Sunday, November 24, 2013

Giving Thanks ~ To You: Reaching 500

The images for 500 online mostly fall into two categories: cars and cash currency. The one exception is the lyrics for the folk song "500 Miles." However, my quest for a fine 500 is for you, my 500 subscribers. Thank you so much. I was a latecomer to blogs and began The Alchemist's Kitchen exactly four years ago just as everyone else was moving to something called Twitter.

Thank you to those of you who leave comments --- I love hearing your ideas and suggestions. Or just plain hearing from you. Thank you to those who wrote in to help me choose cover art for Cloud Pharmacy (which will be published in February) and thank you to those who participated in the 2013 Poetry Giveaway -- over 77 poets participated in all. Wow. And the poetry lovers came from almost every corner of the globe: Italy, South Africa, New Zealand and the Philippines are some of the countries I remember.

Thank you for following me to teach ekphrastic poetry at Anam Cara in Ireland and for providing much needed support when I went through my cat Otis's final weeks care taking for him nearly round the clock.

Then there are the wonderful books sent for review, the readers who came out to meet me on book tour in Boston, Miami, and San Diego.  It's easy to believe I'm writing into the dark, the click of the keys my only certain company. However, with 500 followers that can't really be true.

So please; keep leaving comments, sending emails, asking about book reviews, and anything else that comes to mind. I'm here into the indefinite future. And yes, I very much hope that you are, too!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Perfect Gift for the Poet in Your Life -- Poems, Publishers, and People You Want to Know

When I was just starting to publish my poems in the early 1990s the Poet's Market was my compass, my mentor, my how-to-feel-like-a-real poet drugstore all wrapped up in one. Because of Poets Market I found the Alaska Quarterly Review and the Bellingham Review --- two superb journals that I still publish in today. But is there a need for a physical book of poetry resources in 2013?

Yes! That's my emphatic answer. Each year new articles and poems are included in the edition. New journals appear and disappear. Most of all, the book is friendly, welcoming to all poets, and filled with an array of information that can't easily be found anywhere else.

Sure, there are websites like New Pages and Poets & Writers that offer great information on contests and journals -- but they tend to feature a fraction of what is available here. For example, Robert Brewer's interviews with new (or new-to-me) poets is one of my favorite sections of the book along with poems by a selection of poets (this year, this includes me).

What a pleasure to be featured in a book that helped me get my start as a poet. And after 20 years, it's a gift to find that Poet's Market remains available to all.

An Old Friend and My Favorite Novel in a Long Time: The Fifty-First State

One of the best things about a good book is that the characters come alive; they take up residence in our heads. On my drive to work I find myself wondering how Hallie and Josh are doing in New York. And what about Ram?  And Emma, the dog? I'm looking forward to hearing Lisa Borders read from this engaging novel Monday night at 7:00 PM at Elliott Bay Books.

Lisa and I first met at the Blue Mountain Center the summer of 1998. I had recently returned from living in South Africa and was reeling from culture shock, the loss of my parents, and post graduate school angst. Lisa, by contrast, seemed cool and comfortable in her skin. Neither of us had yet published a book.

Monday night's reading will be sponsored by Hedgebrook and joining Lisa will be local author Abigail Carter with her memoir The Alchemy of Loss.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Cool New Book by My Bedside or: Coming Out as a Jewish Poet

I don't often come out as a Jewish poet but here I am in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Jewish American Poetry. Thank you to the editors Deborah Ager and Matt Silverman for including me in this important anthology. I am especially grateful that the editors decided to blend more traditionally Jewish themes with more global concerns. For example, included are three poems by Ed Hirsch including his iconic "The Sleepwalkers" alongside "Yahrzeit Candle" and "Elegy for the Jewish Villages." I love this juxtaposition between the popular, well anthologized poem and the two less well known pieces. The anthology allows for a holistic approach to Judaism and to poetry.

Other favorites in this necessary book include Jane Hirshfield's, "In a Kitchen Where Mushrooms Were Washed,"  Lynn Levin's "Eve and Lilith Go to Macy's" and Yehoshua November's, "A Jewish Poet." Strangely, the poets are all lined up in alphabetical order without chapters or sections of any sort. What I like is the democratization of all these poets -- some famous and some not so much. And I see the editors' dilemma that as soon as one begins to put the poems into categories "The Sleepwalkers" would need to part company from "Yahrzeit Candle." In the end, I agree that the editors did a mitzvah by letting the alphabet determine the order of poets. This is one more way that this anthology breaks the mold.

As a Pacific Northwest poet who knows exactly two Jewish poets in the Seattle area (sadly neither are included in this anthology) I am thrilled to be included in these pages. Here is my tribe --- or one of my tribes --- and I look forward to more time with this anthology which would make a really wonderful Hanukah gift.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop -- A New Approach

What I like about Diane Lockward's new craft book is its collaborative approach. This "portable workshop" offers practical advice, writing prompts, and poems from established poets such as Jane Hirshfield, Wesley McNair, Linda Pastan, Martha Silano, and Cecilia Woloch ~ 101 poets in all.

In my college creative writing class I've already put this guide into practice borrowing Craft Tip #21 Ten Tips for Breaking the Line in Free Verse. The book is designed to use on your own or as part of a class. Open to any page and there's something there that's genuinely worth investigating.

 Each chapter begins with a quote for inspiration, followed by a craft tip, a prompt, sample poems, and a bonus poem.

"It's a funny thing; the more I practice the luckier I get."

~ Arnold Palmer

I like bringing an iconic golf pro into the game of poetry. And of course, the same advice rings true in both disciplines. 

This is a gentle book; it understands that you might be making use of the prompts on the train to work or late at night once you put the children to bed. Or perhaps after your math homework is complete and before you need to practice the sax.

"Art is the only way to runaway without leaving home."

~Twyla Tharp

I know I will be making good use of this  "how to" anthology ~ for my students as well as for myself. My only quibble with this good book is that there is no index of first lines of poems or any index at all. I know that the reason for this might well be financial, but in future editions I hope it might be added. I'd also love to see a chapter on ekphrastic writing, borrowing inspiration from visual art or music.

Again, these are small suggestions. I believe this is an important new resource for poets ~ those who are just beginning as well as the more seasoned poet. To take a look inside you can click here.

As Mary Oliver states in the Poet's Handbook, if you need to choose between a great teacher and a great library, the library should win every time. This book deserves a place on the shelf, or since its portable, in the suitcase.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Clangings: poems by Steven Cramer Book Trailer

I've been teaching persona poems to my students this last week. I wish I had had this one to share with them. It's a superb example of using language in fresh and interesting ways that are still accessible. I find myself wildly happy by this small poem discovery in the middle of my day.

Here is the trailer and hopefully you will access it easily...

And here is the poem:


I hear the dinner plates gossip
Mom collected to a hundred.
My friends say get on board,
but I'm not bored. Dad's a nap
lying by the fire. That's why
when radios broadcast news,
news broadcast from radios
gives air to my kinship, Dickey,
who says he'd go dead if ever
I discovered him to them.
I took care, then, the last time
bedrooms banged, to tape over
the outlets, swipe the prints
off DVDs, weep up the tea
stains where once was coffee.
Not one seep from him since.
What, you wander, do I mean?
Except for slinging my songs
wayward home, how do things
in people go? is what I mean.

-Steven Cramer

From Clangings, Sarabande Press

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Announcing Poets On the Coast: A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women 2014

Woman Imagining Herself at Poets on the Coast 2014

Yes, Kelli Russell Agodon and I are once again embarking on Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women on September 5th - 7th at the Country Inn in La Conner, Washington. We are totally excited for our new location which is walking distance to cafes, shops, and the Northwest Museum of Art. La Conner is famous for the Skagit River Poetry Festival and the artists of the Northwest School. It is also an easy drive from Seattle and accessible from the Seattle Airport by express bus.

This year we are also offering a pre-conference workshop called Speaking Out: Poetry and Visual Art.

One of the oldest known images of a woman writing
We know that September 5th is exactly 10 months away but women have already been contacting us for the details of next year's conference. In fact, some poets have already sent in their registration forms.

Join Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich for the fourth Poets on the Coast Weekend Writing Retreat September 5-7, 2014 at our new location in La Conner! We will gather to write, read and share our work inspired by the art, landscape, and creative energy around us.

This retreat has been designed for women writers of all levels, from beginning poets to well published. Sessions on creativity, generating work, publication, a Master Class workshop, and one-on-one mentoring are included as well as morning yoga. 

We only have a limited number of spaces available and they will be filled on a first-come basis.

The relaxing, warm Country Inn of La Conner is designed to nurture your writing self. This retreat will offer you a unique experience to explore your writing and creativity. Come spend a weekend with other women poets. Be ready to be nurtured, inspired and creative.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Poets On The Coast Writing Retreat


If you're interested in registering click here for the Poets on the Coast Registration Form
and print out the above registration form and mail us your check (made out to Kelli Agodon) to:

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


$339 until January 2, 2014 - includes the Anniversary Issue of Crab Creek Review
$359 until February 15, 2014
$369 until May 30, 2014
$389 until July 31, 2014

This year we're including an OPTIONAL Ekphrastic Workshop
Friday, September 5th from 10 am - 1 pm for $95 (plus a $10 materials fee)

***Prices above are if you're paying by check.
If you pay by Paypal the price will be slightly higher due to the company’s surcharge and taxes.

Note: Registration cost does not include hotel stay at the Country Inn.
(Poets on the Coast offers discounted rates ($119-$179 a night) depending on the type of room.
After you register with Poets on the Coast, we will send information on how you can take advantage
of our discounted room rates.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Guilty Pleasure: Revision

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

                                                            May Sarton

"It's not how you write; it's how you re-write."

                                                           Gloria Steinem

If it wasn't for revision, I never would have become a poet. If it wasn't for revision, I never would have become a published writer at all. There would be no way to improve my work if I didn't spend hours, days, and sometimes years, revising. Writing is one area of life where obsession is a good thing. Or can be a good thing. I think I may have to stop writing and revise that last line. As a writer, I consider each word; its sound and sense. I want the best words in the best order. Sounds so simple and yet...

I've written an essay on revision titled, "It's Not How You Write," that's been published a few times and is now available here. I can remember learning revision as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts. Madeline DeFrees was my first real poetry teacher. One afternoon a week I would head up to her office, poem in hand. A poem that I would have worked hours on and in those days, fallen a bit in love with. Madeline would take out her red pen (!) and start marking away as she read. She'd provide ideas on what needed changing and off I'd go again. "Once you remove the weakest link in the chain, another one comes to take its place."

My fantasy was to bring her a poem that defied the red pen; a poem that she would like just as I wrote it. No changes. And of course that never happened. Revision felt like a slow water torture to me. I'd stretch myself to do my best work and then she'd tell me, stretch again. 

So it seems simple that my students would feel the same way I did then. What do I want from them? Blood? Their first born? It's good to remember that revision started out as attempting the impossible.

And yet. This weekend I went to a reading of a friend's play. The play is a play-in-progress. After the actors finished, we were asked to stay and do a "talk back" so that my friend, the playwright, could gather our impressions -- both good and bad. She is delighted to have lots of rewriting and reconstruction to do. 

No one gets it right the first time; but the great thing about writing is that perhaps we will get it right on the 102nd time.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Perfect Place for Poets and Poetry Events: La Conner and Port Townsend

A perfect place for poetry
I confess. I am a great fan of the small town. Add a body of water nearby  -- whether river or Puget Sound -- and I'm there. This year I am absolutely thrilled to be a featured poet at the Skagit River Poetry Festival, May 16th and 17th in La Conner, Washington.

Other featured readers include Sherman Alexie, Roberto Ascalon, Mark Doty, Tom Robbins (who knew he writes poetry), Rachel Rose, Emily Warn, Kelly Davio and Derek Sheffield. 

And here's a secret: If you book now at the Country Inn in La Conner (walking distance to all the main venues) you will receive a deeply discounted festival price. You must call though; it's not available on their website.

May is a long time to wait for a poetry event, at least for me. Kelli Russell Agodon and I still have a few spots left in our Port Townsend event on Saturday, January 18th. Here is the information on the two workshops and how to sign up.

Back by Popular Demand:


Poets On The Coast: A Mini Retreat

Two Writing Classes in Port Townsend taught by
Susan Rich & Kelli Russell Agodon

Where: Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St. Port Townsend, WA

When: Saturday, January 18th, 2014

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 am – 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

Or spend the day and take both classes for $189
Number of participants limited to 18.



Please print and fill out this page & mail with your payment to Kelli Agodon at PO Box 1524, Kingston, WA 98346



City, State, Zip:


Circle one: Generating New Work 9 am-12 pm $98 From Manuscript to Book 1 pm-4 pm $98 BOTH Classes at $189

If you want to pay by Paypal or credit card simply click here and scroll down