Thursday, September 22, 2011

In Our Name: Troy Davis (October 9, 1968 – September 21, 2011)

Troy Davis is dead. For some absurd reason I expected this not to happen. Seven out of nine eye witnesses have taken back their testimony. Citizens around the world  spoke out to protest this miscarriage of justice. Peaceful protesters held signs up in city squares yesterday across the globe.

It is not my habit to post my poems. And yet, here is a poem I wrote over a decade ago that unfortunately is just as relevant today. 

We are all Troy Davis

In Our Name

Inside this room we don't come to: the sizzle and spit
as of fat in a pan, a sweet-heavy smell
of flesh in flames, and two exhaust fans turning

toward a man whose hair on his left leg
and head have been shaved,
a diaper pinned in the waist of his jeans.

No prayers, no words, will he slip
in his hands; only the fingers
can legally burn into blue smithereens.

Here is the soft mauve cloth he'll wear
which will hide the human face
when the veins push out of his molting skin

like glass ridges on a jar or vase.
Let this chair mark the spot
where his heart shudders, then pops

in accordance with Florida law.
Here, stand in this room
with no view of the sea, meet the warden

the Imam, the Rabbi, the Priest.
See the doctor who shines a light in the eye
of a man when he's three minutes dead.

Here in a room, with a switch on a wall,
is one citizen paid always in cash --- assuring us
the nightmares he has may never be publicly shared.

From The Cartographer's Tongue, White Pine Press, 2000

Finally, this is not an isolated case. This week's Letter of Note provides information on death row prisoners that have been exonerated by DNA testing. "I love life too much" is worth reading, too.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

From Iceland to Washington - Poetry and Travel Adventures

Coming to your ipad, kindle, or nook very soon
I'm really happy to announce the first ever eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry - Fire on Her Tongue, edited by Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding Convey. This is an anthology of over seventy contemporary women poets including Madeline DeFrees, Eloise Klein Healey, Jane Hirshfield, Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Peggy Shumaker. There is a healthy focus on West Coast poets -- a focus I hope 2SylviasPress will continue, if only to even out this country's poetic geography. Word around the net is that Fire on Her Tongue will be released very, very soon ...stay tuned!

And in other net news...
Tracy and Zavion at the Alki Beach Cafe
When I began this blog almost two years ago, I wanted to focus on stories of travel (as well as poetry and the creative life) but living in one place...well, my travel stories have been a bit sporadic. I tried to provide a sense of Ireland this summer as I traveled from Anam Cara to Galway and I will be doing a reading soon at Wide World of Books and Travel for my piece, "Blue Gates" from the Best Women's Travel Writing 2011 -- but there's so much more in the travel world...Wonderlust: Adventures with Tracy and Zavion is a brand new blog - started just this week that focuses on the adventures of Tracy Brigham and her son, Zavion. The dynamic duo begins their tour in Iceland before heading for Scandinavia and eventually making their way to Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and points beyond. Tracy is a dear friend and Zavion might just be the most photogenic (and photographed) four and a half year old on the planet. Tracy adopted Zavion  four years ago in Ethiopia and if all goes well, she and Zavion will return their this winter to pick up his new brother or again is Tracy and Z's link.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Doing the Washington Book Award Finalist Dance with Kelli, Oliver, and...

Kelli and I are doing the book award finalist dance
Today the Washington State Book Awards are announced and Kelli Russell Agodon and I are two of the four finalists for the prize in poetry. Somehow we've stayed quiet about it since we found out the news while at Poets on the Coast. Friday night in the middle of organizing gift baskets and collating folders, I'll admit it, I  checked my email. Right there in the Emily Dickinson room, where Kelli's manuscript, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, first came together, we found out the good news. And there we were, crazy busy helping other women poets believe in themselves and dive more deeply into their own creative work. Somehow finding out about our own success in that moment seemed right.

My book, The Alchemist's Kitchen has now been out in the world for 16 months, it's no longer the new kid on the block. And this prize marks the last prize that I believe it was considered for. A finalist for two prizes -- this one and the Foreword Prize -- is nothing to sneeze at, but I will confess I wanted it to have a sticker. Maybe there is a finalist sticker for the Washington State Book Award? Maybe I should make one? Do prizes matter? Only if they come with stickers or trophies...

Congratulations to fellow nominees Oliver de la Paz for Requiem for the Orchard and Don Mee Choi for her book, The Morning News Is Exciting.

Huge congratulations to the Washington State Book Award winner, Francis McCue for her book, The Bled, by Factory Hollow Press.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What I Learned at Poets on the Coast 2011, The Sylvia Beach Hotel

Sunday night! Clockwise: Angie, Linda, Tara, Risa, Kelly, Kelli, and me

I 1. I learned that voicing "What if ..." is a very powerful tool. Just over 9 months ago, Kelli Russell Agodon and I wondered what would happen if we invited women poets to join us by the ocean for a weekend. Did the world need another kind of writing retreat? We believed the answer was yes. It seems we were not alone in this belief.

2. I learned that providing a space for other women to create, learn, and share their own writing path makes me very happy. I was looking forward to supporting other women this weekend, I had no clue how much support, laughter, and love I would receive in return. This was one of the big ah-ha moments for me. You get back more than you give.

3. On the drive down from Seattle, Kelli and I suddenly wondered, "can we do this"? For so long we had planned and organized classes, schedules, gift baskets -- but none of it was real until we met our participants. What if we had dreamed beyond what we could deliver? Perhaps that sense of risk pushed us to do our very best work. Aim high and then run to catch up.

4. Poets are shy at first, but warm up quickly. The first evening we seemed a bit quiet and well, many of us had been caught on I5 and had to detour due to an enormous grass fire. However, by Sunday afternoon when we said good-bye, poets were already planning reunions with the others in their area. Perhaps a "Poets on the Coast" in Southern California one day? Three days together is enough to make some new friends. I know I did.

5. The ocean makes everything better. My dream of living by the ocean gets stronger and stronger as I age. The Sylvia Beach Hotel is old and quirky, but it's my idea of heaven, too. A hotel dedicated to writers where the sound of the surf is ever-present. Where one can do yoga on the deck to start the day -- if one is brave. The weekend reminds me of how I want to live my life: as a poet. And I need the support of others to bring me along. Thank you Poets on the Coast, 2011. I am so grateful.
On the calendar now: Poets on the Coast Sept. 7 - 9, 2012

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Calling for submissions: The Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 8

It is my great pleasure to let you know about a new call for travel essays. Editor Lavinia Spalding will be editing the 2012 Best Women's Travel Writing and has put out a call for new pieces. I was thrilled to have my essay on living as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zinder, Niger, chosen by Ms. Spalding for the 2011 Best Women's Travel Writing. This coming October on Tuesday, October 4th, I will be reading with three other contributors (and Lavinia Spalding!) at Wide World of Books and Travel in the Wallingford area of Seattle. More on this event as we get closer in, but for now you might want to start writing...

I will also be reading 2:00 pm on Sunday, October 2nd, at the new Northwest Bookfest with Kelli Russell Agodon, Elizabeth Austen and Jeanine Hall Gailey -- but that's a story for another day...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kick Start Your Writing for Fall - With Us! (only two spots left)

Join us at the Sylvia Beach Hotel!
Nine months ago Kelli Russell Agodon and I imagined: what if. What if we designed a writing retreat based on community, generosity, and creativity -- what would it look like? What if we could meet everyone's needs? What if we set out to try? And now from one tantalizing idea to a full-fledged event, we are in awe of what a sense of wonder can breed. Today Kelli and I met to finalize the schedule of workshops, one on one sessions, surprises, and awesome snacks. We can't believe we will be packing up the car next Friday and heading out to the Oregon coast. It's wild what a little sense of wonder can do. Come join us in the realm of the imagination. Poets (and soon-to-be poets) are converging from across the country. Spending the weekend of September 11th in contemplation and play seems just right to me. And oh yes, we're by the ocean. For more information, please click here.