Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cloud Pharmacy Travels to White Pine Press, Not Yet But So Very Soon

Our regular schedule programming will commence very soon. First, there will be solo dancing in the House of Sky and other celebrations! Popcorn? Ice cream? A new hot tub? A lemon tree? Something that lets me know that I've finished a book. Yes, there will be edits and proofs, and then the process repeats again --- but once CLOUD PHARMACY is out of my hands, it's time to celebrate. Not yet, but soon.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Application Advice for Hedgebrook. Just Do It!

I had no book when I was accepted to Hedgebrook in 1995. I'd published poems in a few journals but that was all. In fact, I don't remember how I first heard about this new place on an island off of Washington State. Once I was accepted, I started asking around. The word on the poetry street was that lunch was delivered in a basket and there was a garden entirely of flowers meant for the residents to pick. A bathhouse with heated floors and a lion clawed tub.

Fast forward 18 years. The stay at Hedgebrook changed my life in several important ways. The cottages served as a formidable reminder of what can happen in a designated writing space no matter where it is --- my House of Sky used to be a basic one-car garage --- and that the gift of time cannot be overestimated. More on all of this soon.

I've also been a reader for these submissions a few times. The packet you send and the essay you write --- these are the mainstay of your application. My advice would be to create a cohesive theme throughout your poems and your essay. Let the readers get to know one aspect of you well. If you have any other questions on the process, I'll be happy to try and answer them -- just leave them in the comments section -- you can sign in as anonymous if that's more comfortable for you.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Almost there, Cloud Pharmacy due this Wednesday!

I am down to the last few days of my time with Cloud Pharmacy. As the date draws closer, I realize I am not ready to let this manuscript into the world. It feels far more personal than the books that have come before. And with three days left, I am now stressing about its bookness.

For the most part I like the poems okay and the section titles were fun to create. However,  I believe that the book needs to be far more than a collection of individual poems in the way a building is important beyond its windows and wooden (or steel) beams. A corner cabinet is not just  a carving of cherry wood. The artistry is in the air around the poems,  it is the movement of last line of one poem and the way it talks to the beginning of another piece.

There's much to say on this subject that no one ever teaches, that until the late 20th century was in the hands of publishers, not poets -- but it will have to wait three more days...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Writers Enjoying Summer

Virginia Woolf outside her summer house with Maynard Keynes, Angelica Bell, Vanessa Bell, and Clive Bell, 1930s.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New Review of The Strangest of Theatres in the Chicago Tribune

What fun to wake up to a review of The Strangest of Theatres edited by Jared Hawkley, Brian Turner, and me. Better yet to see that Elizabeth Granger had featured women writers in her piece including a focus on the essays by Carolyn Forche, Jane Hirshfield, and me. It is no small joy to be included in a line-up with poets I admire so deeply and who have been profound influences on my writing. I am really honored.

You can read the full review in the Chicago Tribune right here. In the meantime here is a brief excerpt:

At its strongest, the work probes identity — what it means to be other, in flux, cross-pollinating. In her essay on translation, Jane Hirshfield examines the initial skepticism and later acceptance of intercultural appropriation, by which "certain exotic trees have come to be treasured in their new countries." Although "(m)istrust of translation is part of the immune reaction by which every community attempts to preserve its particular heritage and flavor," Hirshfield asks, "what English speaker today would call iambic pentameter an imported meter, or think of the sonnet as an Italian form?"

Carolyn Forché explains how she learned to manipulate her identity. She and her husband, a journalist, roamed South Africa in order to document apartheid. "Officially, my husband would work at the Time bureau, and I would accompany him as wife and expectant mother," she writes with the wry confidence of a woman underestimated. Eventually Forché learned that her pregnancy eased the couple's passage through the country's roadblocks: "(A)s my womb swelled, I also grew invisible, no longer attracting police who would not wish to involve themselves with so pregnant a white woman."

Another writer struggles with the patronship that power earned her abroad. On her Fulbright year in South Africa, Susan Rich "carried with [her] a basket of ever-shifting questions." In her discussion of whether to hire servants, Rich wonders:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Author Photo For Cloud Pharmacy - This Isn't It!

Susan Rich, photo credit Kelli Russell Agodon
What is it about author photos that makes us need to take ourselves so seriously? My friend Kelli Russell Agodon and I spent a wonderful Wednesday taking pictures of each other at the lovely home of my friend Jan. We learned so much about what makes a good photograph (soft light, texture, a willing subject) and so much about ourselves in terms of the author look we want to portray: smart, intense, iconic -- after all, those photographs are going to be around for a long time (we hope). So although this is my favorite photo -- the very last one Kelli took as I literally fell of the chair I was trying to balance on oh-so-nonchalantly -- it's not the one that will be on the back of Cloud Pharmacy.

If an author is lucky, there will be a few readings and an interview or two after the book comes out. Maybe this photograph will come in handy then. Or maybe my next book can be a series of comedic stories called I Fell Off My Chair and I Still Think Life is Funny.

If you want to do a do-it-yourself author photo here are some tips:

Use morning light -- near water is perfect.
An expensive camera that takes photos in high definition is needed
Use iphoto or photobucket to add contrast or fancy edges
Take lots of photographs; I mean keep clicking
Work with a friend you love and who loves you

I think I will write more on this and the other secrets of preparing for a book that no one really tells you about. For my last three books I actually hired a professional photographer -- friends of friends -- to do the picture. And let me just say, I hate having my photograph taken. This time, with a dear friend on the other end of the camera, it was actually fun!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer in Port Towsend

From Elevated Candy, by Kelli Russell Agodon

       Summertime and the moon and stars are starting to mix-it up.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Free Copy of The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders from the Poetry Foundation to You

The Poetry Foundation is offering free downloads of The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders. And you can download it right here.

This anthology contains new essays from Naomi Shihab Nye, Kazim Ali, Yusef Komunyakaa, and many other poets. A roundtable discussion on how to travel overseas via grants, programs, and true creativity includes stories from Elizabeth Austen, Derek Burleson, and Katherine Whitcomb. Finally, reprinted pieces from Elizabeth Bishop, Carolyn Forche, and W.S. Merwin make this a book you need to own --- if not in paperback or hard copy --- at least in pdf format.

Did I mention it's completely free?

Edited by Catherine Barnett, Jared Hawkley, Brian Turner, and me.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Accepting Submissions: New Journal from Istanbul -- and Me!

Someday I hope to travel to Istanbul. I want to see the Blue Mosque, the marketplace, and be immersed in the culture. Because I have traveled to Bosnia Herzegovina and spent time in Sarajevo, I feel I've learned something about Turkey. On my last trip to Sarajevo, I gave a reading at the International University of Sarajevo, and met some fantastic people. Among them were Mustafa and Reyan Bal.

Flash forward two years later and an email arrives inquiring as to whether I would like to be the poetry editor for a new endeavor, The Human journal. I'm on sabbatical so I say "yes, thank you!" not thinking about the work involved. Another year or more slips by and suddenly there is Mustafa again, filling my inbox with poetry.

Now that idea, those few emails, have turned into an international journal including poems by Kelli Russell Agodon, Lauren Camp, Jennifer Markell, and Hilary Sallick. There's work in English and Turkish. And yes, we are accepting submissions right now.

Here is the beginning of "Where We Live" by Hilary Sallick

Where We Live

There are places in the world

that aren’t in the world,

where we hold what’s missing

or never understood,

where a meaning

lies hidden

in the seam of things,

in a handful of stones

from a distant stone beach,

colorless and dry

in the basket by the window

where the edges of the pink

flowers slowly beginning

to darken turn


whole other lives

submerged inside this one,

ghost-prints the artist (to continue reading click here to download)

Everything's Better With Ice Cream

I confess to an ice cream addiction. If I lived in the town I am visiting right now I would weigh a great deal more. I confess that gorging on "Blind Love" and "Espresso Chip" wouldn't be a bad way to go. If I write all day today my reward will be a walk to town and a small cone. Perhaps this is a "Chocolate Orange" kind of day. Here's to summer; the season of poetry and ice cream.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer in the House of Sky

Sweet Peas from the new raised beds
I love summer. I love the heat, the planting, the harvesting; even the weeding can be a meditation. It always takes me a few weeks to transition from super crazed life to something more of my own making. Instead of grading papers, I can clean the refrigerator of science experiments; I can say hello to the cats.

Don't get me wrong. I am still overwhelmed by the work I need to do. I have a book contract with a firm deadline of August (gulp) 1st, a Poets on the Coast writing retreat to plan, and some projects for school. This is not a summer of bon bons and brie. And yet, I can feel the hectic life fall away. As many projects as I am working on, I can do most of them in my pajamas. It is a lovely antidote to the car commute, the meetings, the teachings of the academic year. There is time to breathe.

My wish for this summer is for the tomatoes to ripen early, the basil to survive the slugs, and the opportunity for a few good hikes and swims. Simple pleasures is the theme this season. No international travel, no big trips; I'm here in the northwest desiring only to get reacquainted with my life.

Although I'm a day early for Thankful Thursday, this is the theme for me. I've been lucky and I've created a good life for myself; I'm thankful to be alive in the here and the now.