Friday, October 25, 2013

We're Trying to do Something Delicate and Precise: A Poetry Reading Reviewed

Poem, Drink, Love
If our reading at Poco Wine Bar last night was a piece of theater (it was) or a string quartet (it was) we could look for a review in the morning paper. It's true we were lucky enough to get a mention in The Spectator before our actual event.

And yes, it's becoming more evident that Seattle is a city of literary proportions with an array of arts festivals, independent bookshops, and most importantly, wildly creative activists. Arts Crush, Lit Crawl, World Book Night and dozens of different reading series make this a superb environment for any literary artist to flourish in.

But I digress. Last night four poets read at Poco Wine Bar and the crowd loved it. The night began with an amazing recitation by John  Duvernoy. He informed the crowd that on his way to the venue his poems had fallen out of his pocket. There wasn't time to bicycle home so he would do his best to present his poems by heart. The poems seemed to be forming right there in front of us, coming out of his body as if he was creating them just for us.

Next the crowd was treated to the work of Rebecca Hoogs. She read from her debut collection, Self Storage. Rebecca chose a long and beautiful poem in 13 parts. She confessed that writing 13 short sections of "Long Spell" was how she tricked herself into writing a long poem. I love that she included a line for Napoleon's horse, Marengo, and the line "I am married / to the subject." Hoog's poem was a listening pleasure.

I read next and then passed the invisible microphone over to poet and novelist Karen Finneyfrock who involved the audience in an Occupy action, a group voice asking the merrymakers downstairs to whisper together for a mere ten minutes while the upstairs merrymakers listened to poetry. Although a single "no" was shouted from below, Finneyfrock still won.

She brought our upstairs crew that much closer together with our voices joining in a chorus in defense of poetry. Her true telling of the sea-witch story was a perfect ending to the hour.  And so the night began, with poetry of love, addiction, and owls.

"We're trying to do something delicate and precise," Karen Finneyfrock declared. Every evening should begin with a superb glass of wine and poetry.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Did you hear the one about four poets who walked into a bar ...

1408 East Pine Street Capitol Hill
Tomorrow night, Thursday, October 24th, as part of Lit Crawl Seattle, four poets will walk into this bar and start slinging words at precisely 6:00 PM. And what happens after that is anybody's guess.

The theme for the night is Love, Addiction and Owls. The poets include Rebecca Hoogs, John Duvernoy, Karen Finneyfrock, and me. The schedule for Lit Crawl is vast and wide moving all the way to Babe Land, Richard Hugo House, Town Hall, and Photo Northwest.

True confession: I've never read in a bar before. I've read in coffee houses, art museums, and even one Irish mountain top but this will be my first bar. Perhaps I've finally come of age.

If you are in the Seattle area and over 21, please join us!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Best Book Group Ever!

They're my first!
      I admit it; I was nervous. This was a dream I had nourished for a  long time: to be the guest author at a book group. My novelist friends would recount stories of smart readers and beautiful food; they had been treated like royalty by interesting people that admired their work. Really, what could be a better way to spend an evening?

   Of course it is not the norm for book groups to embrace poetry. It's the adventurous group that takes on poetry and doubles the adventure by inviting the poet.

    I studied hard before the meeting to make sure I knew the answers to their questions. Where did the name "Imagining My Life with Lions" come from? And what about the tilde ~ that appears throughout the book?

    The Alchemist's Kitchen will only be my new book for another six months and so how lovely to return to it again for such a close reading.

    Most of all I am thankful for small groups of smart readers that come together for poetry. The group members were not poets; they were scientists, painters, travelers, and one novelist. They are my new best friends. In hearing their responses to my work the poems were born anew with fresh life breathed into them.

    Thank you Bainbridge readers from the bottom of my heart for an evening of smart conversation, personal responses, and gorgeous food (including garden picked kale). You were my first book group and I bow to your generous hearts.

   If you are in a book group or want to do a book themed dinner party, find out more about bringing one of ten northwest poets to your table at A Poet At Your Table.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Writing Prompt Revisited, The Art of the Interview, and the City of Sarajevo

       Sometimes finding the right prompt can allow a poet to write a poem that never would have entered the world without the constraints of form. I've noticed recently that many of my poems from my time in Bosnia are ghazals or villanelles. Sometimes restraint works to compress the language and allows for lyric surprises.

    Here's a writing prompt on the art of the interview (also a form)  that was published on Midge Raymond's Seattle PI blog, Writers Block, a few years ago. I created this during the time I was a curator for the Jack Straw Writers Program and needed to conduct interviews with each of the 12 writers for the program's podcast series. Is conducting an interview a legitimate prompt?

     Actually, it's more than a prompt. It's a way of learning compassion. As a writer, if you spend hours with someone and listen to her story, it stays with you. Active listening allows for the creation of a better poem and perhaps a better person as well.

    As a poet, I think it's a way to steal some of the tools of the journalist or the fiction writer. And I'm all for stealing --- in the literary sense.

Sarajevo - old city

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Success in Book Promotion and Poetry at Poco

Mini Q&A with poet Susan Rich

This is an excerpt of Susan Rich’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about book promotion, asking for what you want, and unique ideas for book events. For more book promo information, and to read Susan’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.

Susan Rich is the author of four collections of poetry, The Cartographer’s Tongue: Poems of the World; Cures Include Travel; The Alchemist’s Kitchen; and the forthcoming Cloud Pharmacy. Her poems have been published in the Antioch Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry International, and The Southern Review, among others, and her fellowships include an Artist Trust Fellowship from Washington State and a Fulbright Fellowship in South Africa.

Q: What are the most successful things you’ve done to promote your books?

A: I learned this from a poet friend, and it’s very simple: “Ask for what you want.” Be clear on what makes an event or a project a positive experience for you. When one festival in Vermont invited me to read, I wrote back to say I’d love to come but I needed accommodation for my stay. At first the organizer said that he couldn’t accommodate me, but a few weeks later he came through with rooms offered to the festival by a lovely hotel. Since then I have asked museums to host events for free and hotels to give over their penthouse for a performance. There is no shame associated with asking for what you want—and this works especially well when working with other writers.

Here’s one example. For my book The Alchemist’s Kitchen, I decided that I wanted to set up a national tour. This goal sounded overly grandiose to my ears and to my budget (poets are not sent on tours by their publishers), but it was what I wanted: a new challenge. Over a two-week period, I visited San Diego, Boston, and Miami for events in each place. In each city I had friends to see, so I knew it would be fun no matter what else happened. In each city I read with other writers and made contacts that led to other projects. Going on the road facilitated new contacts and new places to do book promotion—because I asked.

Q: What aspect of book promotion has surprised you the most?

A: I’m always surprised that book promotion is actually fun. I am an introvert at heart—happiest with my own company. The idea of “selling” myself makes me want to run off to another planet. However, after several books I’ve found that when a book comes out, I look for other “new” authors in the same position so we can help each other. The writers I’ve met are overwhelmingly a generous lot. We share creative promotional ideas and our favorite bookstores to read in. This goes a long way toward casting the whole expedition as more of an adventure than a burden. My newest idea, “borrowed” from Colleen Michaels, a poet in Salem, Massachusetts, is to create an “Improbable Places Poetry Tour.” Colleen and her students at Montserrat College stage poetry readings where you least expect to find them: a flower shop, a Laundromat, a store window, and a bank. I’m working on an event right now that takes place in a hotel penthouse.

To read Susan’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. And don’t miss Susan’s website.

For those of you in Seattle, Susan will be participating inLitCrawl Seattle on Thursday, October 24, 2013 — she’ll be reading at Poco Wine + Spirits (at 1408 E Pine St.) with Karen Finneyfrock, Rebecca Hoogs, and John Duvernoy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Forever--- is Composed of Nows---" - Emily Dickinson's Gorgeous Nothings

Emily Dickinson

Here's what's new in the world of Emily Dickinson and it's exciting. See what a scholar, visual artist, and dancer have done with Dickinson's envelope poems!

From the Poetry Foundation website

Today New Directions will publish The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems, featuring facsimiles of 52 poems Dickinson wrote on envelopes late in her life. We talked to editors Jen Bervin and Marta Werner about the book, as well as to contemporary artists Lesley Dill and Spencer Finch whose work is inspired by the poet.

Gorgeous Nothings! Hardly. Good news spins forth from the New Directions blog–the press is publishing the first-ever, full-color, large-scale edition of Emily Dickinson’s “complete envelope writings in facsimile from her visually stunning manuscripts.” With contributions from Jen Bervin (you’ve hopefully spied her beautiful, intricate “Dickinson Fascicles”?), Susan Howe, and Marta Werner

 Watch the video of it here!

 The Gorgeous Nothings
Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems
Emily Dickinson
Edited by Jen Bervin
Edited by Marta Werner
Contributors: Susan Howe .

The first full-color publication of Emily Dickinson’s complete envelope writings in facsimile from her visually stunning manuscripts, here in a deluxe, large-scale edition

The Gorgeous Nothings — the first full-color facsimile edition of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts ever to appear — is a deluxe edition of her late writings, presenting this crucially important, experimental late work exactly as she wrote it on scraps of envelopes. A never-before-possible glimpse into the process of one of our most important poets.

The book presents all the envelope writings — 52 — reproduced life-size in full color both front and back, with an accompanying transcription to aid in the reading, allowing us to enjoy this little-known but important body of Dickinson’s writing. Envisioned by the artist Jen Bervin and made possible by the extensive research of the Dickinson scholar Marta L. Werner, this book offers a new understanding and appreciation of the genius of Emily Dickinson.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More Information for Port Townsend Workshops

Poets on the Coast in Port Townsend


Susan Rich & Kelli Russell Agodon

Generating New Poems / Sending Polished Poems into the World

9 AM – 12 PM

For poets who want to write new poems as well as submit their work to literary journals, this is the class for you! We will try a wide array of writing exercises and spend the last half hour discussing the submission process. Hand-outs on submission letters and suggested journals. Susan & Kelli will also put together a submission packet of your poems to send out for you. $98

From Manuscript into Book: The Process Demystified

1 PM – 4 PM

This workshop is designed to help poets put together a full or chapbook length collection. We’ll look at several different options regarding how to structure and order your poems. Finally, you’ll have a chance to begin visualizing your work as part of a larger project. Everyone will leave with an action plan and a handout of resources leading you closer to the goal of a competed book. $98


When: Saturday, January 18th, 2014
Where: Northwest Maritime Center,
431 Water St. Port Townsend, WA

To Register:

City, State, Zip:

Circle one:   Generating New Work 9 am-12 pm $98 From Manuscript to Book 1 pm-4 pm $98              Retreat for the day for $189

Send this form and payment to:

Kelli Agodon - Poets on the Coast
PO Box 1524,
Kingston, WA 98346

Or register online at:

Questions or to save your space email:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Poets On the Coast Travels to Port Townsend!

Mini Winter  Retreat in Port Townsend 
Poets on the Coast is traveling along the Puget Sound to Port Townsend on Saturday, January 18th with two workshop options: Generating New Work in the morning slot (9:00 AM - Noon) and in the afternoon, From Manuscript into Book (1:00 PM  - 4:00 PM). To reserve a spot click here and scroll down; space is very limited. The place we've chosen is beautiful, and on the coast, of course.

Kelli Russell Agodon and I will co-teach both workshops. You can choose either Generating New Work and Sending Polished Poems into the Word or From Manuscript into Book for the afternoon session. We're offering a reduced rate should you want to retreat for the day!

Both workshops are geared for all poets --- from beginners to advanced. Whether you have a poetry manuscript or not, the exercises we provide as well as the nuts and bolts information on all steps to publication will be useful.

These classes are back due to popular demand! We'd love to have you join us for a winter writing retreat -- our first on this side of the water.

The number of participants is limited to 18. Please click here to find out more. 

A Necessary Resource For All Writers - And A Free Download

by Midge Raymond
I love the voice Midge Raymond takes in her necessary book, Everyday Book Marketing. She is both encouraging and smart, honest and approachable. I've read through every chapter and am ready to read it again, this time taking her straightforward suggestions.

Is there a poet in the world that loves to market her work? I have yet to meet her (or him).

And yet. As writers, we need to meet our readers and let them know through the local bookstore, or  national readings, or GoodReads that we have birthed a book. Midge includes interviews with a wide assortment of writers who have gone on the road to promote their books, some with startling results.

Midge Raymond is a generous writer and she has provided a free download so that you can read a chapter of the book and see if there's information here for you. As a fiction writer herself, she has the first hand experience in terms of book tours, author photos, blogs and much more that can be essential for the 21st century writer.

Some of the writers who've contributed to the section Authors and Experts include Janna Cawrse Esarey, Wendy Call, Katherine Trueblood, Rosanne Olson, Kelli Russell Agodon and me.

Whether you have 15 minutes to devote to marketing your book or you're interested in an extended tour, this book is full of great tips. Mostly, you'll know that you are not alone and that many writers have come before you and are willing to share their expertise.

I'm endorsing Everyday Book Marketing 101% It's been my guide for Cloud Pharmacy, my fourth book of poems. I keep this beautiful paperback on my desk and pick it up when I need a promotion kick in the pants --- which is often.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cloud Pharmacy Comes Alive!

      Why is it that once a book appears on Amazon it feels alive? Perhaps because Cloud Pharmacy existed for so long inside my head, it's a shock and a pleasure to see it advertised out in the world, or at least on the computer screen.

      The cover will  still get tweaked a bit from this image just in terms of color and no italics on my name, for example,  but we are very, very close. And yes, it is available for pre-order here but so much more fun to get your copy on Friday,  February 28th at the book launch at SAM (Seattle Art Museum). The event will also launch Hourglass Museum by Kelli Russell Agodon.

      When I chose this title I did not understand quite how prevalent cloud technology would become. My book is listed with all sorts of technology texts. And so for now, Cloud Pharmacy, exists in the cloud. Kind of cool. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Different Kind of Reading at Facere

Signs of Life at Facere Gallery

I will be reading at 4:00 PM Wednesday at Facere Gallery in downtown Seattle for an ekphrastic project that's been a real honor (and fun!) to be part of. Signs of Life is an exhibit that pairs visual artists, in this case, jewelry makers, with poets and prose writers. The anthology that comes out of this exhibit is of the highest quality. Tomorrow's reading will feature several area writers as well as fluted glasses of champagne. Open to all!