A Late Letter from Umbria:Poetry & Piero della Francesca Workshop

In March I had the chance to participate in a short workshop in the region of Umbria in Italy —  under the auspices of Civitella Rainieri—with poet Mark Wunderlich and art historian Dana Prescott. It was remarkable to travel with a small group of artists and writers to see frescoes and altarpieces in small museums, churches, and shrines in rural Umbria—in and around Perugia, Monterchi, Arezzo and Urbino.

       

I wrote drafts of poems about Mary Magdalene, about the lapis lazuli blue in della Francesca egg tempura, about the incredible archaeological arboretum; hilltop orchards preserving ancient species of pear, apple and fig.

           
The whole trip, from Vermont to Italy and back again, was a whirlwind immersion into the raw wind, fresh rain, soft sunlight of the countryside of Umbria and into the warrens of little cobblestone streets of the villages and the deep conversations that I was lucky to have with new and old friends about the work of this transcendent artist.
       
I’m still working on the poems from this trip—some much new light and color in my brain! It was a reminder that there (almost) never is (enough) time or the right time to travel, take a break for yourself, or even to write your poems.             And because there is no time or not enough time, we have to take a deep breath, pay attention, and go.
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Thinking With My Heart

Yesterday my husband Larry and I drove through the winter rain to attend a memorial service for our neighbor, Maria. Her husband had invited us to the service two weeks earlier, striding across our lawn to us, sorrow filling his face.

We sat in a row of chairs next to other neighbors : the Ukrainian-Canadian former hockey player, the airline bursar, the property caretaker. We listened to tributes and stories from Maria’s colleagues, friends, and family, and I wished I had had the chance to know Maria, to have been a friend.

Larry had been lucky to spend a day and evening when I was away in the company of these neighbors, lending our kayaks, sharing a dinner, drinking wine while watching the sunset, listening to Maria and Jose sing together.

We moved here in July to a house on a rangy gravel-road cul-de-sac in northwestern Vermont from the west coast: hopeful, tired-out, a little overwhelmed at the DIY-ness of our new life. The area is about half “camps,” three-season vacation homes for people who live elsewhere, the rest of the homes belonging to “year-rounders” like us. Some houses are old abandoned Canadian camps with holes in the roofs, some are gorgeous windowed lake homes; our new place is in the middle (not gorgeous, not on the lake, but renovated and comfortable). We experienced so much kindness and welcome from everyone. We quickly realized, too, that local connections are essential for any number of needs—you have to know the right people. The interdependence and mutual support of the people around us was (and is) striking and moving. Maybe that seems normal to other people used to living in the country, but we are new to it and we appreciate it.

Our neighbors, Maria and Jose, emigrated to Canada from Argentina in the late 1990s and when it became clear that Maria would not be allowed to practice medicine while living there, they emigrated again, to Vermont with their two children. She took her board exams for a second time in the U.S., completed a medical residency at UVM Medical Center speaking a second language, with two small children. She was famous for her food and their parties. The network of people who loved their family was palpable at the memorial service, lots of songs in Spanish, dancing, tears.

Today the family will be here across the road at their camp to spread Maria’s ashes in Lake Champlain and under the apple tree.

The feelings from this experience hit me hard at this chaotic moment in history, when we are so at odds with each other, when lies and injustice threaten to destroy us, when anti-immigrant propaganda and threats are in mainstream discourse, when people are devastated and displaced by war. For weeks I have wanted to write a post about the plans for my forthcoming book of poetry, but I have not had the mind- or heart-space for it. I’ll write that post soon—for now, I wish you peace and connection and love, wherever and whoever you are.

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Full Circle for The Daughter’s Almanac

IMG_1355 Manuscripts in progress are laid out on the desk. Moleskine journal is being filled. The first blog entry in over a year attempted. Today I brought my new book, The Daughter's Almanac, as a gift for the library at La Muse -- a singular event in my life-- because I wrote some of the poems while I was staying in this same room five years ago and they are about these trails and woods, the river and the mountains in this unique part of France. See what I mean?

The Creative Process–The Writing Process–Blog Tour 2014

candles

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. 

She has wonderful blog called The Alchemist’s Kitchen and a beautiful website.

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.

 

My Poetry Marathon Gathers Speed! Please Help!

Wow, it doesn’t seem possible that I have reached Day 21 in my Poetry Marathon for Tupelo Press! That’s 21 poems I have written, one each day, this month. Today’s is “Crossing to Friday Harbor,” which is on the Tupelo 30/30 Blog. If you DONATE to the press (please visit the 30/30 Blog for how) and mention MY NAME, I will send you a handmade gift and one of my marathon poems, signed to you.  Please check it out and send a gift to Tupelo (gifts will come back to you)! I make gnomes like the guy above, and zombies, vikings, santas, angels, and animals.

A BIG THANK YOU to those who have donated already. I appreciate it so much, and so does Tupelo Press.

To read my marathon poems, go to the Tupelo Press 30/30 Blog: http://tupelopress.wordpress.com/3030-project/

Thank you very much!!  Kathy

December Poetry Marathon!

Dear Friends:

I am participating in Tupelo Press 30/30 Project! To give back during the holidays this year I am in a “marathon” for the month of December with nine other poets, writing a poem every day, and raising funds for Tupelo Press.

I invite family, friends, and colleagues to sponsor me in my poetry marathon (see below for ways to contribute). Every dollar you spend is a vote for my poetry, and for poetry in general!   If you make a contribution to Tupelo to support my poetry marathon--I will send you a personalized thank you gift (remember to give my name as the poet you are supporting)!  “And if you haven’t got a ha’penny,” wish me luck!  🙂 

Running an actual marathon is as hard as writing a poem every day, painful in different ways! I recommend both (I know!), and you can read my poems as I knock them off this month.  Take a little time to visit the 30/30 Project Blog and look at my brand spanking new poems here: http://tupelopress.wordpress.com/3030-project/

Tupelo Press is one of the best non-profit independent publishers we have. You can join me in helping them survive and continue to put more poets into print.

Here are ways to contribute: 

1. Subscribe to Tupelo Press! Visit: http://www.tupelopress.org/books_subscribe.php

Purchase our dynamic 2014 series – 9 books for $99 and we’ll pay the postage! Or choose one of our exciting prior series, or a personalized list of any 9 titles. Put your poet’s name in the “comments” field. 

2. Complete the Tupelo Press Donation Form Visit: https://www.tupelopress.org/donate.php

Scroll down to the bottom of the page, fill out the donation form and send it in with a check or fill in the credit card details. Put your poet’s name in the “honor” field.

3. Donate Using PayPal Visit: https://www.tupelopress.org/donate.php 

Click on the orange “Quick Donation via PayPal” button and complete the entry with either PayPal account details or credit card information. Put your poet’s name in the “message” field.

If you would like a tax receipt, please provide your mailing address. 

Here is what you are supporting: +Independent literary publishers are mission-driven—they focus on publishing literature. +Independent literary publishers provide access to the voices of entire communities. +Independent literary publishers produce over 98% of poetry being published each year, and the majority of literature in translation and works of fiction by emerging writers.

Thank you so much for your support of me and small press publishing.

My best always,  Kathy

Invite Poets to your Book Club w/ A Poet at Your Table

Please read Midge Raymond's great piece about this group (which includes yours truly!)

underwood

 

A Poet at Your Table – A Rare Opportunity for Book Groups 
In cooperation with Seattle Arts and Lectures Poetry Series and Crab Creek Review

It’s one thing to hear a poet perform in a large auditorium … but what if you could listen to a poet talk about her book in the comfort of your own home?

The greater Seattle area boasts an impressive group of poets who want to connect with readers throughout Washington.

Join the second annual A Poet at Your Table season, and receive an evening with an award-winning poet. A poet will visit your book group or gathering to discuss the process of creating her book, read poems, and answer questions about the writing life. We design a presentation that best fits your needs. In addition, your group is eligible to receive discounted tickets for the 2013-2014 Seattle Arts and Lectures Poetry Series.

Featured Poets:

  • Kelli Russell Agodon
  • Susan Rich
  • Elizabeth Austen
  • Kathleen Flenniken
  • Katharine Whitcomb
  • Annette Spaulding-Convy
  • Jeannine Hall Gailey
  • Sheila Bender
  • Kelly Davio

 Frequently Asked Questions…

1) What do we have to do to prepare for A Poet at Your Table ?

~  Besides reading the chosen poetry book, no preparation is needed. Whatever your book group usually does is fine. Just let the poets know what works for you.

2) How far in advance do we need to book our poet?

~ A month in advance would be great, but you can contact A Poet at Your Table on shorter notice, and they’ll try!

3) Do you have a web site where we can review the books and learn about the poets?

~ Visit Facebook at www.facebook.com/APoetAtYourTable. Please also check out the websites of the featured poets to see which seems the best match for you.  All of our poets have websites and many have blogs.

4) Our book group is in Kitsap County — is that too far for A Poet at Your Table?

~  Poets live and work throughout Washington.

5) Can we choose more than one poet to visit?

~   Absolutely! You could invite two poets to come on the same evening or one poet per month.

For more information please contact: PoetAtYourTable@gmail.com

The Big Poetry Giveaway 2013

Poetry Giveaway

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am participating in the 2013 version of the Big Poetry Giveaway.

I am offering up a free copy of my Floating Bridge Chapbook, Lamp of Letters, along with a copy of Nikky Finney's Head Off & Split, winner of the National Book Award.

All you need to do is post a comment about this blog post stating that you are "in," and on May 1 you very well may be randomly chosen to receive a free book. It's that easy.

For more information, go to Susan Rich's blog, The Alchemist's Kitchen http://thealchemistskitchen.blogspot.com/2013/03/sign-up-now-to-participate-in-big.html

AWP Conference

AWP to me is kind of like an annual marriage—for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part. And the gathering of all of the writer friends in my life! Pretty much! Everybody please come to my Panel Presentation at AWP.

Dancing about Architecture

Writing at the Intersection of Language, Art, and Music Michael Mejia, Gretchen Henderson, Katharine Whitcomb, Jeffrey DeShell, Debra di Blasi

March 7, 2013, 10:30-11:45 a.m.
Room 201, Level 2, Sheraton Boston Hotel
AWP Conference, Boston, MA

This panel is interested in complex intersections between language, music, and the visual arts. Moving beyond the ekphrastic response, we will discuss how our texts seek to conceptually and materially adapt and participate in the practices of other arts, creating innovative hybrids, unclassifiable monsters, and art whose language, style, form, and approaches to authorship remind us of the book’s less genre-bound past and point to continuing opportunities for cross-genre experimentation in the future.

I will be making a presentation for this panel about my work with poetry in collaborative projects, namely A Sense of Place: The Washington State Geospatial Poetry Anthology (of which I am the editor), Cascadia Chronicle: A Geospatial Journal of Place, Environment, and Imagination (of which I am co-founder, and senior co-editor), and Smelling the City, my collaborative exhibit with conceptual artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter in the Summer Salon Series at the San Diego Museum of Art in summer 2011.

VERY IMPORTANT: Here is your opportunity to tell your conference story on http://www.conferenceconfidential.com

Relate your favorite AWP story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!