subtitled to add “readability:” http://universalsubtitles.org/en/videos/Oq5epLf6RF4n/info/

“Motivations” is fictive, but I hope a fair representation of what turns a lot of veterans into wards of the VA. In this piece I’m trying to show the paradox of the sound mind/memory, and the cruelty of desire, in a mostly broken body: the callow warrior transformed by paralysis into a weeping philosopher. For a real-world take on this, google “paralyzed vets” or go to Paralyzed Veterans of America here:
http://www.pva.org/site/PageServer?pagename=rights_govrelations.

“Insurrection and Resurrection,” too, is fictive. It concerns a different
sort of paradox–what it must be like to survive into old age in another, mostly benign country/climate that does not contain the place of tragedy and struggle that marked your life forever. Unlike Leroy White Crow, this character is an Ancient Mariner who has no one to tell his story to.

Make peace a daily habit.

Because this site is more archive than blog, I’ve decided it makes more housekeeping sense to maintain most of of the literary works here as PAGES not POSTS.

So: Flash Prose and Sonnets, like War Works, should be opened via their Page tabs above the banner. (I will radically edit or delete their  Post-versions to avoid redundancy.)

I’ll add/reorganize other Page- categories in the near future–including, very likely, a password-protected page of unpublished works viewable on request by editors–, and reserve this calendar-dated Post area to note additions to Pages.

Two spirits preside over most of what I’ve done in what has been genrified since 1992’s Flash Fiction:

These were my stereoptic lenses for re/viewing the South many years after the Depression/New Deal, and a country/century away from Follain’s childhood. I wrote a bunch of character/cityscape sketches around New Orleans–on Jackson Square park benches, on the Desire/Elysian Field busline, on Royal Street, in the Napolean Bar, in a Rent-a-Wreck car among the projects where the Prytaneum was envisioned, and never built.

In a way it was exorcism: to flush the narcissism of the generational  McPoem diagnosed by Donald Hall. I gave up poetry’s first-person (and much abused)  lyrical spotlight for fiction’s third-person invisible point of view. I  hid my experience, buried my feelings in the blink of perception–tried to ‘blend into the tapestry,’ as Zbigniew Herbert characterized his unfortunate valet. Fundamentally, I wanted to import Barthes’  camera lucida to portray a culture anyone could recognize no matter how far outside it they dwelled.

Funding for this project (finally published as The Effigies) came from the North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. A fair sample of The Effigies can be gleaned online via the “Robert Hill Long” quote-google; since I no longer have the files in a format my Mac can digest, I won’t post any here for the time being.

However, the documentary character sketch in cityscape–as collected in that book, 50 pieces designed to be coherent in narrative tone and voice and culture –is just one of the ways I have deployed short prose.

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Formally speaking ::

I’ve always liked making a conscious game of form, if only to let the rest of the poem remain beneath the surface, sounding whatever obscure subconscious depths, until it emerges–until story merges with form, verbal music  with metaphor, premonition with memory. I treat form as the motion of emotion–its pace, its pauses–throughout the poem, and as a structure the poem’s story inhabits: its walls, doors, windows, hidden wiring, its hidden but regular beams and joists. Form is musical, choreographic, and architectural. It’s a tangible, gradual, building pleasure–unlike other work of poetry, the restless, associative, obsessive, elusive grasping after shapeshifting images/phrasings: the attempts to embrace a ghost in elysium. (more…)

–> Selections from RHL books <–

Web del Sol :: 20 pieces from The Work of the Bow and The Effigies back in the 90s.  Bow‘s short narrative poems, mostly concerning family, fatherhood, love and loss, differ in form if not tone from the elegiac flash fiction sketches of New Orleans neighborhoods and characters in The Effigies.

Both books are findable via Amazon, ABEbooks, etc., and in libraries around the country via WorldCat. Much of The Work of the Bow can be read as a Googlebooks preview. (I’m still the best source for either of these books–signed, sealed, delivered, they’re your$.)

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The Power to Die (1987), took its title from the last stanza of Emily Dickinson’s #754 (“My Life had stood–a Loaded Gun”). The only poem from that book on the web is the final, 5-part elegy for McKendree Robbins Long: “Grandfather Long the Last Time”. Have a look at his best-known painting, “Apocalyptic Scene with Philosophers,” at the North Carolina Museum of Art. (more…)