Category Archives: readings

where Illinois began

Next week’s second reading is at the public library in Chester, Illinois, Thursday, October 22, 6:30-7:30 p.m. My heart sticks in my throat to think of it.

Chester is the county seat of Randolph County, where Illinois began. But when I was young, the goal was to get out:  to go Somewhere and do Something. So I left Illinois for Arkansas, where people come to make a new start.

Then I began seeing the underwater panther, a horned serpent creature, akin to a dragon. I came across its image on artifacts in Arkansas. I came across it in the St. Louis Art Museum. I looked back and there it was in Randolph County, south of Chester at Piney Creek Ravine.

Macri_PineyCreekThroughout what the French called Illinois country–Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, where the Illini lived–there are sites that predate the Illini such as these, full of art from people long before. As best we understand, such a space was valued as where the underworld meets the upperworld, a place of transition, a junction, a sacred place.

At the same time, I heard about the panther that had been hit by a train at the Menard House upriver from Chester. The state said there were no panthers/pumas/mountain lions in Illinois. The people there knew otherwise.

The panther’s presence was clear. Its power should not be ignored.

All of us inherit the pressure of where we come from. No place is small, and state lines are arbitrary. Interconnections hold meaning, if we would stop running long enough to see them. Times are hard in Illinois now, but there is power in our past that can lead to a better future. I hope to celebrate in Randolph County next week, and to say thank you. These are your stories.

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the first step towards home

Next week I head to Missouri and Illinois for three days of three readings, the first at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Wednesday, October 21, 7 – 8 p.m. in Crisp Auditorium.

When I think of growing up near Cape, I think of doctors and Christmas shopping, Buchheit’s in Biehle, the Missouri Synod, Bollinger Mill and Bollinger County. My grandmother was a Bollinger after all, from the Illinois side of the family. I’ve never been to SEMO.

Macri_BollingerMillThe Cape Rock was one of the first journals to publish my writing in 1994. The press at SEMO started in 2001. The book prize awarded to Underwater Panther was brand new when I submitted in 2014. The social and cultural capital of an area is key to its future, and I’m thankful to be a small part of the good work that SEMO is doing.

Activities planned for October 21 include meeting with a creative writing class, the reading with Q&A and book signing, and visiting with students in SEMO’s English Department. All this is due to the work and hospitality of Susan Swartwout, the press’s publisher and editor, and the support of the Missouri Arts Council. I look forward to meeting Susan and thanking her and assistant editor Carrie Walker in person.

If you’re looking for a press, you should consider SEMO and its variety of contests, and as poets, in particular, the Cowles Poetry Book Prize:  the press has been able to increase the amount of the award from $1000 to $2000, plus 30 book copies for the author. The next deadline is April 1, so you have time.

Growing up near Cape, I never dared dream that my writing would be valued there. I am humbled to have the opportunity to return now.

community

These past two weeks, I’ve had the honor of reading at two community colleges. National Park College is in the Ouachitas, and Arkansas State University-Mountain Home is in the Ozarks–two mountain ranges, both in the state that’s now my home. When I visited Arkansas as a kid looking at colleges, I felt drawn here. The fun, kind people at these two campuses in such beautiful places remind me why I stayed.

Now I will have a lull in book events as my attention turns to the Arkansas Community College annual conference. This year’s theme, Mission Possible.

Meanwhile, to tempt you to pick up a copy of Underwater Panther, I’m sharing links to five poems in the book from the places where they were first published. And with the first poem listed, I’ll tell you a story.

Amy Baldwin and I used to teach at a community college together. Near the end of her World Lit class, her students analyzed recently published poems based on the characteristics of the different periods of literature. What in this poem demonstrates Romanticism? Realism? etc. Great assignment.

The poem that she used of mine was “Inheriting Pressure,” first published in Crab Orchard Review. When I got the comments back from Amy’s class with subsequent discussion, it was like I was seeing the poem for the first time. Suddenly this poem set the entire pattern for the book that followed.

I was born and raised in southern Illinois. I live in Arkansas now. But it doesn’t matter where you come from. This poem and the book that developed from it are about what we inherit from a place without even knowing.

“Inheriting Pressure” at Crab Orchard Review
 “Sparta” at Dos Passos Review
“North of Sparta” at Dos Passos Review
“Unweaved” at The Boiler
“Lines and Glass Insulators” at Central Arkansas Broadside Project

 Macri_InheritingPressure

Next up – Listen @ Lunch @ ASU-Mountain Home

Next up I’ll be reading at Arkansas State University – Mountain Home on Tuesday. I’ve never been to this campus before, but it doesn’t take much time searching online to find that this school is a vibrant place. Concerts, lectures, they have it going on.

Macri ASU reading

Here’s a shot they shared with me of the announcement that’s running on the screens on campus. At this event, I’ll be reading from Underwater Panther in the Gaston Lobby of Roller Hall, which I’ve been told is an impressive building.

It means a lot to me that my first two readings for this book are at community colleges. Community college has made all the difference in my life. This started with my father. His first class there, composition — a challenge for a first-generation American who graduated from a high school that emphasized technology — set him on a path that led him to become an educator. Because of the foundation he got there, he was able to be a powerful positive force not only my life, but in the lives of hundreds of thousands of students. Community colleges do vital work with minimal resources. My father always said that he learned more from his students than they learned from him, and I never understood what he meant until I began teaching at community college. With the shooting at the community college in Oregon last week, I find my thoughts focused on my community college students and colleagues.

It’s time to launch the book!

My father always said, if you feel nervous, it just means that you care. Tomorrow marks the first book launch I’ve ever had. Many thanks go to National Park College, in particular the library there, for hosting this event. NPC has been so kind to my family and me as we moved from Little Rock to Hot Springs. Good people are doing good work at NPC, and I’m looking forward to spending time with them tomorrow.

NPC reading Macri

I’ll be reading and discussing poems from Underwater Panther. This book wouldn’t exist without the dedication of Susan Swartwout and Southeast Missouri State University Press. My book was the first to win SEMO’s new Cowles Poetry Book Prize, and I don’t take that lightly. 

When NPC interviewed me about the event, I tried to explain what might tempt people to come to hear these poems. You can read the full article here, but they got a good quote from me that I’d like to end with by sharing:

“This is a book about how place relates to identity. It’s important to me because it deals with where I was born and raised, but it applies to us all because we all must face questions of origin and community and how the past connects to the future.”