A simple life, a complicated man: finding balance with Red Snow Fence

A simple life, a complicated man: finding balance with Red Snow Fence

Cahuenga Press has just come out Red snow fence by Harry E. Northup (Cahuenga is a cooperative press and Red snow fence is the 15th book they have published since their inception in 1989). The collection includes poems written between October 2002 and September 2005.

Reading Northup’s poetry I would have felt like a voyeur had it not been obvious that Northup’s generous heart invites me to his private conversations on poetry, film and love, those most universal and therefore intimate subjects. This is the delicate balance of Red snow fence, that inclined structure that keeps the cold, harsh realities of the world at bay so we can live in a sheltered place. Artists like Harry E. Northup, gifted yet generous with his gift, embody this structure. A consistent theme throughout the book is his search for a listening, open community of souls willing to engage in a shared exchange like in past the periphery:

community needs depth,
Mystery, respect, a listening

As I read and heard his daily life with his wife (poet Holly Prado) and his cats and his work, I couldn’t help but cry at the simplicity, at the clarity of the love, passion and compassion he had embodied – just a man writing in the middle of the night with a cat on his lap and a woman sleeping in the next room as in the night:

The night was always a friend
& I’m with cats, my wife is sleeping
& I write, no longer alone

The book also chronicles his trials and triumphs as a working actor in Hollywood, and in this world of material rewards, Northup reminds us that while some find modest success and most grow embittered, something more important is at stake the reason heart:

& in 2 or 3 there is care and comfort
& in most a desire to work, an indifference
I love films and directors

& in hemmingway the topic was
of going on with grace and dignity
although physical damage &
Mental damage has occurred

& the mental pain has an inside
undefinable reason for hope
& that’s why I read & I write

While the first two-thirds of the book are grounded in everyday physical realities, the last third is of Red snow fence takes us on a journey through night visions that seem to me to be part memory, part premonition. I was struck by the beauty of these abstract paintings and in awe of an artist who could move from the basic reality of everyday life to the surreal horror and hope and spiritual soaring of these poems. In particular, I answered it Hermit of the Lightperhaps because the visions reminded me of my North Dakota roots, much like the earlier images of Northup’s native Nebraska:

Seclusion, green valley & then a
rolling disc, ferris wheels spinning
golden wheat, grain elevator, moon
full & golden too, an eye over a
dark ship pushing in the dark

For me it felt like a passing memory but also a spiritual awakening. The truth is buried deep in our subconscious and at the same time awaits us beyond our imagination. The simple truth is that Red snow fence by Harry E. Northup touched deeply this reader and poet and will long resonate with me.

Thanks to Sanora Bartels | #simple #life #complicated #man #finding #balance #Red #Snow #Fence


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