Friday, August 30, 2013

A Sad Day for Poetry: Seamus Heaney Dies at 74

Seamus Heaney at Play
I am shocked and saddened by the The New York Times story announcing Seamus Heaney's death after a short illness. Once upon a time we were neighbors as he lived half the year in Adams House in Harvard Square. I believe I have all but one of his books and that is many many books. More about his life and loves to come.

Far Away

When I answered that I came from “far away”
The policeman at the roadblock snapped “where’s that”?
He’d only half heard what I said and thought
It was the name of some place up the country.

And now it is both where I have been living
And where I left --- a distance still to go
Like starlight that is light years on the go
From faraway and takes light years returning.

Seamus Heaney

“The main thing is to write for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust that imagines its haven like your hands at night, dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast. You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous. Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest.”

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Poetry of the Wild, Weathered Pages, and the Improbable Places Poetry Tour Means Poetry is Alive

Poetry Box and Poem by Ana Flores
I've been wanting to explore the intersection of poetry and art for awhile. Perhaps this is my new love: the overlapping of poetry with sculpture, painting, and performance.

This is a subject that my forthcoming book Cloud Pharmacy will explore and until then, I'll blog about different projects I come across that blend poetry and the visual arts or performance or seem to create something new altogether.

The Improbable Places Poetry Tour + 1 is a project in Seattle, WA that takes its inspiration from Colleen Michaels who lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Colleen works at Montserrat Art College and along with her students, organizes the Improbable Places Poetry Tour in places as improbable as a laundry mat, flower shop, and auto mechanic's garage. The evening features local poets that write on the theme of the space and there's also an open mike. After several years of phenomenal success, Colleen is in the enviable position of having local businesses contact her. The events bring local businesses, students, and community people together all in the name of poetry. How cool is that?

Perhaps there is something in the waters off Massachusetts because Ana Flores' work also comes from my home state. However, her work is also in many other states as well. Recently, Poets and Writers featured an article on the poetry boxes that Anna creates and then places out in the wild and in public spaces.

Finally, Weathered Pages is as simple an idea as it is elegant. In Yakima, WA a pole on Dan Peters road invited poets to post their work or just to stop by and read a poem. Poets from all over the country and the world came by and shared their work. The result is that Blue Begonia Press has now created an anthology of this work--- before the rain washes it away.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Know the Signs...

Encourage Everyone to Try It
This comes to you from Russell Jones, a poet, editor, researcher, and tutor who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. I love how the web connects us all --- he says that although he's edited books and published poetry collections, this may well be his most popular publication. I encourage you to take a look at his work right here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Be Astonished: Quotes on Writing and Life by Women Poets and Writers

I am a collector of quotes. A sentence or three is brief enough for me to commit to memory and long enough to encapsulate some shard of wisdom about the human condition. I recently looked at my odd and sundry collection and found something important missing: women's voices. Sure, I had some Elizabeth Bishop and Adrienne Rich quotes, but overall I'd amassed a group of men from many countries and backgrounds.  Where were the women?

Over the last few months, I began asking everyone I knew as well as many on-line communities for favorite quotes by women writers. I also went through books of quotations and my own notebooks from classes I'd taught or taken. This list of 37 quotes by 33 women is just the beginning. I'm hoping you will add your favorite quotes by women writers to the list.


"Instructions for living a life:

pay attention
be astonished
tell about it"

                       Mary Oliver

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing." 

                    Arundhati Roy

“Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.”

Lucille Clifton

"Poetry isn’t a profession; it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that."

Mary Oliver

"I’m thrilled when…a writer is working out at the edges of his/her fingertips."

Lia Purpura

"Please do not mix moons with stars."

Elevated Ice Cream, Port Townsend

"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience."

Emily Dickinson

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
Jane Goodall

"All my life I have lived and behaved very much like the sandpiper - just running down the edges of different countries and continents, 'looking for something'." - Elizabeth Bishop

Medbh McGuckian says:

I have a great affection for the picture of Emily Bronte 's loaves rising, but am fonder of Tsvetaeva, one daughter living, one daughter dead, clearing a defiant space on the kitchen table. To be torn apart by births or revolutions or both, and survive at least for a time, is a prerequisite for the fullest genuine genius to flower.

—Delighting the Heart: a Notebook by Women Writers

“Revision is not going back and fussing around, but going forward into the highly complex and satisfying process of creation” 

 May Sarton

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”
Anaïs Nin

"Craft is a trick you make up to let you write the poem."

"Tell almost the whole story."

Anne Sexton

“How often I have tried to tell writing students that the first thing a writer must do is love the reader and wish the reader well. The writer must trust the reader to be at least as intelligent as he is. Only in such well wishing and trust, only when the writer feels he is writing a letter to a good friend, only then will the magic happen.” 

Falling Through Space by Ellen Gilchrist

"Your day's work might turn out to have been a mess. So what? Vonnegut said, 'When I write I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth.' So go ahead and make big scrawls and mistakes. Use lots of paper. Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist's true friends."
- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

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 slow musical patterns, in excruciatingly tentative steps. This summer I began to appreciate hiking up the Discovery Trail and learning the names of hemlock, cedar, mountain ash. Somehow the interruptions and distractions began to seed new ideas and my poetry pushed further into unexplored territory. Wild bouquets of yarrow, mint, and rosemary on the bookshelf actually do contribute to my writing life.

Susan Rich – On residency at Hedgebrook

What is important is not the lucky break, the stopping of the train--that's only part of it. Life is full of trains that stop. What counts is what we are doing with our lives when there is no opportunity and not a train in sight.

Phylis Whitney – fiction writer

"All stories about our mothers are love stories, no matter how blighted. You may not find the love until the end of the story, or you may never find it. But others will." 

Brandon French

I’m sorry that our country and the people do not consider the arts as vital to our well-being as, say, medicine. Suffering is unnecessary. It doesn’t make you a better artist; it only makes you a hungry one. However, to me the acquisition of the craft of writing was worth any amount of suffering.

–Rita Mae Brown

It always seemed to me a sort of clever stupidity only to have one sort of talent—like a carrier pigeon. –George Eliot

“If you’re going to write, don’t pretend to write own. It’s going to be the best you can do, and it’s the fact that it’s the best you can do that kills you.” –Dorothy Parker

“Ignorance is not excuse—it’s the real thing.” –Irene Peter

“Thanks goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”—Beatrix Potter

“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.” –Virginia Woolf

“I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.” –Jane Wagner

“I was gravely warned by some of my female acquaintances that no woman could be expected to be regarded as a lady after she had written a book”. – Lydia M. Child

“Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.”—Sylvia Plath

“I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the very stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.”

–Rita Mae Brown

“So long as you write what you wish to rite, that is all that matters, and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeves, is the most abject treachery.”

–Virginia Woolf

"When an angel carries away my soul/ All shrouded in fog, folded in flames/ I have no body, no tears to weep/ Just a bag in my heart, full of poems."—Elena Shvarts

"I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear"

“--poet journalist pioneer mother
uncovering her country: there are roads to take”
(A. Rich/ from "An Atlas of the Difficult World")

“Listen carefully to what country people call mother wit. In those homely sayings are couched the collective wisdom of generations.” –Maya Angelou

"There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest." 
  — Anaïs Nin

"Life on Earth is quite a bargain.
Dreams, for one, don't charge admission.
Illusions are costly only when lost.
The body has its own installment plan.

…through the open window comes a breath of air,
the walls reveal no terrifying cracks
through which nowhere might extinguish you." 

from “Here” by Wislawa Szymborska (--tr. Branczak & Cavanagh,) 

I remember telling myself that I had yet to live an interesting life. What could this twenty-something woman who’d lived only in Massachusetts write about? Weren’t there enough poems singing the praises of New England leaves? I decided to stop writing. I needed to go out and extend the margins of my world before I’d know anything worthy of a poem. And so I joined the Peace Corps, traveled the desert, took care of children during the famine, and stayed in West African brothels. And even then, I didn’t believe I could write.

As a young writer, I had dreamed of changing the world, now I believed the only way I could return to writing was to have absolutely no expectations. And so it was that a Thursday night workshop held in an eccentric woman’s living room allowed me to begin my journey back to writing. I went on to obtain an MFA in Creative Writing. The journey took ten years. Ten years of not writing in order to begin again.

Susan Rich

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Meet Poet At Your Table Jeannine Hall Gailey

Poet  At Your Table Jeannine Hall Gailey

A Poet At Your Table is offering overviews of our poets for book groups  to get a better sense of who would be the best match for your readers. To book Jeanine Hall Gailey or any of our other ten poets, please leave a message on our Facebook page or write to us at poetatyourtable(at)

Many of you have asked if there is a cost to booking one of our poets and the answer is not at this time. We want to spread the passion we have for poetry with other book lovers. Some of our poets also offer a free copy of their book to the evening's host. Check us out!

Jeannine Hall Gailey easily parallels the myths and stories we’ve read and memorized as children with the current modern lives we lead. Though lest you think all of the poem narrators are female, there are male narrators, including one knight who did not get the fairytale ending he was expecting. In this way, Gailey is calling into question the fantasies that men are fed as children as well; must they be rescuers and be the strongest and bravest to get the girl? A phenomenal collection from beginning to end — one that has a permanent place in my library, right next to her others.

From Savvy Verse and Wit Review

Fever Dream in January

I press my face to the glass to feel the cold
its ice-flowers bloom against scarlet cheek
and neck and palm. I thought I found you
but it turned out you were beyond me,
beyond help, beyond anyone now.
I never thought I’d turn domestic.
I remember you baking, the coconut
and confectioner’s sugar like snow
on your skin. I melted.
Give me an apple, give me a rose, give me fever
then cold then                         dim the sun then          ice then my -
I told you I’d forgotten
but the last shard of glass insists itself.

                    from Unexplained Fevers

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thank You to The Monarch Review - New Poem

Photograph by Hannah Maynard

What a pleasure to see this poem published today! In Cloud Pharmacy which will be released by White Pine Press in early 2014, the sequence of poems inspired by Hannah Maynard is perhaps dearest to me. Certainly they were the most challenging to write. I am thankful to Jake Utti for caring enough to publish the first poem in a longer sequence of work.

The multiple exposure self-portrait of Hannah Maynard (1834-1918) pictured above is where my imagination began. However, these poems are not ekphrastic in a traditional sense. I am not looking at one photograph as I write the poems. Instead, I am more interested in the psyche of a very eccentric woman and the Victorian era in which she lived.

The Tangible, Intangible

             after a photograph by Hannah Maynard
                   on the death of her child, c. 1887

Afterwards, she surveys the site:
the jostled cups, a buffalo rug
faded burlap of bookcase

overstuffed with tromp l’oeil painted spines.

The sound of the photograph
would be island rain
and the animal cry of the child gone—

In the darkroom she works alone

cajoles waterfalls, brings to light
the floating picture frame,
the doily’s difficult knowledge —

To continue reading the poem please go to The Monarch Review site.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Summer Garden - August Love

Bells planted from 4" pots
This is the time of summer I love, the lazy days when all the work you did in June becomes evident in the fountains of flowers you have to admire. This was my year of the garden -- new beds planted, a giant vegetable garden (giant for a city back yard) and a small stone patio. Instead of travel, I planted my money in the earth around me.

Sun Gold and Sun Kissed varieties
The only downside is that I seem to be spending more time with my tomato plants than with my poems. In the Northwest when the weather is this stellar, it's crazy to be inside. Of course I could be writing outside. For now I'm harvesting tomato plants and making sauce.

The House of Sky exterior shot
I could happily spend my life right here. This is the spot where I finished my most recent read through of Cloud Pharmacy before sending it off to the publisher. For me, gardening and writing are the perfect combination plate.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Meet A Poet At Your Table: Elizabeth Austen

Meet Elizabeth Austen

I first met Elizabeth Austen over the internet. Fourteen years ago, I moved to Seattle and Elizabeth was kind enough to reach out to me over a poetry chat forum. Since then she has become a familiar face --- and voice --- to the greater poetry community. As a producer at KUOW, Elizabeth is the reason we can listen to poems on our way home from work in the car  or wherever the radio is turned on. However,  Elizabeth Austen's own prize-winning poetry is the attraction here.

About Elizabeth:

Elizabeth Austen is a Seattle-based poet,performer and teacher.
Watch this short video profile on ArtZone (segment begins at 1:50).
She spent her teens and twenties working in the theatre and writing poems. A six-month solo walkabout in the Andes region of South America led her to focus exclusively on poetry. She is the author of Every Dress a Decision (Blue Begonia Press, 2011) and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Goes Alone (Floating Bridge Press, 2010) and Where Currents Meet, part of the 2010 Toadlily Press quartet, Sightline.

Her poems have appeared online ( The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily), and in journals including Willow Springs, Bellingham Review, the Los Angeles Review, the Seattle Review, DMQ Review, and anthologies including Poets Against the War, Weathered Pages and In the

A Review of Every Dress A Decision:

This is a book of baptism by fire (“House Fire”) and baptism by total immersion (on “Shi Shi Beach”). It is a record of one woman’s search for a lost self and her decision, daily, to find or be a new self, as healed or whole as any of us might be who take the same fearful walkabout.

I say “walkabout” due to Austen’s bio at the back of the book: “A six-month solo walkabout in the Andes region of South America led her to focus exclusively on poetry.” Her other interest was theatre, and several poems follow that route, with titles like “Dramatis Personae” and “Scene: Hotel, Interior.”

I say “fearful” because traversing the earth alone is scary, as is life in general for “The Girl Who Goes Alone,” a fine ramble of a poem and title poem of a previous chapbook. This poem acknowledges fear and the frequent supposition that we do brave things without fear, though where would be the courage in that?

This girl
who goes alone
is always afraid, always negotiating to keep the voices
in her head at a manageable pitch of hysteria.

It’s even brave, these days, to say “hysteria” in a poem, especially one forging a strong female identity after a period of confusion—“so foreign, even to myself.”

                                                                       Excerpt from a review at "Prick of the Spindle"

This Morning

                                    Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
                  —Theodore Roethke
It’s time. It’s almost too late.
Did you see the magnolia light its pink fires?
You could be your own, unknown self.
No one is keeping it from you.

The magnolia lights its pink fires,
daffodils shed papery sheaths.
No one is keeping you from it—
your church of window, pen, and morning.

Daffodils undress, shed papery sheaths—
gestures invisible to the eye.
In the church of window, pen, and morning
what unfolds at frequencies we can’t see?

Gestures invisible to naked eye,
the garden opens, an untranslatable book
written at a frequency we can’t see.
Not a psalm, exactly, but a segue.

The garden opens, an untranslatable book.
You can be your own, unknown self—
not a psalm, but a segue.
It’s time.

                   --- Elizabeth Austen

For more information on inviting Elizabeth to your table please write to "poetatyourtable(at)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

15 - The Magic Number

It's been almost four years since I began The Alchemist's Kitchen and admitted to my friend Stephanie Delaney that blogging was here to stay.

I thought it so odd that anyone would want to write a public journal -- a self-portrait with an audience. And yet here I am. I do keep a paper journal as well which is just for my eyes but this blog has become important to me --- a place to write if only for a brief pause in the busyness of a day.

And from the beginning I had a goal of 500 or more readers. It seemed like a good number. Now I am, you guessed it, 15 people away from having 500 people who've signed up for my blog. I know, I know. Not all 500 people necessarily read it, but there's the idea that they're out there cheering me on.

So here it is. I'm asking for 15 generous souls to come forward and sign up to get these postings via blogger or facebook or gmail. All option are here to the right of this posting, just scroll down and choose what works for you.

With an audience of 500 and beyond --- anything seems possible.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Seeking Visual Artist for Poets on the Coast

Dora Maar Photographer

Opportunity – Guest Artist for Poets on the Coast

For our 3rd annual Poets on the Coast we will feature one guest artist. We are especially interested in visual artists who have an interest in promoting women in all the arts.
If selected, your work (postcards, business cards) will be featured in all conference packets; you will also be listed on our donor list. We will also have your photo and bio displayed.

If you live near Nye Beach, Oregon, we’d love to meet you as well! We are asking for a piece of art (a picture, a pin, earrings, a few notecards) to be distributed to all our women participants. The theme of Poets on the Coast this year is “Collaborative Arts”  and so your work will be seen in this context. We are choosing only one visual artist to be represented at the conference. You can live anywhere in the world as long as you can mail us your work by September 1st.

Please send me an email at Susan Rich (srich18(at) outlining what kind of art you make and what you would want to contribute to the poets attending our Poets on the Coast event in September. Our call for visual artists must be in by Monday, August 19th so that we can make a decision by Monday August 26th.

Thanks so much for supporting women artists and Poets on the Coast!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Poet At Your Table - Introducing Annette Spaulding-Convy

Poet Annette Spaulding-Convy

I am thrilled to introduce Annette Spaulding-Convy in our second week of introductions of A Poet At Your Table 2013-2014 sponsored by Seattle Arts and Lectures, Book Lift, and Crab Creek Review.

To find out more about Annette you can check out her brand new blog at Tea with the Hermitess right here. Annette was also a Jack Straw Fellow in 2011 and a podcast of her reading her work is available here.

Book Reviews of In Broken Latin

The Ex-Nun, The Soldier's Wife, and the Fabulist
by Robert Peake at The Huffington Post

Annette Spaulding-Convy's In Broken Latin (University of Arkansas Press, 2012) addresses the female body in service to a calling--first as a nun, then as a mother. Each section of Spaulding-Convy's collection is prefaced by pairing a quote from a female saint with a quote from a "bad girl" such as Madonna, Mae West, or Sylvia Plath. These binary views of womanhood are exemplified by professional men in "from Uterine Dogma", where the doctor signing off the pre-convent physical wonders whether she is a virgin as he "rubs my back, tells me / he wants his own daughter // to have a calling" and the dentist says the same while "brushing his crotch / too close to my cotton- / packed mouth."

Such imposed views from the male world coalesce in "Everything Except her Head", which begins with a bulletin about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger arriving to inspect the seminary to ensure that women are not actually studying, but instead assisting "with the preparation of desserts and cocktails". Part II of the poem, "Severed Hagiography", catalogues the parts of female saints preserved by the patriarchy as relics, underscoring the double meaning of the main title through the church's most conspicuous omission--their heads.

In Broken Latin by Karen J. Weyant, Scrapper Poet

Spaulding-Convy herself was a nun, and thus, readers can assume that much of this book is at semi-autobiographical. According to her website, she spent five years as a nun in the San Francisco area. Furthermore, in her acknowledgments page, she thanks many of the sisters who appear in her book, saying “I’m not sure you would have approved of my poetry, but know that I am forever grateful for the love of ideas, literature and art you shared in your classrooms.” It’s apparent, that through her collection, Spaulding-Convy is passing this love along.

There Were No Rules About Underwear

My friend, the Carmelite, could only wear white

     non-bikini panties, laceless bras,

but my Order was progressive—red satin, cut

     to show some hip, a midnight-blue Wonderbra

hidden under my habit. The fathers were perceptive, not priest

     fathers, but men who flirted with me

while their daughters lit Virgin

     of Guadalupe candles in the chapel alcove,

men like the firefighter, who ran into my bedroom

     the summer night I slept nude, flames

in the cloister attic. I pulled the sheet around my body

     as he looked at black lace on the floor—

I need to feel your walls to see if they’re hot.

For more information on inviting Annette to your table please write to "poetatyourtable(at) 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

On Writing at Hedgebrook - Short Version

The path to Owl 
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 slow musical patterns, in excruciatingly tentative steps. This summer I began to appreciate hiking up the Discovery Trail and learning the names of hemlock, cedar, mountain ash. Somehow the interruptions and distractions began to seed new ideas and my poetry pushed further into unexplored territory. Wild bouquets of yarrow, mint, and rosemary on the bookshelf actually do contribute to my writing life.

                                   Susan Rich –  Owl, Cottage,  August - September, 1995

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Today Is A Good Day to Write

Sweet Peas From the Garden in House of Sky
Too often lately I'm spending my days on the many cool projects I love: Poets on the Coast, Booklift, and A Poet At Your Table. These are all fantastic programs that I'm happy to have founded on my own and in community.

But these cool programs are also diversions from the page. Today is set aside for the House of Sky -- otherwise known as the converted one car garage behind my house.

Happy writing to all~

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Meet A Poet at Your Table: Kelli Russell Agodon and Letters From the Emily Dickinson Room

Kelli Russell Agodon
As a way to introduce the poets of A Poet at Your Table I will be running a series of profiles, one poet per week. All of these poets are available to attend your book group -- although we try to match each poet with a geography that is not too far from home --- unless of course book groups in Hawaii or California, London or Paris,  want A Poet at Your Table -- and then we will happily work with you.

Kelli Russell Agodon's most recent book is Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, winner of the White Pine Press Award, Foreword Book Prize and a Finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Here is what poet Martha Silano says on Goodreads about this award winning collection:

I've been a fan of Kelli Russell Agodon's poetry since her debut collection Small Knots appeared in 2004, but this book is definitely my favorite. There are poems in this collection that will make you laugh, such as "Coming Up Next: How Killer Blue Irises Spread" and "In the 70s, I Confused Macrame and Macabre," and, "What the Universe Makes of Lingerie" (three of my personal favorites), but the cool thing about Agodon's work is how often pain/sadness and humor/joy appear side by side, just as they do in real life. The poem "Other Words" is a great example of this:

We say dishrag and ribtaker
instead of homemaker.
Use whiplash and lackluster
instead of breadwinner . . .

There are days when sippy cups
become purgatory and family vacation
suggests space mission . . .

I don't want to say fishhook
when I mean marriage, or not-tonight
when what I meant to say is: I can't explain
my sadness or the night has stolen the sky.

It's rare to find a poet with such a keen ear for the vernacular. Before Agodon sat down to write this book, she carefully took America's pulse; she "gets" what it means to be a mother/wife/daughter/writer in a consumer-driven, spiritually-anemic culture. With refreshing honesty, the speaker confesses, in "Quiet Collapse in the Dharma Shop": "I charged spirituality / on my VISA" and "what might improve my mood is / a new bra and some bravery. I believe her when she says "I pray to anything these days--/the plants without names, the beetles, / my garden of hissing snakes," and I am buffeted by her news that

We were not born with wings
Like fireflies, we've had to invent what holds us

Agodon is by turns versatile, ambidextrous, inventive, grave, and funny as all get out in this stunning collection. If you like reading poems that encompass not only what's going on down the street but also way past Pluto, this is a book for you.

And here is one of my (many) favorites from the collection originally published in The Atlantic Monthly.

Coming Up Next: How Killer Blue Irises Spread
—Misheard health report on NPR

It’s the quiet ones, the flowers
the neighbors said
kept to themselves,

Iris gettagunandkillus, shoots

and rhizomes reaching
beneath the fence.
The shifty ones,

Mickey Blue Iris, the tubers

that pretend to be dormant
then spread late night into
the garden of evil and no good.

They know hell, their blue flames

fooling van Gogh, the knife
he stuck into soil before he sliced
the bulbs in three, nights

he spent painting in a mad heat.

They swell before the cut
and divide of autumn.
An entire field of tulips,

flattened. Daylilies found

like lean bodies across the path.
The wild blue iris claims
responsibility, weaves through

the gladioli, into the hothouse

where the corpse flower blooms
for a single day, its scent
of death calling to the flies.

For more information on inviting Ms. Agodon to your table please write to "poetatyourtable(at)

In addition to three full length collections and one chapbook, Kelli also works as an editor, publisher, and teacher. Read her full bio here. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Just Do It! More Application Advice for Hedgebrook

Last week I posted a short piece on some tips for writing your Hedgebrook application due September 4th. The response has been overwhelming. You might want to take a look at my post especially for the questions and answers in the comments box. I'm offering again to respond to questions you might have about the application process and I've thought of a few more key things you might want to consider.

The decision process happens in two different steps. (Or it has in past years.) In the first reading of your submission, the essay portion is what counts. Yes, even if you are applying as a poet, the essay segment is central. This is different from most other residency applications where the writing sample rules. At Hedgebrook, you need to pass the essay segment before your writing sample is judged.

Why Hedgebrook? Why now? That is what you must answer. Know that this is a question that should reveal something about yourself. Are you the mother of a young child? Are you working on the final revisions of a chapbook? Do you have a new project that is burning inside you and needs doing now? These are all legitimate answers to the question Why Hedgebrook? Why now? Know that how you say what you say is key because honestly, people's circumstances are not all that different in the end. Be honest. Be yourself. Write your best.

Also, remember there are now several ways to stay at Hedgebrook. A few times a year there are Master Classes held where six writers work closely with a "master" teacher such as Carolyn Forche, Ellen McLaughlin, and Dani Shapiro. You can find out about current master classes right here. Several years ago I took a Master Class with Carolyn Forche at Hedgebrook --- and it was absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend this as another option for a stay at Hedgebrook.

Most of all, know that you should just do it: apply. Every year the readers change so your chances begin at 100%. And once you create your writing sample and answer the essay questions for Hedgebrook, you're set to do other residency applications. The time you spend putting the application together is well spent. Filling out applications also allows you to take yourself seriously as a writer.

As I have said before, Hedgebrook changed my life. Radical hospitality is what Amy Wheeler, Hedgebrook's director, calls the treatment of love and support women find upon entering the grounds. I remember Denise, a Hedgebrook staffer, helping me bring my bags into my cottage. I remember a bowl of fruit on the window ledge and a vase of flowers set out to greet me. It seemed (and perhaps was true) that no one had ever welcomed me so warmly in my life.

Eighteen years later, I'm still in love with Hedgebrook and still involved in a volunteer capacity. This is an intensely transformative place. A place it would be very hard not to love.

If you have questions about the application process or the place, feel free to leave a message in the comment box. You can sign-in as anonymous if that feels more comfortable.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Are You Interested? A Poet at Your Table Coming This Fall - Year Two!

Are you in a book club? Do you like to host dinner parties? A Poet at Your Table is entering its second year and we are still growing strong! Endorsed by Seattle Arts and Lectures (discounts for poetry events when you invite a poet to your table) and Crab Creek Review, we have a roster of Washington State's best loved poets including Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken, KUOW Poet Elizabeth Austen, Annette Spaulding-Convey, Kelli Russell Agodon, Katharine Whitcomb and many more.

You can leave a message here if you are interested in hosting a poet for your book group. You can also learn more about our programs at A Poet at Your Table. So far we have stayed in state, but we would certainly be open to hitting the road --- or the skies.

For more information check us out at the Poetry Foundation website!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Looking for Women Poets Who Are Looking for a Broader Audience

Two women on the veranda at Ingham, California. Photo credit: Harriet Pettifore Brim

Kelli Agodon & I are putting together our famous "Welcome Baskets" for the poets of Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women and want to include one book of poetry by a woman poet for each of our participants.

We will also be creating a Reading List / Donor List for our participants and your name & book title will be included here.

We see this as a sort of "weekend mentorship" for your book to connect with another writer over the weekend and to be there with her when she returns to her room to write.

If you have a book (or maybe 2) of poems you'd be willing to donate, we'd love include you.

Our participants come from all over the country (and sometimes the world!) and we'd love to share your work with these women.

If you're interested in participating, you can mail your books to me (before August 31) at:

Susan Rich
PO Box 16035
Seattle WA 98116

Thank you in advance for joining forces with us. This is a wonderful opportunity to find a group of new and dedicated readers for your work. And if you want, drop me a note at srich18(at) gmail .com to let me know you're sending a book (or two).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Signed, Sealed, Delivered - CLOUD PHARMACY!

I just pressed send and CLOUD PHARMACY is on its way --- in fact --- has already arrived at the publisher, White Pine Press.

The best part is I think I like it! For the past four days I've done nothing but edit and revise this manuscript. My only relaxation has been gardening and occasionally petting the cats.

Usually when I'm writing in the House of Sky I would focus on weeding or perhaps deadheading geraniums. However, as the manuscript work became more intense, I found myself battling with tree limbs and sawing off dead sections of the old roses and lilacs. It was not lost on me that using 7 ft lopers and saws was all of a sudden a crucial activity. And here's the thing: I think getting rid of dead wood worked both literally and figuratively.