Monday, February 24, 2014

The Creative Process - The Writing Process - Blog Tour of Writers, 2014



The lovely and talented Kelli Russell Agodon invited me to be part of this blog tour which is focusing on writers in all different genres.  You can read the answers to her four questions right here on her blog, Book of Kells. My favorite part is where Kelli shares how her writing process involves listening to music and that her youtube list gets her "in the mood."

By now you may well know that Kelli Russell Agodon is one of my closest friends and that we have starred in many adventures together including co-founding Poets on the Coast and A Poet At Your Table.  This Friday at 6:30 pm at Taste (restaurant) at the Seattle Art Museum our books will both launch at the White Pine Press reception -- open to all.

Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Hourglass Museum and The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, which she co-authored with Martha Silano. Her other books include Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, Small Knots, Geography, and Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry which she edited with Annette Spaulding-Convy.

She is the co-founder of Two Sylvias Press and when not writing, Kelli can be found in the Northwest mountain biking, paddleboarding, or walking her golden retriever, Buddy Holly.

She blogs at: www.ofkells.blogspot.com <http://www.ofkells.blogspot.com> or you can connect with her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/agodon <http://www.facebook.com/agodon> or on her homepage: www.agodon.com <http://www.agodon.com>

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And here we go: my four questions and answers

1. What am I working on?

The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m working on breathing. 

My fourth book of poems, Cloud Pharmacy was released this month and I’m still looking at it as if it’s a phantom. Did my poems really find a physical home?

Here’s a tip I use for trying to counteract the sense of unreality that accompanies a new book. Each time I have published a book and the first box of copies comes to the house, I place one in the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the living room in order to convince myself that my book is real. At the moment, I am working on taking the kitchen copy off the counter before the coffee stains appear.

Okay — I know that’s not what this question intends. I’ve also been working on new poems. I’m really needing to devote myself more to poetry. Recently, I’ve received a big reminder from the universe that life is finite. I’ve always been a slow writer and I don’t know that I can change that. What I can make an effort to change is the amount of time I give to my own writing; yes, this is what I’m working on.

In terms of the next book, it’s a little soon to tell. However, my obsession with photography seems to continue on but with a new twist; this time with a bit of an international focus. As with any new project, there’s little more I can say so early on.


2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

On a walk in Port Townsend, Washington the poet Sharon Bryan once told me that no one else could write our poems. If we don’t write them, it will be too late. So my life experiences of living on three different continents, my obsession with 19th century women photographers, and my own quiet character fold into my poems in odd juxtaposition.


Add to this mix my lifelong love of Elizabeth Bishop’s Geography III and the work takes on a certain shape. Include a dash of more recent loves: Deborah Digges, Rilke, and Seamus Heaney. Finally, my background as an international human rights worker with a focus on Bosnia Herzegovina and Somalia also informs my work. 

More than all this is the fact that I think my work is both complicated and accessible. There are lots of notes on the poems tucked in the back of Cloud Pharmacy and I am also working on a Reader's Guide. I want my poems to expand out far beyond the little world I live into a larger and more nuanced universal and political geography.


3. Why do I write what I do?

Every once in awhile I try another genre: travel literature, memoir, or even history. I’ve written articles on the history of train travel in the Pacific Northwest for the Oregon Quarterly and about the early photographer Myra Albert Wiggins (1864-1953).

Myra Albert Wiggins

I have published articles on South Africa and Bosnia Herzegovina, and edited a book of essays on poets living overseas The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders which is available for download here but nothing satisfies me like poetry.


I can't really feel good about myself until I've written a poem that I can savor a little. It's both a physical and mental condition

4. How does your writing process work?


I am happiest writing when there is an open day, week, or month to climb into. However, my life allows for that kind of time much less these days. Instead, I try to write when I teach private workshops or in the morning for even half an hour before I go to work. During winter break, I’ve taken to disappearing to one of the islands off of Washington State.


But that’s more a sense of place than process. How do I get in the mood? Often I need to fool myself and say: just take a quick look at the draft of a poem sitting on the bedside table or on the desk. I keep versions of my poems on clipboards and move between hand written work and printing out new drafts. If I'm lucky, I wander out to my converted one car garage behind my house and spend some time sitting at an old tiki bar and writing by a window that looks out to a small garden.

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I'll be back soon with the next two people that will join this blog tour. Stay tuned :-)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Coming Up Soon -- Blog Tour and Book Launch

Coming This Monday: my contribution to the current author blog tour. I've been tagged by Kelli Russell Agodon.

 Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Hourglass Museum and The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, which she co-authored with Martha Silano. Her other books include Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, Small Knots, Geography, and Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry which she edited with Annette Spaulding-Convy.

She is the co-founder of Two Sylvias Press and when not writing, Kelli can be found in the Northwest mountain biking, paddleboarding, or walking her golden retriever, Buddy Holly.

She blogs at: www.ofkells.blogspot.com  <http://www.ofkells.blogspot.com> or you can connect with her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/agodon <http://www.facebook.com/agodon>  or on her homepage: www.agodon.com <http://www.agodon.com>

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Turning The Clocks Toward Poets On the Coast --- Today's the Day

 This year we are looking forward to creating poetry and community with women from across the country --- and Canada. Kelli Russell Agodon and I dreamt up Poets On the Coast over a glass of red wine. We were at a writing retreat where all desires seem possible. Now we will be celebrating our fourth year at the Country Inn in La Conner, Washington.

If you are interested take a look and think about registering before the end of the day, Sunday. Prices will rise by Sunday night. Still not convinced? Perhaps knowing that we also offer morning yoga will sway you or the fact that La Connor is home to the Museum of Northwest Art? Or that the hotel offers home-baked cookies for free in the late afternoons? I thought that might do it.

To register by check or Paypal you can go to our website here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Best All-Purpose Bookstore On the Planet: Elliott Bay Book Company and Me

My new super book hero: Kenny the bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Co.
Friday was a day of the very bitter followed by the very sweet.

I started my day with an 8 AM meeting (not my time of day) and then off to Uptown Espresso to try and catch-up on a pyramid of papers that still needed grading. From here, it was down to campus for a noon meeting. However, due to a bizarre incident, all meetings were cancelled and I had just enough time to drive back to the city to meet my friend, Ann. Perhaps due to my lack of sleep, the stresses of the day, or just plainly too much driving --- I felt on the edge of tears that afternoon.

Depleted from the day, I wandered into Elliott Bay Books. I had wanted to meet the new bookseller in charge of Elliott Bay's display for A Poet at Your Table. Kenny was busy stocking the poetry shelves when I arrived.

We chatted about how best to feature the 10 Washington State Poets (Agodon, Austen, Lebo, Flenniken, Gailey, Bender, Davio, Whitcomb, Spaulding-Convey, and Rich) and then when I mentioned that I would be reading on Sunday, February 23rd, Kenny checked to see if Cloud Pharmacy had arrived in the store. In no time at all he and Karen had located my books, priced them and had them stocked on the shelves.

The grief and anxiety of the day melted off my fingers as I was asked "if I minded" signing a few books so that the  "autographed copy" sticker could be affixed to the front. Together we tucked postcards and A Poet At Your Table Flyers into the books. Karen offered to take my picture as this was the very first bookstore to have Cloud Pharmacy for sale.

The first time I visited Seattle was in 1995. It was a one night stand on my way up to Hedgebrook but the friend of a friend I stayed with said I had to check out Elliott Bay Books --- she said it was as good, if not better than Powell's. When I walked into the old store on the corner of First and Main, I had a palpable feeling rise up in me: if I lived in Seattle this bookstore would be my home. Five years later I moved to the city and the first place I learned to drive to was Elliott Bay (the second place was Richard Hugo House and Open Books soon followed).

What I want to say is this: throughout our 19 year relationship, Elliott Bay Books continues to win my heart over and over. That first feeling of walking though the door and knowing I've come home has never left me. If you're coming to town for AWP or if you live in Seattle but have yet to discover the Elliot Bay Book Company; make sure you wander in.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Congratulations to the team with the most poetic name in the NFL: Seattle Sea Hawks Win their First Super Bowl



Seattle Celebrates Tonight!

Okay. I will admit it. This is the first time that I've watched a football game in over three decades. The last time I was at Chris Gray's house in Medway, Massachusetts munching on his mom's homemade lasagna. The game was making history with the first African American quarterback to kick off the game.

Tonight Seattle made history. It was my city's first Super Bowl win in the team's 38 year history. Not only that -- this is a team of young men who defied the odds. Everything about them seems magical--- not only the Sea Hawks name. Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman are the players I find the most fascinating. Both men are known for their volunteer work at Children's Hospital. And I love that Coach Carol involved himself in all aspects of the players lives and surely they are one of the only teams in the NFL that meditate together as part of their practice.

I won't pretend that I am a big football fan. Like I said, the first game I've watched since the 1970's. And yet. Tonight was a drama unfolding --- a dream over the 10 yard line. Fireworks are going off on my street, cars are honking and I can hear the impromptu gatherings by the beach.

This is a night of possibility; whatever your dreams may be. Why not you? Is the line that Russell Wilson's father allegedly would say to him as a young boy. Why not you. Why not us?

Seattle Great Wheel in Sea Hawk's Colors