Poetry Reading, March 2, 6-7 p.m., Hibulb Cultural Center


I would love to get this flyer to just show up in the full here, but I’m wrestling with my limited technological abilities, so I’m not sure it will. Click on the link, if not.

Technology — both a curse and a blessing — sort of like learning that we have discovered 7 planets orbiting a “nearby” sun, then learning that it would take only 40 million years to travel there.

Anywho, not knowing if the flyer will appear or not, I’ll give you the highpoints. Thursday, March 2, from 6-7 p.m., I will be reading my poetry along with my friend and former colleague Kevin Craft, at the Hibulb Cultural Center located at 6410 23rd Ave NE, Tulalip, Washington. I have a new manuscript to read from, and Kevin has a new book, Vagrants and Accidentals (Pacific Northwest Poetry Series, 2017), and I will be reading  new poems. from what I hope will soon be a real manuscript.

An open mike follows the reading. Kevin and I would honored to see you there.


The Lives of the Heart

lives-of-the-heartWhen I was getting an MFA in poetry, one of my professors admonished us to take on more complex subject matter. One doesn’t write about moons and hearts,” he said. But in her 1997 interview with The Atlantic, Jane Hirshfield offered some counter-wisdom. It’s an interview I have reread many times, and it seems to me that Valentine’s Day is a good day to share it with you.

Here’s an excerpt; for the full article, click on the link above.

It’s also true that for some years a central task in my life has been to try to affirm the difficult parts of my experience; that attempt is what many of the heart poems address. It’s easy to say yes to being happy, but it’s harder to agree to grief and loss and transience and to the fact that desire is fathomless and ultimately unfillable. At some point I realized that you don’t get a full human life if you try to cut off one end of it, that you need to agree to the entire experience, to the full spectrum of what happens.
-Jane Hirshfield

Jeanne Lohmann, 1923-2016

barn-in-snowI went searching this morning for a list of poet Jeanne Lohmann’s books to recommend to a friend, and learned that she recently died. I don’t know whether to be sad or to rejoice that the world got to share this woman’s light for such a long time.

Some years ago a poem of mine, “Such Good Work,” was a co-winner of the Jeanne Lohmann prize, and as a consequence I was invited to read my work for Olympia Poetry Network. I met Jeanne, who was then 80+ and bought several of her books. OPN has invited me back twice as their feature — and both times it was a head-first plunge into the poetry mosh pit — such a wild and great group of people to read for and with.

c80907363e0feb56a1c420bfe550b878Here’s a poem reprinted in the Oly-Arts obituary:

“Questions Before Dark” is a 2002 Lohmann poem reprinted on Cordella.org, where her voice may be heard reading two other poems:

Day ends, and before sleep
when the sky dies down, consider
your altered state: has this day
changed you? Are the corners
sharper or rounded off? Did you
live with death? Make decisions
that quieted? Find one clear word
that fit? At the sun’s midpoint
did you notice a pitch of absence,
bewilderment that invites
the possible? What did you learn
from things you dropped and picked up
and dropped again? Did you set a straw
parallel to the river, let the flow
carry you downstream?

How’s that working for you?

lucy-5-centsRemember Dr. Phil? When he was popular, my daughters were small and I was still watching Scooby Doo and Rugrats, but his tagline, “How’s that working for you?” was everywhere.

But this is what I do, and this is how I do it — anytime you defended your practice (in childrearing, in work, in friendships, in getting to the gym), someone was bound to say, “How’s that working for you?”

When I talk with other writers, they often get defensive. “But that’s not how I work.” “I can’t write every day.” “I have to be inspired before I can write.”

If that is working for you, then you should stick with it. I advocate writing every day, but if you can write only when you’re inspired, and you are getting poems written, and manuscripts completed, if you have finished work that you are sending out, then you should stick with your current habits and inclinations. You can also honor where you are in the process. Maybe you’re in the early stages, when you need to mull things over for a long time. Maybe for you that looks like taking long walks or baking cakes.

But if your current practice is not getting you what you want, then it’s time to tinker with it.

If you don’t write every day, try writing every day. Pick an arbitrary length of time (3o days?) and a length of time you can commit to keeping your butt in the chair (BIC, as Jane Yolen says).

If you usually don’t share your work, try sharing it. Go to an open mike, or send three poems or a short prose piece to a journal. (Check New Pages or The Review Review for venues.) Or do both. Just try it.

If you don’t have a writing group (“I have to write alone”) find one. I’m sure they’re advertised mindingthemusesomewhere (Craig’s List? check your local library?). Find one or create one. Read Writing Alone or With Others or Minding the Muse for more ideas.

If you usually wait for inspiration to strike you, try seeking it out instead. Buy a book of exercises and actually do them. Read the sorts of poems or stories you would like to write. Read one poem and write it out in your notebook. What moves could you make that would be similar? How can your moves be radically different?

If you usually write at home, try writing at a coffee shop or at a library. If you usually sit in a chair with your feet up and your notebook on your lap (my bad habit), try sitting at a desk. If you write on a computer, try writing in a notebook (and vice versa).

Experiment. See what works.