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Back in Paris

Montmarte Paris

On Montmarte, Paris

Arrived in Paris May 4, started work at the International Herald Tribune on the 6th. The city is a circus of rings, where it’s hard to determine who is the audience and who is the performer. Really, here, everyone is both. If you’re sitting at a sidewalk cafe, you’re an audience, and when you get up and walk past a sidewalk cafe, you’re performer. I’m here for at least 10 months, glad to have a ring-side seat. And a chance to walk the tight rope. Or whatever.

 

A rainy day in Chicago

Foggy April day near the Magnificent Mile.

Letter to the editor

When I asked Gary Snyder about “The New American Pessimism,” a phrase coined by the poet Charles Simic, he responded with sharp criticism of the Tea Party movement. A Star Trib reader who admired the sentiment responded with a letter to the editor that ran today in the featured spot. It ran with one of my portraits of Snyder from a 2005 interview.

Home skies

Home in Nebraska. I gave my nephew, Torrin, his first kite for his 9th birthday. He and his grandmother flew it on Holmes Lake Dam, where I spent a lot of time flying kites when I was a kid.

A fine-art book in one weekend

During the last weekend in March, I led a photography workshop in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, with my teaching partner Richard Sennott. This has been a mostly miserable spring in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with late snow, lots of frost and yet at the same time, plenty of mud. (Yet I love it here. It’s a kind of geographical Stockholm syndrome, I think). In any case, the goal of the workshop was to find beauty, even though March along the Upper Mississippi is a time that we’re conditioned to believe is unpleasant. (And let’s face it, in a lot of ways, it is). As George Orwell famously put it, “To see what is in front of one’s nose requires a constant struggle.” These photographers engaged in that struggle and succeeded. They were so enthusiastic about the results of the weekend that one of them proposed publishing a book of our work. So we did. It’s on blurb.com, and it’s easy to browse through. Here’s the link.

A conversation with Gary Snyder

In 2006, I spent three days with Gary Snyder while he was in Ames, Iowa, attending a symposium on wilderness. There was some irony involved; Iowa has the smallest proportion of wild land of any of the 50 states. It has no national parks, few state parks and more than 80 percent of its total surface area is covered in corn and soybeans. But that’s probably why people there are concerned about wild land; it becomes more and more interesting as it disappears. I felt very lucky to have that time with the poet. He was gracious and generous, even when answering the same questions over and over all day. The Star Tribune asked me to interview him again in advance of a reading he’s doing here April 18. Here’s the interview.