And by this, I mean that I am a beginning blogger, embarking on this journey at the behest of the editors at the Found Poetry Review. For those of you who do not know, April is National Poetry Month, (abbreviated NaPoMo), and it is common practice to engage in projects which require one to write a poem each day. For NaPoMo 2013, the incredibly talented editors at FPR spearheaded the Pulitzer Remix Project. The Remix entailed one writer adopting each Pulitzer Prize winning novel and creating poem each day of the month from text found within its pages. For this year’s project, each writer will need to post on his or her own blog, rather than a common website; thus, my new endeavor.
April is still several weeks off, which will give me some time to work out this posting business. Let us begin by exploring the links between horticulture, New England, Scandinavian culture, and poetry. I’ll bet you are wondering how I am going to pull that off, aren’t you? One word – cloudberries.
The cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus, is a member of the same genus as blackberries and raspberries. Cloudberries grow at ground level in the acidic, boggy soils of northern Europe and look like tiny, orange-gold raspberries. Cloudberries are so beloved there that they have incited international squabbles over who has the right to certain berrying grounds (yes, we’ve fallen a long way from Vikings and birkbinders). Cloudberries are much milder in flavour than a typical bramble. You can sample this Scandinavian delicacy by visiting the nearest Ikea store, and picking up a jar of sylt hjortron – cloudberry jam. If you live in eastern MA, you could choose instead to support your local Swedish shop, in West Bridgewater (http://www.aswedishshop.com/ ). The owner, Beth, makes her own Dala ornaments…but I digress… Because the mountain ranges in Scandinavia and Scotland were once contiguous with the Appalachian mountain chain, we have much of the same flora and fauna in the elevations. So, we also have cloudberry plants in New England and the Canadian maritimes – we call them bakeapple.
In addition to being a link between my cultural heritage and the region I live in, cloudberries are the title subject of my favourite poem, by the incomparable Irish poet, Michael Longely. So there you are – plants, Sweden, New England, and poetry.
Cloudberries, Michael Longely
You give me cloudberry jam from Lapland,
Bog amber, snow-line tidbits, scrumptious
Cloudberries sweetened slowly by the cold,
And costly enough for cloudberry wars
(Diplomatic wars, my dear).
Among the harvesters, keeping our distance
In sphagnum fields on the longest day
When dawn and dusk like frustrated lovers
Can kiss, legend has it, once a year. Ah,
Kisses at our age, cloudberry kisses.