Monday, July 17, 2017

Letting It All Fan Out --- First Steps in a 5th Book

Will this grow-up to be a book?
Truth is, this isn't the first time. In the last seventeen years I have put four other poetry collections together. And each time it feels completely new. The pages in this photograph are for my fifth book, one I've been working on for three years. I am ready for it to be done --- and yet. As tough as it is to put a first book together, I know the fifth is even tougher.

I've talked about this phenomena with several poet friends. Why does organizing a book become more difficult each time, shouldn't it get easier with more experience? Maybe so. Perhaps what changes is the idea that creating a book of poems "should" be understood now, "should" be easier to create a scaffold for 50-60 poems. But creating a book doesn't get easier. Our expectations shift and now what we write and publish should be somehow "better," "stronger," more "necessary."

At this point, perhaps this book is over cooked, I want every poem placed just right, every title evocative,  each section matching perfectly with the last. If I worked on this book another five years, I don't think that would happen. Ordering poems, creating sections, changing titles --- for me, it has to be intuitive. One day one order works and the next day, not so much.

So what to do? Today I did a great deal of pruning. I took 10 poems out and felt lighter, happier! When I work as an editor on other writers' projects, I tell them that no one ever misses that one "extra" poem. But if I left only the very strongest work, I might have less than a chapbook! W.H. Auden was known for wanting to take out huge chunks of his life work when his editor came out with a "Collected Work." Auden would revise and then re-revise work that had already been published in books. I understand him all too well.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Small Rant and So Happy to Announce the Winners of the Rich-Russell Fellowship for 2017

         Do a simple Google image search for "trophy" or "winning trophy" and watch all the white hands, the white men, appear on the screen. Yikes! Once again I am out of step with the larger world.

         When Kelli Russell Agodon and I began Poets on the Coast 7 years ago, a "well meaning" male friend asked us why we were creating a retreat "only" for women. Were we against men? Perhaps someday we will live in a world where a Google search doesn't reflect back to us the racism and sexism of our culture. Perhaps I will live long enough to look back on implicit bias as a thing of the past. Wouldn't it be nice to think so.

       But I digress! We are thrilled, absolutely thrilled to announce the winner of the Rich- Russell Fellowship for Poets on the Coast. Each year we provide a full ride for a deserving poet to join our retreat. In addition, we name Finalists and provide them with significant scholarships as well.

      Our winner this year is poet and writer Stacey Balkun.

Stacey Balkun is the author of Eppur Si Muove, Jackalope-Girl Learns to Speak & Lost City Museum. Winner of the 2017 Women's National Book Association Poetry Prize, her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, The Rumpus, Muzzle, Bayou, and others. Balkun serves as the Chapbook Series Editor for Sundress Publications and holds an MFA from Fresno State.

      Our finalists this year are Kristie McLean and Phylise Smith. To find out more about all three amazing women, please click here!

      This is our 7th Poets on the Coast --- and every year I am beyond amazed by the generosity, creativity, and community that this group of women create. I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thanks to Harmony Fields and Jess Gigot

Harmony Fields with a cloud pharmacy in the background
I think my favorite season has recently shifted from summer to fall. Yes, it means shorter days and returning to the college but the sense of air crisp as fruit orchards and the morning light that can shock me awake --- well, I'm moving towards late September / early October as the very best time of the year, at least here in the Pacific Northwest. And this year I can look forward to giving a workshop at Jess's farm, Harmony Fields on October 1st from 2:00 - 5:00 pm.

I first met Jess Gigot when she contacted me to consult with her on a book marketing strategy for her book, Flood Patterns published by Atrium Books. I immediately liked her --- she was kind, thoughtful, funny and smart. We crossed paths again when Jess attended Poets on the Coast last September. A poem she wrote while at the retreat "Farmers at the Museum" is now published on the Museum of Northwest Art website right here.

Bountiful harvest at Harmony Fields

After the workshop, I will read with Jess at the i.e. gallery in Bow Edison.

Here's the beginning of the blurb for "Poetry Matters"
From Harmony Fields Page

Please bring a journal or a laptop — whatever you like best to write with. Sometimes, it can be inspiring to have a favorite book of poems, or a photograph nearby — whatever inspires you to ... continue here.

About Susan: 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 Cloud Pharmacy. She has received awards from PEN USA, The Times Literary Supplement, and Peace Corps Writers. Her fellowships include an Artists Trust Fellowship from Washington State and a Fulbright Fellowship in South Africa.

So in brief: This October 1st  I will give a three hour poetry workshop followed by a reading at Harmony Fields, an organic farm in Bow, Washington. How cool is that? I'm really looking forward to it --- it will be small, focused on writing new work, and then a salon where you can ask questions on publishing, reading, or whatever next step you wonder about