Showing posts from November, 2007

Publication Alert: "To the Daughter I Never Had"

The Winter 2007 issue of Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century is out now, and includes my poem "To the Daughter I Never Had." The poem was inspired by my friend and former student Peytie, and by Julia B. and all the little red-headed girls in Northfield. When I read it in March 2006 at the Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview, Minnesota, Emilio DeGrazia (former Minnesota Book Award winner and co-editor of 33 Minnesota Poets), said he thought it was my best poem. Rattle, based in Studio City, California, features over 200 pages of poetry and prose, including a special "Tribute to Nurses," with poems and essays by and about nurses. Poems published in Rattle have also been featured on Poetry Daily. Rattle puts poetry from back issues online beginning about six months after print publication; I'll let you know when my poem goes online. If you want to order your own print copy, send a check for $10.00 payable to:

12411 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604

LibraryThing Early Reviewer

As you can see at the far left, I've added a new badge of honor to my blog: I've been chosen as a "Library Thing Early Reviewer." Several publishers provide advance reading copies (ARCs) to LibraryThing to distribute to selected LibraryThing members. As this article says, publishers are banking on ordinary bloggers, like yours truly, to help create an online buzz for their new releases. A free book for me, free publicity for the publisher. In my case, the publisher is St. Martin's Press, and the book is Becky, the new novel (due out in January) by Florida novelist Lenore Hart. It's the story of Mark Twain's Becky Thatcher, Tom Sawyer's girlfriend, looking back from the perspective of old age on a long and full life—and filling in the rest of the story of her friendship with Tom and Huck. I loved Geraldine Brooks' March, which does a similar thing with Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, so I was willing to g…

Reading Journal: "Miss A. and Miss M."

Since an essay appeared about her in the September 2007 Atlantic Monthly, thoughtful people have been flocking to read Elizabeth Taylor’s short story “Miss A and Miss M,” which Benjamin Schwartz in the Atlantic calls her “most technically accomplished story.” The story is vintage Elizabeth Taylor: quiet, understated, full of literary allusions, deriving its drama from the unspoken currents that flow between people. There is a depth of feeling beneath its light, shimmering surface. The story is set in the 1920s at a middle-class holiday guest-house in the still-unspoiled English countryside, narrated by a middle-aged woman looking back at her childhood—and a childhood landscape now bisected and defaced by a motorway. “In that place,” the narrator says, “we had put down roots.” Near the guest-house, she remembers, was a delightful spot, full of scents and butterflies, called the Cherry Orchard—and of course, knowing Elizabeth Taylor, we are meant to think of Chekov. Elizabeth Tayl…

Writers' Strike

Must-Read: On the Whedonesque blog, Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, talks about the ongoing Hollywood writers' strike.

How to Tie a Half-Windsor Knot

Note to self: For future reference, this is how you tie a half-Windsor knot in your tie (click to enbiggen):

For years, I've been tying a shabby and lopsided four-in-hand knot in my tie. Why did I never learn to tie my tie properly? Perhaps because I seldom wear a tie. I can tie a square knot and a bowline and a sheet bend and, for tying the boat to the dock, a clove hitch—but I never mastered the basic half-Windsor around my neck. So last night, as I was dressing to go to the Minnesota Orchestra, I used my internet searching skills to rectify the situation. Google: "how to tie a tie." Welcome to all of my fellow sartorially-challenged people who have come to this blog after running a similar search.

The concert was preceded by an elegant dinner at Manhattans on LaSalle (next to the State Theater box office). I had pan-seared sea scallops. Scallops are one of those things that I love so much that I restrain myself from having them too often. Certain things need to…

Reading Journal: "Seasoned Timber"

“...there are all kinds of ways to love...”
—Dorothy Canfield, Seasoned Timber

Dorothy Canfield’s Seasoned Timber was published in 1939, as Fascism was marching across Europe, drawing one nation after another into conflict with Hitler and the Third Reich. Like most of Canfield’s novels, Seasoned Timber is set in a small town in Vermont, and shaped by the author’s engagement with the ideals of progressive education. Dorothy Canfield (1879-1958) was the daughter of the second president of Ohio State University, held a Ph.D. in romance languages from Columbia, and was responsible for introducing the Montessori method of elementary education to the United States. Her most famous book, the children’s novel Understood Betsy (1917), can be read as a dramatization of Canfield’s ideas about progressive education. Seasoned Timber centers on the character of Timothy Coulton Hulme, the principal of a small and struggling village academy in the mountains of Vermont. Through Hulme (Hulme, signif…

A Poem for November 22

Postcard to Crawford, Texas,
from the Les Cheneaux Islands, Michigan

Surrounded by water,
we don’t think much about the desert
or how to make one.

The sunsets and the stars
humble us with their presence—
because we know these are God banners,
and not the flags we raise with our own hands.

We live with the bats
and the spiders, and cannot hate
what is so much a part of the place
and our own history.

We don’t do much clearing,
because sometimes the world works
by letting things grow

with a simple love of where we are:

surrounded by Huron’s waters,
the cedar forest, and each other.

Wish you were here.

© 2006 by Rob Hardy. Originally published in the Water-Stone Review, vol. 9 (Fall 2006).

"When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstone of …


It's the day before Thanksgiving. Yesterday afternoon I stood in line outside Just Food Co-op to pick up my fresh Callister Farm organic turkey. Today, the turkey will go into brine (water, kosher salt, honey and fresh thyme) to soak overnight. Brining a turkey is the best way I've found to keep the breast meat from drying out, and it produces the best gravy. I'll also make the mulled cranberry sauce today, and spend some time cleaning the house. We're having eleven for dinner tomorrow: the four of us, Clara's brother and his family from Roseville (including their Turkish exchange student), Clara's brother's brother-in-law from Minneapolis, and a Carleton student whose travel arrangements left her stranded in Northfield for the holiday. My niece and my son Peter are vegetarians, so we'll have a leek tart as a meatless alternative. There will also be two dogs, ours and Clara's brother's, and fires in both woodstoves. I'm hoping that, …


Last night, I attended the first meeting for the 2007-2008 school year of the Northfield Public Schools District Educational Program Advisory Council (DEPAC), a state-mandated body which sets broad annual goals for the school district in three areas: curriculum, assessment, and student services. Since the fall of 2004 (with a sabbatical last school year), I've been serving on the assessment sub-committee of DEPAC, chaired by Roger Jenni. In this era of NCLB, I thought it was important at least to understand how the local school district approaches testing and assessment, and to add my anti-testing voice to the conversation whenever possible.

It's difficult to find people who actually work with real students in real schools who are pleased with NCLB and its current emphasis on high-stakes testing. My subcommittee includes the new middle school principal, two teachers, and a school board member, as well as two parents, and we all agree that children are tested too much these d…

Bonus Post: Dessert

On Friday night, I read a few poems at a Northfield Arts Guild reading at Tiny's. Riki Kölbl Nelson also read some selections from her bilingual collection of poems in German and English, Grenzen/Borders. Before she read, Riki talked a little about her childhood near the beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg, which our family had the pleasure of visiting last October. For tonight's dessert, Clara tried her hand at Salzburger nockerl, the light dessert soufflé that we first tasted at the Stiftskeller St. Peter in Salzburg. A stiftskeller is the cellar of the monastery, or Stift; in this case, the monastery of St. Peter. The monastery's wine cellar opened to the public in 809, making it the oldest restaurant in western Europe. Salzburger Nockerl is one of the city's signature foods (along with Mozartkugel and Stiegl beer). There are a number of recipes available on the internet; the one Clara used, linked above, is from Gourmet magazine, via* As i…

Iron Bridge

Clara enjoying a pint of Old Speckled Hen on the patio of the Saxon Mill, on the River Avon in Guy's Cliff, just outside Warwick.

Since I can no longer take my daily walk around Kenilworth Castle, my favorite walk is now, by default, the walk through the Lower Arboretum to Canada Avenue. There's no castle dominating the landscape, but there is beautiful prairie, oak savanna and oak woods, pine plantations, an oxbow pond, and the Cannon River. From certain vantage points, the view of Carleton's Skinner Chapel is almost English—and today's cold drizzle added to that English feeling. It really is a lovely walk. The only thing missing is a pub at the far end of the walk. I like to imagine a riverside pub, like the Saxon Mill on the Avon outside of Warwick, called the Iron Bridge, named after the old bridge on Canada Avenue at the far northeast corner of the arboretum.

The Waterford Bridge ("the Iron Bridge") on Canada Ave.

The bridge, officially known as the Wat…

Pro and NeoCon

Updated twice (see below).

Yesterday, President Bush announced the winners of the 2007 National Medal of the Arts. One of the winners was the great contemporary American choral composer Morten Lauridsen. Hearing his great a capella choral piece "O Magnum Mysterium" sung at Christmas in Coventry Cathedral was one of the musical high points of my year in England. There are several good recordings of the piece. I recommend either the recording with Polyphony and Stephen Layton (a more expensive import which also includes Lauridsen's moving requiem, Lux Aeterna) or the recording with the Dale Warland Singers, Lux Aurumque, which also features choral masterpieces by Eric Whitacre, Herbert Howells, Dominick Argento, and others.

There is also a new crop of National Humanities Medal winners, including the classicist, military historian and neoconservative pundit Victor Davis Hanson. Hanson is notorious among classicists for his book, co-written with John Heath, titled Who Kil…

Homemade Bagels

Sometime in the mid-Nineties, after I had been baking bread for a couple of years, I decided to try my hand at making bagels. The results were particularly satisfying, and the process was not as difficult as I had anticipated. At the end of Carleton's 2006 winter term, I had my beginning Latin class over for brunch and made bagels (served with cream cheese and lox). One of my students lived in Carleton's Dacie Moses House, and last year introduced homemade bagels, following my recipe, as a regular Saturday night treat. My bagels have also been served in the Dean's Office at Carleton and auctioned off at the First U.C.C. silent auction. After several years, the old bagel shop in Northfield is still standing empty. If you enjoy baking, and miss fresh bagels as much as I do, why not try making bagels at home?

Step One: In a large bowl, mix 2 cups warm water, 1 T yeast, 3 heaping T sugar, and 1 heaping T salt. Gradually stir in 4 cups of unbleached white flour. When th…

The Octopus

As a writer, I'm always thrilled when I find evidence that my writing is actually being read. This week, I experienced an even bigger thrill: someone who inspired one of my poems stopped by my blog and left a comment. The poem is called "Midlife Crisis While Watching a Nature Program," and appeared in the 2006 issue of the Red Cedar Review. It was inspired by the discovery of an octopus (Octopus marginatus) that disguises itself as a coconut and walks around on two of its tentacles. Don't believe that such a thing exists? Here's the video:

The octopus was discovered by a marine biologist at UC Berkeley named Crissy Huffard. There's an excellent, accessible article on Huffard and the "walktopus" here. Imagine my delight when Crissy herself left a comment on my blog!

The District Band Concert

The Northfield High School Concert Band, directed by Mary Williams. (My son Will is in the second row, playing the oboe.)

Last night was the annual district band concert. Six bands from seven schools in the district (counting the two charter schools) packed into the high school gym—from fifth graders who've only been blowing on their instruments for three months to tuxedoed seniors with invitations to All State. The concert concluded with a ragtime piece featuring a guest trombone quartet, followed by a spectacular piece for combined bands, featuring all thirty-five trombonists lined up in front for a solo ensemble.

The fifth grade band, under the direction of the superhuman Roger Jenni, seemed bigger than ever. It's wonderful to see ample evidence, including the district band concert and the high school musical, that music education is thriving in the Northfield Public Schools. I mentioned in an earlier post that engagement is the best test preparation. One of the unfortu…

The Collecting Jar

To celebrate my birthday, how about buying a copy of my award-winning poetry chapbook, The Collecting Jar, from Grayson Books? It's only $7.50, and it's full of good poems! Copies can be purchased online using PayPal.

A Conservative Issue

"There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country." Theodore Roosevelt (1912)

In response to my recent post on stewardship, I received a comment from Don, with a link to his blog "The Evangelical Ecologist: A Conservative Christian Environmental Blog." It's good to see that there are thoughtful evangelicals who realize that stewardship of God's creation is a Christian responsibility. It should be clear that the environment is not an issue of concern only to secular liberals. Our former Republican State Representative, Ray Cox, who has always been well-regarded for his legislative advocacy of environmental issues, has also made me aware of a national group called Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP), which recognizes the roots of the modern conservation movement in the work of Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican President. Nearly a century ago, Roosevelt said: "Conservation of our resources is the fundamental question …

What Was Nullification?

Q. "What was the nullification thing all about?" (Jim H., Northfield).

A. "Nullification" is the name for the theory that a state had the right to "nullify" (i.e., veto) within its own borders federal legislation that it found unconstitutional. The idea can be found in Thomas Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 (in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts), and found its classic expression in John C. Calhoun's 1831 "Fort Hill Address" (in response to the protective tariff of 1828).

We take it for granted that the Supreme Court has the final word on the constitutionality of legislation. But the principle of judicial review by the Supreme Court was not firmly established in the nineteenth century, and men like Jefferson and Calhoun propounded an alternative principle, which gave states the right to pass judgment on the constitutionality of federal laws. In the early 1830s, Southerners, like South Carolina's Calhoun, were angere…

The Essence of Education

Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, one of the topics of last night's dinner table conversation.

Last night, Will and I had an interesting conversation about the Jacksonian era, the protective tariff, John C. Calhoun, and the nullification crisis. Will's in Mr. Thornton's AP American History class at Northfield High School, and although his grade is not up to his usual standards, he comes home full of enthusiasm for the subject. If he can come home from school and make interesting conversation about the presidency of Andrew Jackson, I'm not concerned about his grade.

Early in his presidency, George W. Bush declared that "testing is the essence of education." In my experience, which includes teaching at all levels from kindergarten to graduate school, the essence of education is learning—and learning happens not through repeated testing, but through the dynamic relationship between an engaging teacher, an engaged student, and an interesting subject. …


It's stewardship season at church. For the past fifteen years or so, the church has been the biggest recipient of our charitable donations. As a former member of the congregation's Service and Social Responsibility Committee, I know that money given to the church is distributed to worthy causes locally (e.g., the Community Action Center) and across the nation (e.g., the Southern Poverty Law Center, continuing hurricane relief in New Orleans). But a larger portion of the money we've given to the church has gone to local programs and operations, including Sunday worship and the upkeep of the church building. In my current mood of disenchantment with organized religion, I'm finding it more difficult to justify giving large amounts of money to the church. This has left me pondering how to plan our charitable giving, if it is no longer concentrated on the church.

A belief in a transcendent God and a resurrected Christ has less meaning for me now than does a sense of the…

First Loaves

I have gone through long stretches in which I have baked all of our family's bread. It was a habit I got out of in England, where there was barely enough room in our kitchen to knead, and I was unable to buy flour in bulk. Now, after a long absence, I'm back. Above you can see the first two loaves out of the Hardy oven since summer 2006.* They're a simple recipe: flour (whole wheat and white), water, honey, buttermilk, yeast and salt. (My brother-in-law in Roseville, who's a better person than I am, makes all of his family's bread, using a sourdough starter he made himself with fermented grapes.) Will and Peter love my home-baked bread. Peter likes it best when it's still butter-meltingly warm from the oven, and often eats half a loaf before it cools.

My first published essay was on bread, fatherhood, and creation; if you want to try to find it, it appeared in North Dakota Quarterly in 1998 (volume 65, number 1). In the essay, Will is still a little boy, …

On the Town

If you haven't yet seen Northfield High School's production of Leonard Bernstein's musical On the Town, you have three more chances: next Friday (November 9) at 7:30 pm, and next Saturday (November 10) at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm. It is not to be missed!

New Life for an Old Burley

The old Burley, ready for action, in front of our stack of firewood.

After yesterday's self-indulgent and consumerist post, it's time to switch gears and talk about what I'm doing for the environment. In England, where I didn't drive and where our refrigerator was only slightly bigger than a shoebox ("You were lucky! We dreamed of a refrigerator as big as a shoebox!"), I got into the habit of making a daily trip to Sainsbury's for provisions—about a mile round-trip from our little house. Now that we're back home, with a refrigerator only slightly smaller than our entire English house, I've kept up the habit of daily grocery runs. EconoFoods is just around the block, and Just Food Coop is closer than Sainsbury's was in England. Sometimes, though, I need to get things that are too heavy to carry—things like 50 lb. sacks of Swany White Flour, or large bags of dog food for the idiot puppy. For this I use the Burley. This week I've used it…

The Month of Obsessives

I was born in November, the month of obsessives. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), in which participants attempt to write a 50,000 word draft of a novel in 30 days. That requires an average writing pace of nearly 1,700 words per day. On a good day, I'm capable of that much writing, but I tend to spend too much time polishing individual sentences, which is a NaNoWriMo no-no. And for writers who work on a smaller scale than the full-length novel, November is also National Blog Post Month, which requires participants to write and publish a blog post for each day of the month. So far I'm two-for-two—but don't expect me to keep up the pace. I prefer blogging without obligation. My personality is already too obsessive without outside encouragement. Meanwhile, my birthday is coming up at the end of next week. If you're looking for the perfect gift, here are a few suggestions:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Eight, Volume I: The Long Way Home. The…

The Phantom of the Sheldon

I'm not a big fan of Halloween. Perhaps it's because, during my days as a substitute teacher, I was often called to substitute either on Halloween itself, when the children were jittery and inattentive in anticipation of trick-or-treating, or on November 1, when the children were jittery and inattentive because of all the candy they had eaten the night before. I have particularly vivid memories of substituting for a fourth grade class at Bridgewater Elementary on Halloween and supervising the decorating of Halloween cookies—an activity for which the teacher had wisely called in sick.

Last night, Clara and I left Will and Peter in charge of doling out candy and took off for Red Wing with another couple to see the annual Halloween showing of the 1925 silent film The Phantom of the Opera at the Sheldon Theater. The Sheldon was built in 1904 with funds left to the city in the will of Red Wing merchant Theodore B. Sheldon. With the advent of silent films, the Renaissance-style th…