Thank you to the wonderful women, to Hedgebrook and to SAM

Thank you to the wonderful women who came out yesterday to my ekphrastic poetry workshop at the Seattle Art Museum sponsored by Hedgebrook.

I'm always utterly amazed and humbled by women who put themselves in my hands; who allow me to share what I know about poetry and art. Writing is often a solitary experience and we writers tend toward the shy side. But here were 23 women, most whom I had never met before. They came out to learn about the history of visual art and poetry and finally to share their work. We had women that were in their first poetry workshop and women who are well published. There were photographers, journalists, gallery owners and even a gospel singer!

I always work hard to provide a meaningful experience when I teach. I get nervous every time! And yet I always forget how much positive energy is returned to me by women (or men in other classes) who let me know that I've helped them to begin a poem or sometimes a new window into how they see themselves. Yesterday so many women let me know that they were wide awake after the session. Ready to go home and keep writing. I was reminded of my early years as a writer.

In 1995, after my first year of grad school,  I first was introduced to Hedgebrook and the idea of  radical hospitality. It was my summer of hell and then heaven. In the previous 16 months I had buried both my parents and moved across the country to be a student again in my late 30's. I had lost family and geography. That summer I had spent weeks cleaning out my parents home and having to put everything up for sale. To arrive at Hedgebrook in the middle of all that turmoil was a gift that changed my life.

Here is what I wrote after my first visit to Hedgebrook 18 years ago.

"The borders between midnight and dawn, between the natural world and the one that embraces the gigabyte are more fluid now. The rhythm of my writing, if I can even call it a rhythm, is to write in fragments, in excruciatingly small steps.

This summer I discovered Discovery Trail, learned the names of hemlock, cedar, mountain ash. Somehow claiming these trees for my own helped me generate new ideas. My poetry pushed further into unexplored territory. Knowing the names of things matter. Wild bouquets of yarrow, mint, and rosemary on the bookshelf actually contribute to my writing life."

What do I remember now?

I remember the hug that Denise gave me as she helped me carry my bags to Owl Cottage; I remember there was a bowl of fresh fruit on the desk and a vase of flowers from the Hedgebrook garden. I remember knowing that my world had shifted --- someone was honoring me a a writer. And in doing so, teaching me an open-hearted way to live my life. Hedgebrook pushed me to be a better person.

Thank you.


  1. I loved reading this piece. Being honoured as a writer - so important, such a precious gift.

  2. Thanks, Avril!

    If you haven't applied to Hedgebrook (or even if you have!) I want to encourage you to go. Now there are Master Classes with writers there as well. Carolyn Forche is teaching the next one!


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