Karla Linn Merrifield
More Poems of Canada
Karla Linn Merrifield
Including 7 of Karla's color photos.

(Karla's other FootHills books are below.)

Karla Linn Merrifield's poem "Ballad for August 27, 2012" takes place on the storied shores of Lake Erie, minus the bountiful hauls of sturgeon and herring. She focuses on the Mummery Brother's trawler, a "ghost boat of the Great Lakes," packed with "hopeful ice."  A variety of factors from pollution to the parasitic sea lamprey have contributed to the industry's decline. Indigenous species of fish like the blue pike and the deep-water cisco are now extinct. Merrifield's poem is a beautiful tribute to a disappearing way of life, and we at The Head & The Hand Press are grateful for the opportunity to share a glimpse of that legacy.  
   ~The Head & The Hand Press, www.theheadandthehand.com
      (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

The language of Karla Linn Merrifield is nearly always phrased in an animated brogue of images and the patterns she sings them in - this time, in Bunchberries, her lingering refrains call forth bountiful roses in the foggy Maritimes and croon bittersweet dirges in the rocky woods of the Algonquin.  With near-joyous chants, she also wordpaints the Great Lakes' shores with star-swirled Petoskey stones in her mantra-like song of the Erie-o.  There's no doubting Merrifield's continued, yearning love of Canada, which is personified yet again in the charms of her adeptly wrought poems of discernible Canadian place."       
~Eve Anthony Hanninen, poet, writer, and editor of The Centrifugal Eye
  (Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada)

So much more than just "ore Poems of Canada", Bunchberries is a celebration of it; and with the help of Canadians who don't normally get to cheer, such as yearning ferries and princess ferries. In the follow up to the award winning Godwit, Merrifield shows us around with all the wonderful enthusiasm of someone who could outpace Whitman travelling down the road. Although the poems range in subject matter, and the subject matter is Canada, it is at heart a poetry of cheering. How refreshing!
          ~Seth Crook, philosopher and poet
          (Isle of Mull, Scotland)

From the book:

Quick Work

Back and forth, the twin provincial ferries
of Hardings Point ply the Saint John River
just upstream from New Brunswick's primary city.
It's a free ride, four minutes landing to landing,
cutting across the choppy current nonstop, 24/7.

A plink, a splash, arrival.
The deck mate flashes a wide gap-toothed smile,
as he waves me ashore, taking long enough
from his brisk schedule to say, Have a nice day in Canada!
Another load awaits, a dozen cars impatient to depart.

The Bashô Trees of Algonquin

Northern forests in the east
are littered with brief poems
written in white bark code
on curled scrolls peeled
from paper birches.
Each is a secret haiku
scripted in dashes to read
like Braille with your fingertips.
I retrieve one scrap hidden
in the duff by Beaver Pond,
ponder its lines embossed
on papyrus, deciphering:

Mist lifts. Loon surfaces.
Bold tremolos echo through
cold light of wildness.

A nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield has had some 500 poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has ten books to her credit, the newest of which are Lithic Scatter and Other Poems (Mercury Heartlink) and Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems (FootHills Publishing). Forthcoming from Salmon Poetry is Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North. Her Godwit:  Poems of Canada (FootHills) received the Eiseman Award for Poetry and she received the Dr. Sherwin Howard Award for the best poetry published in Weber - The Contemporary West.  She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye (www.centrifugaleye.com), a member of the board of directors of Just Poets (Rochester, NY), and a member of the New Mexico State Poetry Society, the Florida State Poetry Society and TallGrass Writers Guild. Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet, at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com.

Bunchberries,More Poems of Canada
is an 88 page hand-stitched paperbook with spine.   $18.00

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 AWAY #5

Karla Linn Merrifield
Poems of Canada
(Chosen for the University of Rochester's
Andrew Eiseman Writers Award)

In love with Canada since developing a crush on a visiting Canadian Cub Scout years ago (we were both 7), it's no wonder to me that Karla Linn Merrifield's captivating Godwit snatched at my heart---I identified with her covetous attachment to things and places Canadian early in the introduction---and it wouldn't let go, the last empathetic beats of me continuing to resonate in the northern needles, cones, native elders, butterclams and roe inhabiting the final poems.

                   ---Eve Anthony Hanninen, poet and editor,
The Centrifugal Eye

Karla Linn Merrifield may not be an ex-patriot, but her literary sense of Canada-its landscape, its people, its essential there-ness-is as acute as though she had spent her entire life above the 49th parallel. Or perhaps more acute, because, as with anything seen from the outside, her focus is sharpened by distance, honed by reverie, and described by detailed poetic sensibility. For Canadians and non-Canadians alike, this book is a treat to read-unrivalled by even the tastiest bite of cod cheeks . . . or Tim Horton's.

     ---Alisa Gordaneer, award-winning poet and editor of
Monday Magazine, Victoria, B.C.

From the book:


only cold water, me naked in October at dusk
diving in, surfacing up, stroking out
toward the mauves and pinks of Canada,
to a horizon fresh and crisp, my bracing goal
to be more fish or loon, even a zebra mussel
clasping some small existence with this ubiquitous
sky and breeze, near silence, near sunset, nearer
the rising full moon and her wide Milky Way.

so my dark hair tangles like seaweed when I pause,
my nipples address the barest rippling waves
as my toes dip deeply, touch stone after stone, tipping
me into the horizontal, the floating, the resting
between shore & shore, this today & that tomorrow.

suddenly, willfully, I submerge
then spring into the cooling evening air-
there, all there, positively there.

Witnessing the Canadian Shield

I think it perhaps wise to travel
lightly in this weighted country,
if only in homage to its granite.
It is honorable to be a curl
of goose down, a curl of lichen,
in essence, easily carried away
on spirited winds & waters while
all that is mute, stern stone
abides, withholding every secret
of time as spruce needles blow
or float away with the dry curls
of birch skin, dry curls of fern.
It is a form of bowing down,
this bending over before that rock
of ages, born of Earth's ancient
core, cooled, compressed over eons,
& resurrected, come to light, become
the bared solid bone of North America.

Cable Cove Time Zones

Nature takes some time
to make her Pacific tide come in,
but a human can sit still long
enough to watch, albeit patiently,
less than half a bright day or half a clear night
& see kelp or rock or cove
covered, uncovered, in cold briny water.

Nature takes some time
to create soil from stone:
Lichen yield two centimeters
of sweet earth every century.
I can see the antediluvian gray-green
fastened to basalt or schist, but never
in a lifetime detect a particle of
anything friable to my fingers.

Nature takes some time
to get up speed for glaciers
or volcanoes or tectonic plates moving
into one or another mountain peak or range-
here the modest Mackenzies of Vancouver Island,
there deep snow & ice-bearing Rockies-
that may give me, if I am listening
to her seismic tumult & tumbling,
a scant tremble in my eardrums

of how her time passes
as it passes through, goes on
past my nascent senses into eons.

is a 92 page hand-sewn book with spine
including color photos and notes on poems - $18.00


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Attaining Canopy
Amazon Poems
Karla Linn Merrifield

Karla Merrifield's poems introduce the reader to the Amazon rainforest, to a world that is both rooted in the senses and deeply mythical. Merrifield explores the magnificent complexity of the rainforest in all of its beauty and-at times-oppressiveness. Attaining Canopy describes a landscape of harsh wonder, one filled with monk saki monkeys, long-nosed bats, luxuriant jungle, equatorial rivers, mosquitoes and fire ants, viscid heat, and birds with strange and evocative names: hoatzin, orange euphonia, blue cotinga. Read these poems, and imagine the vastness, complexity, beauty, and power of Amazonas-and then consider that each year, a portion of it equal to the size of the United Kingdom is lost to deforestation. Read these poems, and then pray that Attaining Canopy is a celebration of what is and what shall endure, rather than a heartbreaking elegy for what we may lose.

~Chris Norment, professor, Environmental Science and Biology, the College at Brockport (NY); author of In the Memory of the Map: A Cartographic Memoir and Return to Warden's Grove: Science, Design, and the Lives of Sparrows

Attaining Canopy. How stealthily benign is the title of Karla Linn Merrifield's poetic capture of Amazon adventure; as though by "attaining" the collection might offer readers protection, to spare them the ordeal of jungle fright. Not so! Merrifield's poems drench readers in pre-Jungian trauma; the "sauna primeval" that instantly rots every fret in civilization's viola. Her skillful use of unusual forms-Fibonacci, hexagram, cameo, gestalt-attempt to bring order to this "country of countlessness," but she is only partially successful. When (harmless) sweat bees cover "her scalp, throat, breasts intent upon licking me alive" she realizes the "horror is the swarm." Merrifield is brilliant at articulating our primitive limbic brain, our amphibian selves. Her inner cavewoman percusses fear and desire-fight-flight-freeze. And like the harpy eagle she recalls from a visit to the San Diego zoo, in the Amazon she is "out of place and time," entering "his habitat on his terms." In such moments, when the geography is least known, Merrifield's language skills soar, figuratively expressing precisely that which we imagine unnamable.

~Maureen Kingston, poet; assistant editor, The Centrifugal Eye

From the book:

The Eco-Tour

One man came for the snakes
and received a tree boa three-meters long.
The Brit who collects countries
counted bird-firsts, prizing
the male harpy eagle above all.
While his wife sought her capuchin monkey,
the agronomist stroked
the leguminous anaba tree,
praising its nitrogen-fixing abilities.
Nobody admitted to amphibian desires,
but cameras flashed in the jungle
night on gladiator frog and cane toad.
My husband claimed the entire Amazon,
swallowing whole the river's water of life.
And, at journey's end, mine was to be
in leaves, in insects: the incalculable rainforest.

Stargazing in Brazil

To see stars
is to see hydrogen afire,
but perceive a constellation?
It is to read a story
told in metaphor.
Thus six bright points
of flaming light outline
the Great Hexagon
of the Amazon,
a tale goldly told
in feathered pairs:

spix guan
   paradise jacamara
   screaming piha
                               blue cotinga
                               orange euphonia

flying from the equator
toward the first dawn of man.

Attaining Canopy is a 60 page hand-stitched paper book with spine, including 5 photos by the author.   $16.00

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 The Etowah River Psalms

Karla Linn Merrifield

“Above all, I still wish to speak your name,” says the poet who addresses and seeks communion with a specimen of an ancient whale. In psalm after riverine psalm here, whether her subject is tongue or Indian summer or the eye or box turtle and moon or mountain or love, Karla Linn Merrifield continues her quest for the center of poetry itself, the primal, and we are glad, by way of her voice, to hear and behold, to draw closer.
-William Heyen, author of Shoah Train: Poems,
Finalist for the National Book Award

At first glance, Karla Linn Merrifield's title, The Etowah River Psalms, may have religious connotations, but for this poet, it is nature that is sacred, and she worships it with profound sensuality, sweeping us downstream on the iconic Etowah River. She writes, “I am your innermost river / throbbing with wild currents within you.” This line epitomizes the rush, the pulse, of her lyric style as she celebrates our kinship with water and nature and with each other. As we participate in this journey, Merrifield asks us to become a river, a whale, a moon jelly, a human lover; to let go and drift and tumble in her imagination.
-Laury A. Egan, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger

Karla Linn Merrifield's e-mails always end with a foundational statement: “Poetry furthers the sacred.” Indeed, this collection of poems does just that, realizing sacredness in the natural world's “courtly lovemaking / of my marrow.” Nourished by her own loving encounters with the rivers of life flowing through and around the North American continent, the lands and waters and all that dwell therein - turtles, geese, whales, jellies, bees, humans - Merrifield charts her own slow settling into right relationship with the universe, as herself “a white angel among an abundance / of angels.” With open eyes, hands, heart, and tongue, she explores the fierce delicacy of all bodily life, our own species included: the elemental forces - eros, death, time, patience, longing - that flow through water, earth, fire, air, and all their animate descendants. And in the companionship of these poems, you, too - like the turtles, like the poet, like the ocean - will “have no other god / than gravity.”
-Steven Pavlos Holmes, Editor, Sea Stories (www.seastories.org); author,
The Young John Muir: An Environmental Biography

From the book:

Foreword: A Litany of Rivers

Rivers figure prominently on my personal interior map of life. I was born in a confluence town where the Monongahela forms. By the time I was seven or eight, I'd learned that it flows atypically north to a point where it partners with the Allegheny to create the Ohio, a river destined for the Mississippi.   

Over the years since then, in my travels on my home continent and in Europe, I have met many other rivers, great and modest. As a college student traipsing through Austria, I speedboated on the Danube. Several times I've strolled the banks of the Thames in London and the bancs of the Seine in Paris. One summer I took a tour boat down the Reine near Frankfort and ambled the Ponte Vecchio across the Arno in Florence.

Here in North America, I've stood near the source of the Mississippi in Minnesota and near its mouth in Louisiana and crisscrossed it on a dozen bridges north and south. I've kayaked several stretches of the Missouri and watched windsurfers along the Columbia. I've seen the Yukon from a car and a motorboat and taken a jet boat up the Snake into Hell's Canyon. I've rafted a long stretch of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Canoed the Rio Grande. Stopped to listen to spring melt tumble down the Humboldt. Fished the Russian River (of Alaska, not California). And for fourteen once-in-a-lifetime days, I rollicked down the rapids on the Colorado through the Grand Canyon for 213.5 wild miles on an eighteen-foot dory, a cockleshell of a craft in the white water. It was during this expedition that I also was swept away on the Little Colorado River, there brushed up against boulders in the stream, brushed up against death.

Close to home, I make a pilgrimage each autumn to Niagara Falls to watch that river (which is technically a strait) plunge through mist and rainbows into the gorge on its way to Lake Ontario and on to the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic.  

In Canada, where I've made my way from the eastern terminus of the Transcanada 1 highway in St. John's, Newfoundland, to its western terminus in Tofino on Vancouver Island, I've encountered dozens of rivers powerful and famous (like the Fraser in British Columbia) and small and relatively inconnu (like the Souris in Manitoba). Notably, twice I've crossed the mighty Mackenzie of the Northwest Territories on a ferry-the only way to and from Yellowknife once the ice bridge melts in spring.

But I have never met the river called Etowah though it has become an Amazon to me. Or, as nature writer Janisse Ray said of the Saint Mary's River of Georgia:  “…it flows straight into a yearning hole in my heart.”

The Etowah River, a modest one just a short drive northwest of Atlanta, first came to my attention in October 2004 when Georgia poet Beau Cutts sent me his poem “The Etowah” as a way to introduce himself during our nascent correspondence. I was moved by the poem and thought it a fine, fine piece of poetry.

But it wasn't until I taught the poem a year later in my college freshman writing class (one that focuses on the environment and humanity's relationship to it) that the poem-and its river-swept me away. The poem electrified several students; they saw things in it I'd not seen in my several readings of it. And that in turn made me take a much closer look at “The Etowah” and the Etowah River.

One sunny September morning, I remember plucking a line from “The Etowah,” as if pulling a thread from a tightly woven tapestry and playing with it, scribbling, composing. I began a reweaving of “Migrants crack open/our first sleep” into a poem that became “Mercy Flight.” A few days later I tugged at another line in “The Etowah” and wove a second poem. Then a third borrowed line, a third poem. By then it dawned on me: Cutts's poem and his river were carrying me away; I'd caught the current and was headed downstream at a dizzying pace, writing poem after poem with line after line from his master poem until the poems had run their course, were complete.  

These many months later, I am still amazed by the phenomenon, that a river and a poem about a river could captivate me so thoroughly. It remains a mystery; I let it be. No, I've never seen the Etowah River, but I believe in it. It has helped me, as W.S. Merwin says, “to keep time with no time.” To me the Etowah is as timeless as the Nile, as the god Meander's Meander River in Asia Minor of ages ago; Beau Cutts has made it so for me.

Note: See the Epilogue for the complete text of Cutts's “The Etowah.”

In Erato's Voice

Hush now! Listen!
This is your water of life,
the greatest part of your body,
of your blood, of your flesh.

Speaking in a rush of shoals
in your great heart racing,
I am.   
Can you hear
me pounding in your fingertips?
There I pulse, molecules swirling
in a pool of red as you make words
and they flow into thoughts,
no matter whether
inchoate or complete.

I am your innermost river
throbbing with wild currents within you:
I am the idea of ideas.     
I have an oceanic effect on you;
I give you vital tides. You begin to write.

I am a small spring deep in your bone;
seeping into your marrow
so that you know what to say
and know how to say it.

I whisper in the sweat
from your pores as you labor
over every line writing and writing;
I have trickled in every tear
you have ever cried
and will do so in all
those that will yet be cried
onto blank white paper.

Listen and you will hear me
in every cell of your being.
A poem appears on the page.           

I am in you, ubiquitous, mythic, alive.

    The Etowah River Psalms is a 40 page hand-stitched chapbook.   $10.00

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Karla Linn Merrifield

I can't help it, won't help it:  I hear voices. It's been happening over the past several years as I have traipsed up the backwaters & into the wilder regions of the North American continent. As I traveled, I left behind Ruskin's pathetic fallacy that had taught me to avoid imbuing the natural world with human feeling.  I left behind the work of many modern poets who have used the pathetic fallacy to ironically emphasize the loss of communion between the individual & the natural world.  But I stuffed into my backpack the belief that that communion could be regained & that the natural world could imbue me with its feelings. And it did.
The process for the resulting poems I wrote of such close encounters was twofold. Being a creature of Western culture & having been a student of the scientific method, I lugged my guidebooks with me & took as my departure point the identification, the naming of the beings I met in field & stream. I nailed down the Linnaean nomenclature for each beast - and then I stared (as poet William Heyen first instructed me to do).  
I find that if I stare long enough, listen well enough along the unbeaten paths, the animals will speak, pleading their cause, informing the human condition. With this slim volume of poems I invite readers to hear what the carp, cod, halibut & others of their kingdom have to say. I invite my readers to commune, to be in the midst.
- Karla Linn Merrifield
From the book:

The Grip
     to Tess Gallagher

My Pacific intertidal life guide clearly
identifies today's find as a common acorn
barnacle, specifically Balanus glandula,
staking also its claim to fame:  a naked
tenaciousness, possessing as it does one
of the strongest known natural adhesives.

But I passed over their chitinous craters filled
with moist, gray, blank eyes of primitive
meat & attendant barbed legs yet feeding,
to study ones long gone to crows & gulls,
shells of former simple selves holding,
holding on, outlasting, yes, even death.

I had to be my own life guide, perceive
such creatures as the antithesis of morning
mists over the strait straying off so easily
into thinnest of air at the slightest touch
of light.  I came to know them quite clearly
otherwise, those old soul barnacles, those old lovers.

Midst is a 32 page  hand-sewn chapbook.

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