Dia de los Muertos

The weather folks are calling for snow in Spokane this weekend; I can’t say that I’m excited about driving in ice and sleet and that fun powdery stuff, but I do enjoy the changes in the season–Halloween and the Day of the Dead, of course, as iconic moments when we acknowledge the spirits that have gone before, the fact of our own mortality, and, maybe, the monsters that lurk about in the worlds through which we move.

October was busy!  I had a wonderful visit with the Red Wheel Barrow Writers in Bellingham; big thanks to JP Falcon Grady and Betty Scott for organizing; Jim Bertolino came out for the event and read some poems with his cow friends watching from behind.  The WA 129 Reading in Bellingham was also a great joy; Tess Gallagher and Alice Derry came over from the Olympic Peninsula and anchored what was a wonderful evening.  Luther Allen and Judy Kleinberg are energetic and creative presences in Bellingham; Village Books is one of our state’s great stores; BHAM is just a great place for the arts.

And just a few days ago, Pomeroy and the Denny Ashby Library gave me a chance to drive across the SE part of the state–and enjoy the rolling hills of the Palouse and the startlingly large windmills that rotate around and around and around like clocks measuring the passage of clouds.  I also learned about A. G. Farley, poet laureate of Washington from 1939-46.  Many thanks to Lillian Heytvelt and the folks at the high school who hosted me!

AG Farley

Like Farley (above), I’ll soon “take my shingle down” from this appointment: this poet will no longer be serving.  Look for an announcement from Humanities Washington and Arts Washington in the next few weeks that will name the next poet to serve our state.  I know who it is, and I’m excited for the poet, the poetry communities in Washington, and all people in Washington who value language and words.  The organizations had a hard decision to make from excellent finalists, and they made a wonderful choice.  So, another transition:  falling leaves, snow, the change of seasons, the passing of the laurels.

But not for a few months.  First:  some driving.  Stevens pass and Robert Creeley:

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.

I probably should look out where I’m going before I get too far ahead of myself–to Walla Walla and Redmond, Puyallup and La Conner, Waterville and Pullman.  Lots more poetry stuff to share and to experience in these last three months:  WA 129 events, the soon-to-be-released digital WA 129 chapbooks, workshops and chats, Yusef Komunyakaa coming to Gonzaga, a celebration of Native American poetry in Spokane, and the always poetic moment that is the start of the Jayhawk basketball season.

Writing a Poem for Others

A few weeks ago, I received this poem via email from Cynthia Trenshaw, a poet who lives on Whidbey Island.  She sent it because she wanted to share it with those immediately affected by the fires of this last summer in order to let them know that others felt compassion for their situation.  The gesture reminded me of Kathleen Flenniken’s wonderful project to share poems of support with those affected by the Oso mudslides–or Elizabeth Austen’s great project to share poems connected with the raging fires in the Methow area of our state.  I love it when poetry tries to reach directly to others and let them know that they are not alone in their travail.

Here’s the poem:

Prayer to the Scarlet Sun

 

On my bedroom carpet and on the closet doors

patches of muted morning sunlight

throb an alarming red.

This week’s every molecule is murky,

hazed by the savage wildfires

on the Cascade mountains’ other side.

 

On that inferno side

families are evacuated,

reluctantly abandon homes, their personal

museums of memorabilia,

to a gluttony of flame.

 

Ashes fly westward to land

on my side of the mountains —

small gray supplications settling

on my flower pots and windowsills:

Help us!

            Pray for us!

            Pray for my home,

            pray for the smoke jumpers,

                        sweating, choking, dying in the flames,

            pray for the hundreds of thousands of trees

                        that used to breathe for us here.

 

But prayer is far too sanitized a pledge

for the murky ache that duplicates

the air on both sides of the mountains.

Any god that I might pray to

is obliterated by the smoke and ash.

So I send my supplications

to the sun that’s red for me,

the sun those refugees can’t even see

as they flee their homes,

fight back flames

and despair.

 

On this, the safe side of the mountains,

I tell that surreal scarlet sun

I won’t pretend to empathize —

that’s far too painful.

But please, please let them know,

on the other side of the mountains,

that I hear them,

and I touch the ashes reverently

for all the suffering they contain.

By Cynthia Trenshaw

 

 

An Art Festival, Nirvana Nostalgia, and the Pacific Ocean (as far as the eye can see)

I was honored to be part of the first Cathlamet Arts Festival; from Steampunk gizmos and pottery classes to compelling music and memorable poetry, the two-day gathering showcased how a small town with dedicated citizens can put together a memorable event:  memorable for the arts but also memorable because of how it brought people together in conversation.  Conversation.  That word is on my mind after listening to a compelling podcast where Krista Tippett and John O’Donohue talk about beauty and interiority, how in the best conversations we surprise ourselves.

(Thanks to Diana Zimmerman of The Wahkiakum County Eagle for the first photo).  The finale of the festival featured Bob Michael Pyle and Krist Novoselic and Ray Prestegard performing as Butterfly Launches from Spar Pole–

My last day in the SW corner of the state took me to the ocean.  I thought of Robert Frost’s “Once by the Pacific” when I stood near the edge of the continent and looked out at the vast stretch of grey; I thought of the rich history of our state when I walked around Oysterville–and was glad to read with Cate Gable and Bob Pyle in the beautiful Espy House (1871) for a wonderful group of poetry enthusiasts (during the Seahawks game, no less!).

And I thought of journeys:  my 45,000 miles driving around the state suddenly seemed cushy and lavish travel next to the imperative Thomas Jefferson gave Lewis and Clark as they embarked on their exploration:  “The object of your mission . . . the Pacific Ocean.”

 

The Huge Summer Has Gone By

But not quite–(slow down, Mr. Rainier Maria Rilke: from “Autumn Day” or, in a different translation, “Day in Autumn“).  I’m thankful to have had a slow summer, rereading through WA 129, continuing to explore modern European history, and poking around in poets’ work who have given me sustenance in the past.  Catching a few fish, walking miles and miles on mountain trails, trying to breathe a little after the frenetic spring.

And, of course, preparing for the many events of the fall–readings in Bellingham and LaConner, festivals and workshops in Tacoma and Tieton, as well as many library and school visits throughout the state.  More on all of that soon.  In the meantime, here are some photos from early summer–

Was honored to read with Tess Gallagher and to be a part of the tribute to Raymond Carver (with such delicious pie and gracious company) at his grave just outside of Port Angeles.  I look forward to returning to Port Angeles this fall to celebrate WA129 and to gather with many other poets at readings throughout the state!  Details coming soon!

C998OHIVYAADHRJ
photo by David Haldeman

May Day

I am grateful for my many journeys during National Poetry Month (and 2017 in general); May is also busy, and I hope that it starts tomorrow (peacefully) with sunshine in our state.  WA129 is in the world, and the wonderful poets who will be part of the digital part of the project should have received a note so that we can move forward with that work.  Here are some images from Louder than a Bomb Tacoma (Nate Marshall), Poets on the Avenue (Auburn!), “Don’t Feed the Goats” (!), and, one of favorites:  a disruption notice (poet in the house).  Thanks to all who hosted me this spring.  Will launch some posts on some recent books that I have found compelling, some upcoming poetry conferences and festivals, and the details of the digital part of WA129 soon.

 

National Poetry Month

Have visited three islands, five libraries, some bookstores, a few schools, a fire station, and Grant Mountain Preserve as part of several poetry events in the last ten days.  Busy!  This week will bring the launch of WA 129 book in Olympia and several other poetry events.  And:  heard Robert Wrigley read from his great new book, curated an art portal, saw deer in my yard, and celebrated Edna St. Vincent Millay in Ellensburg.

Update:  am almost finished sending out acceptances to the digital section of the WA 129 project–looking forward to working on that over the next few months!  More poetry news soon.

WA 129

An update:  Acceptances for the printed anthology have all been been sent, and I’ll start sending information to poets who I’d like to be included in the digital project soon.  All poets who submitted should get some sort of notification from me in the next couple of weeks.  I apologize that it’s taken so long to get back to folks, and I’ll be in touch soon!

Tod