Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dear Elizabeth (Bishop) Sarah Ruhl's Bitersweet Success

My Favorite Poet Now Stars in a Play
It must be really difficult to be a playwright. So many plays I see start out promising and then fall apart in the second act as if now that the characters are introduced,  there's little more to do. Thankfully, seeing Sarah Ruhl's play Dear Elizabeth at the Seattle Reparatory Theater tonight was enjoyable and insightful all the way to the end.

The play, which my friend renamed, "Dueling Monologues" was in turn, funny, philosophical, poetic, and really hearbreaking. The actors playing Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell sit at their desks reciting their letters to each other --- witty, animated, and searingly honest letters. Sometimes they also drink, or rage, or climb towards the moon. Words In Air is the collection of letters between Bishop and Lowell published a couple of years ago. This play made me want to go back to the original letters. A correspondence that lasted 40 years.

On the afternoon of the last performance, March 7th, I will be reading some of Bishop's poems after the show as well as my own Bishop-influenced work. I'm thrilled to share a stage with her -- or as close as is possible in this life. Please come out if you're in the area.

Friday, February 13, 2015

What Makes This 5th Poets On The Coast Different From All Others?

Poets On the Coast Come At Any Age And From Many Backgrounds
Yes, September is not quite here but our 5th Anniversary Poets On the Coast has just a few spaces left. This year we are adding several new projects including a community reading, a dessert reception hosted by Hedgebrook, and a new Museum of Northwest Art collaboration. Poets On the Coast: A Writing Retreat for women will be held in the newly renovated Country Inn in La Conner, WA. If you are interested check out our web site and scroll down to Frequently Asked Questions. Our pre-season rates go up on February 15th so now is the time to say Yes!

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Right Time for The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship and the Writing Life

The Write Crowd by Lori A. May
How many poets and writers understand that living a literary life is not just about pen and paper, publishing and book parties? In fact, there are several other facets to our lives. For this reason I love the music and the much needed subtitle of Lori A. May's new book: The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship and the Writing Life.

Say you're new to town or new to the writing life; how do you accrue street cred? Or simply put: how do you make writer friends? How do you become a writer beyond the page? Lori A. May's book offers a plethora of creative ways to contribute to a writing community from attending local readings to writing book reviews to starting a literary blog. As May states, "giving back can be addictive."

For example, May's states "helping emerging writers develop their voice, supporting what our peers are doing, and cheering the successes of even those we don't know personally needn't be time consuming--- and shouldn't be a burdensome task." In my own writing life I know that when a poet that I've worked with achieves success (begins a degree in creative writing, publishes a poem, or a first book) I am thrilled to have cheered her on; excited to be able to share a little in her success.

And yet the idea of mentoring others is not something anyone ever explained to me.  I instinctively began a blog, a reading series, an editing business because I like to make things happen and I love collaborating with others. My background in community organizing with Amnesty International and Oxfam America certainly helped me do "the ask" at a local coffee shop or write an initial press release.  And it's true: some MFA programs --- Antioch LA and The Rainier Writers Workshop --- ask graduate students to go out into the community as part of their degree. However, for those of us not in school, Lori A. May has created an easy-to-use handbook. Highly recommended.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Happiness in Persistence or Cloud Pharmacy is a Finalist

It's 1:30 in the morning and tomorrow is another crazy day but I needed to pause if only briefly to savor the fact that Cloud Pharmacy is currently a Finalist for the Julie Suk Award from Jacar Press.

This is the time to praise dreams that send books into golden envelopes and off to book contests across the country hoping my words will resonate with readers whose faces I can only imagine. And such a pleasure when that connection happens. It's always improvised and always a true joy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Get There From Here? The Writing Life

As a young woman I kept a postcard of this close to me as I traveled to Scotland, West Africa, and South Africa. I wondered if this was the type of writer I would become: a room of one's own but open to the world. Even the dormer windows are unlatched. Instead, I am a writer about to leave for the college and teach upwards of 75 young men and women how to love writing and film. At least that's the hope. Wish me luck. I will need it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

You Could Be Writing In A Gorgeous Place -- In Seattle

A Place to Write and to Dream
We still have a few spaces in our one day winter writing retreat in Seattle on Saturday, January 24th. The morning is designed for generating new work and includes a publishing salon. The afternoon session is all things on publishing your first (or second or third) book. Message me with any questions. Location is South Lake Union on three bus routes. Lots of parking as well.
To register or for more information check out our website. You can also leave a question in the comments section below. This will be the third year Kelli Russell Agodon and I lead Winter Holiday Workshops (this year we meet during MLK weekend) and the community of women and men that gather is always supremely open, fun, and diverse. We'd love for you to come, too.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Teaching As A Test of Endurance: Week One

Well, the week is not quite over but I feel as if I'm ready for spring break. How can teaching three classes be so exhausting? Am I *that* old and out of energy? No. I hear the same complaint from my younger colleagues. This job takes an impossible amount of endurance.

Imagine beginning the day with a 40 minute commute through traffic. You arrive at your office and find that the radiator valve has broken and it's 85 degrees in your work space. You're already late for submitting your office hours to the department secretary --- in part because no one mentions that the form does not work with Google Chrome. A student drops by who wants to join your already full class. They do not want to take no for an answer.

By the time you arrive at your classroom to begin a three and a half hour teaching block, you're already a bit worn out from fighting with the copier. Surprisingly, your Gender and Film class is filled with a majority of young men --- many of them refugees from the Psychology class that was just cancelled in your same time slot.

And so it goes. Now add on committee meetings, learning a new computer system, and trying to be collegial with your colleagues and the day disappears. After arriving home, eating leftovers, and answering student emails --- it's 9:56 pm. Time to grade papers and plan the next day's classes.

On the positive side: my students seem ready to learn. The majority of them did their first assignment and did it well. Happy Week # 1.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Poetry Across Cultures, Countries, and For More Than A Decade

I am thrilled that Irish poet and fiction writer Geraldine Mills took the time to create an homage to our friendship on her blog today. Yesterday we got to renew the friendship that began in Ireland over a decade ago. The occasion was a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Ireland where we both appeared for the same few weeks. Perhaps because we were both just beginning our careers or perhaps because we recognized something familiar in each other, we stayed in touch.

A few years later when I was invited to Galway to read for the Cuirt Festival, Geraldine and I met up again and since then have found a way to see each other every few years. A stack of books and several fine lines of age between us now, I am so thankful for this sister poet across the water and for the circumstances that will be bringing her to the Seattle area regularly for at least a little while.

To see a list of all the idiosyncratic places we have read together -- bell towers and stepping stones -- you can click here.   To order Geraldine Mill's superb book of short stories Hell Kite - you can click
here. Her work has the sensibility of Margaret Atwood and the urgency of Sylvia Plath. You can't help but read on...