Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Surprises of the Best Kind

wild birds enjoying a few coffee beans without harm from nets

      A few years ago I published a poem titled "Boketto" which appeared on the Academy of American Poetry site and led to some lovely emails from old friends as well as a few folks I didn't know. There's nothing better than when a stranger reaches out to tell me a poem that I wrote moved them. In fact, it may be the best reason to publish work that exists: a one to one call and response.

      Someone who wrote to me then has just emailed me again asking for advice on some new poems. These aren't just new poems as in just having been written, these are new poems in that actually writing poems is new to this person. How cool is that for a stranger to trust me with brand new work?

     This person contacted me because of one line in the poem, "Boketto." It's "we leaned/into the morning: bird friendly coffee and blueberry toast." It turns out, the person who wrote to me is a coffee importer and roaster of bird friendly coffee!  This seems such a great example of the magical routes that poetry takes through the world.

  Another poetry surprise this month has been my amazing students at Highline College. Their po-jacks of "Again" by Jericho Brown, "The Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood, and "The Applicant," by Sylvia Plath were just amazing. These are undergraduates who for the most part, had only written one other poem in their lives. Whatever the reason these three poems opened up deep passageways into their inner lives.

I know there were a few more positive surprises but I will hold to these two for now. Until next week!

   

 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

"Feminist Poetry is having a Renaissance" This Week's Headline! - Poems, Events, and a Confession

Kelli Russell Agodon and me at Kabul before the reading

Sometimes it's amazing what we can pull together in an hour. Last Friday afternoon, I learned our MC for the Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse reading, Martha Silano, was unable to make the event; could I step in? Sure, anything for poetry! The six women in the photograph below made the evening memorable --- as did the standing room only audience at Open Books.


The same day as our reading, an article was published on the PBS Newshour "Feminist Poetry is Having a Renaissance." I must confess, the headline had me doing a doubletake.

I've written about outsider artists such as Myra Albert Wiggins and Hannah Maynard --- women photographers of the late 19th century that were decades ahead of their time. More recently, I've focused my poems on the work of the three Surreal Friends --- Leonora CarringtonKati Horna, and Remedios Varo. Women artists who emigrated from Europe during World War II and lived in Mexico City gaining acclaim for their work in a kind of sideways fashion.

For years my poems have focused on these women --- and women in my own life.  I know that being part of a community of women poets and artists has deeply influenced my work in subtle and less subtle ways.

This past winter while at a writing residency, needing to write out of my own traumatic past, I turned to the new anthology Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse to give me the extra push I needed. If these women could write eloquently and with anger concerning abortion, rape, heartbreak, and healing --- who was I not to write my own truth?

This Saturday, fantastic friend and poet, Kelli Russell Agodon and I will teach a one-day writers retreat in Seattle. The request came from women in the community to add another day of writing  and community, a mini version of Poets on the Coast which we have been running for almost 8 years.

In other words, although writing is usually a solitary endeavor, the lives of women writers and artists is not. The artistic collaborations and personal friendship between Leonora Carrington, Kati Horna, and Remedios Varo has been documented in a gorgeous book, Surreal Friends by Stefan Van Raay and Joanna Moorhead. Which important artistic and poetic friendships will be documented for this time we live in?   

Oh yes, I almost forgot --- here are links to two poems of mine about women that were published this week. In the gorgeous Construction Magazine you can find "You've Always Had The Power---" a political retelling of Dorothy's commitment to Oz and in the Baltimore Review, "Coordinates," about a powerful friendship between women --- a subject whose time has come.