Poetry Dispatch No. 274 | March 13, 2009
Editor’s Note: Steven Fortney is one of those larger-than-life guys. A descendent of Lutheran preachers who jumped the seminary ship at a certain point and found himself in the daily world of newspaper writing, teaching, politics, union and management negotiating…not to mention taking a further leap from Lutheran to Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. Not your average resident of Lake Wobegon– though he holds valid Norwegian- American credentials, and is probably the only one reading this besides me and a handful of others who knows where the hell Oulu is in this country. (What’s more, has a place there!)
He is a great spirit. A poet in his bones. A man of words that will both settle comfortably inside you and/or possibly disrupt your thinking. (Martin Luther in a yoga position).
I would like to return to him again sometime, but for now…just one small poem—his response to the piece about gardens which appeared in a recent posting (Notes from the Underground #172, March 7, 2009).
Steven Fortney’s “Garden “ is Part II from Canto Three of a most amazing longer poem, “A Canticle for Palmquist” which, in itself, is part of a larger collection of poems in a book of the same title: A CANTICLE FOR PALMQUIST.-–Norbert Blei
His poems improve the more he gardens.
He made twelve that ran east and west
at the south-west end of the yard; each
is a four foot square. He analyzed the earth,
then made these squares. They are level and
on a straight line with each other, save for three
which are a bit askew. In them he does not
plant what he does not need. He plants what
they eat. Tomatoes. Potatoes. Beans. Squash.
Cantaloupe. Each square is a verse. Before
his boxes, his large garden would get away
from him, from weeds. He lost the food. But
now he breaks things down, separate. He
rewrites each plot. Though he still has
weeds, the plants scan, images clear; as in
history there is even rhyme. The people are
nourished. He always saves two squares for
compost; yard and kitchen trash enters, is
renewed to food. He works by the sweat of his
brow for this; his delight is to be cast into
this garden. He dresses and keeps his poems.
[from A Canticle for Palmquist, Black Buzzard Press]