Bob Arnold is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, including two train-traveling books American Train Letters and Go West. As he explained in an interview, I grew up as a small town boy in the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts in a lumber family that taught me immediate allegiances amongst an Irish working-class family on the one hand, as opposed to the lumber magnet and those influences. I early on sided with the working-class, the Irish, the carpenters I saw come and go in our house, as a toddler, the same ones I would work with as a boy. Later, he moved to Vermont where he began writing poetry. I moved from the Berkshires to southern Vermont and set up a cabin in the woods and met my next community of happy souls in the tattered network of backwoods mechanics, loggers, carpenters, jack of all traders, barely built farmers. All way older than me. All dug in with their lives because there was nowhere else to go, or happy as they are, or that’s all they knew generation after generation. I began to make many poems surrounded and working from this livelihood, lasting for years.
In 1971 Arnold founded Longhouse, as editor and publisher. Along with his wife, Susan, he has overseen the development of that publishing house for over four decades and also managed to run a bookshop from their home. He continues to make a living as a stonemason and builder in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Bob Arnold is literary executor both for Cid Corman, whose poetry I have featured in the Blue Aerogrammes post, and for Lorine Niedecker whose short poems are featured in an earlier post, Mourning Doves. His most recent book, Yokel, is what he calls a long Green Mountain poem. He also produces a regular bog, A Longhouse Birdhouse.
I have called this post Fortune Cookies, not to disparage the poems but to point to the manner in which pithy and pungent statements are contained in a brief space, a brief package. At times they have the concision and the wit of the classic epigram; at times they have the allusiveness and imagistic power of the classic haiku. I enjoy these poems. I hope you do.
Brief Poems by Bob Arnold
Even though we felt like shit
After he said we both looked great
We both felt great
Where there are tall maples and oaks
There once was a barn
Nothing left where it was
Spring snow melt —
River rushing through
One ear and out the other
AFTER THE CHILD
Blue jay never leaves —
All the empty boats of the harbor
doing nothing but
being boats for us
Seeing this –
let me today
if only for a
out a care
I knew I wasn’t alone –
This all day presence of raindrops
On the flat stone step
UP IN THE AIR
Well I’ll be –
Finishing the ridge cap roofing job
An ant walks toward me
Those seem to be the finest birds –
The ones that sing
Through the rain
Owl calling out
Of nowhere at dusk
Was as good as spoken
All poems © Bob Arnold
Some poems from Bob Arnold’s booklet, Devotion (Longhouse 2006).
My Sweetest Friend – an intriguing and engrossing set of 38 short poems on his sister’s suicide.
Twenty-eight Poems and Two Interviews from Coyote’s Journal
An interview with Bob Arnold in Jacket Magazine (2010).
An interview with Bob Arnold concerning Cid Corman’s ‘of’
A Longhouse Birdhouse; Bob Arnold’s blog.
Oyster Boy Review – on some Bob Arnold books