Debbie: Kathleen, please tell us a little about yourself.
Kathleen: I grew up on a family dairy farm. My bother is a farmer, my sister is an opera singer. Poetry feels like a compromise —rooted and earthy, subsistence fare, but also soaring, sometimes lyric, able to shatter glass with a handful of words. I lived in Minneapolis for many years, but I grew enamored of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and I've come to love underpopulated places. My work as a creative person, and as an environmentalist has been a gradual process of moving away from concerns that are strictly human-based —convenience, pop-culture, short term comfort— and towards a land ethic based on the writings of Ellen Meloy, Aldo Leopold, Robinson Jeffers, Mary Oliver, the Methow River Poems of William Stafford, etc. My creative work lured me to travel widely: islands, abandoned mines, old growth forests, off-the-grid spots, National Parks, even Antarctica! But more recently, I've realized that I could spend the rest of my life learning about any single spot in the U.P., so that might be my next challenge: being still. Seeing, listening. Learning one spot, deeply.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your books.
She Used To Have Some Cows, was a long poem, my response to Joy Harjo's “She Had Some Horses.” That was the work of printer Rebecca Hoenig (La Vacas Press, Philadelphia: 1992). The second, Explaining Pictures to a Dead Hare, was created by artist and master-printer Paulette Myers-Rich (Traffic Street Press, Minneapolis: 1997) — a chapbook-length poem inspired by a photograph of the artist Joseph Beuys, taken by Ute Klophaus through a gallery window.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Kathleen: A heap, always! I've got a new poetry manuscript I'm sending around, which travels between the American Badlands and remote wild places of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well as a chapbook of poems about collapsed mining towns, and subsidences caused by undermining. I'm also painting shoreline scenes in Marquette County. This year, my creative plan is to focus on wild landscapes that are being industrialized, and old industrial sites that are being 'remediated.' I suspect there's a great deal of difference between places with natural beauty, and artificially restored scenes, aesthetically, and in terms of the stories they tell.
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?
Kathleen: Easy: Snowbound Books (Marquette) and Falling Rock Bookstore and Cafe (in Munising)!
Debbie: And a favorite Michigan library?
Kathleen: Yep -- Peter White Public Library in Marquette is like a second home.
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Kathleen: I'm partial to remote "balds" — bare rocky knobs of granite, found in the Huron Mountains and a few other special spots in the U.P., perfect for star-gazing or picnics. Also glacial outwash plains, beaches littered with fossilized coral reefs, remote waterfalls, rivers full of boulders, anywhere graced by old white pines.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Kathleen: In winter, my husband and I love to watch the U.P. 200, a dog sled race between Marquette and Grand Marais, which runs right past our front door — a uniquely northwoods treat to see dog teams run by, their harness bells softly tinkling, the warm light of a lantern or headlamp illuminating the sled, the trail and the snow-buttered pines. And of course, summer in Marquette means Art on the Rocks — a big summer art festival, which has expanded over the years to include a second venue, Outback Art Fair.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Kathleen: Singer-songwriter Michael Waite. Writers Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Ander Monson, Russell Thorburn, Jonathan Johnson, John Gubbins. Painters Nita Engle, Kathleen Conover, Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. Photographer Shawn Malone, famous for how she captures starry nights and northern lights over Lake Superior. My late father-in-law, the author and historian Fred Rydholm.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Kathleen: The obvious first, I guess -- Lake Superior contains approximately 10% of all the fresh water on the earth's surface! The aurora crackle like incoming telegraphs, if you listen closely. Lichen is a sort of litmus test — it can't bear air pollution. And jack pine, no matter what the experts tell you, does not require fire for propagation: on a hot sunny summer day, the rock-hard resinous cones melt like gray crayons, flowering, scattering seeds which sprout in sand, thick as moss.
Debbie: Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?
Kathleen: Isn't Yooper a choice? Yooper is in the dictionary now, you know. But for the sake of being flexible, let's say "Michigander."
Debbie: Kathleen, we'll add you to both the Michigander and the Yooper columns! Thank you for joining us today for Michigander/Yooper Monday!