First of all, thanks to Natasha Moni who featured my poem from Field Guide to the End of the World, “Martha Stewart’s Guide to the End Times,” on her 30-poems-for-poetry-month feature on her blog.
And the new Spring 2017 issue of Jet Fuel Review is out, complete with two poems from my new manuscript in them, “Self-Portrait as Final Girl” and “In the Movie of My Life’. This issue also features great work by my friends E. Kristin Anderson and Martha Silano, so be sure to check out the whole thing!
I wrote a poem last night about Van Gogh’s “Almond Blossom” series of paintings, as I was reminded of them as I was taking pictures yesterday. We had this really beautiful late afternoon light after a grey drizzly day. Van Gogh was really interested in how the light in the south of France might be more like the light of Japan, and was very entranced with the styles of Japanese painters of ukiyo-e, or the Floating World. (I wrote about that concept a bit in my book, She Returns to the Floating World.) He painted pictures of branches that began blooming while there was still snow on the trees is Arles, trying to imitate Japanese woodblock prints.
Some more pictures of blooming trees yesterday around our Woodinville wineries:
Speaking of inspiration, I managed to sneak out Sunday night to Open Books, our all-poetry bookstore, for a “conversation” between Katie Ford and Molly Spencer. Here’s a picture of me with Molly Spencer and friend afterwards. It was great to get to chat and left me feeling inspired the rest of the night.
It’s been a crazy few days – tulip fields, hosting visitors from Japan, reading at Soul Food with friends from Two Sylvias Press – whew! Did I mention two new reviews for Field Guide to the End of the World? Today is the first day I’ve had a chance to download the pictures and recover enough to write a post!
First of all, the new reviews.
–Star*Line reviewed sixteen Elgin nominees, including Field Guide to the End of the World. Excellent (and kind) review by Diane Severson. (It’s in the very middle of the sixteen reviews, so scroll down a bit to find my review.)
–Kathleen Kirk focuses (appropriately, since today is Earth Today and the March for Science) on the environmental issues in Field Guide to the End of the World in her review for Escape Into Life. Thanks Kathleen!
Two new reviews for Poetry Month – who could ask for more?
The Soul Food Books reading for Two Sylvias Press was a wonderful opportunity to see my friends Natasha Moni, Michael Schmeltzer, and Molly Tenenbaum (who played banjo as well as reading poetry!) I always love reading in my own stomping grounds, in Redmond on the East side of Seattle. Here’s a quick pic of the four of us at the reading. I think all of us sold books, too, which is a nice plus at a reading!
We hosted our friends from Japan Dr. Ayako Ogawa and her husband Tadaaki while they visited here in Seattle. Dr. Ayako is very special to us because she was my little brother’s Japanese professor in college and later became a family friend. She edited my manuscript for She Returns to the Floating World, making suggestions, correcting and proofing cultural references and Japanese words, and she sent it to her friends and family so they could look at it too. Anyway, she’s become a good family friend, was tremendously supportive when I got my scary cancer news last year, and is just one of my favorite people. Glenn and I were happy that we had one sunny day so that we could take them for a brief tour of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in La Conner. We saw one seal but fewer birds (during our March visit we saw five bald eagles, numerous herons, and both trumpeter swans and snow geese, just for comparison.) But the tulips were gorgeous and the weather was a sunny 66 degrees (I believe I’ve mentioned we’ve had a record number of days in a row of rain and cold this year, so..) So a few pictures here from our Skagit Tulip Festival adventures:
I’m reading tonight at 7 PM at Soul Food Books with Natasha Moni, Michael Schmeltzer, and Molly Tenenbaum. I hope to see you there! Read more here!
I’m bringing Dr. Ayako Ogawa and her husband, our friends from Japan who are visiting us and who are always a delight. If you’ve read She Returns to the Floating World, you know she helped me with the translations and cultural references in that book. She was also my little brother’s Japanese professor in college, and has become a good family friend.
We’ve been having some rough weather here in Seattle this year (see last night’s whipping wind and driving rain that got me freezing and soaking wet in about ten seconds of walking) and are really hoping for at least one nice day to get up and around the tulip fields at Skagit! Whenever we have people visit, we always seem to have miserable weather. I swear Seattle has nice days sometimes…just not since last October. Ha! I’m hoping for a bit of a break tonight, too. It’s no fun going out in the pouring rain for poetry – but on the other hand, where better to spend a rainy night than in a coffee shop with poet friends?
Here’s a picture of our kitten, Sylvia, helping me with my writing this morning, though she prefers social media to poetry. Actually, most of the work I’ve been doing for National Poetry Month hasn’t been about creating new work – it’s been about 1. working on my newest poetry manuscript, 2. working on my PR for Poets book for Two Sylvias Press, and 3. going out more and sharing poetry with more audiences. It often happens that April is too busy to get any serious writing done, and that has been the case again this year. But that’s okay.
There hasn’t been much time for serious poetry contemplation in the middle of all the busyness, but I did get a chance to write a review of Marie Howe’s excellent Magdalene. I also finished Siri Hustvedt’s inspiring and thought-provoking book of essays, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, which encompassed the art world, some neurological items, poetry, and philosophy. The first half of the book was much stronger than the second, I thought. (I was also shocked to see a picture of Siri with her daughter in the latest issue of In Style Magazine. Apparently her daughter is a hipster musician of some sort? Worlds colliding!) I’m also almost done with Doris Lessing’s daunting Golden Notebook, on communism, feminism, individuality and creativity in a fractured modern world – Lessing is a very smart writer, and there are great moments in the book, but I would not describe this reading as either “fun” or “light.” It’s taken me a while to get through it, and usually I’m a fast reader. Now, onto my next reading journey!
It’s National Poetry Month, which is one of the busiest for me (and for most poets) – more readings, more requests, more everything. One of my friends, Natasha Moni, is featuring a poet a day on her blog. In the midst of busyness, I try to find a way to achieve balance, to stop from getting too frazzled – or worse, sick. It’s Easter weekend, too, which for many of us, means extra activities, maybe family visits or a special dinner, or at least extra chocolate bunnies.
April’s also a month that offers a lot of opportunities for bliss and beauty. From daffodils, cherry blossoms, tulips, and here in the Northwest, the first promising days of sun, to the fun that comes from sharing poetry with others, April has always struck me as a hopeful month.
Last year at this time I was going through a lot of stressful and difficult medical testing and dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis. This year, while I’m still undergoing a lot of medical testing, but the “terminal” part, if not erased, at least has been put off or given a giant question mark over it. I am feeling more hopeful, but also have the halo effect of the life-or-death tension of the whole last year, which is to notice the things that seem so important but aren’t, or the small things that make me feel grateful for my life.
This last year has helped me rediscover an enthusiasm for things I had forgotten or has made less a part of my life – art and music, being in nature, the joy of adopting a new animal friend, and also the feeling of “nothing to lose” in embracing my writing and also a certain amount of artistic impatience – the sense of trying to capture as much of my life as possible in words before losing them – the words or the life. And also sending my work out into the world as fearlessly as possible.
I am feeling grateful for a certain abundance I’ve experienced in 2017, in the middle of banal things like medical appointments and political anxiety, in the midst of navigating a middle age I thought I might not live to see. I feel like the universe, if not generous in all things, has been sending me friends, adventures, and experiences that add up to me feeling a new sensation – a feeling of gratefulness in imperfection, a feeling of, if not joy, a kind of abundance. The experience of going out (or even staying in, via Skype) and reading or teaching and interacting with students makes me always feel more grateful, if a little worn out. So much of our lives as poets can feel like a life of scarcity – not enough money, opportunities, publishing, prizes, etc. The only thing we often seem to be overabundant in is rejections and submission fees! But really, even if the President/Republican congress decides to take away support for the arts, poetry will still be there. This year, I am focusing on what I have: writer friends, artist friends, at least a couple of family members nearby, some really exciting writing opportunities, a new writer’s group, a new book to take to publishers, and my first intern (as a writer – I worked with interns as a tech manager and also when I was a lit mag editor, but it’s different!). I’m planting things outside my new home, where I hope to stay long enough to see everything bloom next spring. Already, the bulbs we planted last fall have started to bloom, and the kitten loves to help us garden. I feel like in our imperfect worlds, with so many things out of our control, we have to focus on the things that bring us happiness, great and small, the gifts that arrive as a surprise on our doorsteps.
I had the lovely opportunity to read and teach at Highline College in Des Moines, WA today. Not only did they have a huge crowd in a giant auditorium, they had put up several of my poems (and also poems by Terrance Hayes, who’s visiting the college next week) up as broadsides in a huge artistic poetry month display in their public library. I was honored! Here’s a picture of me with Highline professor Susan Rich and very sweet administrator Lindsay Seeley. It was a great day but now I’m ready to crash. I love National Poetry Month but it wears me out!
We’ve been having cool, stormy weather, which has kind of matches by health stuff, marred by upper respiratory stuff and migraines. I’m ready for some great warmer weather AND great health! Hoping for that by the end of the month.
Coming up on the schedule is a reading at Soul Food Books on April 20 with a few Two Sylvias authors like Natasha Moni and Michael Schmeltzer. It’s a fun lineup and a relaxed East side reading venue, so put it on your calendar.
Since last posting, I got to see Alice Notley read thanks to a friend’s spare ticket, and that was really something. I feel like there are twelve times as many poetry events in April as I can possibly attend! I’ve been writing a bit more than usual too, as well as reading more books.
Here are a few pics of April’s Seattle skies…the Pink Full Moon with cloud cover, a rainbow in sunset clouds. And it’s almost the end of the cherry tree season, so, appropriately, a picture of white cherry branches in bloom, and the fallen blossoms after a storm.