More From the Skagit Poetry Festival... Archiving & Sharing Poems

Nikki Giovanni, Patrick Lane, Tony Hoagland

Nikki Giovanni
One of the first panels I went to was with Tony Hoagland, Patrick Lane (a Canadian poet) and Nikki Giovanni.

Nikki was a beautiful ray of sunshine.  When someone's cellphone went off and the audience was scolded for not remembering to turn them off, she said, "That's okay, cellphones and children don't bother me."

Her first point was the importance of archiving in the arts.

I completely relate to this, which is why I take a ridiculous amount of notes and the occasional photo at poetry festivals.  They are a one-time deal.  We are living the history of the writing today.  It's actually pretty magical and amazing if you think about it.  How we romanticize or imagine what it would have been like to hear Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda, Anne Sexton, Frank O'Hara in person. We have that opportunity right now with our living poets.  And I want to remember what they said and how it was.

Her are some quotes from Nikki Giovanni on archiving:

"Anytime you can, record it...At some point in time, we'll want to return to it."
"The arts has to have an archive."


In extending and sharing poetry with others, Tony Hoagland had this to say:

"We are lost, American culture is in f-ing shambles...we have false gods. We live in a highly competitive environment. One thing we can do about it --we have poetry--in our small way, we can bring poems."

He talked about how he (and others) bring poems to dinner parties to share them.  He said it's up to us to spread poetry into the other groups.

Patrick Lane talked about how after a poet died (and I hope I'm getting this story right) , the wife of the poet had her family and her husband's friends each memorize 5 of his poems.  That way, each of them had "5 of his poems alive inside them."  And they could share them with others.  By doing that, she felt she was keeping him (and his work) alive and in the world.

Patrick suggested starting with your "own tribe" in sharing poems.  Share a poem with someone you know.

My friend Ronda Broatch, did this for Lent this year.  Each day she shared a poem with someone new.

I will admit, I am probably the worst at sharing poems.  But after hearing this talk, I think I'll try to do so more.

I heard Robert Pinsky recently say that everyone should have a file or folder or notebook that is titled ANTHOLOGY.  Every time you read a poem you love (or like a lot) put it in this file (and date it!)  After a while you'll have an anthology of your life and likes and favorite poems.


I'll post more about the Skagit Poetry Festival in the upcoming days.  I have many more pages of notes.

Also, thank you so much to all who wrote words of kindness after my laptop disaster.  As I wrote to my good friend Nancy, "This is why God invented Visa cards..."

And it was interesting to hear how some of you also had similar accidents with your laptops and computers-- yes, please keep the liquid away from your laptop.  

Yes, it totally sucks.  Yes, I hate spending the money I don't have.  But this is life in all it's glory and I am truly thankful:

1) I was able to save all my work including the new manuscript I'm working on (Thank you Apple store for rescuing my hard drive)

2)  it was only a computer I poured coffee on

3)  and for having a Visa card set aside for these types of writerly emergencies.




  1. I have often wondered how grad students, scholars, and other sorts of archivists will view our blogs. On days when I feel guilty because above all, I want to be blogging, I remind myself of how much we value Dorothy Wordsworth's journals in all sorts of ways--and then, I blog away happily.

    I'll think of the blog as archive too; it's a great way to create a repository that hopefully will outlast me and be available to a wide range of people, should interest arise.

  2. If you're going to wreck your computer it should always be a Mac. Mine got flung across the room in a major earthquake. Two days later (when the power came back on) it went just fine. My daughter's Mac laptop was run over by three cars in a row, the screen was ruined but all the data was totally retrievable from the hard drive.
    Glad to hear you got all your data back too. (I must remember to do a backup!)

  3. Thank you for sharing those bits of wisdom from your notes. I was so disappointed that I couldn't make it up to the festival. Those bits alone would have made it worth going.


    Sorry to see that you had computer issues, but so glad you were able to save your manuscript. Whew!


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