Monday, March 20, 2017

Interviewed for Skagit River Poetry Festival Blog; Happy Spring

Happy First Day of Spring
Happy First Day of Spring! I celebrated yesterday by planting dinosaur kale, strawberry starts, and Oregon snap peas in the garden. Planting seeds and starts in March is a great act of faith. And so far, every year, there are fruits and vegetables in just a few weeks. True magic.

A magic of another kind arrived in my e-mail feed yesterday. The Skagit River Poetry Festival Blog has just posted an interview with me on their website. Thanks not only to the wonderful poet Jess Gigot, but also to the stellar festival staff ---- all of whom are volunteers. Last spring's festival featured James Crews, Garret Hongo, Aimee Nezahukumatathil, Jamal May and many other rock star poets --- chosen for their poetry as well as their professionalism. Here's the beginning of the interview. And if you've never attended the Skagit River Poetry Festival in La Connor, WA --- you are seriously missing out!


JG: What poets/poems have been most influential on your work? You mentioned Elizabeth Bishop in your blog awhile back, but what other writers/teachers have shaped or continue to shape your work?

SR: Emily Dickinson was the first poet I discovered. As a first year high school student, I was lucky enough to take a course devoted to Dickinson. Later on, I attended university in Amherst, Massachusetts where my bus stop home from town was situated in front of the Dickinson house — at that point inhabited by a professor (now recreated as a museum). Dickinson’s sparseness and mystery, her musical lines and lasting elements of surprise have meant a good deal to me over the years. Recently, I feel like I’m returning to her work again and appreciating it all the more.

Later on, and for a very long time, the triumvirate of Elizabeth Bishop, Denise Levertov, and Adrienne Rich became my poetic touchstones. Poets we discover when we are very young, I suspect, seep into our bones. We carry them with us for a lifetime.

JG: Speaking of your blog, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, I find it very informative and helpful. What are your thoughts on blogging and how it intertwines with your life as a poet?

SR: The first year of the blog I posted a new article almost everyday! I love Top 10 lists so I have a top ten tips for sending your poems into the world and another top 10 list for applying to writing residencies, and another for dealing with rejection. I believe that for a blog to succeed it needs to do two things well:

to read the rest of the interview go to the Skagit River Poetry Festival Blog

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Poets On the Coast Winter Retreat Half Day in Seattle!

Bring your typewriter, your laptop, or your favorite journal
Poetry feels more necessary than ever right now. Don't you think? Please join us, Kelli Russell Agodon and me, in a half day writing retreat, Saturday, March 4th in Seattle. For women and men, for beginning poets and published ones. You are sure to leave with drafts of at least four poems. What better way to welcome in Spring? We are in the South Lake Union neighborhood with lots of parking and easy bus routes. 

Here is how it works: both Kelli and I arrive with a half dozen writing prompts. We create fresh prompts so that even if you have come before, the exercises will be new to you. There might be a prompt to write a letter to someone you haven't seen in years or we will give you a photograph and guide you through different exphrastic exercises. It's important to know that there is no wrong way to do the exercises.

We take a quick lunch break (there's a fridge and a microwave in the room --- a Whole Foods next door) and we also offer snacks. It's important to come together in these most surreal of times and remind ourselves that words count; that the power of poetry is needed now more than ever.

Here's the link to registration:

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Spare Rib and Tahoma Literary Review

Has anyone counted how many literary magazine are now publishing in the United States? In the world? No one seems to know. Not even Wikipedia. The Dial (1840-1844) edited by Ralph Waldo Emerson gets credit for being the first "little magazine" in the US. I wonder...

I mention this because I've recently become enamored with the idea that these magazines are a necessary part of our literary landscape. Without these lit mags,  how would writers get their work out to the greater world? We pay much respect to an author's first book but little is mentioned in print as to where their first poem or story or essay was published.

My first poem, "Afternoon Swim" was published in the feminist journal, Spare Rib. Although now defunct, the British Library decided last year to archive all of the issues that were published.

Spare Rib was an active part of the emerging Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 20th century. Running from 1972-93, this now iconic magazine challenged the stereotyping and exploitation of women, while supporting collective, realistic solutions to the hurdles women faced.

At 21, I certainly had no idea that I was sending my work off to an iconic journal --- one that would be remembered two decades after it ceased to be. Yet, today I am proud to call this my first --- fledgling poem that it was.

And today, several decades after that initial acceptance, I am thrilled to have a poem taken by another lit mag --- one that is still in its infancy but has already received a great deal of recognition: Tahoma Literary Review founded by Kelly Davio and Joe Ponepinto.

Now in their 5th year, the Tahoma Literary Review,  has been recognized with work from the journal included in anthologies such as Best American Poetry and Best Gay Fiction, among others. From its inception, the journal held Transparency as a kind of mandate. Editors regularly publish blog posts about why they choose the work they do --- and for a little extra cash --- you can receive an editor's commentary on your work. If your work is accepted, you will be paid a minimum of $50. This is almost unheard of in the literary world; especially by a relatively new journal.

But more than that, these editors are good people. They are both successful writers in their own right. I met Kelly a few months before she and Joe started the journal; she was excited but let everyone know that she would do no outside solicitations. Many journals ask well known writers to submit a poem or a story as a way to raise the journal's standing. Not TLR.  

Joe was kind enough to come talk to the student editors of the the college journal I advise. He was funny, generous, and the students are now quoting him as they do their work of choosing and not choosing submissions. 

Nobody gets rich off of literary magazines. If the editors don't self-finance, they're considered to be doing well. In this new word we find ourselves in, I know that literary magazines will be more important then ever.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Missouri Review and the Kinkajou

How would you react if you found this kinkajou asleep on you?
In the last year or so I have become really intrigued with bizarre news stories. Of course, these days of "alternative facts" instead of lies means we are in the world of the surreal everyday.

When I teach I often scroll through "weird story" sites --- most of the major news sources have them such as UPI "Weird News"  and weird news short videos from NBC New York.

Sometimes the news story itself can overwhelm the poem. Can the poem match the over the top quality of the experience or find another way into the action? Does weird news become weirder in a poem? In the poem, "99 Year Old Floridian Wakes to Find," I tried to find the woman's point of view and the connection between her own lived experience and this wild, unexpected thing.

Honestly, I fell in love with this new word (and animal) kinkajou and wanted to find a way to work with sound in the poem and the places where the human and the animal meet. I hope you enjoy.

Thanks to The Missouri Review for publishing it!

99-Year-Old Floridian Wakes Up to Find

~with a line from William Butler Yeats

In the morning she finds it—
a kinkajou curled on her chest

like an unexamined question.

Its tail loops around her waist
and the stubs of the ears twitching—

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Leonora Carrington - Alchemist, Artist, Writer and Subject of a One-of-a-Kind Film

Photograph from the Carrington Estate
My interest in Leonora Carrington becomes stronger the more I learn about her life and her art. I have a feeling that with two of her books being reissued this April, many other people are about to fall in love with her, too.

The House Opposite, 1945

Her book, The Hearing Trumpet, is a kind of cult classic. Allie Acker's film that combines an interview with Carrington as well as a rendition of one of her short stories is fascinating to watch.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Or Perhaps You'd Like A One Day Class in March?

Our Fair City
 So perhaps three days of writing and being away from home is not possible for you right now. Or perhaps you want to checkout whether taking classes from Kelli and me works for you. Or perhaps a March 4th writing class is just so much sooner than September 8th!

This is our 5th year offering a one-day winter retreat. Our focus is on "Generating New Work" and we promise that you'll leave with the starts to at least 5 - 7 poems. We get right down to work!

From 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM, on Saturday, March 4th, we will come together for a downtown Seattle Writing Retreat. We have a great location easily accessible by bus and  with plenty of parking (!).

For more information and to register, please click here!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Poets On the Coast Take Over La Conner -- September 8th - 10th 2017

Poets on the Coast Take Over the Town
Now in our 7th year we are gearing up for the best Poets on the Coast Weekend yet with morning yoga, poetry workshops, one on one meetings with Elizabeth Austen, Kelli Russell Agodon or me, art museum tours and a dinner at the oldest house in La Conner, this village of less than 2,200 people.

If you have visited my blog before, you know that this is an incredibly special weekend where a small community of women come together to create, write, and find inspiration.

Co-directors Kelli Russell Agodon and me
We are already halfway to our maximum number of participants for Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women,  2017. Our lowest registration rate of the season has just one day to go.

This is a year when we need poetry now more than ever. So many of our women come the first time a little nervous about calling themselves poets and by the end of the weekend are creating writing groups, revising poems, and sending out their work to the Museum of Northwest Art for publication.

No matter where you live or how long you've been writing poetry, this weekend will feed your work and spirit. I don't think we've ever met a woman who thought otherwise so please do consider joining us. I'm happy to answer any questions here. You can register right here or simply find out more information.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year Means Happy Poets on the Coast Lowest Price!

You Don't Have To Be Alone All of the Time

This is Alexandra David-Neel, a Belgian-French writer, explorer, spiritualist and some thought, anarchist. She was best known for visiting Tibet in 1921 when it was forbidden to foreigners.  Disguised as a man, of course.

What does she have to do with Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women? The women who come to Poets on the Coast, September 8th - 10th, this year, are explorers, creative, poets at all points in their careers ---- from beginners to advanced. This weekend may be one woman's first time calling herself a poet and another poet's return visit with several books to her name. 

No matter where you are in your poetic practice, this weekend co-directed by Keli Russell Agodon (poet and publisher) and me is filled with writing workshops, optional poets yoga, walking the river path, visiting the Museum of Northwest Art, or simply connecting with other women writers is certain to inspire you.

You will return home with the starts of many poems, new poetry gifts (both literal and metaphorical), and a possible publication on the Museum of Northwest Art (MONA) website.

Now in our 7th year, we have Elizabeth Austen joining us for a workshop on Saturday afternoon. She will also be taking some one-on-one conferences --- a favorite part of the conference for many --- and included in the registration price. We accept poets on a first come basis and we are already halfway to our maximum number of women!

To read our Frequently Asked Questions and find out more details about La Conner, WA (an easy 90 minute van ride from the airport) please click here. 

Each year we have had a near perfect mix of returning poets and new poets. It keeps the group new and established all at once. Poets ranged in age last year from 21 to 80. Whatever age you are and wherever you are on your poetic path --- we would love to have you join us.

Registration fees go up on January 3rd. Register now by check or PayPal for the best prices we offer. Happy New Year!