Sunday, January 7, 2024

Wake to Words and Brew Some Coffee (January 7, 2024)

 We have entered a new year, and here is our first reading within it. 

  • Address to the Angels (from her Selected Poems 1960-1990)
  • My Father's Neckties by Maxine Kumin (from her Selected Poems 1960-1990)
  • The Farmer and the Sea by Wendell Berry (from his book The Peace of Wild Things)
  • Awake at Night by Wendell Berry (from his book The Peace of Wild Things)

🠊 Catch the live show Sunday mornings at some time-ish: 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Yes, You Should Read Maxine Kumin's Selected Poems (1960-1990)

I’ve finished my first read of 2024 and a wonderful introduction to the year it was. Maxine Kumin’s Selected Poems (1960-1990) is an interesting growing of life and word over the thirty years. Many of the selections meditate on the farm and its animal inhabitants, especially her horses; there are the reflections on her father’s life and death, her uncles, a few on the loss of her best friend Anne Sexton. Much of the poetry deals with the contrast of those who need and those who have, and she often unravels time and memory to its beginnings with a kind of Lazarus touch.

By the time I reached her poems from The Retrieval System (1978), I was marking most every poem as one to return to—as her writing seems to reach a depth and solidity that previous selections were working toward.
Here is one of the poems I marked that she addresses to an adult daughter:

Seeing the Bones by Maxine Kumin
This year again the bruise-colored oak
hangs on eating my heart out
with its slow change, the leaves at last
spiraling end over end like your
letters home that fall Fridays
in the box at the foot of the hill
saying the old news, keeping it neutral.
You ask about the dog, fourteen years
your hero, deaf now as a turnip,
thin as kindling.
In junior high your biology class
boiled a chicken down into its bones
four days at a simmer in my pot,
then wired joint by joint
the re-created hen
in an anatomy project
you stayed home from, sick.
Thus am I afflicted, seeing the bones.
How many seasons walking
on fallen apples like pebbles in
the shoes of the Canterbury faithful
have I kept the garden up
with leaven of wood ash, kitchen leavings
and the sure reciprocation of horse dung?
How many seasons have the foals
come right or breeched in good time
turned yearlings, two-year-olds, and at three
clattered off in a ferment to the sales?
Your ponies, those dapple-gray kings
of the orchard, long gone to skeleton,
gallop across the landscape of my dreams.
I meet your father there, dead years before
you left us for a European career.
He is looping the loop on a roller coaster
called Mercy, he is calling his children in.
I do the same things day by day.
They steady me against the wrong turn,
the closed-ward babel of anomie.
This Friday your letter in thinnest blue
script alarms me. Weekly you grow
more British with your I shalls
and you’re off to Africa
or Everest, daughter of the file drawer,
citizen of no return. I give
your britches, long outgrown, to the crows,
your boots with a summer visit’s worth
of mud caked on them to the shrews
for nests if they will have them.
Working backward I reconstruct
you. Send me your baby teeth, some new
nail parings and a hank of hair
and let me do the rest. I’ll
set the pot to boil.

Like the strongest poems in the collection, or at least the ones I’m most drawn to, Kumin balances vivid imagery as she moves from present to past or vice versa. Similar to Wendell Berry’s necessary agrarian awareness of the seasons, Kumin marks time as a farmer—constantly made aware of death and birth, and the past repeating itself through to present, despite war, atomic bomb, farflung children, or long lost relatives. It snows, the mare is pregnant, she mows, the calves are hauled off to slaughter, her children age, and a grandchild is born--and through that tapestry thread the memories of the past, hers and the abstract larger one.
It’s an excellent collection of work, and I feel deeply connected to her now, as though I am rooted too on the East Coast on a rural New Hampshire hill. I recommend finding a copy for yourself to peruse. The poems invite rereading and like all good poetry, bring the brain to a meditative simmer that makes your own life one worth considering.


Monday, January 1, 2024

Standing Atop Chronicle Building with my book Unexpected Weather Events


On Thursday, February 22, I'll stand on the rooftop of Spokane's Chronicle Building at 7 PM--with my book, on purpose, and for the Spokesman Review event Northwest Passages. I'll read a story or part of one, and then Shawn Vestal will join me in discussion about Unexpected Weather Events. I am told it is a beautiful, intimate setting. Is it enclosed? I do not know. Will we shiver together despite scarves and coats? Will I tie a rope around my waist and offer the other end to Shawn, to prevent either of us from falling over the edge while daydreaming?

I'm honored to be part of the Northwest Passages series and am curious to discover what it's all about. That I'm investigating as the featured author instead of an audience member will present some obstacles, no doubt, but I hope that you'll join me there and help me to fill in any gaps I could not observe. Perhaps you could bring a chalk bag and sturdy climbing shoes. The one time that I did try to climb the side of a cliff, many years ago, I dangled far more than I clung. But I believe I was in college, hung over and had no knowledge that I had a core, much less a strong one. 

I think I'll do much better this go round.

For more information about the event and to order tickets, visit


Sunday, December 31, 2023

Wake to Words and Brew Some Coffee (12/31/23)

 Welcome to the last Sunday and day of the year. Let's share poetry.

  • The Pawnbroker by Maxine Kumin (from her Selected Poems 1960-1990)
  • The Wild Geese by W.S. Merwin (from his book Garden Time)


🠊 Catch the live show Sunday mornings at some time-ish: 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Unexpected Weather Events is January's Get Lit! Book Discussion


Banner Advertisement for Get Lit! Book Club

As most any Spokane-area reader knows, the Get Lit! Festival is a big deal for books, readers, and writers every April in the city. Initially a day-long event, the festival has since grown in popularity, size, and opportunity such that this year the four, fully scheduled days will hardly be enough. From April 11th, 2024 to April 15th 2024, the reading and writing scene in Spokane will be a-buzz with live readings, panel discussions, Q & As, workshops, a book fair, and more. The first time I attended Get Lit! was several years ago when Joyce Carol Oates was the headlining writer. More recently, I went to listen to Roxane Gay. This year, we're lucky to have Carmen Maria Machado. 

In addition to the festival, Get Lit! Programs does community outreach, helps fill local classrooms with guest creative writers--all the while supporting the literary arts. One of the cool events that has blossomed recently as part of Get Lit! is a monthly book club featuring a book by a writer who will be at the upcoming festival. It provides a wonderful opportunity for readers to feel fully immersed in the festival once it arrives because they will already be cover-to-cover familiar with many of the guests. 

My newest book Unexpected Weather Events will be featured in several events at the festival (details forthcoming), which is why it has found itself the January 2024 book selection for the Get Lit! Book Club, which meets the last Sunday of each month at Auntie's Bookstore, 6 PM. 

So, if you're looking for a book club, reading community, and a swell place to find yourself on a Sunday evening, then pencil yourself into Auntie's Bookstore on January 28th from 6-7 PM. (I will not be present for the discussion, but you can find me at Northwest Passages on February 22nd; see Calendar for details.)

More information about the Get Lit! Book Club here.


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Read Me in January, I'll Meet You in February

Unexpected Weather Events
on a window ledge
Why, hello 2024! 

The new year already has plans for you, me, and Unexpected Weather Events

On Sunday, January 28th, the Get Lit! Book Club with Tricia will be held at Auntie's Bookstore. January's selection is none other than Unexpected Weather Events. The discussion starts at 6 PM. This a readers' discussion and so I will not be present. But! here are all the details about the event:

Nearly a month later on Thursday, February 22nd, I will be on the rooftop of the Chronicle building for Northwest Passages, an author discussion series. Luckily, Shawn Vestal will be with me, and we will be tied to each other at the waist in the event that one of us falls, the other will hold on to dear life to a brick or decorative ledge. Shawn Vestal will be leading the conversation about my book, and I will speak back. To witness this, and what I am told is a beautiful venue, you can purchase a ticket for $7. Event starts at 7 PM. Details here:


Monday, December 25, 2023

Book Your Stocking 2023 with Tim Martin

Book Your Stocking 2023 features readers sharing children's books from their past or present. Perhaps you'll stumble upon forgotten books or titles you somehow missed. Should a book find its way into a stocking near you, all the better.

Please welcome my friend Tim Martin from Indianapolis, Indiana. I interviewed Tim via text about this memory in the middle of another discussion. I write about my friend Tim Martin here. I hope you enjoy this moment as much as I did. Merry Christmas!


She Made Us Feel Safe, an interview with Tim Martin

by Erin Pringle

Erin: What was your favorite children's book growing up?

Tim: Dr. Seuss

Erin: What did you like about him?

Tim: So creative with language and easy to read. It was just fun, carefree reading.

Erin: Did you read it or did someone read it to you?

Tim: But you have to realize that I was not a hardcore reader. Funny that you ask. I'm thinking. Our kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Maxwell, would read to us. Haven't thought about that in many years.

Erin: What do you remember of her?

Tim: She was old. And I thought she was the smartest person in the world.

Erin: Do you remember what she looked like or any details about her? Would she read standing up or sitting in a chair or on the floor with the children?

Tim: She sat on a chair in the center. We had mats to sit on, on the floor in front of her. She looked like you except she wore glasses. I remember realizing later that we kids loved her. But didn't know what that feeling was at the time. She kept us safe and made us happy. I think you are Mrs. Maxwell to your kids. That's a supreme compliment.

Dr. Seuss back-cover biography,
photo via eBay


About Tim Martin: Tim lives in his hometown Indianapolis with his wife Laura. He co-owns Martin Brothers Metal Works with his brother Steve, after inheriting the business from his son John. In the summer, he plants a garden; on weekends he has breakfast with his twin granddaughters when they're home from college; and most every day he's at work, welding, thinking, and doing what needs done. There is always so much to be done. 

Tim in shop with my son,
photo by me

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Book Your Stocking 2023 with Bobbi Jean Bell

Book Your Stocking 2023 features readers sharing children's books from their past or present. Perhaps you'll stumble upon forgotten books or titles you somehow missed. Should a book find its way into a stocking near you, all the better.

Please tip your hat for today's reader, Bobbi Jean Bell, all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico.


My Favorite Place to Go

by Bobbi Jean Bell 

My favorite place to go, from as far back as I can remember, was the local library. We were a library family. A weekly visit was prepared for with great delight and anticipation. While reading all the titles borrowed from the previous visit, I'd be making a list of books to bring home the next visit. As the youngest of us kids, I always enjoyed exploring the titles my older brother and sister chose. I was often told, “You’re not old enough yet for this book.” I couldn’t wait to be old enough

When I think back to the library days, I don’t have a strong memory of any one book. Books quickly came into and out of my life. Ravished and consumed. Read aloud. Read silently. Then, returned. That all changed in 1966 when my sister, Wendy, gave me my first book.

My book.

For me.

Oh! What an unexpected gift!

The Golden Treasury of Poetry: Selected and with a commentary by Louis Untermeyer, illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund

After unwrapping this gorgeous book, I sat with Wendy to begin our exploration of poetry. A first for me. She found favorites in the collection and together we read them aloud. We exclaimed over the illustrations. We found time to peruse the chapters – reading one from “Creatures of Every Kind” and then, perhaps, another from “Unforgettable Stories” or “Laughter Holding Both His Sides.”

It is here that I met my first pirate, characters from the Canterbury Tales, Robin Hood, and Queen Mab. It is here that I read aloud, for the first time, Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” and Edward Lear’s limericks. Robert Louis Stevenson, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Wiliam Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Ogden Nash, T. S. Eliot… and more… and more… and more. Each poem became a friend. What a treasure! Each poem, an adventure. Words to relish, to savor, to ponder, to revisit. 

Wendy is eight years my senior. She took me to my first live theater performance, Tartuffe, at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre. Together, we explored Shakespeare and Mozart and Bach. We gathered in her room every Saturday afternoon to listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio. Her passion for the written word was contagious.

Even as our lives took us miles apart, books kept us together. Hours on the phone catching up with what we were reading. And many more hours of our lives sharing our passion for reading with others. For her, as a Children’s Librarian. For me, through interviewing writers on live radio.

I don’t know if The Golden Treasury of Poetry is still in print. I still have mine. It’s worn to the point of lacking resale value. You can see, though, in one of the pictures that the book is happiest being open—and that is priceless.


About Bobbi Jean Bell: Bobbi Jean Bell loves books, music, poetry, the radio, and all things Western. And if you can't find her at home, in the library, or working at her business OutWest Shop, then you'll find Bobbi on the air talking about books, music, poetry, and all things Western. 

On Thursday mornings, she co-hosts Campfire Cafe and Saddle Up America with Gary Holt on, live at noon-1:00 PM (CST) and on demand. 

On Thursday evenings 6 PM (PST), she hosts Rendezvous with a Writer Outwest, in which she interviews every stripe of writer with husband Jim Bell. For nearly a decade, she hosted the writer-interview show The Writer's Block with co-host Jim Christina (archived shows here).

Bobbi also hosts the OutWest Hour radio show featuring Western, Western Swing, and Cowboy Country music, as well as Cowboy Poetry, on KUPR  (Placitas, New Mexico Community Radio) Saturdays 5-6 PM (CST) or on demand.

For details about her upcoming shows, follow her Facebook page.

And if you've recently read a wonderful book, you should tell her. She wants to hear all about it..

Bobbi Jean Bell

My Heart When My Preschoolers Say Thank You

My Heart When My Preschoolers Say Thank You

by Erin Pringle

When I taught college, I sometimes received small, kind gifts from my students--more frequently in the form of a handshake than a card, but sometimes a card--sometimes chocolate. The most common gift came the final day of the quarter or semester, when a student would approach my desk for the last time, lock eyes with me, and nod. I would nod back, and that would be our way of expressing appreciation to each other as well as acknowledging that our time together was now over.

Of course, growing up, I always made a Christmas gift for my teacher as well as an end-of-year gift. I remember huddling over the dining room table, newspapers spread out to protect the surface from the paint I brushed onto ornaments. The miniature and useless paint containers that tipped over more often than they stood aright. 

I don't remember when I stopped giving teachers presents. Junior high? High school?--as the number of teachers seen in a day increased, or once I began working after school, or when I spent tennis season on the courts or driving back from matches? Drama club, plays, musicals--the time it took to memorize lines and block stage directions equal to the time I once would have spent creating presents? In college, I don't remember giving gifts to my professors, but I was a nod-and-handshake sort of student. By graduate school, gifts would have seemed like extravagances; I did not go in for the extravagance. 

Maybe I simply don't remember writing thank-you notes to teachers in the involuntary, generous way that my mother had raised me to do--both through example and practice. I don't think so. 

However, when my son entered nursery school, I immediately initiated him into the custom of giving to teachers--helping him create gifts--pressing his inked baby fingertips onto a card, giving him a sheet of shiny jewels to stick onto ornaments, handing him a paintbrush and miniature nutcrackers to paint. Art, beauty, care--this is what you give to a teacher, this person who has patiently helped you understand the world and yourself better or in new ways. Made your life a little easier by helping you develop a skill, made your life a little harder by giving you new questions and imaginings. Whether that's developing your gross motor skills or introducing you to the decimal system, tying bows, the Trail of Tears.

But it wasn't until a handful of years ago, when I began teaching preschool and kindergarten that I became the gifted in the custom. And what a beautiful role that is, too. 

Sometime in the week before winter break begins, children begin arriving at school bearing gift bags, offering flowers, or clutching construction paper cards that hold their careful drawings and sometimes a gift card for coffee or to the local bookstore. A packet of flower seeds, a sturdy candle, a salt-dough ornament. The coloring-marker drawings of two balloon people, you and them, side by side. A heart drawn with such intent that you can feel the child breathing on the card as he drew, concentrating through the marker as he tried to remember the way to translate the shape he imagined into the shape he saw.

Like the former gaze and nod, the eye-lock and handshake, the best part of the holiday gift--even in preschool--is the moment the child comes through the door, looking for me, and hurries over before becoming suddenly shy as he or she offers the gift. Our shared smiles. Our giving and receiving. I kneel to see their eyes. 

Because they are learning the choreography of this custom--of giving--of what to say, what to expect, when to let go of the handles, how to gauge whether your teacher will offer a hug. How this hug is a different sort from the hugs received after disappointment, pain, tears, irritation. 

And I too am learning what it is for this child to give. The flicker of anticipation in her eyes. His steady answer when asked if I should open it now or wait until Christmas. What expectations they have formed in the time leading up to this moment. It is its own kind of surprise, the giving moment.

Then, we examine the gift together. I ask questions or point out details about the gift that are beautiful--generous--pleasing. They give their own observations, or none if they have gone shy or were more the delivery person for the parent-led gift. One child announces how pleased she is with the gift bag itself--a snowman, Miss Erin! 

To hell with whatever her mother put in the bag--besides that she doesn't remember making whatever might be in there, anyway--but, Miss Erin, do you love this snowman?!

Yes, I say. It's such a happy snowman!

Because it is. The happiest. And so is this small person, face tipped up in a grin, sunlight in her hair.

With my eyes, I say you are my love, my heart, my student. And I am honored that you would want to give this joy, this snowman's glossy cheer to me. I am so honored. Thank you.

This moment that the student tries to make tangible the appreciation of learning. 

This moment that the teacher tries to make tangible the appreciation of teaching.

Through handshake.

Through ribbon.

Through the pause that giving allows--for the student to give and the teacher to receive.

Before we leave each other for holiday, for family, home, so that we may return freshly to the classroom--to our friends and fellow teachers, to the tasks at hand, ready to discover a new day together.


Saturday, December 23, 2023

Book Your Stocking 2023 with Tom Noyes

Book Your Stocking 2023 features readers sharing children's books from their past or present. Perhaps you'll stumble upon forgotten books or titles you somehow missed. Should a book find its way into a stocking near you, all the better.

Please welcome Tom Noyes from Erie, Pennsylvania.


The Hidden Stories

by Tom Noyes

I remember liking Richard Scarry books very much as a tike. Books like What Do People Do All Day? and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go didn't offer much in terms of plot, but the charmingly absurd and busy illustrations--Is that rabbit driving an alligator?--offered lots of raw material for me to use to tell myself stories. While large-ish animals like hippos, pigs, cats, bears, and foxes got the starring roles in Scarry's illustrations, my favorite characters were GoldBug and Lowly Worm, recurring minor players who made miniature, half-hidden spectacles of themselves on the perimeters of the books' pages. To this day, I still find myself interested in these kinds of peripheral characters, suspecting that the most compelling stories might not always be the most obvious ones. 


About Tom Noyes: Noyes is the author of three story collections Behold Faith and Other Stories, Spooky Action at a Distance, and Come By Here as well as the novel Substance of Things Hoped For. He teaches at Penn State in the Behrand College. Write website here:

Tom Noyes