On certain stretches of water in northern Michigan, writer Mike Delp is an icon. You'll find him, cigar in mouth, casting to brook and brown and rainbow trout, and castigating canoeists for running over his favorite holes.
But Delp has an alter-ego, the Mad Angler, who exists only on the pages of books like The Last Good Water. The Mad Angler is a cantankerous sumbitch who professes his deep connection to all things water and his utter hatred for all things that keep him from it or may do it harm.
For the past decade, I've read the Mad Angler's poems anytime I want to lose myself in a river (a particular Delp-ian desire). I have carried the book on river trips. I have read it when I was fed up with working a city government job. For a while, I referred to the book so frequently that I carried it in the glove box of my car. The poem I most often read was "The Mad Angler's Manifesto."
Now, thanks to Chad Pastotnik at Michigan's Deep Wood Press, I can hang the poem on my wall, too. Deep Wood is selling limited-edition prints signed by the author and artist ($235 for full-color; $65 for two-color); the two are also working on a new chapbook of Mad Angler poems, due in 2014.
The print may not be as portable as the book, but it's a damn bit prettier.
"The Mad Angler’s Manifesto"
I speak with the voice of water,
rivulet, brook stream and creek,
for whitewater in lost gorges,
boiling cataracts, every place
where the souls of wild fish gather
to remind us of the power of hydrology.
I speak with the name of rain,
with the soft lips of condensation,
even the dew which gathers each night,
every drop another transition from sky to earth.
I invoke the masses of insects to take over the world,
to begin the hatching and mating, sure in the fact
that tomorrow another dam will fail, another levee crumble,
another river where you live will tire of its banks
and seek retribution on your lawn,
running up your driveway and into your basement.
I praise the flash flood,
the artesian well, the flowing hearts
under our feet,
the webs of underground rivers
coursing through solid rock.
I fish in incantations, genuflections,
my body a living marker for the crest gauge,
tidal fluctuation, flood tides and fresh water seiches.
When my eye falls on rivers I praise their transparency,
their nature of shaping their way as the move.
Water is my heart churning in a white hydraulic,
my tongue longing for a quiet pool, the skin of night
settling in, mayflies on the edge of moonlight
sifting out of the trees.
I praise the lust for emergences,
the urge to quit the job, convert the pension funds
to river frontage, the sudden impulse to carry a fly rod
into a meeting, the fly ripping the lips of your superiors.
I embrace the chant of waterfalls, the litany of holy rivers:
Battenkill, Firehole, Bighorn.
I trust only the sweet smell of rotting cedar,
the scent of mudbanks festering with nymphs,
the rivers rising in my blood like an illness, a fever sent by
the god of desire to make his presence known, something jolting
through the veins to replace the done deal, the raise
with a corner office, the soul trader you most likely have become.