Saturday, February 22, 2020

Dick Stahl, The Forever Poet Laureate

Alma Gaul wrote a touching remembrance for former QC poet laureate DICK STAHL. I knew him through Writer's Studio. He'd come in with three poems and ask us to vote for two. He listened to our comments and was grateful for the feedback. I bought copy #91 of "Bluffing" and visited a few of the sites of his poems. I made it to Dick and Helen's 50th anniversary party held at the Figge. He was kind enough to read aloud the poem I'd written for that occasion. That was so like him. Thanks to Alma's article I now know why.

To Helen and Dick

Two parts of a whole
A pair of individuals
On a journey
Finding a path that follows
The winding Mississippi
Past rocks and sand bars
Minor obstructions
Who climb high to vistas
So near the sky
They can feel
The clouds pass nearby
To Dick and Helen
Two parts of a whole
Joined together 50 years ago
They catch a golden sunrise
Over a river Bluff
Made perfect
By their own design

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Library Book Clubs

Writers must be readers. One hears that quite often.

Writers must “read” like a “writer.” Yes, that is true. There is a difference

Writers must read in their genre, but not exclusively. Also, true.

Reading widely exposes one to different styles, old and new; ideas for punctuation and verb tense; builds vocabulary; and showcases methods for presenting dialog. Most of all, it provides a point of reference for how one is progressing in the writerly craft. Writing at its heart is a craft that improves with practice. What inspires your writing, that slice of life, is uniquely yours.

Book Clubs are great ways to satisfy all these goals. Library book clubs provide resources without a huge personal investment in money and permanent shelf space, should that be a problem, for all those books in your private collection.

My participation in multiple book clubs offered by the Davenport Public Library exposes me to titles and authors I wouldn’t pick for myself. They expanded my world as a reader and a writer. I always learn something new.

When the West End Book Club was in danger of being disbanded, I was loath to let it go. Fortunately, I was not alone. Several avid readers joined me in keeping it going. We scoured the Davenport library’s list of book club kits so we could continue to meet monthly, read new-to-us books without incurring any expense for us or the library. All we needed was a room to come together to talk and share our excitement about books.

As I said, we West Enders are a bunch of avid readers and after a year or so it became difficult to find new titles to fill our needs. What to do? Well, as it so happened, we needed to branch out.

When I walk through the Rock Island Public Library's first floor there’s no way to miss the boxes and boxes of book club kits. I inquired about checking them out and my first response was no because the library systems separated by the Mississippi went their respective ways a few years ago. Quite disappointing, but not terribly unexpected.

A RIPL librarian suggested that I try Bettendorf’s public library. I did and found a treasure trove of book club kits lined up and waiting to be checked out and delivered to any branch of the DPL system. “DIBS” stands for “Discussions in Boxes” and the choosing should be fun and super convenient for us West Enders. Great News!

In the meantime, I heard from RIPL’s Amy Sisul that there is a way for me as a DPL patron to check out up to ten books at a time. Ten books make up your average book club kit. More Great News!

The West End Book Club should be set up nicely for years to come.

The moral of this story is: Whether you are starting a book club, trying to save one like me, or just looking to join, remember the resources are many at our public libraries.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Owls and Iron Pen, part 3

I wrote in my January 17th blog post about MWC’s 24-hour Iron Pen contest and how I’d won a first place, and a nice medal, for my non-fiction entry in 2010. I said, “It was a nice little tale about winter walking in Bishop Hill.”

Well, Alma Gaul’s recent Quad-City Times articles about owls reminded me how a great horned owl was very important to that story. According to the non-fiction judge my entry’s life-and-death theme between the owl and a rabbit set it apart from all the other entries.

The following is an excerpt from “Danger in the Snow”:

     “But what brought me to a standstill was the cold winter morning I discovered the signature of death in the snow. As I walked near my front field, I casually followed a set of rabbit tracks that meandered through it.  I’d already walked well past by the time it dawned on me that something was awry. The oddness tugged at me, made me stop, go back, and look again. Rabbit tracks shouldn’t end suddenly. A closer inspection revealed the scraping claw marks of talons and the indentations of wing tips as something large came down and grabbed that rabbit right off its feet.
     I imagined it was an owl, probably a Great Horned Owl. When you spot them up in a tree your first thought is, “Why is that cat sitting up there?” They are big and they use the largest old trees for their nests. That year they had chosen a tree close to my field. I had the chance to watch well into the spring as the parents raised two owlets.
     Thinking about those babies growing from fuzz to feathers made me reconsider what I saw in the snow, the dichotomy of the drama: death for a rabbit, life for an owl. I’m standing there in the cold, the one who’d never broken a bone, staring at what remained. The last sign of the rabbit that wasn’t so lucky.”

Reprinted from Winter Worlds: Three Stories
Copyright © 2017 by Mary R. Davidsaver