Thursday, June 03, 2010

For Chico poet, rescued dogs and pain transformed


A news release notes that Jeanne E. Clark is part of the creative writing faculty at Chico State University. The Midwesterner won the Akron Poetry Prize in 1997 for her first book, "Ohio Blue Tips." Now, in her second collection, "Gorrill's Orchard" ($16 in paperback from Bear Star Press,, Clark finds solace, and sustenance, in the rescued dogs she cares for in her home near an almond orchard. (She volunteers for Border Collie Rescue of Northern California.)

In "The Story Each Day," the poet writes: "I tell you that I love bleak, fierce landscapes. / I used to grow them in my garden from seed, / named them: yellow-billed magpie, / scrub jay, ladies of leisure. Married then, / one day I told myself this story: / a door in the house opened with purpose. / It held fire behind it. Marriage / made in a furnace / is too easy to start, to put out."

But the orchard, her new home in Northern California, awakens something in the poet. The dogs begin to appear. In "Rain and Roy Orbison," "On this weekend morning I walk the dog. / The dog red and white, rail thin. It's early. . . . // Roy Orbison's 'Only the Lonely' escapes / from my neighbor's open door and windows. . . . // My voice hard like bone, strung tight as muscle. / This morning walks us back into the world."

Then comes "July": "Peggy gets up from her small-dog dream, / waddles in her patchy, blond coat / around my bed. Her tail: / slow and happy propeller." In "Shaking the Almonds," "Flint, Belle, and I walk Gorrill's orchard, / Belle's plume tail a white flag in front of our parade. / Flint's short legs drumming up dust, he stops / to pee on every third tree. . . ."

"December" now. "Belle heels beside me, perfect. No distraction / to my play of fingers counting: making / haiku as I walk, syllables like birds lifting. . . . Can I say / what I feel is joy, ice-blue joy?"

In "Killdeer," the poet writes of "The earth, packed hard, without / forgiveness." "Meanwhile," though, in the dogs, in the orchard's life, there is "Wild forgiveness."

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