House on the Wabash between Darwin Ferry and Merom

a photo from the personal archives of Dr. James Gammon, a house on the bank somewhere between Darwin Ferry and Merom. What would you write about this house?

Write it in the comments….

Update on Wabash project with a poem from the Deam Wilderness

I’m finalizing plans for my Wabash workshops now, and I’m talking with a lot of great people around the state. More soon.

Bulbs are shooting up green everywhere. In our yard today, two tulips bloomed. The daffodils have been open for a few days, but in the Deam Wilderness, they bloom a little later because of the dense canopy–even in March.

Here’s a prose poem about daffodils from my Dream Wilderness chapbook from Finishing Line Press. This seems more uplifting than my poems on global warming.

To Daffodils in the Wilderness
Late, long blooms slowed by the pines’ shade, you mark houses foreclosed and burned, cellars half-filled. On these ridge tops, the pines mark the extent of fields and pasture, and I can’t help but scheme where the pigs were kept, the milk cow, where the barn sat, where the best field was.

But you always tag the house, a porch, broken brick gateposts, the wagon track. You’ve propagated for eight decades, poisonous bulbs fending off rodents. Early June, your petals have perspired their narcotic scent. The coronas have collected pollen—the pistils swell—and dumb me with their stark yellow.

Jonquils or Narcissus—my grandmother’s names, all bastardized from taxonomy—you cache this place’s last memory before pines and erosion control. How long did the farmer stare at his failing land as the rain runoff eroded its way back from ridge edge and ate the brown dirt of his best bearing field? When did the gullies grow so deep that he could stand in them? How long did he stare at the gullies’ sides and see his own failure?


Another Indiana beauty–and another current obssession:

Glad to see this documentary coming out. This area south of Lake Michigan in Indiana had some of the highest biodiversity in North America before we ditched and dredged and channelled and logged and destroyed it all.

The more I see old maps of northern Indiana, the more I realize we live in what was once a river of trees and limestone.

Seven Pillars on the Mississinewa

A couple weeks back, I went to visit Seven Pillars along the Mississinewa River, a sacred site for the Miami Indians. I drove from Marion, where my wife grew up and where her mother still lives, along the Frances Slocum Trail and the reservoir.

Random thoughts:

  1. tributary
  2. Miami’s sacred place, their last place
  3. Surprised it hasn’t been strip-mined or flooded
  4. limestone, luminscent
  5. banks of limestone
  6. forgot my camera, took some photos with my phone before it died
  7. gray water
  8. You should read Jared Carter. I should read more of him.
  9. limestone cliffs twenty or thirty feet high
  10. trash
  11. cedars growing in crevices in the limestone
  12. rooms and grottos
  13. ACRES Land Trust
  14. A 2’x2′ lid to a metal safe
  15. Peru, where the Mississinewa dumps into the Wabash
  16. Peru, where Cathy Day is from, the place that inspired The Circus in Winter
  17. Peru, where Circus Lane is down the road from the cemetery where the last Miami War Chief, Francis Godfroy, is buried
  18. The dam for the Mississinewa Reservoir seems entirely too large
  19. Carter’s poem Mississinewa Reservoir
  20. Near Marion, War of 1812 battlefields, where the Miami and other tribes began to feel the final push for removal
  21. LaFountaine and Fabulous 105


At the IMA 100 Acres last week, I read poems covering Big Walnut Creek, Wabash River, and White River. My White River poem was about Oliver’s Woods, site of Central Indiana Land Trust ‘s headquarters.

I also read my poem about the Miami Indian word for river, Siipiiwi. Check out David J. Costa’s linguistic work in  The Miami-Illinois Language and his ongoing work with the Myaamia Project. I’m ordering myaamia neehi peewaalia aacimoona neehi aalhsoohkaana: Myaamia and Peoria Narratives and Winter Stories now. Video below.

-the Miami Indian word for river

River, río, riparian—who first spoke “Ri”
at a large flowing expanse of water
and understood the response?
In vulgar Latin or Old French,
how did water say water?
how did eddy say eddy?
Every Gaul and Roman uttered “Ri”
as fields creeped closer to banks
and trees disappeared.

The Miami knew untouched rivers,
the Waa-paah-siki, the Bright White River,
not this silted, polluted flow.
They knew the Kingfisher’s call,
the heron’s spearing bill,
the trolling pike and muskellunge
in the clear water,
the limestone bottoms’ gurgle,
and they knew the river water lapped against
rooted and tangled banks, shaded—siipiiwi.

first published in Alehouse 2009

Reading and spontaneous poem at IMA

Yesterday, I was fortunate to read in a yoga and poetry session inspired by water as part of Kathleen Ball’s Island Residency and FLOW: Can You See the River?  and FLOW Family Day at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The most fun was creating a group poem with all the attendees. We laid back, closed our eyes, then started to make river sounds, then we said words that came to mind, then back to sounds, then silence. See video below. It’s a great way to commune with yourself and your world and your fellow humans and create something great.

Create: Service Center


Here’s a great article in NUVO (Indianapolis’ alternative newsweekly) about the development of Big Car, an arts collective I’m a part of, and Service Center, our latest endeavor in an abandoned tire store by Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis. Much of my creative energy over the last few months has gone to helping create this space for others to use as a garden, gallery, library, installation space, work space, and community center. Oh, and a publishing center. More on that later.

Poems in Midwestern Gothic

Pleased to have two poems in this next issue of Midwestern Gothic along with Carbondale compatriots Chad Simpson and Jason Lee Brown and Indy/Purdue friend Sarah Layden. If there’s ever a way to summarize my work, midwestern gothic might be it. There’s probably not a journal on midwestern barbeque. Great to have this journal out there.

Midwestern Gothic cover

The River Wabash

The Midwestern landscape has become my obsession in exploring the junctures of lyric poetry, imagination, and metaphor with ecology, folklore, geology, politics, and history. And that obsession has become my own poetics, my ecopoetics, which I see as poetry that engages every possible aspect of people, landscape and ecosystem. The Wabash is my next project.

To me, the Wabash is a metaphor for all aspects of the writing I engage. From the Wabash’s importance to the Miami and other tribes to the Canal Era, the Wabash is rich with history and folklore. As the longest stretch of undammed river east of the Mississippi, its 411 free flowing miles inspire understanding about ecosystems. And as an important river for industry and agriculture, its course reflects human use and abuse of our precious water resources, especially in the Midwest.

Hello Wabash!

Welcome to my blog site for the Wabash River Poetry Project, which is funded through an Individual Artist Grant by the Indiana Arts Commission. During my project this year, I’ll be visiting areas along the Wabash River and writing about them. Mostly poems, but I’m sure some essays and stories will come out of this, too. And I want to bring my friends (or they’ve already invited themselves along).

So I want this site to be about my work as well as the groups, natural areas, cities, towns, people, writers, and artists I encounter along the way. So I hope to have guest posts from all along the Wabash River.