During the past few days, I have been reading the newest issue of Whitefish Review, a volume dedicated to the exploration of monsters and beasts found in folklore and mythology. Often, I have found that many of the pieces explore the monsters that also haunt us, personally. Pictured above is the back cover of this issue which features depictions of the Yeti by various school children who life in Whitefish, Montana. The thoughtful looking Bigfoot is by Stephen S. Bissette. This journal is unique as it contains many works of creative nonfiction (creative nonfiction is the dominant genre in this issue) as well as artwork with artists' statements about their work. I have enjoyed reading about and looking at depictions of Bigfoot, Hell hounds, demon children, forest fairies, Gobi bears, and death worms.
My poem, "Directions for Finding a Squonk" is also included in this volume. Certainly, it's the type of poem that I had fun writing, but deep down inside, I didn't believe this poem would really find a home because of its obscure and unusual subject. The squonk is a creature from Pennsylvania folklore -- and is unique to the Black Forest regions of my home state. Folklore describes the squonk as a creature that is so ugly that it weeps constantly, and often dissolves in its own tears. Its almost impossible to catch and if one does try to capture a squonk, he or she will most likely only get a handful of tears.
Years ago, I was taking a workshop with poet Maggie Anderson at Chautauqua. At that time I was working on a series about the lumber history of northern Pennsylvania. (I never did finish the series; instead, I found that most of the material would be better in prose than poetry.)Many of my poems contained depictions of lumber folklore with a set of creatures that are fairly unique including the splinter cat (a cat that would claw trees to shreds) and fur-covered trout. In one of my poems, the squonk got one line. The people in my group, including Maggie Anderson herself, were very interested in the tales of the squonk, and at the end of the workshop, Maggie told me that she believed that the squonk deserved its own poem, and that its presence shouldn't be buried in a longer piece.
So here it is. Years after that workshop, the squonk of Pennsylvania lumber folklore, not only has its own poem, but is also in great company with other beasts that make their appearances in this issue.
For more information about the Whitefish Review, see its homepage where back issues, with their matching themes, can also be found.
I am a poet and professor from rural Pennsylvania. This page is dedicated to my publishing news and events; for book reviews published online go to the Reviews tab above. For my own personal reviews, explore the Book Picks tab.