Friday, January 23, 2015

Happiness in Persistence or Cloud Pharmacy is a Finalist

It's 1:30 in the morning and tomorrow is another crazy day but I needed to pause if only briefly to savor the fact that Cloud Pharmacy is currently a Finalist for the Julie Suk Award from Jacar Press.

This is the time to praise dreams that send books into golden envelopes and off to book contests across the country hoping my words will resonate with readers whose faces I can only imagine. And such a pleasure when that connection happens. It's always improvised and always a true joy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Get There From Here? The Writing Life

As a young woman I kept a postcard of this close to me as I traveled to Scotland, West Africa, and South Africa. I wondered if this was the type of writer I would become: a room of one's own but open to the world. Even the dormer windows are unlatched. Instead, I am a writer about to leave for the college and teach upwards of 75 young men and women how to love writing and film. At least that's the hope. Wish me luck. I will need it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

You Could Be Writing In A Gorgeous Place -- In Seattle

A Place to Write and to Dream
We still have a few spaces in our one day winter writing retreat in Seattle on Saturday, January 24th. The morning is designed for generating new work and includes a publishing salon. The afternoon session is all things on publishing your first (or second or third) book. Message me with any questions. Location is South Lake Union on three bus routes. Lots of parking as well.
To register or for more information check out our website. You can also leave a question in the comments section below. This will be the third year Kelli Russell Agodon and I lead Winter Holiday Workshops (this year we meet during MLK weekend) and the community of women and men that gather is always supremely open, fun, and diverse. We'd love for you to come, too.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Teaching As A Test of Endurance: Week One

Well, the week is not quite over but I feel as if I'm ready for spring break. How can teaching three classes be so exhausting? Am I *that* old and out of energy? No. I hear the same complaint from my younger colleagues. This job takes an impossible amount of endurance.

Imagine beginning the day with a 40 minute commute through traffic. You arrive at your office and find that the radiator valve has broken and it's 85 degrees in your work space. You're already late for submitting your office hours to the department secretary --- in part because no one mentions that the form does not work with Google Chrome. A student drops by who wants to join your already full class. They do not want to take no for an answer.

By the time you arrive at your classroom to begin a three and a half hour teaching block, you're already a bit worn out from fighting with the copier. Surprisingly, your Gender and Film class is filled with a majority of young men --- many of them refugees from the Psychology class that was just cancelled in your same time slot.

And so it goes. Now add on committee meetings, learning a new computer system, and trying to be collegial with your colleagues and the day disappears. After arriving home, eating leftovers, and answering student emails --- it's 9:56 pm. Time to grade papers and plan the next day's classes.

On the positive side: my students seem ready to learn. The majority of them did their first assignment and did it well. Happy Week # 1.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Poetry Across Cultures, Countries, and For More Than A Decade

I am thrilled that Irish poet and fiction writer Geraldine Mills took the time to create an homage to our friendship on her blog today. Yesterday we got to renew the friendship that began in Ireland over a decade ago. The occasion was a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Ireland where we both appeared for the same few weeks. Perhaps because we were both just beginning our careers or perhaps because we recognized something familiar in each other, we stayed in touch.

A few years later when I was invited to Galway to read for the Cuirt Festival, Geraldine and I met up again and since then have found a way to see each other every few years. A stack of books and several fine lines of age between us now, I am so thankful for this sister poet across the water and for the circumstances that will be bringing her to the Seattle area regularly for at least a little while.

To see a list of all the idiosyncratic places we have read together -- bell towers and stepping stones -- you can click here.   To order Geraldine Mill's superb book of short stories Hell Kite - you can click
here. Her work has the sensibility of Margaret Atwood and the urgency of Sylvia Plath. You can't help but read on...

Friday, January 2, 2015

Seattle Writing Retreat in Beautiful Space, Saturday, January 24th

Woman bookbinder at Roycroft Shops, East Aurora, NY 1900.  
Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnson

This is our 3rd year offering winter workshops in Seattle. It's a sumptuous way to begin the New Year and yes we bring the snacks, too! Come for a morning of writing exercises -- ones we make new each time or join us in the afternoon for a hands-on class on creating a book!

Generating New Poems!
10 am – 1 pm
For poets who want to write new poems as well as submit their work to literary journals,
this is the class for you! We will try a wide array of writing exercises and spend the last half hour discussing the submission process and answering your questions on publishing. $105


From Manuscript into Book: The Process Demystified:
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
This workshop is designed to help poets put together a full or chapbook length collection. We’ll look at several different options regarding how to structure and order your poems. Finally, you’ll have a chance to begin visualizing your work as part of a larger project. Everyone will leave with an action plan and a handout of resources leading you closer to the goal of a competed book. $105 


Or spend the day and take both classes for $187 total

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kitchen Envy on Linebreak

I've just recently understood that "kitchen remodel" is like crack to a middle-aged, middle income woman. It's as if a kitchen island --- or at least a peninsula --- could equal happiness. I've heard that men buy leather jackets and motorcycles and women go for a new stove and countertops. I think there's more to it. A remodel is a way to open a space for dreaming; to imagine a life where every pie wins a gold ribbon --- where pies are actually baked in kitchens and there is ample space to roll out the dough.

Thanks to Linebreak for publishing my poem "Kitchen Envy" today. I love the format of the journal where one poem comes to subscribers each week and you have the option to read the poem as well as to listen to it read by another poet. Interestingly, the pairing is usual man/woman so in this case I get to hear a soft Southern male accent read about a "mint green ice cream scoop."

Here's the beginning:

Kitchen Envy

I slide open vast extending drawers,
admire a butter curler,
crab cracker, wine corks

scattered like stars above the salad spinner.

In my sister’s kitchen I finger the miniature nutmeg grater,
the pizza wheel, the whisk—

spread out the French spoons—
used to baste Moroccan chicken, stir the melon bisque.

O to be an instrument of the culinary arts.

To live among them as mandolin,
as mint-green ice cream scoop—

Monday, December 29, 2014

Could Everyone Please Stop Dying - Tomaz Salamun and Poetry and Charm

Poet Tomaz Salamun 
Almost five years ago I met Tomaz Salamun backstage in the Art Zone of Ljujbljana. It was an evening I will never forget. Salamun was exceptionally kind to me and the word that comes to mind is really --- gallant. He wanted me to be the last reader as I was an "international guest." I managed to politely but firmly decline. To read on the same stage was quite enough of an honor. It was a full house. I read in English and another poet who had translated my work read it in Slovenian. Behind us, a pianist played. The stage was candle lit.

A couple of days later I was in a popular coffee house when I saw Tomaz again. He was sitting at a table surrounded by young poets. When he noticed me sitting alone he came over and insisted that I join them. We talked about the role of translation in American poetry and he let me know that the United States --- and Iowa in particular --- had been very good to him. He commended American poets for embracing a variety of poetics. "Not like the French," he said.

A little later when Tomaz got up from the table another poet told me how generous he'd been to the new generation of Slovenian poets. He'd created a writing residency in New York City for younger poets that provided Slovenian poets three months in New York to write.

While these are just fragments of our time together what I want to convey is that Salamun was a man who loved poetry and believed in helping other poets --- even if that poet was a young woman from the Pacific Northwest --- wherever that may be.

I am honored to have known him however briefly. Years later when I worked for Library Journal writing reviews I was happy to offer this piece on Wood and Chalices, Harcourt Inc.

Salamun, Tomaz; Wood and Chalices; Harcourt, Inc; 96 pages; 978-0-15-101425-5

What we desire from poetry largely determines how we experience these finely sculpted poems. The collection abounds with a lyricism of myth and travel, mischief making and Italian art. Instead of employing the straight jacket of narration, Tomaz Salamun is far more interested in the juxtapositions of high and low culture, personal observations and natural sink holes. Does grief shout in the valley? Does it rebound off radiators? Salamun asks us in the final poem of this heartfelt collection. But do not expect him to provide any answers. The poems here pose more questions and play more games than the average reader may at first comfortably comprehend. Yet, the work is not hermetically sealed. Salamun is considered the preeminent poet of Slovenia having published over thirty-five books in Slovenia / Yugoslavia and now ten books published in the United States. It maybe helpful to know that the linden trees, rivers, and names of his native country appear hand in hand with fragments of a fertile imagination. A self-excavation unfolds as motifs of animals, woods, and the porous earth itself circle back in frequent imagistic appearances. Though to apprehend the music and spirit of the work is perhaps more important than to codify it. Be ready: To step into the splash. Happily recommended for those readers open to the surreal and the non-linear.