Monday, November 19, 2018

Auberge Ayouze Near Asfalou in the High Atlas, Morocco


There are several more appropriate places to begin a story of beauty than in the bathroom but this isn't just any bathroom! This rose-colored space has a view of the Atlas Mountains which you can see as you shower. The photograph looks more like a still life painting than it does a literal place to wash the body. For me, this image also calls up a sense of wonder and re-seeing of the simple life which is what Auberge Ayouze is all about. "Enjoy your life" is the phrase that Idriss, the innkeeper, repeats to me often. He suggests watching the sunrise over the mountains from my terrace. And so the next morning, wrapped in a blanket, I do.



Watching the sun is a slow, meditative process. At first I am checking my watch, hurry up sunrise! And finally I relax into the morning. The star studded night sky gives way ever so slowly to the light. I watch groups of women make their way down to the olive groves.


This is the region where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed and more recently, three episodes of Game of Thrones. Take away the satellite dishes and cell towers, the world here has not changed much in centuries. I know that's a simplification of the life I saw only peripherally --- the marketplaces, the kasbah, the public baths.



I listen to the women sing as they work together harvesting the olives in the olive groves. You can hear then shaking the tree branches. Across the road from the auberge, I walk down the path to the river. When we return, breakfast is served on the upper terrace. Fresh squeezed orange juice and strong espresso, local dates and warm crepes, a selection of jams and cheese.


Before we leave, we drive to Teleouet with Jasmine and Idriss. We see the palace of the pasha and outside of it, the Jewish village which is now a ghost town. The royal movie theater is now closed but Mohamed, our guide, tells us Charlie Chaplin visited here and played golf with the pasha.

While in Morocco we have practiced yoga daily, we have met spice merchants and woodworkers in the souks of Marrakesh and strolled the Marjorelle gardens but nothing compares to our time in the High Atlas at Auberge Ayouze where Berber lives and American lives so easily intertwined. You will find the Auberge in a bend in the road halfway between Assfalou and Ait Benhaddou. Climb the stairs to the terrace and there a new way of life awaits you.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

It Took Too Long To Write This Experience In a Poem

Young Woman with Mandolin by Harrington Mann

It has taken too long. Too long for so many things to come to light. Here is a recent poem that takes "inspiration" from a core event that happened over thirty years ago. Thank you so much to Jordan Hart and Kahini Magazine for publishing this in their November issue. And for the writers among us,
Kahini Magazine is a paying market for both poetry and fiction.


Arborist / Abortionist


by Susan Rich


Procured by anxious relatives
who demanded

a disappearing trick—

prepaid like a surcharge
for yard work done in the off-season:

his steel tool severing

a quirk of a tree limb,
attached to the nub of a stubborn bud;

he didn’t question
how I appeared,

transplanted into his waiting room—

never inquired as to the coauthor
of my infinitesimal text—

although he’d memorized its map;

extracted the troublesome little branch
that obscured the golden overlook,

and restored the river view.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Joy of Poetry (That Swings Both Ways) Academy of American Poets, Practicing Poet, and the Southern Review

Reading Woman in Violet Dress - Matisse, 1892
I wonder if Henri Matisse ever imagined that his paintings would travel around the world with the choice click of a few keys? The internet is known for many things --- but access to the arts is not one I hear of very often.

This summer I was wildly honored to have my poem "To The New Journal" published in the Summer 2018 Issue of the Southern Review. This is the third time I've been published in SR and I am a true fan of both the words and the visual art that they publish. Their editors are professional, kind, and smart. But there's one thing.

The Southern Review doesn't feature much work on their website and so once the physical object of the journal is read and put on the shelf (and maybe tossed from libraries at a later date) most of the poems and prose are gone. Enter the Academy of American Poets with a new project: to showcase more poems on their website. Through an agreement with the Southern Review and Tin House, poems that were published in these print journals may now have a forever home as part of the Academy's curated collection. This is the reason I can share "To the New Journal" with you.
.
Much like the Poetry Foundation website, the Academy of American Poets website seeks to provide an essential resources of poems, essays on poetry, poet bios, and lesson plans to anyone who is interested. Need a poem to read for a wedding or for a divorce? These websites can help! Teaching a poet and want to bring their voice into the classroom? These are great sites to access.

However, sometimes poems swing the other way: from the worldwide ether onto the printed pages of a book. My poem, "Boketto" based on the Japanese word which loosely translates to, to stare into space with no purpose, appeared on the Academy of American Poets site two years ago. This month, "Boketto" stars in the new "must have" craft book, The Practicing Poet, Writing Beyond the Basics, by editor, poet, and publisher extraordinaire,  Diane Lockward.

Diane contacted me and asked for permission to reprint "Boketto" in her newest anthology / craft book (this is her third and each one is worth owning) and I happily agreed. In The Practicing Poet, Diane has created a prompt for a "weird word poem" based on my work. She has also done an explication of the poem that showed she had read the work carefully noticing the focus on double-barreled words and chiasmus (and no, I didn't know the word chiasmus before yesterday) but I like it and it describes a key strategy of the poem.

So this month I get to swing both ways: page poems onto the web and web poems onto new pages. I'm feeling very lucky indeed.






Sunday, September 30, 2018

Two Poems for Right Now

Sunset over Potato Fields, Monday at Harmony Fields
I took this photograph six days ago ago at Harmony Fields, yet so much has changed since then that I hardly recognize that it hasn't even been a week: this was before Dr. Blasey-Ford's testimony, before two brave women, Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila, confronted Senator Flake (R-AZ) in an elevator and before he changed the course of history --- at least for one week; we hope for more.

Lucillle Clifton and Adrienne Rich are two important poets for me (for American poetry) that I return to again and again. The day after the 2016 election I shared the Clifton poem with my Highline College students. I'll never forget one young man sitting with this poem and then articulating his thoughts and ideas about it beyond anything he had done in class before. He illuminated the levels of this piece for me, for the entire class, in a new and necessary way. He brought in the idea of immigration, the trip many of my students have taken in boats, in braving a new world. I share these pieces now as a way to hold onto sanity in this new insane time. May they be of help to you, too.


blessing the boats

BY LUCILLE CLIFTON

                           (at St. Mary's)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that


What Kind of Times Are These

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Such a Good Mix: The Poetry of Travel and the Travel of Poetry

Calico Cats in Morocco's Blue City: Chefchaouen

I love poetry and I love travel. When the two join together, it feels like my life makes sense. All day I've been thinking about my favorite poems concerning travel for a class I'm teaching this weekend at a beautiful family farm in Bow-Edison, Harmony Fields

For about 20 years I kept this one poem in my wallet. Then it lived on a bulletin board in my office  and recently, it migrated to the kitchen. I like that it's been with me since December 1994. I think this was my first year subscribing to the New Yorker Magazine. I had just let my apartment in Harvard Square for the wilds of the Pacific Northwest for graduate school. I missed the grit of the Boston accent, the cold stare of strangers, the bookstores. 

This poem spoke to me --- my decade plus of living faraway in Africa, Europe, and working in the Arab world. More than two years away from the US, I entered New York via JFK only to have the customs officer question if I was making up the country of Niger. He was angry with me for coming from a place he didn't know. 

Seamus Heaney never included this in any of his books. I don't know why but I suspect that perhaps it was too internal, so common and uncommon at once. See what you think. 



Far Away

When I answered that I came from “far away”
The policeman at the roadblock snapped “where’s that”?
He’d only half heard what I said and thought
It was the name of some place up the country.

And now it is both where I have been living
And where I left --- a distance still to go
Like starlight that is light years on the go
From faraway and takes light years returning.

~Seamus Heaney, The New Yorker, December 26, 1994

Friday, September 14, 2018

Some of my favorite things: poetry, farmland, and food



Harmony Fields Forever!

Cheese, donkeys. ducks, eggs, herbs, and sheep! It's a wonderful litany of some of the joys of Harmony Fields where I will be teaching a half day poetry workshop very soon! I first met Jess Gigot when she contacted me for some advice when her poetry collection, Flood Patterns, which was about to be released.  We met over Skype(!) and I advised her on book promotion,  tours, and travel --- but honestly, she had figured out much of the poetry biz for herself.  As a farmer, fiction writer, musician, poet, and visual artist --- she is a woman of many talents which is why I'm so happy to be teaching at her farm!

Bow-Edison is an easy drive from Seattle and a gorgeous place to stop at the many farm stands and one of the coolest bakeries anywhere in the world, Bread Farm. It is worth the trip just to visit this world-class bakery!

Okay. I meant to write about my upcoming class on "The Poetry of Travel: How to Write of  the Extraordinary," but I've gotten carried away thinking of miniature donkeys and bread!

Here's a little information about my class! Limited to 12 participants; we welcome all people! Please know that travel can mean to travel back in time; to travel via the imagination; to travel towards the future.




The Poetry of Travel: How to Write of  the Extraordinary

Anais Nin once wrote, “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” And whether the destination is Paris, Marrakesh, or the Pike Place Fish Market — the art of translation from one realm to the other remains the same conundrum. This workshop is for anyone who has traveled in the world of the imagination and/or the physical realm. We’ll look at the work of several poet-travelers and then write pieces of our own. You will leave with the starts of at least four new poems or flash fiction pieces. This class is geared towards beginners and experienced writers, and for poets as well as flash fiction writers. Local lunch provided.

Instructor:  Susan RichWebsitehttp://poet.susanrich.net/
Date September 22, 2018: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm

LocationHarmony FieldsCost (including lunch) $80.00
Contact360-941-8196 or farm@harmonyfields.com
To register:  check out Harmony Fields Event Page

Thursday, September 6, 2018

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers? Thanks to Nimrod Journal~


The poet as a young Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?
And here's my answer:

Keep writing and reading and surrounding yourself with people who do the same. Glean something new from every poem you read, every teacher you have. One of the beautiful things about saying yes to the call of writing is that you will always be a student of word and sound and syntax.



Thank you to Eilias and Nimrod Journal for this interview. I am honored to be in the current issue Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, My poem, "17 Years After Her Death, Cousin Molly Appears to Me Outside Kuppels Bagel Bakery." You can read the rest of it right here.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Returning to an Old Love - Joseph Cornell

Cockatoo (Aviary and Watches) circa 1948
   I believe I first came in contact with Joseph Cornell through the poetry of Charles Simic. Simic's Dime-Store Alchemy published in 1992 was one of the first hardback books of poetry I bought. I have to admit that the cover had a good deal to do with my choice --- as did the title, Dime-Store Alchemy. Rereading this book now I realize it was one of the first project-based collections that I had encountered. Simic stated that he wanted to approximate in poetry what Cornell did with visual assemblage.

In his introduction to his own book, Charles Simic writes of Cornell:
"Somewhere in the city of New York there are four or five still-unknown objects that belong together. 


Once together they'll make a work of art. That's Cornell's premise, his metaphysics, and his religion....[3]:14 Marcel Duchamp and John Cage use chance operation to get rid of the subjectivity of the artist. For Cornell it's the opposite. To submit to chance is to reveal the self and its obsessions."



 "My work was a natural outcome of my love for the city," Cornell said. 

     Cornell couldn’t draw or paint. He didn’t consider himself an artist, instead he called himself a “maker” or “designer.” Living in New York City in the depression, Cornell became a collector of small objects and photographs, things he found on his walks through the city.

    One day in 1931, Cornell visited Julian Levy as he prepared photographs by Alfred Stieglitz for show. Levy was just about to open the Julien Levy Gallery, and Cornell watched as Levy unpacked new surrealist collages by Max Ernst. This sparked Cornell to go home and make his own collages, using the photographs he’d been collecting. He brought the collages back to Levy, and his work debued along with the surrealists from Paris: Max Ernst, Man Ray, and Salvador Dali in the 1932 exhibition Surréalisme at the Julien Levy Gallery, the first Surrealist exhibit in America. One of Cornell’s first collages ended up being the show postcard. (Guardian)


   Much is known (and repeated) about Cornell. He lived on Utopia Parkway, Flushing, NY  and never left the Northeastern United States. He lived with his mother and his younger brother, living alone after they'd both passed on. Cornell had no formal training as an artist, he made his living selling textiles. By all accounts, his life experiences were not vast or wide. And yet that mattered little in the making of his art.

  And long after many mid-century artists seem forgotten or locked in another time, Cornell seems to only become more relevant, more exciting. I recently learned that Leonora Carrington lived in the states for 25 years --- in New York and in Chicago. I can't help thinking the two of them would have had much to talk about. And perhaps they did meet, did walk through Central Park and comment on the pigeons. Perhaps.