Susan Rich invited me to be part of this blog tour, which is focusing on writers in all different genres. You can read the answers to her four questions right here on her blog, The Alchemist’s Kitchen. Susan was among the first poet friends that I made in Seattle, and her support and friendship has welcomed me into an incredible community of writers here in Washington. Susan is a true believer in international awareness, political justice, and living the writing life. Her leadership created wonderful events like the popular Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women, with poet Kelli Russell Agodon, and Poet At Your Table. Her enthusiasms are generous, as are her poems. She first told me about a wonderful writers and artists retreat in Washington state and we have spent two December residencies there at the same time, checking in with each other as we dive deeply into our writing. I am grateful for her work as a curator for the Jack Straw Writers in 2011, as an editor for the anthology The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders published by McSweeney’s and the Poetry Foundation (2013), and as the poetry editor for The Human Journal based in Istanbul, Turkey.
Susan Rich is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently, Cloud Pharmacy and The Alchemist’s Kitchen, which was a Finalist for the Foreward Prize and the Washington State Book Award. Her other books include Cures Include Travel (2006) and The Cartographer’s Tongue/Poems of the World (2000) which won the PEN USA Award for Poetry and the Peace Corps Writers Book Award. She is the recipient of awards from Artist’s Trust, 4Culture, The Times Literary Supplement of London, Seattle Mayors Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the Fulbright Foundation. Susan’s poems have been published in many journals including: Antioch Review, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, and The Southern Review. Currently, she is Professor of creative writing and film studies at Highline Community College. Susan lives in Seattle, WA and writes in the House of Sky, a few blocks from Puget Sound
Okay, here are my four questions and answers:
1. What am I working on? My new book, The Art Courage Program (Jaded Ibis Press, 2014), in collaboration with artist Brian Goelttzenleuchter, will be out in May. We just saw the proof at AWP—so exciting. This project (a parody self-help plan) began as a weird prose piece I wrote as a Jack Straw Writing Fellow and which I made a book-on-tape recording of in the Jack Straw Studios.
The Art Courage Program will be published on multiple platforms: paperback, e-Book, retro book-on-tape with MP3 download card, interactive iBook, collector’s editions—and we will have companion ephemera: Wellness fragrances and aphorism booklets. My second full-length poetry manuscript, The Daughter’s Almanac, is searching for a home, having been a contest finalist and semi-finalist more than a few times in the past four years. I am also working on two other manuscripts—one multi-genre “novel” about traveling in Central Europe and one new poetry manuscript.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre? My answer to the first question is very telling—my new book is a self-help parody! But the love of my life is poetry writing, and I write a lyric/narrative hybrid that uses form in different ways. I love to experiment. My collaborations with artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter, which you can read about on my website, have led my poetry sometimes out of the book and into the art gallery, and definitely into the world of multi-media. I am the co-editor of A Sense of Place: The Washington State Geospatial Poetry Anthology, and co-editor of Cascadia Chronicle: A Geospatial Journal of Place, Environment, and Imagination. I have a passion for working with new geo-visualization media and collaborating with code-geniuses and social scientists.
3. Why do I write what I do? By writing, we know and discover ourselves. I know I will surprise myself if I let myself work. I have loved poetry, reading and writing, since I was very young. There has never been anything else I have wanted to do as well, as badly, or as fiercely. I guess one answer to this question would also be: I have no idea.
4. How does your writing process work? I love it when I can write a new poem draft every day and read read read to my heart’s content. That doesn’t happen very often. These days my job at CWU is very busy, but I never am not a writer. And I keep writing in the front of my brain, even if I don’t have time that day. Giving a reading, teaching a poetry class, and sending a manuscript off all keep me in that space. Writing in my journal for 10 minutes on weekday mornings, and spending some hours of my weekend at my desk are how I manage most of the time---but I am always scheming some longer chunks of time for writing.
The angels on the grand entry to the Cathedrale of Ste.-Cecile have never flown with their burdens. (French sentence).
In the village of books, Montolieu, Can you imagine--a village of books!
It takes a while to get somewhere else from Labastide Esparbairenque because first you have to get out of the forest and the mountains—the roads are steep and twisty-turny and about half a lane wide. I was able to take a road trip to the medieval city of Albi, about 2+ hours to the north. Albi is the heart of the Cathar resistance to the Pope. In the 15th century the Catholic Church built this enormous red stone fortress of a catehdral to impress the church's great power upon the resistors. The cathedral is a formidable Gothic pile—the 1400's version of shock and awe.
This hand-painted ceiling in the cathedral in Albi has never been retouched. Plus, I got to see saint's skulls in the cathedral—that was a new one for me.
I also went on a whirlwind road trip to Barcelona. I had never been to Spain before. It turned out, though, that we just got to have some lunch, walk around the beautiful Born district—full of cobbled streets, little shops and parks and do a forced march to Gaudi's Sograta Familia. To the right is my buddy Jaclyn, checking the map. The forced march was not her fault!
Today we drove up the mountain north of St. Julien to do LAND ART with the artist Christophe Eppe. Homer couldn't come with us. He would have been in the way.
Two of our sculptures began as spheres and then collapsed. It was a little discouraging. On the left, Christophe checks out our ultimately successful rock egg. On the right, Jaclyn, Christophe, and me after all of us completed the egg.
Homer the dog couldn't come with us up the mountain to build LAND ART with Christophe Eppe. We drove north of St. Julien to an open area Christophe had picked out.