Sunday, October 29, 2017

Reading New Poems with Katy Ellis and Jodi Hollander --- Third Place Books Ravenna

Katy Ellis, Susan Rich, and Jodi Hollander

This should be fun! I am thrilled to read with Katy E. Ellis --- winner of this year's Floating Bridge Award and co-curator at WordsWest. We will be joined by Jodi Hollander who is here with her debut collection. It's a school night but we're staying out late: November 1st,  this Wednesday, 7 pm, at Third Place Books.

I will be reading new poems from my fifth collection ---- still forthcoming. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thank you to Jacar Press for This Pushcart Nomination

Okay. So there's been no prize awarded yet but let's keep hope alive. Thank you to Jacar Press, home of ONE magazine for nominating, "No One Goes to Heaven Anymore" for a Pushcart Prize. In the midst of much sadness, this cheered me up!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Proud to be One Third of WordsWest Literary Series -- Now in Our 4th Year and w/ Joannie Stangeland

That's me, Harold Taw, and Katy Ellis

Here is our happy trio at the venerable Easy Street Cafe and Record Store in West Seattle. 1001 thank you's to Tracy Record, Editor of the famous West Seattle Blog (the New York Times of West Seattle) for a super fun interview that reads on the page with the same energy and spontaneity as our lunchtime meeting. What a pleasure when a reporter (editor) gets every quote right and creates an article in which we recognize ourselves. Long live the West Seattle Blog --- the best source of news on our peninsula.

Here is the beginning of the article and the link to read more~

The three West Seattle writers who co-curate WordsWest Literary Series say it’s the kind of series “we would like to be invited to.”
WordsWest opens its fourth season this Wednesday night at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor) and co-curators Harold TawKaty Ellis, and Susan Rich say it’s become everything they hoped it would be, and more.
While we regularly feature WordsWest in the WSB calendar and previews, we thought the start of the season would be a good time to check in with the co-founders, to re-introduce (or, if you’re new here, introduce) them and what it is they do each month. So we sat down with Susan, Katy, and Harold for that check-in over lunch at Easy Street Records one recent midday.
First – we should mention that WordsWest events usually feature two writers, in an innovative format, plus a community member reading a “favorite poem,” and a chance for interactivity with the dozens of attendees. More on the 7 pm Wednesday season-opener lineup a bit later – but first, the start of their story:
Susan – who had just come back from the Poets on the Coast retreat she runs in LaConner – explained that she and Katy met at the city’s best-known bookstore, Elliott Bay Books, introduced by a mutual friend. Talking, they agreed, “wouldn’t it be nice to go to a reading without having to cross the bridge?”
An early topic of discussion: “What would we call it?” And during that discussion,  click to continue.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Happy Fall ~ Poetry Matters - Generating New Work, Publication, and a Reading

I am thrilled (thrilled!) to be teaching at Harmony Fields next Sunday, October 1st from 2:00-5:00 pm. Poet and farmer extraordinaire, Jess Gigot, has invited me to her gorgeous farm just outside of La Conner, WA in Bow, WA. "Poetry Matters: Generating New Work and a Poetry Salon" will be held in her refurbished barn. The group is limited to 16. You can register on-line right here.

We've built in a 90 minute intermission so poets can try out one of the amazing restaurants in Bow-Edison --- a town being quickly recognized as a foodie and artist haven. At 6:30 pm I will join Jess Gigot, Michael Daily, and Georgia Johnson for a reading at the i.e. gallery.

From Poets on the Coast, to LitFuse, to Poetry Matters --- this is the season of poetry.

To find out more about the workshop or the farm --- click here. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Thank You to Michigan Quarterly Review for Featuring My New Poem

by Lena Gurr

For the next few days, at least, MQR is featuring my poem, "Ultima Thule," on their website. It's a great honor to have my work featured in this prestigious journal and equally thrilling for my poem to appear on the Michigan Quarterly Review home page.

Here is the beginning of my poem, "Ultima Thule:"

In this dark moment, the largeness
of which I’d like to deny, we settle

arguments with silence, we divide the terra-cotta
soldiers one eyeball at a time. Nothing says good-bye

like these derelict bodies, the war-torn terraces
of fatigues, the fireproof boots now abandoned.

It wasn’t enough protection, not nearly enough dirt
to disguise decade-long disagreements. On the doorstep

I keep a broken light bulb to remind me of you. Room
for all the almosts and never to bes. Like Miss Drew,

I play private eye, returning to pissed-on alleys and no-frills
bars that serve only laughing water and moonlight,

not necessarily in that order. Sometimes I watch you
stumble like a ghost husband along the dance floor

(to continue reading click here)

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