Book review: New Kinsey collection is a double offering

copyright the Chronicle March 16, 2016

Galvanized, New and Selected Poems by Leland Kinsey. Published by Green Writers Press, Brattleboro. 381 pages. $24.95 in paperback.

Reviewed by Chris Braithwaite

As its subtitle suggests, Barton poet Lee Kinsey’s new book is a double offering. It begins with a dozen new poems; then a rich selection of his finest work drawn from earlier books that stretch all the way from Northern Almanac (1991) through Family Drives (1993), Not One Man’s Work (1996), Sledding on Hospital Hill (2003), and The Immigrant’s Contract (2008), to Winter Ready (2014).

Galvanized is a double offering in another sense, as well. To readers who know anything of this area and its history it is a beautifully drafted, richly detailed, four-dimensional map through space and time.

But Mr. Kinsey also takes his readers to the wilds of Labrador, the relentless heat of Africa, the wheat fields and dinosaur-rich badlands of western Canada, and the bars of Havana long before Castro tamed them.

Except for the latter, from which Mr. Kinsey was barred by U.S. law, these are first-person accounts of the poet’s travels. He was toured through Tanzania by a cousin, Erwin Kinsey, who has made agricultural development there his life’s work. And in one of the new poems, “Shouldered,” it is good to see that, even removed from the Northeast Kingdom by a generation and the Atlantic Ocean, the Kinsey spirit survives.

Trying to be helpful, Erwin’s three pre-teen boys roll a large boulder out of a steep, sandy road. The huge rock doesn’t come quietly to rest on the shoulder, but rolls through a coffee plantation, a fence, a garden, a small dam, and two shops before coming to rest against their school.

The poet reports:

The day they told me of it

we walked and talked down every thrashed,

apologized for, paid for, proud inch.

Proud, indeed. Another story for the Kinsey family annals.

When he combined the stories he’d collected from an elderly friend into The Immigrant’s Contract, Mr. Kinsey felt obliged to visit Alberta. His friend had gone out west on a train to help bust the prairie sod, driving one of five ten-horse teams across a perfectly flat landscape.

Mr. Kinsey made the long drive in three days, sticking as close to the railway line as he could.

In the poem “Alberta Wheat Fields” his protagonist, who emigrated to the Kingdom from Quebec as a young man, notices something missing:

I waited for ledges and rocks but the disks

wheeled on, cutting for hour after stoneless hour.

 

In another of his new poems, “Fish Eggs,” Mr. Kinsey is in Labrador. He’s set aside the eggs he stripped from a catch as a gift for the expedition’s cook. But they don’t make it back to camp. The poem closes with a fine demonstration of Mr. Kinsey’s gift for rhythm:

Eggs, and no gull noticed,

gull, and no eggs to be seen,

no one’s rights involved,

just, quick as that,

life’s magic

act.

But it is the work that emerges from the poet’s precise map of the neighborhood that this reader finds most compelling.

It is intimate stuff, but in detail, Mr. Kinsey warns us in “Horseshoeing,” we must grant him some measure of poetic license:

But any path to or through

the past is an icy road,

whatever the pace,

distorted by speed.

Some of the incidents in his poems are completely accurate, Mr. Kinsey said Saturday in an interview. “Others I manipulated. I’m not trying to write my autobiography. I’m trying to write poems.”

In background detail, however, the poems ring perfectly true. From “Children Sledding on Hospital Hill” he evokes:

… an icy night

so cold the roads weren’t slippery.

 

And from “Upland Birds,” the grouse’s perfect imitation of machine:

All day I heard the muffled thumps

like the tumble and thuds 

of my grandfather starting

his old John Deere tractor

There are surprising similes that could only occur to a writer who grew up on a rock-cursed dairy farm in the Kingdom. From “Swing,” catching fastballs hurled by his father across the stubble of a hayfield:

the slap in our gloves like the sound 

of punching an ornery cow

Mr. Kinsey turns the surprise around in one of his new poems, “Army Worms.” As they eat their way across a crop of rowen, he writes, the worms sound like horses eating hay:

or like the rub of taffeta against my leg

at prom balls in my earlier life.

There is a great deal of loss in the work of Leland Kinsey. He writes, in “Last Crops,” of the family gathering to harvest the fruits and vegetables husbanded by his sister Helen, who has died of cancer.

And in “Picking Stone” the family comes to the aid of a cousin, Jeff Kinsey, who is too weakened by the cancer that is killing him to do the job himself.

Jeff is given the last word:

“Well, I know you must love me,

I never thought I’d see you pick stone again.”

                        Little enough burden.

 

The book is bracketed by poems about the poet’s father, Fred Kinsey. There’s bitterness in the final poem, an angry homage to an unstoppable force who lay dying in hospital:

You worked your life in the Northeast Kingdom

with power,

and no glory,

ever.

And there’s great joy in the new work that opens the book, “The Skinny.” A young Fred and his brother Bob are caught skinny dipping in the Barton River as a train pulls by carrying the King and Queen of England on a royal visit.

… they stood and waved

and thought or pretended the Queen responded,

at a window the sweep of a hand

a pleasant face

moving away at considerable speed.

There is in fact a map of Mr. Kinsey’s world. Shown to him recently by his mother, Louise Kinsey, it shows the road from the family farm to South Albany, past Hartwell Pond where a car is parked. In the pond, the tiny bobbing heads of the Kinseys, reaping their cool reward for a hot day spent in the hayfield. If a child spent too much time out of sight, a parent would call out and wait for the answering “Here I am.”

When he drew the map, at age six, Mr. Kinsey could not have known it would illustrate one of his poems, “Swimming Late.” In it, this master of brilliant closing lines that can cast deep shadows across what seemed a simple narrative, remembers such a night at Hartwell:

Tonight, after a long hot day

I’ve worked through, I say softly

“Here I am.”

to no one’s call,

to no one expecting an answer

 

After another long hot day, in “Double Digging the Garden,” Mr. Kinsey reflects that he grows more food than he and his wife can eat, more than they can give away:

I could join the farmer’s market

but don’t like meeting new people.

My legacy may consist of refuse.

But then comes my favorite conclusion of all the poems in Galvanized. He’s writing about his garden, but the lines serve as a metaphor for Mr. Kinsey’s real legacy:

Here is life’s habit on grand exhibit

and the hard work hidden.

Editor’s note: Leland Kinsey will read selections from Galvanized at Green Mountain Books in Lyndonville on March 25 at 3 p.m.; at the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick on April 5 at 7 p.m.; and at an Osher talk and reading at Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury on May 5 at 1:30 p.m. The book’s official publication date is April 8.

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Barton Village annual meeting: Village gets bigger, new trustee elected

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copyright the Chronicle March 9, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

BARTON – Barton Village is a little big bigger than it was before its annual meeting Tuesday night.  By a vote of 23 to 1 residents voted to incorporate a small piece of land near the intersection of Route 16 and the Roaring Brook Road into the village.

The adjustment to the village charter was decided by Australian ballot and must still be ratified by the Legislature before it becomes final, but it is one of the final steps before the old Roaring Brook Road bridge is replaced with a new span.

Voters also elected Cathy Swain, a new resident to the village, to fill the seat vacated by Trustee Ryan Longe.  Mr. Longe, who…To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Select board races in several towns

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copyright the Chronicle February 3, 2016

There will be contested races for selectmen in Derby and Brighton.  The big news, though, is that the four towns that choose officers by Australian ballot will have candidates for all major offices.

In Barton, which has two open seats on the board of selectmen, Elizabeth McCartney will stand to replace Jim Greenwood, who decided…To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Fish passage is officially open

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Photo by Nate Sicard

Photo by Nate Sicard

copyright the Chronicle January 6, 2016

The long-awaited fish passage at Barton Electric’s hydroelectric power plant in West Charleston officially opened on December 23. Federal regulations require a way for fish to be able to migrate upstream past a power plant or dam….

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Barton beauty shop closes after 36 years

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Ione Armstrong’s beauty shop in Barton will close on December 23.  She opened the shop on a shoestring 36 years ago, building the stations in her shop herself out of old kitchen cabinets. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

Ione Armstrong’s beauty shop in Barton will close on December 23. She opened the shop on a shoestring 36 years ago, building the stations in her shop herself out of old kitchen cabinets. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle December 16, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

BARTON — A Barton landmark will close for good on December 23.

Ione’s Beauty Shop has been a fixture on Church Street, between the library and what is now Ming’s restaurant, for 36 years. But 75-year-old Ione Armstrong is making plans to retire just before Christmas.

Ms. Armstrong is looking forward to having more time to spend with her longtime partner, Douglas Bowen. The two have lived together for 26 years. And for most of those years she was running not just the shop in Barton, but also a second shop in Albany.

“He wanted me to get done so we’d have more time together. All this time, he’s never complained.”

Born near Ausable Forks, New York,… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Bel-Aire veterans are feted

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Sergeant Major Retired John Wilson (left) had only a few days notice to pull together an event to honor World War Two veterans at the Bel-Aire Quality Care Nursing Center in Newport on Tuesday. With Mr. Wilson, from left to right are Dick Baraw, a Korean-era Army veteran and a former mayor of Newport; Mr. Wilson's daughter Jennifer Wilson; Vietnam veteran Robert Davio; and Francis Ormsbee, who served in the Air Force in Korea. In short speeches, the veterans expressed their gratitude to the ten World War II veterans who stay at Bel-Aire. Miss Wilson's fourth-grade class at St. Paul's School in Barton made cards. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

Sergeant Major Retired John Wilson (left) had only a few days notice to pull together an event to honor World War Two veterans at the Bel-Aire Quality Care Nursing Center in Newport on Tuesday. With Mr. Wilson, from left to right are Dick Baraw, a Korean-era Army veteran and a former mayor of Newport; Mr. Wilson’s daughter Jennifer Wilson; Vietnam veteran Robert Davio; and Francis Ormsbee, who served in the Air Force in Korea. In short speeches, the veterans expressed their gratitude to the ten World War II veterans who stay at Bel-Aire. Miss Wilson’s fourth-grade class at St. Paul’s School in Barton made cards. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle November 11, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

NEWPORT — Jennifer Wilson’s fourth-grade class at St. Paul’s School in Barton made 83 cards for area veterans this year to thank them for their service to the country. The project took the children more than two weeks. Most of the cards were mailed last week, but on Tuesday morning, at a special event at the Bel-Aire Quality Care Center in Newport, the children had a chance to meet ten World War II veterans and personally hand them cards.

The occasion was a special ceremony planned to honor the veterans, now in their nineties, by Jennifer Wilson’s father, Sergeant Major Retired John Wilson.

Mr. Wilson, a familiar figure… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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A pre-dawn hay run to Canada

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The workday isn’t over yet for Richard Labrecque, pictured here in front of his loaded truck, which he parked in the Barton Motors parking lot.  After six hours of driving and one hour of loading, he spent the rest of the day working in his sugarbush.

The workday isn’t over yet for Richard Labrecque, pictured here in front of his loaded truck, which he parked in the Barton Motors parking lot. After six hours of driving and one hour of loading, he spent the rest of the day working in his sugarbush.

copyright the Chronicle November 4, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

The sun was nowhere near rising when this reporter met Richard Labrecque of Barton at the Circle K in Barton to go on a hay run to Canada in his Western Star truck and trailer.

“You all set?” he said as he leaned against a friend’s car, sipping his coffee. “Let’s go.”

Mr. Labrecque sells the hay he buys in Canada to farms in Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

“It’s good money if you know your French,” he said about the business.

Mr. Labrecque grew up speaking French with his family, and going on 200 hay runs to Canada per year helps him keep it up.

As he drove his big truck onto Interstate 91, headed north, he switched on… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Efficiency, economy, and school funding discussed at Barton Chamber meeting

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Bob Murphy, public events coordinator from Efficiency Vermont, addresses the Barton Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting at the WilloughVale Inn in Westmore on Thursday night.  Mr. Murphy and project intake coordinator Adam Tower talked about how businesses can take advantage of Efficiency Vermont’s help, from technical advice to incentives or rebates, to improving their energy efficiency and save money.  Photo by Elizabeth Trail

Bob Murphy, public events coordinator from Efficiency Vermont, addresses the Barton Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting at the WilloughVale Inn in Westmore on Thursday night. Mr. Murphy and project intake coordinator Adam Tower talked about how businesses can take advantage of Efficiency Vermont’s help, from technical advice to incentives or rebates, to improving their energy efficiency and save money. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle October 28, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

WESTMORE — Bob Murphy of Efficiency Vermont opened his presentation to the Barton Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual gathering by asking how many people in the room used electricity or other fuels in the course of operating their businesses.

Every hand in the room went up.

“How many of you have been in touch with us to find out how you can use less energy and save money?” Mr. Murphy asked.

Three or four hands went up.

“That’s not a matching number of hands,” he said.

Mr. Murphy and his co-worker Adam Tower were the featured speakers at the chamber’s annual dinner, which was held on Thursday, October 22, at the WilloughVale Inn. More than 40 members and guests came to enjoy a buffet style dinner, cash bar, speakers, and… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Barton arts collaborative debates uses of future home

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A pot of chrysanthemums livens the entrance to the future home of the Greater Barton Arts and Artists group.  Enough people have pledged financial support to proceed with buying the old house on Water Street next to the Chronicle building. Photos by Elizabeth Trail

A pot of chrysanthemums livens the entrance to the future home of the Greater Barton Arts and Artists group. Enough people have pledged financial support to proceed with buying the old house on Water Street next to the Chronicle building. Photos by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle October 14, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

BARTON — About 30 people attended an afternoon meeting of the Greater Barton Arts and Artists on Saturday at the dilapidated Water Street house that just may become their new home.

Those who came to the meeting agreed in principle that the century old house and barn would be a good place for an arts center. A few signed up to contribute time and skills to the project, and about 15 made pledges of financial support of $25 to $50 per month — enough to cover a mortgage payment and taxes.

The group’s organizers, Ed and Adrien Helm, have negotiated an option to buy the place from its current owner, James Ballard, for $45,000. The price includes the $21,000 Mr. Ballard spent this summer on a new steel roof, some foundation work, as well as a promise to replace the upstairs ceilings, which were damaged by… To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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Sidelined train cars have neighbours worried

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One of the hundreds of propane tank cars stored on a railroad siding south of Barton.  Although railroad officials said the cars are secure, this car has been spray-painted by local graffiti artists.  The sign in the foreground marks the location of the Portland crude oil pipeline.  Photo by Elizabeth Trail

One of the hundreds of propane tank cars stored on a railroad siding south of Barton. Although railroad officials said the cars are secure, this car has been spray-painted by local graffiti artists. The sign in the foreground marks the location of the Portland crude oil pipeline. Photo by Elizabeth Trail

copyright the Chronicle September 9, 2015

by Elizabeth Trail

BARTON — Five miles south of Barton, a long line of train cars built to carry propane gas sit idle on the railroad siding that runs along Route 5. In places, the siding is surrounded by woods. In other places it runs through wetlands, or past modest houses and trailers. Hundreds of tank cars, stretching in a line over a mile long, appeared in late July or early August, and people are worried.

“I noticed the line of cars when I was driving to Lyndonville with my son to buy some paint,” said Ellen Mass, who owns a summer home in West Glover.

With thoughts of the Lac-Megantic disaster in Quebec a few years ago, Ms. Mass called or e-mailed everyone she could think of who might know why a mile of tank cars suddenly appeared…  To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

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