runoffHere’s how my co-editor Beth Adams and I began an email to qarrtsiluni supporters this morning. If you’d like to join our bimonthly notification list, please drop us a line: qarrtsiluni (at) gmail (dot) com.

Winter isn’t quite done with us yet in the northeastern U.S. and Canada, but the usual pas de deux between winter and spring is well underway. At qarrtsiluni, we’ve begun to solicit contributions to a new kind of dialogue, as well. The theme for March and April is ekphrasis – poetry (or poetic prose) in dialogue with visual art. Our two guest editors have extensive experience in creative writing, editing, art and design. For links to their blogs and to our general guidelines for submission, please see the full theme announcement.

Trembling to be trees

Standing in our numbered rows
we stretched and stretched, embracing

the enormous air, our fingers
splayed, heels rising up

off the floor, bodies grunting, sweating,
trembling to be trees.

That’s from “Forest,” by Mike White: the poem featured today in Poetry Daily. It seemed like a timely reminder to check out the brand new edition (#9) of the Festival of the Trees. Among the many and varied topics covered in this edition, I was especially struck by the beeched wail; Napier’s Bones; l’emondage; and the rather startling news that E‘s 7th sexiest celebrity in the world has married a tree — actually, two trees. Whether she herself is “trembling to be [a] tree,” the blogs don’t speculate.

Weekend reading

skeletonized leaf

The 2nd edition of Oekologie brings together a diverse array of blog posts on ecology and environmental science (including two of mine).

This is a new and badly needed blog carnival, and I urge anyone with an interest in ecology or natural history to consider linking and submitting links. Here’s the home page. (For a weekly collection of more general environmental blog posts, see the Carnival of the Green. The most recent edition (#64) is here.)

Dave’s 9 Rules for Blogging

To join my exclusive blog network, you must first swear fealty to the 9 Rules. After all, without rules, there’d be no rules.

1. Whatever you do, don’t bore yourself.1 For example, by blogging about blogging. *yawn

2. Provide substantial original content now and then. That’s the only thing that keeps the endless conversation at the heart of the interactive web from devolving into empty, meaningless chatter. Well, that and catblogging.

3. Never pass over a great title for a blog post just because it might hurt its searchability. That’s fucking lame.

4. Don’t take any numerically based ranking systems seriously. Technorati barely even works half the time, and the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem is a travesty of true ecological relationships spawned by a Bushite blog portal.2 Besides, why should we let numbers run our lives? Rank yourself alphabetically instead. Does your blog title begin with a V? Get to the bottom of the list!

5. If you don’t promote yourself, no one else will. Why not email your friends individually and offer them $5 if they’ll read your blog for a week? If you’re a knitting blogger, be sure to work your URL into everything you knit.

6. Always remember, no matter how clever you may think you are, somebody named Ralph probably said it first.3

7. Blogging is more than just a soapbox or self-publishing outlet — it’s a way to connect with like-minded people. If you’re a food blogger, why not invite your favorite Central Pennsylvania-based literary blogger over for dinner sometime? He’s probably nowhere near as obnoxious in person.

8. Snark without humor means the trolls have won.

9. Post at least once, O.K.? No post, no blog! I’ve had it with you people.

1 Boring everybody else is, of course, perfectly acceptable. In some situations, it may even confer a perverse kind of status in the blogging world. I name no names. [back]

2 Some of the best stuff on the internet appears on small sites with few incoming links and all too few readers. You’ll be lucky if you’re ever a fraction as good at photoblogging as Paula’s House of Toast, nonfiction as prairiemary, or poetry as Vivid. [back]

3 Ralph P. Lipswitch in Hoboken, for example, or CuttingRoomRalph33, on YouTube — or even Ralph W. Emerson. My favorite blogging-applicable Emerson quotes:

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.



frost hand

When I came up the house yesterday morning, my mother was in full rant mode. I encouraged her to blog about it at our new Plummer’s Hollow site.

Many schools were cancelled including Tyrone. I couldn’t believe it. In Maine, at 40 below, I removed the heater from the car engine, bundled baby Mark in layers of clothes, and took Steve to first grade and Dave to nursery school in our Volkswagen bus that never warmed up above zero during our half hour ride. No one ever talked of calling school because of the cold.

And here, one year when Bruce was off to a conference in January and the boys had to get to school on their own, I walked them the two miles down to town at zero degrees, we stopped at a restauarant and they had hot chocolate to warm up, and then they walked on to school while I walked home. I remember the hoarfrost clinging to the trees beside the river and forming on my hair. In those days, Tyrone didn’t cancel school because of the cold. No wonder kids stay indoors like their parents, mesmerized by technology and getting fatter day by day. The outdoors has become something to fear.

I feel much the same way. Pennsylvanians have always been weather-wimps, and they seem to be getting worse. Plus, weather forecasts weren’t as hysterical back in the seventies and eighties, when we regularly got alot more snow and cold than we get now. Sometime in the past ten years, I became aware of the fact that the threat of virtually any measurable snowfall, or temperatures falling below 10F, is an occasion for a “winter weather advisory,” a “winter storm warning,” or a “winter storm watch” (possibly a misuse of the National Weather Service terminology). The wind-chill factor was just beginning to take hold when I was a kid; now, it’s almost constantly on the lips of broadcasters eager to keep people inside and glued to their TVs or radios.

However, I must admit I’m not as cold-hardy as either of my parents. Both sleep with one of the windows open in their bedrooms, even at two below F with a howling wind. “Well, I have a really warm comforter,” Mom told me. “And when it’s really cold like this, I tie a sweater around my head.” Ohhhh…kay.

knot (detail)

This seems like a good juncture to remind everyone that qarrtsiluni will be soliciting for contributions to the current theme, “Come Outside”, only through the 15th. Our guest editor, Fiona Robyn, has been doing a fantastic job acquiring, editing and assembling posts to go up at the rate of five a week; by Friday we will have welcomed our tenth new contributor since the middle of January. I hope some more of our past contributors will feel inspired to send stuff in, as well. And of course, we welcome just plain readers, too! If you like what you see there, please help spread the word.

snow boot

I’ve been getting outside as I can, both to snap pictures and to do a little bit of sledding. I do wish it would warm up enough to snow some more; the snow cover we have is so thin that strong sunlight is enough to melt it off on south-facing slopes, even with temperatures in the single digits.

My apologies to subscribers for the duplicate posting. I’ll blame it on my half-frozen typing fingers.

The path that was never ment to be tooken

Archives are a funny thing. As I mentioned back on January 3rd, Via Negativa does get occasional comments on older posts. And despite the likelihood that web searches account for the largest single group of visitors to this or any blog, it’s always a bit of a shock to realize that posts one thinks of as existing in the past are still quite present.

It would be interesting, as an experiment, to design a blog with no time and date stamps at all, and a completely randomixed archive. The links from post to post would work the same way as those “Next Blog” links on the top bar of Blogspot blogs. Instead of a “Recent Posts” link list, the sidebar would feature a random list of “Other Posts,” and the front page would display a single post from the archives that would change every time the page was renewed. When you wrote a new post, it wouldn’t be singled out in any way; there’d be no pinging, no feed. The search bar would be the only way to find a particular post.

That is, in fact, the kind of website I used to fantasize about creating back in 2003, during the nine-month gestation period for Via Negativa, when all I had was a lousy Geocities site. I still think it would be a neat way to share a large collection of poems: curiosity would keep people clicking, and the inevitable repetitions of some poems would encourage re-reading.

This would also be a good way to display a sacred text, wouldn’t it? There are already those who treat Google as an oracle, or who use random selection software for a cyber version of stichomancy. So the internet is already a source of revelation for some. I figure it’s only a matter of time until some whacked-out newage prophet decides to try and harness that vatic power for some revolutionary new covenant between humanity and the spider-god of the web.


Yesterday, my post on mushrooms from last July received this delightful comment from Anonymous:

Shrooms are the best shit u can have. Thanks to them I am able to see the future and know what lies a head. I have seen humanity rise and fall many times but in the end it does not matter for what reasons that we face now and things that we ignore will haunt us for our lives, for there will be consequences for every action done or word said. There is no hope but only hell to come all to have fallen victims to the ways of the path that was never ment to be tooken, those that sleep for eternity will once rise and except whats coming to them for they know but did not act, all is well that ends well, for those that ment good.


Silly image of a scrolling marquee, hosted by ImageShack.us

Outside at home

He compares notes with the Sun,
his head bobbing and bobbing:
a duck proof-reading water.

Promenade, a poem by British writer Ian House, kicks off the new “Come Outside” edition of qarrtsiluni, which will add a post every day this week. And our guest editor, Fiona Robyn, tells us to expect more goodies in the weeks to come, so stay tuned! If you’d like to submit your own work, the general guidelines are here and the theme description is here.


The Greek root words oikos logos, literally “the study of household” were first combined by Mr. Recapitulation himself, Ernst Haeckel back in 1866. Haeckel was referring to the interactions within the house of nature, and we have used the word ecology (translated from the German Oekologie or í–kologie) to describe complex systems of life both extant and extinct.

Oekologie, the new blog carnival on ecology and environmental science, has its first edition up. It’s a promising start, with links to a large handful of thought-provoking pieces.


Living under a rock, you learn
to listen. It’s not all thuds
& rustles & the odd shriek.

Yeah, I know — bad form to quote myself.

powered by ODEO – click here if you can’t see the player

More thoughts on recording my poems here.

Beer and ecology

I don’t know if I’ll have time for a regular post today, but in the meantime, I’d like to call to your attention to two promising new ventures. The first is my buddy Chris O’Brien’s fabulous new Beer Activist Blog. Chris is the author of the recently published book Fermenting Revolution, a very fun read (I got it for Christmas), which takes writing and thinking about grain-based fermented beverages in a whole new direction. If you like beer, be sure to stop by and give him some encouragement so he’ll keep blogging. He just finished a series on the Twelve Beers of Christmas. Here’s an excerpt from #12:

Avery Brewing in Bolder, Colorado and Russian River in Santa Rosa, California both brew Belgian style beers they independently named Salvation. When the coincidence was discovered, rather than become adversarial, they chose a path of cooperation. Instead of competing for the rights to the name as other breweries might do, they decided to live and let live, and even decided to brew a special beer together that is a blend of their Salvations.

The result is a beer they named Collaboration Not Litigation Ale.


A just-launched blog carnival aims to showcase “the best ecology and environmental science posts of the month from all across the blogosphere.” Oekologie sounds as if it will be considerably more science-focused than Festival of the Trees, but I think it ought to meet a real need. Here’s what they’re looking for:

Oekologie is a blog carnival all about interactions between organisms in a system. While Circus of the Spineless might look for a post discussing the hunting techniques of a trap door spider, Oekologie is looking for posts discussing how a trap door spider’s hunting techniques affect prey populations or its surroundings. While Carnival of the Green might look for a post discussing a big oil policy decision regarding ANWR, Oekologie would accept a post describing the ecological consequences of pipeline construction in the area.

Again, we are looking for posts describing biological interactions – human or nonhuman – with the environment.

Topics may include but are not limited to posts about population genetics, niche/neutral theory, sustainabilty, pollution, climate change, disturbance, exploitation, mutualism, ecosystem structure and composition, molecular ecology, evolutionary ecology, energy usage (by humans or within biological systems, succession, landscape ecology, nutrient cycling, biodiversity, agriculture, waste management, etc.

The deadline for submissions to the first edition is January 13.