Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thank you to Jacar Press for This Pushcart Nomination


Okay. So there's been no prize awarded yet but let's keep hope alive. Thank you to Jacar Press, home of ONE magazine for nominating, "No One Goes to Heaven Anymore" for a Pushcart Prize. In the midst of much sadness, this cheered me up!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Proud to be One Third of WordsWest Literary Series -- Now in Our 4th Year and w/ Joannie Stangeland

That's me, Harold Taw, and Katy Ellis

Here is our happy trio at the venerable Easy Street Cafe and Record Store in West Seattle. 1001 thank you's to Tracy Record, Editor of the famous West Seattle Blog (the New York Times of West Seattle) for a super fun interview that reads on the page with the same energy and spontaneity as our lunchtime meeting. What a pleasure when a reporter (editor) gets every quote right and creates an article in which we recognize ourselves. Long live the West Seattle Blog --- the best source of news on our peninsula.

Here is the beginning of the article and the link to read more~

The three West Seattle writers who co-curate WordsWest Literary Series say it’s the kind of series “we would like to be invited to.”
WordsWest opens its fourth season this Wednesday night at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor) and co-curators Harold TawKaty Ellis, and Susan Rich say it’s become everything they hoped it would be, and more.
While we regularly feature WordsWest in the WSB calendar and previews, we thought the start of the season would be a good time to check in with the co-founders, to re-introduce (or, if you’re new here, introduce) them and what it is they do each month. So we sat down with Susan, Katy, and Harold for that check-in over lunch at Easy Street Records one recent midday.
First – we should mention that WordsWest events usually feature two writers, in an innovative format, plus a community member reading a “favorite poem,” and a chance for interactivity with the dozens of attendees. More on the 7 pm Wednesday season-opener lineup a bit later – but first, the start of their story:
Susan – who had just come back from the Poets on the Coast retreat she runs in LaConner – explained that she and Katy met at the city’s best-known bookstore, Elliott Bay Books, introduced by a mutual friend. Talking, they agreed, “wouldn’t it be nice to go to a reading without having to cross the bridge?”
An early topic of discussion: “What would we call it?” And during that discussion,  click to continue.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Happy Fall ~ Poetry Matters - Generating New Work, Publication, and a Reading


I am thrilled (thrilled!) to be teaching at Harmony Fields next Sunday, October 1st from 2:00-5:00 pm. Poet and farmer extraordinaire, Jess Gigot, has invited me to her gorgeous farm just outside of La Conner, WA in Bow, WA. "Poetry Matters: Generating New Work and a Poetry Salon" will be held in her refurbished barn. The group is limited to 16. You can register on-line right here.

We've built in a 90 minute intermission so poets can try out one of the amazing restaurants in Bow-Edison --- a town being quickly recognized as a foodie and artist haven. At 6:30 pm I will join Jess Gigot, Michael Daily, and Georgia Johnson for a reading at the i.e. gallery.

From Poets on the Coast, to LitFuse, to Poetry Matters --- this is the season of poetry.

To find out more about the workshop or the farm --- click here. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Thank You to Michigan Quarterly Review for Featuring My New Poem

by Lena Gurr

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(to continue reading click here)

Monday, July 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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



Sunday, July 16, 2017

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


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

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

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

      Our winner this year is poet and writer Stacey Balkun.

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thanks to Harmony Fields and Jess Gigot

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

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

Bountiful harvest at Harmony Fields

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


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


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

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

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


How to tell this suit that their owner is gone 

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

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

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


The Sadness of Clothes

Emily Fragos

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

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

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

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

to continue reading~ click here

Monday, May 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Letter to America Series - Mornings - by Moi


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

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

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


Mornings


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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Leonora Carrington Appears in My Poems Again --- Thanks to Plume

Leonora Carrington's, "The Old Maids"


I am beyond thrilled that Plume has chosen two of my ekphrastic poems to feature for their current April issue. 

Last year, Daniel Lawless included another Leonora Carrington inspired poem in the Plume Anthology.  I suspect he is also a fan. Each quarter when I teach the ekphrastic poetry portion of my Creative Writing course, we look at Carrington's work and my students write some of their best work in response to her paintings. In teaching Women in the Arts, we also look at different Carrington pieces. My hope is that American audiences will become increasingly interested in her work --- the way that British and Mexican art lovers already are.

Leonora Carrington's "The Giantess" 
If my fifth collection ever sees the light, Leonora Carrington poems will be prominently featured. Though she herself would not like the label of surrealist --- and what artist does want a label slapped on their work --- I can't help but know that in the times we're living in, her art is the perfect antidote.

I hope you will take a look at Leonora Carrington's work and perhaps these featured poems.



SECRET AGENT

              for Leonora Carrington, 1917-2011




A long armed monkey lurks by the far
edge of the table, a kind of night watchman
half-hidden behind lace tablecloths,

his tail an upside down question mark.

Naked – of course – and disinclined
to join the party.
I think of your life this way—observer of

other realms— hold-up like a secret agent—
with the oddest of binoculars—
your gaze that of professor, of undertaker.

How you hated your coming out party—
you said it was like your father selling a product—

and not one he believed in.
How the teachers complained—often—
Leonora does not collaborate well.

To continue reading click here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Interviewed for Skagit River Poetry Festival Blog; Happy Spring

Happy First Day of Spring
Happy First Day of Spring! I celebrated yesterday by planting dinosaur kale, strawberry starts, and Oregon snap peas in the garden. Planting seeds and starts in March is a great act of faith. And so far, every year, there are fruits and vegetables in just a few weeks. True magic.

A magic of another kind arrived in my e-mail feed yesterday. The Skagit River Poetry Festival Blog has just posted an interview with me on their website. Thanks not only to the wonderful poet Jess Gigot, but also to the stellar festival staff ---- all of whom are volunteers. Last spring's festival featured James Crews, Garret Hongo, Aimee Nezahukumatathil, Jamal May and many other rock star poets --- chosen for their poetry as well as their professionalism. Here's the beginning of the interview. And if you've never attended the Skagit River Poetry Festival in La Connor, WA --- you are seriously missing out!

                                                                  ***

JG: What poets/poems have been most influential on your work? You mentioned Elizabeth Bishop in your blog awhile back, but what other writers/teachers have shaped or continue to shape your work?

SR: Emily Dickinson was the first poet I discovered. As a first year high school student, I was lucky enough to take a course devoted to Dickinson. Later on, I attended university in Amherst, Massachusetts where my bus stop home from town was situated in front of the Dickinson house — at that point inhabited by a professor (now recreated as a museum). Dickinson’s sparseness and mystery, her musical lines and lasting elements of surprise have meant a good deal to me over the years. Recently, I feel like I’m returning to her work again and appreciating it all the more.

Later on, and for a very long time, the triumvirate of Elizabeth Bishop, Denise Levertov, and Adrienne Rich became my poetic touchstones. Poets we discover when we are very young, I suspect, seep into our bones. We carry them with us for a lifetime.

JG: Speaking of your blog, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, I find it very informative and helpful. What are your thoughts on blogging and how it intertwines with your life as a poet?

SR: The first year of the blog I posted a new article almost everyday! I love Top 10 lists so I have a top ten tips for sending your poems into the world and another top 10 list for applying to writing residencies, and another for dealing with rejection. I believe that for a blog to succeed it needs to do two things well:

to read the rest of the interview go to the Skagit River Poetry Festival Blog


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Poets On the Coast Winter Retreat Half Day in Seattle!

Bring your typewriter, your laptop, or your favorite journal
Poetry feels more necessary than ever right now. Don't you think? Please join us, Kelli Russell Agodon and me, in a half day writing retreat, Saturday, March 4th in Seattle. For women and men, for beginning poets and published ones. You are sure to leave with drafts of at least four poems. What better way to welcome in Spring? We are in the South Lake Union neighborhood with lots of parking and easy bus routes. 

Here is how it works: both Kelli and I arrive with a half dozen writing prompts. We create fresh prompts so that even if you have come before, the exercises will be new to you. There might be a prompt to write a letter to someone you haven't seen in years or we will give you a photograph and guide you through different exphrastic exercises. It's important to know that there is no wrong way to do the exercises.

We take a quick lunch break (there's a fridge and a microwave in the room --- a Whole Foods next door) and we also offer snacks. It's important to come together in these most surreal of times and remind ourselves that words count; that the power of poetry is needed now more than ever.


Here's the link to registration: http://poetsonthecoast.weebly.com/classes.html

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Spare Rib and Tahoma Literary Review


Has anyone counted how many literary magazine are now publishing in the United States? In the world? No one seems to know. Not even Wikipedia. The Dial (1840-1844) edited by Ralph Waldo Emerson gets credit for being the first "little magazine" in the US. I wonder...

I mention this because I've recently become enamored with the idea that these magazines are a necessary part of our literary landscape. Without these lit mags,  how would writers get their work out to the greater world? We pay much respect to an author's first book but little is mentioned in print as to where their first poem or story or essay was published.

My first poem, "Afternoon Swim" was published in the feminist journal, Spare Rib. Although now defunct, the British Library decided last year to archive all of the issues that were published.

Spare Rib was an active part of the emerging Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 20th century. Running from 1972-93, this now iconic magazine challenged the stereotyping and exploitation of women, while supporting collective, realistic solutions to the hurdles women faced.



At 21, I certainly had no idea that I was sending my work off to an iconic journal --- one that would be remembered two decades after it ceased to be. Yet, today I am proud to call this my first --- fledgling poem that it was.

And today, several decades after that initial acceptance, I am thrilled to have a poem taken by another lit mag --- one that is still in its infancy but has already received a great deal of recognition: Tahoma Literary Review founded by Kelly Davio and Joe Ponepinto.



Now in their 5th year, the Tahoma Literary Review,  has been recognized with work from the journal included in anthologies such as Best American Poetry and Best Gay Fiction, among others. From its inception, the journal held Transparency as a kind of mandate. Editors regularly publish blog posts about why they choose the work they do --- and for a little extra cash --- you can receive an editor's commentary on your work. If your work is accepted, you will be paid a minimum of $50. This is almost unheard of in the literary world; especially by a relatively new journal.

But more than that, these editors are good people. They are both successful writers in their own right. I met Kelly a few months before she and Joe started the journal; she was excited but let everyone know that she would do no outside solicitations. Many journals ask well known writers to submit a poem or a story as a way to raise the journal's standing. Not TLR.  

Joe was kind enough to come talk to the student editors of the the college journal I advise. He was funny, generous, and the students are now quoting him as they do their work of choosing and not choosing submissions. 

Nobody gets rich off of literary magazines. If the editors don't self-finance, they're considered to be doing well. In this new word we find ourselves in, I know that literary magazines will be more important then ever.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Missouri Review and the Kinkajou

How would you react if you found this kinkajou asleep on you?
In the last year or so I have become really intrigued with bizarre news stories. Of course, these days of "alternative facts" instead of lies means we are in the world of the surreal everyday.

When I teach I often scroll through "weird story" sites --- most of the major news sources have them such as UPI "Weird News"  and weird news short videos from NBC New York.

Sometimes the news story itself can overwhelm the poem. Can the poem match the over the top quality of the experience or find another way into the action? Does weird news become weirder in a poem? In the poem, "99 Year Old Floridian Wakes to Find," I tried to find the woman's point of view and the connection between her own lived experience and this wild, unexpected thing.

Honestly, I fell in love with this new word (and animal) kinkajou and wanted to find a way to work with sound in the poem and the places where the human and the animal meet. I hope you enjoy.

Thanks to The Missouri Review for publishing it!


99-Year-Old Floridian Wakes Up to Find



~with a line from William Butler Yeats

In the morning she finds it—
a kinkajou curled on her chest


like an unexamined question.


Its tail loops around her waist
and the stubs of the ears twitching—

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Leonora Carrington - Alchemist, Artist, Writer and Subject of a One-of-a-Kind Film

Photograph from the Carrington Estate
My interest in Leonora Carrington becomes stronger the more I learn about her life and her art. I have a feeling that with two of her books being reissued this April, many other people are about to fall in love with her, too.

The House Opposite, 1945

Her book, The Hearing Trumpet, is a kind of cult classic. Allie Acker's film that combines an interview with Carrington as well as a rendition of one of her short stories is fascinating to watch.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Or Perhaps You'd Like A One Day Class in March?

Our Fair City
 So perhaps three days of writing and being away from home is not possible for you right now. Or perhaps you want to checkout whether taking classes from Kelli and me works for you. Or perhaps a March 4th writing class is just so much sooner than September 8th!

This is our 5th year offering a one-day winter retreat. Our focus is on "Generating New Work" and we promise that you'll leave with the starts to at least 5 - 7 poems. We get right down to work!

From 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM, on Saturday, March 4th, we will come together for a downtown Seattle Writing Retreat. We have a great location easily accessible by bus and  with plenty of parking (!).

For more information and to register, please click here!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Poets On the Coast Take Over La Conner -- September 8th - 10th 2017

Poets on the Coast Take Over the Town
Now in our 7th year we are gearing up for the best Poets on the Coast Weekend yet with morning yoga, poetry workshops, one on one meetings with Elizabeth Austen, Kelli Russell Agodon or me, art museum tours and a dinner at the oldest house in La Conner, this village of less than 2,200 people.

If you have visited my blog before, you know that this is an incredibly special weekend where a small community of women come together to create, write, and find inspiration.

Co-directors Kelli Russell Agodon and me
We are already halfway to our maximum number of participants for Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women,  2017. Our lowest registration rate of the season has just one day to go.

This is a year when we need poetry now more than ever. So many of our women come the first time a little nervous about calling themselves poets and by the end of the weekend are creating writing groups, revising poems, and sending out their work to the Museum of Northwest Art for publication.

No matter where you live or how long you've been writing poetry, this weekend will feed your work and spirit. I don't think we've ever met a woman who thought otherwise so please do consider joining us. I'm happy to answer any questions here. You can register right here or simply find out more information.