Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hurray for Occupoety - "American History"

Gees Bend Quilt - House
Today I'm officially an Occupoet. The sight Occupoetry is run by folks at UC Davis and I'm really happy to have "American History" up today.

Here are the first few lines --

American History

Someday soon I'll be saying at school

there were chalkboards, at school
we read books made of paper, 

we drank milk from small cartons. We drew.
At school we liked children unlike us

studied evolution, enjoyed recess, plenty of food.

At school we made globes of papier-mache,
built solar systems democratized in sugar cubes.

click here to finish reading "American History" at the Occupoetry site ..

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday William Blake! Visual artist, poet, thinker...

"Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow."
William Blake

And for just a little more information ...

William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language".[1] His visual artistry has led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced".[2] Although he lived in London his entire life except for three years spent in Felpham[3] he produced a diverse and symbolically rich corpus, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God",[4] or "Human existence itself".[5]
Considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of both the Romantic movement and "Pre-Romantic",[6] for its large appearance in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England - indeed, to all forms of organised religion - Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions,[7] as well as by such thinkers as Jakob Böhme and Emanuel Swedenborg.[8]
Despite these known influences, the singularity of Blake's work makes him difficult to classify.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Poems of Thanks and Praise for You - Escape into Life

Thanks to Kathleen Kirk for inviting me to be part of Escape into Life's Thanksgiving Edition. Four beautiful poems with beautiful art work are included. Click here to read poems by Robert Lee Brewer, Maureen Doallas, Richard Jones, and me.

The art work here is from a previous issue of Escape into Life by Weibes Rauchen.

May you spend this holiday with people you love --- or at least people you like a whole lot.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Poetry and Cartography: The Center for Geospatial Poetry; Another First for Washington State

I love it when my different obsessions converge. Not only is there a website where poetry and maps shack up together, but they are doing it for free. If you click here and then go to "A Sense of Place" and wait for the page to load, you will have the first of its kind -  a Google poetry map of Washington State -- or any state that I'm aware of. Hover the cursor over the region of Washington State you want to read poems about and be rewarded with poems by Elizabeth Austen, Ann Teplick, Oliver de la Paz, Dan Peters, and Peter Pereira to name but a few great state poets.

My friend Katharine Whitcomb (superb poet)  and her friend, Bob Hickey (real cartographer) have collaborated to create a map of Washington State on google maps and they've also curated a wonderful anthology of poems on place. If you search the sample poems on the left hand side of the map you will find poems about White Swan, WA (Allen Braden), Richland, WA (Kathleen Flenniken) and Seattle's Museum of Flight (Susan Rich).

Creative projects that emerge from unusual collaborations make me incredibly happy. The world of poetry becomes rooted in the particular coordinates of place and in turn, cartography becomes a thing of art. Katharine Whitcomb is a genius of collaboration having worked this summer with an artist in San Diego to create miniature poems for new museum "scents." (More on this soon).

In the meantime I would love to hear about other artistic collaborations between poets and others. I'm on the lookout for something brand new. Thank you Kathy and Bob for making this project available.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Turkey anyone? No not the bird!

This is my idea of beauty

I wish I could justify taking Spring Quarter off and visiting Turkey to write in cafes, visit
 the Blue Mosque, and walk through market streets. However, unless I win the lottery or marry a 
millionaire before May, it might not be in the cards for me. At least not this year. My 
friend Sheila Bender is co-leading a writing group to Istanbul and she still has a few 
spots left. The trip is ideal for prose writers and poets alike because Sheila is both a 
published poet and prose writer. Read below and then click on more information
And really, why not go to Turkey this May? You know you want to!

Writing It RealTiny Lights
Writing Istanbul Writers' Conference
May 11-15, 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey with
Sheila Bender, Yeşim Cimcoz and Susan Bono
Optional 3-Day Trip Extension to Ephesus May 16-19
Susan Bono, editor of Tiny Lights, and Sheila Bender, publisher of Writing It Real, are joining Yesim Cimcoz of the Writing Istanbul Project in guiding poets and writers of personal experience in writing and touring the amazing city of Istanbul. We have an optional add-on trip following the workshop for those who want to see more of Turkey. Spouses, friends and partners are welcome to join us in activities surrounding our writing groups work.
For Writing Istanbul, we have a fabulous residence in the old city to stay in, cafes to meet in, tours and in-city transportation arranged as well as help booking your room and airport pick up and drop off.  The three-day add-on trip will be a wonderful customized tour  easy to book.
During our time in Istanbul, we'll be touring, writing, and meeting together, in groups led by our three instructors and aided by Turkish members of the Writing Istanbul project. We'll meet all together, too, for workshops, sharing writing, and learning about personal writing in Turkey.
Some of our special activities include a whirling dervishes performance, a visit to a hamam (a Turkish bath), and a celebration dinner cruise down theBosphorus.
Yesim, Susan and Sheila are very excited and hope you join us! For more information, click here!
Kadikoy Market on the Asian Side
Rug Bazaar

Inside the Blue Mosque

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tonight's the Night: 7 pm at the Redmond Schoolhouse; Please Come

The wonderful Harold Taw and the lovely Annette Spaulding-Convy are reading tonight with me at 7pm in Redmond, WA. Why don't you come too? I"ve heard this venue has fantastic audiences! The event is hosted by RASP - Redmond Association of Spoken Word. Click here for more information.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"I am now officially speechless" from Nikky Finney, Award Winner

“'A fine of $100 and six months of prison will be imposed for teaching a slave to read and write,' Finney began her speech, reading from the 1739 slave codes of South Carolina. She talked about how blacks were forbidden to be literate in her home state and across America for a part of history.

'I am now officially speechless,' Finney said, ending her speech with a pun to her literacy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are Poet Laureates a Threat to Public Safety?

This picture was posted at the Poetry Foundation today. Go to Poetry Foundation to read the full story and find links. And yes, that's former Poet Laureate Robert Hass who while trying to defend his students, gets assaulted by the Oakland police. 

Why Not Open Your Own Bookstore: Anne Patchett Starts a Trend

Josh Anderson for The New York Times
The novelist Ann Patchett, right, and Karen Hayes are business
partners and co-owners of Parnassus Books in Nashville.

NASHVILLE — After a beloved local bookstore closed here last December
 and another store was lost to the Borders bankruptcy, this city once known 
as the Athens of the South, rich in cultural tradition and home to Vanderbilt 
University, became nearly barren of bookstores.

A collective panic set in among Nashville’s reading faithful. But they
have found a savior in Ann Patchett, the best-selling novelist who
grew up here. On Wednesday, Ms. Patchett, the acclaimed author
of “Bel Canto” and “Truth and Beauty,” will open Parnassus Books,
an independent bookstore that is the product of six months
of breakneck planning and a healthy infusion of cash from its owner.

“I have no interest in retail; I have no interest in opening a
 bookstore,” Ms. Patchett said, serenely sipping tea during a
recent interview at her spacious pink brick house here. “But I
also have no interest in living in a city without a bookstore.”

Continue reading this New York Times article right here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Being Flynn: Congratulations, Nick! Coming to a theater near you...

Wow. I didn't know that it would be so exhilarating to see a poet's life in a Hollywood film. Nick Flynn worked in Boston at the Pine Street Inn -- a shelter for homeless men -- at the same time as a friend of mine did. His first book of poems, "Some Ether," about his mother came out the same year as "The Cartographer's Tongue", my first book of poems. I suppose the Boston connection and the poet connection interested me enough to follow his career. And here's his life -- or a version of it -- on the silver screen. There's no release date for the film yet, but with Robert DeNiro and Julianne Moore co-starring, it seems likely that the film will be out before the end of the year and positioned as an Oscar contender. Congratulations, Nick Flynn. As painful as much of this story is, you've been heard. Thanks to January O'Neil for letting me know this sneak preview was up and ready to share.

This just in: release date is now slated for May 2012!

Sending Poems into the World this Holiday Season and License Plates

Don't put all your eggs in one basket
Late last night  instead of doing the things I needed to be doing (grading, lessons, sleeping) I sent a few poems out into the world. I believe that sending poems at the start of the reading season serves poets best. In an ideal world I send my poems out in September and October. Unfortunately, this is exactly when the college demands the most from me.

Instead I've found that making a pledge to myself to send four packets of poems out a month works well for me. Four is a number I can handle. I usually try to do this at the beginning of the month and to send out all four envelopes (or emails) at once. Last night I managed three. Two on-line submissions (one an on-line journal and one not) and an envelope to send clear across the country.

I think I must be growing old. I've been sending poems into the world for 18 years. Certainly, I've done my part to keep the postal service solvent. My "system" is fairly simple. Aim high and send widely. In addition to sending only to journals I want to be seen in, I play the license plate game. Remember?

My parents would keep me quiet on cross-country trips by handing me those AAA cards to keep track of all the license plates we saw from different states. I still remember the thrill of my first Alaska plate in beautiful blue lettering. It's been a long process to try and publish a poem in every state. Imagine, Rhode Island for example. Only two journals in that little state. By the way. Roger, is a lovely journal that I am proud to be published in. There's other states where I am still waiting, the Dakotas, for two.  I seem to average about 2 new states a year -- but that has slowed down. Last month I had an acceptance from Virginia, next I will try for New Mexico. I feel in control having a system that doesn't depend on Poetry (Illinois) for satisfaction.

How do you handle the maze of journals and anthologies? What is your strategy for sending work into the world? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kathleen Flenniken's PLUME - Sneak Preview

I am thrilled that Kathleen Flenniken's second book, PLUME, will be out from the University of Washington Press in Spring 2012 --- only a few short months away. PLUME is a book of "innocence and experience" at the Hanford Nuclear Plant. It is also one of the best books of poetry I have read in that the line of the personal and political blur to unite as one. The book begins with an epilogue by President Obama on the 2008 campaign trail admitting that he had no idea what Hanford was but he assured the person who asked the question that he'd be up to speed on the issue before his plane took off.  This is followed by the opening poem in which President Kennedy visits Hanford in the early 1960's.
Yet at the heart of this book is a young woman trying to make sense out of her own personal history and the death of her best friend's father. All this makes PLUME sound weighed down in narrative; it is not.

Listen to this short video (made on an Iphone and then edited later) and enjoy one of my favorite poems in the collection, "Cayote." OK. I have many favorites. Look for Plume this spring in a bookstore near you.

Happy Birthday, Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton
"I have been her kind" is the line that first comes to mind. Happy Birthday, Anne!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Poet Wanted: The Washington State Poet Laureate Returns!

2012-14 Washington State Poet Laureate: A call for applications

Poet Laureate LogoThe Washington State Arts Commission and Humanities Washington seek applications for the 2012-14 Washington State Poet Laureate.
In April 2007, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill that recognized the value of poetry to the culture and heritage of the state by establishing the Washington State Poet Laureate. The legislation is the result of a collaboration between the Washington State Arts Commission, Humanities Washington, the Washington Poets Association, poets and poetry lovers from across the state and key legislators. Soon after signing the bill into law, Governor Gregoire named Samuel Green to serve as Washington’s first Poet Laureate, from 2007 to 2009. Washington joins several other states in appointing an official state poet laureate position. Poetry is recognized at the national level as well: The Librarian of Congress annually appoints the U.S. Poet Laureate.
Role of the Poet Laureate:
The Washington State Poet Laureate serves to build awareness and appreciation of poetry — including the state’s legacy of poetry — through public readings, workshops, lectures and presentations in communities, schools, colleges/universities and other public settings in geographically diverse areas of the state. The selected Poet Laureate will develop a two-year plan of activities, in consultation with the Washington State Arts Commission and Humanities Washington. For an overview of the activities performed by Poet Laureate Samuel Green (2007-09), see below.
For more information, click here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Story Corps: My Three Minutes of NPR Fame and the Fulani

Fulani Nomads of Niger

What a wonderful surprise for a Monday morning! Last March  I was invited to the University of Wisconsin - Madison for the celebration of Peace Corps Africa: Honoring 50 Years. I joined with Peace Corps poets Derek Burleson, Sandy Meek, and Anne Neelon to read our poems and be part of the Peace Corps gala celebration in downtown Madison.

One of the high points for me was reconnecting with James Delehanty whom I had lost touch with in the intervening twenty-five years since we both left Niger. Jim was a Fulbrighter who had previously been in Peace Corps Niger and now as a graduate student was returning to Zinder and its environs. Jim invited me to be part of the Story Corps project. As it turned out, we met for the first time in twenty-five years just outside the recording room, moments before our air time. This week five stories from our time in Wisconsin were chosen to air on Wisconsin Public Radio. You can click on the link below to hear all five. What an odd and magical world where my life with Fulani nomads twenty-five years ago can now be broadcast around the world via internet. Perhaps Dari, Yabide, or Sa-ha might even hear this...

Here is an easier link to use. Click here!

Susan Rich of Seattle and James Delehanty of Madison. They are friends who served in Niger about 25 years ago.

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Play Windows
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Happy 50th Birthday to The Phantom Tollbooth - Feifer and Juster

I read The Phantom Tollbooth at least six times when I was a child. I preferred Dictionopolis to Digitopolis, loved Tock and too closely identified with Milo. Years later, when I ran a bookstore in Amherst, Massachusetts, a man walked in bought a book, and handed me a check with the name Norton Juster. Somewhere along the line he'd become a Math professor at Hampshire College. He didn't seem to much care for me or for the fact that I'd loved beyond rhyme and reason his book. And yet, the visit caused me to read the story again. Is this where my love of travel came from? Is this where I learned word play and a passion for imaginative worlds? I'm ready to read it again. Happy Birthday!

Best line in the video here: "It was the 1950's we wanted to overthrow the world." In a way, they did.

Milo and Tock

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's Almost Here! Free Reading at Seattle Public Library, Saturday!

Come ride the cool elevator this Saturday at SPL

Please consider coming out and enjoying an afternoon of stellar readings from Jack Straw 2011 from 2:00-3:30 pm at the downtown Seattle Public Library. A total of ten prose writers and poets will read for six minutes each. It's like speed dating for the literary types (some of the writers are even single!) and the staff of Jack Straw will also be on hand. If you are applying to be a Jack Straw Writer in 2012, this is the event for you. Seattle writers Nassim Assefi, Anne McDuffie, Deborah Jarvis, Robert Larimande, Don Fells, Ann Teplic, Harold Taw, and Maritess Zurbano are just some of the writers that will be on hand. Elliott Bay Books will be on hand selling the Jack Straw Anthology as well as books by featured readers. Come join us for 90 minutes of literary love!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Home Without Books is ...

A home without books is a body without soul. 
Marcus Tullius Cicero

I love this photograph! I want to climb in the bath right now with a book, but instead more student midterms await me. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bonnie and Clyde: Another Look

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker
I've been screening the film Bonnie and Clyde for my Film Studies class. Directed by Arthur Penn, the film was released in 1967 and is one of the rare examples of a film panned by TIME magazine and then  six months later, the magazine published a long and glowing review. In 1967, Roger Ebert wrote that Bonnie and Clyde was the film that would come to epitomize the 1960's. He was right.

Today the idea of bank robbers who rob banks but believe in love of family and in treating the 99% with respect has some cache. Although the violence is exceptionally well done, violence is still a hard sell for me. Sometimes stretching oneself is a good thing. I hope my students will agree.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as Bonnie and Clyde