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Monday, December 1, 2014

Coming Your Way: The Almost-Saints!

 Makes the perfect holiday gift! 

Trains are flying by, and so are the shopping days until Christmas! One week from tonight, I'll be reading with Susanne Paola, Annette Spaulding-Convy, and Lorraine Healy at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle from St. Peters' B-List: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints, edited by Mary Ann Miller and published by Ave Maria Press earlier this year. 

A fast train to heaven ... or?

There are many decisions regarding where to hang out and/or spend your $$ for gifts this holiday season, but what better place than your local independent bookstore, Elliott Bay Books? There's a cafe in-store with delish yummies and drinks, plus tons of books to browse, and many cozy chairs.

Also, for all you lapsed and practicing Catholics, you know what December 8 is! Yes, it's the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, which makes it an especially perfect night for pious poetry with more than a hint of the fallen. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

December 8, 7 pm: Reading from St. Peter's B-List: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints (Elliott Bay Books, Seattle)

Just in time for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I will be emceeing and reading with Lorraine HealySuzanne Paola, and Annette Spauling-Convy from St. Peter's B-List, Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints, a spirited and compelling poetry anthology edited by Mary Ann B. Miller and published by Ave Maria Press earlier this year.

As the title suggests, this collection focuses on contemporary responses to saints, from the well-known variety to the obscure. Speaking of  obscure, Alice Friman's contribution, "Seeing the Sights," tells of  a holy woman named Vilgefortis, Saint Starosta, aka the bearded saint:
                                                         There she is
nailed to her five-o'clock shadow. / No weeping mother. No deposition. / No miracle in the tomb. She dangles / in her side-show getup, beyond tweezers / or depilatories, electrolysis or laser, /
forty bucks a shot. Grind golden scissors, / strop a magic blade. It will do not good. This is God's hair, tough as wire, / inspired as twisted nails.

Poems by Edward Hirsch, Dana Gioia, Brian Doyle, Erika Meitner, Martin Espada, Jim Daniels, Franz Wright, Mary Karr, Kelli Russell-Agodon, Susan Blackwell Ramsey, Rebecca Lauren, Sarah J. Sloat, C. Dale Young, J. D. Schraffenberger, and many other fine poets grace these pages with tales of the forlorn to the fabulous. One of my favorites, "Shopping for Miracles: Lourdes, 1979," by Alan Bereka, gets to the root of why this is my kind of saint anthology:

I returned  to the States with a glass flask
filled with holy water which I gave 
to my mother ... she remained 
bedridden and continued to say the rosary
through her pain every day until this died.

In a similar fashion, Kelli Russell Agodon's speaker, in "Being Called Back," welcomes both the priest and the medic:

I know the priest would come,
     offer everlasting life and pray
over my body, but I'm betting

on the medic, the EMT, the blonde girl
    who works weekends at the fire station
to keep her daughter in private school. 

That this book would include poems so utterly doubting the power of faith is testament to its democratic approach, an admirable quality in a book that could have ended up being one-sided, preachy, dogmatic: too damn devout for its own good. Maybe it's that the editor knows there are saints in our malls and parking lots, staying up for us in fire stations, picking up our trash. They may never be recognized by the Catholic Church, and yet no one questions their ability to save us.

If you live in the area and want a taste of the thought-provoking poems that await you, come down to Elliott Bay Books in Seattle on December 8, at 7 pm, and listen to four contributors read their own work as well as their favorites from the book.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Poem by Florentina Tunduc, Student, Bellevue College


You gave me the sun
From under your skin,
You gave me your light
Trapped in a thousand tiny seeds.

--Florentina Tunduc, Student, Bellevue College

From the Poet:
My name is Florentina. Many years ago, I wrote some poetry when I was about 12-13 years old. The poem was in Romanian, and it was about my little dog named Maxi and my cat Mimi. I grew up in a family where animals were always welcomed. My parents taught me to love nature, and especially animals.

Now, living in the USA with my husband, after many years finally I have a son, three cats and a fig tree. When the assignment for my English 101 course was about poetry… Gosh, I said, I won’t be able to write a single line that even makes a little sense.

Days went by and the due date approached. Suddenly, I had a flash about the joy and happiness I felt on the day I ate my first fig fruit from my own tree. Even now I feel those little tiny seeds bursting in my mouth, that silky soft feeling of the inside of the fruit, its skin like velvet, soft, yet the same time protecting the richness of fruit inside. My mind clicked to the muse of that day, and my heart participated by giving me the excitement of such simple and pure joy. Then I wrote my second poem of my life, but this time in English. Thanks to my fig tree for saving my assignment and bringing joy to others reading my little poem.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Writers' Workshoppe Marathon Poetry Writing Session, September 27, 2014

On a gorgeous fall day in a small fishing town with more writers than you can shake a caesura at, Kelli Russell Agodon and I excitedly breezed into a conference room on Main Street, each of us equipped with close to a dozen writing prompts in our satchels. Our goal: keep the customer satisfied, the customers being five poets who'd come there precisely to write till they dropped.

Six hours and EIGHT rough drafts later, we knew we'd done our job,  our sturdy and steadfast team o five exiting the building with new poem drafts about jobs they never had (including working in a potato chip factory and as a fisheries biologist) and poems that began with "When ...", along with poems written in one long run-on sentence, poems made of coined compound words, and poems that interrogate and rearrange cliches.

It. Was. Fun.

Below, a few pics that share a taste of the deep digging, the going there, and, most of all, all of us writing like the dickens.

Thanks so much to Anna Quinn and The Writers' Workshoppe for letting us laugh and play (and cry a little too) and to the participants and their never-flagging spirits.

If you want a taste of what went on, pick up a copy of The Daily Poet. Our workshops don't limit themselves to these prompts, but the book is a good enough substitute till you can enroll in one of our classes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Haiku Project - Shin Yu Pai

During her recent appearance at The Station for the Beacon Bards reading series, poet Shin Yu Pai shared haiku she wrote each day during this past April.

I was struck by these new poems, immediately finding much to like about their keen imagery and leaps from the close at hand to the far away and worldly. Even better, her poems have stayed with me--I keep finding myself wanting to re-read/re-experience that initial joy in hearing news that stays news.  In looking at them more closely, I notice they are unsentimental in how they deal with a baby's behaviors, actions, growth. The exhaustion of new motherhood is here, but so are student demonstrations and the unequal distribution of wealth. I admire how she moves easily between and among the personal, the local, and the larger world of injustices and tragedies.

I asked Pai if I might share a few of these haiku on my blog, and she obliged. They work best as a unit, which likely will be published in a reputable journal before too long. In the meantime, here are a few to whet your appetite:

students stand up for
freedom, occupy the legislative yuan,
dear mother-land, never give up
far eastern sweet
potatoes, the dark
outline of Taiwan

at the eye exam
wondering all the sudden where
fibbing gets me

scrubbing poop from
the swaddle cloth, end of
a long day
in the alley, the Kenyan laborer
picks up needles w/ gloved hands  -
what asylum is this?

when I twist the top
off the pineapple head my boy
screams in horror

trying to recall the word
for "gaslighting" my brain
pulls up "waterboarding"
hundreds of students
drowned when the ship went down
all just kids
weighing whether to
ask my doctor or other
moms about weaning

More of Pai's haiku may be read in Haiku Not Bombs, a collaborative collection of poems written as part of a project to write a haiku a day for a year. She is also the author of the newly released Auxs Arc

I felt lucky to be present for Shin Yu's reading. 

Gerry MacFarland also read. 

Our next scheduled Beacon Bards event is Wednesday, June 11, when Kathleen Flennekin and Peter Pereira will take the podium at 7 pm. As always, an open mic follows our featured readers.  On warm/dry nights we move the stage to the back-alley patio. 

Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Winners of the Annual Poetry Book Give-Away Announced!

I used a random number generator, and it chose the number 19 for a free copy of Reckless Lovely, and the number 33 for a free copy of Clean by David Daniels. Without further ado, the winners are:

Mystical Marianne, winner of a copy of Reckless Lovely; and

Andrew, winner of a copy of Clean. 

Winners! Please email me a copy of your mailing address. My email address is

Thanks so much to all the participants - I hope you won big on another blog!