Notes | 11 Mar 2017

Poetry and literary websites that are new to me:

Please take time to read and then follow all submission guidelines. Some publications have demographic or geographic limitations. Some charge submission fees.

My latest book is Stump Speech, self-published 2015. If you have a poetry book of your own and want to trade, contact me, so we may swap addresses and make the trade happen.

In the past two weeks I finished reading:

  •  blood desert by Renny Golden—New Mexico history in poetry. Many historical stories I did not know. That always gives me a thrill. Worth Full Price.
  • This Fragile Husk by Beth Gindstaff—Well crafted poems that navigate one person’s struggles with loss and illness, and how to navigate life’s pain when things go wrong.  It reminds me difficult journeys are traveled by most people, not just myself. Worth Full Price.
  • Bus Girl by Gretchen Josephson—I did not connect with these poems and quit reading 20 pages into the collection.

Please, keep an open mind to poetry books.  My micro reviews are subjective to my taste and possibly my mood on the day(s) I crack the book open. When done with books, I pass them along, most often to students, instead of keeping the books, well, unless I find the book to be extra special—a keeper.

Continuing the interview questions. #7.

     What is your favorite National Park? Why?

When I was a child, my parents took me to national parks each summer.  Father was a university professor and had the time and inclination to go.  Both my father and mother loved the park system.  This travel started before my memories of the journeys taking place, because I was so young.  We camped wherever we went.

As an adult I traveled with a National Park passport book to be stamped at each park I visited in my attempt to visit all of the parks in my lifetime. I think I reached two-thirds of national parks in the lower 48 states before I lost the passport book.

One of my adult habits became moving adjacent to a national park or national forest, finding work and an apartment in a nearby town, and then using my free time to explore the park. At each, I would pick one trail to walk once per week to observe the changes as the weeks passed. I would remain in place 1 to 3 years, then move to a new one.

Partially due to being born and raised in Illinois, the land of Lincoln, and partly due to my interest in the American Civil War, Lincoln’s Home in Springfield, Illinois is one of my favorite national parks.  The city has more to visit than Lincoln’s home in the way of historic buildings and museums, but I love that the park service preserved Lincoln’s whole block with paving stones and all.

The park I visited the most often is Antietam National Battlefield. I spent a year in Frederick, Maryland for the purpose of visiting battlefields. Antietam has always had a hold on me. So I bicycled its paths during good weather.  I hiked all its trails.  I mapped the routes units took from their camps to their part of the battlefield and walked those routes.  Once a year, toward winter, volunteers set up a Memorial Illumination along the park’s roads—one candle for each soldier who was killed, wounded or missing—22,720 candles.  It is a true wonderment to walk the park after dusk with the candles lit.

Olympic National park was a joy to live adjacent to in all seasons for the variety of birds and flowers. The changes of flora and fauna as a person traverses trails from sea level to 5250 feet at Hurricane Ridge is just wow. I loved the purplish alpine lupine near the top and the lavender fields that are cultivated at lower elevations.

The Grand Canyon is listed by a lot of folks as their favorite canyon, but I prefer the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  I will revisit the Grand Canyon this year for a family reunion and  see it with fresh eyes.

I have family in the DC area.  When we visit, we always make time for the National Mall and Memorial Parks and the Smithsonian.  The national portrait gallery is one of my favorite museums.  I look forward to visiting the new African American History Museum on our next trip east, assuming tickets are easily available. The Lincoln Memorial stirs something deep inside me.  Also, I like to walk mall’s length and people watch—the world comes to you on the mall.  Across the Potomac is Arlington National Cemetery with the renovated Arlington House—the one time home of Robert E. Lee.

The experience I had that fills me with the most awe took place on the Spanish Peaks in the San Isabel National Forest outside of Walsenburg, Colorado. I hiked toward the peak one summer day, but did not pay enough attention to the weather. A storm slid over the Sangre de Christo mountains and settled below where I was on the West Spanish Peak. For about 30 minutes I watched lightning arch across the dark cloud tops that were 250 to 500 feet below me. Clear blue skies and sun remained above me.

I love the national park system and wish congress would see fit to fully fund these treasure of our land.  It saddens me that national parks are only partially open or that there are fewer rangers to cover the parks, thus less trained personnel to protect visitors from themselves. I’ve seen people do some pretty dumb things in national parks oblivious to their danger.

— Kenneth P. Gurney



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