Monday, May 1, 2017

7th Annual Poets on the Coast Writing Retreat for Women with Kelli Agodon and Elizabeth Austen

Poets on the Coast Celebrates 7 Septembers - Sept 8-10, La Conner WA 

I believe in the number 7.  And this year Poets On the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women is turning seven years old.  Age seven: I learned to love reading and poetry in Miss Schiavo's third grade class; at age 14, I tool my first poetry class and at age 37 I went to South Africa for a year to study South African poetry (and poets) on a Fulbright. Not every 7 was a win, but most of them were memorable.

September 8th - 10th please come celebrate the 7th year of Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women in the village of La Conner, WA --- 60 miles north of Seattle (and easily accessible by bus from the airport).

This year, Elizabeth Austen joins Kelli Russell Agodon and myself for a long weekend of art, poetry, community and even morning yoga (all programs optional). The heart of the weekend is generating new poems in a variety of ways and with a diverse selection of writing prompts. We also offer one-on one critiques to each participant and an optional art workshop (this year shadow boxes) because we believe that all kinds of art making contribute to poetry.

Every year we welcome new poets along with well published authors. Some women return each year for the community (dare I mention) magic that comes about each year. "Graduates" of the program have gone on to earn MFA degrees, publish their first books, and make lifelong friends. We can'r promise that will happen to you --- but no matter what you will leave with a notebook full of new drafts of poems.

Please feel free to email me directly if you have any questions or checkout our FAQ page.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Letter to America Series - Mornings - by Moi


Before National Poetry Month closes for another year, I want to say thank you to Terrain.org A Journal of the Natural and Built Environment  for inviting me to submit a poem for their "Letter to America" series. Their website describes the initiative this way:

Letter to America series presents urgent, powerful, and beautiful post-election responses from writers, artists, scientists, and thinkers across the United States. We have published letters in the form of poems, photographs, traditional letters, and more — each an intimate, thoughtful examination and discourse at a time when the breakdown of civility and democracy seem to have gained the upper hand.

And while yes, this was written after the results of the presidential election were made known, I think of this piece as more a note to the self; a reminder of the necessity of personal survival in dire times. Here is the beginning of the poem and a link to continue reading; they are also looking for more "letters" for the series.


Mornings


When a mourning dove flies up from the land, the sky
Only seems to embrace her. The erasure of color, of movement
From the field, the shrug of wings—
My eyes keep watch long after the bird
Flies off between wave clouds. The panorama
Pleases because it is not me. Does not possess
Worries or regrets, does not listen to the news,
Only negotiates with shining scraps of paper,
The pine cones along the side road. I’m still staring
After the stormscape—seeing emptiness as incessant
As the mountains suffocated in fog—
Ghost lives that alter over the time
It takes to button a coat, adjust a shirtsleeve.
We’re invisible to ourselves though we look
        
                         (to continue reading, click here)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Leonora Carrington Appears in My Poems Again --- Thanks to Plume

Leonora Carrington's, "The Old Maids"


I am beyond thrilled that Plume has chosen two of my ekphrastic poems to feature for their current April issue. 

Last year, Daniel Lawless included another Leonora Carrington inspired poem in the Plume Anthology.  I suspect he is also a fan. Each quarter when I teach the ekphrastic poetry portion of my Creative Writing course, we look at Carrington's work and my students write some of their best work in response to her paintings. In teaching Women in the Arts, we also look at different Carrington pieces. My hope is that American audiences will become increasingly interested in her work --- the way that British and Mexican art lovers already are.

Leonora Carrington's "The Giantess" 
If my fifth collection ever sees the light, Leonora Carrington poems will be prominently featured. Though she herself would not like the label of surrealist --- and what artist does want a label slapped on their work --- I can't help but know that in the times we're living in, her art is the perfect antidote.

I hope you will take a look at Leonora Carrington's work and perhaps these featured poems.



SECRET AGENT

              for Leonora Carrington, 1917-2011




A long armed monkey lurks by the far
edge of the table, a kind of night watchman
half-hidden behind lace tablecloths,

his tail an upside down question mark.

Naked – of course – and disinclined
to join the party.
I think of your life this way—observer of

other realms— hold-up like a secret agent—
with the oddest of binoculars—
your gaze that of professor, of undertaker.

How you hated your coming out party—
you said it was like your father selling a product—

and not one he believed in.
How the teachers complained—often—
Leonora does not collaborate well.

To continue reading click here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Interviewed for Skagit River Poetry Festival Blog; Happy Spring

Happy First Day of Spring
Happy First Day of Spring! I celebrated yesterday by planting dinosaur kale, strawberry starts, and Oregon snap peas in the garden. Planting seeds and starts in March is a great act of faith. And so far, every year, there are fruits and vegetables in just a few weeks. True magic.

A magic of another kind arrived in my e-mail feed yesterday. The Skagit River Poetry Festival Blog has just posted an interview with me on their website. Thanks not only to the wonderful poet Jess Gigot, but also to the stellar festival staff ---- all of whom are volunteers. Last spring's festival featured James Crews, Garret Hongo, Aimee Nezahukumatathil, Jamal May and many other rock star poets --- chosen for their poetry as well as their professionalism. Here's the beginning of the interview. And if you've never attended the Skagit River Poetry Festival in La Connor, WA --- you are seriously missing out!

                                                                  ***

JG: What poets/poems have been most influential on your work? You mentioned Elizabeth Bishop in your blog awhile back, but what other writers/teachers have shaped or continue to shape your work?

SR: Emily Dickinson was the first poet I discovered. As a first year high school student, I was lucky enough to take a course devoted to Dickinson. Later on, I attended university in Amherst, Massachusetts where my bus stop home from town was situated in front of the Dickinson house — at that point inhabited by a professor (now recreated as a museum). Dickinson’s sparseness and mystery, her musical lines and lasting elements of surprise have meant a good deal to me over the years. Recently, I feel like I’m returning to her work again and appreciating it all the more.

Later on, and for a very long time, the triumvirate of Elizabeth Bishop, Denise Levertov, and Adrienne Rich became my poetic touchstones. Poets we discover when we are very young, I suspect, seep into our bones. We carry them with us for a lifetime.

JG: Speaking of your blog, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, I find it very informative and helpful. What are your thoughts on blogging and how it intertwines with your life as a poet?

SR: The first year of the blog I posted a new article almost everyday! I love Top 10 lists so I have a top ten tips for sending your poems into the world and another top 10 list for applying to writing residencies, and another for dealing with rejection. I believe that for a blog to succeed it needs to do two things well:

to read the rest of the interview go to the Skagit River Poetry Festival Blog


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Poets On the Coast Winter Retreat Half Day in Seattle!

Bring your typewriter, your laptop, or your favorite journal
Poetry feels more necessary than ever right now. Don't you think? Please join us, Kelli Russell Agodon and me, in a half day writing retreat, Saturday, March 4th in Seattle. For women and men, for beginning poets and published ones. You are sure to leave with drafts of at least four poems. What better way to welcome in Spring? We are in the South Lake Union neighborhood with lots of parking and easy bus routes. 

Here is how it works: both Kelli and I arrive with a half dozen writing prompts. We create fresh prompts so that even if you have come before, the exercises will be new to you. There might be a prompt to write a letter to someone you haven't seen in years or we will give you a photograph and guide you through different exphrastic exercises. It's important to know that there is no wrong way to do the exercises.

We take a quick lunch break (there's a fridge and a microwave in the room --- a Whole Foods next door) and we also offer snacks. It's important to come together in these most surreal of times and remind ourselves that words count; that the power of poetry is needed now more than ever.


Here's the link to registration: http://poetsonthecoast.weebly.com/classes.html

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Spare Rib and Tahoma Literary Review


Has anyone counted how many literary magazine are now publishing in the United States? In the world? No one seems to know. Not even Wikipedia. The Dial (1840-1844) edited by Ralph Waldo Emerson gets credit for being the first "little magazine" in the US. I wonder...

I mention this because I've recently become enamored with the idea that these magazines are a necessary part of our literary landscape. Without these lit mags,  how would writers get their work out to the greater world? We pay much respect to an author's first book but little is mentioned in print as to where their first poem or story or essay was published.

My first poem, "Afternoon Swim" was published in the feminist journal, Spare Rib. Although now defunct, the British Library decided last year to archive all of the issues that were published.

Spare Rib was an active part of the emerging Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 20th century. Running from 1972-93, this now iconic magazine challenged the stereotyping and exploitation of women, while supporting collective, realistic solutions to the hurdles women faced.



At 21, I certainly had no idea that I was sending my work off to an iconic journal --- one that would be remembered two decades after it ceased to be. Yet, today I am proud to call this my first --- fledgling poem that it was.

And today, several decades after that initial acceptance, I am thrilled to have a poem taken by another lit mag --- one that is still in its infancy but has already received a great deal of recognition: Tahoma Literary Review founded by Kelly Davio and Joe Ponepinto.



Now in their 5th year, the Tahoma Literary Review,  has been recognized with work from the journal included in anthologies such as Best American Poetry and Best Gay Fiction, among others. From its inception, the journal held Transparency as a kind of mandate. Editors regularly publish blog posts about why they choose the work they do --- and for a little extra cash --- you can receive an editor's commentary on your work. If your work is accepted, you will be paid a minimum of $50. This is almost unheard of in the literary world; especially by a relatively new journal.

But more than that, these editors are good people. They are both successful writers in their own right. I met Kelly a few months before she and Joe started the journal; she was excited but let everyone know that she would do no outside solicitations. Many journals ask well known writers to submit a poem or a story as a way to raise the journal's standing. Not TLR.  

Joe was kind enough to come talk to the student editors of the the college journal I advise. He was funny, generous, and the students are now quoting him as they do their work of choosing and not choosing submissions. 

Nobody gets rich off of literary magazines. If the editors don't self-finance, they're considered to be doing well. In this new word we find ourselves in, I know that literary magazines will be more important then ever.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Missouri Review and the Kinkajou

How would you react if you found this kinkajou asleep on you?
In the last year or so I have become really intrigued with bizarre news stories. Of course, these days of "alternative facts" instead of lies means we are in the world of the surreal everyday.

When I teach I often scroll through "weird story" sites --- most of the major news sources have them such as UPI "Weird News"  and weird news short videos from NBC New York.

Sometimes the news story itself can overwhelm the poem. Can the poem match the over the top quality of the experience or find another way into the action? Does weird news become weirder in a poem? In the poem, "99 Year Old Floridian Wakes to Find," I tried to find the woman's point of view and the connection between her own lived experience and this wild, unexpected thing.

Honestly, I fell in love with this new word (and animal) kinkajou and wanted to find a way to work with sound in the poem and the places where the human and the animal meet. I hope you enjoy.

Thanks to The Missouri Review for publishing it!


99-Year-Old Floridian Wakes Up to Find



~with a line from William Butler Yeats

In the morning she finds it—
a kinkajou curled on her chest


like an unexamined question.


Its tail loops around her waist
and the stubs of the ears twitching—

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Leonora Carrington - Alchemist, Artist, Writer and Subject of a One-of-a-Kind Film

Photograph from the Carrington Estate
My interest in Leonora Carrington becomes stronger the more I learn about her life and her art. I have a feeling that with two of her books being reissued this April, many other people are about to fall in love with her, too.

The House Opposite, 1945

Her book, The Hearing Trumpet, is a kind of cult classic. Allie Acker's film that combines an interview with Carrington as well as a rendition of one of her short stories is fascinating to watch.