NAPOMO FAN MAIL DOS / cause poets don't get enough love letters : Michael Earl Craig, poet & farrier
Michael Earl Craig I love you for a number of reasons: (1) you are a poet I can admire cause you hold horses' feet on a weekly/yearly basis. This is more than okay with me. If I had a stronger back, maybe I could do this line of work too & I respect it cause it's hard work. I would know knowing horses. Livingston, MO is a place I feel I'd love & you live there. I wonder if you've met Jim Harrison or Russell Chatam or any of those ole wild men. (2) your poems / YOUR POEMS. Your poem "Advice For The Poet" does just what it says. Here it is in total: "Never aim your bicycle at a chicken. / Never set your glasses on an anvil." This is sound poet-to-poet info here. In the poem, "I Was Thinking," in the first section, you write: "I thought: It's Wednesday, I'm / gonna get me a belt buckle with / a bald eagle on it. / The wind chimes went batty." This makes me happy as well. All of your books make me happy & so here is your fan mail from me, Shelly Taylor, for NAPOMO. Thanks! And salud!
poem one, from CAN YOU RELAX IN MY HOUSE
IN PATIENT SPADEFOOT TORPOR,poem two, from YES, MASTER
he waits, for he is a spadefoot. And as surely as men
ride in the beds of pickups holding shovels, sometimes
squinting, so too does the spadefoot. He is surrounded.
An ant crawls across a dog biscuit. Nobody seems to ever tire
of this. Then everyone gets tired at once, and night is quiet.
It is now that the spadefoot works his little leg.
In time a hallway is made, and a woman,
and we see the remains of a muffin left out on a plate
by the window, which somehow holds for me all of Evening.
Rain falls on the world, and into the cracks, and into a teacup
someone left on a fencepost. Each drop comes tapping the garden.
A mudslide occurs and the spadefoot is swept away.
You could say I rode a tall horse.
You could say I rode a long black horse.
In reality I'd never even touched a horse.
I drove by them all the time.
Horses loose in pastures;
horses tied to fences, to trees;
horses running wild along the ditches;
and then the ones that simply stood in the rain,
that baked in the sun,
that dreamt with their heads down.
As I shot past in my car it was all I could manage
to even glance at a horse.
However, I do remember noticing
this one horse, a grey horse;
he was young and was kept apart from other horses.
He was always pacing and stomping
and throwing his head and whinnying,
and basically always on the brink
of exploding chest-first through the fence
to get over to the other horses.
For horses are herd animals.
Horses need other horses.
Horses easily die of loneliness.
This young grey horse seemed to be doing this.
He was a colt when I first saw him,
and about thirty-two when I finally pulled over and parked my car.
I left the engine running and got out
and strode through the tall grass
to get to the barbed-wire fence where he stood.
He was quite old, sway-backed, bad teeth.
His eyes were sunk in his head. He no longer
moved about, but just stood there in place
and sort of bobbed his head
in a kind of left-to-right figure eight.
It was all he was capable of--I could see this
as I approached him in his pasture.
All the other horses were in a distant pasture.
They looked like specks of black rice
on the yellow hillside. I reached the fence.
I was finally standing not three feet from this horse.
I reached over the top strand of wire.
As I lowered my hand
the horse looked at me serenely
as if he'd known me all his life.
I patted his head.
I am one of the world's largest assholes.
You are a farrier. "One who shoes horses." But you never explicitly write about shoeing horses, I don't think. Is shoeing horses a passion for you? Or do you do it for the money? Can you write a five word, two line poem about being a farrier?
Go look at the poem called I RATTLED OFF TO WORK TODAY in new book. That may not be “me,” but that’s how time usually moves for me (and that is definitely my pickup).
Yes, shoeing is a passion. It's very challenging and rewarding work. I have to run a business, be good with people, be good with horses, understand equine anatomy, and work well with my hands. Most of the tools used daily are tools that have been in use for hundreds of years. In many ways it’s very primitive. I’m like a caveman, really—stooped over, smeared with horseshit and urine, blowing farmer snots next to the customer’s Navigator, just looking for my next Ibuprofen.
But what exactly is the caveman up to? Well, to summarize: I'm carefully trimming and sculpting the horse’s foot with nippers and a rasp while holding it between my knees (not kidding). Then I look at it carefully, take a few measurements, and go to the anvil to shape an inanimate object (horseshoe) to fit this horse's foot. I use a forge so the metal is extremely hot and has to be handled with tongs. After a few trips, making sure the shoe fits, I quench it in water and take a small hammer named Rick and nail it (shoe) onto the horse's foot while he/she stands there on 3 legs, quietly or not.
But yes, I also do it for the money. There is no money in poetry.
Brief poem you asked for: Fondling my clinch / block, wondering.
all this from an interview with tao lin