Fox Dreams
A Skulk of Foxes

Sisters Fox and Coyote

Photograph by Katerina Plotnikova

Well, it's certainly no secret on this blog that my Sacred Trinity of favorite living poets consists of Lisel Mueller, Mary Oliver, and our own Jane Yolen. When any of them have a new book on the shelves, it's cause for celebration -- and doubly so in the case of Jane's luminous new collection, Sister Fox’s Field Guide to the Writing Life, for a number of the poems made their first appearance here, in response to posts on Myth & Moor.

Drawing on myth, folklore, fairy tales, and the everyday enchantments of the natural world, Sister Fox (a most Sister Fox illustration by Laura Andersonbeguiling little Trickster) presents poems dedicated to the daily vocation of writing: the rigours and the pleasures, the sweat and the magic, the practical craft and the numinous art.

A storyteller, Jane says,

unpacks his bag of tales
with fingers quick
as a weaver’s
picking the weft threads
threading the warp.
Watch his fingers.
Watch his lips
speaking the old familiar words:

                                “Once there was
                                  and there was not..."

Storytellers, poets, and Tricksters alike are liars whose lies speak truths. "We reveal in stories, " she writes, "even as we revel in them, stripping off skin, muscle, tendons, flensing down to the bone."

Hare and Fox by Jackie Morris

From Little Elvie in the Wildhood by Catherine Hyde

All arts have their mystical elements, their Muses and moments of inspiration flashing like thunderbolts thrown by the gods, but these poems do not shy away from the mundane, earth-bound aspects of the writing life, or the labor that it entails.

At the start of her poem "Switching on the Light," Jane quotes scientist and inventor Thomas Alva Eddison: "Opportunity is missed by most people," he said, "because it arrives in overalls and looks like work.”

Jane responds:

Just so my Muse arrives, sleeves rolled up,
apron tied in front, garden gloves hiding
broken, dirt-encrusted nails.
She hands me a hammer, a spirit level, a saw,
says: Get to work, slug-a-bed, don’t be a sloven!
her language as archaic as her ethic.

Although this is a book that will speak most of all to fellow writers (especially here in the Mythic Arts field), it also has much to offer to creative artists in general....and isn't that all of us? We all create in one way or another: not only in forms traditionally labelled as art, but also in crafting our homes, our gardens, our meals, our families, our work, our communities, and in sculpting the very shape of our lives. In this book, Sister Fox gathers poems that address the daily-yet-timeless process of making, and how that effects our lives, our world. Her bright bushy tail wrapped snugly around her, she sits and she quietly ponders these poems:

She thinks about their habitats, their markings,
the chunnering and chatter of their songs.
They are the birdlife of the writer’s world.
She likes the feel of them, the scent.
She licks her lips.

Fox Confessor by Julie Morstad

Sister Fox's Field Guide to the Writing Life by Jane Yolen (with decorations by Laura Anderson) will be published this autumn by Unsettling Wonders (John Patrick Pazdziora, editor) in conjunction with Papaveria Press (Erzebet Carr, editor). The publication date is October 31, and the book can pre-ordered here.

Pouncing coyote

In the world of Tricksters, Coyote is the big, bad, bold-as-brass cousin of Sister Fox. The following poem from Jane's new book is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author and her publisher.

  Trickster

   I didn’t see you trotting sideways,
   Coyote, thicket-born shape-shifter,
   ears pointing toward the wind.
   Where were you when the story turned, 
   faltered, placed a stake in its own heart? 
   An illustration from Medicine Road by Charle VessWhen need was so great, I wept 
   over the keyboard, mistaking 
   your bold footprints, that wild track,
   for something much tamer.
   Help me find the trail again, 
   out here in the wold where stories start, 
   where crag and sinkhole 
   speak a language we all knew once; 
   and stories poured forth, 
   gushing like a freshet in the spring.

                                                    - Jane Yolen

Coyote Woman

Coyote

The art above is: "Woman and Fox" by the surrealist photographer Katerina Plotnikova (Russia); one of Laura Anderson's Sister Fox decorations; "Hare and Fox" by Jackie Morris (Wales); a Little Elvie illustration by Catherine Hyde (Cornwall); "Fox Confessor" by Julie Morstad (Vancouver, B.C.); an unattributed coyote photograph; a Medicine Road illustration by Charles Vess (Virginia); a detail from my "Coyote Woman" (painted in the Arizona desert); and another unattributed coyote photograph.

Comments

Oh this looks marvelous! It's on my list of Books to Order.

To be in a triad with Lisel Mueller and Mary Oliver? I am stunned and happy. I may make a tee shirt. I certainly will wear it as a badge of the highest honor. Thank you, Terri.

Jane

And thank you, dear, for putting me in your triad of dedications. I'm honored.

Sounds wonderful! Foxes are my soul mates, that's why I sign all my art "Goupil" (old French for fox)

Also, Terri, I love this gathering of fox and coyote art.

Ah yes,

I am awaiting delivery of my pre-ordered copy. All in good time.

Glad you're feeling better.

x A

My copy has been pre-ordered as well.

Terri, what was the title of Jane Yolen's previous collection ?

Teri, Let me say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident while trying to find other books in your fairy tale series and have now fallen in love. This is like taking a course in school, which I have always loved, with out the hassle of going to every class and getting graded. I have always loved the written word and get joy from what I see put forth here. I am not a writer, but I am a stitcher, quilting, cross-stitch, needlepoint, etc., so creating has been a part of my life always. Without the creative outlet I could not have survived the loneliness of being away from family for the last 30+ years or the diagnosis of schizophrenia for my middle child. We ALL need a creative outlet of some kind. As a society we need to foster this joy, astonishment, excitement in our younger people, while they appear to be very connected through social media they are not in touch with their inner core. I will certainly pass Jane's book to my children. Jane has been a favorite of mine for a long time.
Again thanks Gwen

My earlier adult collections: THE RADIATION SONNETS, THINGS TO SAY TO A DEAD MAN, EKATERINISLAV.

Thanks for asking.

Jane

I do wish Jane could make some arrangement to do a book release and reading at Barnes and Nobles in NYC. Mary Oliver will be appearing to release her "Dog Songs" on the eighth at 7PM the Union Square B & N. I'll be there, and, If I have the funds, I'll buy it. I can do no financial transactions on the Internet...and my economy is very close to the bone. Still, some special things can be provided for.
Congratulations to Jane, and thank you Terri. By the way, PBS broadcast this charming five minute film last Saturday--"The Girl and The Fox"--http://youtu.be/ilKaJRsmZiI

The Chorus


In the frozen forest
They gather to sing
And I wait in my
Dark farmhouse bedroom
Hold my breath
And worry they might
One day vanish.
How fearful that is
But at last one voice,
Alto, minor key begins
Followed by soprano
Yip, yip, yips, and
As if from another hill,
A baritone, then
Like a choir in
A forest cathedral
Voices intertwined
Loop and circle, spirals
Of loneliness, of strange
Unheard of knowing
Nearly at the reach of
My listening, Oh, Oh
They mean...I nearly
Know...the coyotes
Make the night safe
The world spinning slowly
I take it all in and
They parade single file
Into my dream.

I promised I will buy this book of your poems and so glad it can be done so soon. Maybe
I'll order the T-shirt too :)

Wonderful!

I didn't know she had a new book coming out. Thanks, Michelle! Another one for my Books to Order list. I too have to purchase books slowly -and depend on our local library a great deal- for we too are living close to the bone. The economics of family farming get harder and harder every year and our current UK government seems to have no interest in the lives of people living and working in the countryside. Though I'm sorry to hear that it's just as tough living in the metropolis of New York City. Thank goodness for poets like Jane Yolen and Mary Oliver, who lift our spirits through the darkest of times.

I agree!! I've never seen a coyote, but I've wanted to every since I read The Woodwife. Thank you for bringing them yipping into my morning, Phyllis.

This is wonderful - I hear them all the time, and sometimes JUST at the edge of my hearing, I look forward to them, deep in the night. Thanks for this!

I recently returned from a six-week writing retreat at our family's tiny log cabin near Yellowstone. There's a coyote den just down the mountain from me. Their chorus came almost every night.

Bereft of their songs and of the murmured conversation of the elk herd grazing near the cabin, I've had a difficult time adjusting to the noisy pace of life back home - this in spite of my having missed my critique group and my other artist friends. Then, via a tasty bread crumb trail from Jane's poem-a-day, I found my way here. I'm so very grateful.

Thank you, everybody. I've never quite written a poem about the coyotes so lightly and quickly. It's the magic here on Myth and Moor, that took me back to my enchanted
forest in Central Oregon.

Thank you for your kind words, Gwen. And welcome to Myth & Moor.

The economics of writing and editing are no better; we live so close to the bone that it's a little scary. A lot of people seem to be in this boat right now. And I agree, thank heavens for the spirit-lifting power of art.

Oh, the songs of coyotes. That's one thing I really miss from my Arizona days.

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