Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Poets in Port Townsend, Poets in Seattle, Poets in La Conner--- Poets Everywhere!

Notice the Man Behind the Curtain; He Can Join Us in Port Townsend, Too~

A new year, a new blank page, a new poem. I'm hoping 2014 is the Year of the Poem. I know that I need to work in community with poet friends, with my monthly poetry group, and with my students in order to garner creative energy to keep my writing new. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts with a B.A. in creative writing, I didn't write again for nearly a decade. That's so many poems not written, not learned from, not revised. 

Maybe it's a little irrational but I still live in fear that someday the poem well will run dry. What if I've written all the images, words, and (!) wisdom that I possess. There are days when this feels true. 

One of the best ways I know to jumpstart my work is creating poetry dates with others. Sometimes these happen with a friend but sometimes they happen creating classes for others such as Poets on the Coast and one day poetry workshops. 

There are three different kinds of events that I am working on right now with Kelli Russell Agodon - Here is information on the first two. There is a one day class planned for Seattle on Saturday, February 15th. We can hold a space for that, too. 

Saturday, January 18th, One Day Poetry Retreat in Port Townsend

CLASS 1:  (3 spots left!)

Generating New Poems / Sending Polished Poems into the World:
9 am – 12 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. Hand-outs on submission letters and suggested journals.

Susan & Kelli will also put together a submission packet of your poems to send out for you. $98


CLASS 2: (4 spots left!)
From Manuscript into Book: The Process Demystified:
1 pm – 4 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. $98


Or spend the day and take both classes for $189

Number of participants limited to 18. (4 spaces currently remaining)

_______________________________________________

Click Here for Registration Form


Friday, September 5 to Sunday, September 7th, 2014


Poets on the Coast:
A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women
Sept 5-7, 2014
Country Inn, La Conner, WA



POETS ON THE COAST

Join Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich for the fourth Poets on the Coast Weekend Writing Retreat September 5-7, 2014 at our new location in La Conner! We will gather to write, read and share our work inspired by the art, landscape, and creative energy around us.

This retreat has been designed for women writers of all levels, from beginning poets to well published. Sessions on creativity, generating work, publication, a Master Class workshop, and one-on-one mentoring are included as well as morning yoga. 



We only have a limited number of spaces available and they will be filled on a first-come basis.

The relaxing, warm Country Inn of La Conner is designed to nurture your writing self. This retreat will offer you a unique experience to explore your writing and creativity. Come spend a weekend with other women poets. Be ready to be nurtured, inspired and creative.


Frequently Asked Questions about the Poets On The Coast Writing Retreat


If you're interested in registering click here for the Poets on the Coast Registration Form
and print out the above registration form and mail us your check (made out to Kelli Agodon) to:

Poets on the Coast
Kelli Agodon
PO Box 1524
Kingston, WA 98346


REGISTRATION FEES:
$339 until January 2, 2014 - includes the Anniversary Issue of Crab Creek Review
$359 until February 15, 2014
$369 until May 30, 2014
$389 until July 31, 2014


This year we're including an OPTIONAL Ekphrastic Workshop
Friday, September 5th from 10 am - 1 pm for $95 (plus a $10 materials fee)

***Prices above are if you're paying by check.
If you pay by Paypal the price will be slightly higher due to the company’s surcharge and taxes.

Love that small blue dot; Happy 2014!

Pale Blue Dot - Animation from Ehdubya on Vimeo.

Here is the video so that you don't have to scroll or click again. It makes me feel smaller and larger all at once. Both are wonderful gifts as this year comes to an end.

Thank You Carl Sagan and Friends as 2013 Comes to an End


"That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam. "
Dr. Carl  Sagan

This comes from an awe inspiring video that's making the rounds today. I don't usually feel inspired by videos that are supposed to inspire you but this one caught me full force. In order to see the video --- and you must --- click on the link below and scroll down. You will see it!

Written and Narrated: Carl Sagan
Music: Hans Zimmer "You're So Cool"
Art and Animation: Adam Winnik

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Poet Is A Poet Because of Other People

Prospero Book Store, Kansas City, The Longest Poetry Reading

As part of the "poetries in community project" Chris Tanasescu also known as Margento (his band and stage name) commissioned this essay from me awhile back. What a lovely surprise to find that it is now on-line at the University of Ottawa website. "A Poet Is A Poet Because Of Other People" references a poem titled "A Person Is A Person Because Of Other People,"  by the South African poet, Jeremy Cronin.


From my essay referenced above:

I think if we look close enough, we’ll find that every serious poet who produces work over a lifetime has poets whom she can rely on. We need poets to drink coffee with, to talk craft with and finally (when it’s almost too late) to retell favorite stories of past and future dreams. Maybe because poetry is so far from the mainstream of American life, we need reminders that our hours, days, weeks, lifetimes spent in seclusion are okay. More than okay.

I know that without my dearest poetry friends: Kelli Russell Agodon and Katherine Flenniken I would not be as brave as a poet. Without my dearest poetry teachers: Madeline DeFrees, Pamela Alexander, Linda Pastan, and Garrett Hongo, I would not be as well trained in the craft (yes, there is much room for improvement). Without my dead mentors: Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop and Anne Sexton, I would not have begun writing at all.

                                              ***

To read the rest of the essay go to the University of Ottawa right here. In this piece I reflected on five intersecting rings that have been important to me as a poet. Five golden rings in time for the holidays!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Few Poetry Books I've Loved This Year ~ 2013

So much to reread; so little time...
It's true that most of the poetry books I read this year were written by people who are dead. I go back to Elizabeth Bishop, Denise Levertov, and Adrienne Rich more than any other poets. I re-read Rilke, and Roethke, Lorca and Heaney. None of these poets have come out with a new book this year although it seems Levertov actually will release a collected works in early 2014, boasting (?) over 600 pages of poems. As far as I know, she did not write them recently.

And yet. I often find myself desperate to discover a new poet. "Who are you reading?" ranks among the most common question poets ask of each other. We all want to embrace the new -- if the new will inspire us to write better poems.

So here is a short and very powerful list of the three new poets (or books) I discovered this year.

Mary Szybist's,  Incarnadine.

I will admit that this collection did not call to me right away. Call me a non-Christian but the Annunciation just isn't my thing. In any case, this book did win me over and in an enormous way. I think my initial resistance only increased my pleasure in the reading. I was wrong! The mix of iconic imagery mashed up with the mess of the everyday shines through. My favorite pieces are "The Troubadours, Etc." "Holy," and "Night Shifts at the Group Home." There are more but these are the poems I come back to again and again, the poems that I can learn from, the honest desire to communicate something more...

Then there's The Exchange by Sophie Cabot Black

Again, I was not immediately a fan of this book -- perhaps it was the cover art. Or perhaps as I get older the books that I admire the most are the ones I need to spend some time with. I am not interested in poetry pyrotechnics but rather something more hard won: honesty, intelligence, love.

Critiqued this way, I am in awe of many of these poems. "What You Have to Tell," "Love Poem" and "Pay Attention" are examples of the acutely observed life as we experience it in extremity. These poems are prayers. Prayers to the self, the loved one, the energy in the seeds in the pasture. I am drawn to this voice which seems both elevated and brought to basics. The language of finance, of nature, and of the beloved mixed together in a totally unpretentious voice.

Finally, I want to urge again the reading of the game of boxes by Catherine Barnett

This is a book I keep coming back to and I've written about it here before. The voice in these poems is haunting, clear, and wholly original. It is as if Rilke was reborn a single woman in New York. I cannot describe what makes these poems work on an almost subconscious level. Dear reader, get thee to a bookstore!

I"m sure there are more I could add --- and may do tomorrow. However, I believe in the short list of superb quality. The books that will not be forgotten in 2014 but will become even more powerful with time.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

10 Best Poetry Magazines in Ireland --- Time to Send Out Your Work

Eyeries, West Cork

Here is one man's pick of the ten best poetry magazines in Ireland including Poetry Ireland and The Moth -- two of my favorite. I love sending my poems to different corners of the globe and Ireland holds an especially dear place in my poetry life. Many years ago I was invited to read at the Cuirt Literary Festival in Galway and more recently I taught a week long workshop at the Anam Cara Artist's Residency. Irish taxi drivers recite Patrick Kavanagh and even in the Ayran Islands baristas know world politics. If I were to live anywhere other than Seattle, WA it would be Ireland. Here are the magazines I send to just to open the doorway to that 'one day' other life.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fantastic MFA Program with Brian Turner and Colum McCann - Too Cool for School, But It's Poetry / Prose School

Poets Brian Turner and Patricia Smith; Novelist Colum McCann for prose!
Sometimes I wish I could turn the hourglass back a few decades and become a student again. Life as a writer means there's always more to learn, to play with, and to be inspired by.

I know from my teaching at the Antioch MFA Creative Writing Program a few years ago that on-line MFA programs offer the adult learner (or the young person who needs to work) a wonderful way to work and be in school full-time all at once. I taught at Antioch during the "glory years" right after Eloise Klein Healey had created and then directed the program, the residencies had a wonderful energy back then; the kind of magic that comes from a brand new endeavor. Because of Eloise, the Low Residency program (the first on the West coast, I believe) was, for a few years, an exceptionally vibrant program.

Now there's another new program on the block -- just entering its early adolescence --- the low-residency MFA at Sierra Nevada College would be my program of choice today. Why, you might ask? First, because it's one of the only MFA low residency programs that actually offer fellowships; because there is a focus on joining poets with the world around them, and because  my good friend and former MFA classmate (we studied at the University of Oregon together) poet Brian Turner is the founding director of the program. If you don't know his books, Here Bullet and Phantom Noise, find them immediately and delve in.

This year the writer-in-residence at Sierra College is my absolutely favorite novelist, Colum McCann. He is best known for the brilliant Let the Great World Spin but I think my favorite is his newest novel, Transatlantic, that includes a wonderful investigation into Frederick Douglas's visit to Ireland as well as insights into Senator George Mitchell's important work negotiating peace for Northern Ireland. I love the way McCann wields a sentence and stretches an idea from history into the present moment. For an earlier novel, McCann went and lived in the New York underground tunnels (it is rumored) and thus wrote a compelling (and perhaps this is actually my favorite) book, This Side of Brightness.

I can think of no better poets and writers to work with than the ones gathered together in this poetry community. Not only are these writers among the most brilliant working today, they are also among the most generous people I know.

I have not even mentioned the poets Patricia Smith, Nathalie Handel, and Lee Herrick who are also on faculty. No small change here.

If you are even remotely thinking about doing an MFA --- and if you are interested in fellowship money for the 2014 year. Now is the time to check out this global, generous, and glorious (so many g's) program. Here's the information you need -- click here!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

President Nelson Mandela and the Madiba Dance

Mandela doing his signature dance
Today it rained beyond reason in South Africa. The tens of thousands of people at the soccer stadium in Soweto did not complain. "27 years!" one woman exclaimed --- "we can stand a few hours of getting wet."

From January 1997 to June 1998 I worked at the University of Cape Town as a Fulbright Fellow. My flat in Festival Court (think 12 apartments in a parking lot with sheds where the "help" once lived) was not far from the official presidential residence in Rondebosh.

The story was that Mandela (or Madiba as he is called) would take long walks in the neighborhood early in the morning, his security entourage following behind. I wanted to see him coming down the street at dawn but instead I needed to settle for the smiling replicas of Madiba that greeted me as throw pillows on the couches of friends I visited or as refrigerator magnet dolls complete with polka dotted boxers and Hawaiian shirts.

Presidential kitsch intrigued me. Here was a man that many believed to be the greatest leader of the 20th century and yet he'd been turned into a decorative pillow.

But here's the thing: people completely adored him. They wanted his likeness in their homes, within easy access. The people had voted him into office sometimes traveling for days to reach a polling station. There were stories upon stories of families taking their elderly relatives to vote tucked inside wheel barrows. In the mid-90's when Mandela was President Mandela, people felt connected to the man, the man they had fought for and the man they had elected. And yet.

The news often brought stories of Madiba's flash of temper if another official kept him waiting; he endured the public's displeasure when he took his "companion" on official state visits. What kind of role model traveled with a "foreign" woman ---Graca Machel--- he was not married to? "I've asked her and she has turned me down," Mandela told everyone. Mandela and Machel married on Mandela's 80th birthday. She is the only woman in the world to take the role of  First Lady in two different nations. Her first husband who died in a plane crash was Samora Machel, President of Mozambique.

Like President Obama, my very first political action was attending a Free Nelson Mandela event. During my lunch hour I walked over to Boston Common with some Oxfam America colleagues. A very small group of impassioned people were demanding Nelson Mandela's release and justice for the Sharpeville Six. It was 1987. No one could have guessed that Mandela would be free within three years. That protest began my interest in South Africa and a decade later I was living there.

                                                  *****
These last few days have been hard. I find myself mourning not only the incredible man but also the era. I remember setting my alarm and waking up at 5 AM to watch Mandela walk out of prison on February 11, 1990. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched his slow and steady walk out of the prison gates and into the street where thousands of people had gathered. Later it came out that Mandela had insisted on this --- on walking out of the prison gates and into the street by himself. He said the people that had worked for his release deserved to see this --- but perhaps he also wanted to claim that moment his own way.

I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts --- a city the South African apartheid regime often cited as an example of free segregation. And the only time I remember ever being in a fully integrated crowd in Boston was the day Mandela spoke at the Hatch Shell along the Charles River. Hearing Mandela, seeing him way ahead of us, sharing a footstool that someone near us was sharing so we could get a better look, and gossiping about Winnie --- it's all part of that magical day. A day that perhaps changed my life forever. To feel such energy, to feel love in a crowd of thousands. To greet a man that we never really believed would walk free. It changes the impossible into the possible for each person in that crowd.

Today in my office at Highline Community College where I teach I keep my eye on two pictures of Mandela on the wall. One was given to me by a student and shows an extreme close-up of Madiba's smile --- it's hard to look at that face and not smile back. The other image is a black and white postcard with Madiba speaking on a cell phone just a few days after his release. He doesn't look entirely comfortable with the phone or perhaps its with the person at the other end of the line but this is the picture I go to again and again. The juxtaposition of the man --- freed from prison --- and the phone, just beginning to be omnipresent ---seems to hint at something larger: the old with a bridge to the new.

In South Africa there is much rejoicing for the life that Mandela lived; people gather to sing and celebrate his legacy. That is the way to pay respect. Perhaps what I need to do now is turn on some Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. To reclaim the Madiba dance.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers --- and Karma


So last summer somewhere in the Cleveland Airport I lost my traveling jacket. A sky blue wind breaker with two silver glow-in-the-dark stripes across the back. This jacket with deep, zip-up pockets made out of rain repellant material has visited Ireland twice and the San Juan Islands more winters than I can count. For fall walks along Alki Beach there is nothing better. So when I arrived in transit in San Francisco and prepared myself for the last flight home, I simply couldn't believe the jacket was gone.

And not only my jacket. There was the matter of those deep pockets (see above). In one I had my keys --- house, work, and post office box. In the other, a blue Chinese bag with my favorite earrings tucked inside. It's not hyperbole to say, I couldn't imagine my life without these things. Especially the keys. Arriving home after midnight, I ended up digging in the ground for the emergency key.

The next day I called everyone I could think of -- from United Airlines to TSA to the coffee shop in the airport. Amazingly, each place I called, a person answered on the first ring. But the answers were all the same. No jacket. Several months passed and in that time I replaced the keys, the jacket, and I bought some new earrings. And yet. How to replace things that were not exactly replaceable? I even mourned the key ring. 

Until one day late in August I checked my post office box. When I opened the brass door,  a  package awaited me from an unknown address. It's not unusual for me to receive books for review but this package was larger than a book. In fact, I opened it to discover my long lost jacket, nearly three months after I'd lost it. 

The return address was a small town in central California which I'd never heard of  --- and the name was only a first initial followed by a generic last name. Extensive Google searching turned up a photo of the house where my hero lived and how much s/he paid for said house --- but nothing more. 

There were two Alchemist Kitchen business cards in the pocket of the jacket and that must've tipped her (or him) off as to where the blue jacket belonged. But how did it get to California from Cleveland? Why did the do-gooder not include a note? I've made up at least half a dozen stories to amuse myself -- but the answer is clear: there are good people in the world who come forward and want nothing in return.

So to that dear person in central California, you know who you are, a thousand and one thank yous.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Honey, Lemon, Ginger, and More...


Garlic for example, and chamomile too. For the last few weeks I've been waging war against the cold that has encompassed everyone I know. Some friends have advised zinc and others swear by vitamin C. I just want my head to stop feeling as if a rave is going on -- complete with bass line and mosh pit.

How can it be that there is Ziacam and Counter Attack, Tylenol and Aleve and still no end in sight. Maybe I need a 'get better soon' poem. If you know of one -- do post it below. Perhaps I need to write one. "A Spell on Good Health" would be its title.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Giving Thanks ~ To You: Reaching 500


The images for 500 online mostly fall into two categories: cars and cash currency. The one exception is the lyrics for the folk song "500 Miles." However, my quest for a fine 500 is for you, my 500 subscribers. Thank you so much. I was a latecomer to blogs and began The Alchemist's Kitchen exactly four years ago just as everyone else was moving to something called Twitter.



Thank you to those of you who leave comments --- I love hearing your ideas and suggestions. Or just plain hearing from you. Thank you to those who wrote in to help me choose cover art for Cloud Pharmacy (which will be published in February) and thank you to those who participated in the 2013 Poetry Giveaway -- over 77 poets participated in all. Wow. And the poetry lovers came from almost every corner of the globe: Italy, South Africa, New Zealand and the Philippines are some of the countries I remember.

Thank you for following me to teach ekphrastic poetry at Anam Cara in Ireland and for providing much needed support when I went through my cat Otis's final weeks care taking for him nearly round the clock.

Then there are the wonderful books sent for review, the readers who came out to meet me on book tour in Boston, Miami, and San Diego.  It's easy to believe I'm writing into the dark, the click of the keys my only certain company. However, with 500 followers that can't really be true.

So please; keep leaving comments, sending emails, asking about book reviews, and anything else that comes to mind. I'm here into the indefinite future. And yes, I very much hope that you are, too!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Perfect Gift for the Poet in Your Life -- Poems, Publishers, and People You Want to Know


When I was just starting to publish my poems in the early 1990s the Poet's Market was my compass, my mentor, my how-to-feel-like-a-real poet drugstore all wrapped up in one. Because of Poets Market I found the Alaska Quarterly Review and the Bellingham Review --- two superb journals that I still publish in today. But is there a need for a physical book of poetry resources in 2013?

Yes! That's my emphatic answer. Each year new articles and poems are included in the edition. New journals appear and disappear. Most of all, the book is friendly, welcoming to all poets, and filled with an array of information that can't easily be found anywhere else.

Sure, there are websites like New Pages and Poets & Writers that offer great information on contests and journals -- but they tend to feature a fraction of what is available here. For example, Robert Brewer's interviews with new (or new-to-me) poets is one of my favorite sections of the book along with poems by a selection of poets (this year, this includes me).

What a pleasure to be featured in a book that helped me get my start as a poet. And after 20 years, it's a gift to find that Poet's Market remains available to all.

An Old Friend and My Favorite Novel in a Long Time: The Fifty-First State


One of the best things about a good book is that the characters come alive; they take up residence in our heads. On my drive to work I find myself wondering how Hallie and Josh are doing in New York. And what about Ram?  And Emma, the dog? I'm looking forward to hearing Lisa Borders read from this engaging novel Monday night at 7:00 PM at Elliott Bay Books.

Lisa and I first met at the Blue Mountain Center the summer of 1998. I had recently returned from living in South Africa and was reeling from culture shock, the loss of my parents, and post graduate school angst. Lisa, by contrast, seemed cool and comfortable in her skin. Neither of us had yet published a book.

Monday night's reading will be sponsored by Hedgebrook and joining Lisa will be local author Abigail Carter with her memoir The Alchemy of Loss.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Cool New Book by My Bedside or: Coming Out as a Jewish Poet


I don't often come out as a Jewish poet but here I am in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Jewish American Poetry. Thank you to the editors Deborah Ager and Matt Silverman for including me in this important anthology. I am especially grateful that the editors decided to blend more traditionally Jewish themes with more global concerns. For example, included are three poems by Ed Hirsch including his iconic "The Sleepwalkers" alongside "Yahrzeit Candle" and "Elegy for the Jewish Villages." I love this juxtaposition between the popular, well anthologized poem and the two less well known pieces. The anthology allows for a holistic approach to Judaism and to poetry.

Other favorites in this necessary book include Jane Hirshfield's, "In a Kitchen Where Mushrooms Were Washed,"  Lynn Levin's "Eve and Lilith Go to Macy's" and Yehoshua November's, "A Jewish Poet." Strangely, the poets are all lined up in alphabetical order without chapters or sections of any sort. What I like is the democratization of all these poets -- some famous and some not so much. And I see the editors' dilemma that as soon as one begins to put the poems into categories "The Sleepwalkers" would need to part company from "Yahrzeit Candle." In the end, I agree that the editors did a mitzvah by letting the alphabet determine the order of poets. This is one more way that this anthology breaks the mold.

As a Pacific Northwest poet who knows exactly two Jewish poets in the Seattle area (sadly neither are included in this anthology) I am thrilled to be included in these pages. Here is my tribe --- or one of my tribes --- and I look forward to more time with this anthology which would make a really wonderful Hanukah gift.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop -- A New Approach

What I like about Diane Lockward's new craft book is its collaborative approach. This "portable workshop" offers practical advice, writing prompts, and poems from established poets such as Jane Hirshfield, Wesley McNair, Linda Pastan, Martha Silano, and Cecilia Woloch ~ 101 poets in all.

In my college creative writing class I've already put this guide into practice borrowing Craft Tip #21 Ten Tips for Breaking the Line in Free Verse. The book is designed to use on your own or as part of a class. Open to any page and there's something there that's genuinely worth investigating.

 Each chapter begins with a quote for inspiration, followed by a craft tip, a prompt, sample poems, and a bonus poem.

"It's a funny thing; the more I practice the luckier I get."

~ Arnold Palmer

I like bringing an iconic golf pro into the game of poetry. And of course, the same advice rings true in both disciplines. 

This is a gentle book; it understands that you might be making use of the prompts on the train to work or late at night once you put the children to bed. Or perhaps after your math homework is complete and before you need to practice the sax.

"Art is the only way to runaway without leaving home."

~Twyla Tharp

I know I will be making good use of this  "how to" anthology ~ for my students as well as for myself. My only quibble with this good book is that there is no index of first lines of poems or any index at all. I know that the reason for this might well be financial, but in future editions I hope it might be added. I'd also love to see a chapter on ekphrastic writing, borrowing inspiration from visual art or music.

Again, these are small suggestions. I believe this is an important new resource for poets ~ those who are just beginning as well as the more seasoned poet. To take a look inside you can click here.

As Mary Oliver states in the Poet's Handbook, if you need to choose between a great teacher and a great library, the library should win every time. This book deserves a place on the shelf, or since its portable, in the suitcase.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Clangings: poems by Steven Cramer Book Trailer



I've been teaching persona poems to my students this last week. I wish I had had this one to share with them. It's a superb example of using language in fresh and interesting ways that are still accessible. I find myself wildly happy by this small poem discovery in the middle of my day.

Here is the trailer and hopefully you will access it easily...

And here is the poem:


Clangings


I hear the dinner plates gossip
Mom collected to a hundred.
My friends say get on board,
but I'm not bored. Dad's a nap
lying by the fire. That's why
when radios broadcast news,
news broadcast from radios
gives air to my kinship, Dickey,
who says he'd go dead if ever
I discovered him to them.
I took care, then, the last time
bedrooms banged, to tape over
the outlets, swipe the prints
off DVDs, weep up the tea
stains where once was coffee.
Not one seep from him since.
What, you wander, do I mean?
Except for slinging my songs
wayward home, how do things
in people go? is what I mean.

-Steven Cramer



From Clangings, Sarabande Press

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Announcing Poets On the Coast: A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women 2014

Woman Imagining Herself at Poets on the Coast 2014

Yes, Kelli Russell Agodon and I are once again embarking on Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women on September 5th - 7th at the Country Inn in La Conner, Washington. We are totally excited for our new location which is walking distance to cafes, shops, and the Northwest Museum of Art. La Conner is famous for the Skagit River Poetry Festival and the artists of the Northwest School. It is also an easy drive from Seattle and accessible from the Seattle Airport by express bus.

This year we are also offering a pre-conference workshop called Speaking Out: Poetry and Visual Art.

One of the oldest known images of a woman writing
We know that September 5th is exactly 10 months away but women have already been contacting us for the details of next year's conference. In fact, some poets have already sent in their registration forms.

Join Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich for the fourth Poets on the Coast Weekend Writing Retreat September 5-7, 2014 at our new location in La Conner! We will gather to write, read and share our work inspired by the art, landscape, and creative energy around us.





This retreat has been designed for women writers of all levels, from beginning poets to well published. Sessions on creativity, generating work, publication, a Master Class workshop, and one-on-one mentoring are included as well as morning yoga. 



We only have a limited number of spaces available and they will be filled on a first-come basis.

The relaxing, warm Country Inn of La Conner is designed to nurture your writing self. This retreat will offer you a unique experience to explore your writing and creativity. Come spend a weekend with other women poets. Be ready to be nurtured, inspired and creative.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Poets On The Coast Writing Retreat


REGISTRATION FOR POETS ON THE COAST: Sept 5-7, 2014

If you're interested in registering click here for the Poets on the Coast Registration Form
and print out the above registration form and mail us your check (made out to Kelli Agodon) to:


Poets on the Coast
Kelli Agodon
PO Box 1524
Kingston, WA 98346


REGISTRATION FEES:

$339 until January 2, 2014 - includes the Anniversary Issue of Crab Creek Review
$359 until February 15, 2014
$369 until May 30, 2014
$389 until July 31, 2014


This year we're including an OPTIONAL Ekphrastic Workshop
Friday, September 5th from 10 am - 1 pm for $95 (plus a $10 materials fee)


***Prices above are if you're paying by check.
If you pay by Paypal the price will be slightly higher due to the company’s surcharge and taxes.


Note: Registration cost does not include hotel stay at the Country Inn.
(Poets on the Coast offers discounted rates ($119-$179 a night) depending on the type of room.
After you register with Poets on the Coast, we will send information on how you can take advantage
of our discounted room rates.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Guilty Pleasure: Revision




“Revision is not going back and fussing around, but going forward into the highly complex and satisfying process of creation”

                                                            May Sarton


"It's not how you write; it's how you re-write."

                                                           Gloria Steinem


If it wasn't for revision, I never would have become a poet. If it wasn't for revision, I never would have become a published writer at all. There would be no way to improve my work if I didn't spend hours, days, and sometimes years, revising. Writing is one area of life where obsession is a good thing. Or can be a good thing. I think I may have to stop writing and revise that last line. As a writer, I consider each word; its sound and sense. I want the best words in the best order. Sounds so simple and yet...

I've written an essay on revision titled, "It's Not How You Write," that's been published a few times and is now available here. I can remember learning revision as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts. Madeline DeFrees was my first real poetry teacher. One afternoon a week I would head up to her office, poem in hand. A poem that I would have worked hours on and in those days, fallen a bit in love with. Madeline would take out her red pen (!) and start marking away as she read. She'd provide ideas on what needed changing and off I'd go again. "Once you remove the weakest link in the chain, another one comes to take its place."

My fantasy was to bring her a poem that defied the red pen; a poem that she would like just as I wrote it. No changes. And of course that never happened. Revision felt like a slow water torture to me. I'd stretch myself to do my best work and then she'd tell me, stretch again. 

So it seems simple that my students would feel the same way I did then. What do I want from them? Blood? Their first born? It's good to remember that revision started out as attempting the impossible.

And yet. This weekend I went to a reading of a friend's play. The play is a play-in-progress. After the actors finished, we were asked to stay and do a "talk back" so that my friend, the playwright, could gather our impressions -- both good and bad. She is delighted to have lots of rewriting and reconstruction to do. 

No one gets it right the first time; but the great thing about writing is that perhaps we will get it right on the 102nd time.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Perfect Place for Poets and Poetry Events: La Conner and Port Townsend

A perfect place for poetry
I confess. I am a great fan of the small town. Add a body of water nearby  -- whether river or Puget Sound -- and I'm there. This year I am absolutely thrilled to be a featured poet at the Skagit River Poetry Festival, May 16th and 17th in La Conner, Washington.

Other featured readers include Sherman Alexie, Roberto Ascalon, Mark Doty, Tom Robbins (who knew he writes poetry), Rachel Rose, Emily Warn, Kelly Davio and Derek Sheffield. 

And here's a secret: If you book now at the Country Inn in La Conner (walking distance to all the main venues) you will receive a deeply discounted festival price. You must call though; it's not available on their website.

May is a long time to wait for a poetry event, at least for me. Kelli Russell Agodon and I still have a few spots left in our Port Townsend event on Saturday, January 18th. Here is the information on the two workshops and how to sign up.

Back by Popular Demand:

Picture









Poets On The Coast: A Mini Retreat

Two Writing Classes in Port Townsend taught by
Susan Rich & Kelli Russell Agodon


Where: Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St. Port Townsend, WA

When: Saturday, January 18th, 2014


Generating New Poems / Sending Polished Poems into the World:
9 am – 12 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. Hand-outs on submission letters and suggested journals.

Susan & Kelli will also put together a submission packet of your poems to send out for you. $98



From Manuscript into Book: The Process Demystified:
1 am – 4 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. $98


Or spend the day and take both classes for $189
Number of participants limited to 18.

_______________________________________________

TO REGISTER:

Please print and fill out this page & mail with your payment to Kelli Agodon at PO Box 1524, Kingston, WA 98346


Name:

Address:

City, State, Zip:

Email:

Circle one: Generating New Work 9 am-12 pm $98 From Manuscript to Book 1 pm-4 pm $98 BOTH Classes at $189

If you want to pay by Paypal or credit card simply click here and scroll down

Friday, October 25, 2013

We're Trying to do Something Delicate and Precise: A Poetry Reading Reviewed

Poem, Drink, Love
If our reading at Poco Wine Bar last night was a piece of theater (it was) or a string quartet (it was) we could look for a review in the morning paper. It's true we were lucky enough to get a mention in The Spectator before our actual event.

And yes, it's becoming more evident that Seattle is a city of literary proportions with an array of arts festivals, independent bookshops, and most importantly, wildly creative activists. Arts Crush, Lit Crawl, World Book Night and dozens of different reading series make this a superb environment for any literary artist to flourish in.



But I digress. Last night four poets read at Poco Wine Bar and the crowd loved it. The night began with an amazing recitation by John  Duvernoy. He informed the crowd that on his way to the venue his poems had fallen out of his pocket. There wasn't time to bicycle home so he would do his best to present his poems by heart. The poems seemed to be forming right there in front of us, coming out of his body as if he was creating them just for us.

Next the crowd was treated to the work of Rebecca Hoogs. She read from her debut collection, Self Storage. Rebecca chose a long and beautiful poem in 13 parts. She confessed that writing 13 short sections of "Long Spell" was how she tricked herself into writing a long poem. I love that she included a line for Napoleon's horse, Marengo, and the line "I am married / to the subject." Hoog's poem was a listening pleasure.

I read next and then passed the invisible microphone over to poet and novelist Karen Finneyfrock who involved the audience in an Occupy action, a group voice asking the merrymakers downstairs to whisper together for a mere ten minutes while the upstairs merrymakers listened to poetry. Although a single "no" was shouted from below, Finneyfrock still won.

She brought our upstairs crew that much closer together with our voices joining in a chorus in defense of poetry. Her true telling of the sea-witch story was a perfect ending to the hour.  And so the night began, with poetry of love, addiction, and owls.

"We're trying to do something delicate and precise," Karen Finneyfrock declared. Every evening should begin with a superb glass of wine and poetry.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Did you hear the one about four poets who walked into a bar ...

1408 East Pine Street Capitol Hill
Tomorrow night, Thursday, October 24th, as part of Lit Crawl Seattle, four poets will walk into this bar and start slinging words at precisely 6:00 PM. And what happens after that is anybody's guess.

The theme for the night is Love, Addiction and Owls. The poets include Rebecca Hoogs, John Duvernoy, Karen Finneyfrock, and me. The schedule for Lit Crawl is vast and wide moving all the way to Babe Land, Richard Hugo House, Town Hall, and Photo Northwest.

True confession: I've never read in a bar before. I've read in coffee houses, art museums, and even one Irish mountain top but this will be my first bar. Perhaps I've finally come of age.

If you are in the Seattle area and over 21, please join us!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Best Book Group Ever!

They're my first!
      I admit it; I was nervous. This was a dream I had nourished for a  long time: to be the guest author at a book group. My novelist friends would recount stories of smart readers and beautiful food; they had been treated like royalty by interesting people that admired their work. Really, what could be a better way to spend an evening?

   Of course it is not the norm for book groups to embrace poetry. It's the adventurous group that takes on poetry and doubles the adventure by inviting the poet.

    I studied hard before the meeting to make sure I knew the answers to their questions. Where did the name "Imagining My Life with Lions" come from? And what about the tilde ~ that appears throughout the book?

    The Alchemist's Kitchen will only be my new book for another six months and so how lovely to return to it again for such a close reading.

    Most of all I am thankful for small groups of smart readers that come together for poetry. The group members were not poets; they were scientists, painters, travelers, and one novelist. They are my new best friends. In hearing their responses to my work the poems were born anew with fresh life breathed into them.

    Thank you Bainbridge readers from the bottom of my heart for an evening of smart conversation, personal responses, and gorgeous food (including garden picked kale). You were my first book group and I bow to your generous hearts.

   If you are in a book group or want to do a book themed dinner party, find out more about bringing one of ten northwest poets to your table at A Poet At Your Table.

 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Writing Prompt Revisited, The Art of the Interview, and the City of Sarajevo



       Sometimes finding the right prompt can allow a poet to write a poem that never would have entered the world without the constraints of form. I've noticed recently that many of my poems from my time in Bosnia are ghazals or villanelles. Sometimes restraint works to compress the language and allows for lyric surprises.

    Here's a writing prompt on the art of the interview (also a form)  that was published on Midge Raymond's Seattle PI blog, Writers Block, a few years ago. I created this during the time I was a curator for the Jack Straw Writers Program and needed to conduct interviews with each of the 12 writers for the program's podcast series. Is conducting an interview a legitimate prompt?

     Actually, it's more than a prompt. It's a way of learning compassion. As a writer, if you spend hours with someone and listen to her story, it stays with you. Active listening allows for the creation of a better poem and perhaps a better person as well.

    As a poet, I think it's a way to steal some of the tools of the journalist or the fiction writer. And I'm all for stealing --- in the literary sense.

Sarajevo - old city

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Success in Book Promotion and Poetry at Poco


Mini Q&A with poet Susan Rich



This is an excerpt of Susan Rich’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about book promotion, asking for what you want, and unique ideas for book events. For more book promo information, and to read Susan’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.



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 the forthcoming Cloud Pharmacy. Her poems have been published in the Antioch Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry International, and The Southern Review, among others, and her fellowships include an Artist Trust Fellowship from Washington State and a Fulbright Fellowship in South Africa.

Q: What are the most successful things you’ve done to promote your books?


A: I learned this from a poet friend, and it’s very simple: “Ask for what you want.” Be clear on what makes an event or a project a positive experience for you. When one festival in Vermont invited me to read, I wrote back to say I’d love to come but I needed accommodation for my stay. At first the organizer said that he couldn’t accommodate me, but a few weeks later he came through with rooms offered to the festival by a lovely hotel. Since then I have asked museums to host events for free and hotels to give over their penthouse for a performance. There is no shame associated with asking for what you want—and this works especially well when working with other writers.

Here’s one example. For my book The Alchemist’s Kitchen, I decided that I wanted to set up a national tour. This goal sounded overly grandiose to my ears and to my budget (poets are not sent on tours by their publishers), but it was what I wanted: a new challenge. Over a two-week period, I visited San Diego, Boston, and Miami for events in each place. In each city I had friends to see, so I knew it would be fun no matter what else happened. In each city I read with other writers and made contacts that led to other projects. Going on the road facilitated new contacts and new places to do book promotion—because I asked.

Q: What aspect of book promotion has surprised you the most?


A: I’m always surprised that book promotion is actually fun. I am an introvert at heart—happiest with my own company. The idea of “selling” myself makes me want to run off to another planet. However, after several books I’ve found that when a book comes out, I look for other “new” authors in the same position so we can help each other. The writers I’ve met are overwhelmingly a generous lot. We share creative promotional ideas and our favorite bookstores to read in. This goes a long way toward casting the whole expedition as more of an adventure than a burden. My newest idea, “borrowed” from Colleen Michaels, a poet in Salem, Massachusetts, is to create an “Improbable Places Poetry Tour.” Colleen and her students at Montserrat College stage poetry readings where you least expect to find them: a flower shop, a Laundromat, a store window, and a bank. I’m working on an event right now that takes place in a hotel penthouse.

To read Susan’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. And don’t miss Susan’s website.


For those of you in Seattle, Susan will be participating inLitCrawl Seattle on Thursday, October 24, 2013 — she’ll be reading at Poco Wine + Spirits (at 1408 E Pine St.) with Karen Finneyfrock, Rebecca Hoogs, and John Duvernoy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Forever--- is Composed of Nows---" - Emily Dickinson's Gorgeous Nothings

 
Emily Dickinson


Here's what's new in the world of Emily Dickinson and it's exciting. See what a scholar, visual artist, and dancer have done with Dickinson's envelope poems!

From the Poetry Foundation website
 

Today New Directions will publish The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems, featuring facsimiles of 52 poems Dickinson wrote on envelopes late in her life. We talked to editors Jen Bervin and Marta Werner about the book, as well as to contemporary artists Lesley Dill and Spencer Finch whose work is inspired by the poet.

Gorgeous Nothings! Hardly. Good news spins forth from the New Directions blog–the press is publishing the first-ever, full-color, large-scale edition of Emily Dickinson’s “complete envelope writings in facsimile from her visually stunning manuscripts.” With contributions from Jen Bervin (you’ve hopefully spied her beautiful, intricate “Dickinson Fascicles”?), Susan Howe, and Marta Werner


 Watch the video of it here!

 The Gorgeous Nothings
Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems
Poetry
Emily Dickinson
Edited by Jen Bervin
Edited by Marta Werner
Contributors: Susan Howe .

The first full-color publication of Emily Dickinson’s complete envelope writings in facsimile from her visually stunning manuscripts, here in a deluxe, large-scale edition

The Gorgeous Nothings — the first full-color facsimile edition of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts ever to appear — is a deluxe edition of her late writings, presenting this crucially important, experimental late work exactly as she wrote it on scraps of envelopes. A never-before-possible glimpse into the process of one of our most important poets.

The book presents all the envelope writings — 52 — reproduced life-size in full color both front and back, with an accompanying transcription to aid in the reading, allowing us to enjoy this little-known but important body of Dickinson’s writing. Envisioned by the artist Jen Bervin and made possible by the extensive research of the Dickinson scholar Marta L. Werner, this book offers a new understanding and appreciation of the genius of Emily Dickinson.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More Information for Port Townsend Workshops


Poets on the Coast in Port Townsend


POETS ON THE COAST: A MINI WINTER RETREAT


Susan Rich & Kelli Russell Agodon


Generating New Poems / Sending Polished Poems into the World

9 AM – 12 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. Hand-outs on submission letters and suggested journals. Susan & Kelli will also put together a submission packet of your poems to send out for you. $98

From Manuscript into Book: The Process Demystified

1 PM – 4 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. $98



OR RETREAT FOR THE DAY 
TAKE BOTH CLASSES FOR $189 TOTAL

When: Saturday, January 18th, 2014
Where: Northwest Maritime Center,
431 Water St. Port Townsend, WA

To Register:

Name:
Address:
City, State, Zip:
Email:

Circle one:   Generating New Work 9 am-12 pm $98 From Manuscript to Book 1 pm-4 pm $98              Retreat for the day for $189


Send this form and payment to:

Kelli Agodon - Poets on the Coast
PO Box 1524,
Kingston, WA 98346


Or register online at: www.agodon.com/classes.html

Questions or to save your space email: poetsonthecoast@yahoo.com

Friday, October 11, 2013

Poets On the Coast Travels to Port Townsend!

Mini Winter  Retreat in Port Townsend 
Poets on the Coast is traveling along the Puget Sound to Port Townsend on Saturday, January 18th with two workshop options: Generating New Work in the morning slot (9:00 AM - Noon) and in the afternoon, From Manuscript into Book (1:00 PM  - 4:00 PM). To reserve a spot click here and scroll down; space is very limited. The place we've chosen is beautiful, and on the coast, of course.

Kelli Russell Agodon and I will co-teach both workshops. You can choose either Generating New Work and Sending Polished Poems into the Word or From Manuscript into Book for the afternoon session. We're offering a reduced rate should you want to retreat for the day!

Both workshops are geared for all poets --- from beginners to advanced. Whether you have a poetry manuscript or not, the exercises we provide as well as the nuts and bolts information on all steps to publication will be useful.

These classes are back due to popular demand! We'd love to have you join us for a winter writing retreat -- our first on this side of the water.

The number of participants is limited to 18. Please click here to find out more. 

A Necessary Resource For All Writers - And A Free Download

by Midge Raymond
I love the voice Midge Raymond takes in her necessary book, Everyday Book Marketing. She is both encouraging and smart, honest and approachable. I've read through every chapter and am ready to read it again, this time taking her straightforward suggestions.

Is there a poet in the world that loves to market her work? I have yet to meet her (or him).

And yet. As writers, we need to meet our readers and let them know through the local bookstore, or  national readings, or GoodReads that we have birthed a book. Midge includes interviews with a wide assortment of writers who have gone on the road to promote their books, some with startling results.

Midge Raymond is a generous writer and she has provided a free download so that you can read a chapter of the book and see if there's information here for you. As a fiction writer herself, she has the first hand experience in terms of book tours, author photos, blogs and much more that can be essential for the 21st century writer.

Some of the writers who've contributed to the section Authors and Experts include Janna Cawrse Esarey, Wendy Call, Katherine Trueblood, Rosanne Olson, Kelli Russell Agodon and me.

Whether you have 15 minutes to devote to marketing your book or you're interested in an extended tour, this book is full of great tips. Mostly, you'll know that you are not alone and that many writers have come before you and are willing to share their expertise.

I'm endorsing Everyday Book Marketing 101% It's been my guide for Cloud Pharmacy, my fourth book of poems. I keep this beautiful paperback on my desk and pick it up when I need a promotion kick in the pants --- which is often.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cloud Pharmacy Comes Alive!

      Why is it that once a book appears on Amazon it feels alive? Perhaps because Cloud Pharmacy existed for so long inside my head, it's a shock and a pleasure to see it advertised out in the world, or at least on the computer screen.

      The cover will  still get tweaked a bit from this image just in terms of color and no italics on my name, for example,  but we are very, very close. And yes, it is available for pre-order here but so much more fun to get your copy on Friday,  February 28th at the book launch at SAM (Seattle Art Museum). The event will also launch Hourglass Museum by Kelli Russell Agodon.

      When I chose this title I did not understand quite how prevalent cloud technology would become. My book is listed with all sorts of technology texts. And so for now, Cloud Pharmacy, exists in the cloud. Kind of cool. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Different Kind of Reading at Facere



Signs of Life at Facere Gallery


I will be reading at 4:00 PM Wednesday at Facere Gallery in downtown Seattle for an ekphrastic project that's been a real honor (and fun!) to be part of. Signs of Life is an exhibit that pairs visual artists, in this case, jewelry makers, with poets and prose writers. The anthology that comes out of this exhibit is of the highest quality. Tomorrow's reading will feature several area writers as well as fluted glasses of champagne. Open to all!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Back to School Time: Survival Tips

Welcome Back
In the Pacific Northwest the academic year begins later than on the east coast. The story goes that farm families wouldn't let their children begin the year until the apple harvest was done. I love the idea that the academic calendar needed to negotiate with the farmers and therefore the seasons. And today, with rain in the morning and a sunny but cool afternoon, it seems time to settle in.

So many of my students are new to the college this quarter. They sit in class and give little away by their expressions. Engagement and boredom look much the same on the young adult face. Today I had three encounters with students that gave me a little more insight into where they are coming from and slowly we begin to see each other as fellow human beings rather than only in our roles as students or teacher. At least that's my hope.

"What do you believe" is the first assignment for English 101. So far I've learned that certain students believe in bicycles and cell phones; others are more partial to drum sets and dogs.
Every quarter we move from strangers to a strange kind of extended family. I look forward to knowing them all much better over the weeks to come.

Here Are Some of My Tips for Survival

1. Smile as much as possible.  It sounds silly but it works better to say "I can't talk to you right now because I need to teach this class" with a smile on my face. The message is the same but the sting is not.

2. Be forgiving, be fair.  As someone who teaches about 75-100 students per quarter, I am constantly trying to balance these two concepts. If I allow one student to hand in a paper late how is that fair to the student who didn't have the self confidence to ask the same question? It's easy to forgive one slip but is it fair to reward sloppy behavior? I see no black and white here, just questions that always need to be answered.

3. The first week is all about first impressions. Be your best self. Psychologists say we form 93% of our impression of someone on a first meeting. Actually, in the first few minutes of that first meeting. It's crucial that we all do our best to be gracious and kind this first week.

4. Be gentle with yourself. This first week is an onslaught to the senses. Where is my class? When is this first assignment due? How will I ever do all that's expected of me? These questions plague students and professors. And yet, December will arrive, We will make it through.

5. Sleep, exercise, food. I've returned to my yoga practice, started going to bed earlier and cutting out foods that do my body no good. Studies all agree that these are crucial elements for a healthy life. The practices I put in place now should help when things get even more intense with papers and mid-terms.

6. Remember, this is a cool job! Monday I taught my creative writing students William Stafford's, "You Reading This, Be Ready" with the wonderful line, "Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts?" There are moments  in many of my days where I can't believe how wonderful a job it is to share poetry and film, essays and stories with students from around the world.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Long Listed for National Book Award: Congratulations to Lucie Brock-Broido

Poems by Lucie Brock-Broido
I am a lover of the long, strange, and grandiose title. And so, it seems, is Ms. Brock-Broido. My favorite examples of this in her new book Stay, Illusion  are "You Have Harnessed Yourself Ridiculously to This World" and "Considering the Possible Music of Your Hair."

This summer I was sent an advance copy of Stay, Illusion to review and consequently spent much of August carrying the beautiful book with me and making comments in the margins as I stopped at red lights or took the collection out for coffee. Along the way I learned that "dirndl" is a traditional German skirt or dress and that I really need to read Kafka's Blue Octavo Notebooks.

More than this, I found myself drawn again and again to the scaffolding of the poems, to the long lines both intimate and faraway at once. In these lines the beloved is close and the language paired down. Here are some of my favorite lines in the book.

Cloak of many blankets wounding you to warmth. It was not,
We both agreed, the time for hospital, its open sea of urgent

Care. Close your eyes and try to sleep. Underwater the music

Of your hair is glossy even now, willowing in currents, away
From our island rancid with the spring.

                                                                 Not much longer now.

Green length of one hour, all the blood rushing to the places it will
Not be needed anymore. Now no longer now.

                                                         from "Considering the Possible Music of Your Hair"

The collection's title references a line from "Hamlet" and it is a tad unclear to this reader whether the loss of the father and the aftermath of the world without him is a perfect analogy for this book. Certainly the narrator of these poems is self-obsessed and as with Hamlet's youthful narcissism,  we are drawn into their struggles.

Lucy Brock-Broido
Finally, it is the the sense of a mind looking back on its life in the presence of death that interests me most. The language is paired down to particulars and with an urgency to speak.

However, one troubled orientation of the book is the constant references to "Jews" in a rather Shakespearean fashion. I find this troubling from the first poem onwards:

On the tunic of a Jew, preventing more bad biological accidents

                                        From breeding in. I have not bred-
In.

          from "Infinite Riches in the Smallest Room"

I do not know Ms. Brock-Broido and so perhaps these references would make more sense if I did.

This is a book that I would recommend for poets interested in structure and surprise --- which I believe is most of us. It is a book that kept me company in late summer and my writing and thinking were the better for it.