Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Coming Soon to a Blog Near to You --- Or A Blog Far From You~

I started this blog in early 2009 which means that The Alchemist's Kitchen is 9 years old next month. Begun as a way to introduce my book, The Alchemist's Kitchen, into the world --- blogging became a way to face the blank screen unafraid, to communicate with the world --- and sometimes (thrillingly so) have the world respond back!

In this way, I got to keep up with friends near and far: Kelli Russell Agodon, January O'Neil, Aimee Nezhukumatathil --- the list goes on. I also helped set-up my friend Geraldine Mills -- and Irish poet, fiction writer and children's writer with her first blog. I think of blogging as the sweet spot where the lyric essay, scrapbooking, and pen pal letters all come together. A high and low culture of the internet.

On January 1st, 2018 poet bloggers around the country and (hopefully) beyond, will begin blogging with vigor, again. I know I love this long form (more in-depth than a tweet, more personal than a FB post).

Until then I wish everyone a glorious rest from the runaround that is (often) our everyday lives. I hope you are sitting somewhere with your second cup of coffee and choosing a new book that has come your way this holiday season.

And if you want to treat yourself to a poetry class (open to all) in February or become a Poet on the Coast (for women) for our 8th Annual event, you can check out the classes and workshops that Kelli Russell Agodon and I will offer in the new year.  Until Sunday!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Stolen Pleasure of the Poetic Kind(s)

A poetry thief on the loose in Friday Harbor!
Imagine my surprise to find all four of my books disappeared from the Whiteley Center Library! One book might be misplaced, a second could be lost --- but all four? Doesn't seem likely. My poet friends think this is a first-class problem to have --- someone loving poetry so much they need to steal it --- like jewels or gold. Like a bank heist! Put that way, it does sound quite romantic, a little like a film noir: "Disappearance at Friday Harbor" or "The Case for Poetry."

Call me cynical but the issue could just as easily be that someone decided to scoop them all into the trash --- do a poetry cleansing if you will. Maybe there's a poetry hater among us. Could be. There are a lot of scientists roaming these grounds --- even a historian or two. Anything is possible.

I read today that facts don't change people's minds --- we construct the story that best fits our fears and desires. In that case, on the eve before Christmas Eve, I'll tell a story of hope and redemption --- how poetry saved a life --- and will keep on saving lives in impossible and unexpected ways. I know this has happened to me.

May the poetry force be with you --- and yes --- I've replaced the books and am interested to see if they will be here next year, or not...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Happy Solstice - A Blessing for What is Absent

So this hasn't been the best of years. At least not for our country. And yet, the lights are still on, the mortgage gets paid, I'm still working as a writer/poet/professor ---I've made it this far!

I offer this poem tonight to try and give thanks for what we don't have to endure --- and to remember the longest night of the year promises us more light very soon.

Wishing you all good things --- may the light find you...

Monday, December 18, 2017

You Must Remember This --- What Is The Difference Between a Poem Publication and a Kiss?

What's the difference between a poem publication and a kiss? 

Well, when my sweetheart kisses me, I don't need to announce it far and wide nor do I worry that this is our final kiss. I am reasonably sure there are more kisses to come!

However, when a journal chooses one of my poems for publication and sends a sweet "Acceptance" in the subject line of an email, I am first thrilled beyond words --- and then --- a couple of days later, I think, "this is it, no more love."

So this week, with two different journals accepting two different poems (but no contracts signed just yet) I want to post it here. Poems will be written again, will be sent out into the world and (more than likely) miraculously published again.

There's an ever popular way to submit known as the 100 Rejections Club of which I am not yet a member. Lit Hub has an article about why you should consider it right here.

Instead, I have come together with my dear friend, poet Kelli Agodon and a dozen or so poets from Poets on the Coast to create a Friday Submission Club. On Friday or therabouts, each poet does her best to send one poetry packet out into the world. Once accomplished, we "brag" our submission to the rest of the group thereby reminding everyone "it's time" and offering up where we sent to the rest of the group. In other words, we lift each other up.

A group from Poets on the Coast were well represeted last month at the new on-line Southern California journal Moria headed up by Linda Dove and her Washburn University students.

So what's the difference between a poetry publication and a kiss? Maybe not as much as I thought. Both fill me with joy and delight. Both, I believe, will visit me again.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

8th Annual Poets on the Coast with Claudia Castro Luna, Washington's Poet Laureate

A perfect holiday gift for you or a poet you love

Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women is celebrating our 8th year of poetry workshops, art classes, and guest poets this September 7-9th in La Conner, WA. When Kelli Agodon and I began creating this retreat we knew we wanted Poets on the Coast to focus on community, acceptance, joy and generosity. In the past we had guest taught in unheated stairwells (more than once) and been set-up by bad deals by harried organizers. We vowed to be different.

And I'm pretty sure we've succeeded. Poets come back to participate in the Poets on the Coast Weekend year after year. They've organized writing groups that meet throughout the year and requested that Kelli and I set-up a Seattle Winter Retreat --- this year it's Saturday, February 10th  ---open to all --- so that we could gather more than once a year.

Each year we strive to make the retreat better than the year before and for this year, September 7-9th 2018 we've invited Claudia Castro Luna, Washington's new Poet Laureate to join us. Claudia will lead a Master Craft workshop titled Of Hands and Spleen:Writing From the Female Body.

If you'd like to give a special writer in your life a Poets on the Coast registration (Sept 7-9th) or a mini poetry retreat  in Seattle (February 10th), just contact me. We can send them a beautiful gift card. Of course, you should also consider giving yourself a gift of poetry --- writing with a community of poets changes the process --- makes us all write better. Why not?

Atlanta Review, Thank You --- After 20 Years!

I was thrilled to receive my copy of the Fall/Winter Atlanta Review in the post this weekend. Nearly 20 years ago when I was teaching at the University of Cape Town on a Fulbright Fellowship, I encountered an issue of the Atlanta Review in the English Office --- sent to us (I think) for no cost.

One of the cool elements of this journal is that they strive to be international with a recurring focus on poets from different cultures. Next up: African Women Poets in Spring 2018.

The only disadvantage of having poems in this fine journal is that they do not (yet) have much of an on-line presence so in order to read any of the poems, you need to purchase the journal. Or perhaps I could publish the complete poem here if there is interest.... the last couplets are cut off and they are where the poem does the most work.

In any case, if you are interested in international poetry, you should consider supporting this journal with your subscription --- which you can do right here. That's what I just did!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

You Know You're Thinking About It...


              Come in from the cold! Kelli Russell Agodon and I are leading a full day (2 part series) Winter Writing Retreat in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle on Saturday, February 10th. We will begin the morning with "Writing Poems in Uncertain and Surreal Times" and then move on in the afternoon to "Getting Your Work Published." Between us we have 11 books and over 200 journal publications. Come learn how to approach editors, send out your manuscript, and find the right market for your work. This is our 5th year offering a Poets on the Coast Winter Retreat. We hope you'll join us!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

I'm Working on a Poem Called "Dear Death" but Feeling Pretty Good

Sarajevo Sunning on Her Deck Chair
The last two months have been overflowing with the good, the bad, and the in-between.

On Monday, October 9th 2017, I came home from work to find Sarajevo dead in the living room, just a step away from her bed by the window. My two other cats were with her and as death goes, she got to live to (almost) 18 --- that's about 84 in cat years. I adopted her 9 months after I moved to Seattle. She will be (is) missed terribly.

Perhaps sudden deaths of any kind are there to remind us how short life is and that we better start enjoying it now.

Maybe that's one of the reason for writing death a letter. More on that if the poem is ever completed.

I've been reading some wonderful books of poems lately and thought I would mention a few incase anyone has started holiday shopping which I have definitely not.

Here they are in no particular order:

I love this book by Cindy Veach! Gloved Against Blood is just out from Cavan Kerry Press. Veach lives along the north shore of Massachusetts in Manchester-by-the-Sea (same town as the movie) which is home to Singing Beach.  Veach's collection both re-tells the history of the women who worked in the Lowell fabric mills and the women of her family. The two intersect as Veach's matrilineal line came down from Quebec to work in the mills.  But even if you don't care for women's history (really?) and you don't care about family dynamics, the language and craft in this debut collection is stellar. I've seen this collection through several iterations and I am thrilled that it has reached the world in such fabulous form. Don't miss it.

Killing Marias: A Poem for Multiple Voices by Claudia Castro Luna  is just out from Two Sylvias Press and it's amazing. Each Maria represents one of the young women that have been murdered in Juarez, Mexico over the past few decades. (Click here for the Washington Post article "Hundreds of Women Disappear Each Year in Ciudad Juarez." There is a haunting, surreal quality to the work that accrues as the reader moves through the poems. And while the subject of the book is clearly devastating, the book itself is a pleasure to read. Castro Luna brings attention to these women's lives and she is donating her proceeds from the book to a non-profit in Juarez set-up by the families of the victims. Note: Claudia Castro Luna was Seattle Civic Poet from 2015-2017. As of January 2018, she is the Washington State Poet Laureate.

Finally, Winter Roses by Hilary Sallick is a book I've kept returning to over the last few months. The poems, as poet Pamela Alexander states in her review, "move with the economy and gentleness of Japanese paintings." As readers, we enter the library with Sallick as she observes the quiet details of the strangers surrounding her. The poems are expertly crafted and perhaps even more than that, they bring this reader a deep calm in these horrifying times we are living in.

There are more books but these are the ones I am holding close right now. May the season find you somewhere warm with an afternoon free to read.