Emily and Me

The nerve of titling a poetry reading “Emily and Me!” I can only hope that Emily herself would approve (“And then a Plank in Reason, broke / And I…”).

So tomorrow from 12-1:30, at the Everett Public Library on Hoyt, I’m scheduled to talk about Emily Dickinson and the practice of poetry, plus read some of my own poems. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll drop by. We’ll do some writing, too!



Earth Day

mv spokane

Yesterday I took the two-hour trip to see my mother. It was a sparkling blue day and the ferry crossing was blue, blue, and blue.

It was Earth Day, and we all might continue celebrating by reading something about Science and our besieged planet, or by checking to see if there’s a March for Science coming up in your hometown.

You might write a poem. Here’s an old one by Amy Clampitt:


Late in the day the fog
wrung itself out like a sponge
in glades of rain,
sieving the half-invisible
cove with speartips;
then, in a lifting
of wisps and scarves, of smoke-rings
from about the islands, disclosing
what had been wavering
fishnet plissé as a smoothness
of peau-de-soie or just-ironed
percale, with a tatting
of foam out where the rocks are,
the sheened no-color of it,
the bandings of platinum
and magnesium suffusing,
minute by minute, with clandestine
rose and violet, with opaline
nuance of milkweed, a texture
not to be spoken of above a whisper,
began, all along the horizon,
gradually to unseal,
like the lip of a cave
or of a cavernous,
single, pearl-
engendering seashell.

Amy Clampitt  (1920-1994)


lux2A friend read my blogpost yesterday and sent me this quote. I wanted to share it with you.

“The most important elements in making a poem are diligence, the craft, imagination, passion, and you need to be a little nuts. Read everything, dig in for the long haul, work on your stamina, love poetry, love it hard.”  Thomas Lux


cabin dogwood


…a reminder that I will be reading this Thursday evening in Edmonds — Edmonds Bookshop, 6:30 — with David D. Horowitz, Joannie Stangeland, Robinson Bolkum, and Carolyne Wright — and would love to see you there. Come early and buy a book!


…I recently came across some notes on revision that a friend typed up from a Skagit River Poetry Fest many years ago — the presentation was by Thomas Lux (1946-2017) and because of his death last month, because another poet friend and I had been talking about him, the notes reverberated in me. I retyped the key points, added some thoughts of my own, and used the new handout in my presentation in Bellingham last week.

One of Lux’s points was clarity. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but rather than cut the item, I brooded about it. Clarity as in purity? Clarity of an image itself, or clear as in the way a pool of water can be clear, so that you see through it to what lies beneath?

And on the same trip to Bellingham, I bumped into another reference to clarity. I was visiting Village Books so I impulse bought a copy of Robert Hass’s A Little Book on Formand I found this passage, drawn from Portrait of the Artist, by James Joyce:

“The connotation of the word, Stephen said, is rather vague. Aquinas uses a term which seems to be inexact. It baffled me for a long time. It would lead you to believe he had in mind symbolism or idealism, the supreme quality of beauty being a light from some other world, the idea of which the matter was but a shadow, the reality of which it was but a symbol. I thought he might mean the claritas was the artistic discovery and representation of the divine purpose in anything or a force of generalization which would make the esthetic image a universal one, make it outshine its proper conditions. But that is literary talk. I understand it so. When you have apprehended that basket as one thing and have then analyzed it according to its form and apprehended it as a thing you make the only synthesis which is logically and esthetically permissible. You see that it is that thing which it is and no other thing. The radiance of which he speaks is the scholastic quiditas, the whatness of a thing. This supreme quality is felt by the artist when the esthetic image is first conceived in his imagination. The mind in that mysterious instant Shelley likened beautifully to a fading coal. The instant wherin that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure, a spiritual state very like to that cardiac condition which the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani, using a phrase almost as beautiful as Shelley’s called the enchantment of the heart.” (5-6)

Lately I seem to be bumping into the word clarity a lot, and I am not finished mulling over Joyce’s discussion. But, finally, after repeated sightings, I just this morning remembered a workshop I took a few weeks ago with Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall. As part of a poetry prompt, he asked participants to finish this sentence with an abstract word:

I would like to know more about __________________.

My word was clarity. 


Guest Poet: Paul Marshall

puget sound beachI am pleased to share with you a poem by my friend and fellow Writing Labster, Paul Marshall. Paul’s words have graced this blog before (check out his book, too, Building a Boat: Lessons of a 30-Year Project). Last August, he joined me and a bunch of other mostly-northwest poets in the poetry postcard challenge. His process differed from mine in his usual Marshallian way, and was an inspiration.

One of Paul’s postcard poems will appear in the anthology, 56 Days of August.  In the postcard poem below, Paul writes about a local beach and bears witness to the generations of other visitors who came before him.  It has been many years since I went clam-digging, but I don’t think I’ll ever eat a clam again without feeling his presence.


Native spirits of the Salish Sea
whisper to me as I walk the Double Bluff beach.
The bluff rises like a sentinel
cast in sand and rock.  Standing guard for 15,000 years,
lone soldier left for us by the retreating army of ice.

Butter clams have brought humans to this spot
since the ice left.  Digging into the barnacle
encrusted cobble I feel the cold hands
of the old ones digging alongside mine.
We search for the grey and tan shelled creature that will feed us
this summer night.


Yes, Virginia, There Is a National Poetry Month

During National Poetry Month, I’ll be doing some reading around town to celebrate.

April 8
This Saturday, April 8, I’m reading with the World Peace Poets at 7 p.m. in Bellingham, at Village Books, at the debut of their second volume of collected poems. I have two poems in this collection, and I am a co-editor, but we expect about 20 other contributors to also show up and read. We’d love to see you there.

April 12
I will also be visiting Bellingham with the Writing Lab, Wednesday, April 12. We are opening up our lab time to anyone, St. James Presbyterian Church, 3:30 p.m. (Horizon Room). We will then descend on Colophon Cafe (adjacent to Village Books) for the Chuckanut Sandstone Reader’s Theatre at 7 p.m. Poet Jayne Marek, now of Port Townsend, is the featured reader. To sign up for the open mike, you’ll need to arrive by 6:30.

April 20
Closer to home, I’ll be reading at Edmonds Bookshop on the evening of April 20, along with four other poets including Joannie Stangeland. This event is sponsored by David Horowitz of Rose Alley Press, and you can learn more at www.rosealleypress.com.

April 26
At noon on Wednesday, April 26, I will be reading my poems, and talking about the practice of poetry at the Everett Public Library (2702 Hoyt, Everett, WA). For more information, find this on the library events calendar, under Emily and Me.

I have tried to include plenty of links here, with addresses and all the information you need in order to find me. Please contact me if you think of anything I’ve overlooked.