Saturday, May 30, 2015

Because - a photo

A moment in time from the trip to Taos. I was returning from a little trek outside of town and a sign caught my attention. I turned around and went back to check out the gallery, which was closed, but the owner let me in, anyway. Put off her trip to the post office for a few minutes to show me around and we talked. She is a writer, too. She has this gallery which is open about three days a week, sometimes four. And she lives there; rents part of it out. It's a very old home and Georgia O'Keefe stayed there back in the day. I saw the room. When I was leaving, turning around in the small parking area, I saw this gate between the parking area and the river which runs through part of town.

I took a picture.

Now I'm sharing the picture.

Just because.

It was a good trip.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Synchronous Moment: Writing in Our Time

Writing in Modern Times? In Our Time? In the Age of _________, fill in the blank. I couldn't think of a better way to say it so I went with what I had.

This is one of those times when different aspects of my life are coming together with the same or a similar message. Meaning, in my opinion, pay attention.

I am now in week six of the seven weeks IWP online MOOC poetry class. The topics have been interesting and, while I am still not fond of the online classroom platform they've chosen for this round, it is still working. I just ignore what doesn't work and keep to my workarounds, and respond as I have been and read much more than I write on the boards - and it's fine.

Last week's IWP topic didn't resonate with me. It felt like a "duh" and I didn't get as much from it. I think some of that was because it had to do with "turns" in poetry and I think, as primarily a fiction and creative non-fiction writer, "turns" are commonplace in the stories. It was interesting to read about the different styles of turns in poetry, with some excellent examples and exposure to new poets, but it didn't spur me to write more poetry. And I will admit that the activity and busy-ness of the week also interfered with me jumping into it as heavily as I have been; so there is probably something to that as, well.

But this week's topic is inspiring. And right up my writing alley. And one of the video lectures mentions several of my favorite poets; the other video lecture talks about some of my favorite ideas and questions. I fell into this week's topic quickly and easily.

One focus of this week on the place of "anger" in poetry. "Anger" is a very general term - specifically they talk about politics and the personal. One of the "instructors" for this week put the question out on the boards if poetry can just be cathartic without leading toward a solution. It was a question to generate conversation and I think it will; it is still early in the week.

Another focus is on writing in the current times and all that goes with it - short and fast, hashtags, and the internet and tweets and posts; brevity. How does this affect us as poets, as readers? How do we physically experience our world and our work, our writing and our reading, with these new things. What does it mean to - or do we - embody this life with all of these things? When a "date" might be online and not in person. When we text or tweet or Skype rather than calling on the phone or stopping by or meeting in person in a coffee shop? Questions ... no answers.

Then I saw an interview with Charles Baxter for Tin House. And the section quoted reminds me of the topics and lectures and discussions this week in the MOOC. Which is what led to this piece of writing, although it took me this long to get to the point. Click through to read the whole interview, if you have a couple of minutes; if not, come back later and check it out.

Questions about time, our times, and writing.
"Everything now is supposed to go fast; everything is supposed to be so efficient. Since when was fiction supposed to submit to time-and-motion studies? Impatience and distraction are our great enemies and must be conquered somehow. We all know that some of our most profound moments happen with a kind of languor: pleasure and love and sorrow and prayer take their own sweet time." -- Charles Baxter, in conversation with Susan Tacent
Read the whole piece by clicking here: Urgency and Momentum: An Interview with Charles Baxter.

graphic from Tin House link for the Baxter interview

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dorothy Allison Reading in Port Townsend

Dorothy Allison is reading at The Writers' Workshoppe & Imprint Books on Saturday, May 16th, at 7:00 pm. She is also presenting a workshop Saturday and Sunday, but that has long been full.

Go to The Writers' Workshoppe website to get more information about the location of this event. It's a sweet place for a reading, and Port Townsend is a short drive away and a beautiful place to spend a day or a couple of days.

It will be worth the drive!

from the sponsor's website:

Dorothy Allison is an American writer and nationally known teacher and lecturer with a strong emphasis on memoir and storytelling, and a profound bias toward pushing past fear into creativity.  Her writing includes themes of class struggle, sexual abuse, child abuse, feminism and lesbianism. 
Allison's first novel, Bastard out of Carolina was one of five finalists for the 1992 National Book Award. Graphic in its depiction of Southern poverty, family ties, illegitimacy, child abuse, and rape, Bastardwent on to win the Ferro Grumley and Bay Area Reviewers Award for fiction. The novel has been translated into over a dozen languages. A film version, directed by Anjelica Huston premiered in 1996 on Showtime. Cavedweller became a national bestseller, NY Times Notable book of the year, finalist for the Lillian Smith prize, and an ALA prize winner. Adapted for the stage by Kate Moira Ryan, the play was directed by Michael Greif, and featured music by Hedwig composer, Stephen Trask. In 2003, Lisa Cholendenko directed a movie version. 
Allison’s book, Trash: Short Stories, a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories, won her two Lambda Literary Awards.Trash includes the prize winning short story, “Compassion” selected for both Best American Short Stories 2003 and Best New Stories from the South, 2003. 
Allison says that the early Feminist movement changed her life. "It was like opening your eyes under water. It hurt, but suddenly everything that had been dark and mysterious became visible and open to change."

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

MOOC Poetry Class Update

I am participating in an online poetry class, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) offered by The University of Iowa International Writing Program. There are thousands of participants from around the world. The online platform is clunky and can be overwhelming. But I have developed a system to decrease the technology frustrations so that I can enjoy the amazing videos from skilled poets and teachers, learn about new forms, practice writing more poetry in sometimes new or different ways. The content each week is wonderful. Oh, and it's free.

We are in week four now and I haven't shared anything I've written. I decided it's time to put up one of my poems. It's interesting that I chose this one because this week's focus is meter and form. I tend to write free verse poetry, but I do enjoy experimenting with structure and am often happily surprised at the results. 

This poem is written with the Pantoum structure. This is a form I had not heard of before this course, which is one reason I chose this form. 

Working the Night Shift 
a pantoum
by Dot Hearn 
the look of a face at sunset 
when light switches form,  
the trees pull up roots, 
and life, as we know it, ends. 
when light switches form,  
inverting shadows, highlights, thought 
and life as we sense it begins. 
we prepare for vision and insight. 
inverting shadows and highlights, through 
closed eyelids and flickering minds, 
we prepare for vision and insight. 
the rocks float and rivers rumble. 
closed eyelids and blinking minds, 
the bodies wander familiar strange roads 
as rocks float and rivers rumble, remembering 
the look of a face at sunset.