“Because there is so much speed…”

Early RainSwallow Press (1960)
Early Rain
Swallow Press (1960)

Bert Meyers (1928 – 1979) remains one of my favorite poets, and among the handful of poets I turn to again and again. ‘Because there is so much speed’, the first poem in his first book, Early Rain, is perhaps the poem I am most grateful for of all poems I know. If you know his work, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you owe it to yourself to look him up. Luckily we now have his collected poems, In a Dybbuk’s Raincoat, available in a handsome hardcover edition from the University of New Mexico Press (2007).

Often referred to as a surrealist, his use of metaphor and simile is masterful. Because a lot of the surreal images that he places in his poems draws upon the natural world, he could be considered to be a naturalist as well. In the way William Blake, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and Mother Goose might be considered as naturalists. Here’s an example from the sequence poem ‘Postcards’:

“White butterflies in a field

are the frayed handkerchiefs of those

who didn’t finish saying good-bye.”

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Golden Dung Fly

Golden Dung Fly Cannon River Wilderness Area March 28, 2012
Golden Dung Fly
Cannon River Wilderness Area
March 28, 2012

When I encountered this fly earlier this year, I was astonished by its color and its lavish and outlandish spines, almost like quills on its back. I also thought it must be a robber fly, because of the way it perched and the way it was hunting smaller flies. Zooming in on the photographs, later, revealed a truly strange and fantastic creature. A little research on the web quickly dispelled any niceties I had imagined, especially as this bug’s truly humble origin was revealed…its larvae ate dung. This was not a robber fly but a Golden Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria). If I had known right off what I was looking at, I may not have stopped to watch it so closely or taken the time to get a photo. As it stands, I learned something about looking without judgment, and the reward of holding to simple, unblinkered wonder. Which is why I’ve chosen it as avatar for this blog.

Golden Dung Fly Cannon River Wilderness Area March 28, 2012
Golden Dung Fly
Cannon River Wilderness Area
March 28, 2012

Where the Body Is Hid

On my way to Mallard Island—the Isle of Ten-Thousand Books—in June, 2010, I stopped at the public access on Rainy Lake east of the town of Ranier. While poking around in the grass looking for dragonflies this large, brightly colored beetle caught my eye and I was able to get one blurry photo before it flew. A Boreal Carrion Beetle (Nicophorus vespilloides), this circumpolar species can also be found in Europe and the UK where it is know as a Common Sexton Beetle. If you need to know where the body is hid, this beetle will show you the way. (Note the blurry mites on this beetle’s blurry back and neck)

Koochiching CountyJune 13, 2010
Koochiching County
June 13, 2010

Several beautiful photos of this species can be found at the Eakring Birds website.

The Boreal Carrion Beetle is closely related to the critically endangered American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), a species once known from Minnesota but now locally extirpated.