Spirits Lifted at the Hawks On High Book Launch

A Magical Evening of Art, Poetry and Ornithology

“Peregrine Falcom” by Penny Perry. Courtesy Custom Photo Lab.

The weather couldn’t have been worse, but it didn’t really matter. Everywhere I looked spirits were soaring at Phil Fitzpatrick and Penny Perry’s book launch for Hawks On High: Everyday Miracles in a Hawk Ridge Season.

A hard rain was falling, and to make matters worse, it was so windy that to use an umbrella was nigh impossible. Add to that the Superior Street construction that made it difficult to figure out how to cross the depression and near muck. As noted, spirits were not dampened, and the musical accompaniment was just what the doctors ordered.

Pianist Ryan Frane produced his magic during the first hour of socializing, and Woodblind (Veikko and Jason) lifted hearts in the latter portion. In between, Phil Fitzpatrick thanked oodles of people, told the story of how this project came to be and read several of his poems.

Hawk Ridge director Janelle Long made a few remarks early on, thanking Phil for this book of poems as a tribute to the work there. Janelle shared that Phil had been going daily to Hawk Ridge last fall and this fall. Sometimes he even brings pizza for the staff.

“Peregrine Chicks” Illustration by Penny Perry. Courtesy Custom Photo Lab.

Penny Perry was Phil’s collaborator on this project. If able, you will want to stop in at the Zeitgeist Atrium to see her illustrations and paintings. Phil said he drawings “appeared like magic out of thin air.”

Penny said that the biggest challenge was producing illustrations that would coordinate with the shape of the poems. Duluth Poets-Laureate Ellie Schoenfeld and Deb Cooper were the ones who suggested to Phil that he ask her. “Poetry, ink drawings, birds. Oh yeah, that’s my wheelhouse.” Anyone who has followed Penny Perry’s career knows this is so.

For Penny, accuracy was an important part of these drawings. As for all the people who paint and write and make music, she thanks them as well. “You all show up and I appreciate it.”

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Phil Fitzpatrick. Photo by the author.

Phil then proceeded to read to a packed out room. Having watched Phil perform numerous times over the years, I always come away impressed with his ability to command the room. Phil and Penny’s goal was to make Hawk Ridge come alive in all the book’s readers. For sure this event will undoubtedly prompt more people from the community to visit soon.

There’s a sense in which the poetry reading reminded me of an artist’s talk as he told stories leading into many of the poems, their inspiration or important background information.

The first poem he read was “Peregrine Over Hawk Ridge,” which opens the section Dramatis Personae and appears on page 47. It begins:
trackless tracer
record holder
black bullet-bird
cloud piercer

Now you got me, Phil. I want to see one of these.

Phil described how some of the poems emerged “from something that blew me completely away.” Forget the Binos! was one of these.

“Oh, my God! Dude, look! Up there! And forget the binos!”
you hear yourself say as the wingbeat dream begins; just
lean back: you’re under a tsunami of striped boomerangs

You can read the rest of this one on page 77.

People who enjoy poetry get jazzed when poets paint images with phrase and word combinations that create an almost electrical charge in your brain synapses. I would compare it to memorable lines in favorite films, or unforgettable scenes. A film without memorable lines and scenes is ‘just a movie.” Phil’s poems are seasoned with ample quantities of lively imagery.

One of my favorite pastimes as a creative myself is naming paintings, drawings, poems and stories, and I can tell Phil has taken an equal measure of pleasure titling his poems. Here’s a smattering of examples.
Rhetorical Question
Peregrine Cam
But Who’s Counting
Whiteness, For Instance
The Season’s Last Bald
Kaitlyn’s Wow
Double Gos Tease

In fact, any page you open to will give you morsels to chew slowly and savor.

I recently read a bio of Paul McCartney with a really insightful anecdote about the early days of McCartney and Lennon writing songs together. Each day they would come up several new tunes and songs, but they didn’t write them down. They believed that if something they came up with was destined to be memorable, they would remember it the next day. In this manner they separated the wheat from the chaff.

Phil shared this notion in a similar vein. “The good ideas stay, the everyday miracles.”

Tip of the hat to Mike Savage of Savage Press for his assistance in bringing all these pieces together.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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