Today’s Poetry Dispatch is about mining–appropriately enough, given that old truism about poetry as daily news. Today’s poem is also about mining poetry, about the persistence of some poets given the bedrock reality of just who gets a good poem published these days, not to mention how and where. My point being, today’s dispatch is about a lot more than the poem itself–as excellent a poem as “Anthracite Night” is.
If there were any justice in this publishing world, “Anthracite Night” would appear in any number of major literary magazines—including Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, or any of the distinguished publications coming out of the South. But there is no justice, as anyone who’s been in this game long enough knows. There’s talent, there’s connections, and there’s just plain luck. And for many who spend a lifetime writing, honing their art, submitting their work to all the right publications only to be ignored or dismissed …well, as Dorothy says: “I do not have that much time left…”
Dorothy in some ways qualifies as “a poet’s poet.” Her work does not always come easy at first sight. You have to be drawn into her poems. Live there a while. Savor her lines, her choice of words, the bright glitter of the living thing demanding the heart and mind’s attention .
I was proud to include her great tribute and ‘study’ (in poems) of T.S. Eliot (THE FANTASTICAL TRAVELS OF TSE) which appears in the new Cross+Roads Press anthology of works in progress, OTHER VOICES. It was a bold venture/adventure that few practicing (determined) poets would make—recreate a time and a poet in one’s own vision. But Dorothy Terry continues to do this, the unexpected—risk everything for the sake of her art. And these are the writers who matter, sometimes pounding on doors to be heard till the silence is so overwhelming they set the poem free to land wherever it may. —Norbert Blei
Thought this might be appropriate this week. Wrote it last year about Sago mine disaster…another one, much worse. My family settled the area of WVA in which the Sago mine was located…right down the road. If you want to use it, or have a place for the poem, it is yours. I have had it with sending poems out and never hearing a word from them. Now I just offer them to my friends if they want them. Submissions are such a waste of time. And I do not have that much time left so I just write. Right now, trying to do a WVA collection…I suppose no one would be interested in that except someone from WVA, but for some reason I just have a terrible compulsion to write about that muggy, hot, polluted river valley I grew up in. ”Anthracite Night” was written, as i said, right after the Sago mine disaster but is appropriate now, with the terrible thing in Utah happening. It is a terrible business …that mining, and what they did…is killing us with pollution.–Dorothy Terry
On January 3, thirteen miners went down
into a mine for Black Gold.
Only one returned.
Brackish sweat pearled walls was natural,
they said it happens on darkening
days like this the sharp crash
of thunder that was usual too who
had not been down underground when
storms were around just put
it outside your head they said so he
cozened his fear entered the passage to Hell.
well it was natural they said everyone worries more
on darkening winter days when clouds
like giant unbound breasts hang down almost
to the ground and filthy mists lace stubby hills
in shallow valley settled by his kin
he bought a clapboard house
front porch swing shiny wash machine
“new used” car parked outside the door
and shedding Christmas tree the tree he cut
from out back with the boys still dripping tinsel
at top the Harald Angels sang Mary Joseph
the Babe mangered tomorrow he would saw
up the tree for firewood burn it through
the somber winter but that morning
two days after New Year’s thunder was coming close
closer claps daggering mine entrance cracking salvos of
that War that killer war never called him yet but
today was in fate’s hands whatever lured him
down that dark tunnel was a fight with endless night
today he would mine Hope
far down the narrow rock strewn path
shoving breath into his failing lungs
He went bent into the anthracite night.
Dorothy Terry, May 15, 2006
The Sago Mine disaster was a coal mine explosion on January 2, 2006, in the Sago Mine in Sago, West Virginia, USA near the Upshur County seat of Buckhannon. The blast and ensuing aftermath trapped thirteen miners for nearly two days, only one of whom survived. It was the worst mining disaster in the U.S. since a 2001 disaster in Alabama killed 13 people, and the worst disaster in West Virginia since a 1968 incident that killed 78 people.
In addition to the tragedy, the Sago Mine disaster is also widely remembered for its high-volume publicity and around-the-clock news coverage. For nearly two days the disaster occupied the airwaves of television stations such as CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and all major American news broadcasts. The disaster even gained significant international attention. As a result of the high-profile nature of the transpiring events, major misinformation was given to the public. The most significant misinformation led to the wide-spread announcement in the press that 12 survivors were found and only one had died, only to report shortly after that in fact there had been only one who survived while the other 12 had perished. source
Norbert Blei, born in Chicago, the author of a trilogy concerning that city and its people, Chi Town, Neighborhood, and The Ghost of Sandburg’s Phizzog has lived in Door County, Wisconsin since l969 and written extensively about Wisconsin as well. He has taught, lectured, given writing workshops throughout the state and the Midwest, and is the Writer-in-Residence at the Clearing (Ellison Bay) where he has guided beginning and advanced students in the art of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for more than twenty-five years.
He has published in many of the state’s leading periodicals and literary magazines, and is a frequent commentator and guest on the Jean Feraca show (Wisconsin Public Radio) and has appeared on Warren Nelson’s Tent Radio program (Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua), and the Michael Feldman Show (WPR and NPR). For three years he was a featured commentator on a local literary/ arts program in Door County, “Passages” (WDOR FM 98.7) and had his own hour program of commentary, interviews, readings, blues and jazz, called “The Coyote Hour” on WBDK, FM 96.7.
In l985 the Wisconsin Library Association honored his literary contribution by designating him a Notable Wisconsin Author, and he is included in Jim Stephens’ three-volume literary history of Wisconsin, The Journey Home. In l997 he received the Gordon MacQuarrie Award from the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters for his outstanding work in nature and environmental writing. He is one of 64 writers whose work was architecturally incorporated in a new convention center, the Midwest Express Center, in downtown Milwaukee. In l999 he received the Harry Bradley Major Achievement Award from the Council of Wisconsin Writers for significant literary achievement. He is also a Pushcart Press award winner for fiction.
Blei is the author of seventeen books: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and has received state, regional, and national awards. In December of l994 he started his own small press, CROSS+ROADS PRESS dedicated to the publication of first chapbooks by poets, short story writers, novelists and artists. He was a contributing editor to the national quarterly, FORKROADS, A Journal of Ethnic-American Literature; co-editor of The Door Voice, the literary/associate editor of The Peninsula Pulse, and a columnist/feature writer for the online publication: www.doorcountycompass.com. His nonfiction has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, the Washington Post, etc. while his short stories and poems have appeared in numerous literary anthologies, textbooks, and magazines including the Minnesota Review, Tri-Quarterly, Story, Kenyon Review, Utne Reader, and The New Yorker.
His Wisconsin work includes the award winning trilogy: Door Way, Door Steps, Door to Door, as well as Meditations on a Small Lake and the controversial Chronicles of a Rural Journalist in America–dedicated to the preservation of the rural landscape. Works-in-progress include a novel set in Door County, three collections of short stories, and four books of nonfiction. His most recent works include Winter Book and the first tradeback edition of CHI TOWN published by Northwestern University Press. More on Norbert Blei can be found here…