Friday, October 29, 2010

Robert Hass in Seattle Thanks to SAL

I didn't even know. How could I have missed that Robert Hass is extraordinary? 

Last night in Seattle, thanks to Seattle Arts and Lectures,  Robert Hass awed and moved us with his poems, his translations of Milosz, his unpublished notebooks grappling with the death of his brother, and his generous wit. But what struck me most of all was his embodiment of poetry; in other words, his way of being a poet in the world. I don't want to overly romanticize this, but it seems important to mention.There were entire bolts of poetry (not just a bit of fabric)  -- from the Japanese, from the transliterated Polish, from his work that he could access easily and recite to us. This was measured with comments about the world of parenthood -- at one point he said something to the effect that as a parent, if you don't find a way to love the everydayness of life, you're sunk. In other words, he seemed comfortable in ancient Japanese texts, Walt Whitman's dictionaries, and checking out fellow passengers on an airplane. The audience seemed as enamored with him as I was; it was an evening that reminded me why poetry matters in the world. I left Benaroya Hall feeling connected and compassionate towards people, dogs, and all the worlds beyond my world. I realized in my very minuscule way, I get to participate in this profound tradition. How better to live this one life?

Here is one of the translations Hass read of Milosz's final poems, translated by his good friend and neighbor for many years, Robert Hass.

From the 0! series


Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
A Hotel Room (image above)
Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano

O what sadness unaware that it's sadness!
What despair that doesn't know its despair!

A business woman, her unpacked suitcase on the floor, sits on a bed half undressed, in red underwear, her hair impeccable, she has a piece of paper in her hand, probably with numbers.

Who are you? Nobody will ask. She doesn't know either.

This is a wonderful poem, but in Hass's voice it elevated to a truly great poem. Again and again, I had the experience of hearing the poems delivered in his lilting voice that I had previously read on the page. Although I had never met Robert Hass before, nor do I know much about him, I went away last night believing that he was able to infuse the poems with so much empathy, with so much (can I say it) love, that the poems reached heights that just aren't possible on the page. Sure, I've had this sense that a poet was a strong reader before, but this was different.

One of my favorite lines of the night was: 

"There should be a phrase for something like passenger tenderness." 

To read Robert Hass's translation note as well as the whole O! series, check out this blog that I've just discovered with an intriguing name: instant librarian.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Rainy Edition

This week I'm thankful for:

Writing time

Comical cats

Shelter by the sea

Muriel Rukeyser

Impromptu home-cooked dinners


Friends: you know who you are ~

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Poet Extraordinaire January O'Neil Interviews Me Today

Thanks to January O'Neil for her interview with me on PoetMom today! January and I will be reading together in Cambridge, Mass and Miami, Florida in just a few weeks. It's my first out of the northwest tour and I am so happy to have January as my poet and travel companion.

Here is an excerpt from the interview which you can read in full right here: 

Q. The Alchemist’s Kitchen is such an intriguing title. How did you know that was the right title for this collection?

A. For Cures Include Travel I sent out a list of six titles to a group of my friends to see which one they liked best. Not surprisingly, they all had very strong preferences but the trouble was, no one agreed. I went back and forth on several titles. Happily, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, was my one and only title for this book. I think that it serves as a vessel for the disparate themes I’ve braided throughout the book: solitude/imagination/relationship. As poets, we take the everyday flotsam and jetsam of our lives and try to elevate it to something universal, a reality that others can enter. Alchemy comes from the ancient Arabic word al-kimia which was both a philosophy and a practice of changing base metals into gold, but the ultimate goal was to achieve wisdom. In fact, the discoveries of the alchemists are the prototypes for modern chemistry. Later, after the book was published, I found that the alchemists were also seeking the secret of everlasting life and that Carl Jung had reexamined alchemy to recast its meaning to be a spiritual path into the self. The more I learn of alchemy, of creating what we desire out of what we have, the more I appreciate the title.

Thanks, January!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two Opportunities for Washington State Writers

Here are two cool opportunities for poets, fiction writers, non-fiction writers and writers of hybrid forms. In the interest of full disclosure, I am involved as a presenter and curator for these organizations, respectively. As a former Jack Straw Writer and as someone who teaches and helped form the poetry portion of the Edge Program, I can attest to the high quality of both of these groups. In fact, I marvel at how helpful these organizations can be to writers at all points in their careers. Why not see if these programs are for you or for someone you know?

Artist Trust Edge Program for Writers

What is it?

the EDGE Professional Development Program is a comprehensive survey of professional arts practices offered through a hands-on, interactive curriculum that includes instruction by professionals in the field, specialized presentations, panel discussions and assignments. The EDGE Program provides artists with the relevant and necessary entrepreneurial skills to achieve their personal career goals and the opportunity to build community through peer support and exchange.

Click here for download-able, fill-in-able application. After completing it, print it and either hand deliver or mail it with your supporting materials.

Postmark deadline: Monday, December 6, 2010

Jack Straw Writers Program

What is it?

The purpose of the Jack Straw Writers Program is to introduce local writers to the medium of recorded audio; to encourage the creation of new literary work; and to provide new venues for the writer and their work. The program was created in 1997, and each year a single curator selects 12 writers/writing teams out of dozens of applicants based on artistic excellence, diversity of literary genres, and a cohesive grouping of writers. Twelve writers/writing teams are selected by a curator each to participate. The program features voice and presentation training, in-studio interviews, public readings, a published anthology, and internet podcasts. All live readings are recorded, and selected portions are produced for podcasts and radio broadcast.

Click here for a downloadable application. 

Deadline November 1, 2010 (Hurry!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

What I Learned Late Night at the Twitter Party or: How I Am Learning to Love Technology, Slowly

Although I blog often, I rarely tweet. And a year ago, I was a staunch techno-phobe. So what changed?
Perhaps I am a realist and it's been clear for a decade or so that on-line communication is here to stay. No one ever said I was a trend setter. 

So I was surprised and pleased and a little scared when poet Deb Ager of 32 Poems contacted me to be part of the twitter party along with Kelli Agodon, Amiee Nez, Colin Kelly, D. A. Powell,  and January O'Neil.

Kelli blogged this morning on what she learned and you can read her comments here. I agree with her insights and thought I would add some of my own.

I am not a party girl, but I do love  a long and rambling conversation. Usually, if I  make it out to a "gathering" then you can find me in the kitchen washing paper plates. Therefore,  the words twitter + party together were rather intimidating ---but since I was invited and am in to having new experiences, I said yes. I'm so glad I did. It's as if I've become a pioneer, exploring the open west.

1. How is a twitter party like a face to face party?

I met new people. Over virtual cocktails I chatted with a woman interested in putting her manuscript together. I suggested she look at Ordering the Storm - an anthology of essays about putting a book together. She seemed interested. Other folks kept dropping by and added to the conversation. I learned that Colin Kelly and I like many of the same movies. I learned January O'Neil and I share a love of Elizabeth Bishop. All of this made me happy.

2. In what ways is a twitter party perhaps better than a Halloween Party? 

No need to dress up! No worries that you will be judged by the way you look or because you've got a sore throat and sound like a camel jockey. It's what you say that's important - and perhaps how fast you type and if you remember to put the "hash tag" at the end of the tweet.

3. How was it structured?

Deborah Ager contacted each of us and asked if we'd be interested in an on-line experiment. She prepared questions for us that she released into the party at different times -- sort of the equivalent of changing albums on a stereo. Anyone else at the party could also ask a question such as, "Do you write first in notebooks or directly on the computer" or "Have you any advice for putting a manuscript together"? Here is a transcript of the entire hour right here.

4. What might make this new experience one that will remain in the culture?

I love how democratic the party was. Anyone was welcome to join us who heard about it via one of our blogs or even at The Rumpus where a small article went up Sunday. There was a sense that anything could happen as the conversations started to fly. Best of all was D. A. Powell's project that allowed for a creative performance aspect to our event. As Kelli Agodon states in her post, perhaps using twitter parties as a way to do collaborative writing is what I found most exciting. It reminds me of the automatic writing exercises of the surrealists --- only with more possibilities.

Stay tuned for more parties ...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twitter Party - Tonight @ 9 PM EST or 6 PM Pacific

I've never done this before. Who knew there was such a thing as a twitter party? Not me? I'm happy to be invited though. Please feel free to join us at


If you search that on Twitter the conversation with about 5 poets from across the country will show up.
I promise to give you a report if you're curious how it goes. Free drinks and great food for all.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Meet Her Here or in Porter Square: January O'Neil, November 17th


I first met January O'Neil last year on a sunny April day in Boulder, Colorado. No, I met her late at night, the previous winter while up way too late on my computer. January is well known for her Poet-Mom blog and while I am not a mom, I still think it's a blog well worth checking out for information on poems, poets, Spike Lee, and the creative life.

Meeting January for lunch at AWP was one of the weekend high points for me. I am much happier meeting one new person over onion rings than I am in a hotel ballroom. In fact, the lunch was such a success that we traded books and casually said it would be fun to read together one day. One day is almost here! January and I will be reading together 7:00 pm, Wednesday, November 17th at Porter Square Books, Cambridge. I am looking forward to hearing her poems in the air - as I have come to love many of them on the page in Underlife.

Q. Many writers seem to collect quotes on writing. What is one of your favorite quotes on poetry or on the poet? Can you say a little about why these words speak to you?

Toi Derricotte, my professor as an undergrad at Old Dominion University, used to quote Robert Creeley who said, in terms of poetry, “Sometimes you have to make an ass of yourself.” It reminds me to take a risk and worry about the outcome later. Also, I like the Sam Beckett quote on my blog, “Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Harder. Fail Harder. Fail Better.”

Q. I’m always intrigued how other poets balance making money with making poetry. How have you been able to lead an artist’s life and still pay the bills? Do you see ways in which the two sides of what you do are complimentary? 

In my case, the two sides are complementary. I work in the marketing department a college as a writer/editor. I feel lucky to have full-time work that allows me to make money and be creative. And with poetry, I’ve able to use my marketing skills in the promotion of Underlife, which has been a huge help in reaching an audience. Although, as we all know, there’s very little money in poetry.

Q. The poet Stanley Kunitz wrote, “The first task of the poet is to create the person who will write the poems.” I love that quote because it declares that the poet must work on herself at the same time she works on the page. Over the years you’ve been writing, do you think that there’s been any discernable relationship between your development as a person and the development of your work? 

That’s a great quote! I certainly have more life experience then when I was a grad student New York University. Getting married, working full time, having kids, getting divorced—all of those things have shaped my writing over the years. But I’m thankful for those experiences. There’s a certain depth and edge to my work that wasn’t there before. I take more risks in my poems now more than ever.

Q. Your new book, Underlife is absolutely lovely. Can you talk about the process of putting this book together? What is the backstory to the book?

Back in 2006, I had a toddler and an infant who needed my full attention. I wasn’t able to attend poetry readings or writing workshops with any regularity, so I started to blog. Reaching out to the virtual community was a big push for me to write and share poems. Before I knew it, I had a full manuscript. I sent it to two contests and two publishers. CavanKerry Press took it right away, to my complete surprise. To this day, I still can’t believe they took Underlife. It’s so hard to get published these days—I feel very, very lucky.

Q. Would you choose one poem which is a favorite of yours from the book and talk about what makes it a favorite?

Honestly, my favorite is Sex and Pizza, because it’s not just about sex and pizza. It’s about putting a new spin on an old topic. Yes, there’s sex. Yes, there’s pizza. But it’s about craft, and that’s what I see when I read that poem.

Q. The question you would have liked me to ask you goes here. ??? 

Don’t have one. Any opportunity to talk about “Sex and Pizza” is a good one.

Thanks, January! For more information on Underlife, January O'Neil or Poet Mom -- click here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Are You Interested In Authoring Change? Fireside Chat This Friday!

 A Fireside Chat on the relationship between artists and social change.

The Sorrento Hotel

October 22nd (this Friday)
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Hosts Nassim Assefi - author of Aria, filmmaker, TED fellow and global women's health specialist - and Amy Wheeler - director of Hedgebrook and nationally produced playwright of Weeping Women - lead poets Susan Rich and Carletta Wilson, and novelists Erika Bauermeister  and Bharti Kirchner in a discussion on activism and the artist.
Located in the Sorrento's Top of the Town room. For information on tickets

check out this link.

Michael Hebb
+ one pot <>
+ night school <>
+ city arts festival / co-creative director <>
+ songs for eating and drinking <

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Paradise Now" at Highline Community College on NPR / KUOW

My poem "Paradise Now" at Highline Community College airs today on KUOW the University of Washington - Seattle affiliate of NPR.Thank you, Elizabeth Austen.

Here is the link, if you want to listen. It strikes me that just seeing "Community College" in the title of a poem is a rarity -- never mind poems about teaching students. This seems odd to me as so many writers are also teachers. I know the famous Theodore Roethke poem for his student, Jane --- but after that, my mind goes blank. Are there other poems about the relationship of teacher to student that I am forgetting? It's a subject that I return to often. I've been teaching at Highline Community College for eleven years. Eleven! That's by far the longest time I've done anything in my life.

And on another note: if you are looking for a poem on punctuation - check out Garrison Keiler's reading of Elizabeth Austen's poem, "On Punctuation." It is not only an excellent poem, it's also a great teaching tool. Best of all, it's quite funny.

CONGRATULATIONS to Kelli Russell Agodon: A Superb Reading

What a delight! There's nothing like a five star reading at Open Books, the all poetry bookstore in Seattle.  Kelli Russell Agodon gave a stellar reading of superb poems this afternoon. She was generous with her audience providing the back story to many of her poems. One example: "Coming Up Next: The Attack of the Killer Blue Irises" was inspired by an NPR story "Coming Up Next: The Attack of Killer Flu Viruses." Kelli's poems mix humor and pathos -- she has her listener laughing out loud one moment and contemplating death the next. Her poems mirror some of the strange experiences of 21st century life and we recognize ourselves in this drama of living.

There were prizes and Dove chocolates (instead of real doves); there were keys for each audience member to discover her (or his) own Emily Dickinson room. Thank you, Kelli for a memorable afternoon. This was a reading of great poetry, but this was also a literary community coming together to support one of our own. If you have not heard Kelli read, check out her blog for upcoming events!

Kelli and Rosanne Olson chat before the reading begins.

Notice Emily perched above the books over Kelli's left shoulder. Ms. Dickinson was overseeing the proceedings of the afternoon. I believe she was very pleased.
Jennifer, Anne, and Annette listening and watching Kelli; Geo intently listening.

I recognize that smile! It means I'm so glad I've given my reading and now get to go have dinner with my family and friends. But before it's over there is always ...
Book signing!

And a glass of red wine at the amazing Kabul! The perfect end to the perfect afternoon.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Words: 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World

There are so many situations, emotions, and ideas we have where words fail us. I love this list of 20 words that we can borrow from other languages to say what we need to express. I learned the English word from India, "prepone" a  few years ago; it means to take care of things in advance - the opposite of postpone. The words listed here are from Spanish, Japanese, Czech, and Inuit as well as Portugese, Scottish, and many others. Here are a few of my favorite.

Inuit – “To go outside to check if anyone is coming.” (
Scottish – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name. (
To read them all: go here.

Happy Friday! Thank you Logan Jenot for this link!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In Honor of the Chilean Miners: Pablo Neruda

I know Pablo Neruda would have something to say about this astonishing story of life. Here's what I found this morning from his The Book of Questions published by Copper Canyon Press.


Who works harder on this earth,
a human or the grain's sun?

Between the fir tree and the poppy
whom does the earth love more?

Between the orchards and the wheat
which does it favor?

Why a flower with such opulence
and wheat with its dirty gold?

Does autumn enter legally
or is it an underground season?

                          Pablo Neruda, translated by William O'Daly

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coming Attraction: Taboo Against the Word Beauty - 4 Northwest Poets at the Frye Art Museum

2:00 pm, Sunday, November 7th @ the Frye Art Museum, doors open at 1:30.
704 Terry Ave, Seattle, WA 98104 

Kelli Russell Agodon, Allen Braden, Oliver de la Paz, and Susan Rich, poets
Frye Auditorium (FREE/FREE PARKING)

Poetry and painting have long been called the “sister arts,” but what exactly does the phrase mean? Join four local poets as they explore the connection between poetry and art. New poems, inspired by the Frye’s Founding Collection, will be read by each of the poets. Refreshments will be served.

Check out the Frye Founding Collection here.

Inside scoop: We are planning on making this an extra- fun event. Please mark your calendars now!
What does extra fun actually mean? You have to come along November 7th and find out.

Congratulations to National Book Award Finalists

Here are the Finalists in Poetry for the National Book Award;
winners will be announced in a ceremony on November 17th.
Congratulations to all! (I do have a favorite but I'm not saying who).

You can see the full listing right here at Publishers' Weekly


Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City
Princeton University Press

Terrance Hayes, Lighthead  
Viking Penguin

James Richardson, By the Numbers 
Copper Canyon Press

C.D. Wright, One with Others
Copper Canyon Press

Monica Youn, Ignatz 
Four Way Books

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Traveling Through Time and Space - This Just In!

Really, I shouldn't admit this, but perhaps you can relate. I almost look forward to the year of The Alchemist's Kitchen book publication year being done so that I can focus more on my writing than interviews and reading. Maybe it's just that I struggle not to repeat myself or send myself to sleep.

I mention this because the poet Rachel Dacus recently interviewed me and I didn't feel bored or repetitive. She interviewed me for Fringe Magazine and you can read the whole interview right here.

Thank you Rachel Dacus, thank you Fringe Magazine. Thank you, dear reader of this blog (if you are still reading) for caring enough to visit here from time to time. Here is a small excerpt.

What is the use of poetry? What place does it serve in our culture, and how do you think it needs to be brought into a more central position?
Oh that’s a big question. I could answer that after September 11th, newspapers across the country were publishing poems, and that poems of Naomi Shihab Nye and W. H. Auden went viral, traveling from email box to email box and back again. I received both their poems upwards of a dozen times. So yes, in times of national crisis, poems can respond to an emotional tsunami.
But what about in our everyday lives?
Right now my Maine Coon, Otis, best pet ever of eleven years, is dying and there is not a damn thing I can do about it. I am not turning to poetry; I am turning to a glass of prosecco. In a few weeks or months, or even tomorrow, I may find something in a poem to take me away momentarily from the horrors of death—but not tonight. It always hits me afresh that even as a poet, there are times when words seem paltry, pathetic, and fully unsatisfying. Yet, during the first year of my MFA degree, when my father was dying—and then by spring, had died—there was nothing I could do but write poems of struggling with his death—and my mother’s death the year before. One poem, “Muted Gold,” which I wrote because I was in a program and had to hand in something every week, now seems to me a gift of remembering. And yet, when I finished that poem, I knew it was nothing but the diapositive—the negative of the negative—of the event. In other words, words are sometimes not enough.
How often, or over what period, do you typically revise a poem?
I’m not sure there is much that is “typical” about my revision process. What I can say, with certainty, is that I am a chronic reviser. It isn’t unusual for me to work on a poem for a year or more. I have some poems with over thirty versions on the computer—and that doesn’t count the drafts done off the computer.
In my essay “Reclamation: A Poem on Revision” in the recent anthology, Poem Revised, I traced the life cycle of one poem from inception to publication. Here is what I ended up saying:
The point is this: revision is the difference between the adequate poem and the excellent one. It is the magic of a word positioned just right in a harmonious line of sound, it is the title changed and re-changed again. It is believing in your own poem. Get to work.

Kelli Russell Agodon at Open Books This Sunday, October 17th

Is it really possible? Have you somehow missed hearing Kelli Russell Agodon read her poetry? Since she is a generous, funny, and prescient reader of her superb poetry --- then I'm sorry you've not been there. But here's the good news: Open Books: A Poem Emporium is hosting Kelli for her book launch of  Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room this Sunday @ 3:00 PM. Come out to the most amazing poetry bookshop to hear one of the Northwest's most beloved poets. If you do know Kelli's work from her past books Geography and Small Knots, be prepared for work that has become even more nuanced, skilled, and interesting than her past books. This is an event you just can't miss. I'd suggest arriving early if you want to be certain of a seat.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I Learned Reading and Tabling at Wordstock: 10/10/10

What I learned tabling at the Wordstock Festival in Portland, OR this weekend --- and reading at the festival with Kelli Rusell Agodon.

1. The world keeps getting smaller. Thank you Kelly L, Judy, and Deb for coming out to our reading. Having virtual friends via this blog become face to face friends was incredibly eye-opening. This makes traveling for book readings far more appealing.

2. Audiences appreciate readers who like each other. Kelli and I are good friends and I think this shows in the give and take with which we approached our reading. Audience members told us the warmth that we created together filtered out to our listeners and made a palpable difference to their experience of our work.

3. A retro suitcase makes a dynamite display case. Kelli found this vintage suitcase at a local antique store. Not only is it useful for bringing books to events, but it made a great display case for our table. Unusual displays are a way to connect with an audience.

4. Tabling is an art. We were located next to the ultra cool Copper Canyon Press and admired how their display looked more like a many textured bookshop with wooden shelves than it did a convention center display. This was our first venture into tabling and there's lots to learn.

5. I wish I had included a few recipes in The Alchemist's Kitchen. Several browsers picked up my book, but then put it down again when they realized it was not a cookbook. I wonder if my recipe for halibut would have helped cinch the sale.

6. Road trips with friends are fun. Annette, Kelli and I  laughed and talked all the way from Seattle to Portland and back again. We had amazing meals as well as pretzels and animal crackers for dinner. Without their friendship, navigational skills, and intriguing conversation, the trip wouldn't have been much fun.

7. Readings and events beget more readings and events. Kelli and I received invitations to do more readings and events together. We are looking forward to having our Crab Creek Review table make its second appearance at AWP this February-- this time with more chocolate.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Literary Criticism & See You in Portland

"I dream about a kind of criticism that would try 
not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a 
sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, 
watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and 
catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. 
It would multiply not judgments but signs of 
existence; it would summon them, drag them 
from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them 
sometimes -- all the better.

"Criticism that hands down sentences sends me 
to sleep; I'd like a criticism of scintillating leaps 
of imagination. It would not be sovereign or
dressed in red. It would bear the lightning 
of possible storms."

-Michel Foucault, "The Masked Philosopher," interview in *Le Monde,*

Thanks to Cindy Stewart-Rinier for this quote. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If I Ever Mistake You For A Poem: Kelli Agodon at Poetry Daily Today

How great to read a fabulous poem and see a friend at Poetry Daily. Starting at midnight and for 23 more hours, Kelli Russell Agodon's poem, "If I Ever Mistake You For a Poem" is up at Poetry Daily. The poem is from her new book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room. I just started reading my copy and am impressed once again by the scope and heart of these poems.  Congratulations, Kelli!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Listen to Nic: 4 O'Clock News at House of Sky on Whale Sound

What a whale of a view. Alaska! A few days ago I wrote about the generosity of Nic Sebastian at Whale Sound in letting poets submit the work of other poems for inclusion on her archive. Today I found out that my poem, "4 O'Clock News at House of Sky" is featured. Thank you, Nic. Nic has a melodious voice and her reading of the poem was lovely to listen to. Such a strange pleasure to hear one's work in another's voice. It's an experience out of time. Maybe that's where the name comes from? In any case it's a great site. Everyday another poet to listen to. Check out Donna Vorreyer and J. Zimmerman while you're there.

Bridging the GAP: Thank You Artists Trust

Yesterday, Artist Trust announced the 66 artists in Washington State receiving funding for a project involving literary, performing, or media arts. In my case, this means that I can actually pay poets and provide refreshment for Taboo Against the Word Beauty: 4 Local Poets Present New Work. This takes place 2:00 PM, Sunday, November 7th at the Frye Art Museum. Poets include Allen Braden, Oliver de la Paz, and Kelli Russell Agodon.

 I also want to congratulate the other Washington State poets who were GAP recipients including: Elizabeth Austen, Nance Van Winkel,  and Frances McCue. As poets we cannot sell "original" art work in the way that painters can, we rarely get paid for performances in the way that musicians do, and so arts funding seems all the more imperative for us. I just heard yesterday that President Obama has declared October the month of Arts and Humanities. May this be just the beginning!

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Poem and A Pup: Wordstock This Weekend, October 10th @ 3:00 PM with Kelli Russell Agodon

Good news can sometimes come from bad news. My poem, "Naming It," is a Special to The Oregonian today. Last week I learned that it would be printed in The Oregonian, then I learned that the Copy Editor had had to cut it, and just now I heard from the very kind poetry editor, Bt Shaw, (a fine poet) that she had worked to get my poem included on-line. Life is a good deal like this, isn't it? Some pieces of news, or new aspect of your life seems wonderful, then terrible, and then events even out to be more good than bad. The photograph above is Shilshole Bay. Here is to staving off loss by narrowing what we need.

Poetry: 'Naming It'

Published: Monday, October 04, 2010, 1:24 PM     Updated: Monday, October 04, 2010, 2:39 PM
Shilshole: the shape in 
which the estuary threads 

her way inland to Puget Sound; 

or -- to pull a thread 
through the eye of a bead. 

That same sense of direction -- 

staving off loss 
by narrowing what we need. 

-- Susan Rich, Seattle 

"Naming It" appears in Susan Rich's third poetry collection, "The Alchemist's Kitchen" (White Pine Press; 2010); it also appears in the anthology "Poets of the American West" (Many Voices Press; 2010). Winner of awards from PEN USA, The Times Literary Supplement and Peace Corps Writers, Rich serves on the boards of Crab Creek ReviewFloating Bridge Press and Whit Press. As part of the Wordstock Festival, Rich will read Saturday, Oct 9, at 3 p.m. the Oregon Convention Center (777 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) with Kelli Russell Agodon. For a complete festival schedule, visit

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Portland's Lan Su Chinese Gardens: Hall of Brocade Clouds

Sometimes beauty equals profound tranquility. This garden is where I want to be right now. I've looked at a hundred or more photographs of the Lan Sun Chinese Garden in Portland and none of them do it justice. I realize it's because the images do not, cannot evoke the profound experience of entering these gates and walking into a garden of twelve interlocking parts: Reflections in Clear Ripples to Moon Locking Pavilion, Courtyard of Tranquility to Hall of Brocade Clouds. If I lived in Portland I would take-up permanent residence in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections otherwise known at the teahouse. If you are in Portland for Wordstock this weekend (Kelli Russell Agodon and I read Saturday at 3:00 PM) be sure and sneak away to the Scholar's Study or at least Painted Boat in the Misty Rain.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Generosity of Spirit in the Poetry World: Very Like A Whale + Humanities Washington

I admire new ideas that combine intelligence and heart. Here is an announcement that makes me happy. Nic Sebastian at the on-line archive, Very Like a Whale, has just opened submissions so that poets can submit work on behalf of other poets. Today's poem is by Sarah Lindsay - and in addition to the recording, there is a comment box for people to discuss the poem. The editor chooses poems that are already available on-line so that you can listen to the poem and view it as well. How cool is that? Take a look at Very Like a Whale, or even better, submit a poem by a poet that you love.

And on a complimentary note, tonight is the Humanities Washington Night Flight event at the Fairmont-Olympic Hotel in Seattle. Writers presenting include: Nancy Pearl, Charles Johnson, Garth Stein, Jennie Shortridge, Carol Cassella and me. Doors open at 6:30 but you need to contact Humanities Washington for advance tickets -- it's a fundraiser for a great cause.