Monday, June 30, 2008


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Closed for the Summer

See you in the fall!

Beach Huts

Happy Summer!

Summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind....

Since I'm quoting Seals & Crofts (1972), summer must be starting. A few things before I close up shop for summer--

New Kid in Town & Up All Night—

The excitement of having a new cat caused my older cat Abby to somehow get locked out of the house. All my cats are indoor cats so this was quite the excitement when we noticed her sitting on the back porch panicking. I’m wondering if maybe this was her attempt to get the attention back onto her, perhaps the cat version of “I don’t like my new little brother so I’m running away.” Except, the door must have shut and because she’s normally a nocturnal cat that hides, we didn’t notice she was missing and went to bed early.

But oh the guilt I felt this morning when I realized she was outside all night by herself. Poor dear. Our area is known for coyotes eating cats and strange creatures roaming the midnight hours, so thankfully, my little cat hid under our porch all night and was fine. Anyway, she is back inside and happy again. And we’re doing a headcount to make sure all our furry friends are accounted for before bed (I still have no idea *how* she got out.) Though honestly, I don’t think she’s going to go near an open door for the rest of her life.

Stepping Out—

Second Manuscript feels good about itself and is heading out in the world in a new outfit.

Writing Shed—

As I type this, shrubs and pussywillow blocking home to shed are being cut down. We’re on our way. I’ve taken the before photos. Can’t wait for the after.

Postcard from the beginning of summer—

And good thoughts to everyone over the summer in all that you do. Take time to watch the clouds and drink a cold glass of lemonade. Carry a notebook, but don’t work too hard at anything. Relax.
I may stop by here and leave a virtual postcard, but I’ll be back for sure in September, so until then have a great ride!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Peace of Wild Things

This is why Ace's middle name is "Wendell." Named for who I'm currently reading--

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry


A real photo of Ace. I have none when his eyes are open, he was being very lazy during his photoshoot.

Also, Sandra pointed out that Ace's initials are AWP (Ace Wendell Presley - this is what happens when three family members try to name a cat). Anyway, I'm quite amused with the AWP coincidence, only a poet would do something like that.

New Yorker on Blurbs

I saw this on January's blog and had to share it --

Here's a snippet from the NEW YORKER article (which mentions Paul Guest as well), but I love the line about the Playboy Mansion--

" The cover of the promotional copy of “My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge,” Paul Guest’s second collection of poems, asks “What do John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, Robert Hass, Mary Karr, Campbell McGrath, and Mark Strand have in common?” The answer, inside: “They all admire Paul Guest’s new book of poems.” As far as seduction rituals go, this blurb is the poetry equivalent of inviting you to a sleepover at the Playboy mansion.

Of course, as with pick-up lines, there’s bound to be some post-encounter regret—for parties on both sides. My publicist friend mentioned an editor she knows who longs to sum up her past with a T-shirt that reads, 'I feel bad about my blurbs.'"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Confession Tuesday

I know, I said LAST week was my last confession Tuesday, but I'm still around (thank you clouds), but also I have a little news... we adopted a new cat and

I confess, this is not my cat (see above photo). BUT the one I adopted a cat looks very much like this cat and I haven't uploaded my photos yet. So, let's just pretend it is my cat.

The cat has the odd name of Ace Wendell Presley. Each of us choosing a name for it. Ace is the name my daughter choose, I think because she's been gambling lately at the casino and is always hoping for an ace in her hand. Okay, actually, I think there is a cartoon dinosaur with that same name. I named it Wendell after Wendell Berry because a friend just loaned me his book. And my husband went with Presley after Lisa Marie... I'm kidding, actually Elvis, though I think he wanted to name Elvis, but ended up with the 3rd naming spot.

So Ace the Kitty, is the mellowest cat I've ever seen. You can carry him however you want and he doesn't freak out, bite or claw. He wants only to be pet and he doesn't do that awful NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO growl in the car when you take him for a drive (not that I'm touring him around town, but from the pet store back to my house, he just did one small "meow" then rested quietly and patiently in his cat carrier.) And given that all my cats have been psychopaths (a term I use with love and only in the best possible way), I'm not sure what to make of a cat who doesn't stick to the ceiling when you surprise him or doesn't want to claw your face off when you accidentally pet him one time more than it seems he would like.

Hopefully, I'll have some photos to post soon, but just imagine the cat above with closed eyes because this kitty believes highly in his beauty sleep.

And the story behind this guy? He was found outside in my town just hanging around. They've looked for weeks and no owner has claimed him or called the shelters for him, so looks as if we're back into the Kennel club-- 3 cats (Eliot, Abby, & now Ace), one golden retriever (Buddy Holly), one hedgehog (Hedgie), one betta fish (Neruda), and a series of unnamed goldfish in our pond. And people ask why I don't have more kids. Seriously, if I had more kids, it would only be to help with our growing family of pets.

For some reason, I just knew this was going to be our cat. Even another poet friend happened to see it and thought it should be my cat too. We weren't even looking for a cat. And maybe that's why we found him. My other cats are making Ace feel comfortable by hissing and spitting at him. They are in a general state of disgust that there home has been invaded by a grey and white fluffybottom. So be it. They were all cats who needed homes once and came from various non-glamorous lives themselves--Eliot taken from an Albertson's grocery cat and Abby was rescued from the woods.

Anyway, here I am. Another Tuesday. I promise to be gone by next week.

I said I wasn't confessing and that was last confession for the summer, but I guess I have to confess for that unintentionally lie. Please forgive me for being an optimist with our weather, I swore I would be outside cutting down trees for my writing shed. I confess I've lived in the Northwest for 39 years now but still always trust the weather to change before it usually does.

And bless this cat.

Eco-Friendly Toothbrushes & Have a Green Summer

Well, I'm still around finishing up a few projects with my manuscript and also thinking about life and the general state of the world and our environment. I'm realizing I can walk softer on the earth and leave a smaller footprint if I just make a few better choices and support companies who are trying to create a better future. For example--

I just found out about these Preserve Toothbrushes that are sold at Target for $2.04

Here's what I like about them--

When it is time to replace your toothbrush (dentists recommend switching it every three months) send the toothbrush and case back to Preserve using our postage-paid label to be re-processed into plastic lumber for picnic tables, boardwalks and decks.

The company also makes razors that can also be recycled as well as other better-for-the-world items.

Anyway, like most, my toothbrushes have always been well, disposable and I had never considered finding one that could be recycled. I think so much of life is habit. For example, it takes me awhile once the weather changes to remember that I don't have to take the car someplace--I can walk or ride my bike. So many times I jump in my car then think, "I could have biked here."

Maybe all of this is reminder to just notice what choices we are consciously making and what choices are just happening out of habit. I think habit wins much of the time with me. I'm hoping to break that and try looking at my life differently, how can I live in a better way.

Anyway, if you want more info on the company behind these products, you can check out Recycline here. It's nice to find a company who is trying to make a difference.


BTW, I've had spotty internet service all day, so hopefully tomorrow I'll have some cat photos to share. I know, posting cat photos on your blog is a no-no, I will become my own cliche' for the summer. Still, he's a supercute/supersweet cat and he wants a little celebrating.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Some quotes to take you into summer--


"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
Henry David Thoreau

"Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to nurture it in solitude and to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads."
Erica Jong

Dreaming and hoping won't produce a piece of work; only writing, rewriting and rewriting (if necessary)--a devoted translation of thoughts and dreams into words on paper--will result in a story."
Roberta Gellis

There is no perfect time to write. There's only now."
Barbara Kingsolver

"When I start a book, I always think it's patently absurd that I can write one. No one, certainly not me, can write a book 500 pages long. But I know I can write 15 pages, and if I write 15 pages every day, eventually I will have 500 of them."
John Saul

"The worst thing you write is better than the best thing you didn't write."

Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt."
William Shakespeare

"Don't let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was."
Richard L. Evans

When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.
John F. Kennedy

You must do the things you think you cannot do."
Eleanor Roosevelt

"Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs."
Henry Ford

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

"The harder you work, the luckier you get."

"Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs."
Malcolm Forbes

Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go."
William Feather

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Fremont Bridge Troll

Speaking of Fremont (the center of the universe)--

One of my favorite things in the Fremont area of Seattle, The Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge. And yes, that's an actual size 70's VW bug in his hand.

Happy Solstice

This photo is from the Fremont Solstice Parade 2007-- not mine, but too pretty not to share


Still around finishing up a few projects. Almost done.


My daughter gave me her birthday list today. Here's what she wants--

World Peace

**I can probably make one of those happen.


Thanks to everyone who has given me summer reading ideas. I have been checking them out.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Last Day of School & Summer Reading

So, it's official, summer has begun. Now someone tell that to the weather (oh, the weather is such a tease).

I'm organizing my summer reading, some books on my nightstand and in my bookbag--

The Gift by Lewis Hyde

This I Believe, An Anthology of Essays from the NPR Series by the same name

Consider the Lobster and other Essays by David Foster Wallace

Buddha Mind, Buddha Body by Thich Nhat Hanh


But I'm still looking for a great novel to read this summer? Any suggestions?

Welcome Summer!

Turin, Italy

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Confession Tuesday, The Critic's Edition

Moses by Michelangelo in the St. Peter's in Chains church (San Pietro in Vincoli) in Rome, Italy

Dear Readers,

I confess this will be last confession until September. I'll do my best to do things I can confess. I confess I am only a risk taker on paper. As a child, I wanted my Camp Fire Girl name to be Kekoa because it meant "courageous one." I think what we love in others we want to find in ourselves. So maybe this summer I'll be Kekoa, or maybe I'll just be Kelli (which stands for "Warrior Woman.") Or maybe I'll find my adventure on paper, or by horseback, or the geysers of the world.

To the confessional!

I'm still planning on a writing shed and am even a little more inspired about it today. There's a lot of cutting and building to do, but there's also a lot of summer to do it in.


I read Billy Logan's review of Ted Kooser's poems and I felt as if Logan had just put on his big boy pants and wandered out onto the playground again. If anyone believes a well-written review includes a sentence like this--

"Just when I thought that Kooser didn’t have a brain in his head, however, he surprised me."

then you've just been Punk'd. Trust me dear Reader, when a critic is trying to be so entertaining that he pulls out his whoopee cushion and hand buzzer, there's a desperate need to noticed and not in that good outstanding glad-you're-part-of-society way, but in the "I'm getting old, insecure, and need a Corvette so you overlook my inadequacies way" he's likely to wear the Ego Trip jock strap along with the Self-Important sweat bands off to band camp just so we can overlook his broken flute.

And how simple not to like Ted Kooser's Valentine's poems, I mean, people can actually understand them so they can't be good. This is like criticizing the moon for being too romantic, for showing up uninvited and routinely every night. I want to like Billy, but he's always eating paste in the back of the room and that doesn't sit well with me. Paste is not good for anyone.

But the positive of this review is that people love a car wreck, so perhaps this show of cleverness will sell a few more books for Kooser. And in this case I find no fault in Kooser's driving as he's just been hit by the showy Corvette. You see, I own one of the first copies printed by Brooding Heron Press here in Washington and when this crash occurred, I ran first to the pick-up truck to help Ted (who actually needs no help) and not the Corvette with wheels spinning and the driving shouting, "Did you see what I just did?" Of course we did, you've got your radio blaring.

Yes, I confess I read Billy Logan because I had to see what he would say, just as I would watch the class clown fart around with a paperclip and an electrical outlet with the slight hope that maybe he'd get a zap himself-- same paperclip, different day.


If what I dislike in others is what I dislike in myself, then I too need to find the good in others as much as possible. Wag more. Bark less.


I recently saw a bumpersticker that said "Cheney/Satan 2008" and it made me laugh. This completely negates my statement above. I guess I should say Satan a nice tail.


And speaking of parts of a devil, I chose the above photo because it was my favorite Michelangelo sculpture I saw in Rome. What did I love about it? The horns. Why? Because when Michelangelo was translating "the radiance of the Lord", there was a similarity in the Hebrew between the word for "beams of light" and "horns." His carving was created from a mistranslation.

I've read others say the horns represent "beams of light" because there was really no good way to show beams of light in marble, but I tend to believe it was mistranslation as I don't think Michelangelo would have carved (or painted) the sun with horns to show its radiance. Satan sun.

I think his depiction of Moses, horns and all, adds a little normalcy to a man we love to call genius. If a genius can end up making Moses look like the devil and we call it radiance, there is hope for all of us in all aspects of our life and our own creations. Our imperfections are what create our beauty and our uniqueness. Never want that perfect nose or flawless skin, there's splendor in our horns.


Billy, I'd love you for your horns alone, but my heart belongs to Ted.




Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer Hiatus...

Dear Reader,

I'm packing up shop this week, meaning, I'm leaving the laptop inside and wandering out into the world again.

I live in the Northwest, which means for the last 9 months I have worn a halo of fog, of cloud cover.

Last night I looked at my home--shoes everywhere, sand everywhere, I've got a terrible burn on back-- Hallelujah, it's summer! We made it! And now I must worship the glowing orb, the dragonflies, the blooming everything.

I may check in occasionally and leave a virtual postcard, but mostly, my life will away from the computer until the air starts to get cool again.

This week I'm finishing up projects, maybe I'll send out a poem or two so I can look forward to Clara, our mail lady bringing me something good. But mostly, summer for me about connecting with the beach, the garden, the forest, the sea, with family and friends, always with family and friends. It's about filling up again and reconnecting with the natural world, which I only skim by.

Plus, it's my time with my family, downtime and vacation time and camping time. And look at this photo with Mt. Rainier in the background, summer is gorgeous in the Northwest and I need to be outside being part of it, I mean, we live in the Northwest, it will be cloudy/rainy/windy/foggy before we know it. I need to soak up some Vitamin D and Dairy Queen chocolate chip cookie dough + M&M blizzards. Life is about milkshakes and downtime.

I hope you each get some days just to sit and watch clouds change shapes. A few more posts this week, then I will see you in the fall.

Happy sunshine.

A Treehouse of Her Own

My essay A Treehouse of Her Own appears in this edition of Literary Mama for Father's day.

I've linked it up if you're interested.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil featured on The National Book Critics Blog!

How cool!

I just learned Aimee Nezhukumatathil was featured here on the National Book Critics Blog.

Her mini-essay, "Calendars Poetica" is featured on the blog.

It has this description below-

'Ars Poetica' literally means the art of poetry and it generally follows that an ars poetica poem is thought of as a poem about writing a poem—a way of knowing, a way of seeing a poet's rhetoric within a poem itself. Here then, is my take on writing through the 2007-08 year.

* * *

Anyway, it's wonderful how she writes about each month and where she is with her writing. I love the image she has for January and I love how she ends the essay.

Congrats Aimee!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Suggested Blog Topic: John Ashberry

I realize I wasn't really sure what to say about John Ashberry, and I guess because he's never really been a poet I've studied or followed the way I've followed other poets.

I guess he has always seemed like the statue on top of the hill-- a little untouchable, a little removed.

So I found this so you can hear a little of John in his own words. He has a calmness about him, a cadence in his speech and in his poems we can learn from.

After watching this, he seems less like someone I'd move away from. If you're interested in reading Ashberry, here are the books I'd recommend--
Some Trees, The Double Dream of Spring

For anyone who has a Facebook account, you should watch this...

Okay, this is pretty funny. It's from the UK, so there may be a couple of words they say that may not be appropriate in a workplace (though they sound a lot nicer with a British accent), so there's your warning if you're watching this at your job.

It's called Facebook in Real Life...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Suggested Blog Question: what is your alter ego name is, or favorite Poet Name?


Okay people, this one is for you-- the question was for me to ask you to post what your alter ego name is, or favorite Poet Name.

**I like this, so I'm going to add to it a bit. Let me know the answer to these questions in the comment section---

So, did you ever go by a fake name in high school, college later?

If you had fake ID, what was your name on it?

Did you ever have a nickname?

What's your favorite alter ego name for yourself?

If changing your name wasn't a huge pain and we could go back in time so everyone knew you as that name, would you change your name? If yes, to what, what would be your name as a poet?


What's your favorite poet name of a real life poet?


So no one has to be first (and since I posted these) I'll answer first--

So, did you ever go by a fake name in high school, college, later?

Growing up as a girlchild, we were constantly going by different names and changing our names. It was like trying on a new shoes. I think for girls this starts when you are 8 and pretending your best friend who looks nothing like you is your a) sister b) twin

To make it more believable, we'd become Kristy and Chrissy to anyone who asked (and assure them that yes in fact, we were twins). Yes, it seemed much more beliveable to think my mum would have two daughters with names that sounded so similar--yes, that would be so much fun for her.

Of course, my best friend growing up was Chinese, so I think people were kind of on to our "twin scam" from the very beginning.


By high school, I'm not sure we ever gave anyone our real names.
At the beach we'd go by Candy, Buffy, and Whitney.

By the end of high school, I went by Madison Frost. (This was after the movie Splash and *way* before there were a 1000 little Madisons in Baby Gap. This was before there was a BabyGap.)

I remember once telling someone my name was Laney McGonnigle, but totally butchering the last name when I said it, so it was obvious I was an undercover agent.

It was then I realized simplier was better.


If you had fake ID, what was your name on it?

I worked the ASB ID card booth as a junior in high school so I had many. My favorites were:

Illek Llessur (which I told people was my French name-- Read it backwards to see what I was actually doing)


Candy Rascal (which was a nickname my best friend gave me for Kelli Russell) When you're 16, you think this name sounds cute, at 39, you think "what was I thinking?"


Did you ever have a nickname?

Kel, Kels, Guido, Kellian


What's your favorite alter ego name for yourself?

Hmm, I don't think I have one anymore. For awhile, the not-so-nice Kelli was referred to as Kaylee in my 20's, but now, I'm sort of just me.

Wait, I have filled out forms with the name "Molly Jones" from the Beatles' song (Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da). Obviously, my husband goes by Desmond.

Maybe this would be a good exercise for me. Think of my alter-ego name (or name in Bizarro world).


If changing your name wasn't a huge pain and we could go back in time so everyone knew you as that name, would you change your name? If yes, to what, what would be your name as a poet?

Kelly - with a Y would have saved me years of not having a pretend license to hang on my bike.

Hmm, you know, I might. But I'd probably keep Kelli or Kelly and just have a new last name. I'm not sure what it would be though. It's sort of the same reason I don't have a tattoo, I change my mind a lot.


What's your favorite poet name of a real life poet?

Mary Jo Bang

I like it because it sounds like Mary Go Boom or Very Go Bang. And what I thought she looked like versus what she really looks like are two completely different images.

* * * *

Okay, so now it's your turn. Let's hear your answers to theses (answer 1 or all!)

So, did you ever go by a fake name in high school, college later?

If you had fake ID, what was your name on it?

Did you ever have a nickname?

What's your favorite alter ego name for yourself?

If changing your name wasn't a huge pain and we could go back in time so everyone knew you as that name, would you change your name? If yes, to what, what would be your name as a poet?


What's your favorite poet name of a real life poet?

In the Monkey House...

Tim meet Thom

Thom meet Tim


I'm pretty amused after reading a comment from C. Dale and realizing that in my post below on manuscripts I attributed the Monkey House quote to Thom Gunn instead of Tim Gunn (I've decided not to correct it because it kind of cracks me up).

Now, that's an example of completely being in the monkey house when I confuse a poet with a fashion consultant.

Welcome to the jungle.

Suggested Blog Topic -- What is your process for putting together a manuscript, and how has your process changed the second time around?

J suggested a great blog topic (sorry Ashberry, one more day...) on

What is your process for putting together a manuscript, and how has your process changed the second time around?

Book one, Book two--

My first manuscript was put together in sections because that's how I saw it unfolding, a conversation of what stops us in our lives--death, love, and illness. Honestly, sections make putting a manuscript much easier. It's like three little chapbooks all woven together with ribbon, or three friends talking.

It's good for the reader to, they're led along with signposts. Here we may see sadness. Here we may faith. It's short walks with a guide. It's Hi Friend I Want to Show You a Few Things.

My second manuscript the one I'm considering "done" (though honestly, I think of that quote-- Poetry is never finished, just abandoned--is more applicable as I could honestly pull a Whitman and revise this the rest of my life) has been much harder to organize because there are (insert heroic horn-blowing here) no sections.

I am asking the reader to trust me the whole way through. I am saying, we've got a long walk ahead of us and when we finish together, you'll be glad you came. I think it makes it harder to satisfy the reader, there may be places where the reader if I know where I'm going, if there's going to be a payoff in the end. I hope so. That's the goal of it, to say, trust me here and this will turn out okay.

That has been the challenge of this manuscript, my belief that I can create a strong book without sections. I may be wrong--I hope not--but I could be terribly wrong. But I guess that is how things have changed with book two, I'm challenging myself and the reader a little more. I don't want someone to pick up my book and think they know what to expect. I don't want to a caricature of myself either. I want to show I've grown, changed, and there's still more to say.


The Organizational Element

I do believe there needs to be an underlining organization quality to every manuscript, whether it be a narrative arc, sections, images from one poem leading to another, alphabetized by the first word of every poem-- there needs to be something the poet is aware of at play. The reader does not need to necessarily be aware of this, the reader should just be able to read it (& enjoy it) without knowing the Cliff Notes on the book, but I believe the poet needs to know these things.


Fears or The Monkey House--

Ever since I watched that episode of Project Runway where Chris was working on his garments and decided to use human hair as an accessory and Thom Gunn said to him:

"When you first enter into the monkey house in the zoo, you think, 'Oh my god, this place stinks!' And after you're there for 20 minutes, you think, 'It's not so bad.' And after you're there for an hour, it doesn't smell at all! But anybody else coming into the monkey house freshly thinks, 'Oh my god, this stinks!' You've been living in the monkey house."

I sometimes fear that I'm living in the monkey house because I have become so focused on this. My decisions, I doubt. Then I worry what I believe is a beautiful poem, actually stinks. Thankfully, many (or most) of these poems have been published --and by people who aren't my friends--so I'm hoping I am not in the monkey house. But I do think about that, especially late at night when I get incredible ideas to retitle my poems through the Abstract Art Title Generator and in the morning have to go back and fix all that I broke.

Because of this, I no longer revise my manuscript at night as that is when I'm at my most creative and in fact, am not the poet or the editor, but the madwoman adding human hair to her poems and calling it a fur coat.



Mostly with a book, I have a bigger idea. I've never been one to write poems from Date X to Date X, organize them, and send them off. I am always thinking about a great conversation, about what exactly is this book trying to say. This is not because of marketing, because I want the publisher to say, "Here's a great book of poems about ______________," but because I see the book as a bigger work of art. The poems are only sections to a bigger poem, the book. Someone more famous said this better than I just did, (I think I just quoted it recently too.)

Anyway, my process is to write with an idea for the book. When I finish a poem that I feel is strong enough, I ask myself if this poem deserves to be in the conversation (aka "the manuscript"). If it does, I wait a bit (to make sure I'm not just loving it because it's my new baby) then add it in. Later, I reread the manuscript remove anything I feel is no longer working. It's the hard part, I hope I'm making it better, but worry sometimes, and occasionally, have had to returned to the manuscript when I've removed too much.


There are a million ways to put together a book of poem. This is just one way.

Let's Pack!

This sounds fantastic!
I've worked with Peggy before and she's an incredible poet and teacher.

The Extravagant World: A Writing Retreat in Costa Rica April 17—26, 2009

Imagine the flash of color as a flock of Scarlet Macaws flies overhead. Hear what silence really sounds like in a mangrove forest. Or, find yourself face to face with a Two-toed Sloth. These are but three of the hundreds of unforgettable experiences we will have during our writing retreat in Costa Rica. Here we will all slow down, watch, and listen. Directed writing exercises prior to our trip will engage us in the work of close observation. In Costa Rica, we will concentrate on extending our sensory awareness, paying mindful attention to our surroundings and to our inner landscapes. We will write each day, drawing from what we take in as we view the incredible variety of plant and animal life in the rainforest. Precise images transformed into language will change how we see our place in the world. We'll have opportunities to share new work and to listen actively to the words of other writers, enjoying that rare gift--time to write in a place of amazing beauty.

This is a writing retreat for writers across genres. Limit 12 participants.


Peggy Shumaker's work is shaped by two arid landscapes--the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona and the subarctic desert of interior Alaska. She's very much looking forward to the ways that wetter places--the rainforests and cloud forests of Costa Rica--will enter and change her imagination. Recent books include Blaze, a collaboration featuring Shumaker's poems and the art of Alaskan painter Kesler E. Woodward, and Just Breathe Normally, a lyrical memoir.

Eloise Klein Healy, cofounder of Eco-Arts, and Founding Chair of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Antioch University Los Angeles, has lead five writing/natural history trips to Costa Rica with her partner, Colleen Rooney. Healy is often described as an "urban nature writer" for her examination of how wildlife lives and thrives in metropolitan areas (Artemis In Echo Park). Her most recent collection of poems is The Islands Project: Poems For Sappho. Healy is also a reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Colleen Rooney, co-founder of Eco-Arts, has a doctorate in environmental studies with an emphasis on the social sciences. Her core belief as an environmentalist is that the natural sciences can provide us with data about global environmental problems but only a profound change in human behavior can effect needed solutions. Colleen will serve as our guide to the birds, plants, and animals of Costa Rica. She will also provide natural history presentations as we travel around the country.

COST: $2,200 (includes workshops and lectures, lodging, in-country transportation, and most meals)

For more details, see Click on Costa Rica 2009. Here you will find our travel itinerary, writing retreat schedule, list of

activities (guided walks, park visits, hanging bridges tour, optional zip line, mangrove forest boat trip), cost of the program (including lodging and food), and travel tips.

Gratitude List--

1. For the quietness of power outages and then the lights returning

2. Synchronicity

3. Books

4. Breakfast Blend coffee

5. red grapes

6. my space heater

7. Neruda the betta fish

8. Mama deer and her two babies

9. Cars driving the speed limits and with drivers not on their cell phones

10. Friends, family, and countrypeople

Confession Tuesday

Rain God Tláloc

* * *

Dear Reader, it's been a week of wet weather since I've last written. While part of the country heats up, cooks eggs on the sidewalk, we in the Northwest must have been raindancing because our June is liquid sunshine. Reader, I'm wearing wool, it's June 10th and it's 46 degrees out and pouring. Let me confess as a native Northwest girl, this is not cool anymore.

Now, to the real thoughts--

I am so ready for summer to begin and to put away my laptop. So ready. Though there is this thing about email that gets to me, I hate it piling up. So I'll have to check it, but not as much. Definitely not as much. If you need to reach me, call me or snail me. I love receiving letters by post.


My 2nd manuscript-- Reader, what can I tell you? I've finished my second mss, but sometimes (recently) doubt it. I think it's because second manuscript and I have been spending so much time together. I'm admiring second manuscript's eyes, but worrying maybe they aren't as fine as I think, maybe they boring, poorly-written eyes.

Second manuscript tells me she's a hardworker, but I ask her if she can work harder. I ask her if she's really doing all she can do or if she's talking about her father just to be difficult. Second manuscript is telling me that sometimes I put her in outfits she's not comfortable with. She says sometimes I make her into something she doesn't want to be. I'm sorry second manuscript, I forget who you are sometimes. I'll try to be better.


I never skip breakfast. Ever.


I saw 2 movies this week. PS I Love You (DVD) and in the theatres Indiana Jones. Watching Indiana Jones was like returning to the 80's with that orchestra music in the background secretly adding the I.J. theme song into the scene. I must say, I love big movies like that with their thickness, their old-school lines that no one would ever say, their deep sounds of the orchestra and stunts. It makes a movie like 27 Weddings, which just kept me entertained enough not to turn off the TV, feel like slipping into a thin shawl instead of the big leather bomber jacket I bought on a whim after watching Top Gun.

Oh and PS I Love You? Fantastic. I love death movies that are funny. And I learned it was originally written by a 21 year old women from Ireland at 10 pm until 6 in the morning. Love that.


I think I have one more confession coming until I begin my summer of sin. Okay, it's totally not going to be a summer of sin, it will just be a summer of totally.


I still have to blog about a suggested blog on John Ashberry. I'm not really an Ashberry fan, but I like this last name. But think it fits a man more than a woman.


If I chose my own last name it would be Springsteen, Costello, Madrid, or something with an O'. Like O'Malley, but not O'Malley. Something you'd name a bar after.


I have no poetry news in the last month or so. I haven't been submitting much. Mostly I've been working on my manuscript and I put a chapbook together as well, which I've sent out to one place.


I confess I haven't done a gratitude list in a while, but it's not because I'm not grateful. I realize that in certain ways, I live a few different ways-- one is just skimming the surface, not really connecting and sort of above the life's energy (doing a lot, but not doing much). The other, which is my preferred way of living is to be part of the energy, to feel connected and part of life and it's synchronicity. I

It's sort of life watching the people in the water from the beach. You see them, they see you, but I'm not really part of things. Lately, it feels as if I'm moving closer to the water, I'm wading around the edges wondering how to dive in.

I think it's time for me to return to the Artist Way and reconnect with the world. Gratitude is one part. Just paying attention is another.

I think I have a little tunnel vision. I think I have a lot of tunnel vision. There's a part of me that hopes there's a good friend will run by me and grab my hand to pull me back into things. There's another part that knows I just need to take that first step.


Reader, you probably just read that and thought, WTF? What is she talking about? I have a noisy head and this is what it's thinking about. I think I need an artist date.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Suggested Blog Topic-- Where do you find inspiration?

Suggested Blog Topic-- Where do you find inspiration?

Easy answers:


Right next to perspiration, but not as stinky

Right after "inspect" in the dictionary


Better answers:

The museum

In others' books/poems

In science articles

In mongreens (misheard quotes)

In Paul Simon songs

In art magazines

In my iPod (podcasts of writer interviews, the Poetry Foundation's podcasts where they read poems)


In the shower

Long drives (though with gas prices, I should change this to long hikes or bike rides)

Late at night

Anytime I don't have the time to write, inspiration is there

* * * *

I think by using the word "find" in the question, there is an assumption that inspiration is lost. It's not. Sort of like that joke when the blessed woman said, "I found Jesus," and the Buddhist says, "I didn't know He was missing." The world is an inspiring place, we just need to take a moment to look at it through the eyes of artists, of writers. Honestly, inspiration really isn't hiding.

We do incredibly weird stuff here and pass it off for normal. The whole bottled water industry is proof of that. Or the daily $4 latte. Or or or. And it's not that any of that is inspiring, but it's material to write about. But it can be inspiring. Just walking through the grocery store and the selection of Jones Soda can be inspiring, or Muenster Cheese (I love that name, so much Herman Munster without the dragon living under the stairs.) Go to an aisle you never go done. I love the sections with foreign foods, how they sell candles of saints in grocery stores if you know where to look.

And there is natural inspiration everywhere. Just look at the sky. I swear, I cannot look up without being taken with how much more there is than our puny planet. It gets me every time. I've been on this earth 39 years I still call people to look out their window when there's a gorgeous full moon, or a sliver moon, or I yell to my family when there's deer in my neighbor's yard, or the quail in the magnolia tree, or the eagle flies by, or the killdeer is on the side of the road with her babies. I want everyone to see it.

I'm overcome daily by something I see in the natural world though that doesn't always transfer over to a poem. It would be like me cutting a moon out of aluminum foil and saying "It looked like this, but bigger." I lose the moment with the awkwardness of paper, I fumble with my pencil. Still, it inspires me to believe there's bigger reasons, there's gods around us in the form of foxes, owls, the moon rising over the land.

And maybe this is the key to inspiration, whether you are in the city or country, inspiration isn't looking to be found, it's just there. It's the details that make up our daily lives. It's the handsome farmer wearing an iPod driving the tractor through the field or the long black feathers in the hat of a woman leaving a cab. It's what separates the moment from any other moment, the big or little details that make day 13,396 different from 14,129.

I think another easy place to find inspiration is through other artists. One of my very favorite things to do is go to galleries or museums. And I'm inspired how others title the work. Recently at a garage sale (I get inspired at garage sales), I found this book called 19th & 20th Century Prints and Drawings. Besides having incredible images of art, I love just going through and reading the titles.

Here's a few randomly--

Lily & Bud (this is a color woodcut from Japan, but when I read it I thought of a edgy couple in a bar--Lily & Bud and I loved then seeing the image it went with and noticing how different they were).


Song of Broad Axe

Cardbird IV

Still Life with Coca-cola Bottle (obviously, we've moved into Warhol here!)

Many are in French, a whole joyous series by Chagall so I have to do my homework, but inspiring nonetheless.

* * *

I guess the answer to where do you find inspiration is an easy "everywhere." Though it's hard sometimes, especially when life's daily pressures seem to pull your mind from art to let's-just-make-it-to-nightfall. I guess that sometimes one of the blessings of being a writer is actually how little we need to make something. A pencil, some paper. A big stick and a beach.

There should never be the question "What can I write about?" because it's all there for you. Inspiration shouldn't be something you find, but something you try to carry with you. Keep it like a coin in your pocket, it's worth something, and available to you wherever you are, just take notice. Write down three unique moments in your day and see where it takes you.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Charlie's Angels, Poetstyle

I had a late birthday, late celebration of our Dorothy awards dinner with Jeannine (and our lovely man-assistant/photographer husbands). We had fantastic desserts--keylime pie for me, blackberry cobbler for G, and warm chocolate yum-yum cake with raspberry for Jeannine (okay, that's not what it was called but I can't remember it's real name, it might as well be called that as that's what it was.)

Oh, dinner was great too.

Anyway, here's a pic of J9 and me after my idea to do an action shot for the camera. I thought it looked very Charlie Angels or maybe even a little superheroish. Well, J9 look like a superhero, she always does, a stylish superhero with poetic powers.

Somebody turn on the sun... & Thank God

Seattle US-164531
Originally uploaded by zimtschnecke28

I'm just back from a wet walk with another poet. We both were in rubber boots, what does that tell you? Who flipped the calendar to November?

Thankfully, I don't rust.

Hand of God

On our walk, a big black dog ran after my golden retriever. Most golden retrievers are good sports about such things except my dog was kept in solitary confinement the first year of life (his first owners never had him interact with other dogs), so he's completely clueless to the social behavior of other dogs. When he's on his leash, he has no idea what the other dog's signals are, what he thinks is, "I must protect." And that's what he did; he bolted after the other dog who he thought was coming after us.

Because of the rain, my hand slipped and the retractable leash was gone. There was my dog chasing another dog down the street and there was no way I was catching up to him. I yelled his name, but he didn't listen--he was off.

But what happened? How did I get my dog back and how did this dog fight avoid happening? The leash magically bounced from the ground and landed perfectly on the post of the farm's barbed wire fence stopping my dog mid-attack.

Seriously, it was as if someone lifted my dog's leash and placed it on the fence post to stop him.

Poet friend and I stood with our mouths open. Amazing. I went to talk with the owners of the dog and she took the leash off the fence and waited with my dog now completely under control. Drama over. No terrible outcome. Perfect cosmic intervention.

I wish everyone could have seen it. It was one of the oddest things I've ever seen in my life.

And so we continued our walk in the rain talking about poetry as if magic was just part of the plan.

Suggested Blog Question: Do you write during the summer? If not, what do you do?

Suggested Blog Question: Do you write during the summer? If not, what do you do? Do you make any goals?

I've always wondered if because I've spent 20 years in school not including kindergarten, if my schedule—work hard from September to June, play June, July, and August—is still the schedule I keep now. Though I always say I don’t write in the summer, I do. I cannot not write, but there are few projects, few plans. If I write, it’s because something came it, it’s not because I’m sitting down in the morning saying, “Today, I’m going to write.”

During the year, I work with other poets on the side, helping them with their poems/ manuscripts or creating writing prompts for them, except during the summer months. I try to cut away any deadlines I have. I try to cut away anything that makes me have to be accountable for someone or something else. My email piles up. I reconnect with others in the fall. For me, the summer is really a time to fill up again, with family, with sky & sun (if there is sky & sun, right now our weather is saying November again).

My poetry group plans to meet, but we rarely meet. We say twice a month and we see each other once or never. We have good intentions, but good intentions can’t compete with sunshine. We’re from the Northwest, we’ve been deprived of light all winter, we want to soak up our vitamin D, we want to blend into the grass.

When we see sun, we’re confused with the glowing orb in the sky—what is it? We worship its power to dry us off, to clean off some of the green patina we’ve gathered over the winter.

What do I do in the summer—

Mostly, I’m at the beach. Mostly, I’m in the garden or the park or in the forest. Mostly, I’m walking my dog, feeding the goats, swimming or lifeguarding. I’m lugging bikes, scooters, skateboards, and rollerblades to basketball courts. I’m playing tennis and trying to retrieve tennis balls from my non-helpful golden retriever. Mostly, I’m reading books—poetry, non-fiction, memoir. Mostly, I’m interrupted from my book. Mostly, I’m playing a game, throwing a water balloon, spraying someone with the hose.

Saturday mornings, you can find me buying triple-berry jam and veggies at the Farmer’s Market along with giant chocolate chip cookies and kettle corn. You can find me sitting on the picnic table to watch the guitar player and sampling homemade fudge.

During good weather, you can find me in a tent and I pack Ding-Dongs—the only time in the year I buy Ding-Dongs, though I’m the only one in my family that likes them. Most evenings you can find me having dinner on our deck, making s'mores in over our firepit, or just sitting watching the ferry, kids, eagles, sunsets, satellites, stars, meteor showers, clouds, neighbors, trees. I do a lot of watching in the summer.


This year, to hike and kayak more than I did last year. This year, to find some new places to explore, to have a couple new adventures, to let go of anything that doesn’t have to sand or soil. To build my shed (my writing shed).

Goals? Not to have any goals.

Around late-August, I begin to ache for autumn. I clean up the garden, but keep out the patio furniture. I pick blackberries and am usually stained in blackberry. I start to think about autumn, Halloween, and notice the leaves changing slightly. We attend Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival, I roam the literary fair and the visual arts, we become part of a drum circle, I pull my family from the fountains, I always pull them from the fountains, wet and happy. We get a henna tattoo, eat fat burritos and gyros, we listen to bands we’ve never heard of, throw money into the cases of musicians, then straighten out our lives, our clothing for school to begin again. We take down the pool, put away the beach shoes. We give a final sweep to all the sand that has entered and stayed in our doorway and then my writing life begins again.

Suggested Blog Topic-- Finding the Music in Poetry

I'm a little behind in my suggested blog topics, but here's one I received last week that I've been meaning to blog about--

RE: Ideas for blog topics--

In your blog post about the Skagit River Poetry Festival 2008, I found your comments about Elizabeth Austen's suggestion of reading through a poem saying only the vowels especially intriguing. I wondered if you would elaborate on this. While I've heard and read about the musicality of writing poetry this business about the vowels is totally new to me. I've never heard it put in those terms. I guessing this may in fact explain a lot.

****Music through vowels has been taught throughout the years. I'm sure it can't just be a NW thang, though I know many NW poets who teach this in their classes including David Wagoner, who originally learned it from Theodore Roethke.

In David Wagoner's play, FIRST CLASS, which is a play about the teaching career and life and mental breakdown of Theodore Roethke, he writes these lines as if Roethke is teaching a class at the University of Washington. I'll share them with you here because I think Wagoner captures this idea on how to achieve music in your poems so well---


"A poet should have the same controls and develop the same skills a good singer has--tempo, pitch, volume, intensity, timbre, breathing, not breathing,--also known as silence. The big trouble is you have to be your own composer and your own accompanist. Every poem, just like every song, is a series of vowels interrupted by consonants or by silence. And those vowels can have their own music and their own meaning, and they'd be have something to do with what you're saying or at least had better not interfere with it. Blake began a poem, "Truly, my Satan, thou art but a dunce!" Do you hear him start disdainfully high and come down the scale with a thud? I can say--"

(He comes from the top of the scale to the lowest note.)

"Even if we try to sell that grandfather clock, who knows how much dough to hold out for? Ugh!" Or the other way 'Who would know aught for art must first feel at his ease." And watch out for those high nasal e's. They can be deadly to the music of your poem. Why do you suppose Shakespeare had the three witches sing,'When shall we three meet again?' through their crooked, hooked noses? He wanted them to sound like witches. So don't write lines like, "The aspidistra has fungus gnats" unless you want to be a witch.

You don't think this matters? Does color matter in painting? Do pitch and tempo matter to a musician? Can a playwright ask an actor to go out on the stage and say, "I'm terribly angry," and expect the audience to share the feeling? Herrick began a poem, 'Now is the time when all the lights wax dim." Do you hear how slow, how beautifully controlled that is? and Yeasts, whose ear was marvelous wrote, 'All things can tempt me from this craft of verse.' You have to of slow or you'll strangle. Alexander Pope told us, "When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,/The line too labors, and the words move slow.'

* * *

In a recent workshop with David W. he said the best poets these days are writing poems that *sound* like what they are about. If you're reading about soldiers walking through the mud, your poem is wet and heavy sounds, like mud slowing you down and sticking to your boots. If you're writing long lines with a fast beat, you are not honoring your poems' subject. Your voice does not compliment the poem.

Vowels are emotional sounds. The ooohs and aahhs of life. Let them be the sounds that carry your words and thoughts.

If you're wanting to show a peaceful scene and your poems if full of C/K sounds-- chuck and muck, jack and clack, your poem is too noisy for your subject. Now, if you're writing about gunfire, a riot, or chaos and your poem is C/K sounds, you may be onto something.

My best advice for finding music in your poems is read your poems out loud. Read them to your cat, your walls, your space heater. But make your voice say every word. Do not just rely on what your poem looks like on paper. Say it again and again out loud. You will find the extra beat, the word that doesn't fit, the places where you lose the poetry and move into prose. You will find rhymes you didn't hear before and maybe you'll add more, or you'll carry a sound from one line to another. Keep reading your aloud until there is nothing more you can cut out, until it slips from your tongue and you realize, what you've said could not be a paragraph, but could only be a poem.
David W is famous in our parts for saying that many of today's poets are writing "arranged prose." I thought it was insulting the first time I read it, but what he's saying is--

You can just add
a line break

or a stanza break

and make what you're written
a poem.

The more we remember this as poets, the better our poems will be.
Read just the vowels of your poem. Read just the consonants.

There is a reason William Carlos Williams wrote Red Wheelbarrow to look like this--

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white


Can you hear the music in the beats of the poem?

So much depends UPON, a red wheel BARROW, glazed with rain WATER, besides the white CHICKENS.

It's got a nice beat and you can dance to it. We've got--wheel, water, white. We've got glAzed with rAin. We've got besIdes the whIte/ chIckens. We've got A rEd whEEl. Vowels sounds playing together. Lines that break to make the tempo. He's controlling how this poem is spoken.

* * *

Vowels are an easy way to control the mood of your poem or to compliment the subject of your poem. Yes, if you want to be a witch-- It's easy, sneek a few eee's in, see how easy breezy it is to create an eery high pitched sound. Or go low, with the oh, O, row row row your boat, try to say that as a witch.

So to find the music in your poems, you must speak your poems and listen.

Hope that helps!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Anyone But McCain...

Here's to the future and future president--

Congratulations to both candidates for such strong campaigns.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Writing It Real In Port Townsend! A Conference for Fiction Writers, Non-Fiction Writers, and Poets: Thursday, June 26th – Monday, June 30th

Port Townsend is an inspirational place to write and a relaxing place to visit. Come join like-minded individuals in a lovely Victorian seaport where daylight lingers till nearly 10 pm. Our program of lectures, panels, brown bag lunch presentations, small-group discussions, manuscript workshops and in-class writing exercises will guide you to deeper and more meaningful writing. We have three poets on staff who work in prose as well as poetry: Susan Rich, Meg Files and Sheila Bender. All of our lectures and exercises will help you write stronger poems as well as lyric narrative.
Includes a tour and reception at Copper Canyon Press.

Since 1999, our faculty's trademark has been enthusiasm, warmth and genuine down-to-earth instruction in lectures and small-group instruction. Check out our conference highlights for a detailed description of the workshops and lectures.

For fees, registration, travel and accommodation information, and scheduling see our
conference website or email .

Confession Tuesday

It is late morning on a Tuesday and I have not confessed. Though when I think about my post it seems like a confession, or perhaps just me be whiny. Whiny does not equal confessing.

I told my daughter recently that we all grow out of whiny, but that's sort of a lie. I know a few whiny people. Annoying whiny, not funny whiny. I like when people are able to laugh at their situations and I appreciate funny whiny. Funny whiny is knowing you have to do something you don't want to do and appreciate the humor of the horrible task. Annoying whiny believes the world should change to make your life better. Annoying whiny doesn't realized the world doesn't change but we have to.


I guess I'm sort of confessing now, I better keep going to keep the blog gods happy--

I changed my cellphone's ringtone to Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" because I was anxious for warm weather and now I'm afraid I've turned my favorite song into annoying interruption. I think I'll return it to what it was, Elvis Costello's "Every Day I Write The Book."


I saw CD Wright do a poetry reading in her socks.


If I'm ever filling out something that asks my favorite color, I always put "plaid." Actually, it's orange.


White birthday cake with white frosting wins every time.


I'm having a birthday party for a hedgehog and a stuffed zebra tomorrow. I would invite you if I could, but it's a closed gathering. The hedgehog gets a little hissy with strangers, and well, you probably wouldn't have the right shoes for a hedgehog party. I mean, who even has the right dress for a hedgehog party. I'm not sure what the hedgehog will be wearing, but I'm sure it will be sharp. (I think ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" was actually written for a male hedgehog at his birthday party.)


Last week after my poetry group, my friend was going to give me a 20 minute demonstration of the new Wii she bought for her family. I haven't played a video game since college, since Tetris or Zelda, so old I can't even remember who made it. Probably Nintendo.

Anyway, so this Wii thing is --dare I say it-- fantastic. We played baseball (I hit a homerun and pulled a muscle), tennis (I almost knocked over her side table), I did yoga (balance poses and warrior 2), I rode a cow, I did skeet shooting, I played billiards, I bowled. When I got home, I didn't fall asleep until 1:45 because I had so much adrenaline in me.

My favorites were yoga and the balance games, tennis, and baseball. I loved tennis the most, though they did replay the scene where I lost control of my player and jumped into the stands. I've heard parents complain about kids sitting in front of a tv playing video games and not getting exercise but this really seems like quite the active game. I don't think you need to be as wild as my friend and I were, but it was quite fun that way. I think it would hilarious at parties.

I learned later that they put a wrist strap on the remote because people were accidentally throwing them into their TVs.

If you've never seen anyone play the Wii, here's a videos of how it can be different than your normal video game.

Girl Playing Boxing on Wii (she looks -and sounds-- likes she's scared or fighting with invisible bugs, but she's actually just very into the game...)


One of my favorite luxuries in life is ground Starbuck's Breakfast Blend coffee (mild). My husband insists on grinding his own coffee, but I get huge satisfaction from opening a bag of already ground coffee, especially this flavor.


I love it when I see sale people in the "Ask Me, I Know" buttons. Though when I ask, they usually don't know. In fact, they are even surprised to see they are wearing such a button. Maybe they could change it to "Ask Me, I Should Know" as their current slogan is a little misleading. Or maybe I should be asking different questions.


I'm thinking about lunch now, so it's time to say ta-ta. Does anyone say ta-ta anymore. We should bring back ta-ta.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Responses on Payment and Stipends

I thought I'd cut and paste the comments I received for the question I asked about how much you expect to get paid as poet or your poetry stipend. Though some of the responses were posted by anonymous folks, I've made all responses anonymous to protect the innocent and almost innocent.

Here they are in no particular order--

I charge $1600 for a reading, min of $600 for a lecture or class, and min of $500 for a workshop. I will accept less if for a good cause or if I am doing it to help out a friend.


If I have to travel to a reading, I have to get paid at least the amount it costs me to get there. For college visits, which usually include a reading and maybe a class or two, I charge $500-1000.

For conferences, it varies depending on how much it costs me to get there.
It's hard for me to justify doing free readings that cost me more than $100 to get to.


I find it intriguing that we usually say we "give" a reading; maybe we "give" a workshop, but often it's "lead" a workshop. Is a reading a form of "giving," a "give and take" experience with an audience, is it a job? Do we invest a different amount of preparation, adopt a different tone, "feel" differently about events we are paid (more) for? Do we give readings to promote our book, promote ourself, promote the practice of poetry, connect? I know for me as an audience member, the readings that seem driven to Sell A Book feel the least authentic somehow...the ones where the author keeps mentioning the title and the price and the lonely friend sitting at the cardtable with the book stack....

I feel a little dirty asking for money to read, although I'm so happy to be paid an honorarium--every little bit helps supplement my meager income. I'm trying to get over that feeling. I'm very curious to read how other poets use factors to decide what to ask for in the way of honorarium--.


When I bring folks in I try to give them at least $250 honorarium, all expenses paid, including food and lodging, and a big, rowdy crowd that buys books. This is for a reading and a very casual craft lecture. If there are several classes involved, usually it's $500 honorarium, plus the rest.

As for me personally, it all depends. I don't really bargain. I tend to get around $500 + expenses for readings with craft talks, but I also visit public schools gratis, and I'm happy to read in Youngstown dive bars, art galleries, and meadows for free.


Classes or workshops, given or led, are beyond my current experience. As for readings, I fall into that category of sleet, rain, and ferries to read to three people (without payment). And yes, sometimes that feels hard, although making the same journey to read to that rowdy crowd would not.


This is an interesting topic, Kelli -- I have been on the opposite end where I have arranged for poets' visits on campus. I always feel awkward talking about money. However, I was shocked the first time I told a possible visiting poet our standard payment of $500 per reading and $300 for workshop and she readily agreed, no questions asked. I later found out that was a pretty good amount, although I thought it was pretty low... I teach at a community college where there isn't' a lot of money, but I've heard that even "richer" colleges don't pay much.


I wish I had something to contribute to this topic, because I, too, find it fascinating. Sadly, I don't.

Other than a free dinner, I have not been paid to read. However, I'm hoping that changes once my book is published.


Even though I've been writing poems for roughly 40 years, and have published four books of poems (or five, if I count a self-published one long ago) and have another book forthcoming, and even though I've lived most of my life in a city with an active poetry life--

I've never been invited or hired to teach anywhere, and have been paid, I think, five times for readings -- once I got $20.00, a couple of times I got $15.00 each, and once I got $5.00. And recently I was paid with a $5.00 gift certificate for food at the cafe where I was reading.

Off the top of my head, I don't know what I think a fair payment would be. One way to approach it might be to figure out how much it costs to live with at least minimal comfort for a month, and then divide that by the number of reading and/or teaching gigs in a month. Whatever dollar amount is the result might be a fair payment.

* * * * *

Now, while these were anonymous they did get me wondering if women poets have a harder time naming their price than male poets do? In general, do women have a harder time asking for money or payment -or- do women just feel thankful for being asked and are less likely to realize their worth?

One reason I ask this is because as an audience member at the Skagit River Poetry Festival I had a lot more "sitting and waiting" time where I just relaxed and watched the interactions between the poets and others. I noticed that the male poets were much better of going up to another poet (and one that they didn't know) and asking for something. I watched a man exchange emails with one of the main poets and by the time they left, they were almost like good buddies ready to fishing together.

It's kind of a different question, but I wonder if men are better at the business end of poetry, the networking, the connecting, the asking for payment?

I know I am not what you'd call a "networking" poet (though I'm also not looking to become one), but if I could walk up to a favorite poet of mine (man or woman) and within 5 minutes have an email address and a connection, that would be a skill I could enjoy having. I admired the ability of these men to risk embarrassment, to ask the questions I wouldn't ask for fear of being rejected or looking stupid. I could learn from them.

But that's not me, give me 5 minutes with a poet I like and I'll something really profound like, "I like your work." Or maybe if I really like him/her it will come out, "Your poems - me likey likey." I can become neanderthal girl with poets I admire.

Anyway, I'm a little off track from the stipend question, but I'm wondering if for the most part, this is one of those guy/gal things where I'm not saying men are better at it, but perhaps, have higher expectations than women and these expectations are met.

Any thoughts?

What I've been doing...

I've been doing so much of everything, that's I've close to nothing this week.

I feel very pulled in many directions and unconnected. It's one of my least favorite feelings. I'm thinking about a lot at once and doing little. Or I'm trying to do a lot, but managing to do little well. I'm not sure what I even said today, though I know I spoke. I tried to be courteous to others, but what they may have seen was someone in a golden poncho running by.

There is a certain color of morning that only a West Coast ocean can produce. While some see the reds and pinks of sunrise, the ocean sees blues. Outside the window on the beach, dark and light blue. I see this image on the cover of a book and I cross my fingers.

There are perfect mornings and ghosts reflecting from the windows. I need to slow down. I need to.

Today I was annoyed because I found a darling multi-colored scarf on the sidewalk. Someone said, "It might belong to those people." *Those people* were halfway down the street. I said, "Yell to them." The someone said, "They are too far away."

I said, "Now this scarf if my responsibility. I regret seeing this scarf." I didn't chase the people yelling "Is this your scarf?" which actually is something my more active personality would do, but this unfocused scattered personality just wanted to take a nap.

If this sounds like a scene from Frog and Toad are Friends, it could be if it weren't my life.

And the scarf? It's been sent to the Lost and Found. Maybe I can find my old self there, the one who isn't so scattered as I've been. Maybe my center is there.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Suggested Blog Topic: The Poet's Stipend

Here's an interesting topic that was requested recently. When someone asks you what's your normal stipend (or payment) for their conference, reading, etc. What do you say?

It seems it varies between event. For example, most poets tend to do readings for free and are excited if there's payment. While conferences or leading a workshop require more work and organization, plus your time, travel, and sometimes lodging.

I have taught at one day conferences where payment has ranged from $150-$250 for teaching one class. Of course, you don't just teach your class and leave, so your time is there for the day, but in most cases, you're welcome to attended other classes or workshops, which for me is a bonus.

Bigger poetry festivals will usually cover lodging and food and can pay $250 per workshop, reading, or lecture you teach. Most giving poets 3-4 of these in a 2 (sometimes 3) day period.

When asked for what my stipend is for an event, I usually give amounts I've been paid before then offer that most likely their standard payment would be adequate (given travel expenses to get to the place aren't ridiculously expensive). Though I know poets who have driven through sleet and rain, taken ferries and buses to arrive at an event to read (without payment) to three people. And I remember her saying, "That's what poets do. I was glad to have been there."

What's your thought on being paid for a workshop or class? Is it different than being paid for a reading (which I'm guessing most of us aren't expecting payment.) Or am I wrong, do you expect to be paid for a reading?

What do you feel is a fair price to pay poets when they teach a workshop or a class, give a reading, or participant in a writer's conference?

With the price of gas rising, the price of travel has increased, because of this, should poets be paid more or does that determine what events you'll do as a poet?

Feel free to post what you've been paid (if anything) and you're welcome to be anonymous with the event if you like, just let us know what kind of event it was--poetry festival, workshop, college lecture, talk, etc.

What are your thoughts on this topic?
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