A Poem to Share: God in Utah

Over this past month, I’ve been doing some preparation for the workshops and panel talks I’ll be giving at the Skagit River Poetry Festival as one of this year’s featured poets. In one of my workshops, I plan to talk about how poets today and in times past have dealt with issues of faith and doubt, belief and questioning. This wonderful poem called “God in Utah,” written by Martha Silano and appearing in Terrain, is a wonderful piece that mingles a sense of humor with a sense of awe. I think it makes a nice Easter-season read both for those who celebrate and those who don’t.

 

 

 

 

A Poem To Share: Day 1 of National Poetry Month

It’s National Poetry Month, and poets everywhere are gearing up to write 30 poems in 30 days. I tried the poem-a-day challenge once many years ago, and I have to say that, while I admire those who can commit to such a quick production of work, I myself am not cut out for that sort of speed. It also seemed to me that this year’s National Poetry Month would be a great time to read and think more about others’ work than my own, and to share some finds here on my website. I’m not planning to post poems daily, nor am I promising deep thoughts or heretofore unexplicated findings about poems–just some offerings of pieces I love that I think others will enjoy reading as well.

 

This past week, I was sifting through some of Alicia Ostriker’s work online, looking for a particular poem I thought I use as a teaching tool in an upcoming workshop. I ran across a poems of Ostriker’s that I’d not read before (let’s hear it for Jstor and The Poetry Foundation for making out-of-print issues of Poetry readily available online!). This poem impressed me so greatly that I’ve felt compelled to read it quite a few times over. Despite a somewhat ominous title, I think it’s a wonderfully hopeful poem in its own way:

“Anxiety about Dying,” Alicia Ostriker, from the July 1979 edition of Poetry Magazine.

 

Poetry and Prose this Spring in Seattle

It’s spring–it must be. We’ve lost that hour of sleep, after all, and I have seen at least a few blossoms on trees. Spring also means an embarrassment of literary riches in the Northwest, as writers and readers crawl out from under the 6 months of constant rain for a bit of mixing and mingling. Here are some great upcoming opportunities in the area:

Tomorrow, Susan Rich will read from her new collection, Cloud Pharmacy, at 3:00 pm on Sunday, March 16, at Open Books in Seattle. You can see what The Seattle Times has to say about Susan’s book here.

Poet Carolyne Wright will offer a new course at Richard Hugo House beginning later this month.  Miracles for Breakfast: Writing Like Elizabeth Bishop & Friends promises to be an excellent primer in working with the poetic forms. As a former student of Carolyne’s, I can attest to the fact that, if you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of formal verse, Carolyne is not only the woman for the job, but she’s also one of the most supportive, fun teachers around.

Nonfiction writer Wendy Call will also offer a new course at Hugo House: a brand new class called “Authoring Change: Writing Socially Engaged Nonfiction,” that will run for six Wednesdays beginning April 30. If you’re looking to engage both your literary sensibilities and the culture around you, this course is your bag.

Finally, if you’re just in the mood to curl up with a great book (not everybody can get to Seattle for these events, I know), let me remind you that, this week, the new poetry anthology The Burden of Light, is available on a pay-what-you-will basis. Through lyrical verse, experimental forms, powerful imagery, and an innovative use of digital multimedia technology, this collection introduces new readers to contemporary poetry, while bringing many audiences back to verse with a reminder of its intellectual force and powers of emotional healing. And with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, even a small donation from one has the power to effect change when added to the contributions of others!

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Jeannine Hall Gailey for inviting me to participate in The Writing Process blog tour; Jeannine recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington and is the author of three books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers. She has been featured in The Year’s Best Horror and Verse Daily, and her work has appeared in journals like The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner.

You can read Jeannine’s responses to the blog tour questions here, and below are my responses to the same:  Continue reading

A Post-AWP Reflection: Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude

This year’s AWP conference was unique for me in a number of ways: not only was it the first time I’ve attended the conference on my home turf of Seattle, but it was also my first chance to enjoy the conference in a purely spectatorial role, as I wasn’t behind a table or booth but free-ranging in manner of a Pacific Northwest chicken. This conference also had a few trouble spots all its own, but at any moment when I could have entered crisis mode, someone met me with such generosity that I can’t help but share some words of gratitude: Continue reading

Conferences, Feral Cows, and Book News, Oh My!

It’s been a busy February in writing land, with many miles crossed in the name of literature. Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the South Coast Writers’ Conference in Gold Beach, Oregon. The drive itself was a little harrowing, with a speeding ticket, a flock of wild turkeys, lots of elk, some small avalanches, and some feral cows in the roadway (or, at least a lighted sign warning us of feral cows in the roadway), but the conference was well worth the trip. On Friday, Tanya Chernov and I co-taught an epic class on the art and craft of writing dark material, and we were moved and honored by the fearlessness and honesty of the students in the class. The following day,  I had the chance to speak to several groups of smart, professional poets about getting their work into literary magazines. A small typhoon blowing in from the coast gave us a good soaking, but we’ll chalk it up to communion with nature!

 

While at the conference, I learned that my collection, Burn This House, is a finalist for the Julie Suk Award for Best Poetry.  I am delighted to be in the company of the other eleven finalists, and feel that I’ve already won something simply by being grouped with such excellent writers. Many thanks to Jacar Press and Richard Krawiec!

Last week also saw the debut of Tahoma Literary Review’s website, and Joe Ponepinto and I are enthused by the great response we’ve received so far. It’s still a few days before we open for submissions (we begin our reading period March 1, so get those short stories and poems ready), but we’re delighted by the warm welcome we’ve received in the literary world thus far. By the way, while TLR won’t have a booth at AWP, we have compiled a brief list of places at which you can come and say hello! 

 

Finally, I’m gearing up for next week’s annual AWP conference! I’m enthusiastic about the conference’s being on my home turf here in Seattle this year, and look forward to other writers discovering what makes Seattle such a great place to be a writer, a reader, and a literary citizen. And because I can’t help myself, I’ve created this year’s list of advice for AWP conference attendees, and have posted it at Tahoma’s blog.

 

Tell me, reader friends, what’s your best advice for attending AWP? Did I miss any words of wisdom?

 

 

Announcing Tahoma Literary Review: not just another literary journal

On March 1, 2014, submissions open for Tahoma Literary Review, a new journal of short fiction and poetry. Edited by Joe Ponepinto and yours truly, Tahoma Literary Review isn’t just another literary magazine project. We’re not following the existing publishing, editing, or business models, but are trying a new approach altogether. We took time to truly listen to writers’ and readers’ wants and concerns as we planned  TLR, and took time to consider how we might reframe the discussion about what functions a journal should serve. Before TLR launches its website later in February, and before we begin reading for the magazine in March, I want to tell you about a few things that I—not only as TLR’s Poetry Editor but also as a writer and reader myself—am excited about:

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Opportunities for Writers in the Days Before AWP

It’s the time of year, namely, the few weeks before the AWP conference, that can seem like a dead zone for writers. Presses and journals are packing up their wares, writers are honing their elevator pitches, and we’re all digging out our best tweed and our Warby Parker eyewear for the impending three days of heavy socializing. But if you’re hankering for a little literary activity before the 10,000 rumored attendees descend on Seattle in late February, there really are plenty of good options to keep the literary gears spinning: Continue reading

News Break: Women Writers Do Important Work in Literary Land

In addition to the kick-in-the-pants jumpstart that the Whidbey MFA visit gave me a week ago, I’ve also been getting inspired by what I see young women poets doing in the literary space lately. Sometimes, it seems that our literary world is dominated by old, white men (perhaps because, well, it is), and it’s tempting to feel that anyone who doesn’t fit that description is necessarily sidelined in discussions of poetry. While it’s true that we’ve got a long way to go before all good writers have equal access, I’ve been excited lately to see younger women writers making space for themselves in the literary world by contributing something wonderful to the collective conversation.

Amber Rambharose of Portland powerhouse YesYes Books has started a new and lovely blog that I’m excited to be part of: Forthcoming Poets.  Amber describes her inspiration for the blog this way:

As a college student, my favorite part of poetry readings was always the post-reading Q&A session where the visiting writers would open up, crack jokes, and share slivers of wisdom that they’d discovered on their paths as artists. Even more than their work, these shards of shared knowledge sunk into my consciousness. I remember walking away from such talks with my head humming with new approaches, angles of access, and cartographies of the written word’s vast expanses…I started this blog to provide writers with an extended post-reading Q&A experience.

I love this notion, because I too have always benefitted from what happens when writers extemporize with other writers. It’s not always the lecture a poet gives but the sometimes the practical tip, the encouragement boost, or the new approach to poetry that a poet gives in a guard-down moment that sticks with me. I can’t wait to read what the weeks and months ahead bring to the collective pool of knowledge and inspiration.

Lisa Marie Basille, a poet I met years ago when I judged a contest for her journal, has been up to impressive feats in launching her new online magazine, Luna Luna. It’s impressive enough that somebody can, in addition to writing, giving readings, having books come out, and holding down a day job, launch a popular online mag, but I’m continually impressed by the sheer amount of enthusiasm that Lisa is putting into her work and the amount of ferocious honesty and emotional vulnerability she’s able to put into cultural space.

Tanya Chernov, whose name regular readers will recognize as that of my writing partner, has been inspiring me over the past many months with her long hours and careful attention to the work in her forthcoming poetry anthology, The Burden of Light.  A followup to her 2012 memoir about the loss of her father, The Burden of Light marks Tanya’s return to poetry, and, having read the manuscript, I can vouch for the fact this anthology is both heavy and healing at once. 100% of the proceeds from The Burden of Light will benefit cancer research, and I have no doubt that the experience of reading the book itself will be a gift to anyone who’s experienced illness or loss.

 

In Praise of the Writerly Tribe

After spending what many people know as “Christmas break” teaching an intensive 9-day course at work, spending the outset of 2014 sick with some virus that a student helpfully shared with the group, and spending any remaining downtime readying my classes and workshops for the coming months, I was feeling a little humdrum about the new year. While I’m usually one to embrace any opportunity for resolution making (especially when it comes to writing goals), this year, the change of calendar seemed more like an inexorable march toward more work than a time for celebration and expectation of good things to come.

 

Happily, I had the chance to shake free of my less-than-exuberant mindset with a trip to the Whidbey Island (Northwest Institute of Literary Arts) winter residency. I’d be invited to come give a talk to the MFA students in the program. While I’m sure that many of those who attended my session were smarter than I about the content of my talk, I jumped at the opportunity to return to the program that launched me into the writing world. Continue reading

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