Saturday, January 25, 2014

Call for Poems: The Human Journal and a Valentine's Day +1 Class

On the birthday of two great writers: Virginia Wolf and Edith Wharton here is some literary news -- both international and local.

As the poetry editor of The Human journal, I want to announce a call for poems --- with a special focus on the poetry of travel and poems from poets worldwide. 

Have you lived in a country not your own or written poetry of invented countries? We are looking for poems of the strange sensations awarded to those who leave their homes and set out on a voyage. Or poems of countries we have not heard enough from. Poems of the Middle East, of Africa, poems of Ireland and the poems of the Travelers. Poems that go outside and take a long walk, poems that move out of the known world. 

Deadline for the next issue is April 15th. Please read the submission guidelines here.

Writing Poems After a Generating New Work Class
If you live in driving distance (or flying distance) of Seattle and want to spend the day after Valentine's Day devoting yourself to poetry and publishing, please consider this workshop:

Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich will lead a new class "Generating New Work and Publishing Tips Workshop" 
11:-00 to 3:00 PM on Saturday, February 15th, Seattle.


Poetry Writing Retreat Day in Seattle!
     Saturday, February 15, 2014,  11 pm - 3 pm, $107

Join acclaimed poets Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan for four hours of writing.  This class is designed for all levels of poets and will consist of different types of writing exercises including working from the visual arts to help you kick start new poems. Come celebrate the day after Valentine's Day by going deep into your writing. You will learn new ways to create poems and by doing so, you’ll push your writing to new places.  We will wrap-up the afternoon with a salon-style discussion of poetry publication. In addition, each poet will leave with a new listing of poetry journals. Class limited to 21 participants.

Checks can be made out to Kelli Agodon and mailed to:

Kelli Agodon
PO Box 1524
Kingston, WA  98346

Please email or  kelli (at) to reserve your space.  Limited to 21 participants.

Or pay below by PayPal immediately to reserve your space:



PS Part of our The Human journal manifesto reads as follows:

The Human is a refereed academic journal of humanities, social sciences, and arts, which is dedicated to intellectual discussion of diverse aspects of human experience.
The Human is an entirely independent journal that has no ties to any associations or institutions, solely prioritizing independent dissemination of qualified knowledge and experience.

Works published in The Human aim to establish, question, analyze, problematize, and discover original methods of thoughts to contribute to solutions of current and deep-rooted human problems in the world.

Works published in The Human also seek after the truthful and the beautiful.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cloud Pharmacy Comes to Seattle

Cloud Pharmacy Arrives!
So this morning I look out the window of my front door and there's a box of books tucked to the right of the door frame. But I had just come out of the shower.

Wrapped in a bath towel was not the way I wanted to meet my book. Instead I tossed on my jeans and a sweater. I took a scissors to the box, ripped opened the top and slowly removed the cream colored packing paper.  That funny tension of fast and slow. I lifted the book out of the box first before I looked at it. I was afraid of that moment of truth: would I love the way it looked?

Yes, even the author has a tendency to judge a book by its cover.

My book sat beside me in the car as I headed across town to my sweetheart's apartment. After a celebratory breakfast we headed out across the water to a huge park. In the car, and then outside in the winter sunlight, we read the poems out loud to each other. Hearing my poems in his voice was especially thrilling. My poems now exist in the world in a new way: in another's voice, in the warm afternoon air.

It's an amazing high to bring a book out into the world. And if this is something you want for your own work, I wish you all strength and persistence.  You can do it. In today's publishing world there are so many ways to publish.

In the odd synchronistic way that the world sometimes works, last week I had an email from the British Library. It seems they are in the midst of taking all issues of the second wave feminist journal Spare Rib and digitizing them. My first poem was published in Spare Rib in 1981. I still have my copy of the journal and the accompanying check. The idea of a "real" publication amazed me as I was a college drop out at the time.

But here's a secret: the poem is awful. terrible. embarrassingly bad. And yet. The publication of "Afternoon Swim" meant everything to me. The idea that an editor had deemed my work worthy allowed me the confidence to keep going. I am very thankful to that editor, Zoe Fairbairns. Thankful for the bad poems that lead us all to the good.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Call for Poems and Elizabeth Austen's New Position as Poet Laureate

Meet Washington State's New Poet Laureate
The Seattle Sea Hawk's win is not the only big news of the weekend. It's official! Elizabeth Austen is the new Poet Laureate of Washington State. Elizabeth is well known to many in Western Washington not only for her stellar poetry collection Every Dress A Decision but also because for many year's she's been the voice of poetry at KUOW. At 3:00 pm on Sunday, February 16th, Elizabeth Austen and Kathleen Flenniken will do a joint reading at Open Books in Wallingford. The afternoon will be a symbolic handing over of the reins from our current Poet Laureate to Elizabeth.

In addition to Elizabeth's new position bringing poetry to all corners of the state, she has just sent out a call for poems. Austen is guest editing Floating Bridge Review's next issue "Help Wanted: The Poetry of Work." Here is what she is asking for --- and by the way --- you don't have to be in Washington to send...

Help Wanted: The Poetry of Work

January 19, 2014 by Elizabeth Austen

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work -
Wendell Berry

I’m guest editing the next issue of Floating Bridge Review – please consider submitting (and please share this widely — the call is open to all poets, not just those in Washington state).

Help Wanted: The Poetry of Work

Work – or the lack of it – shapes our personalities, our days, and our health. For some, it defines our status. Floating Bridge Review #7 seeks poems concerned with the interplay of labor and identity: first jobs, lay-offs, job hunting, unemployment, hard labor, happy hour, housework, sex work, volunteer work, retirement, the multiple and never-ending labors of parenthood.

Submission guidelines:
E-mail up to three previously unpublished poems as a single Microsoft Word document or single PDF file.
Put FBR7 SUBMISSION in the subject line of your e-mail and be sure to include your mailing address.
Send to floatingbridgepress (at) yahoo (dot com). No cover letter needed, but please include a brief bio.
Deadline: March 31, 2014.
We accept simultaneous submissions, but ask that you notify us immediately if the work is accepted for publication elsewhere.
Floating Bridge Review is published by Floating Bridge Press

The quote above is from Wendell Berry’s poem “The Real Work.”

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Moonrise Over Seattle ~ From West Seattle ~ Cloud Pharmacy On Its Way~

Wednesday, January 15th

If Wendy and I hadn't driven along Alki beach last night on our way home from work, I might not have believed this photograph was for real. Trust me, the city glowed last night. The clouds spread across the sky in layers of interconnecting curves that merged into electric hues of violet and pink. This was not the average January sky. 

Perhaps the clouds and the light were heralding in CLOUD PHARMACY which at the moment is somewhere between Bedford Park, Illinois and Seattle, Washington. So far, a snow storm in Minnesota and a delayed train in Illinois have left me with the dubious distinction of  "exception" on my UPS page which is very different from "exceptional." 

As I fret about if the books will arrive in time for me to share with a poets who I will teach on Saturday, I know this is a first class problem. And yet. Right now I've the sensation of the night before my birthday ~ age 6. That sensation of bursting out of oneself with excitement mixed with trepidation. What would it be like to be 7 years old? How would the party go? Who could tell? What will it be like to hold CLOUD PHARMACY in my hands? How will the party go? Wishing for clear skies in all directions: from the train outside Bedford Park to West Seattle, from the poem on the page to the national readings to come. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Call for Travel Essays: Women's Travel Writing

This is a wonderful opportunity to see your travel essay in print. Lavinia Spaulding is a smart and empathetic editor. I was honored to have my piece "Blue Doors" included  in Best Women's Travel Writing Volume 7. Here's the call:

Call for Submissions: The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Volume 10

From Lavinia Spaulding

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be editing the next edition of The Best Women’s Travel Writing.This is the tenth collection in this award-winning series by Travelers’ Tales, and the fourth I’ve edited. I’m looking forward to reading this year’s submissions!

Please send me your best true travel tales for consideration. Stories can already be published, provided you retain the rights.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tonight at 7:30 -- Town Hall -- All the Odes --- Ilan Stavans

If you are in bicycling distance of Seattle -- or car or cow path -- don't miss an evening of Pablo Neruda at Seattle's beautiful Town Hall. Ilan Stavans has translated (almost) All the Odes, 823 pages worth. Another way to think of an ode is as a praise poem, a prayer to the dailiness of this life.  Ode to the Sea Gull begins like this:

To the sea gull
high above
the pine woods
of the coast,
on the wind
the sibilant syllable
of my ode.

bright boat,
winged banner,
in my verse,
body of silver,
your emblem
across the shirt
of the icy firmament,
oh, aviator,
serenade of flight,
snow arrow, serene
ship in the transparent storm

           Pablo Neruda, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

This is certainly a wonderful way to begin 2014 --- Ilan Stavans is only in town for a short time. He resides in Amherst, Massachusetts and is visiting the University of Washington as well as Temple Beth Am.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My New Life ~ Editor, Mentor, Poetry Private Detective

One of the aspects I love of beginning a new year is imaging myself a new person. It's not that I have any big complaints about the person I was in 2013 (besides the fact that I need to exercise more, eat less) it's just that it's very important to me to try new things. A couple of years ago I changed things up by taking my first Farris wheel ride and then paddle boarding along the Puget Sound. It was exhilarating to conquer some of my fears concerning heights and water depths.

This year my new life will consist of helping others with their poetry. I want to create more opportunities to work with other poets as an editor, mentor, and poetry private detective.

So far I have worked with poets by critiquing individual poems, editing manuscripts, consulting on which journals to send which poems to (including sending the poems out) and meeting for coffee to discuss long term creative goals. What does the life of a poet look like? How do we know when we are involved in the work we are supposed to do? What can we do to keep writing the poems, creating community, keeping the joy of discovery?

I have always dreamed of being a private detective and helping other poets create the poems and the creative life they want is exhilarating. At one point, I seriously considered becoming a therapist and so "poetry private detective" for me is a mix of therapist, editor, and poet. If I could create a new career this would be it. In fact perhaps my next business card should read:
                   Susan Rich / Poet and Private Detective

If you want to learn more about my new life, please click here to see the services I offer. I am starting out slowly, taking on only a few projects at a time. Fingers crossed for a fun 2014~!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cover Art: A Long Journey into Image: Here's What You Need to Know

Cover Art for Cloud Pharmacy
The great news is that small presses often give poets a great deal of leeway in terms of choosing a cover. The not-so-great news is that small presses often give poets a great deal of leeway in terms of choosing a cover. For each of my four collections of poetry I have spent anywhere from a few days to eight months looking for the right image to represent my work.

There are so many aspects of putting a book together that no one ever talks about in MFA programs or really, anywhere. (Well, I co-teach a class on From Manuscript into Book but that's another story). Once the title is chosen (another conundrum) and the decision on sections or no sections is completed, it's time to look for cover art. This is the way it works for me. Perhaps for some people the cover art comes earlier but I need to have a sense of the book as a whole before I can make much progress.

The title of this photograph is "Hannah Road." This provided a wonderful sense of serendipity as the collection contains several ekphrastic poems on the work of the 19th century woman photographer, Hannah Maynard.

Since this is the time of year of lists -- here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing cover art. The top 11 things you should know.

1. Covers can sell books. An alluring cover can create a buzz concerning the contents inside. Alternatively, an unattractive cover can turn readers away. This is what a bookseller friend told me. This is also part of what makes the choosing so hard.

2. The image needs to interact with words. In other words, where on the image will your book title and name go? Of course the image can be isolated and framed away from the title and author, but this limits the graphic design.

3. Be sure and contact the artist before you fall in love. If you followed The Alchemist's Kitchen blog last March, you know that I did fall in love with an image. There is a Dutch photographer who has become increasingly famous for photographing clouds inside interesting spaces. However, when I wrote asking permission to use his photographs, the answer came back a polite no. When I wrote a second time with all the eloquence I could garner, the answer was the same. This made finding my final image all the harder as I couldn't let go of "my" cloud room.

4. Keep a file of possible cover art. There are several cool ways to do this. If you start a file in Powerpoint you can easily add your book title and name. Try the text in several fonts and in several different arrangements. This will give you a good sense of how well the image works as a book image. I also started a Pinterest page so that I could keep track of possible photographs.

5. Give yourself plenty of time. Most writers I know chose three or four different book covers before they settle on one. Go to museums, to galleries, to coffee shops that curate local art shows, and get acquainted with the art that pulls you in. Try to determine what elements speak to you. For example, I learned that covers that include motion (a bird flying, a group of feathers falling) are extremely compelling.

6. Visit bookstores, libraries, and your own shelves to determine which book covers pull you in and which do not. This will become second nature to you after awhile in the way that when you're shopping for cars all the models on the road begin to catch your eye.

7. Think outside the box. One cover I love is Her Soul Out of Nothing. The beautiful body of a naked woman, her back to the viewer, floats in white space. The image is startling. It fits the contents of the poems wonderfully.

8. Don't be too literal. For my second book, Cures Include Travel, I chose an image of airmail letters floating in space. The sense of travel came across in the aerogrammes and foreign stamps. For Cloud Pharmacy I began by looking at images of apothecary bottles and old pharmacies, but ultimately I wanted something that brought an extra layer of meaning to the poems.

9. Art work alone does not a cover make. For my upcoming collection, Cloud Pharmacy, I worked closely with the designer at White Pine Press to find a font I liked and to place the title within the image. These decisions are essential to the overall look of the book.

10. Remember, there are several superb ways to represent your work visually. At different times in the last few months I had over a dozen works of art that I was seriously considering for Cloud Pharmacy. These included everything from apothecary bottles, to floating clouds, to a woman in a boat. The list goes on. Finally, there are several different representations for the work and no one ultimate star.

11. Try to enjoy the process as much as you can. This is your book! Your love child! Yes, it's nerve wracking but it is also a wonderful gift. You will have a book in the world and you will get to choose which slinky black dress or favorite blue jeans its dressed in. Let your book be something that "feels" like you.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different


Poetry Salon on Bainbridge Island: 
Feb 2, 2014 with Kelli Agodon and Tara Hardy:

Spend the day in an open salon talking to poets  and discussing writing or any questions you may have.  Inspired by the literary salons of Paris, participants will come and spend time in a group with each poet, moving room to room every 30 minutes.  
We will finish with a vegetarian dinner and short reading. 
Limit 14. $70 for three consults, readings, and dinner in a lovely atmosphere.

Email Susan for more information.