Originally published in Willow Springs 74

From the author

Notes on “Harvesting Crows”

“Harvesting Crows” was one of those rare poems that came out all of a piece. The writing flowed. The first draft was almost in its present form, leaving me to change only a few words, drop a few unnecessary phrases. I wrote it one night after walking, and I find my “night” poems more easily shed my writing censor— logical day me— allow escape to other places where the world has no logic, only images and emotions.

I’ve always been a feminist and that is an influence here, but also the poem is a gentle mocking of society’s expected gender roles— men are portrayed as outdoor chefs over their giant barbecue pits, spears (well, skewers) in hand, blood staining their aprons or in this case, their bare chests.

As for crows themselves, I’ve always loved crows: their communal fellowship, their keen intelligence, and wily survival skills. This is probably my eighth or ninth poem about crows. In winter they leave the nearby farm country and roost in high trees in town. During winter sunsets, they noisily converge from every direction and take over the neighborhood sycamores— gathering that always makes me stop and observe. Apologies to them for treating them rather brutally here, but I do so with great respect and besides the occasion is entirely fictional.

Notes on Reading

Reading provides inspiration, motivation, a call to arms (the keyboard), a sense of challenge, and ideas, ideas, ideas. It’s my travel ticket to exotic places and places down the road that I will never visit in person. It’s mainly how I learn and absorb the world. I read a lot, but I find that the Internet with its literary and political sites distracts from deeper book reading. Probably due to a lack of discipline on my part. But as a librarian and also because I love them, I read many novels so I can do what book people call readers’ advisory. Luckily, most library patrons can find the best sellers themselves, so I’m free to entice them to books that they might otherwise miss.

My favorite recent novel is The Light Between Oceans, a thrilling first novel by M. L. Stedman about a lighthouse keeper shortly after WW1 who finds a baby on an island off Australia. Other recent favorites are Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For the Time Being, a novel that interweaves two stories: one of a young Japanese girl and the other of a North American writer who finds the girl’s diary as jetsam on the beach. Letters from Skye, by Jessica Brockmole, is one of those quirky epistolary novels about a poet living in a remote place in the early 1900s and the correspondence she develops with an American grad student from Illinois. Another wonderful take on life in a foreign country is Mohsin Hamed’s irreverent but utterly absorbing How to Get Filthy Rich in Asia, a fictional retake on the how-to genre.

Novels that describe life in other countries and time periods always draw me. Right now I’m reading one that combines both of these, Kathryn Ma’s The Year She Left Us about a Californian adoptee tracing her past in China and the States. Yiyun Li’s Kinder that Solitude tells the story of three people connected by family and residence in China, and the mysterious death of by poisoning of one. Li is a very perceptive writer who reveals people’s motivations and thoughts that they hide from those close to them.

Ever heard of Typhoon Mary? Mary Beth Keane wrote an inspired historical novel about her life called Fever. And the best war novel I have read in decades is Kevin Powers’ The Yellow Birds.

I love nonfiction too especially memoirs and writing about nature and travel. For our road trip this summer I have Paul Theroux’s The Tao of Travel that is a compendium of both his own travel writing and excerpts from many travel greats about all sorts of subjects from the inhospitable to edible food, travelers’ bliss and travelers’ ordeals, also the things they carried. Jeanette Winterson’s and Gail Caldwell’s memoirs are great reads as is Rebecca Mead’s paean to a great novel My Life in Middlemarch.

And I loved this biography that evoked the early days of our country from a woman’s point of view, Jill Lapore’s Book of Ages: the Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin.

And if you ever wondered what it would be like to be raised in a unique lifestyle, Joshua Safran’s Free Spirit: Growing up on the Road and off the Grid is a revelation. He shows that hippiedom was not all that it’s cracked up to be, in fact, for him it was something to survive with scarring.

Routinely, I scan the new poetry section also. This year my favorites were Gregory Orr’s The River Inside the River and Charles Wright’s Caribou. I’m fascinated by the forms of haiku and haibun and loved Haiku in English: the First Hundred Years edited by Philip Rowland, Allan Burns, and Jim Kacien.

Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories blew me away with the quality of her prose style and her interesting takes on reality. What a natural she is for the short story form.

Finally, (this list could go on and on) Sheri Fink’s chilling Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, a nonfiction book that could be a thriller, tells the extremely disturbing story of what happened at a hospital in New Orleans after Katrina struck. Reportedly, the medical staff there killed some of the oldest and weakest patients in the chaos that followed. The book paints a disturbing picture of what will happen, as more natural disasters caused by climate change strike because our preparation nationwide is weak and hardly formed. An afterward showed how the same thing nearly happened after Hurricane Sandy except that the electricity outage was much briefer.

About Doris Lynch

Photo: m.indianawriters.org

Doris Lynch was born in Pennsylvania but has lived in Indiana for the last 20 years. She’s also lived in an Inupiat village in Alaska (Kivalina), Indonesia, California, and Louisiana. She works as an adult services librarian and reviews poetry for Library Journal. She has one chapbook Praising Invisible Birds from Finishing Line Press and has won four Indiana Artist’s Commission grants for her writing. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines and in several anthologies.