Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A few days, a few dollars, a fabulous amount of fun - 3 spaces left

Last December while on a writers retreat faraway from the everyday world of "can't happen" and "not possible," Kelli Russell Agodon and I wondered what if... What if we were to create a writers retreat? How would it reflect our own desires for creativity and community? What if our ideas mirrored the ideas of other poets and writers?

And so here we are, less than two months away from our very first Poets on the Coast. The response has been amazing with women coming to join us from clear across the country, from north and south, east and west. We have women from diverse backgrounds and different stages of life. And we are thrilled.

This Sunday, July 31st, is the last day before our discount rates disappear and we would so love to have everyone get a good deal. The rate jumps up $39 from Sunday to Monday.

We'd love to have you join us. Women who are just dipping a few fingers into the poetry waters and women who are more experienced -- there is a place for everyone on the coast.

For frequently asked questions and to register, just click here...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Poetry of Social Change, thanks to Elizabeth Austen

I love being a guest blogger. It feels like I'm guest starring on "To Tell the Truth" the TV show from childhood or fronting for a new band in town. Today I'm guest blogging for poet Elizabeth Austen, author of the superb book, Every Dress A Decision. Elizabeth asked me to write on the poetry of social change --- the same subject I will be teaching about today at 2:00 pm at Centrum. You can click here to read the post. Elizabeth will also be teaching this week at Centrum on poetry out loud.

Here is the beginning of my post:

Certain luminaries jumped immediately to mind: Carolyn Forche, Allen Ginsberg, June Jordan, Audrey Lourde, Adrienne Rich and Naomi Shihab Nye, for example. That was the easy part. But how to teach how to write a poetry of social change? What does it encompass and why does it matter? Are Brian Turner, Sherman Alexie, and Yusef Komunyakaa also social change poets because of who they are and the specific themes of their work?
1. Poetry of social change provides access to a location or cultural concern that is underrepresented not only in poetry, but in the culture at large. Before Carolyn Forche wrote about El Salvador in the 1980’s, there was no American poetry that allowed us access into that experience. Brian Turner’s Here Bullet has sold thousands - continue

Sunday, July 17, 2011

If it's the third week of July, it must be Centrum Writers Conference

Centrum is to July what Thanksgiving is to November. If you live in Washington State, you just need to stop by for a craft lecture, workshop, or reading. Tomorrow afternoon from 2:00-3:30 in Classroom H, I will be teaching a workshop "Poetry of Social Change" and on Wednesday afternoon I will lead "Poetry of Travel." It would be lovely to see you there. Check here for all the information you need.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Elizabeth Austen, Guest Blogger, Poet Extraordinaire

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Elizabeth Austen as a guest blogger for The Alchemist's Kitchen. Elizabeth is the first poet I met when I moved to Seattle almost twelve years ago. Her first full length collection, Every Dress A Decision is just out from Blue Begonia Press. The book is gorgeous and is garnering well deserved attention; here is a review by Kathleen Kirk that will give you a strong sense of why this is a book to read this summer -- and then again and again. In the meantime, here are 4 tips on creating your own residency at home. I'm tempted.

Four Tips for a Virtual Residency

I admit it. I’m addicted to writing residencies. Over the past several years, I’ve become dependent on leaving home and going somewhere beautiful, away from the fray of daily life, in order to get any real work done on poems. I’ve written at friends’ cabins, B&Bs, Hedgebrook <> , and the Whiteley Center <> . What these places have in common—besides the fact that they are all on islands in the Pacific Northwest, but that’s a topic for another time—is that they offer me a time-limited respite from the distractions I fail to resist at home. When I leave home for a residency, I put an “out of office” message on my four email accounts, and psychically pack only one of my many “hats”: writer.

But the truth is I’m happier when I’m writing more regularly, and I can’t always get away for a residency. So when Hedgebrook hosted a virtual residency called “Hedgebrook Writes” over Memorial Day weekend, I decided to give it a try, sort of at the last minute. Hedgebrook alumna all over the world became “writers in residence” in their own homes, and blog posts from several different writers, including Ruth Ozeki <> , simulated the crucial “farmhouse table” experience of gathering for dinner at the end of the writing day.

I was surprised at how effective this was, and realized this is something any group of writers could replicate. Based on what worked for me, here are four tips for your own virtual residency:

1.       Set boundaries on the time that are realistic, given that you are not, sadly, off on an island (unless you live on an island).  I designated 6am to noon, three days in a row, for my virtual retreat (yes, I’m an early riser.) Nothing but “writer mind” for those six hours—no email, laundry, blogging, chit-chatting with my sweetheart, etc. If I had planned to participate earlier, I probably could have devoted the whole day, but as it was, this was a realistic set-up, given my lack of advance planning.

2.       Ask the people you live with to pretend you’re away on an island during your retreat time. I thought the hardest part of this in-home residency was going to be getting my lovely husband to pretend I wasn’t at home, and not to ask if we have any butter in the house or where the tape-measure is. But because he knew when I would be available, it was pretty easy for him to keep his distance. (If this sounds like a no-brainer, you have a different kind of living arrangement than I do…)

3.       Arrange for virtual company.  OK, I realize this sounds contradictory, given #2 above. What I mean is that somehow it was helpful to know that other women were creating virtual residencies in their own homes at the same time. It intensified and focused my energy in a way that felt similar to “real” residencies. Though I only checked in with the Hedgebrook Writes blog once (after my residency hours were complete on the first day), it was still helpful to read how it was going for others, how they were structuring (or deliberately de-structuring) their time. Your writing group could designate a weekend to do a virtual residency together.

4.       Slow down and listen to what your creative process is asking of you right now. One of the best things about writing residencies is getting a chance to work in a deep, sustained way. For me, this has often meant working in a slightly different way—in terms how I approach the generative process as well as what I’m drawn to write about in the first place. This is a deeply pleasurable and renewing experience, but if I’m too caught up in expectations for myself, I might miss the opportunity for something new to present itself.

Much to my surprise, the experience of the virtual retreat changed my relationship to writing at home. It somehow renewed my ability to focus despite being physically surrounded by roles and tasks that call out to be completed. I hope you’ll give it a try, and if so, that it will be useful to you, too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thank You Oregon Poetic Voices, A Wonderful Resource

Oregon Poetic Voices is a combination plate of both poets and poetics. The poets on this site were recorded from the Mountain Writers Series in Portland, the Fishtrap Writers Workshop, or culled from the fifteen years of weekly interviews conducted by Barbara LaMorticella and Walt Curtis at KBOO radio. On offering are hundreds of poets from Matthew Dickman to b.t. shaw -- both Portland poets; also Kelli Russell Agodon to Kary Wayson -- both Washington State poets. You will also find three poem by me from my reading at Wordstock Festival 2010.

"An Army of Ellipses Traveling Over All She Does Not Say..." is a favorite poem of mine. It was written for my student, Hodan Mohamed. The introduction to the poem explains that I was working on a project, Somali Voices in Poetry, and that this piece is the final one in the series.

Oregon Poetic Voices (OPV) allows you to listen and see the poem. The OPV includes a resource for teachers which is unusually well done. Oregon Poetic Voices is located at Lewis and Clark College. Doug Erikson and Melissa Dalton are listed as the contacts if you want to find out how you can get involved.

Are there other states with such programs? This seems like a wonderful model.

I must confess that I am a little in love with Oregon. This was my first experience living in the Pacific Northwest. I earned my MFA at the University of Oregon MFA program. This was my first time living anywhere (in the United States) other than Massachusetts. And I loved it. I lived in Eugene at an extremely difficult time in my life. When I moved to Oregon, my mother had just died and a year later, my father passed away. During that first year, I knew airplane schedules between Eugene and Boston the way others know city bus routes. The fact that I didn't leave the program still amazes me. I attribute that to a few different things ---one of them was certainly the Oregon landscape. All that green life.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Do-It-Yourself Writing Retreat - Thanks, Midge Raymond!

My friend Midge Raymond is an incredible person. As a publisher, blogger and writer extraordinaire, she continually inspires me. Here's an interesting way to create a writing retreat without a great deal of planning. All you need is a friend and you're off...

Later in the summer I will be writing about going out-of-country for a writing retreat. I think both offer some wonderful ways out of the everyday. Would love to hear what your best writing experiences have been... 

Create your own virtual writing retreat

Sadly, lately my writing has taken a backseat to everything else. So last week, I decided that I would use the long holiday weekend for an unofficial writing retreat. “Unofficial” essentially means that I didn’t need to apply, travel, or formally do anything other than pledge to write — perfect for such a last-minute decision.
To read the rest of Midge's here

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What Will Those Crazy (North American) Poets Think of Next?

Thanks to my sister B. Ruby Rich for this article from The Guardian. I would love to hear from someone who calls. I think given Christle's subject matter this makes some sense. You have to love the use of old technology -- voice to voice in real time.

Poet creates 'buzz' around work by reading over phone to potential buyers

It's one way to connect with your fans: poet Heather Christle is launching her new 
collection by offering readers the opportunity to give her a call and hear her read a poem.

The American author, whose poems have appeared in the New Yorker, has just published her second collection, The Trees The Trees, and rather than relying on the usual publicity tour, has decided instead to list her phone number on her website. At set times every day until 14 July she will read a poem to anyone who calls her.

"The book itself is full of references to phones and phone calls, and the speaker often seems to mistake the technology of the page for that of the telephone, imagining that the reader is right there in the moment," said Christle. "My father is a merchant mariner, and when my sister and I were small we would record messages to him on cassette tapes. I'd often ask questions and then pause for his response. There's something so lovely and sad about the hope that another actual person is on the other end of any technology. So I thought it would be interesting to bring that dynamic forward, to read these poems (which frequently address a 'you') directly to another person, across the intimate distance a telephone creates."
So far she has received around 60 calls, from a multitude of different readers, from a couple from Toronto looking for a love poem to a class in western Massachusetts. "I've been amazed at how variously people respond.To continue reading, click right here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rare and Wonderful Books for Sale - White Pine Publisher Shares It All

Head on over to the White Pine Press Giant Book Sale hosted by editor and poet Dennis Maloney. Everyone from Carolyn Forche to Wallace Stegner is here. Signed books, broadsides, and complete author collections. Take a look right here!

And in other White Pine Press news: Congratulations to Alexander Long, whose book Still Life won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize selected by Aliki Barnstone. Here is one of Long's poems, "Regrets Only, Not Much" originally published in Black Bird Journal.

Regrets Only, Not Much

1. "O Holy Night"
I would give anything to understand why
You threw the leftover wedding invitations we made by hand
Into the dumpster, and why, before you did it,
You kissed them. And how we argued for hours
Over the RSVP, what it really meant and the cost of it all.
It was beginning to freeze outside then, too. Not much,
But enough to remember it by.
And I would give anything to know why
The more I try to remember you away from that day,
The more I feel myself sliding toward you,
The more I hear the cracking of things.
Really, what cracks is the city, wind squeezing
Buildings, taxis and buses and rigs
Pressing down streets, shoppers bundled and huddled
Arm in arm, mouthing cold smoke
Of Christmas carols as they float from shop to shop:
Let nothing you dismay . . . oh what fun . . . fall on your knees . . . .
And your voice . . .
                              or my memory of it.
It's all the same, and I don't know where I go,
Really, when I slip into it.
Wherever it is, it's not far, but it is
If I could hear your voice in a new way
As I step out into this newer cold
And watch my breath swim through bitter air
With carols streaming through snow beginning,
Would that make it better somehow?
Would I begin to forget, for example, how I
Laid you down to sleep, eased you
Into it for years with a cup of warm milk and a little tune
Your grandmother hummed?
There's more to pain than memory.
Besides, ours was another life, the one not set in type,
And if it were the only life, nothing
Would have happened between us.
I'm barely thirty, and to talk about this is hard,
Not because of the pain,
But because I can't remember it enough, so tangled
And torn and fleeting, I feel the old love stirring:
Pleasure is hardly crueler than the memory of it.
So, Reader, stand here with me on this cold corner,
Just this once, toss your clumsy bags of gifts to the street,
Wrap your scarves around your chin, and look at this woman.
She's all we need to share.
She keeps waving cars down, yelling.
Not one stops. But they slow, seem to listen.
And look at the man with the long beard and camouflage coat,
The tattoos clawing around his neck, and his Doberman 
Wrapped in a black smock and silver spiked muzzle,
How they move a little to the left, and then a little more.
Is it fear?
               She must be freezing as she turns
Into angry water, as her curses become the sharp, invisible crystal
That, if caught in something more than an image,
Would resemble oversized snowflakes,
The kind children make with paper and scissors.
It's gorgeous how that happens, don't you think?
The Doberman's breath as she curls around her master's feet,
The crystal streaming from her snout,
The man's calming shushes into her clipped ears,
The laughter of those on the street at the woman,
                                                                                or not,
The woman's cursing at what she sees,
                                                               or doesn't . . .
Their parade of white breath rising with the carolers' . . .
Cold, white, gone. Beautiful communion . . .
Jesus Christ with ice . . . . Hello, goodbye, and the stars
Are brightly shining . . .
I would give anything to understand why this happens, the marriage
Of breath and ice, strange couplings and shatterings
Ordained, then abandoned, by wind.
If there were a way I could hold it together,
I'd be writing something different,
A different kind of love poem, maybe, the kind
Sketched in crystal, one
I could hold you in, remember you enough by. 
2. Kristallnacht
Much to their dismay, certain S. S. guards found the female Doberman
Superior. Their sense of smell was more acute,
More receptive to what we call terror,
Their ferocity more easily triggered by waving
A wolf's tongue dripping with their pups' blood
In front of their muzzled, spiked snouts.
Then, they'd be let loose to tear you
Into the crystallized breath you are becoming
Less and less of.
They would tear, and not let go.

And as you ran and jumped and cursed
Through the alleys of Dinslaken, Munich, Augsburg—
And later Warsaw, Paris, Prague—
Your screams, if your screams rang that far,
Would become as mute as the effigy
Of, say, Wagner glaring toward Russia from the Charles Bridge,
The Vlatava rippling with German U-boats,
Beginning to freeze along its edges, where, more than once,
A man and his grandson unsuccessfully fished.
As you told me this, you began to laugh
The kind of laugh that refuses to tell the entire story.
In your concealment, I began to understand.
There are things we choose not to say, and there are things
We cannot say simply, and these words,
You assured me, were not yours. They were your grandmother's.
And still are.
But the more I pay attention to what I remember, the more I slide
Into your laughter, your own telling:
"How did we end up at Kristallnacht, anyway?
We were supposed to be breaking up. . . ."
I still wish I knew what to say. You were hushing
Yourself then because of the listeners, like I'm doing now,
And as I think softly, I'm really speaking out loud.
About your voice, that is, and the sleet, and the windowpanes filling
With ice. I can see you now behind that fogged window
Marinating chicken in a plastic container. Why?
                                                                          No one else
Is home. It's been this way now for years.
You stand at the counter, turning over and over
The meat, the sleet pelts, and it's not much, you think.
The lawyers haven't called, haven't written, won't listen,
And it's not much. You mutter it softly, not much, not
, splintered iambs under your breath until you can't hear them
Anymore, even though you're speaking plainly above
A whisper by now, clearly above the stereo and Scotch on the rocks
And Camel Lights, which float into their own rhythm, burning—
Not much, not much, not much
Echoing down halls we painted blue.
Ring, and after-ring, ice on glass, and echo again.
No one's coming home, not much not much not much,
And even here, Reader, the sleet begins to patter trochaically.
I know it's too much. I know. I know
                                                          it's been falling so steadily
That it takes on a life of its own in a world that unravels
Right next to ours, this world we know
Where meaning has been banished, where the only law
Is the freezing water of regret kissing sound.
Which means, I'm thinking, there is no law.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July to You - And your very flesh shall be a great poem

This is What You Shall Do - by Walt Whitman by way of The Writer's Almanac

"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Writing Exercise, Travel Poetry, and poet Jeanine Hall Gailey Interviews Me Today!

Thank you to Jeannine Hall Gailey who has an interview with me up today on her blog. Jeannine also has a brand new book out - this weekend She Returns to the Floating World available at fine bookstores everywhere. Hope you're having a lazy and lovely holiday weekend.