Monday, October 31, 2011

Meet Jack Straw Writer: Maritess Zurbano

Please join Maritess Zurbano as well as other Jack Straw Writers: Nassim Aseffi, Anne McDuffie, Ann Teplick, Robert Lamirande, Harold Taw, Nora Wendl, and others 2:00 pm, this Saturday, November 5th in the auditorium at Seattle Public Library. This is the final event for Jack Straw Writers 2011. Kathleen Flenniken will also be on hand. Please join us. 

That’s Magic

Maritess ZurbanoIn her writing, Maritess Zurbano depicts the little known world of a female magician. Her work brings to light racial and gender issues surrounding the art and captures the intrigue of performance. Original subject matter and dramatic delivery make for a captivating read.
Zurbano has been a practicing magician for 19 years, has competed internationally and performed around the world. Her memoir-based play, “Rites of Enchantment,” has won entry into the New York International Fringe Festival and the NYC Ars Nova Theater Festival. Her short stories have been published in The Chicago Reader as well as the literary magazine Snowbound. She is a contributor to Magic Magazine and has been profiled by Newsday, Lifetime Television, The BBC News, Epoch Times, and The Village Voice providing commentary on magic and the occult. Her literary awards include a 2010 Washington State Artist Trust Grant and a 2011 Jack Straw Fellowship.
SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Productions as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at
Music performed by the Owcharuk Sextet and recorded as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Boston, You're My Town: January O'Neil reports from Occupoets

OccuPoets Boston

Read below to hear how poets January O'Neil, Martha Collins and others are doing their share to support the peaceful protesters in my hometown of Boston.

Yesterday, I was part of a weeklong effort by OccuPoets Boston to support the Occupy Boston movement. Organized by Peter Desmond, the weeklong series of afternoon poetry readings were held in support of the hundreds of people camping out, talking to passersby on the street, serving food, organizing events, talking to media, etc.

About 15 poets read to a crowd of 40-50 people, including Fred Marchant, Martha Collins, Molly Lynn Watt, and me. I was incredibly nervous—I never know how my work will be received. But the audience was warm and appreciative of the support from the Boston-area writers community. Four of the five poems I read are from the new manuscript, all of which have to do with the downturn in the economy.

This Occupy effort is centralized at Dewey Plaza at South Station in downtown Boston. What was once a park is now a tent city. Except for the musicians in the background and the city noise, it was relatively calm there. And clean. A little smelly but very organized and orderly. There's even a library on site, that now has a copy of Underlifeon its shelves. I definitely got the sense that these 99 percenters are 100 percent committed to change by any (peaceful) means necessary. Click here to continue reading and see more images of the afternoon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Meet Jack Straw Writer: Ann Teplick - Poet, Playwright, YA Writer

I first met Ann Teplick in a "Speaking Pictures" workshop at the Northwest Museum of Art as part of the Skagit River Poetry Festival. She struck me at the time as passionate, smart, and playful. And she still does.

Later, I published her poem "This is How I Want to be Kissed" in the "Beyond Ekphrasis: Poems of the Musical, Mathematical, and the Visual" portfolio of Crab Creek Review, 2010, volume 2. Ann is a poet I will be watching as I expect to hear much more from (and about) her very soon. Listen to her podcast below.You will be glad you did.

By the Bedside

In her Jack Straw residency, Ann Teplick shares her grief, wrestling the difficulties and pain of losing parents. Her poetry imparts sorrow, beauty, love, and loss. Each word is chosen with courage, leaving the reader absorbed in the fragility of human life.
Teplick is a Seattle poet, playwright, and prose writer, with an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College. For eighteen years she’s written with youth in schools, juvenile detention centers, psychiatric hospitals and literary non-profits. Her work has appeared in Crab Creek Review, Drash, Chrysanthemum, Hunger Mountain, and others. Her plays have been showcased in Washington, Oregon, and Nova Scotia. In 2010 she received funding from Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and 4Culture for a collection of poetry The Beauty of a Beet, Poems from the Bedside. In 2011 she will be a writer at Hedgebrook.
SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Productions as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at
Music performed by the Bird Tribe Orchestra and recorded as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

In Praise of Poet Tree: Secret Sculptor on the Loose in Edinburgh

The mysterious paper tree
It looked like this was a one-off, a beautiful and delicate piece of art created by a fan of the Poetry Library. Until, in late June, the National Library of Scotland found themselves the recipient of a similar piece.
Those of you who don't keep up with Edinburgh's literary world through Twitter may have missed the recent spate of mysterious paper sculptures appearing around the city.
One day in March, staff at the Scottish Poetry Library came across a wonderful creation, left anonymously on a table in the library. Carved from paper, mounted on a book and with a tag addressed to @byleaveswelive - the library's Twitter account - reading:
It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree.… ... We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)
To continue reading this article and seeing the rest of these lyrical and dreamlike sculptures, click here

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Sylvia Plath -- She Would Have Been 79...

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Joy of Not Being Sold Anything - A Poem Prompt For Sure

Seen in Norway this fine morning

This Just In...

Mrs. Whiting Awards Announced! Here's our Seattle poet Don Mee Choi who was also a finalist for the Washington State Book Award in Poetry.


The Morning News is Exciting (Action Books, 2010) is poet Don Mee Choi’s first book, which our selectors found “a wildly surprising work describing the collapse of empire—bracing and invigorating. Its anger glows.” She also translates contemporary Korean women poets; her most recent is All the Garbage of the World, Unite! by Kim Hyesoon (Action Books, 2011). She is a recipient of a Daesan Translation Grant, Korea Literature Translation Institute Translation Grant, an American Literary Translators Association Travel Fellowship, and has served as poet-in-residence at the Henry Art Gallery. She holds a BFA and an MFA from the California Institute for the Arts and a PhD in Modern Korean Literature and Translation from Union Institute and University. An instructor in adult basic education at Renton Technical College, she lives in Seattle.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meet Harold Taw: Essayist, Novelist, Screen Writer, and Karaoke Singer

I love this podcast series produced by Jack Straw Productions. How cool is that to have your own personal podcast? And if you get your application into Jack Straw by the end of this month -- you could be part of Jack Straw Writers 2012.

I first met Harold Taw at C and P Coffee in West Seattle. Remember that guy who talks on his cell phone while you're trying to write? I hear this guy who is there with his dog -- smack in the middle of the place. There's no way I can't eavesdrop. And a good thing, too. I hear Harold talking with someone about the GAP grant he just won and the novel that he's working on.

Flash forward five years and Harold is now the author of the wild and pleasurable novel Adventures of the Karaoke King from Amazon Encore. He is also a Jack Straw Fellow and my dear friend. Do listen.

A Cultural Journey

In his work, Harold Taw explores voice and perspective. Readers travel through cultural and emotional territory with complex characters, moving through stories with remarkable storytellers.
Taw’s debut novel, Adventures of the Karaoke King (AmazonEncore 2011), is a karaoke grail quest about transplanted people from around the globe who keep falling just short of their dreams. His second novel, Saturday’s Child, follows an adolescent girl’s journey from the Southeast Asian countryside to the city during politically tumultuous times. Harold’s screenplay Dog Park has been recognized in international film festivals and competitions, his personal essay on why he feeds monkeys was broadcast on NPR’s This I Believe, and he is currently collaborating on a musical. Harold is a 2011 fellow in the Jack Straw Writers Program.
SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Productions as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at
Music performed by Victor Noriega and recorded as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Meet Architect and Poet Nora Wendl - Jack Straw Writer 2011

The Farnsworth House in Fall

Nora Wendl's poems on the life of Dr. Edith Farnsworth are in a word: evocative. The Farnsworth House is a house of glass in Plaino, Illinois. Nora Wendl is a poet and architect in Portland, Oregon. Listen to her poems made of steel and glass. A beautiful series from the reading at Jack Straw.

Architecture of Poetry

Nora WendlThrough her study of a Mies van der Rohe glass house in Illinois, architect and poet Nora Wendl illuminates the life of Dr. Edith Farnsworth. Yearly visits to the home and extensive research inform Wendl’s portrayal of the house and the character of Farnsworth. With an architectural lens, Wendl brings life and sentiment to marble floors and glass walls.
Wendl is a writer and professor of architecture whose work (built and written) is influenced by the processes, products, history and discourse of the (silent) built and made things around us—particularly architecture. A native of Nebraska, she studied at Iowa State University and was 2005 Pearl Hogrefe Fellow in Creative Writing. She lives in Portland, Oregon and teaches at Portland State University Department of Architecture.
SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Productions as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at
Music performed by the St. Helens String Quartet and recorded as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Meet poet and memoir writer Anne McDuffie

I want to introduce Anne McDuffie, one of the 2011 Jack Straw Writers from The Jack Straw Writers Program . Anne is a writer you are sure to hear more from. Her sense of image, sound, and language continues to surprise me. In Spanish or English, in poetry or prose, McDuffie is an original. Listen to a podcast of her interview and reading below.

I was honored to curate this past year. Anne's creative non-fiction piece sounds to my ears as poetry --- no different. The application for 2012 Jack Straw Writers program is open now until October 31st. You don't have to be a Seattle writer to apply, but you do have to visit 3-4 times during the year. Why not?

The Color of Fog

Anne McDuffie creates a sensory portrait of fog in a set of essays from an earlier chapter in her life. Her descriptions are immersive, and saturated by deep hues. The reader learns of her time in Madrid as a student and joins her for a long walk through the fog.
McDuffie writes essays, poetry and book reviews. Her work has appeared in Colorado Review, Crab Creek Review, A River and Sound Review, Rattle, Poetry International, American Book Review, and the anthology Short Takes: Brief Encounters with Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton, 2005). She received her MFA in 2007 from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.
SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Productions as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at
Music performed by the Black Cat Orchestra and recorded as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nobody Tells This to People Who Are Beginners

Ira Glass is the host of "This American Life" on American Public Radio

Monday, October 17, 2011

Never Too Old for Stickers! Thank you Washington State Book Awards

I'm guessing that one is never too old for gold stars and that's why most of the top book prizes give stickers. Although this is not my first book prize, it is my first sticker and I was (am) wildly excited by this. The Washington Book Awards winners, finalists, and friends all came out to Richard Hugo House last Wednesday night for a celebration. Thanks to Francis McCue and a handful of people working behind the scenes, approximately 200 folks gathered in the cabaret to see old friends and meet new ones. When The Alchemist's Kitchen was published, I knew I wanted a sticker for it's cover. After all, the cover is a tad dark and a splash of gold lightens the composition.

Special congratulations to Washington State Book Award Poetry winner, Francis McCue for her incredible book, The Bled. If you want to enter your book for 2012, click here for the info. And special congratulations to Oliver de la Paz, Kelli Russell Agodon and all the other finalists. The list of finalists for all categories is listed on the Seattle Public Library website and right here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Where in the World are January and Susan?

January, Jeff, me, Elizabeth, and Kathleen at Kabul

The past four days have been a whirlwind of readings, eatings and sightseeing.
Picnic lunch of ceviche and cioppino
Lucky for me January O'Neil is a fabulous photographer as well as an award winning poet.
Here are some of the places we have been over the last few days. January's Seattle postings tell it all. I will just add in a few of my favorite photos of Jan's and one more of my own.

The gold man takes a lunch break
After twelve years living in this lyrical city, I feel I can claim it as my home. And so seeing the gold man, picnicing outside Pike Place Market, reading at Elliott Bay Book Company, and eating our way through High 5 PIE and Poppy, Easy Street and Kabul -- feels like I've been able to show January a window onto a full life. It was a true pleasure to hear Jan read, write together, and share poems. Here's to poetry friends that first meet in the blogosphere and then transfer out to the physical world as well. Such magic when the keyboards and coffee shops align. Thank you Jan for a wonderful time. Come back to Seattle soon.

Friday's sunset from my house. A hopeful omen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

January Gil O'Neil Joins Seattle's Poetry Scene October 12 and 13th

I love how poets migrate from city to city. I love meeting the poets behind the poems after first encountering them in journals or books. This is how I met January O'Neil. Now January will be visiting Seattle and reading 5:00 pm, Wednesday, October 12th at Elliott Bay Book Company. This is January's first visit to Seattle. After January reads, we will move over to Hugo House for a reception to honor the Washington State Book Award Winners and Finalists. The reception is from 6:00 - 8:00 pm and you are invited to both the reading and the reception.

If you can't make Wednesday night, January is also reading at Highline Community College for Highline Listens: Writers Read Their Work at 11 am, Thursday, October 13th, in the Mt. Olympus Room of the Student Union. This event is also free and open to the public.

We hope to see you there --- or there!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Youth, Failure, and Death: Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

Three stories of his life. College dropout, adopted son, and lost soul. This is a superb talk. Jobs is a storyteller and seeker. He slept on the dorm room floor of a friend, collected coke bottles for money, and ate one good meal a week at the Hari Krishna temple.

And since he didn't have to take required courses (he'd dropped out) he could drop in on a calligraphy course and fall in love with typography. If he hadn't dropped out of college and followed his heart to a calligraphy course, personal computers might not have the beautiful fonts and spacial considerations.

At 21, Jobs started at Apple Computers, at 30, he was fired and starting over. This is a beautiful, beautiful, talk on how to trust in your passions, no matter what. This is an authentic, passionate, and wise talk. Three stories. Youth, failure, and death. And it's very uplifting. Listen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Letters to Young Writers - Loving Rilke and Beyond to Kunitz

Rilke relaxing between letters

Richard Hugo House, Seattle's Writers Center has just initiated a new blog series, Letters to Young Writers, inviting authors to provide the advice they wish they had received. Seattle poet Elizabeth Austen kicks off the series with this superb piece. Why is it that we so often need to be reminded that we don't need to be perfect? Read the whole post right here.
Dear Writer,
Years ago I heard Stanley Kunitz say, “The first job of the poet is to become the person who could write the poems." 
For a long time I thought this meant I had to become a better person than I am. I thought I had to become virtuous and perfect, so that the Muse would give me wise and beautiful poems.
But what I know now is that all (all!) I needed to do is to become myself, not someone else’s idea of me.
Visual artists David Bayles and Ted Orland, in their indispensable book  Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, write that “…becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.”
Or, as W.S. Merwin put it, “No one can teach you to listen for what only you can hear.”
I’ve never written a poem out of perfection. Poems come from the awareness of insufficiency, of confusion. Poems come out of wanting to see more clearly than I can right now. My flaws are openings, points of connection with the suffering and vulnerability of others.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October is a Literary Month: Poetry and Prose in Seattle and Across the Bridge

Doing public readings is both invigorating and terrifying. It is a chance to be part of the literary community and to feel firsthand that words matter. Here are some events that I am reading at or attending over the next two weeks. If you are in driving distance of Seattle, why not come out?

Tonight, @ 7 pm Christine Deaval at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford, reads from Woodnote.

This year Northwest Bookfest returns to the Puget Sound area. 2 pm, Sunday, Oct. 2nd "Northwest Women's Voices" with Kelli Russell Agodon, Elizabeth Austen, Jeanine Gailey and Susan Rich.

7 pm, Tuesday, October 4th Best Women's Travel Writing at Wide World of Books and Travel with editor Lavinia Spalding, and contributors Jocelyn Edelstein, Sarah Bathum and Susan Rich.

5 pm, Wednesday, October 12th January O'Neil at Elliott Bay Book Company. I'll be on hand, too.

Hope to see you here or there.