Saturday, October 29, 2016

Poets on the Coast - Special Guest Star!

BREAKING NEWS!  We are wildly happy to announce that for our 7th year at Poets on the Coast, in La Conner, WA, Elizabeth Austen, Poet Laureate of Washington State (2014-2016) will be joining us. We will continue our traditions of one on one consultations, art museum visits, and an assortment of classes on generating new work.

On the second weekend in September, September 8th - 10th,  an intimate group of poets from around the country (and Canada) will come together to talk, write, and breathe poetry. However, what seems just as important each year is the community that we build. Poets who meet at Poets on the Coast create writing groups, build friendships, and encourage each others growth as poets.

Registration is open and this event sells out every year. We also offer the Russell - Rich Scholarship. If you are a woman who wants to deepen her poetry practice, please think about joining us! Right now are the lowest rates for the weekend; they will increase as of January 2017. Why wait? We would love to have you join us at Poets on the Coast for our 7th year celebration.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pomegranate, Radio On - for Madeline DeFrees - What Do You Think

Here's my poem for Madeline DeFrees made into a short film. I have mixed feelings about it. While I am thankful to Helen Magazine for publishing this poem set to images and music, the blatant ignoring of all line breaks feels like a kind of violence has been done to the poem. This is a poem dedicated to my most important poetry teacher, Madeline DeFrees who mentored me when I was a young poet in Massachusetts and who, a few decades later, connected with me in Seattle.

Pomegranate, Radio On

for madeline defrees

Begin with the fruit in your hands—
hold the weight of its rough skin,
its nested, cell interior.

Take your time.

Choose a lilac
blue bowl; pull your sharpest knife
from the cutlery drawer.

This has become your life, not the headlines

but the fine print
of the back pages. Read
slowly the small, good stories—

each seed another worldly

exchange. You’re here
at the sink caressing—
there’s no other word—

until the dazzling light lets go.

Until surreal tomorrows extend—
beyond sustenance, beyond juice,
stained fingers, stained news.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

My Foray into Journalism: The Seattle Review of Books

I've always harbored the fantasy of working as a private detective. I love the idea of interviewing people and fitting the pieces of a psychological puzzle together. Conducting radio interviews was my favorite task as curator for the Jack Straw Writers Program. Jack Straw invites one curator to lead a team of a dozen writers for a year. Writers learn how to give readings, create community, and at the end of the year celebrate with an anthology and a reading series around the city. Jack Straw applications are being accepted now!

So when the Seattle Review of Books asked me to write an article about the controversial requirements of the Washington Book Awards (authors born in the state are eligible even if they no longer live in the state. Authors who live in the state must have lived here for three years.) This year, three of the five poets nominated live out of state and have for several years --- if not since birth.

I loved writing this piece but what I learned in the process is that journalism (unless its interviewing poets on their work) is not for me. While I received an enormous amount of support and thanks from many people who had felt hurt and helpless in the light of this year's announcement of nominees (no winner announced until October 8th) I also received some pointed backlash. Who knew people in the literary community could be so mean?

The Seattle Review of Books asked me to write about this birth right rule and my hope is that by pointing out the injustice implicit in how we choose nominees, there might be a reexamining of such requirements in the future. Since the Washington Book Awards began nearly 50 years ago as the Governor's Awards, I suspect there was a clear bias towards Washington natives, a subtle (or not so subtle) way to keep newcomers at a disadvantage.

We aren't wearing the same fashions as 50 years ago nor do we live in the same way (think no home computers, no cell phones, no same sex marriage, no American Disabilities Act) so why not review the rules surrounding eligibility for this important prize?

If you care about this issue please consider writing a brief email to the Seattle Library Foundation.
Emails can be found at the end of the page.

Here is the opening to my article:

Why does Carl Phillips need the Washington State Book Award?

The truth is, he doesn’t. In fact, Carl Phillips is confused about the controversy his nomination is causing among Washington state poets. When I spoke with Phillips this morning he mentioned his total surprise and delight when informed by his publisher that his book Renaissance was nominated for this year’s Washington State Book Award. He went on to say that the book was submitted by his publisher, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. “It wouldn’t have occurred to me,” to send the book, he said, and followed up with how honored he felt. And why would Carl Phillips believe he was eligible? Phillips left the state a little less than a year after his birth and has returned exactly twice – once for the recent AWP in Seattle and once to board a cruise ship. He doesn’t think he will be able to attend the October 8th award ceremonies.

The real problem is not his nomination — Phillips is a lovely man and an extraordinarily gifted lyric poet, he deserves many awards. But for this year’s Washington State Book Award in Poetry, three out of the five finalists do not live in Washington State. They are residents of Missouri, Tennessee, and Utah.

 To continue reading, click here!