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Page 32: Short Takes on Five Vermont Books

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Seven Days writers can't possibly read, much less review, the number of books that arrive in a steady stream by post, email and, in one memorable case, a pace of asses. So this monthly feature is our way of introducing you to five books by Vermont authors. To do that, we contextualize each book just a little and quote a single representative sentence from, yes, page 32.

Inclusion here implies neither approval nor derision on our part, but simply: Here is a bunch of books, arranged alphabetically by authors' names, that Seven Days readers might like to know about.

To Look Out From

Dede Cummings, Homebound Publications, 92 pages. $16.95.

She rages outside and slaps the cedar door, gloats as graves / are upturned, she courses through the land oblivious / until the loose let water cracks walls of stone-lined cemeteries, / as long-dead bodies burst out and coffins set sail down river.

Dede Cummings has published many other writers through her company, Green Writers Press, which focuses on environmentally oriented works. And though she's published her own poems in editorials such as Kentucky Review and Bloodroot Literary Magazine, this is her first published collection of verse. The slim volume contains works spanning 30 years and touches on femininity, family and place. While most poems seem rooted in Vermont, Cummings takes readers as far as the site of a Nazi massacre in Berdychiv, Ukraine, or, as she calls it, Berditchev. The quote above addresses the deathly maneuvers of Tropical Storm Irene's raging waters in Vermont. Expect vivid encounters with local landscapes and tropes: barn owls and fiddlers and laundry lines glorified in lyric forms ranging from loosely metered couplets to rambling free verse to the occasional sonnet.

— S.W.

The Art and Science of Grazing: How Grass Farmers Can Create Sustainable Systems for Healthy Animals and Farm Ecosystems

Sarah Flack, Chelsea Green Publishing, 240 pages, $39.95

On some farms, having some fields in warm-season grass and other areas growing cool-season grass can increase pasture productivity over a longer growing season.

The farm practice of putting animals out to pasture may appear easy, but there is far more to grazing than meets the eye. When managed well, rotational grazing (strategically moving ruminants among paddocks) creates high-quality forage, ecosystem balance and reduced farm costs. Poorly managed grazing and confinement farming create just the opposite and contribute to climate change. Vermont livestock farmer and consultant Sarah Flack draws on 30 years of experience and formal education to guide farmers in The Art and Science of Grazing. Full of descriptive photographs, drawings and graphs, the book is written for grazing in mesic (non-dryland) regions, including Vermont. Its everyday prose describes the benefits of good pasture management, types of grazing systems and ideal conditions for cows, sheep and goats. Ten farm profiles go from theory to praxis, including how to graze (almost) year-round in the North. According to Flack, that grass-fed burger is better for many reasons beyond taste.

— E.M.S.

Collateral Trout: A Vermonter's Angling Memoirs and Fishy Tales

Peter Shea, Wind Knot Publishing, 126 pages. $14.95.

He was about two cranks into the retrieve when his rod bent heavily in response to the strike of a large trout.

Peter Shea is a fish guy. His previous publications include Vermont Trout Ponds, The Atlas of Vermont Trout Ponds, In the Company of Trout and Long Trail Trout. And his newest release, Collateral Trout, comes just in time for Vermont's trout-fishing season, which opened on April 8. The compilation of stories from Shea's adventures are likely to get seasoned anglers and newbies alike in the mood for an outdoor adventure. Some stories are derived from real life, such as the time Shea was busted for smoking pot by a "fish and game trooper." Others are pure works of fiction. The opener, "Ducking at Duck," brings the heat of summer into high relief while offering up quick dips in cool ponds, sweating under weighted packs and the terror of sharing a campsite with gun-laden co-eds. Needless to say, this book opens with a bang.

— S.W.

Shelburne Farms: House, Gardens, Farm, and Barns

Glenn Suokko, Rizzoli International Publications, 288 pages, $65

[Photo caption] The Webbs were active sportsmen on land and on water. They owned several boats; among them were three yachts that they sailed on the vast open waters of Lake Champlain.

Rizzoli is a leading publisher of art, architecture and design books, and each is a stunning testament to its subject. This book on Shelburne Farms is no exception. Author, designer and photographer Glenn Suokko artfully presents more than 300 landscape and architectural photos, along with historical and ecological narratives, to celebrate a 130-year tradition. In the 1800s, Lila and Seward Webb acquired dozens of farms to create what they deemed a model estate farm. Architect Robert Henderson Robertson and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted created a property for agricultural, woodland management and recreational use. Suokko's photos chart a gorgeous journey through the 1,400-acre farm's land, inn, formal gardens, major barns, lake views and agricultural enterprises. The foreword by family descendant and farms president Alec Webb and afterword by vice president and program director Megan Camp recount the transition from estate to nonprofit organization devoted to education and stewardship.

— E.M.S.

A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing: Stories

Tim Weed, Green Writers Press, 262 pages. $24.95.

[F]or various reasons our houses were by this time off-limits, so we frequently put on snowmobile boots and ski parkas and used the place to hang out, smoke dope, and, sometimes, drop acid.

The first collection of short stories from Vermont novelist and educator Tim Weed takes readers from the mountains of the American west to Rome, Italy, and various locales in between. Weed teaches writing at GrubStreet, a Boston-based creative writing center, and in the master of fine arts writing program at Western Connecticut State University. "Tower Eight," the story in which the above quotation appears, follows a high school outsider through the terror and beauty of acid trips. Weed delves into adolescent friendship and the idea of being an outsider with great care for his characters. The tale begins and ends with one character musing on the reality of the other. The surreal ploy is subtle enough to bring the story into the realm of good literature, making the reader question perceptions of reality. As the kids in "Tower Eight" say, "there is no gravity." Weed's prose is weightless, and weighty, all at once.

— S.W.


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