The Cloudburst Council

Last weekend I attended the two-day Cloudburst Council, a gathering of poets and writers at the Gell Writers Center northwest of Naples, New York. The Cloudburst Council. But what’s in a name?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was a nice gathering of artists at a lodge set on a forested slope above Canandaigua Lake. Some of these writers had traveled a long way to get to this retreat. Some of them were interesting to speak with and to listen to while reading their work. Some of them even understood that they, and all of us, live in an environment, whether it’s urban or rural or in between, and were able to express connections to it creatively.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had to leave this annual event on Friday evening as a thunderstorm pelted the deck with hail. For half an hour the drive south took me through torrential rain, wipers beating double time, flash of light and thunderclap directly overhead.

The next day I returned. The weather was brighter and calm, and the Council was alive. I left the dining hall of the lodge and rambled over the grounds. On a path to the tree house near Thoreau Cabin, I met a woman with binoculars trying to spot a warbler singing in the canopy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She didn’t sound as though she knew much about birds, as yet. I suggested that the singer could’ve been a yellow-rump warbler, or maybe a redstart. The observer probably thought I’d taken too many liberties with the free beer in the kitchen.

But what’s in a name? I was here to talk with fellow writers and to hear some of their programs. I’d been asked to present my own program called “W.W. Christman: Upstate Poet.” Hardly anyone knows the name.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s my honor to co-publish a book I’ve helped to edit. On the Helderhill: Selected Poems of W. W. Christman will appear in a matter of weeks.

Will Christman was a New York farm poet (1865-1937) who wrote passionately of the land he lived on, and of man’s place in its universe of lives. When I found his work many years ago, I dug behind the name and was amazed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Someone wrote in the Guest Book, What do people call the white trilliums around here? We don’t call them that. Say what? I thought of asking, “Do you call ’em wake-robins?” There’s that thing about the name.

I broke from my narrative about the old poet to recite one of his poems. When “The Passing of the Pine” came to a close, unexpected applause derailed me for a bit– till I found where I’d left off in the narrative.

Losing my place for a moment while reciting for an audience was like searching for an unknown singer in the trees. Who am I and what am I doing? Luckily I held the singer/poet firmly in my head, his notes no less profound.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Had there been a trout stream near the lodge I would’ve taken time to fish. Why not? Only a careerist would scoff, then drone on and try to further his name.

Oh warbler, trillium, poet. What’s in a name? Thinking back to Friday night’s storm, I only know that “Cloudburst Council” had it right.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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6 Responses to The Cloudburst Council

  1. Junior says:

    That last picture is incredible. We’ll be seeing you in just a few days now!

  2. Puget Keith says:

    Skim the dual-line highway
    sinuous Chenango Valley scab…

    When I first read “Self-Directions to Christman Hollow” I grew curious to who was this fellow. Once I read this book I will certainly gain a deeper perspective on who he was. I am sure there are so many “lost” spirits just waiting to be rediscovered. I only fear that folks will move too fast to see what they have missed. Will read this book for sure.

    … Kneel and
    taste the ashes scattered years
    before the ashes feeding
    earth a poetry on the wind
    across the fatherland

    • First of all, Keith, I’m honored by the fact that you’ve made the connection between the poet and my own small piece about him. “Self-Directions” was written and printed in my chap Topographies way back in ’84, shortly after I learned about Christman. Thank you for that, and for your interest in learning more about him. I’m hoping that Beyond the Helderhill, the Selected Poems will appear in a couple of weeks or so, and I’ll keep you posted on that.


  3. Kenov says:

    Good for you. Excited to see the edited book. Given your inclinations, I’m sure it contains some good stuff. Keep us informed.

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