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EDITOR’S NOTE: One pleasure of publishing a web magazine based in West Nowhereville is hearing back from people actually paying attention. James Cochran wrote in response to my feb11.2021 ‘photopoem,’ “When Hay Bales Speak to You.” He wrote of his experiences baling hay and sent along a poem about that. I put his lightly edited notes about hay and himself in front of the poem. They serve as a welcome insight into the hard work of the ancient art of hay baling, updated with Rube Goldberg contraptions, but with the same old threatening sky. James is a poet living in Charleston, West Virginia, with roots on both sides of the Ohio River (WV and OH)~ Douglas John Imbrogno
JAMES COCHRAN: Just wanted to send a note to say how meaningful your recent poem/photo essay on hay bales was to me. I felt inspired to join in celebration of this most quotidian and sublime of substances. I grew up farming, and have spent much time in the production and pondering of hay —loose and baled—but little time writing of it. Growing up on a farm, I experienced many different aspects of the material known as hay. The sweaty work of cutting, raking, and baling … The stacking high of the bales on wagons that would sway and creak as they made their way across the fields …The leaping from round bale to round bale after they had been lined up in a row for future use. I especially loved the connection to the hay bale as captured time, sunlight, rain, etc. You are right that the baler is a Rube Goldberg contraption, very prone to problems and failures as well, but a magnificent feat of engineering when functioning correctly. The round baler contains belts that whip around, forming a small cylinder at first. As it travels the field gobbling up the windrow, the round bale becomes larger and larger, eventually expelling this tightly wrapped and spinning packet of time!
By James Cochran | feb20.2021
“Make hay while the sun shines” they say,
and we do, circling the field while swallows
dive and swoop to feast on insects we kick up,
inhaling the mingled sweetness of diesel fuel
and honeysuckle. We cut, rake, and bale
till the sun goes down and the dew settles on the fields,
then start again next morning once the dew burns off,
almost finishing as dark clouds build on the horizon
and fat drops of rain cut the dust on the Baler.
That’s the part no one says…
Make hay while the sun shines,
but stop when it starts to rain.
PHOTOPOEM: “When Hay Bales Speak to You”: feb11.2021: Let’s talk hay bales. I have, perhaps like you, been spying hay bales most all my life. Yet, in all that time haven’t met a hay bale. Up close. The other day, I had my chance.
NATUREGRAM: January Stroll Under an Azure Sky: jan14.2021: The dried out, frosty marshlands are not really absent of life and color. You just have to hang out and look and listen more closely as you stroll the woods and walkways beside the Ohio in western West Virginia.
POEM | “The Greats” by PJ Laska: oct28.2020: ‘The Great Tower/ The Great Wall/ The Great Power/ Conquering All/ The Great Look/ The Great Weave/ The Great Assets/ Of Make-Believe … ‘ | A Poem by PJ Laska
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CHARACTERS | The “Spark-eyed” Vision of WV Poet Bob Snyder: oct20.2020: Influential West Virginia-native poet Bob Snyder died in 1995. But a new collection of his poetry exemplifies why, says a fellow poet: “Every West Virginia writer should know Bob. At least know about him. You may not ever get the whole story, but this book will help you understand some of it.”
VIDEO/POEM: A Brief Visit to “Magic Mountain” in West Virginia: sept23.2020: What happened one night on Folklife Mountain in the West Virginia heartland. Some called it Magic Mountain.
READINGS | “Nous Celeron”: aug14.2020: ‘Don’t you, Nous Céleron, wish to lay down your arms? Enter the Ohio’s cool darkness, or the Chinodahichetha! Sounding out each syllable as a Wyandotte might utter them …
READINGS | Two by Kiley Lee: aug9.2020: Twitter can be a whirlwind of woe. It can also be a place of discovery, of encountering creatives working in West Virginia whose work is worth checking out and lifting up. Here are two poems and two photographs by Kiley Lee, of Paden City WV.
READINGS | “Please Take Care of My Friend: Heart Advice from a Stranger”: july27.2020: “Don’t drive if you’re upset. Don’t beat yourself up. Know you’re lovable and inspire others even if you’re not feeling it. Meditate. Sing. Even badly. It changes the brain right away “
CHARACTERS | Recalling Stick Artist-Poet-Philosopher-Shaman Boyd Carr: july26.2020: Boyd Carr, who died at age 88 this summer, was many things. West Virginia-based poet Kirk Judd recalls a man he describes as “one of the few true geniuses I have known. He was brilliant in his use of language and in the art of storytelling.”
READINGS | A Stroll Deep into a West Virginia Marsh: july10.2020: If it’s true we are mother, father, sister, brother, related all to all, maybe that’s one way to comprehend and befriend the ten thousand things. The hundreds of voices, cries, and songs rising from this manifold marsh.
POETICS| An Almost Heaven & James Brown Upbringing: june12.2020: I was raised on Almost Heaven and Hee Haw/Taught to love God and the UMWA/I was an odd little Black girl/Growing up in the coalfields of West Virginia …
DON WEST | Part 2: “May It Be So”: june6.2020: Long before it became fashionable, Don West fought the passive hillbilly stereotype by pointing to mountain labor’s traditions of struggle and solidarity.
DON WEST | Part 1: Not An Easy Path: june6.2020: Don West was not a warm and fuzzy person or “a creator of comfort. He was a ceator of action.” It could be uncomfortable, but the labor activist and poet left a legacy to be explored in a WVPB documentary that debuts Sunday, June 7, 2020