Monday, March 30, 2009

Phillip Lopate on Charles Reznikoff, the online Jewish book community, has posted Phillip Lopate's introduction to By the Waters of Manhattan, the novel by acclaimed author Charles Reznikoff, recently republished by Black Sparrow Books. Here is a brief excerpt, but please visit JBooks to read the rest of his excellent essay:

"Among those who cherish his tender, translucent, humane poetry, Charles Reznikoff is a venerated figure, a role model of integrity and sustained excellence. During most of his lifetime (1894-1976), he had been so underrated and neglected that he developed a kind of stoical, resigned shell, going his own way. In person (I saw him on numerous occasions before he died), Reznikoff gave off an obliging, almost meekly humble impression, but there was a stubborn will underneath; his dedication to his art was unshakeable. You can see it from his correspondence, that remarkable, moving record in Selected Letters of Charles Reznikoff, 1917-1976 (Black Sparrow Press, 1997). If publishers would not accept his poetry manuscripts, he would print them himself. He also had that grain of selfishness that all writers need, however annoying to their loved ones. Though his wife Marie yearned for years to quit her high school teaching job, Charles, the most devoted, uxorious of husbands, nevertheless would not become a go-getter. He refused to practice law, though he had a degree. Instead, he held down jobs that would afford him the mental freedom to pursue poetry and fiction: he wrote tedious legal definitions for textbooks, sold hats, and, ill-suited as he was temperamentally to service the Hollywood dream factory, polished screenplays for his boyhood friend, producer Albert Lewin.

Towards the end of his life, he was taken up by the younger members of the New York School of poetry and the descendents of the Objectivists, and treated reverently by them, like a fragile, priceless grandparent, a last link to the pioneers of the 20s and 30s. Reznikoff, glad for the appreciation, did not know quite what to make of it, just as he had been puzzled decades earlier when championed by Louis Zukofsky (whose abstruse criticism he could barely decipher) as a sort of instinctual Objectivist poet. The problem with that annexation was that Reznikoff was no primitive: he was extremely intelligent, rigorous, and, in his own non-showy way, committed to an ambitiously austere aesthetic program of his own"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Notes from a Godine Intern: Jessica O'Neill

{Editor's note: the internship program at Godine has a more than three-decade–old tradition of fine young people — students or recent graduates, mostly — working with us for three to four months and learning the trade of publishing through real experience; they proofread, edit, opine, write copy, work sales projects, and even occasionally design, along with the myriad daily office duties we require to run efficiently; they're as important to us as a full staff member.}

After interning at Godine for nearly three months, the most valuable acquisition I have made was not that of a book manuscript or a cover image, but the office’s water cooler — or as it’s called in New England, the “bubbler.” {ed: Jess is from New Jersey} This isn’t to say that I have been given dull or meaningless projects; to the contrary: the projects I work on are usually interesting and always meaningful to the company (or at least that’s what they tell me) {ed: it's true}.

I simply want to point out what a rather epic change in the day-to-day life here of Hamilton Place this cooler has been. Previous to its arrival, everyone brought drinking water. It could be considered typical for people to provide their own bottled water in an office setting, if they are being so picky as to require their water in bottles. However, drinking the tap water here is not recommended — in fact, it’s impossible. It’s brown, to be exact.

Within a week of beginning work here, I received repeated warnings to take care not to drink the water, not even for rinsing dishes. I would not have heeded these warnings, as I’m not typically frightened by drinking tap water, but the brown tinge of the water definitely called the consequences of consuming this water into question. Unfortunately, the old charming brick building where our office is located comes with equally old charming plumbing.

For the first few weeks here, life was tough. I lugged an enormous water bottle to the office every day, praying that I would not need more than a liter. Occasionally, someone would venture down to the 7 – 11 on the corner to buy a gallon for coffee, but most of my earlier days here suffered from drought, draft, and decaffeination.

Since the addition of cool, clean water to our office, however, the mood at Godine has certainly brightened: no more parched throats, or cracked, dry voices are heard talking miserably on the phone; no more frigid, coffeeless, winter mornings; no more frost-bitten fingers longing for a warm mug to hold. And that’s not all: our water cooler comes equipped with an extra special hot water nozzle that provides boiling hot water instantly. This hot water nozzle continuously incites excited discussion from David Godine about the ease of making Hot Chocolate, though we have not yet seen any conspicuous empty packets around. Today, while refilling my relatively light-weight 20 oz bottle of water at the cooler, David remarked, “Don’t you love it? Isn’t it just great?” Every time David hears the “bubbler” working its magic, he cannot resist the urge to comment on it.

Thus, despite the ever-varying tasks I have completed since working here (most of which do not include getting lost among a tower of dull paperwork or running out for coffee, as other publishing internships’ might), taking responsibility for bringing water, that staple of human existence, to the staff at Godine, has been my most rewarding endeavor.

Andrew Motion on Retiring from the Laureate Post

At The Guardian: an editorial from Andrew Motion on his eminent retirement from the post of British Poet Laureate. He writes, "As I say, in this respect nothing much seems to have changed in the past 10 years. But even as I repeat that, it feels not quite right. Why? Because even if the press doesn't always reflect it, the mood within the poetry-writing and reading community itself feels different these days. It's difficult to be precise about this change, but my sense is that we have learned to live with the variety of poetry being written in the country more happily than we used to do. The old sense of "them" and "us", establishment and avant-garde, London and regions, has matured into a curiosity that is willing to cross old boundaries. The health and diversity of creative writing programmes has helped to make this happen; so has the rise of non-metropolitan and internet poetry publishers; so has the work of interested parties such as the Arts Council and the Poetry Society. But it doesn't mean we can now settle back and congratulate ourselves on reaching the end of a difficult road. Once upon a time the challenge was to learn tolerance. Now it's to develop more appropriate sorts of critical language and expectation for particular kinds of work. We want to live in a culture where everything is welcome, but not in one where anything goes."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Trumpeting the Trumpet ~ Native Honeysuckle

This past weekend I set up shop at the annual Mass Audubon Birders Meeting. I was there to listen to the day-long programs and to sell Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities with other nature- and bird-related books offered by Godine. I can hardly give a good reporting of any of the programs presented as I felt it irresponsible to leave my table unattended and was only able to poke my head into the lecture hall sporadically. Fortunately, for me, my table was placed next to Peter Alden’s and Jennifer Forman-Orth’s shared table. Jennifer is a biologist who works for the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and travels around the state to educate people about how to recognize the dreaded Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) and its devastating effects. Peter Alden is the author of fifteen books on North American and African wildlife, including the Audubon Field Guide to New England (with Brian Cassie), Field Guide to Invasive Plants of New England, and Audubon Field Guide to Florida, which he co-wrote with Rick Cech (Cech is the author of Butterflies of the East Coast, which regular readers know is a book I highly recommend). We own a well-worn copy of Alden’s Field Guide to New England — a book that belongs in the home of every New England family.

I made the acquaintance of Katrina Kruse who was at the meeting representing Houghton Mifflin. We were talking about garden design and difficult areas in the landscape when she asked for a suggestion of what to plant over a tumbled-down stonewall that is located in part shade and receives some sun. Hummingbirds were on my mind, as later that afternoon I was planning to clean and to set out the hummingbird feeders, and immediately thought of our native honeysuckle. My very favorite variety, and a favorite of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, is Lonicera sempervirens x brownii "Dropmore Scarlet". "Dropmore Scarlet" is not accurately described by its name. The petals are not at all scarlet colored, but a singing shade of carmine on the exterior and golden yellow-orange on the inside. Carmine is that gorgeous color halfway between rose red and vermilion. Situated throughout our garden are several mature plants of ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ and during the growing season our mama hummingbird makes her daily rounds — morning, midday and at dusk — nectaring from the blossoms of honeysuckle, bougainvillea, and annual cardinal climber. I am so enamored of Lonicera sempervirens that we tucked in several other cultivars. It is not fair to compare the hummingbird-attracting potency of these newly planted varieties to our more mature "Dropmore Scarlet" just yet as they are only a foot high. I can, however, attest to the late-blooming trait and the hummingbird attractiveness of "Major Wheeler." There is a specimen growing around back of the nursery at the New England Wild Flower Society that is several stories tall. In the brief moment that I was there purchasing several honeysuckles for a design client, I noticed their stunning "Major Wheeler" was still flowering, and three hummingbirds were spotted.

Lonicera sempervirens, also called coral and trumpet honeysuckle, is a twining or trailing woody vine that is deciduous in New England, hardy in zones four through ten, and is very drought tolerant. Trumpet honeysuckle is not at all fussy about soil. Plant it in full sun to partial shade. If trumpet honeysuckle becomes large and ungainly, prune hard to the ground — it grows very quickly and a vigorous pruning will only encourage more flowers.

"Major Wheeler" purportedly flowers the earliest of the trumpet honeysuckles, and in a deeper red hue than that of the carmine of "Dropmore Scarlet". "John Clayton" is a cheery, cadmium yellow, a naturally occurring variant of Lonicera sempervirens, and was originally discovered growing wild in Virginia. The blossoms of "Mandarin" are a lovely shade of Spanish orange. I am not prepared to recommend "Mandarin" as the foliage looked ratty all summer. Foliage often looks poor initially after transplanting, so we will give it one more year in the garden.

Early blooms are an important feature for a vine planted to lure hummingbirds. You want to provide red to orange tubular-shaped flowers and have your hummingbird feeders hung and ready for the first of the northward-migrating scouts. If nothing is available, they will pass by your garden and none will take residence. Hummingbirds can easily distinguish red contrasting against green. We go so far as to plant vivid Red Riding Hood tulips beneath the hummingbird feeders, which hang from the bows of the flowering fruit trees. Although hummingbirds do not nectar from tulips, the color red draws them into the garden and the flowering fruit trees and sugar water provide sustenance for travel-weary migrants.

Lonicera sempervirens has myriad uses in the landscape. Cultivate to create vertical layers, in a small garden especially. Plant trumpet honeysuckle to cover an arbor, alongside a porch pillar or to weave through trelliage. Allow it clamber over an eyesore or down an embankment. Plant at least one near the primary paths of the garden so that you can enjoy the hummingbirds that will be drawn to its nectar-rich blossoms. I practically bumped into one last season as she was making her rounds. Did you know they make a funny squeaky sound? I began to take notice of their presence in our garden when at my office desk one afternoon in late summer, with windows open wide, I heard very faint, mouse-like squeaks. I glanced up from my work, fully expecting to see a mouse, and was instead delighted to discover a female Ruby-throat outside my office window, nectaring at the Cardinal Climber. Trumpet honeysuckle not only provides nectar for the hummingbirds, it also offers succulent berries and shelter for a host of birds.

End Note: The above mentioned cultivars of Lonicera sempervirens are available from the nursery at Garden in the Woods, which is the home of NEWFS, Corliss Brothers, Wolf Hill, and Weston Nurseries. Please check availability.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Events Calendar

We have just revised our events page on the Godine website with a gorgeous embedded Google Calendar — you can add events with just a click or two to your own calendar, our add our complete calendar of events for automatic event updates. Buzz around the office is that the new calendar is "snazzy." Hope you enjoy it, plenty of events will be added soon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Guardian on Lark Rise to Candleford

or "Why Lark Rise to Candleford Will Always Be Great"

Over at The Guardian, Richard Mabey writes extensively on "The Enduring Appeal of Lark Rise to Candleford." He writes of author Flora Thompson, "Her sense of dislocation, of drifting away from her roots to become an onlooker, helped give her the perspective to create what is perhaps the most intimate and persuasive account of the old rural order just before its transformation by modernism. . ." and that "Lark Rise to Candleford is remarkable for its celebratory realism. It neither romanticises [sic] poverty nor underplays it. Thompson gazes back at the goings-on in her home country with the same loving attention that White paid to his house crickets and swallows, noticing everything but judging nothing. No detail is insignificant."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Poets House New York

Beginning April 4th, Poets House, a 50,000-volume poetry archive and literary center in New York City, will open its 2009 Showcase Exhibit at the historic Jefferson Market Library. Two Godine titles — Metropolitan Tang by Linda Bamber, and the upcoming The Mower: New and Selected Poems by Andrew Motion — have been chosen for inclusion in the Showcase. If you're in New York, swing by and check them out!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Tale of Two Tigers

Recalled to Life

As seed and plant catalogues pile ever higher in my ever-shrinking office, I am culling all for sources of delicious vegetables and herbs, native plants, fragrant cultivars, and plants that will expand the Lepidoptera and songbird habitat. With inviting descriptions accompanied by enticing photographs, it is difficult to exercise restraint. Absorbed in thoughts of new life in spring, I am reminded of an incident that occurred at about this same time last year.

My husband and I had returned home from a venture along the backshore to witness the waves cresting in the aftermath of a late-winter storm. With great gusts blowing up from the south, the storm was tropical in temperature, but not in degree of ferocity. Drenched to bare skin, we came in through the cellar to remove our soaked clothing, where, to our dismay, we encountered a newly emerged tiger swallowtail butterfly, unable to fly, with its wings dragging along the cold stone cellar floor. I carefully picked it up, holding the butterfly along the sturdy leading wing margin, and brought it into the warm kitchen. Its wings had not fully unfurled and the butterfly was in distress. We provided a twig for it to crawl upon, which would have allowed its wings to hang down, and then, perhaps, fully expand. That was unsuccessful and the butterfly preferred instead to simply rest in my hands. We offered it a Q-tip soaked in sugar water and I cupped my hands and held it there for a long time, hoping the warmth would recall it to life.

Within the brief moment of time a butterfly emerges, if just one of the steps in the complicated dance goes awry, the creature will likely fail. The crimpled, wet wings are tightly compacted within the chrysalis. The butterfly pushes head first through the pupa case and upon emerging, with its crochet hook-like feet (tarsi) grasps at nearby surfaces. Hanging upside down, body fluids are drained from the swollen abdomen and pumped through tubular wing veins (called struts) to the very outer margins of the wings. The butterfly’s double drinking straw (proboscis) must zip together, or it will be unable to nectar. For several hours after eclosing, it remains hanging upside down in a stationary state, the most vulnerable of positions, to allow its wet wings to dry thoroughly. The mystery of how the tiger swallowtail came to be in our basement, and why it eclosed in early March, prompted me to learn more about this magnificent species of butterfly.

The Golden Thread

Tiger swallowtails are recognized by their four rows of tiger-like yellow and black stripes and thin black tails extending from each lower wing. Canadian Tiger swallowtails are common throughout northern New England and eastern New York. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are more common in southern New England and New York. We are fortunate in Massachusetts to be located where much overlapping of both species occurs. Canadian and Eastern Tiger swallowtails are closely related and were not recognized as separate species until 1991. The clearest way to see the difference is to compare wingspan. The Canadian is smaller, with a wingspan of just under 3 inches; the wingspan of the average Eastern is 4.5 to almost 5 inches—the southern female ranks as the largest butterfly of the East Coast. Canadian Tiger Swallowtails are generally a paler yellow and the darker border next to the body is thicker. When the wings are folded, the yellow sub-marginal band on the fore wings is largely continuous, not interrupted by black wing veins. Tiger swallowtails are highly palatable and, as a defense against predators, have evolved with rapid wing movements and erratic flight patterns, which make these differences between the two species difficult to discern without side-by-side specimens or photos.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Papilionidae
Genus: Papilio
Species: glaucus ~ Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Species: canadensis ~ Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

The purpose of identifying the different species is relevant when planting to encourage tiger swallowtails caterpillars to colonize your garden. Host trees for Canadian Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars include native species of birch (Betula), black cherry (Prunus), and aspen (Populus). The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars have adapted to a wider range of host trees from multiple families, especially wild cherries (Prunus sp., Prunus virginiana), tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipfera), ash (Fraxinus), and sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) in the Deep South. Both species are generalist when nectaring. I most often observe tiger swallowtails nectaring at plants with clusters and panicles of small florets, native buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and Verbena bonariensis, for example.

Adding to the challenge to accurately identify whether Canadian or Eastern, female Eastern Tiger Swallowtails may exhibit sexual dichromatism, a dark-phase that mimics the highly unpalatable and toxic blue/black coloration of the Pipevine Swallowtail. The yellow form of the females is more typically seen in our region and is similar to the males, except that the hindwings above the black margin are covered in beautiful blue iridescent scales. Iridescence in wing scales is an example of how Lepidoptera have evolved with structural color that is disorienting to predators. The flashes of light created by the iridescent scales, combined with undulating wing beats caught in sunlight, causes hungry birds to be confused. The characteristic “tails” that lend swallowtails their common name are significant aerodynamically. Airflow is directed over the wings, enabling extended glides at higher angles, whereas Lepidoptera with more broadly cut wings would normally stall.

We look for tiger swallowtails eggs on the topside of host tree leaves. The spherical, green, pinhead-sized singular eggs are not easy to see amongst the surrounding foliage. The first instars are dark brown with white markings, which resemble bird droppings (another defense against birds). Later stages become luminous light green, with yellow and black thoracic “eyespots” that mimic the eyes of small snakes. Tiger swallowtail caterpillars have yet another defense against predators. When threatened, they will evert their osmeterium (a unique horn-like appendage that resembles a snake’s forked tongue), which emits a smelly secretion.

Most tiger swallowtail caterpillars feed at night, spending the day in a rolled-up leaf mat bound with spun silk. When ready to pupate, the caterpillar turns chocolate-brown and spins a silk girdle, a “thread of life” that supports it in an upright position as it begins to pupate. The chrysalis resembles a twig, or knob of wood jutting from the trunk, and the thread holding it in place is as fine as a strand of golden thread. In the case of the chrysalis formed in late summer, the pupa enters a state of diapause and the adult emerges in spring. The same thread of life girdling chrysalis to branch will keep the pupa secure through winter snow, sleet, and ice, and during violent spring thunderstorms and nor’easters.

The Track of the Storm

Artfully mimicking the twiggy growth and withered leaves of the lantana (Lantana camara) standards we winter-over, it became clear how a tiger swallowtail chrysalis could find its way into our cellar. Prior to bringing plants indoors, I now thoroughly examine all for signs of Lepidoptera pupa. The unsolved mystery is why. The eerie atmosphere created by the tropical storm in winter, coupled with the unsettling early emergence of the butterfly is haunting still. Perhaps the electric energy and unusual balmy temperature carried by the storm caused the butterfly to eclose several months too early. Whatever the reason, I return to the not unpleasant task at hand—catalogues beckoning with plants to enhance the songbird and Lepidoptera landscape—anon to be engaged in the garden of possibilities.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . ." — A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

David Godine at Publishers Weekly

A selection from David's most recent interview, this time with Publisher's Weekly:

Asked about the timing for both the Le Clézio and Thompson, Godine responds, “Luck,” and warns this writer not to make him sound too smart. “We bought Lark Rise to Candleford [by arrangement with Penguin Books, London] a year ago and had no idea it was going to be a miniseries,” he says. “There's no ulterior motive or external knowledge. I love these books. I had them in an old Oxford University Press edition. We've bought a lot of great British books lately: Gerald Durrell's Fillets of Plaice and Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie.” Quoting English novelist and critic Frank Swinnerton, he adds, “We publish what we love and do our crying in private.”