Film still from Arid Lands; Grant Aaker and Josh Wallaert
Today we would like to add the poetry of Josh Wallaert to the company of our Rural Poetry Series. Our readers will be familiar with Mr. Wallaert's work with Places, where he serves as the assistant editor, and will also be interested to learn of some of his other projects which help to add context to the many pieces of fiction, poetry and found poetry that are available on his site. Included below is "How To Lead A Horse," previously published in Shenandoah.
How To Lead A Horse
Elizabeth, I loved the way you broke
that horse, how you put your careful
hand against his shoulder, you
showed him where to turn. I've worked
all my life not knowing where to put
my hands, how a poem responds
to pressure, knows where it wants to go.
I ride past the new houses to the church
where the coyotes ran your horse
into the fence so many years ago.
He was nine months old. I watched
the pastor help you lift him from
the ground. You were so calm,
holding his bent leg in your hand
while the pastor removed the barbs.
The horse was quiet, his young hip
jerked out of place. I followed you
walking that horse two miles back
to the house. I tried to remember
where you put your hands, in case
I would ever have to do this myself.
How much more I had to learn.
Mr. Wallaert grew up in Chesire, Oregon, along the the Long Tom watershed in the the southern Willamette Valley. Much of Mr. Wallaert's poetry sets that question of "where to put / my hands" within larger contexts of the arts and commerce, considering how local (and personal) spaces are interlinked to distant and even divergent points on the map.
This experience in rural Oregon, coupled with this artistic sensibility, no doubt informs Arid Lands, a documentary co-directed with Grant Aaker. Much like the interdisciplinary work he helps to bring to readers in Places, we see here a poet and writer turn from the page to the lens to craft a "creatively ecological" film (in the words of The Chronicle for Higher Education). This project's description and trailer are included below; folks can visit Josh Wallaert's site for more information on these projects.