Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What are you doing Thursday day? What about Thursday night?

Irish poet and fiction writer reads at Hyla Middle School this Thursday @ 6 pm

Come out to Hyla Middle School on Bainbridge Island to hear Irish writer Geraldine Mills and me read from our work. Or if you can't make it out for a ferry ride from Seattle, read here to find out all about Geraldine and her work. Geraldine and I will also be teaching a class at Hugo House as part of Write-a-Rama and her visit to culminate with a Sunday afternoon reading at Elliott Bay Book Company 2 pm, this Sunday, at Elliott Bay Book Company. I've admired Geraldine's work since we first read together ten years ago at the Tyrone Guthrie Center. Since then we've read on mountaintops and living rooms.

Here is a review of Geraldine's work from a few years ago. It includes her poetry, why not take a look?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Introducing Jack Straw Writer: Annette Spaulding-Convy


Forgotten Light


Blending nature themes and rustic imagery, Annette Spaulding-Convy has created a collection of poems that brings the past to life. Her work delves into family history and tells the story of a lost ancestor. With grace and force, Spaulding-Convy pays tribute to a forgotten individual.
Spaulding-Convy’s full length collection, In Broken Latin, will be published by the University of Arkansas Press (Spring 2012) as a finalist for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, In The Convent We Become Clouds, won the 2006 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Contest and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems have been published in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Crab Orchard Review and in the International Feminist Journal of Politics, among others. She is Co-Editor of the literary journal, Crab Creek Review, and is Co-Founder of Two Sylvias Press, which will publish the first eBook anthology of contemporary women’s poetry, Fire On Her Tongue, later this year.
SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Productions as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at http://www.jackstraw.org/.
Music performed by Sean Osborn and recorded as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Jazz Musician Jason Moran on Promoting the Imagination

I love what Jason Moran has to say on promoting the American imagination through listening to jazz or watching the choreography of a dance. Moran won a MacArthur Foundation grant last year and was recently made an artistic advisor to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. I met Jason four years ago at the Ucross Foundation artists' retreat in Ucross, Wyoming. Jason and his wife were expecting twins at the time and he was at Ucross to write two musical compositions that he had been commissioned to do. I remember the night he played different pieces for us in his log cabin studio and talked about music in a way that allowed me to understand sampling and American ragtime in the same breath. Listen to what he has to say here and know that he is just as wonderful as he appears. We all fell a little in love with Jason that summer, especially because it was so clear how much he loved his wife --- and making music.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,


What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
BY EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

News from Our New Poet Laureate - Featuring Washington Poets

Artist Credit: Barbara Churchley

Less than two weeks after Kathleen Flenniken's appointment as Poet Laureate of Washington State she is already making a positive difference! For the first time ever, Washington State poets have a virtual home where they can find out about all things poetry including  literary events, journals, publishers, and the work of other poets. And who knew we had so many wonderful poets?

Check out the banner at the top of the page. I think there should be a prize for the person who can name all of these poets. There's several I can't identify -- such as the man to my left and the woman in the top righthand corner. Any ideas? What's amazing to me is how many really great poets are not on this banner, that our state has such a wealth of poetry.

Today at The Far Field - The Washington State Poet Laureate Presents my poem "Polishing Brass" is featured along with a gorgeous image of the original photograph of the same title  by Myra Albert Wiggins (1869-1956).

And for non-Washingtonians, The Far Field is a poem by Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) which begins, "I dream of journeys repeatedly."

Poet Geraldine Mills Visits Seattle for readings March 1st and 4th



In exactly two weeks, Geraldine Mills will visit Seattle direct from the West of Ireland. Hear her read "Not of Place" in the video above or even better, come listen in person when she reads at the following places the weekend after next. Listen to this short youtube to get a sense of her subject matter and her style.

I first met Geraldine when we were both awarded residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Newbliss, Ireland. That was ten years ago and we've been friends and poets in crime ever since.

11 AM,  Thursday, March 1st, Highline Community College,  Student Union - Free and open to the public.

6:00 PM, Hyla Middle School, Bainbridge Island with me (Susan Rich) - Free and open to the public.

2 PM, Sunday, March 4th, Elliott Bay Book Company with me, Seattle, - Free and open to public.

This is Geraldine's first visit to the northwest; I know she's a poet and fiction writer you don't want to miss.

More information on the following events to come.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

First in a Series: What's this Residency Really Like: Anam Cara

An Irish morning at the cheesemaker's shed
It occurs to me that I have visited residencies in Ireland, Spain, and across the United States and that perhaps someone else might be interested in what I've learned in 12+ years of my adventures. I'm beginning with a piece on Anam Cara in the southwest of Ireland, outside Cork. This residency deserves much more attention than it has had in the United States. In Ireland, writers know it well and I met several Irish writers who have been coming regularly since the retreat opened more than 10 years ago.


One of the coolest thing about staying at Anam Cara is that you become part of village life in a faraway corner of West Cork. A fisherman may bring a salmon just caught that morning for evening dinner or you may arrange for a visit with Mary -- the village oracle. Unlike any other residency I know, Anam Cara (soul friend in Irish) was born out of a vision of one woman.  Sue-Booth Forbes who has worked as an editor at Oxford University Press and originally hails from Utah, came to Ireland with the express purpose of creating a retreat for writers. In the 12+ years the residency has operated, Sue has helped dozens of writers -- supporting them with professional editorial advice and in a myriad of quiet ways behind the scenes. 

The residency houses only five residents at a time -- and the very reasonable fee includes all meals and amenities. There are over three acres to wander through and two gorgeous walks to the sea --- which is visible through four of the bedroom windows. If the weather cooperates you can swim in the river behind the house or in the sea. A wonderful article on the entire experience mentions that Anam Cara was listed as the #6 retreat destination (not just writing retreats) by the Irish Times.

In addition to staying at Anam Cara for a personal retreat, six week-long workshops are offered each year in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and publishing. My experience at this retreat was so magical that I am returning this summer to teach a week long poetry course, Speaking Pictures: A Poetry Workshop Concerning Art. I met writers from Denmark, England, Ireland, and the US -- in half the cases, the writers were returning for their second or seventh visit. More than half a dozen writers have moved to the tiny village of Eyeries after first discovering the place through a stay at Anam Cara.

The house itself looks out over the Beara Sea as well as on an array of mountains and cow fields. There are three bars in town, one teashop (which is also a family's front room) and two shops. A good internet connection (throughout the residency) will keep you connected to the outside world --- otherwise you might have slipped into a time warp where cheese comes from the local cheesemaker and walking is the preferred means of transportation.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Discovering a new poet: "Advice in the Form of Confusions"


From today's Poetry Daily
"Know this: you can, you can, you can."

Advice in the Form of Confusions

              I have been watching the young
struggle through their daily lives
              and waste the flesh we all remember
and I have seen the gardens they shine
              their leaves in, the kind invented
by distraction and devices that run
              on little lithium ion batteries, flat
disks that power music and voice
              into strong tremble and staccato chain
that barrels into the angelic orders
              we raise our heads to see, or hope
to see, but never do, for they have
              sprung into louder volumes and faster
rhythms that disorient and confuse.
              There are sounds we can no longer
hear, at our age, and we don't want
              anymore to know what we left
behind on that sill or under
              that abbreviated sun. I can't know
wry substitutions. I can't hear breath
              embrace five-minutes-ago or tomorrow
and there must be a word for that,
              but I don't know it. I know the sound
of thinking a hard whistle into the lung.
              I know the shape of houndstooth
and the hang of each tag's pricing
              itself out of so many's reach.
I swoon and recoil at the tresses blowing
              in an arbor without glow
or flame. These are reprieves. Respites
              in the demands of sensation
and flow. Know this: you can you can
              you can you can you can.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Registration Now Open for Speaking Pictures: A Poetry Workshop Concerning Art

The doorway to Anam Cara Writers and Artists Retreat

Anam Cara - in West Cork, Ireland has invited me to teach a week long writing workshop


Here is the overview of what we'll do --- and soon there will be a day by day schedule available.


Speaking in Pictures: A Poetry Workshop Concerning Art


     The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
Henry Thoreau
 Poetry and painting are sister arts according to the Greeks. It’s a natural collaboration to focus on ekphrastic poetry. Ekphrastic poetry simply refers to our poems inspired by visual images. Together, we will discuss traditional and experimental models of the form by Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Hayden, Lisel Mueller and Rainier Maria Rilke; study recent examples by contemporary poets, and sharpen our powers of observation and description. Finally, through a series of provocative exercises, we will write our own poems on a variety of works of art. For the purposes of this workshop, art includes sculpture, collage, architecture and the natural world. All levels of writers are welcome — from beginners to very advanced practitioners. 


“Excellent delivery of info and preparation of materials.  You established such a safe learning environment, which really helped the ability to learn and enjoy the experience.  This was an exceptionally helpful program!”  ~ Cindy S.

   "I truly appreciate what you do to nurture other poets. This is truly one of the best retreats I have been on." Angie V.



 “Thank you for providing this life-changing opportunity.   Your generosity and enthusiastic interest has been such a blessing for me…You have given me a great gift–the courage to say what I am, and more importantly, to *live* what I am– a writer. ”  ~ Kelley H.

          Testimonials (from Poets on the Coast taught with Kelli Agodon)
Susan Rich is the author of three collections of poetry, The Alchemist’s Kitchen (2010) which was named a finalist for The Foreword Prize and the Washington State Book Award, Cures Include Travel (2006), and The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World (2000) which won the PEN USA Award for Poetry. She has received awards The Times Literary Supplement of London, Peace Corps Writers and the Fulbright Foundation. Her featured appearances include the Cuirt Literary Festival in Galway, Ireland and the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia. Recent poems have been published in the Harvard Review, Poetry Ireland, The Southern Review and the New England Review. Born and educated in Boston, Massachusetts; Susan now makes her home in Seattle, WA.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Coming Attraction: Teaching in Ireland in August - Want to Come Along?

Outside the window at Anam Cara

This is just a preview for my upcoming announcement of a week long workshop at Anam Cara  - a writer and artist retreat in Eyeries -- a small village in the West of Ireland. I discovered this magical place on a retreat last summer and this year I'm thrilled to be invited back to teach a workshop on poetry and art.

More information on this wonderful retreat available at Anam Cara.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Would You Like a Curvy Sofa for Valentine's Day? - Something Different...

This sofa is looking for a new home
I love this sofa -- it's a retro style with two back and two side pieces that can be easily removed so that the entire piece converts into an extra guest bed. The side table on the right is wood and can be removed for a second arm piece. Even its silver legs are kind of cute. If you are in need of a new (gently used - not new) sofa, feel free to leave me your email. I'd be happy to tell you more or send more photos. Many a poem has been written here, I'd love to see it go to a good home! Just leave a message below or email me directly. I'll post again when its gone!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Meet New Washington State Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken

Washington Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken


This Just In:

My dear, dear, friend and fabulous poet,
Kathleen Flenniken has just been selected as the new Washington State Poet Laureate. You can read more about Kathleen and the Poet Laureate positon at Humanities Washington.

Kathleen describes the job as her "dream position" and I believe she is the dream poet to make the experience of hearing a poet for the first time magical for thousands of Washingtonians.

Congratulations, Kathleen!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Bishop!

Elizabeth Bishop 
When I first began writing again after a ten year hiatus, I wrote a poem about maps. "You should read Elizabeth Bishop's "The Map" " my teacher at the time advised. I did. And then I went on to read every other poem, story, essay, and letter that I could find. I took Ms. Bishop on as my dead mentor. I admired not only the incredible poems --- born of observation and a hidden self --- but also a life lived outside the confines of the American poetry establishment. How did she manage to be an insider and an outside all at once I wondered?

Elizabeth Bishop at Vassar College
Perhaps this two-way status began with Bishop loosing both parents at a very young age and being shuffled between grandparents -- one set in Canada -- the other in New England. Bishop's childhood home in Nova Scotia has been preserved and for the last year the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has been celebrating Bishop's centennial with a conference, readings, and festival banners.  Nova Scotia is where Bishop seems to have been happiest -- at least as a child. After her father died and her mother was committed to a sanatarium, Bishop was sent to live with her grandparents in Worcester, Massachusetts. This arrangement did not please her, but it did bring her into society.

Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell

What I want to say is this: Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Bishop! Thank you for showing me an alternative way to be a poet in the world, for forming deep lifelong friendships with other poets and for caring about language and observation above all. Bishop spent six months teaching at the University of Washington and living in the University District at an apartment building that still exists today called The Brooklyn. At a time in my life when I needed a poet to follow, a woman poet who had lived outside the conventional East Coast society, Bishop was my choice; she has yet to disappoint. 

Looking Good at 200; Happy Birthday Mr. Dickens! (1 Day Late)

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens

I miss writing long letters to friends on light blue paper -- paper that could tear at the drop of a pen tip. Perhaps this is why I appreciate the web site Letters of Note so much. If you don't know it yet, here's your chance. Each day a different letter is rescued from obscurity: the handwritten piece next to a word-processed one. I've read letters from David Bowie, Steven Hawking,  and a freed slave --- to name a few.

Below is the beginning of a letter written from Charles Dickens to the daughter of a close friend. I love the sweetness here juxtaposed with the foreboding of his upcoming "dreary voyage to America;" everything I've read about this man over the last few weeks makes me wish that I could have known him and in a way we all can --- through his books --- still alive after almost 200 years.

Dec. 16th. 1841

My dear Mary,

I should be delighted to come and dine with you on your birthday and be as merry as I wish you to be always; but as I am going within a few days afterward, a very long distance from home, and shall not see any of my children for six long months, I have made up my mind to pass all that week at home for their sakes; just as you would like your papa and mamma to spend all the time they could possibly spare with you, if they were about to make a dreary voyage to America; which is what I am going to do myself.  Read on here.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

7 Things that I Loved about The Search For Meaning - Festival of the Book

The Search for Meaning Book Festival

I've just returned from Seattle University where I attended and participated in an amazing event. I've been to literally dozens and dozens of literary festivals both in the United States and in Ireland, this has to be one of the best run and with an enormously positive vibe. I was surprised to hear that 2,500 people came out to hear a poet, a living poet, Mary Oliver  read her work.

Here are a few things I was most struck by during the course of the day.

1. 60+ people came to my session; standing room only! On a sunny, warm, Seattle afternoon, a crowd came out to write poetry and listen to my ideas on the need for solitude -- and society.

2. The juxtaposition of literature and spirituality is simply delicious.



3. Being spontaneous --- after lots of planning --- works well. After attending the lovely session with Francis McCue and then Mary Oliver's reading, I decided to toss out what I originally planned and instead focus on writing and braiding in new ideas I'm developing about poetry. Besides, I didn't bring enough handouts!


4. The Search for Meaning Book Festival is Seattle's best kept literary secret. I plan to be part of this amazing weekend next year too --- either as a presenter or participant -- or both.


5. How amazing it was to run into successful former students Elizabeth B. and Patsy M. These two super intelligent and large hearted women were my students at Highline Community College several years ago and they are now on their way to completing their BA's --- Elizabeth is attending S.U. and loving the experience.


6. Poets and non-poets alike crave community. One participant said to me, "I'm so glad I took a day for myself to do this." Another participant wanted our session turned into a three hour event. This festival clearly answered a real desire for people to come together over books and ideas.


7.  Never underestimate the power of a few dedicated people to create something amazing. This was  the third year of this event and each year it has doubled in size. This is in no small part due to the dedication of dozens of volunteers and a handful of staff people. Most of all, it seems the culture of Seattle University is a magical one. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Murder Mystery - for Your Listening Pleasure; Katharine Whitcomb


 I love starting my morning with a good poem. In our crazy full lives, listening to a poem on the radio (or the computer) feels like modern day manna to me.

Here's Elizabeth Austen introducing Katharine Whitcomb's poem Murder Mystery. I love the poem's play with narrative and the way it tells the story of a life. I picture the speaker moving through quiet streets of a small town --- porch lights, dogs (or no dogs) and that damn swing.

Katharine Whitcomb is a poet whose work I admire; I think you will too. I met Katharine when we selected her book, which I simply adore,  Lamp of Letters, for the Floating Bridge Press Prize. She is certain to have another book soon.