Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop...An Author Interview

“THE NEXT BIG THING” asks writers to self-interview about their books with 7-8 designated questions, post somewhere in the blog-o-sphere and then “tag” five writers for the next week to do the same. Eve Hanninen, editor of The Centrifugal Eye, and Mary Jo Balistreri both tagged me, and in turn I’m tagging writers Laury A. Egan, Sudasi J. Clements, John Roche, Colleen Powderly and Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick. Now all they have to do  is complete the interview questions below and get their self-interviews out into Cyberspace on their blogs, websites or in social media.
Here are my answers to NBTBH interview questions:
What is the working title of the book?
My new book went through several working titles over the years, including Magpie Muse and Dancing with Green Bees. The final title of the newly published book is: Lithic Scatter and Other Poems.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Lithic Scatter was seventeen years and many thousands of miles in the making.  I began writing it on my first road trip west in 1996 with my then fiancĂ©.  I’d flown over the United States to San Francisco and Los Angeles but had never driven the breadth of our magnificent country.  So, when I first set foot in the Badlands west of the Mississippi, I began to write. “Feet of Clay” officially became my first Western poem. And the clay of that poem firmly grounded me in the geology of the American West. I just kept on writing through many more such road trips, listening to the land.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m not sure how you take a collection of poetry and turn it into a movie, but perhaps such a film could recreate in celluloid the world of the Ancient Puebloans and their lives in the desert, homes among the cliffs.  The cover art, one of my photographs and titled “Self-Portrait, c. 1140 CE,” would be the main character and narrator. She’d have to be played by a grand dame of cinema.  I’d cast Judy Dench in the role!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

At once sweeping, visceral, earthy, gritty, ethereal, and primordial, Karla Linn Merrifield’s Lithic Scatter and Other Poems presents the frontier seen — and felt — through the eyes of a visionary poet who explores the region’s vast terrains as anthropologist and archeologist, historian and ethnographer, shaman and seeker-after-self.  

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

As I mentioned above, Lithic Scatter took seventeen years to write, but the initial draft congealed in late 1999 after my husband’s and my second trip west, what we refer to as  “Wild West II,” which happened to be our honeymoon trip, and then followed by our 14-day dory adventure down the Colorado River, an expedition that changed my life because I almost lost my life at one point in the journey.  Many of the poems compiled in that first iteration have gone by the wayside – for now. I’ve kept all those “deleted” poems and will no doubt return to them in the future.   For a sequel?  Perhaps.  And with new ones I’ll no doubt write this summer when we make yet another road trip to the Southwest.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Landscapes. Petroglyphs and pictographs. Wildness of rivers and wildness of mountains and wildness of the creatures who dwell in them. Ponderosa pines and bristlecone pines. Rice grass and cacti. Scree, talus and lithic scatter. The ghosts of the Ancient Puebloans often referred to as Anasazi. Western writers such as Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey. Georgia O’Keeffe and her vision of the West.  Most of all: my husband who was with me every step of the way.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I can think of any number of things! For example, there’s definitely a feminist slant to many of the poems, so I can imagine many women embracing the book with nods of approval for the roles women play in the poems, from the title poem to “Amazons of the Anasazi Follow the Chimney Rock Tour Guide.” Art lovers can certainly appreciate the suite of five poems about Georgia O’Keeffe, “A Vocabulary of Circular Forms.” Nature lovers will have a great time meeting up with the  flora and fauna of the American West. And a long odyssey across country through a dozen states should satisfy fellow vagabonds as well as arm-chair travelers.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The book was published in February by Mercury Heartlink in Albuqueque, New Mexico. That it’s a such a beautiful book to hold in your hands is due to publisher and designer (and fellow poet) Stewart S. Warren. His loving attention to detail reminds me of the artistic craft expressed by the Anasazi in their petroglyphs— timeless.


Ready to order your copy of Lithic Scatter and Other Poems?!  To order a signed copy (with no postage!), email me at and I'll tell you where to mail your check. Or order from Amazon at


And here's another link to The Centrifugal Eye's Next Big Thing posting -- celebrating the journal's 5th Anniversary Anthology:  Now there's another book you should have on your shelf...better yet, in your hands.

And meet my poet-friend Jo Balistreri at


Happy trails to the Spring Equinox!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My New Book -- 1.7 Billion Years in the Making

A “a spirited celebration of the natural world …” – Mercury Heartlink Releases Karla Linn Merrifield’s Newest Poetry Collection

            Lithic Scatter and Other Poems is an intimate journey across the diverse landscape of the American West

          “I go on an archeological expedition of sorts. I pick up a symbolic trowel and dig,” is how poet Karla Linn Merrifield of Kent, NY, succinctly conveys the poetic process as she explores the West – its geology, human history, rivers and mountains, deserts and oases, politics and environmental challenges – in her new, Lithic Scatter and Other Poems.

         Merrifield’s is a deeply spiritual and sensual collection in which nature and the human-as-animal are integrated into the web of life. Thus, in the opening poem,“Dancing with Green Bees,” readers learn: “Landscape bids you to absorb time. And in “Land Marking,” early settlers survive: despite coyotes… locoweed/  storms… drought along the river”.    

“There is magic here, and reverence for the sacred feminine, all woven together with exquisite, earthy details. Merrifield’s broad scope shines in lines like these, from “One Hard Lesson,” where we are drawn in as the speaker considers a collection of rocks gathered from many travels: these solid stories of the Earth,/remind me who I am on a Sunday morning,/ knowing the destiny of every rock is to become sand, says poet Sudasi J. Clement, poetry editor of Santa Fe Literary Review and  author of The Bones We Have in Common, the 2012 prize-winning chapbook from Slipstream Press.

Or, as the publisher says:  “At once sweeping, visceral, earthy, gritty, ethereal, and primordial, Karla Linn Merrifield’s Lithic Scatter and Other Poems unfolds a kaleidoscopic odyssey of the American West at its all-natural wildest.”

The “poet-guardian of the Earth”covers time and territory as her “poem-maps show the way”


         Those words of New Mexico poet Michael G. Smith hint at the scope of Lithic Scatter, which was inspired by Merrifield’s many lengthy treks through the West. The 59 poems traverse a dozen states covering some 1.7 billion years!  In Kansas, for example, we learn about Jewish immigrants who escaped European pogroms to become homesteaders, safe at last// in a sod house on one-hundred-sixty acres,/ in the blank ark of the sere open prairie. In Nevada, you’re mesmerized,/ needing more than both hands// to navigate this terrain of faultlines,/ how it shrinks humanity, how it favors lizards. In Arizona, readers arrive during the seasons of kiva spells/  and adobe smoke,/ in rimrocks of Arizona and alcoved dwellings of the Ancient Puebloans (Anasazi).

            Merrifield is also a well-informed tour guide to a dozen National Parks, Monuments, and Historical Sites.  Thus, in Yosemite National Park in California, she turns eyes to a rock-climber inching/  upward a half mile on El Capitan’s vertical face sees only granite,/  curses its polish, oblivious to the glacier whose ghost is sheen on stone. And, at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State, a frog along the trail speaks through the poet, instructing hikers to plant your feet/ on the earth and look up toward the canopy/ of ancient treetops.

            Lithic Scatter and Other Poems (114 pages), with a cover photograph by the author, is available for $16 in selected area bookstores and from online booksellers, as well as from the author via query to her at or by phone at (585) 259-6934. Purchase directly from the author and she will sign it for you -- and mail it at no additional cost to you.


About the Author:   
          A seven-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield has had more than 300 poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has nine books to her credit, the newest of which are Lithic Scatter and Other Poems (Mercury Heartlink) and The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica (Finishing Line Press). Forthcoming from Salmon Poetry is Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North, and from FootHills Publishing, Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems. Her Godwit:  Poems of Canada (FootHills) received the 2009 Eiseman Award for Poetry and she recently received the Dr. Sherwin Howard Award for the best poetry published in Weber - The Contemporary West in 2012.  She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye ( Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet, at

About the Publisher:

     Established in 1994 and based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mercury HeartLink is owned and operated by publisher Stewart S. Warren as an alternative to large commercial publishing houses and the unguided and less professional endeavors of self-publishing, Mercury HeartLink works closely with writers and other artists to offer solutions that are client-centered and to provide support in the larger realm of self-realization.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hands of a Poet

This afternoon millions of people are getting psyched to watch their team charge on to Super Bowl victory, each pass landing firmly in the receiver's ready hands.  Yay!  Or lose because the ball is fumbled and falls into the opponent's hands. Boo, hiss!  Not for me.  I don't even know who's playing, and would much rather think about the miracle of the human hand and more specifically about a poet's hands.   

Hands have been on my mind for a couple weeks now.  The above photo must have prompted a more prolonged meditation than zoom, focus, click, download, save.

On my recent Poetry Safari to Caloosahatchee Regional Park, tucked into my tent, aka Budkowsi, I experimented with a prose-poem variation on the ghazel, which is a  6th-century Arabic poetic form traditionally consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, each line sharing the same meter.  It's evolved since then and you'll often see ghazals in couplets where a single word and variations on that word serve a desire for sameness and refrain.

I've tried several ghazals recently exploring for the first time how the form works. Last week while tucked inside my tent, I tried a variation sans couplet, but working with variations on, you might have guessed it: hands. Here's what came of my experiment:

Ghazal by Hand 

Human beings make so much of their dexterous hands, handing over survival to opposable thumbs, handily. Breaker, breaker one-nine, this is Handmaid, CB handle for a left-hander with love handles. Let’s hand it to hand signals of catchers to pitchers and hand codes of foreign spies handing off secrets. They’ve been seen on the streets of New York mishandling hands-out panhandlers living hand-to-mouth near Wall Street. Study the artful hands of Georgia O’Keeffe in Stieglitz’s eye; ponder Adam’s holy hand extend to touch the hand of God. I have it firsthand from the Buddha’s praying hands: Faith is a hands-on experiment with hand-me-down koans. So I wash my hands of hand-to-hand cosmic combat. Handmade peace in pieces is handed down to me. Let’s have a show of hands, hold hands, shake hands. Put the handwriting on the petroglyph wall, handsome!


Well, it was fun for me at least.

Since then, I have turned my thoughts back to the photograph that started all this rumination on our ten wondrous digits.

The hands in the photograph belong to William Heyen.  My friend Bill.  He and his ever-delightful wife Han (short for Hannelore) had joined Roger and me for an outing into the 10,000 Islands of Everglades National Park. When the tour  boat picked up speed, we held on to railing, each other, our caps, keeping eyes open for bottle-nosed dolphins (who did indeed appear) and white pelicans (a large flock of them jostled one another on a small white sandbar just on the edge of the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico). I clicked the shutter.  And the photograph featured here got lodged in my brain.

Upon further reflection, I came up with a scherzi sextet, using the short form of thirteen syllables (plus a rhyme) that Bill invented.  Here 'tis:

The Great One on Tour in the 10,000 Islands

The master poet grasps his baseball cap,
both hands, secure.

This poet holds on to his hat,
fingers splayed, firm grip.

This is the poet who keeps his head straight,

Poet of the inner eye stares
into mangrove passes.

I behold the sun-shaded poet
behold the osprey.

Below the brim, the poet’s god
is lost in the Glades.


Two New Books in the Offing!

Meanwhile, back at my desk, this poet's lowly hands have been busy...and brought to me some surprising rewards.

Indeed, I have two books forthcoming!

First to appear -- later this month! -- will be Lithic Scatter and Other Poems, a collection of 50+ Western poems! I'm thrilled Stewart S. Warren accepted (and designed) it and will bring it out from his Mercury Heartlink Press. From Anasazi ghosts to Georgia O'Keeffe, from the Badlands to the Grand Canyon, from giant sequoias to fragrant sagebrush, these poems tell of my adventures (and Roger's) in the West's great outdoors, desert to mountain, arroyo to riverbed. I'll have the opportunity this June-July to promote the book in situ -- Roger and I are motoring West for a six-week jaunt through those beloved, familiar landscapes and already I have readings and one workshop booked! Yippee-kai-yai-yay.

You'll be hearing more about it soon!

And in early May, FootHills Publishing will bring out Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems (and photographs) whose poems chronicle our travels in Brazil and Peru on and along the Earth's mightiest river.

While you're awaiting arrival of my new babies, check out the following links to poems recently published on line...quite the gallimaufry of moods and subjects, some poems short-short, others on the longer side, but all I hope you'll find worth reading...and pondering.

Thanks for reading.  Time now for the Vagabond Poet to take her hands off the keyboard and hit the cutting board.  Dinnertime calls to the Condo Cook.

Happy Valentine's Day to all. We've already celebrated.  The property I once owned with my brother has been sold and the closing out of the estate is on the horizon after nearly two years.  So, we're taking some of the proceeds from the sale and have booked a safari in Africa for September.  Kenya, Tanzania and we come! 

Thanks for reading.  Time now for the Vagabond Poet to take her hands off the keyboard and hit the cutting board.  Dinnertime calls to the Condo Cook.