Ode to a Coping Saw

This entry is part 21 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


Perhaps because it is flexible
& maneuverable

or because it has as many teeth
as a school of piranhas

or because it relies on a pull
rather than a push

or because it prefers circles
to straight lines

or because it excels
at impromptu reconstitution

or because it encompasses
so much empty space

it copes.

Ode to a Hive Tool

This entry is part 22 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


You need a key for entering where there is no door.
You are much too full of your mammal self
to fit through the always-open entryway
& in any case would have no idea
how to execute a waggle dance,
which looks like sun-drugged madness to you,
looming over the brood box with your angry halo.

You need the hive tool — a burglar’s jimmy —
to prize the honey-heavy frames
from the super, where they hang
for all the world like file folders,
an archive of everything that blooms.

You bring your smoker, of course,
stuffed with straw you pilfered
from some poor scarecrow.
With tear gas & face shield you come,
gloved & booted,
walking gingerly as a boy with his first erection,
praying for the insurgency to die down.

Ode to a Compass

This entry is part 23 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


I can still recall
my first encounter
with a compass in
the second grade.
It was shiny & dangerous,
a headless ballerina
with one wooden leg.
How odd, I thought,
that we should entrust
the drawing of circles
to something so asymmetrical.
And what to do
about that pinhole
at the center of the paper?
It seemed flawed
& unnecessary, like a seed
for a stone. I wanted
a way to make
a circle from without,
like shaping a pot
on a wheel. I had seen
hawks spiral
around an updraft
with nothing more
than a slight adjustment
to the wingtips.
Shouldn’t we
who are descended
from the trees
be able to free-hand
perfect circles,
simply by letting
the mind go blank
as a target?
The compass is a crutch.
Restore its missing leg
so it can return to
its first life as
a gnomon:
circled by the sun.

Ode to a Shoehorn

This entry is part 24 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


A shoehorn’s a sort of
spoon-shaped chute
for the foot,
not for the shoe.
Or at best, a social lubricant
between the two,
with or without
the Freudian interpretation.

Boots are for those
who toot their own horns,
sporting as we know
the handy bootstraps,
which give the so-called
self-made men
a better metaphor for rising
to their own occasion.

Ode to a Wire Brush

This entry is part 25 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


Never was walking
a greater penance
than for one without any feet
& legs more numerous
than the corrosive rain.
And the to-&-fro of it:
pacing is a refuge
when you can’t stand still.
Do it long enough
& distraction turns into discipline,
the ground warms
& acquires the hard gleam
of an interrogator.
You confess, confess, confess.
Your tracks are covered
with a thin brown dust.

Woodrat Podcast 2: Elizabeth Adams and “Odes to Tools”

This entry is part 26 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


A conversation with Beth Adams about books, publishing, and music

In which I am flabbergasted by Beth’s secret plot to rescue some of my poems from a purely digital existence and give them a better life in print north of the border. We talk about the pitfalls of self-plagiarism, what writers can learn from musicians, the ins and outs of small publishing, and what the hell is up with chalk-line reels that aren’t blue. I read a few of the odes, and manage a plausible-sounding explanation for what I was thinking when I came up with the series.


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New Odes to Tools review by Noel Sloboda

This entry is part 27 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


My chapbook just received a great review at Verse Wisconsin Onlinecheck it out. By “great,” I don’t mean unremittingly positive, but critical in a good way. In fact, the author, whom I don’t know, has singled out some things about my poetry that bother me as well, while also happening to praise some of my own favorite lines and poems in the book, so overall it was very reassuring. I’m not saying I agree with every one of his remarks, but I really appreciate the level of critical engagement they reflect.

The same issue includes an Editors’ Note on Book Reviews in which they explain their philosophy about reviewing; evidently some poets have been belly-aching about “reviews that are less than wholly positive.” It is illustrated by a wonderful painting, unfortunately too small to make out in very great detail: “Marco Polo Forced to Eat Moths.”

Incidentally, Phoenicia Publishing is holding a fall sale: 15% off on all titles through October 1. See the site for details.

New review of Odes to Tools by Kathleen Kirk

This entry is part 29 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


Thanks to Kathleen Kirk for this very warm, light-hearted review of Odes to Tools. I must admit I’m a little abashed: she did my chapbook way more justice than I did hers. It seems she’s able to hold her alcohol better than me. In any case, it’s very gratifying to see one’s work receive such a close and sympathetic reading. Kathleen says:

I admire the precision of language and observation in this book, how the setting unfolds around the focus on the tool at hand, and how each poem, moving quickly and lightly, can also, if it wants, take on a large philosophical idea.

I love how there’s a life here, a personal history, work, a childhood.

Read the whole post here.

Odes to Tools as “living poetry”

This entry is part 30 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


Odes to Tools in southern California
Odes to Tools in southern California (photo by Nicelle Davis)

I was surprised and honored tonight to learn that poet Nicelle Davis has been distributing poems from my chapbook, Odes to Tools, as the first exercise in her new Living Poetry Project. The project’s goal: “to physically take poetry everywhere I go and share it.” She says some very flattering things about my book, but what’s even better, she went to the trouble to distribute its contents to people who might appreciate it. This is of course the very sort of thing I hoped might happen when I decided to license the poems as Attribution-Share Alike under the Creative Commons, rather than just applying a standard copyright. But it’s still very humbling to have people like one’s poems well enough to aid in their dissemination.

To bring Odes To Tools with me in my hometown, I decided to hand write Bonta’s poems onto Thank You Cards. I gave these “love letters to tools” to people who work with them everyday.

I met many kind, generous, and funny people while sharing Odes To Tools with my community. For this (and many other reasons), I’m grateful to Dave Bonta. His book has helped me connect with the physical, intellectual, and emotional aspects of my home—it has helped bring poetry closer to those who construct the home I love.

The gratitude is mutual. Thanks, Nicelle!

(Be sure to read the full post — it includes many more photos.)