Tuesday, April 29, 2008


A spoken word piece by Eric Mata

I want to update my K-inspiration image (K as in a mathematical constant) and I want to preserve this video in my blog, so I'm moving it to the contents section.

found: prompt

Overheard comment: World events should always be studied in stereo.

From Opposites Jamboree
by Bishop Animation

Monday, April 28, 2008


desire: to sit
to think
to be

reason: so much
every day
the world in crisis which isn't new but the content is shifting
- or the content which we are being shown is shifting because it hits home -
- or we are better sheep when we are afraid -

endings: a group
challenging and engaging
no space for lapsing into autopilot
changes, connections, growth - mine, too


questions / questing

seeking: a reason
creative expression
being present

brush painting from
Zen Hodgepodge

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Being Open

Being conscious and being present are the goal. Yet being present and aware brings with it a sensitivity to surroundings. The converse, I know, is that not being in the moment means missing what is present. Which may mean missing that overheard statement of the couple passing by on the street, or the look of a newly opened dandelion's yellow against the glowing spring green of the grass, or noticing how the news on NPR trickles down to that emotional place in my chest. Or how I miss my friends, who are also too busy to sit down to tea.

Being open is not easy and sometimes I want to shut that door and crawl back to the seeming sanctuary of busy-ness. What is this writing about, anyway? Who do I think I am? Why would I want to be in touch with a world so in turmoil and so much suffering? What can I do, anyway?

A news story. Or two or three: car crashes, plane crashes, missing hikers, missing mothers and fathers, abducted children lost, one found. Politicians: rearranging the colors of the flag to suit their own viewpoint, spouting rhetoric which all sounds the same if you really listen beyond the form of the words, yet, somehow, one will come out on top and then the two finalists. How many months until this madness is done? Weather: global warming, colder winters, late snow, flooding. Bicyclists. Priests. Weather. Environment. Blue collars; going green. Platinum awards for doing more with less or is it less with more?

Being open means all of this. Means the feelings that go with the stories and the memories raised by the stories / colors / sights / smells. Means sometimes it's not easy but maybe it is easier than trying to keep the door shut all the time. Noticing.



painting: The Magic Egg Shop
by Serena Barton

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

revision: yours, mine, ours

I have two pieces I'm working on to get ready for publication. I'm writing other things here and there, then return to these two. One has been in process for about two years, the other for about a month.

Revision is funny and not always easy (I know, no one said it was!). I write something and I like it, with the caveat that it needs a little polishing. For example, my two-year old story was shown to one person who liked it and made suggestions. Then I showed it to a writing buddy on a "show and tell" meeting at Bipartisan Cafe, a comfortable and welcoming neighborhood place where other artistic types hang out. (I can share the location now because word is out and it's not just our little secret hideaway!) He had some feedback and felt it was pretty close to ready. Several months later, I showed it to my new writing seminar participants and the feedback was very different than what I had before. Not a problem; it is important to have different views and make decisions about what to keep and what to toss. And figure out who is my intended audience. This piece doesn't feel any closer to ready than it was six months ago, despite lots of changes. Some of those changes will be discarded and cut passages returned, I think.

But the short piece is being even more interesting. It started as an exercise in writing a short short or flash fiction piece. (Note to self: get more information on the difference between those terms; I know there is one, but I'm not sure what it is.) I'll call it a flash fiction story, because the exercise was to write it in 750 words, which is standard for flash fiction.

I wrote the story and was pretty darned pleased with myself. I edited it down to about 820 words, so more paring to do, and took that version to the writing seminar. The feedback was a little varied with some similiarities; I wrote it all down and took their written notes. Some of the ideas I discarded because they conflicted with my goals or were what I hoped someone might think. I spent many hours reshaping and taking out some parts that consistently didn't work; one section I edited out despite my partner saying it worked and I should leave it. So I whittled and rearranged and got it to exactly 750 words and took out some of the sections which had not worked for the seminar participants. Then I showed it to my partner again, who said that I should cut one section I deliberately left despite the group saying it should go. I had left that section because it had relevance to me and it was a section my partner said earlier was important. But in the revision, that other character became extraneous and seemed out of place.

As the author, I get to decide when it's ready. I use what I can from others' feedback and file away the rest. I was going to say "discard," but I know I don't really do that. Even though I might not use the information right now, it might be good for something later. At a minimum, it is information about how a few people who write differently from me and have different lives than mine, think about writing.

My writing is mine, with influences from the past and present, and little bits of your idea, and her idea, and his idea. I am listed as the author, but the input from everyone is considered and impacts the story in one way or another.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

found object: on poetry

A smile found taped on the edge of a bookshelf in Hawthorne Powells: "Most people avoid most poetry because most poetry ignores most people." - Adrian Mitchell

photo from Optimistic Voices

Thursday, April 17, 2008


There will be more to come on the topic of information availability and the effect (or potential effect) on creativity. The notion of information overload, diversity of available information, framing what we get from mass media, the ease with which we can research and locate specific types of information has been surfacing in several work settings. Then I found an article in the current Poets & Writers (P&W) magazine about the pros and cons of everything that is available to us.

As writers, certainly it can be easier - at least on the surface - to hunt around in cyberspace from the comfort of home in your pajamas with coffee or tea at your side for that elusive roadside stop you remember from 1976 or what roads there are between Greeley and Taos, than to get showered, dressed, and drag yourself to your favorite library or university to browse their stacks and archives. There is the question of validity and reliability of what you find online; but most of us probably have our known sources and try to back up what we find if it is a new site we don't generally use. Hence the "maybe it's easier to surf the web" thought above.

I read "Way, Way Too Much Information," by Frank Bures, in the current P&W issue. There are several interesting points he makes - such as the study about how dealing with email and text messaging can lower your IQ 10 points, or how multitasking may not actually be helping us get things done better because our brain power drops by nearly 50% so we may be less effective - which made me think. The one that really caught me, though, was how the bombardment of information may actually lead to "...the loss of creative space."

Bures cites a 2003 study which found that
...creative people are much more likely to have what's called low "latent inhibition," the ability to look at an incoming piece of information, classify it, and then discard it automatically if experience has shown it is likely to be irrelevant. "The brains of creative people," they wrote, "appear to be more open to incoming stimuli," and more likely to remain in contact with that stimuli for longer.

This is good news for those of us who are trying to create something original out of the material of life, but what does it mean for our ability to stay on task and actually create it? Could one of the building blocks of creativity—an openness to new and interesting things—become an obstruction?

He goes on to talk about finding space and, basically, disconnecting for a while as a remedy to the overload. Then this links back to some earlier thoughts and discussions I've had with other writers and with artists about the need to get out of the familiar sometimes. To find a place to go where we can let go of some "shoulds" and "have to" and become a little out of touch. Or go somewhere so our brains can relax and just take in what we see and think.

Right now, this is an idea which is still forming. I could have waited until I had something more definitive to say - but it feels big to me. Important. And I wanted to get it written down, to make space for it, and I will return. It is a topic I don't see fading away anytime soon.

I'd love to read what others think about this notion of too much information, or that you disagree. If it does sometimes feel too much, what do you do to counteract the impact?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

a matter of degree; or, what's the problem?

Last weekend I found myself complaining - to myself because no one else was around - about how busy I was. Why, I couldn't possibly do everything I wanted to do, let alone everything I *had* to do. What was I going to do? I mean I literally couldn't do everything, because there were three events at approximately the same time in three scattered locations.

Then I paused for a few seconds. I thought. I thought some more. And I realized that the dilemma I was having was just exactly the type of "dilemma" I wanted, in a symbolic way, a few years ago. I decided I didn't have anything to complain about and, whatever my decision, wasn't it delicious to have these choices?!! I smiled and sighed. I made my choice. But the point was, I could have done something different.

I did go with the work choice, because it was to watch the play, again, that I would be interpreting on 4/17 with two others and practice my interpretation. "Oh, my," the little sarcastic inner voice comments, "don't make me watch the world premiere production of Sometimes a Great Notion, again!" What a terrible thing to have to go to the theatre again!

I was disappointed to not get to see Ten Tiny Dances #15 in Tacoma (I'd been unable to make it to the Portland performance the week before because I already had tickets to Lucille Clifton for that same night; another "awww" moment quickly quelled). And I knew there would be a Ten Tiny Dances #16, because it's mentioned on the website. While #15 was the collaboration with Seattle/Tacoma performers, I knew #16 would be just as good. I've seen several and knew there was more to come. Below are are links to a few online videos from a wide variety of Ten Tiny Dances performances, as a sampling of what has been done. (note: the tEEth clip is the end of one of my favorites; there was much more leading up to this surprising ending!) There is also an archives page on the Ten Tiny Dances website with photos.

The third thing choice I had last week was to drive to the Bay City Arts Center on the coast for the open mic portion of their weekend of poetry. A member of my recent writing group, David Pickering, was an invited guest for the event. David's poetry is full of life and flows from beginning to end, carrying the reader through the images and sensations. I haven't found much online about him or of his work, but did find this one, Laura adds Botox to her Beauty Regimen, which was published in the Portland Review 2006. He is a "poet to watch for" and I wish I had a link to some of his other work. I think he's submitting a chapbook and I will be one of the first in line to purchase a copy.

So, my dilemma, really wasn't - not once I found my perspective. There have been a couple times in my life where there would be no question about having the resources to make a drive to Tacoma or the coast for a performance or reading. There were times when I was so overwhelmed with just trying to get through each week and month that I rarely thought about getting out to see new performances and listen to poetry readings. And there were certainly times when my work had absolutely nothing to do with creativity of any kind, let alone working with a professional theater on a new play.

I know there are many people who don't have these choices now and there are people who can fly across the country to see a Broadway show, have dinner, and come back home to the west coast. And I'm lucky enough to be in-between. I get to decided if I want to pour money into the gas tank to drive four to six hours to see a performance or reading, or whether I stay near home and do a little creative work. So right now I'm thankful that I have these opportunities and will look for ways I can share this with others who aren't in the same position right now.

Which is one of my reasons for volunteering with Write Around Portland. I know the seeds people planted in me years ago are sprouting and the little opportunities here and there I was given have accumulated into a new view. Sometimes all we need is someone to hold the space for us and let us explore.

Yes, I missed Ten Tiny #15 and, yes, I missed David's reading. But I did see the show and my work on the 17th will be better for it. Perhaps someone in our particular audience will be inspired because of it in a way I cannot predict.

For now, no complaints. Just thankfulness for the opportunities I have and mindfulness of where I've been and where others are.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

bassey ikpi

A poem about language, place and belonging. Thank you, Taiwo, for pointing me to this artist.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Random Thought

...or maybe not that random...

This week I'm thinking about "duty" and "desire." Desire being of a general sense and in terms of creativity. I'm assuming that duty and desire don't have to be in opposition, but I often behave as if they are. Often I feel they are in conflict. I'm still exploring the idea and seeing what it looks, tastes, smells, sounds, and feels like. Sometimes I find myself feeling inspired and there is a thought I want to follow down a creative path - sometimes a yearning that I almost feel I can't stand to ignore. And I'm on my way to a job or on my way home where I will go to my office space and work more because I have reports due or papers to grade or videos to evaluate and they all have deadlines.

And the desire, the inspiration, the creative spark try to hold on. Sometimes they are temporarily misplaced among the debris of my duty. On one level I believe that I can't shirk my duty because I believe duty is tied to financial well-being and I believe that if I let loose of duty hanging like an anchor around my neck then I will be adrift with nothing. Fortunately, on another level, I don't let myself totally get away with that belief.

And the desire to create does not go away. No matter how often I try to ignore it or put it off until later. It is still here. It pokes its head up here and there, reminding me, turning me toward that other place of creativity.

And I think: what if I have a duty to create?

(silk painting detail) Tea Ceremony #4 by Dot.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

notes on Lucille Clifton

Sunday was a wonderful night, listening to Lucille Clifton read her poetry and tell stories from her life. I was enchanted by her presence and enjoyed her being present in the space with us. Her energy was honest and, even though tired by her own admission, she filled the room with her words and we all listened.

There were many gems I heard that night. Some of them poetry. Some of them stories from her life. Some of them pieces of wisdom. I am still digesting everything I heard and I can still hear her voice. So, rather than give a review of her work, I've decided to (at least for now) share some of the things I noticed and wrote down. We'll see if they are as potent today as they were then - and if I wrote down enough to make sense of what I wrote *wink.

The first quote is from Ursula LeGuin's introduction of Lucille Clifton: "She brings it into focus for those of us who couldn't see it otherwise."

Lucille Clifton was poet laureate of Maryland for 10 years. When she was offered the title, she "asked the governor if he'd read anything I wrote and he said, 'no.' I thought, 'this could work!'."

She talked a lot about naming. How people think we have the duty, obligation - the right - to name the world around us. And even more, that we have the arrogance to think that our name is The Name it should be known as.

"Speculation is why I write."

This was once piece of a line from a poem which just struck me and so I wrote it down. I love it, still! "...consider my pockets..."

On "why I write": "My writing is to get people to notice. All people should be noticed."

Someone in the audience asked her for advice to women who are mothers and writers. Her answer: "aren't we all a lot of things?"

Another bit of advice in response to a different question: "Do the best you can with more than one thing."

She was asked about how she writes, advice to writers ... She said she does not write every day. She goes long periods sometimes without writing. Right now she is working on a book, the cover and book design are done, and she is not writing. But when she writes, she writes a lot.

She also said that "poems know that I will say yes to them, and so they come."

Writing is also her lifeline. She didn't say it in quite those words. But she did say it in many words. What she did say was, "If I'm writing, everything is okay."

Thank you, Lucille Clifton, for sharing a couple hours with us and sharing your words.

A brief note in case you're wondering:
the color values chart is a nod to Lucille's
writing about naming and about (skin) color.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Lucille Clifton: preview

I planned to write about Lucille Clifton farther in advance of her appearance here in Portland this coming Sunday, April 6th. But I didn't. So, instead of a deeper look into who she is and why she is important and why you should see her if you can, I decided to do a brief introduction for those who don't know and provide a couple audio links to listen to some of her work.

The very brief bio is that Lucille Clifton's first book was written and published while four of her six children were still in diapers. She has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize (two of them were nominated in the same year), was Maryland's Poet Laureate, and has published a long list of books and poems. An amazing person and wonderful writing.

I need to go to my partner's art openings now, so I will let you see for yourself. And I'm sure I will be inspired to write more after I've seen her Sunday night. If you browse around on the internet, you can find more links to audio files of her reading and discussing her work. There are even a couple of videos on YouTube which feature her work in pieces by other artists.

Here are a few links to get exposure to her work:

homage to my hips
Lucille Clifton Reads Her Poetry (Library of Congress webcast)
the mississippi river enters into the gulf

Update: Local Poetry Posse

The numbers are growing. "The Blank Canvas" has been added to the growing Portland Poetry Posse. Thank you to gl for alerting me to others who are joining her in her endeavor to keep poetry real and live and available to all. "The Blank Canvas" was created by Bridget Benton, another very creative person and the proprietor of "Eyes Aflame."