Art, Ecology, Poetry: The Cascadia Field Guide

What a delight to have a poem honoring the rufous hummingbird included in this gorgeous field guide/anthology from Mountaineers Books. Huge thanks to Elizabeth Bradfield, CMarie Fuhrman and Derek Sheffield for curating this sweeping, informative, vital collection celebrating the astonishing diversity in the Cascadia bioregion.

Order directly from the publisher with the code CASCADIA for 20% off through the end of April. #cascadiafieldguide

Calling Out the Names

Calling Out the Names

Stripped of leaves, each limb
exposed, maple remembers the whoosh
of branches lush with wind and shade.

Even frozen solid or emptied by drought, river
remembers flood banks, the pulse
of current.

Grain in the loaf remembers field.

Scar remembers knife, but also suture
and the hand that bandaged.
Bed recalls absent sleeper

damp breath on the pillow.
Brush, stilled on the dresser, remembers knots
and what followed the untangling.

Honey remembers hive, bee and blossom.

Salmon tastes home
in the scent
of its birth stream.      

Sand remembers shell.
Gravel, the granite cliff.
Lung, breath. Throat, song.

And I remember you.

—Elizabeth Austen

Commissioned for the annual memorial service at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Published in New England Review, Vol. 40, No. 4.

Formatting altered to negotiate the gap between my layout skills and the available options.

Let’s talk about 2021

I’m more analog than digital, and still use a paper datebook. For years, my go-to has been the Women Artists Datebook from the Syracuse Cultural Workers, because, you know, women artists. It includes galvanizing quotes by kick-ass women, visual art, and poems. This year (my fourth attempt?), they accepted one of mine – huzzah! You’ll also find poems by Martha Collins and Sally Ashton, quotes from Maya Angelou, Kate Bornstein and Simone de Beauvoir.

Additional Date for Title Workshop: March 7

Wow. The February session of the title workshop is already full! Hugo House has added a new section: Saturday, March 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The class is called “The Title as Frame and Invitation.” We’ll let examples by Angel Nafis, Alice Oswald, Thomas Lux, Lucille Clifton and others lead us into a deeper appreciation and understanding of this too-often overlooked element of compelling, memorable poems.

Bring copies of three of your own poems-in-progress; we’ll practice titling to entice the reader with an irresistible frame and invitation.

At Hugo House in Seattle. Registration and more details here.

One-day title workshop Feb. 2

The Title as Frame and Invitation

Join me Sunday, Feb. 2 for a one-day workshop on the craft of titling poems.

We’ll let examples by Angel Nafis, Alice Oswald, Thomas Lux, Lucille Clifton and others lead us into a deeper appreciation and understanding of this too-often overlooked element of compelling, memorable poems.

Bring copies of three of your own poems-in-progress; we’ll practice titling to entice the reader with an irresistible frame and invitation.

At Hugo House in Seattle, from 1 to 4 p.m. on Feb. 2. Early bird pricing ends Dec. 16. Registration and more details here.

Back to school: fall workshops on performance and poem titles

Yes, this site has been quiet! For the past few months I’ve been working on finishing my next book-length manuscript. It’s close. More on that another time…

But now that August is wrapping up, high time to let you know that I’m teaching a couple of workshops this fall:

“Your Words Aloud, Your Words Alive” at Hugo House

Monday evenings, 7:10 to 9:10 p.m. in Seattle, WA (Sept. 16 to Oct. 21, 2019)

What does it take to transform the words on the page into an engaging, authentic, and memorable performance? Commitment, rehearsal, and humility. You’ll learn and practice tangible skills (including mic technique, ways to handle line breaks, and introductions), as well as develop a performance style that suits you and your work. The class includes take-home reading and assignments. Students will give a public reading during the fifth session. Max class size is 15.

Early bird pricing through Aug. 27: Registration info here.

“The Title as Frame and Invitation” for Olympia Poetry Network

Sunday, Sept. 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Olympia, WA. $40; advance registration req’d.

Where do great poem titles come from?  What makes a title “great,” anyway?  Through example poems, we’ll explore this essential and too-often overlooked craft element. Bring three of your own poems-in-progress, and we’ll practice titling to entice the reader with a compelling frame and invitation.  (Sponsored by Olympia Poetry Network as part of the 2019 LaureateFest.)   Max class size is 20; as of late August, just a few spots left.

Registration info here.

“You do not have to be good.”

mary oliverIn many ways, my life hinges on the six months I spent traveling in the Andes region in my early thirties. Shortly before leaving Seattle to begin that open-ended trip (there’s nothing quite like flying to a new continent on a one-way ticket), a friend gave me Mary Oliver’s New and Selected, Vol. 1.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

As it has for so many, “Wild Geese” entered my being and reverberated with a whole set of previously unarticulated questions. I carried that poem with me as I walked in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, grieving the end of my aspirations as an actor, heartbroken over a failed relationship, and suspecting that poetry was my next path.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.

Even now, after memorizing and teaching and sharing “Wild Geese” for 20+ years, it still ricochets around in my psyche. To have written a poem that could do that!

I was fortunate to record Mary Oliver reading at a sold-out Town Hall event in Seattle, as part of my work for KUOW.  She read “Wild Geese,” which you can hear here, among many other poems. (Hang in there for the first couple minutes.)

As there should be, there are and will be many tributes to Mary Oliver and the reach of her deceptively plain-spoken poems. Today, I just want to listen to the poems in her voice, and let them enter and open the person I am now.

LitFix at Vermillion


It’s been a while — at least a season, maybe two? — and who knows how many agonizing news stories since I last posted. I hope you’re finding ways to nurture your soul and engage with the world. Autumn always feels like a fresh start to me — that new-school-year rhythm is indelible, I guess. So, in that spirit I offer news of these readings, events and classes — I’m involved in a few, and others are just things I want you to know about as you enact your own autumn rhythms.

On  Sept. 27 at 7p I’ll be reading new poems* for the Lit Fix series at Vermillion, 1508 11th Ave in Seattle. Also performing: fiction writer Kristiana Kahakauwila, novelist Urban Waite, and essayist Katie Lee Ellison, with music performances from Americana artists Leslie Braly and Ed Brooks.

On Oct. 11, Seattle LitCrawl will feature 35+ free readings — I’ll be reading at 9p with novelist Jennie Shortridge and John Mullen at Spin Cycle Records 321 Broadway Ave Easton Capitol Hill.  Details here.

*Speaking of new poems – I had the good fortune to be featured as the August “poet in residence” at Seattle Review of Books: four recent poems and an interview about the new work.

Are you thinking about taking a writing class or two? So many options!

The Seattle Arts and Lectures Poetry Series has a(nother) amazing line-up—

Oct. 6: The Gramma Reading Seriesin the Erickson Theaterat the Frye Art Museum will feature Tyehimba Jess, Kaveh Akbar, Anastacia Renée and Moonshine: A Cabaret performed by Au Collective and directed by Imana Gunawan.

(Those gorgeous fuyu and hachiya persimmons were photographed by John and Ann Winings, and courtesy of the Creative Commons.)