Friday, December 31, 2010
Happy New Year's --- May all your dreams, resolutions, and hopes come true. I am grateful for the life I have and always balancing what will and will not happen in the next year. As I get older, I spend more time with gratitude and less time elsewhere. May 2011 be the best year yet for all of us.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
I just want to let you know that Kelli Russell Agodon and I have been busy this week organizing a new project: Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women and we will be announcing the details and how you can participate in the next few days. In the meantime, here is a picture of the library at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. I love new projects and this one is especially meaningful to me. It's the right time of year to be moving into new experiences. I hope you can come, too.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Taking my cue from January O'Neil and Collin Kelley, I decided to add up what the last few months of my life have looked like in terms of my book launch of The Alchemist's Kitchen.
Now I know why I've been so exhausted this holiday, happy to stay home and re-organize closets.
The thing that I can't get my head around is this: if writers need solitude in order to create work - and perhaps even thrive on or love solitude (not isolation) as I do, then how do we cope with this idea of continually being on the road?
Please understand, I adored meeting new friends in San Diego and Miami - people I never would have met if I'd stayed in West Seattle. And actually, I can be social, happily so, on occasion. But 33 presentations in half a year? Two months of that I was also teaching full time. And yet, it is what so many of us learn to do. In fact, I know I would miss the excitement of festivals, the energy from teaching intimate workshops, and the meeting up with old friends if I was not able to take my poems on the road. It actually feels like a privilege to be living this writing life.
But what I wonder is: will it change what I write? Will it zap poems before they're even thought of? I have to confess that I believe the answer is yes. Yes, just the way the printing press changed how books were made, or how television changed the position of going to the movies in the cultural life of the 1940's and 1950's, just like the internet has changed how we live today. In fact, I know that the internt on our laptops has changed how many of us write. What does it mean, for example, to write a poem of interesting facts if you just found the facts on wikipedia (which does have great lists). What does it mean to write word play poems when the word play can be configured on a website? I use facts and I use word play so this is not a diss, it's just the reality that our poems are now internet enhanced.
And yet. I believe there are more venues for poetry today - both on-line and off-line than any time previously. Poetry is no longer exclusively in the hands of the New York publishing houses and elite journals. Because we have the internet -- and frequent flyer cards -- we can communicate in a far more democratic way then has been possible before. And part of that means going on the road.
Tonight I was just talking with an old friend about how much fun it would be to teach in Alaska next June - to do a few readings and see a part of the country I have been infatuated with but never had a chance to visit. I know there is a famous writers conference in Homer, Alaska that I would love to be part of and then visit my friend's new home - the Ionia community. And yes, that is time away from writing -- but it is also a chance to be nourished by a new landscape and perhaps write a new kind of poem.
So it's the ying and yang of the writer's life in the year 2010. And I guess I wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, for 2011, I already have speaking engagements through August. Maybe being a more social person is just something I'll have to get used to. I can think of worse things.
Resolution #1 for 2011 --- embrace the social world of poetry -- be thankful for readers and hosts.
Conferences / Festivals/Teaching – 5 festivals, 11 events
Miami Book Festival, Miami, Florida, Reading with January O’Neil, Nov. 21, 2010
Centrum Writers Conference, Port Townsend, WA July 2010, Invited Faculty (2)
Skagit River Poetry Festival, La Connor, WA, May 2010 Invited Faculty (5)
Get Lit! – Writers Festival, Spokane, WA, April, 2010, Invited Faculty (2)
Edge Program for Writers, Artists Trust, March 2010, Invited Faculty
Colleges and Universities – 4 schools, 6 events
San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, November 2010 (3)
Lower Columbia College, WA, May 28th, 2010
Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, April 16th, 2010
Highline Community College, Writing Teachers Actually Write! April 5, 2010
Community Programs – 14 locations, 16 events
Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA, Reading with January O’ Neil, Nov. 17, 2010
The Ink Spot, San Diego, CA Reading with Ilya Kaminsky, November 14, 2010 (2)
Taboo on the Word Beauty, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Nov. 8th with Kelli Agodon
Literary Fires, with Elizabeth Austen and Harold Taw, November 10th, 2010
Humanities Washington, Seattle WA October 1, 2010
New Poets of the American West, Elliott Bay Book Company, September 2010
Hugo House, LitFuse Kickoff Event. September 2010
Pilot Books, Seattle, WA September 2010
Hedgebrook Open House, August, 2010
Elliott Bay Book Company, June 19, 2010
Seattle Library, It’s About Time Series, May 13, 2010
She Said: Women’s Lives Through Poetry and Prose, Hugo House, Seattle, May 5th, 2010
Village Books, Bellingham, WA April 30th, 2010
Open Books, Seattle, WA April 25th, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Earlier today I was going to write about rejection. Instead, I am writing with gratitude for the three acceptances that I received today. Three! I don't think this has ever happened before. It seems a miracle except that this morning I realized it had been months since any of my work had come back with a grand yes -- and just this week there had been a snow storm of no thank yous.
Here is one of the strange aspects of these acceptances: two of them are for essays I've written. Is this because after The Alchemist's Kitchen I have not yet found my next poetry focus? I don't know. I do know that writing in another genre feels both strange and fun. One of the acceptances is for my essay "Blue Gates" exploring my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, West Africa. It will be published this March in The Best Women's Travel Writing 2011 - an anthology that I have travelled with in past years.
I'm thinking of many, many things I'm thankful for as this year comes to an end. It's been a time of exceptionally high highs and low lows. At midnight, it's hard to know how to articulate the emotional shifts I've been through. I think I need to sleep on it and think on it a bit more.
For now, I will just say that I am profoundly thankful that I get to live this one life as a poet and writer. There's an entire cycle of life with creating, writing, publishing, teaching, mentoring, and publishing others fine work. This year it's finally occurred to me that I am no longer an emerging writer (I am a bit slow) and I've tried to focus some of my energy on working with new voices.
Inventing this blog as I go is something else that I'm grateful for -- my poetry scrapbook is the way that I think about it. A place holder for poems, poets, book reviews, and everything in-between. While on book tour I met people in Boston, San Diego, and Miami who came out because they'd come to know me through this blog and who were generous (and curious) enough to come out for an event. In every case, it was a true pleasure to meet you.
There's so much more to be thankful for --- this is only the beginning...
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
One of the great aspects of travel is meeting people. In fact, it is my favorite part. While on my book tour last month, I met Geoffrey Philip at the Miami Book Festival. Geoffrey knew (through blogs) poet January O'Neil who I was reading with and he also knew my friend, novelist, Debra Dean, who I was staying with. These intersections seemed to portend that we would like each other. I'd have to say I felt an immediate connection. Geoffrey's daughter had attended Western Washington University so our three geographies: Washington, Miami, and Jamaica all lined up as well. OK. My Jamaican geography consists of a week in Negril in late August to celebrate finishing graduate school -- but I think it still counts.
I'm writing about Geoffrey Philip today for two reasons. First, one of my New Year's resolutions is to read new blogs. Nothing wrong with what I read now, but I have not been exploring and I know there are many blogs out there that I've no idea about. Geoffrey's essay on Top 5 Reasons Why I Blog is inspiring to me and I've included a link here as well as the beginning of the essay below.
The second reason to include an introduction to Philip's site today, is that his blog is up for an award: the Jamaica Blog Awards for a writer writing in the diaspora. Take a look at his site and then how can you help but vote for him?
Also, check out his excellent article on the Top 10 Things A Writer Should Know.
Blogging and storytelling go hand in hand.
Just below the masthead of my blog is the phrase, “Every blog is telling a story. What’s your story?” I really believe that, and blogging is definitely a part of my storytelling.
My blog is an extension of the non-fiction narratives about my identities (husband, father, son, brother, teacher, writer), my life within my communities (Jamaica, South Florida and the Caribbean) and my concerns (the dilemmas facing fatherless children in the Caribbean, the disruptive effects of the Jamaican Diaspora on family and community life, and the spiritual and political dimensions ofReggae and the Rastafari movement). And I apply the same principles of writing as I do when I am working in other genres: inspiration, selection, distillation, and revision.
I also practice three important parts of storytelling:
Capturing the reader’s attention
Maintaining the reader’s interest
Creating a resolution
The main difference between blogging and other forms of storytelling is the openendedness of blogging. At least for now my blog does not have an ending, so the narrative (while it does have certain themes) is episodic. This is an idea that I have been pursuing in my hypertext novel, Virtual Yardies, which uses a series of connected blogs to tell a story about a group of Jamaican bloggers who are being murdered one-by-one by a religious maniac who threatens to “kill all battymen and fornicators.”
Blogging is merely another means of expressing ideas, some of which should only be expressed through a non-fiction narrative.
Book idea from Peter Aaron, poet and owner of Elliott Bay Book Company, where the exact center of the store is where you will find the well stocked poetry shelves.
A Spicing of Birds: Poems | The Elliott Bay Book Company
Monday, December 20, 2010
I thought I would board the train of holiday gift ideas as a way to express gratitude for all the authors I've met, books I've read, and friendships I've deepened this year. Here is a short list of books that run from fiction to non fiction to poetry. They are favorites in terms of both words and the women behind the words. Definitely worth looking at.
Letter from the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press) by Kelli Russell Agodon for those trying to find calmness in a chaotic world. Signed copies available at www.agodon.com/books
The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers & a Woman's Search for the Meaning of Wife (Simon & Schuster 2009) by Janna Cawrse Esarey, travel memoir about love and other dangerous adventures. www.amazon.com
Beyond Forgetting: Poetry & Prose about Alzheimer's Disease (written for
families, caregivers, and medical professionals caring for those with
Alzheimer's Disease) Kent State University Press, 2009.
www.beyondforgettingbook.com by Holly Hughes.
Forgetting English (travel-themed short story collection), Eastern Washington University Press, 2009. (http://www.midgeraymond.com/purchase.html) by Midge Raymond.
Underlife (poems of food, love, and family all exquisitely rendered), Caven Kerry Press, 2009. Available at better bookstores, Caven Kerry Press or www.amazon.com by January O'Neil.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Goodreads Book Giveaway
Enter to win
by Susan Rich
Giveaway ends in 2 days (December 21, 2010)
1 copy available, 387 people requesting
Friday, December 17, 2010
I came across this poem by Robert Hass again yesterday while reading Poetry in Person: Twenty-five years of Conversation with American Poets edited by Alexander Neubauer. Thank you Kristen Berkey-Abbott for the recommendation. The book tells the story, through interviews, of what transpired in Pearl London's class at The New School during her 25 years of teaching. A superb book.
This poem seems so out of season today; it's a cold December morning with a heavy coat of snow covering the Olympics outside my window. And yet. And yet, this only provides the poem with an otherworldly glow. Enjoy.
Meditation at Lagunitas
BY ROBERT HASS
All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Briefly, here is what I do. A poet sends me 15-18 poems that she or he thinks are done - or might be done. I organize the poems into packets of 3-5 and then choose the journals that I think will be most interested in the work. I get the envelopes ready (stamps included!) and also do line edits of the poems -- if the poet wants my two cents. I offer a model cover letter from my own files and my knowledge of different editors' tastes -- limited as my knowledge might be. I've had pretty good results getting poems placed for people. Because I only take on a very limited amount of clients, I find the process fun and I love hearing good news when the poems are picked up.
If you are interested in talking with me directly about this, just click here.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I am actually someone who likes sending my poems into the world. They are going on a trip! Quick! Get every comma and semi-colon ready. Is the font right or is there a better fashion statement my words can make? In other words, I try to make a game out of the entire experience so as to not stress whether my work will come back with a "A" grade or an "R."
Some things I entertained myself with this afternoon that may be of some use to you, too.
1. The license plate game -- send poems to states you'e never been to, never even had a poem published in. There is a contest going on right now in Cork, Ireland. Part of the prize is a trip to Cork! I haven't sent to them yet -- but if I can find the information again, I'm going to!
2. Which poems of mine would go well together? This is the wine and cheese portion of the project. Editors often look for pairs of poems that they can take. Have I offered poems that would go well together without being redundant or schizophrenic?
3. Something borrowed, something new. OK. Here's a confession: I've been sending out poems and sometimes getting them published since 1992. That's a long time and it means that many journals in this country (and the world) have had the chance to accept or reject my poems before. Today I sent poems to a beautiful journal that first published me in 1996 -- I was so glad that they were still going strong that I sent them new work and reminded them that they'd published me before. I also sent to brand new journals that look promising and have not seen my work before.
4. Cool stamps are a fun part of this process. I've loved postage stamps since I collected the old stamps of the Solomon Islands and Fiji -- so many are miniature pieces of art. Which journal should get SPCA cats and which Katharine Hepburn.
I could go on ...This is something I love to do and have even created a small side business of helping others send out their poems to appropriate places. It certainly beats doctors' appointments!
Monday, December 13, 2010
This is what was bequeathed us
This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
Left to us.
No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.
No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.
No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.
That, and the beloved's clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.
Thank you Verse Daily for reminding me of this poem by Gregory Orr, from his collection, How Beautiful the Beloved.
Click here for a chance to win a copy of The Alchemist's Kitchen. I'm hosting a giveaway of one copy of my recent book over at Goodreads. The closing date is happening soon as I wanted to give the winner her copy (or his) before Christmas. Signing up for Goodreads is a good idea. There are dozens of free books given away all the time -- the major poetry publishers will often given 12 or even 24 copies of a new book as a way to try and create some buzz.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
It's not too late to enter. Simply leave a comment right here and you may win a copy of Rosanne Olson's book This Is Who I Am: ourselves in all shapes and sizes. A perfect gift for any woman in your life who has ever thought about her shape. Take a look at an interview with Rosanne and photographs from the book and see what you think by clicking here.
Poet and dear friend, Kelli Agodon, has a lovely tribute to Emily today at Book of Kells. Happy B-Day, Emily, you are 180 years relevant today.
Today is also International Human Rights Day. This year's theme is human rights activism. Why not take action? PEN is an organization on the behalf of poets, playwrights, essayists, and novelists who are at risk of censure or violence due to their writings. Here is a way to take action on behalf of specific individuals by clicking here.
The theme for Human Rights Day 10 December 2010 is human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.
Human rights defenders acting against discrimination, often at great personal risk to both themselves and their families, are being recognized and acclaimed on this day.
Human rights defenders speak out against abuse and violations including discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence. They advocate justice and seek to protect the victims of human rights violations. They demand accountability for perpetrators and transparency in government action. In so doing, they are often putting at risk their own safety, and that of their families.
Some human rights defenders are famous, but most are not. They are active in every part of the world, working alone and in groups, in local communities, in national politics and internationally.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Split This Rock Poetry Festival is a poetry celebration I hope to be at in 2012. For right now, I am happy to be included in the Split This Rock HolidayGift List: Books, 2010. The list includes single author collections as well as anthologies. Here are a few of my favorite ones. It feels good to be included on this list. A list I will be using to do some gift giving of my own. Thank you!
Terrance Hayes | Lighthead
| Penguin, 112 pp. $18.00 |
| Penguin, 112 pp. $18.00 |
The 2010 National Book Award winner for poetry takes a fearless look at our urgings, hopes and fears. Hayes’ language always surprises the reader with its layers and beauty. Like the blues, this collection names pain and moves through it. Any reader who loves language will delight in this award-winning collection of poems.
Melissa Kwasny & M.L Smoker, Editors| I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights || Lost Horse Press, 168 pp. $18.00 |
Poems of witness against crimes of genocide, torture, war, rape, hate crimes, and more. These poems bring dignity and humanity to the wounded, language to our deepest silences, voice to unspeakable crimes, with poems by such poets as Marvin Bell, Tamiko Beyer, Martha Collins, Lois Red Elk, Christopher Howell, Scott Hightower, Christi Kramer, Phillip Metres, Farnoosh Moshiri, Susan Rich, and others. A poignant and necessary book. For a full review, please click here.
Harmless will capture you from the first poem. Its delicate poems, often using Jewish Biblical characters and themes, explore memory, family, parenting, and conflict. The poems build an architecture of tenderness we could all live in.
The poems here weave the personal and the political; they tell stories and lament. A strong middle section resurrects the early female photographer and painter of the American Northwest, Myra Albert Wiggins, with scenes from her life and work. Rich is in love with the music of poetry and many of the poems are in form, lilting through even the most difficult of subjects.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
|Photograph by Rosanne Olson|
Since I am easy in the islands this week (pacific northwest islands, that is) I am extending the date for the drawing of This Is Who I Am: our beauty in all shapes and sizes until Friday, December 10th. You can sign-up right here by leaving a comment. I promise your name will not be sold, bartered, or borrowed.
Rosanne Olson has been a professional photographer for 30 years, but her focus on deep portraiture is newer. Lately, Rosanne has been devoting her talents to photographing poets and writers. If you need a photo for your next book --- I can't recommend Rosanne's work highly enough. Believe me, this photograph is one of the best I've ever taken --- and that's her magic.
To be ordered in the drawing for This Is Who I Am you can post a comment right here.
|Photograph by Rosanne Olson|
Friday, December 3, 2010
|Rosanne Olson - Portrait|
Some people are just multi-talented. And Rosanne Olson is one of them. I first met Rosanne Olson seven years ago when she joined a writing group I was in. Since that time I have come to know her not only as a poet, but also as a musician and superb professional photographer. Rosanne's approach to taking portraits involves a holistic view of her client. I have recently had the honor of working with Rosanne on her newest project. Rosanne's picture of me is now my "professional portrait" and you can see it here.
Rosanne's working on an exhibition of Northwest poets that you can read about in this interview. However, her most recent book This Is Who I Am: our beauty in all shapes and sizes is a collection of photographs and essays by women ages 19 to 95. If you are interested in receiving a free copy of this book, please leave your name and a comment in the comment box below. Next week I will write about my experience being photographed by Rosanne. This was my first time being professionally photographed with all the trimmings -- and I loved it.
Since I have been writing about the photography of Myra Albert Wiggins recently, it seems only natural to be interviewing a photographer of our time: Rosanne Olson.
1.You’ve worked in many areas of photography, what draws you to portraiture in particular?
I love working one-on-one with people, especially people who have not had the experience of being photographed. I like to create a very positive experience for my clients—one that will leave them feeling as if they have been listened to and really seen, thus giving them a portrait that will convey their true self to the public.
2. Who are the photographers that you draw the most inspiration from?
I am most inspired by Irving Penn. He recently died at the age of 90+, still working for magazines. His work encompassed portraiture, still life and fashion. He used simple lighting and simple sets to convey great depth of personality. I never tire of looking at his work. And I hope to be working at 90.
3. How is working with you on a portrait different than having a friend or a family member take the picture?
Nothing against having a photograph taken by a friend or family member, but, how do I say this? I feel that the way one portrays oneself in a professional portrait is a reflection of how seriously one takes one’s work. I have spent 30 years working with lighting and photographing people. It is a subtle art. I make it my work to bring out the best in people. I usually spend at least two hours in a session, not to mention the prep time (reading the author’s work, etc.). One can certainly use a photo taken by a friend just as one can lay one’s own tile or work on one’s own car. It might be a job well done. However, if you find that your existing photo doesn’t quite convey the true you, you might try a professional. The photograph is part of one’s “brand.”
4. Can you tell us about your project with Northwest authors?
I have been photographing Northwest poets for the past year and hope to bring this project to Seattle schools to help engage students in poetry. My project arose from a poetry book I had in a college poetry class called Modern Poets. It consisted of portraits, bios and a few representative poems from each poet. Sylvia Plath, W.H. Auden, John Berryman, William Carlos Williams are among some of the poets in the book. It is long out of print so I decided to create my own project along the lines of my tattered old book.
|This is Who I Am: Our Beauty in All Shapes and Sizes|
5. Can you tell us how you mix portraiture and psychology?
What a great question! In my mind, a photograph is a weaving of technology, art and psychology. I sometimes affectionately call my work “photo-therapy” because much what I do is interpret the personality of my subject. In 2008 I authored a book called this is who I am—our beauty in all shapes and sizes. I photographed 54 women ages 19-95 and interviewed them about body image. Most of the women were nude. It took a lot of connection and trust to make the portraits. Aside from the book, most of my clients are NOT nude, even though the connection and trust are equally important. Everyone is nervous when then come to a session. They wonder if they will be seen, understood, interpreted in a way that is true to them. This is exactly what I strive to do.
6. What do you hope a person gains working with you on a portrait?
In my thinking, portraiture is a collaborative undertaking. We need to trust each other. This is accomplished through talking, listening, observation. My hope is that after a session the client comes away feeling truly seen and heard. My goal is to transmit that to the photographs. When I work with people I am totally present. I am committed to working through the client’s worries about being “seen,” the dread about not being seen as “beautiful” enough. I hope that people leave my studio feeling better about themselves than when they came.
|From This is Who I Am: Our Beauty in All Shapes and Sizes|
7. How do you see portraiture as part of your overall work?
My work has encompassed everything from journalism to advertising and fine art. I love portraiture because I love people. I love portraiture because it is REAL. My fine art is my personal expression of my artistic nature. Portraiture is the expression of my talent for connecting to people. Both are important to me.
8. How much does one pay for a portrait?
One could pay between say $150 to $2,500 or more, depending on the photographer, the author’s (or artist’s) renown and the publisher’s contribution (if any). I try to keep things affordable for artists and authors and work with my clients to get them what they need. My photo sessions are about two hours long in addition to time for preliminary discussion, wardrobe consultation, etc. To find out more about Rosanne's work you can go to her website at http://www.rosanneolson.com/
Thank you, Rosanne, for your time and insights. It's been a pleasure.
Dear Reader, if you would like to be entered in a drawing for Rosanne's book, This Is Who I Am: our beauty in all shapes and sizes - simply leave your name and a comment in the box below.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I can feel myself taking a deep breath and heading out to shop -- something I am not at all fond of doing. I love the idea of shopping on line as long as we aren't talking fabric or shoes. I like to touch things before I take them home. I like things to be free.
So here is what my good friend, poet Kelli Agodon set-up on Thanksgiving Day -- a book giveaway. At Book of Kells, on Thanksgiving Day, Kelli offered a copy of The Alchemist's Kitchen (the book, not the blog) to one lucky person who leaves a comment. And it isn't too late for you to swing by her blog and leave a comment. Even if you have a copy, why not? At the Miami Book Festival I had someone (you know who you are!) buy a copy of The Alchemist's Kitchen and then return a few minutes later to buy a copy for her mom for Christmas. I felt very supported and she was happy to have checked a gift off her list. If you want me to sign a book for you or for a loved one and send it out in time for the holidays, you can purchase one right here.
Kelli and I have known each other about eight years and during this time we've written together on cloudy afternoons, travelled to workshops, taken road trips, shared many chocolate bars and supported each other in too many ways to count. Here is my poem, "4 0'Clock News @ House of Sky," dedicated to my dear friend, Kelli. I firmly believe that women's friendships should be celebrated in poems. One of my favorite is Elizabeth Bishop's, "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore." Why not try writing about a dear friend? Love poems come in all shapes and sizes. Or so I believe.
The 4 ‘0’ Clock News @ House of SkyIn the beginning we wanted
to cast ourselves
as opera stars, to break apart
as opera stars, to break apart
like gorgeous women
palm reading at the piano bar ~
palm reading at the piano bar ~
music stinging like salt from the sea.
We were spiraling ridges, dust-darlings
We were peonies ~ cut
and arranged like astronauts
and arranged like astronauts
in flight. We soaked in syllables
not water; rode the Southern
drawl of the wind
drawl of the wind
over cobalt glass ~
backlit by a disc of sun.
backlit by a disc of sun.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I survived! And even better than that, I had fun. When The Alchemist's Kitchen was still in production, I challenged myself to take my baby on the road. If I wanted to let people know about my book, the best possible way was to meet some new people face to face. And so I travelled from Seattle to San Diego, to Boston, to Miami all in one week. Ironically, the previous week I had put on three events in Seattle at the Frye Art Museum, a travel book store and a coffeehouse. I'm just now calculating how many different events I did in two weeks. The magic number: 10.
So what did I learn from this whirlwind that might be of some use to other writers? A few things perhaps.
1. Pack light. I'm not kidding. This is the number one rule. I did three cities and a few major weather patterns with just a carry-on bag. This meant I had no worries of the airline losing my bags and I also didn't have to waste time waiting in long lines at the airport. Carrying my own (mostly black) belongings alleviated much of the stress of travel. I also felt proud that I could pack only essentials - which included three pairs of shoes.
2. Attachment is exhausting. Don't worry about book sales. Of course you are worried about book sales but it won't do anyone any good. Besides, you've done your part -- here you are on the road reading and teaching in the best way you know how. (Thanks to Kelli for putting this so succinctly.)
3. Food is really important. The pumpkin pie cookies at the San Diego farmer's market; the cook your own delicious meal restaurant in Brighton, cocktails and coconut shrimp in Miami. The communal nature of sharing food with good friends -- that's what I will remember.
4. Travel makes me confront my discomfort level. In San Diego I did five events in three days. That's a record. I taught a course on translation, gave a three hour workshop, and other assorted programs. And amazingly, I had fun. I met some superb people and felt that what I did was well received. However, before I left Seattle it seemed impossible that I would be able to do it all. Now with the luxury of hindsight, I feel stronger and more able to face the challenges ahead.
5. You have to have friends. Honestly, that's what this trip was about. Ilya and Katie in San Diego, Hilary in Boston, then Cliff and Deb in Miami. In each place I landed I had very dear friends to take me in. I remember the lentil soup on the stove, the morning walk for coffee, and the party under the trees. I continually felt grateful for knowing such amazing people; for the immense pleasure of friendship. At the end of the class, the reading, the workshop, I had people who loved me waiting to talk and laugh. In many ways, a book tour is more about relationships with others (new friends were also made on this trip) than anything else.
6. What a great problem to have. A book tour! Travel the country and have people listen to your images, visions, ideas -- what a privilege to live this life as a writer. I am honored. And if you are someone who reads this blog and also came out to see me last week, I am doubly honored. Thank you.