Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some of my favorite things: poems, book arts, and mystery

The Prague Municipal Library
What is it about towers of books? Or really, any art objects made from books? A few months ago I posted about the gorgeous book sculptures that were showing up in Edinburgh libraries and other municipal buildings. There seems a magic to them that goes beyond repurposing pages and bindings. As if the new book object makes manifest the imagination in a new way.  You can see more of the Edinburgh sculptures here.

"This is for you" The Banksy of the book world has left these lyrical sculptures all over Edinburgh

The Prague Municipal Library is now home to a spiraling tower of hundreds of carefully stacked books assembled by Slovakian born artist Matej Kren. Dubbed Idiom, the staggering installation reaches up to the ceiling, and Kren installed a mirror inside the funnel to create the illusion of a magical, unending spire of books.

Another story that made me glad I'm alive today is the npr piece about the harried parent who has decided to read a poem a day. In the kitchen by the toaster, in the car, even in the port-a-john this parent has found peace by spending a minute each day being transported by poetry. What would the world look like if we all did this? Maybe even for one day?

A Poem A Day: Portable, Peaceful And Perfect

Reading on a dock

December 26, 2011
Alan Heathcock is the author of Volt.
I hadn't slept well, had to get my three kids to three different schools in three different cities, had deadlines piled on deadlines. I leaned my head against my bookcases and there, at eye-level, was a book of poetry by Mary Oliver.
I randomly opened to the poem "Egrets." Like magic, I was pushing through catbrier to the edge of a pond, where I watched "a spindle of bleached reeds" become egrets and "unruffled, sure, by the laws of their faith not logic, they opened their wings softly and stepped over every dark thing."
I closed the book, transformed, bolstered from the inside out.
May you enjoy these images and ideas --- and hopefully they will spark ideas in me or in you that are  practical, transformative, and magical as well. Happy December 28th

Read more: Matej Kren's 'Idiom' Is a Spellbinding Tower Made From Hundreds of Books | 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Is it a film? A flock of birds? An animated painting?

My favorite piece in the current exhibit, "Luminous"
Tonight I found a youtube video of this amazing art installation which is part film, part sculpture, part magic. It seems right to post it here tonight in this season where so many people yearn for something luminous. I watched this piece over and over with a kind of wonder I hadn't felt since a child needing to see it just one more time... This video gives a real sense  of the piece. May it bring you a few moments of wonder tonight.

"Suh's installation, titled Gate, was commissioned exclusively for this exhibition and transforms one of the artist's existing fabric pieces into a screen for projection as well as a space of transition.
"Like the moment of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism, passing through a gate takes only a split second, and then it's over," Suh explains. "But so many things happen in such a short period of time. With this work, I wanted to extend that moment of passage, to delay it, if only for an instant, to provide the viewer that moment of insight."
"Our notion of emptiness is quite different in the East," Suh explains. "The void is not empty or bleak but charged with meaning."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thank you California Journal of Poetics - The Alchemist's Kitchen Reviewed

Giving Thanks to the California Journal of Poetics Tonight!

   It's been a long day of putting words on paper and then scratching them out again. Sometimes, and this is true more and more the last few years, it feels impossible to write poems that I am really proud of. Maybe it's that I live in a constant state of self doubt and the more years on the planet, the more time those doubts have to coalesce.
Don't get me wrong, I also believe that any good writer needs self doubt in order to improve - sometimes I just wish that the voice that taunts "so you think that's a poem?" might take a bit of a holiday. 

Let me also thank Carrie MONIZ who I have never met for her thoughtful and spot on reading of my work. Reviewing poetry is an act of generosity and I am thankful for my book falling into such kind hands. And if you are still looking for a holiday gift for yourself or a poetry loving friend, you can order The Alchemist's Kitchen from my website where I will add in Cures Include Travel if you purchase The Alchemist's Kitchen before December 31.

Here is the beginning of the review. To read the entire peace click here

The beauty and musicality of the English language cannot be overlooked in Susan Rich’s third book, The Alchemist’s Kitchen(a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year). She invents new forms and reinvents the tried and true, exploring every device and tool with a keen ear and deft tongue.

Rich has an incredible ability to articulate the essence of a moment or emotion in few words—especially through the use of striking similes and metaphors. In the poem, “The Never Born Comes of Age,” the slow pace of time is described as “hours / hunched like dogs no one could move.” This image alone, in the context of the poem (a mother mourning her pregnancy which ambiguously ends in “loss streaming across cow dung and thistle”), is enough to make the reader grow heavy with the speaker’s emotional burden—the heartache felt by an “almost mother.”

Mahmoud Darwish
photo from the Palestine Monitor
In “Re-Imagining My Life with Lions,” which meditates on the epigraph by Mahmoud Darwish—“There is no death, only a change of worlds”—the speaker reveals that he or she “want[s] to live another life—a poplar tree in a row / of blue pine along a cobbled road,” though it isn’t for lack of beauty in this world. The lines, “Each day unfurls, fragrant / as a botanist’s notes from the road,” are so saturated with the enduring passion one has for the world—the lingering scent, the cataloguing and acute observations—that only one sensitive to life’s ephemeral nature could articulate such a comparison. The speaker’s desire to live another life does not evoke thoughts of pity or disparity. Rather, it continues to evoke To continue reading click here

There's a Certain Slant of Light

December 21, 2011

There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
'Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 't is like the distance
On the look of death.  

           Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Festival of Light! Happy Hanukah!

The Coming of Light
by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light. 
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves, 
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows, 
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine 
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Am Not A Brave Woman: As Travelers, We Spin Ourselves Around the Globe

Lavinia Spalding does a superb job as editor for 2011 and is gearing up for 2012!
I am thrilled and humbled to have my interview up at Lavinia Spalding's site where she is interviewing several contributors to The Best Women's Travel Writing 2011. Here is a bit of what I confessed about my life as a traveller...

And for the woman traveller in your life, this is THE book for her. Readings around the country and new interviews posted regularly are generating a great deal of interest in the anthology...

Through travel, have you overcome any fears or obstacles?

At heart, I think of myself as a shy worrier. However, when I mention this description to friends, they laugh at me. I’ve conducted human rights work in the West Bank and been an electoral supervisor in Bosnia. I’ve heard bullets whiz past my ears and spent an evening drinking tea with nomadic men on the edge of the Sahara. In South Africa, I lived alone in the country that statistically is known as the murder and rape capital of the world. It’s a mystery to me how these experiences started to accrue. And yet, they have and I’ve become braver for them.

As travelers, we spin ourselves around the globe with only a credit card and a passport for protection. And more often than not, the experiences that come to us are positive ones. In all of my decades of travel, I can think of only one time when things were actually dangerous (and it wasn’t in a war zone). So yes, travel has allowed me to privilege curiosity over fear, adventure over worry. I can’t imagine who I would be without my years of traveling to and living in different countries. So although I still worry about having to ask a stranger for directions and I still obsess about keeping my travel documents safe; I now know the joy of travel so far outweighs the problems.  

What advice can you give to women who want to start traveling?

Do it. Don’t let the voice inside your head dictate or limit your life experiences. Whenever I go somewhere I make sure that there are places or people where I can land. Plan to do more than sightsee. As a writer, these places are often writing retreats or visiting writer friends, but that’s only one way to go. If there is a painting you’ve always wanted to see, you could create a trip around visiting that painting-- or perhaps there is a famous restaurant in Spain you’ve always wanted to try. We live our lives only once. One. That’s not a very big number. I’d hate to miss anything because of my own self-imposed fears.

I am not a brave woman, but I have had travel experiences that have taught me to be braver. The challenges I’ve overcome as a traveler have translated into the skills I need to live my everyday life.

     To continue reading click here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Poets on the Coast: A Gift for the Poet in Your Life

Here's a personal, creative, and waterview gift idea. Treat someone you love to a writing retreat of a lifetime. We are offering a special pre-registration Poets on the Coast gift certificate for the first time this year. 

A view from the Sylvia Beach Hotel

If you sign up now before midnight December 31st for a holiday registration for Poets on the Coast (September 7-9, 2012) you will receive a personalized 8 1/2 x 11 certificate entitling the gift recipient (which could be you) to a special registration including a one on one session with a workshop leader, writing workshops, yoga, and more. Only $273 for a three day event. 

In this crazy world we live in what better gift to give than three days of poetry and peace? This retreat is designed for women poets of all levels. To find out more click here. Feel free to leave questions here in the comment box or poetsonthecoast(at)

And from last year's participants: 

"I am overwhelmed with gratitude and energy derived from these last 48 hours.  The shared writing culture, thought thoughtful and organized prep, the generosity you've shown with your time, wisdom, humor, and encouragement -- Wow!  Thank you.  I leave this afternoon with head and heart filled with new material and determination.  Thank you again for your inspiration."


"How can I thank you....let me count the ways!"
What a wonderful weekend.  I've come home feeling so enriched by people (you two, in particular) and by the poetry and discussions and sharing.  I'm raring to go to put my "action plan" into gear.  You have created something truly remarkable and wonderful.


Spaces are limited and we already have some poets from last year joining us again. Please click here to register with this special limited gift offer. Registration includes a one year subscription to the Crab Creek Review.

More questions? Click here for Frequently Asked Questions!

Remember, sign- up before December 31st for this holiday gift special.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Can I Say?

There is a distinct parallel between writing papers and grading them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

That May Be the Measure of Our Lives

Toni Morrison

"We die. That may be the meaning of live. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives." 
                                                                     ~Toni Morrison

The Bluest Skies You've Ever Seen in Seattle ...

That was the song from "Here Come the Brides" a weird and cheesy television show from the 1970's and my first concept of this city far out west. In reality the "brides" coming west to keep the loggers company were often prostitutes ... but that's a different story. All of this is merely preamble to these Seattle skies. Happy Monday!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gifts for the Poet in Your Life - And Donations to a Poetry Press

Please check out the signed first editions and full series collections at White Pine Press. Dennis Maloney is selling off his collection of signed books, broadsides, and first editions from a variety of poets including Pablo Neruda, Grace Paley, Mary Oliver, Sandra Cisneros, Ernesto Cardinal, Fedrico Garcia Lorca, Linda Gregg, Charles Simic, and many more. The prices are extremely reasonable. 

This year I am doing my best to buy holiday gifts locally and to support causes that I believe in. As a poet who has benefited from over a decade with the same intelligent, ethical, and big hearted publisher, I strongly recommend doing your holiday shopping with White Pine Press.

Certainly it doesn't hurt to take a look right here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

See "Luminous" at the Seattle Art Museum

Photo by Kelli Russel Agodon (poet and photographer)
We sat and watched this film (although film might not be the correct word) all the way through three times. It's hard to explain all the different images that fade in and out, that walk across the screen, that are drawn on the thin white gauze as if on a canvas. The deer in the left foreground walks, leaps, disappears, and reappears all in different movements. Night turns to dawn and Chinese cryptograms appear on the backs of butterflies, crows fly and ---- well you really need to see this for yourself. I didn't read anything about the artist or the form. I confess I wanted unadulterated magic.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Do Tell! Call for Submissions for New Project!

Gay Life in Prague

Wonderful poets Peter Pereira and Jourdan Keith join forces for a special edition of Floating Bridge Review to focus on the theme of "Do Tell" that touches on gay life. Note: anyone who writes on this subject is welcome to contribute!


Floating Bridge Press seeks poetry submissions for our upcoming publication Floating Bridge Review #5 on the theme of “Do Tell” — works that touch on gay life (including lesbian, bi, trans, two-spirit, questioning, and any other non-straight orientations). We are seeking work that is inspired, surprising, humorous, intriguing, and/or just plain excellent writing. There are no restrictions on form or subject matter. Prose poems and flash fiction will also be considered. Poets of all persuasions are welcome and encouraged to submit. 

Entries are by e-mail only: Send up to 5 poems as a single Microsoft Word document or single PDF file by February 15, 2012 to Please put FBR5 SUBMISSION in the Subject line of your e-mail.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Terrance Hayes reads at SAL this Thursday and Teaches on Friday

Terrance Hayes visits Seattle this week

Terrance Hayes is constantly pushing toward new possibilities for private inquiry and new structures against which to ballast his buoyant and boundless sense of language. These poems marry swank and swagger to what I like to think of as a 21st Century gravitas. —Tracy K. Smith

God is an American
I still love words. When we make love in the morning,
your skin damp from a shower, the day calms.
Shadenfreude may be the best way to name the covering
of adulthood, the powdered sugar on a black shirt. I am
alone now on the top floor pulled by obsession, the ink
on my fingers. And sometimes it is a difficult name.
Sometimes it is like the world before America, the kin-
ship of fools and hunters, the children, the dazed dream
of mothers with no style. A word can be the boot print
in a square of fresh cement and the glaze of morning.
Your response to my kiss is I have a cavity. I am in
love with incompletion. I am clinging to your moorings.
Yes, I have a pretty good idea what beauty is. It survives
alright. It aches like an open book. It makes it difficult to live.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Are You Interested in Brazil? In Hip-Hop? In Helping Two Young Women Filmmakers and Dancers?

One last call today for my favorite project of the moment "Believe the Beat" produced by Jocelyn Edelstein whom I had the pleasure to meet through the anthology Best Women's Travel Writing.

Jocelyn graduated from Western Washington University and was honored with a grant to go traveling somewhere in the world to pursue her dreams. Edelstein majored in Dance and so decided to head to Brazil. There she met young and creative hip-hop dancers whom were forming troupes and trying to dance themselves into a better life.

This documentary film showing off the dancers, of Brazil, and even of Croatia where one dancer ends up, needs to be made. Why not make a donation today in the name of hip-hop dancer you know? My donation was my chance to be part of the dance and the film worlds -- and I get invited to the after party when the movie premieres. You know that will be one wild dance party!

PS If you want to donate (you can even donate a $1) you need to do so by Sunday! The time is now.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Gardenia - Thanks to Billie and Cornelius Eady

The Gardenia
by Cornelius Eady

The trouble is, you can never take
That flower from Billie's hair.
She is always walking too fast
and try as we might,

there's no talking her into slowing.
Don't go down into that basement,
we'd like to scream. What will it take
to bargain her blues,

To retire that term when it comes
to her? But the grain and the cigarettes,
the narcs and the fancy-dressed boys,
the sediment in her throat.

That's the soil those petals spring from,
Like a fist, if a fist could sing.