Writing Creatively


I can’t believe how steadfast, true, and wonderful my friends are. I had a serious accident in early February, and even spent an overnight at the hospital. Once home again, I refused requests from friends to come visit, and basically just slept a lot, because I was trying to heal up as fast as possible. My friends kept thinking of me anyway, wishing me well in a variety of ways. I heard from them through the mail, emails, phone calls and from what Jim would tell me when he came home from whatever he was attending in town. My friends honestly helped hasten my healing process with the love they showed through their thoughtfulness and caring words.

Last week, Jeni Cottrell, Nancy Canyon and Linda Suther visited. They surprised me with a package.

Linda, Nancy and Jeni brought this package along.

On the outside, a pair of shiny green ribbons held a quilted book together. A tug on the ribbons, and the book opens.

“A flock of geese leave their lake and take wing, turning to poems in the sky.”

The first page was drawn by Laurie Potter. I love the geese! The quote is from SunWolf. Our pond is  just starting to have geese visit again. They are the poems that bring spring from wherever they come from.

This page is by the comic illustrator John McColloch. Of course. I used to watch Mr. Ed and Wilbur Post with my brothers back in the sixties. That was like yesterday, not. I always liked this smart horse. He was also a smarty pants.

Years before Hubble, I thrust myself far up into the night and saw that the constellations were wildly colored. This frightened me, so I swam a river at night waiting for the stars to resume their whiteness to adapt to my limits. —Jim Harrison

This quote from Amy Armitage (by Jim Harrison) shares the artist’s perspective on things. You have to wonder if the stars continue to be that wild, but let us see them in their whiteness so as not to scare us so much. Staring up into them at night is still startling. I’m glad they aren’t neon.

But Amy wrote an original poem just to make me laugh:

Her eyes are like moonbeams if moonbeams are green.
She’s shy but determined, on horses she’s keen.

She paints and she prints, designs posters and books.
She makes stuff from pond-scum, and even can cook.

Did I mention this woman can write a mean poem?
The bio o’ Anita; indeed it’s a tome!

—Amy Armitage

Ha ha ha, Amy, you did make me laugh. My face hurt, but I laughed anyway. You are a delight.

Linda Hughes, this is a command I’ll follow. Thanks! The drawings of the flowers offer more promises of spring coming soon. Thanks for them, too. They remind me of the cheerful blue-flowered teapot you made. 🙂 Tea from that pot is always extra special.

Ha ha. Denise Snyder is so funny. But sometimes I believe she means what she says. In the past, Deni has reminded me that we are good people. And that we, each of us, can sparkle, brightly, even, and we can be as creative as we can be, without worry, and be loved by many people. That’s a life worth living.

That’s the end of the book. But then, in the bag, is a handmade quilt, made like in the old days, with lots of people working together to make a quilt. I don’t know if they had an actual quilting bee, but they had that many people involved in the making of this thoughtful and detailed quilt. I have a tattered baby blanket that was made for me when I was a newborn. I love it, and this patchwork quilt is already a treasure.

This is the quilt!

The first thing that struck me when I saw this quilt was the number of friends that would have participated in making something like this. Then the idea that everyone wrote something directed at me, wishing me well, making me smile, giving support. Thank you, friends. Then the colors. They were thoughtfully chosen by people wishing me well. They are my colors. And then, the details kept showing up: perfect, thoughtful, caring, loving, poetic, artful, and sometimes very funny, too. You’ll see.

“Surround yourself with comfort and support of loved ones and you will always feel safe.”

The upper left square is by Shirley Erickson. Her words are refreshing and, yes, they actually did make me feel safe. She added extra stitches to this colorful square, little details that mean something special.

The lettering in this square, and several others, is by my good friend Nancy Canyon! Nicely done.

I love collaborations. Period. Poets with poets. Artists working together. Poets and artists. Musicians. Poets and musicians. Musicians and artists. This poem by Lana Ayers is after a painting by Nancy Canyon. Lana published my book What the Alder Told Me. I illustrated and published Lana’s book The Moon’s Answer. And quilters are collaborators, too! 

This poem by poet and artist Nancy Canyon, draws words together to create a safe and wonderful place to be. Evergreen smells so delicious.

Three poetic friends put their words on this square: Linda Suther, Sheila Sondik and Katie Humes. And a little bird, too.

Linda is part of my book group, The Fire Readers; Sheila is a poet and artist that is published by my Egress Studio Press; Katie Humes is a poet and writer; and all of these people are supportive members of our local arts community. Linda did the bulk of the final sewing of the quilt. She was amazingly careful with the details, and there were many. You’ll have to see it in person to get what I mean. Beautiful work.

About this point, you have to wonder how this project was put together. It’s kind of a miracle when a project is happening in a timely manner and there are a lot of “creatives” involved. The Idea Wizard, Jeni Cottrell, is the likely instigator, and the artists and poets around Bellingham and Whatcom County are known for their big hearts and their loving community. Deadline? Doesn’t matter. Our friends are accommodating, and willing to work together. Seems like it worked out just fine!

Renee Sherrer is the proud owner of Social Fabric on Commercial Avenue, downtown Bellingham. She is a fabric artist, and understands a sewing machine inside and out. At her store you can browse through amazing things to wear and see lots of great art, too.

Here is the “reveal” where the artist’s initials R.S. are hiding. R.S. = Renee Sherrer.

Right now, I feel more loved than I ever have, by friends and family. It feels very nice. Maybe even a little overwhelming. But certainly very nice.

If you look closely into this photo, you’ll see six French knots embroidered onto this square by Beverly Larson. French knots!

Beverly says smartly honest things, like “Life sometimes throws a big old bucket of whatever is has on you.” True. “To live is to Risk—pain or reward.” Sometimes it’s both. “Dare. Dare to live every day.” This is a worthwhile challenge. And Bev is reasonable, too: “Shake off what gets on you and wear the stains that you can’t get off.” I think I may have been a little “stained” by this accident. But I’ll be proudly wearing whatever I look like when I’m healed up. Even my lip thingy. But for now, I still want to stay away from most public things until I can get a few more teeth in my head. 🙂

Steve Satushek knows how to have fun as an artist. I’ve been invited to play in his studio, along with Harold, sometime soon, maybe this summer even.

This is a delightful artwork. The gestural lines are happy, maybe even singing.

Mary Oliver is a much loved poet across North America. This poem is well worth a good reading, as are many of her poems.

Jeni Cottrell and Lee Cole love poetry, and are both in my book group. Jeni’s in my art group, too. I keep looking at the details of this quilt—every square sends love and healing thoughts directly for my injury. I have been listening to the birds gather more and more every day as spring arrives. Their songs remind me of the friends whose words sing from this quilt. How can I not be grateful for each voice.

Marsha Culver is a fiber artist. She made her square from the color codes off the edges of several bolts of cloth. I like the colors very much. And the names, too. Poetry is everywhere. So is art.

Marsha is my beer-buddy at the monthly Tuesday Artists Group. Most of the ladies drink wine. She drinks wine, too. But she drinks beer with me. Such a good-friend thing to do. And she wished me the speediest of recoveries. I’m doing my best.

Distance

There is little that separates
the sky from the sea. Ahead of me
two figures walk the beach. Their bodies
graceful, true to their images. It is easy
to regard them. I gather a stone;
a blue heron glides to a large oak.
How predicable the world seems, your backs
turned toward me, trusting, like friends.
In the distance, people are shoveling
some type of clams, it hardly matters which,
the waves unfolding at my feet.

—Jeanne Yeasting

Mary Jo Maute, from my art group, is a prolific artist whose paintings are colorful abstractions that carry symbols and metaphors like poetry. This charming painting uses a different style from her usual, to send tender healing thoughts. She and her husband Ted visited here just last week. Even the sun came out.

Harold! Mr. Niven. You may know who he is as the guy who tie-dyes dollar bills in starkly vivid colors. I recently learned he discovered tie-dying in the bathroom of a moving train makes a great studio because the train’s back-and-forth movement sloshes the dye containers just right. Ogden Nash got celery right in this poem. Plus, being on a soft food diet certainly requires stewing before chewing.

This beautiful poem must be a clever collaboration between Caitlin and Jacob Jans. Maybe little June helped out, too.

All part of a pond
handmade and weather blessed
gentle green in the chorus of
friends around a table.

—Caitlyn and Jacob

Notes from Craig, Mike, Nancy and Jeff, Larry, Jim, Cricket, Prentiss, Wade, Ron, Mark and Barb.

This quilt square has messages from the Friday Night Bellingham Bar & Grill friends. It’s funny that it compares to the writings that can be found on a cast. They’re composed of well-wishes, toasts and even poetry. All thoughtfully full of the warmth of friends.

Ellen Bass is another nationally loved poet. She has a way of turning things around so we can see them differently. And she has a sense of humor that surprises.

Sue Erickson sent this poem square for the quilt. This is another way our arts community works together to get projects beautifully done, and efficiently, too. I love the poem, and may have to let myself be inspired by this Bass poem to write a poem about that horse I rode for the last year.

Robert Wrigley is a poet from Idaho who often writes about the rural life, describing the beauty, horror and pure wonder found in the natural world.

Nancy Pagh chose a poem that describes part of the deep relationship horses and humans can have. It’s generally built from mutual respect… but where the human might feel awe, a horse may experience fear. It depends. My old mares, Flicka and Moby, both enjoyed human companionship in a more gracious way than most of the horses I’ve met. I had them each for somewhere around twenty years, and they lived into their early thirties. I still miss them. Mr. Stetson? He was just catching on. The calm scent of the rain and the sun was on his breath, but the day of the accident, the silver thaw was in his eyes.

This square is from James Bertolino, my partner, friend, husband, and hero.

The afternoon of the accident, it was Jim who picked me up from the snow blushed red. A lucky thing for me, but still a tragedy for him. That’s the day he became my hero. We’ve had chickens now for a year, and Jim had come out of the house to gather the new eggs. The rooster has the most optimistic crow I’ve ever heard. Even at four in the morning, his voice rises like new hope.

Blocks of four squares divide the quilt. Each block uses cloth with flora coordinated with natural tones. They are sewn by several different people, and then Nancy Canyon sewed them into banner-like portions of the quilt. Those were then sewn together to finish the quilt by Linda Suther. Such a coordinated effort is difficult, but look how wonderfully it turned out.

As the complement of green, red plays a very important role in this quilt, accentuating my favorite color. As colors, green (for me) symbolizes the natural world, and red, of course, offers the meaning found in love.

This is the message of the quilt my friends have made. I love them, too.

Thank you, Jeni Cottrell, Linda Suther, Nancy Canyon, Shirley Erickson, Laurie Potter, John McColloch, James Bertolino, Linda Hughes, Amy Armitage, Lee Cole, Mary Jo Maute, Katie Humes, Renee Sherrer, Denise Snyder, Lana Ayers, Sheila Sondik, Beverly Larson, Steve Satushek, Marsha Culver, Jeanne Yeasting, Harold Niven, Caitlin and Jacob Jans, Sue Erickson, Nancy Pagh and the B.B. & G. Crowd (Craig, Jeff, Nancy, Mike, Wade, Ron, Mark, Barb, Cricket and Prentiss). And to all my other friends and family for being there, too. You know who you are. And so do I.

About the Accident—

On February 5th, the weather was snowy, everything covered in ice, the wind blowing enough to break branches and topple trees. The horse I’d been riding for a year or so, “Mr.” Stetson, was in my barn. By riding, I mean just that: I groomed and rode him, but didn’t feed him, trim hooves, or pay for vet visits during all that time. Perfect arrangement, in my opinion, because a horse needs to be groomed and ridden for his own health, and that helped with my own health. But this winter was a hard on him, and he had lost a lot of weight and had a bad case of rain rot, so I offered to house him in my barn, and give him some special care. He was here for a little more than three weeks, staying in an outdoor paddock during the day and a large, cozy stall in the barn at night. He’d already gained back a serious amount of weight, and had only the last bit of rain rot left. But the weather was still awfully cold. Snow and ice coated the electric fencing around the paddock, and pulled the strands to the ground, shorting it out. So after he was in the barn for more than twenty four hours, I decided I should at least take him for a walk. Well, to make a long story shorter, he was a little surprised at the difference that had happened outside while he was inside the darkness of the barn. It was a bright light gray outside, and that got his attention right away. The snow was deeper, the ice thicker, the wind was blowing, and a little ways in front of him at the pond, branches kept breaking, and crashing to the ground in a flurry. But he walked nicely beside me toward the pond anyway, lay down and rolled, even. At that, I let go of the lead rope because I know that horses tend to get frisky and prance around a bit, sometimes kick up their heels right when they get up from rolling. He did all of that—at a safe distance. I knew he wouldn’t go very far in the snow. I was right about that, too. So I picked up his lead rope, and began to walk him to the barn. I don’t remember what happened after that, except that as we headed back, he seemed happy enough. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital the next day.

Evidently, he gave me a huge smack right on my kisser, and knocked me out. What a guy! Jim (my hero) found me about twenty minutes later when he came out to see if the chickens had laid any eggs yet. He noticed Mr. Stetson standing out by the pond with his lead rope hanging down, which isn’t a normal thing around here. When he came out to see where I was, he found me unconscious, lying in the snow. Yes, Jim describes a pool of blood, at that point, but I don’t remember any of this. He put the horse in the barn, somehow walked me to the house, cleaned me up, and took me directly to the emergency room. When I woke up the next day, I had a concussion, five or six missing teeth, and a face that was like a Kodachrome balloon. Later, I learned that I had a Le Fort fracture (which is mid-face), leaving me with broken cheeks and upper jaw. Didn’t hurt much because the nerves quit working for a while, and my face went numb. For the next few weeks, I slept A LOT, and continue to feel the need for naps. I’m still on a soft food diet (i.e. liquid diet), for which it’s normal to lose ten pounds in the first couple weeks, which I dutifully did.

Somehow, word got around. I began to receive cards and emails and phone calls from my friends. But because I didn’t want to alarm them, and was too tired to stay awake, I decided not to have company except my son Isaac, and cyberspacely, my daughter Angela—my grownup kids. Well, actually, a couple friends did stop by, but my head had a hard time tracking conversation and staying awake during that time. So I decided not to have any more company until I could stay awake for most of the day, my color was close to normal, and the swelling was reduced a reasonable amount. And that’s the story of my accident. There are more details, of course, but this is probably more than enough. Right?

Afterward

My face troubles were repaired in surgery, which left me with seven small titanium plates holding my cheeks and upper jaw together, and more than thirty screws holding them and my bones in place. The surgery was pretty intense, but I was asleep. I slept most of the time after, too, and nothing really hurt like you’d think it would. Of course, I slept through child-birthing twice, so maybe my pain threshold is higher than normal. (I woke up for the actual births, though. Hello, Angela. Hello, Isaac. My two miracles.) Now, I’m feeling pretty good. In late April, the University of Washington Advanced General Dentistry will give me a call and schedule appointments to fix my teeth up. Then you can expect to see my face around town a little more. 🙂

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For the past year or so, I’ve been busy with family things, and neglected a lot of my art&poetry-focussed things (i.e. my business). But, I’ve recently made another schedule, one with a (hopefully) doable plan for publishing a couple of extremely patient poets; for making and showing my artworks; and for putting together a poetry manuscript of my own. The family things more serious and personal than I’d like to mention in this blog.

The two poets I mention have very likely been grumbling about their book not getting done, and I certainly wouldn’t blame them if they were. In fact, I’d encourage them to complain, at least a little. The recent and future books by Egress Studio Press are handmade, limited editions that contain artwork, and so they take more time to publish than usual, and require stretches of time dedicated to them alone. I describe them as poetry art-books, and I’m going public now by saying I think they’ll be ready by June. I will be hard at work on them until then.

I’m making some progress on the artwork for the cover of both, and the interior of one. That’s mainly what I want to show in this posting. One will have a few original linoleum block prints in the hard cover, and copies of them in the soft cover version. The other will have a monotype reprint on the cover. And those are the main focus of my thoughts right now.

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This is what I’m working on for the cover of one of the books. These are monoprints, and I’ll be making several more before I’m through. Those two on the upper right are just me goofing around with color and paper and texture and the et ceteras that come from the draft form of art. I see I have a ways to go before I have the final version.

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These are sketches for the second book. I’m trying out layouts for linoleum block prints. Each of these has possibilities, but the final will look different from these. The book will have five or six of them, including the cover.

You’ve probably already seen The Moon’s Answer by Lana Ayers. The pen and ink illustrations took quite a while to complete. But the final layout and assembly of the books still required a lot more time before project completion. Currently, all the soft covers are finished and have been in the hands of readers since the summer of 2016. The six casebound books were finished in November 2016. And I am looking forward to finishing the final three accordion books later this year.

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Hard copies of The Moon’s Answer. On the lower left are the six casebound books with handmade paper on the cover and endpapers. Top and right is the accordion book, with all the interior and exterior papers using two colors of handmade paper.

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In this close up of the front cover, you can see the crosshatching that is a part of every illustration in the book, and is on the hand-dyed lavender paper. The moon is cut out of the lavender paper and pasted onto a yellow paper to create the two-color presentation, as it is throughout the accordion books. 

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All of the books are signed and numbered by the author and illustrator on the page opposite the colophon. (Sorry for the out-of-focus photo. I’m in a rush.)

 

The previously mentioned schedule requires that I keep this blog updated with what’s happening at Egress Studio.  All I have to do is follow this schedule a minimum of 75% of the time, and I’ll stay on course. Wish me luck. So far, so good. I’ll post about the manuscript I’m putting together later on, as well as other posts about the poets and artists around the Northwest.

The first copy of The Moon’s Answer, hand-sewn on June 9, 2016.

I’m proud to announce a new limited edition, illustrated book from Egress Studio Press featuring a single love poem: The Moon’s Answer by Lana Ayers.

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The drawing table, with pen, nib, ink, and mess.

I decided to illustrate The Moon’s Answer so the the poem’s presentation would be on a darkened moonlit page. The double-page spreads were drawn with a nib on a dip pen, and one and a half bottles of waterproof India ink. After many hours of drawing the illustrations, this book is finally in production mode! I’ve been working on finishing up the double-page spread pen & ink illustrations for quite a while. So many interruptions(!), but the drawings are now completed, photographed, and reproduced in the layout. The book idea started out as being printed in black only, but as I began looking at what I could actually do with it, I decided to add a bit of color throughout. I don’t want to go into many details about the poem itself, except that it is a poem I enjoyed working with very much.

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Title page detail.

As many of you know, Lana Ayers is a poet, a fiction writer, a teacher, and a publisher, among other things, such as mathematician and lover of strange flavors of ice cream. She has supported the poetry community in Western Washington for over a decade, and has provided substantial encouragement for many individual writers.

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The illustrations are drawn so the tree-line runs from one page to the next, making an accordion-bound book possible.

The final book will be published in two limited-editions, both handmade. There will be one hundred copies in a square-spined soft cover, and a dozen hard covers. Some of the hard covers will be more art-book-like than others. Each copy of both the hard and soft covers will be signed by the poet, Lana Ayers, and the illustrator, Anita K. Boyle (me). Almost all of them will be offered for sale soon. I plan to have them ready to go out the door by the end of July.

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The center spread, hand-sewn.

The first to be published will be the soft cover edition, which will include handmade endpapers. The binding will be hand-sewn with linen threads. There will be a wrap-around cover. The handmade paper uses cotton linters, recycled papers from Egress Studio, and contains lavender fibers (from the plants at the south side of the studio). Naturally dyed with buttercups, the endpapers are a color that is suggestive of the yellow moon. The book size is nine inches tall and six and a half inches wide, and has thirty-two pages.

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The title page on the right, handmade paper on the left.

To finish all the hard covers may take a little longer than late July, but I’ll try my best. Some of them will use the same papers as the soft cover edition. But others from the hard cover edition might be made entirely of handmade papers. I say “might” because I need to make at least one book in order to see if it can be done. I’m planning, too, that some of the hard covers would use an accordion fold, so that the illustrations can be unfolded in such a way that the poem could run continuously in a straight line (or in a circle). I’ll attempt to get one of those ready by the beginning of June. Wish me luck! As soon as they are ready for sale, I’ll put them on my website, egressstudio.com, and make an announcement.

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The timer is there because I work in sixty minute increments, so I remember to stand up and move around.

The collaborative poetry book, Lit-Wads, by James Bertolino and Anita K. Boyle was first published in a limited-edition, handmade version with illustrations. Since then, Jim and I recorded all the poems, and I made an interactive pdf version of the book. The table of contents will send you to individual poems of your choice. Once on a page with a poem, there’s a button that you can poke to hear one or the other of us reading the poem. Or you can push a different button and return to the Table of Contents for choose another poem. This version of Lit-Wads is now for sale at: http://www.egressstudio.com/the-bookstore.html

The original, hand sewn version is still available until it is out of print, and is also available at the above link.

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In the future, most books by Egress Studio Press will be handmade in illustrated hard cover and soft cover editions, followed later by an e-book, like Lit-Wads. I’m currently working on double-spread illustrations for a book call The Moon’s Answer by Lana Ayers, which I’m hoping to publish before the end of this year. And, for past books, I’ll be adding audio to the layout and creating other audio books.

 

The Poet As Art features Raúl Sánchez and Marjorie Manwaring on Friday March 29, 7 pm. Please join us at the Lucia Douglas Gallery in Bellingham.

Please excuse the improper accent in Raúl's last name in the post card (and poster).

Please excuse the improper accent in Raúl’s last name in the image above (and poster).

Before we start the interview, it would be good to note, as a quick introduction to Raúl Sánchez, that he read at Elliott Bay Book Company last summer, and we’ve been making attempts to set up a reading with him since his book was published.

His  long-awaited debut collection of poems is titled All Our Brown-Skinned Angels (MoonPath Press, 2012), about which Francisco X. Alarcón says:

“I open All Our Brown-Skinned Angels, the new collection of poems by Raúl Sánchez, as a book of intimate, personal prayers. But the prevailing Judeo-Christian theology is turned upside down in these poems. Here, the Earth is sacred … Raúl Sánchez is the contemporary Netzalhuacóyotl of the Northwest, who lives in damp Seattle … and has come out with wondrous poems in praise of life that are liberating prayers for every day.”

All Our Brown-Skinned Angels cover

All Our Brown-Skinned Angels cover

Wet is right! The photo on the event poster is from our pond on Noon Road in Bellingham reaching flood level in March. Or was that late February? At any rate, the level moves up and down so much lately, it’s like the pond is breathing. This is the weather we live with. Well, I digress.

At Elliott Bay, Raúl read with MoonPath Press publisher, poet and fiction writer Lana Hechtman Ayers and the musically inclined poet John Burgess—both fogbound poets from around Puget Sound. I would have liked to have been there, because each of these poets is well worth hearing, and such different writers from each other!

While it has always been important, with current events as they are right now, it may be more crucial than ever to hear the poems of Raúl Sánchez. Hear what he says about his poems in the following interview, and you may see what I mean. He is full of seriousness and humor.

An Interview Raúl Sánchez with for The Poet as Art

What aspects of your experience keep you writing poetry?

There are many experiences I’ve had as an immigrant. Those include relationships, employment, political situations and the diaspora away from México.

Are there features of your life that have run contrary to you being, or continuing to be, a poet?

Yes, the first one will be that I do not have formal education from any educational institution in the USA. That makes me feel incapable to write Poetry. However, I started journaling and writing notes from the travels I did between 1981 and 1994. One of those years I spent in India. At one point, I was writing short simple poems that were published in company newsletters and local newspapers. When I was younger, I wrote a couple of political poems for the student movement in Mexico City. In 1996, I decided to join a Latino writers group in Seattle, where I learned more about writing. That is when I decided to get serious about writing poetry.

What is the single most surprising thing you’ve learned about poetry?

Poetry is a medium by which we can express what we see, feel, hear, taste, smell and experience, whether animate or inanimate, in an artistic way by sounding off words in a rhythmic voice.

If you could choose one person, dead or alive, who influenced you as a writer, who would that be? How did he or she impact your writing experience?

Renato Leduc

Renato Leduc

For me it would be Renato Leduc. A French-Mexican Poet, Journalist and signaler for Francisco Villa.

I remember Renato reciting his poems in the middle of my father’s restaurant in Mexico City. I was a young lad then and had no idea what poetry was. Then one day I discovered his poems and stories in an anthology of Mexican poets and writers. On one of my trips to Mexico City, I found his complete works, which were not translated into English. To my delight, I’ve translated one of his poems into English, which was published on-line by Pirene’s Fountain in 2011.

What kind of non-literary books stimulated your poetry?

Having learned English in Mexico City, I would say Dick and Jane. I still have a couple of those books.

The famous Dick and Jane books

The famous Dick and Jane books

Which book of poetry is most important to you and your work as a poet?

Since I have lived in two countries, from México it would be Jaime Sabines’ Poesía Amorosa, and from the USA, Denise Levertov’s Relearning the Alphabet.

What do you believe your readers enjoy most about your work?

Our personal diaspora, connectivity and ethnic identification. Family, migration, the uncertain future and the certainty of the roots that keep us growing.

Raúl Sanchéz, poet

Raúl Sánchez, poet

____________________________

Here is one of Raúl Sánchez’s poems, the one I’ll be making into a poetry broadside. The broadside will be available free at the reading, and we hope you’ll make a donation to help us continue bringing poets to Bellingham.

Every Dress a Decisión
after Elizabeth Austen

My older sister could never
ever decide what to wear
on Friday and Saturday nights

My parents told her too short, too tight
what that meant I didn’t understand
all I know is that my older sister

went away wearing her platform shoes
and skin-tight skirts every time
she could sneak out

after my parents went to bed
and I fell asleep
while watching Superman

Raúl’s comments about his poem:

I went to the Richard Hugo House the night Elizabeth Austen read at the “Cheap Wine and Poetry” series after her book release for Every Dress A Decision. The title of the book stayed with me and triggered a poem thinking about my older sister, who doesn’t exist since I’m the oldest. Perhaps wishful thinking lead to the idea that “If I would’ve had an older sister, that’s what she would’ve done” back in 1969. My editor decided to change the word “Decision” to “Decisión” to add flavor to the poem. I gave the poem to Elizabeth handwritten in Spanish on one of the postcards she made to promote her book.

—-

We hope you join us for this poetry reading at the Lucia Douglas Gallery, which is showing collaborations between the artists Thomas Wood and FishBoy (RR Clark). Strange and wonderful art.

Posted by Anita K. Boyle

It’s up. Now you can look for the poster all over Bellingham and around Whatcom County, maybe even Skagit County. (Let me know if you want have one or more to put up in a prominent place. It’s such a task.)

The Poet As Art at the Lucia Douglas Art Gallery

The Poet As Art at the Lucia Douglas Art Gallery


Click on the poster, if you want to see it larger.

This poetry reading by Marge Manwaring and Raul Sanchez is going to be great. Jim and I have heard both of them read their work. The poems are honest and imaginative. When they read, their voices are clear and strong, and it becomes apparent that they love the poems. This is a formula for an unforgettable reading. While we are planning a few other types of events, this is the only reading we’re scheduling this year for The Poet As Art.

Don’t miss the poetry writing workshop Marge will be teaching on Saturday, March 30. Sign up early to save a seat.

If you aren’t on our email list, here is the main portion of the information you’ll need for these two events:

1. An Evening with The Poet As Art: Marjorie Manwaring and Raul Sanchez
Date and Time: Friday, March 29 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Place: Lucia Douglas Gallery, 1415 13th Street in Fairhaven (Bellingham WA)
This poetry event promises to be a perfect evening to ring in April as National Poetry Month! Raúl Sánchez and Marjorie Manwaring are Seattle poets who are active contibutors to our Northwest literary community. Raúl Sánchez’s poetry takes on colonizers and Congress, and celebrates the local, familial, and ancestral. His most recent collection of poetry is All Our Brown-Skinned Angels (MoonPath Press, 2012). Marjorie Manwaring’s poetry collections include the chapbooks What to Make of a Diminished Thing (Dancing Girl Press) and Magic Word (Pudding House Publications), plus her brand-new volume Search for a Velvet-Lined Cape (Mayapple Press, 2013). Poet Amy Gerstler says, “These poems simultaneously deconstruct and enact enchantment.”

2. Workshop: The Persona Poem: Becoming Who (or What) You Don’t Know
Marjorie Manwaring, Instructor
Date and Time: Saturday, March 30 from 10:30 to 3:00 p.m.
Place: Egress Studio, 5581 Noon Road, Bellingham WA.
Registration is limited to fifteen participants. Cost: $55
Ever tried to write a poem from the perspective of Marilyn Monroe, or the world’s largest mushroom? Even if this is your first attempt, you’ll enjoy the fun of bucking the old adage “write what you know”! (In fact, many find shifting a poem’s focus away from the biographical self to be a welcome relief.) We’ll mix in-class writing with examinations of work by contemporary poets including Amy Gerstler, Charles Harper Webb, Carol Ann Duffy, and Tim Seibles. Be willing to don some (metaphorical) masks and get a little crazy! Call 360-398-7870 for more details and to register.

The Poet As Art if an affiliate program of the Whatcom Poetry Series, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations, made out to “Whatcom Poetry Series” are tax deductible. Please designate which program your donation would go to: The Poet As Art, poetrynight, or the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest.

On Friday, March 29, Marjorie Manwaring (aka Marge) and Raul Sanchez will read poetry at the Lucia Douglas Gallery (7 pm). The very next day, Marge is our featured guest instructor for a poetry writing workshop where participants will begin to understand her notable concepts for the persona poem. When we post an official announcement for this workshop, be sure to sign up early. Seems people are pretty enthusiastic about this poet and her work.

Marjorie Manwaring, poet

Marjorie Manwaring, poet

For the readings, I always make broadsides of the featured poets’ poems. They are free for people who attend, so they’ll have a poem or two to take with them to remind them of how poetry affects their lives. (Because this is a common question… a poetry broadside is a sheet of paper with a poem on one side. They are sometimes like works of art, which is what I’m always going for when I design a broadside.)

A sample of Marge Manwaring’s poetry follows (not the broadside poem):

MAGICIAN’S ASSISTANT

The man by my side, patting my collar down, brushing cat fur from my sleeves before my appointment with the magician—he knows, my husband, the importance of these nights and yet still wonders what it is I seek at the magician’s house. He knows there’s more to it than a rabbit and a hat or a shell game and tonight his hands will linger on the abrasions—Yes, I’ll say, he’s still working on the sawing trick, almost got it down and I don’t know when this fantasy grew to such proportions—the magician, the magician’s assistant, but this man by my side, he sends me on my way and as I open the door he says, You forgot something, hands me my dog-eared paperback on illusion and escape.

—Marjorie Manwaring

To introduce her to people in our community who may not know her, or would like to know more about her, I asked Marge a few questions about her experience as a poet. And she answered them! The interview begins…
What aspects of your experience keep you writing poetry?

Writing poetry (like any artistic pursuit, I suppose) is about more than sitting at the desk and writing (although that is important, certainly!); it is constantly observing, being receptive to contradiction, looking for a way to connect seemingly unconnected things. Being vigilant. The impulse is always there to “take notes”—whether I’m in a museum, at an intersection looking at an oddly defaced street sign, overhearing a juicy snippet of conversation, or listening to a scientist speak on the radio. I think that maybe I’ve always had that impulse; it’s just that now I have a place to “put” my musings.

Are there features of your life that have run contrary to you being, or continuing to be, a poet?

The biggest obstacle to writing is time, and I know I’m not alone in that. For a while I was doing freelance writing and editing work, where I had busy and slow periods. During the slower periods, I had bigger stretches of free time to write and to “putter”—those stretches of time could be spent reading, imagining, letting my mind wander. For the past couple years I’ve been doing a 40-hour-a-week contract, so that variability in my schedule that I once had is gone. And, while once I have a draft, I can successfully work on revisions in small 15-minute increments if I have to, for me that isn’t usually the best environment for crafting a first draft. So, like for a lot of other writers, it is a matter of finding time (and of being disciplined, not getting distracted) in the evenings and on weekends for reading, writing, or just letting ideas percolate.


I’d like to interrupt this interview with words from a couple other poets about Marjorie Manwaring’s lastest publication: Search for a Velvet-Lined Cape (Mayapple Press 2013):

Manwaring_Search_for_Velvet_FrontCover_451KAn intricately witty poet, Amy Gerstler says of Marge’s book, “Escape artists of many stripes populate these pages: reflective oddballs, the curious, the strangely gifted, the vulnerable. We witness ineffable, transformative moments in the lives of airborne saints or Houdini. Or we’re transported to the Bigfoot Car Wash, or to an orgy of dead poets. Manwaring’s delightfully inventive poems bring to mind Steven Millhauser’s fiction and the work of magician Ricky Jay in their love of marvels and illusions, rendered with sly intelligence. Teetering between pathos and brightness, these poems simultaneously deconstruct and enact enchantment.”

And the current poet laureate of Washington State Kathleen Flenniken says, “Something is always churning in these captivating, sometimes unsettling poems: The Zipper at the county fair (with mother inside), Monkey Girl and her baton, the bedroom ceiling covered solid with yellow jackets. Something is always changing: a snowman falling in love on a warm day, white paper roses transforming into doves. It’s never a dull moment. But this clear, humane voice brings it all close and compels us to care. By turns wistful, wry (or out-and-out funny!), elegiac, and always smart, Marjorie Manwaring convinces us that even the surreal, even magic, even great sadness, is simply life as we live it every day, and that all of it is worthy of praise.”

If you could choose to meet a dead poet, who would that be? How did he or she impact your writing experience?

I would love to meet Gertrude Stein. She fascinates me. Rather than bringing someone back from the dead, I think what I would really like is to time-travel back to her days in Paris, get invited to her salons, study her art collections, meet her friends, talk to her. While reading Stein, I learned that, despite a poetic style in which “meaning” is elusive and associative leaps are the norm, she writes with playfulness and a sense of humor, and that taught me something about comedy. As one example, there were places in her long poem Lifting Belly that made me laugh out loud—and this wasn’t because they were funny in the sense of a joke or humorous anecdote; despite the lack of conventional narrative, she was able to create comedic moments through the use of line breaks, repetition, and the unexpected juxtapositions of words and phrases. This seemed like something important to learn.

Before continuing with this interview, Marge shares another poem with this blog’s audience:

GROUNDHOG TURNING POET

Burrow back down.
Your work in the dark is not done.

Because the autumn was nothing
but gathering

and digging
you’ve still got seeds

and roots to gnaw and swallow.
What’s the hurry?

You hibernators.
So lucky.

Months of no distractions from the moon.
The strange dreams of slowed

metabolism and knowing when
to look at shadows.

—Marjorie Manwaring

About this poem, “Groundhog Turning Poet,” our poet says:
Aside from a meditation on being a poet, on the work of creating something, on transformation, this poem was also a musing on the isolation, sometimes self-imposed, of artists, of their (my) introverted tendencies.

What kinds of books outside of poetry and fiction have stimulated your poetry?

I often get inspiration from nonfiction. Some books that have inspired me:

  • Jay’s Journals of Anomalies: Conjurers, Cheats, Hustlers, Hoaxsters, Pranksters, Jokesters, Imposters, Pretenders, Sideshow Showmen, Armless Calligraphers, Mechanical Marvels, Popular Entertainers (Ricky Jay).
  • Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds (George W. Hudler).
  • On Becoming a Woman, a 1950s book on dating and marriage given to me as a gag gift while in high school.
  • Dust: A History of the Small and Invisible (Joseph A. Amato)
  • Books I inherited from my grandparents’ library, such as Know Your Fish published by Sports Afield, and old cookbooks.

Not books but also inspiring:

  • Letters from people and entities.
  • Museum placards.
  • Newspaper headlines.
  • The Weekly World News tabloid, now available only online (I’m including it, even though you’d be hard-pressed to call it nonfiction with a straight face.)

Which book of poetry is most important to you and your work as a poet?

It’s hard to pick just one, so here are some that have been important for different reasons over the years.

Complete Poems: 1913-1962 by E. E. Cummings. This 800-plus-page tome was the first book of poetry I ever bought (and the only one I owned at the time, save the poetry collections I’d been given as a child). I was a freshman at the University of Washington and taking a required introductory English class. We didn’t focus much on poetry in the class, but in the Norton Introduction to Literature anthology we read from, there were some poems by Cummings, and clearly they made an impression on me! Poetry, and Cummings’ experimental word acrobatics in particular, were so far removed from the science track I was pursuing at the time…it’s funny to think about. This was in the mid-80s. I would not try my hand at writing poetry, nor would I read poetry on a regular basis, until the late 90s, but I feel like this was one of those subconscious impulses—that perhaps I knew something about myself before I really knew it.

The October Palace by Jane Hirshfield, and Otherwise: New and Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon. In the late 90s, I took a series of poetry writing classes through the University of Washington Extension (now the Continuing Education program). Through poems we discussed in class and recommendations from classmates, I came to know and love “the two Janes,” as I like to call them, Jane Kenyon and Jane Hirshfield. I was drawn to their meditative qualities, how beautifully they harnessed the power of the image, of the named particular, how their work evoked mystery and yet was firmly grounded in nature, in the household, in the challenges of illness and other human sorrows.

Liver by Charles Harper Webb, and Reflections on Espionage: The Question of Cupcake by John Hollander. I believe I came to these books after completing the two-year program through the UW Extension. We had read a broad spectrum of poems, including work by David Trinidad, Denise Duhamel, and Thomas Lux, who incorporated pop culture references and humor into their poems. I remember driving in town doing errands and hearing a radio interview with Charles Harper Webb, who had just published his collection Liver. I was so taken with the humor, pathos, and linguistic energy of the poems he read that I added a trip to the bookstore to my “to do” list that very day. Around that same time, I think, John Hollander gave a lecture and reading at the University of Washington; he read from his book Reflections on Espionage, which had just been re-released. This book-length poem featuring a spy named Cupcake blew me away with its unusual subject matter (poems in the form of messages transmitted by agent Cupcake) and its exploration of secrecy, the search for meaning, and language itself. Both books enhanced my vision of what a book of poetry could be.

Madame Deluxe by Tenaya Darlington. This book was on my reading list my first semester of graduate school. It, like Webb’s Liver, enchanted me with its smart humor, its references to pop culture, its playfulness with language, and its poignancy, but Darlington’s energy was distinctly feminine and would lead me into the works of Amy Gerstler and Carol Ann Duffy.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. I read this while in graduate school, too. It was the first Anne Carson book I had read. I feel like it propelled me into a different voice/sensibility in my writing—or that might be too strong, maybe it just opened up another poetic register to me. It’s hard to articulate, but I felt a shift in how I thought about poetry after reading this book.

What do you believe your readers enjoy most about your work?
People have told me they enjoy the humor in my poems and the sometimes peculiar lens through which I look at the world.

Want to know a little more about Marge?

Marjorie Manwaring lives in Seattle, where she is a freelance writer/editor, co-editor of the online poetry and art journal the DMQ Review (www.dmqreview.com), and editorial board member for Floating Bridge Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including 5 AM, Sentence, Crab Creek Review, and A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, and have been featured on National Public Radio affiliate KUOW. Marjorie holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from the Bennington College Writing Seminars and is the author of two chapbooks, What to Make of a Diminished Thing (Dancing Girl Press) and Magic Word (Pudding House Publications); Search for a Velvet-Lined Cape is her first full-length collection.  You can find out even more at her website: www.mmanwaring.com.

Posted by Anita K. Boyle.

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