Our first artist-in-residence for the 2016 program was the poet from Ohio, F. Daniel Rzicznek. Beginning June 21st and ending July 4th, Dan explored the island and surrounding lake, occasionally swatting early-season black files on calm days and seeking shelter from pitched rain on the not-so-calm. His experience was interspersed with a few trout fishing trips on Lake Superior guided by our neighbor and friend across the bay, Scott Hannula, birdwatching around camp, daily chores, and quiet moments afforded by remote island life.
Dan arrived with the singular goal of completing his 365 poem epic “Leafmold”. Over 14 days alone he completed poems 326 through 364, concluding the project with a final poem written in Ohio while reflecting on his residency in the months that followed. The series of poems created on Rabbit Island will be published in a variety of literary journals and publications over the coming months. Dan graciously shared a selection of three with us here.
Dan also offered thoughts on his time in residence in the form of a list, 13 Things, which serves as a candid portrait of island life that will surely enlighten future visitors.
If a bald eagle lands in a white pine near camp and checks you out, do not look away.
Keep a record of everything you see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and feel. You’ll want it later.
Befriend the locals. They will save your life and sanity in more ways than you thought possible.
When Andrew casually drops that the eastern side of the island is an impassable labyrinth of forest and rock, he means it.
Be not convinced of your own intellectual superiority to that of black flies.
Existing on the island is the easiest part of the experience. It’s nearly paradise, and therefore not to be trusted. In turn, reentry into civilized society is the most difficult aspect, even if you’re fortunate enough to find rest at the Cedar Motor Inn in Marquette.
Never set an alarm clock on the island, unless for stargazing in the middle of the night.
You can get by for two weeks on four pairs of socks without using the fourth pair.
Be careful climbing backstage at the auditorium. Ask Penny.
Getting water, gathering wood, and drinking tea all use the same muscles.
If it gives you genuine, lasting pleasure and comfort, bring it with you to the island. Books filled that role for me. Vodka, too. And dry-aged salami. Also, maple syrup.
On the island, you are miles and miles from anything you know. And it is okay. It is all right. You will sleep the deepest, quietest sleep of your particular life.
There’s no preparing for it, but your definition of waste will be rewritten.
– F. Daniel Rzicznek, 26 October 2016