Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Thank You to Michigan Quarterly Review for Featuring My New Poem

by Lena Gurr

For the next few days, at least, MQR is featuring my poem, "Ultima Thule," on their website. It's a great honor to have my work featured in this prestigious journal and equally thrilling for my poem to appear on the Michigan Quarterly Review home page.

Here is the beginning of my poem, "Ultima Thule:"

In this dark moment, the largeness
of which I’d like to deny, we settle

arguments with silence, we divide the terra-cotta
soldiers one eyeball at a time. Nothing says good-bye

like these derelict bodies, the war-torn terraces
of fatigues, the fireproof boots now abandoned.

It wasn’t enough protection, not nearly enough dirt
to disguise decade-long disagreements. On the doorstep

I keep a broken light bulb to remind me of you. Room
for all the almosts and never to bes. Like Miss Drew,

I play private eye, returning to pissed-on alleys and no-frills
bars that serve only laughing water and moonlight,

not necessarily in that order. Sometimes I watch you
stumble like a ghost husband along the dance floor

(to continue reading click here)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Letting It All Fan Out --- First Steps in a 5th Book

Will this grow-up to be a book?
Truth is, this isn't the first time. In the last seventeen years I have put four other poetry collections together. And each time it feels completely new. The pages in this photograph are for my fifth book, one I've been working on for three years. I am ready for it to be done --- and yet. As tough as it is to put a first book together, I know the fifth is even tougher.

I've talked about this phenomena with several poet friends. Why does organizing a book become more difficult each time, shouldn't it get easier with more experience? Maybe so. Perhaps what changes is the idea that creating a book of poems "should" be understood now, "should" be easier to create a scaffold for 50-60 poems. But creating a book doesn't get easier. Our expectations shift and now what we write and publish should be somehow "better," "stronger," more "necessary."

At this point, perhaps this book is over cooked, I want every poem placed just right, every title evocative,  each section matching perfectly with the last. If I worked on this book another five years, I don't think that would happen. Ordering poems, creating sections, changing titles --- for me, it has to be intuitive. One day one order works and the next day, not so much.

So what to do? Today I did a great deal of pruning. I took 10 poems out and felt lighter, happier! When I work as an editor on other writers' projects, I tell them that no one ever misses that one "extra" poem. But if I left only the very strongest work, I might have less than a chapbook! W.H. Auden was known for wanting to take out huge chunks of his life work when his editor came out with a "Collected Work." Auden would revise and then re-revise work that had already been published in books. I understand him all too well.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Small Rant and So Happy to Announce the Winners of the Rich-Russell Fellowship for 2017

         Do a simple Google image search for "trophy" or "winning trophy" and watch all the white hands, the white men, appear on the screen. Yikes! Once again I am out of step with the larger world.

         When Kelli Russell Agodon and I began Poets on the Coast 7 years ago, a "well meaning" male friend asked us why we were creating a retreat "only" for women. Were we against men? Perhaps someday we will live in a world where a Google search doesn't reflect back to us the racism and sexism of our culture. Perhaps I will live long enough to look back on implicit bias as a thing of the past. Wouldn't it be nice to think so.

       But I digress! We are thrilled, absolutely thrilled to announce the winner of the Rich- Russell Fellowship for Poets on the Coast. Each year we provide a full ride for a deserving poet to join our retreat. In addition, we name Finalists and provide them with significant scholarships as well.

      Our winner this year is poet and writer Stacey Balkun.

Stacey Balkun is the author of Eppur Si Muove, Jackalope-Girl Learns to Speak & Lost City Museum. Winner of the 2017 Women's National Book Association Poetry Prize, her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, The Rumpus, Muzzle, Bayou, and others. Balkun serves as the Chapbook Series Editor for Sundress Publications and holds an MFA from Fresno State.

      Our finalists this year are Kristie McLean and Phylise Smith. To find out more about all three amazing women, please click here!

      This is our 7th Poets on the Coast --- and every year I am beyond amazed by the generosity, creativity, and community that this group of women create. I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thanks to Harmony Fields and Jess Gigot

Harmony Fields with a cloud pharmacy in the background
I think my favorite season has recently shifted from summer to fall. Yes, it means shorter days and returning to the college but the sense of air crisp as fruit orchards and the morning light that can shock me awake --- well, I'm moving towards late September / early October as the very best time of the year, at least here in the Pacific Northwest. And this year I can look forward to giving a workshop at Jess's farm, Harmony Fields on October 1st from 2:00 - 5:00 pm.

I first met Jess Gigot when she contacted me to consult with her on a book marketing strategy for her book, Flood Patterns published by Atrium Books. I immediately liked her --- she was kind, thoughtful, funny and smart. We crossed paths again when Jess attended Poets on the Coast last September. A poem she wrote while at the retreat "Farmers at the Museum" is now published on the Museum of Northwest Art website right here.

Bountiful harvest at Harmony Fields

After the workshop, I will read with Jess at the i.e. gallery in Bow Edison.

Here's the beginning of the blurb for "Poetry Matters"
From Harmony Fields Page

Please bring a journal or a laptop — whatever you like best to write with. Sometimes, it can be inspiring to have a favorite book of poems, or a photograph nearby — whatever inspires you to ... continue here.

About Susan: Susan Rich is the author of four collections of poetry, The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World, Cures Include Travel, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, and Cloud Pharmacy. She has received awards from PEN USA, The Times Literary Supplement, and Peace Corps Writers. Her fellowships include an Artists Trust Fellowship from Washington State and a Fulbright Fellowship in South Africa.

So in brief: This October 1st  I will give a three hour poetry workshop followed by a reading at Harmony Fields, an organic farm in Bow, Washington. How cool is that? I'm really looking forward to it --- it will be small, focused on writing new work, and then a salon where you can ask questions on publishing, reading, or whatever next step you wonder about

Monday, June 19, 2017

You Know You Want To~ Treat Yourself to a Weekend Writing Retreat

Join us for our 7th year of poetry and community
I look forward to Poets on the Coast weekend every year. The energy is always positive, productive, and a little bit magical. Each September (this year 8th-10th) we bring together a group of women that are creative, energetic, and always kind. You can come, too. Ages rage from twenty-something to seventy-something. Women who consider themselves poets or not, women from all walks of life, and all different parts of the country (sometimes the world).

We also offer scholarships to women who otherwise would not be able to take a weekend to write. Besides the beauty of the small town, the river, the art museum and the women --- women write in community --- usually leaving on Sunday afternoon with a sheath of poems to begin a book or simply write until the next Poets on the Coast comes around.

Space is limited and we have only a few spots left. If you have never been to a writing retreat before, this is an excellent one to begin with as the support (one-on-one conferences and lots of special treats) makes us especially receptive to newcomers.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Emily Frago --- wonderful poet new to me --- The Sadness of Clothes

How to tell this suit that their owner is gone 

This poem appeared yesterday at the Poem-A-Day site and it captures something that I think so many of us have experienced. For decades after my father's death, I wore his 100% cotton V-necked tees --- wore one particular one until it became more gauze than shirt.

As for my mother's clothes --- after she died they ended up as part of an estate sale. Somewhere in the Boston area there is a hipster wearing her monogrammed dresses --- a proud LSD --- over the bosom.

Here is Emily Frago's poem for a powerful take on what happens between the one left behind and the clothes of the beloved after they are gone.

The Sadness of Clothes

Emily Fragos

When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back

as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.

You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.

You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,

to continue reading~ click here

Monday, May 1, 2017

7th Annual Poets on the Coast Writing Retreat for Women with Kelli Agodon and Elizabeth Austen

Poets on the Coast Celebrates 7 Septembers - Sept 8-10, La Conner WA 

I believe in the number 7.  And this year Poets On the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women is turning seven years old.  Age seven: I learned to love reading and poetry in Miss Schiavo's third grade class; at age 14, I tool my first poetry class and at age 37 I went to South Africa for a year to study South African poetry (and poets) on a Fulbright. Not every 7 was a win, but most of them were memorable.

September 8th - 10th please come celebrate the 7th year of Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women in the village of La Conner, WA --- 60 miles north of Seattle (and easily accessible by bus from the airport).

This year, Elizabeth Austen joins Kelli Russell Agodon and myself for a long weekend of art, poetry, community and even morning yoga (all programs optional). The heart of the weekend is generating new poems in a variety of ways and with a diverse selection of writing prompts. We also offer one-on one critiques to each participant and an optional art workshop (this year shadow boxes) because we believe that all kinds of art making contribute to poetry.

Every year we welcome new poets along with well published authors. Some women return each year for the community (dare I mention) magic that comes about each year. "Graduates" of the program have gone on to earn MFA degrees, publish their first books, and make lifelong friends. We can'r promise that will happen to you --- but no matter what you will leave with a notebook full of new drafts of poems.

Please feel free to email me directly if you have any questions or checkout our FAQ page.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Letter to America Series - Mornings - by Moi

Before National Poetry Month closes for another year, I want to say thank you to Terrain.org A Journal of the Natural and Built Environment  for inviting me to submit a poem for their "Letter to America" series. Their website describes the initiative this way:

Letter to America series presents urgent, powerful, and beautiful post-election responses from writers, artists, scientists, and thinkers across the United States. We have published letters in the form of poems, photographs, traditional letters, and more — each an intimate, thoughtful examination and discourse at a time when the breakdown of civility and democracy seem to have gained the upper hand.

And while yes, this was written after the results of the presidential election were made known, I think of this piece as more a note to the self; a reminder of the necessity of personal survival in dire times. Here is the beginning of the poem and a link to continue reading; they are also looking for more "letters" for the series.


When a mourning dove flies up from the land, the sky
Only seems to embrace her. The erasure of color, of movement
From the field, the shrug of wings—
My eyes keep watch long after the bird
Flies off between wave clouds. The panorama
Pleases because it is not me. Does not possess
Worries or regrets, does not listen to the news,
Only negotiates with shining scraps of paper,
The pine cones along the side road. I’m still staring
After the stormscape—seeing emptiness as incessant
As the mountains suffocated in fog—
Ghost lives that alter over the time
It takes to button a coat, adjust a shirtsleeve.
We’re invisible to ourselves though we look
                         (to continue reading, click here)