Saturday, January 29, 2011

With Poets in Winter: Online Discussion Sunday 2 to 5 pm AK time


Welcome! You're in the right place to ask questions from Peggy Shumaker, our Writer Laureate; Vivian Prescott, who divides her time between Sitka and Puerto Rico, and is founder of an organization called "Raven's Blanket" that is sponsoring a new poetry prize; Zack Rogow, who is not only a prolific poet, but also an award-winning translator; and Mike Burwell, who in addition to being a writer, teacher, and shipwreck researcher (!), is editor of the new literary journal "Cirque." Sandy Kleven, poet and filmmaker, is the discussion moderator.

To read the poems being discussed, click here.

To take part in the discussion here at the blog -- which takes place in the comments section --click on the "# comments" at the bottom of this post. You can use a Google account, which automatically posts your user picture, or you can choose the third option, where you simply type in your name, any name -- and note, you do not need to type in a URL. The anonymous option works, too. Questions? Email lax@alaska.net.

151 comments:

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

Some starter questions left earlier this week:

Anonymous said...
A question for Zack: I just read in a linguistics book that some people argue that literature (including poetry) is both unparaphraseable and untranslateable, since it's more about style than content. Obviously, we know many works ARE translated with pleasing results, but it's an interesting claim. How do you explain the challenge of translating and what has it taught you that in turn affects your other writings?
January 26, 2011 5:09 PM


Erin said...
Very exciting! Looking forward to "talking" with some of my favorite poets.
January 26, 2011 6:25 PM

Lynn Lovegreen said...
I enjoyed reading the selections posted to whet our appetites, thanks!

My question is a general one to any of the poets who care to answer: Although you each have your own style and subject matter, your word choice is superb. How do you find just the right word or line to convey your idea and emotion? I assume some of it is from your years of practice, but do you have any tips or techniques that night help fellow writers?
January 27, 2011 4:38 PM

Washington West of the Cacades said...

See you all at 2pm

--Mike Burwell
Cirque

Peggy Shumaker said...

Testing...
Talk to you any minute now.
Peggy

Peggy Shumaker said...

Hi, Erin! Can't wait to hear what you have to say.

Hi, Lynn!
Word choice is often a matter of sound, of finding a word with the right percussion or shushing or burbling. Sometimes the right word creates or completes an image. Sometimes it enhances or disrupts rhythm. Sometimes it causes surprise. Often diction is a big factor--whether you need a direct word like guts or a more formal one like intestines. The texture and the integrity of each line will also put demands on each word. Fun!

ken said...

Check, one, two...

Sandy Kleven said...

Hello poets and all others,
This is a preliminary note, to welcome the poets. Alaska's new Writer Laureate, Peggy Shumaker, is expected to log in from Seattle, Zack Rogow from CA, where he lives (Is it San Francisco or Berkeley [or other]?), Vivian Prescott, from Puerto Rico, on military assignment with her husband, poet, Howie Martindale. I am here in Anchorage. Michael Burwell will be logging in from here, too. Poets please post write away so we know you are here. Zack can only take part during the first hour.

Some early - thought provoking - questions are posted above. Our guest poets are invited to address these as they choose. Sometimes, it helps to index a post to say, "anonymous" or "Andromeda" (identifying the source,) to keep us on the same page. Comments get braided and this can help keep strings of thought together.

I want to offer a question suggested by one of the guest poets. On theme, as it were, what does a poet do with winter? In the pragmatic, what does winter bring that influences writing? Or, I like this part, how can the concept of winter, the moods of an abstract winter, shape imaginative work? In the literal or the figurative, speak to winter, if you will.
Other guests, please post at will. Thanks to all for being part of this winter's conversation.

Sandy Kleven said...

Hi Peggy, Ken, Michael, Peggy, congrats again on your selection as Alaska's Writer Laureate. Was this Hawaii trip part of your duties?

Sandy Kleven said...

Welcome, Zack. On the theme of winter(you brought it up). What are your thoughts about poets and the dark months?

Vivian said...

Hello from Puerto Rico!

John McKay said...

This is John joining in. Hope to stay on for at least the first hour. Haven't done this sort of thing before so I hope I master the technology enough to keep up with what's happening. Kudos for organizing this.

Sandy Kleven said...

As poets, compose, I have this note about Peggy, from Alicia Ostriker.
Shumaker writes without blame, but with utter clarity and precision and story-telling skill about places on earth and our place among them—Alaska, Hawaii, the saguaro-studded desert—and about foxes, deer, swallows, who co-inhabit with us "under a sun / more agitated / this year than the last," then about the father who wanted to fly, the mother who wanted to die. Finally she comes to her own brush with death. I couldn't stop reading, sometimes weeping, always awed. Whatever Shumaker touches is thick with life, death, and the blessing of her words.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Hi, everybody!

Well, Sandy, no. Two years ago I went with a group of fourteen people to Costa Rica. (Six Alaskans!) We wrote every day, hiked a lot, saw thousands of birds. This trip was a reunion of six of us. We wrote, yes. And saw whales, turtles, fishes, eels. We watched authentic hula, and heard an elder talking about the mahealani moon at the warm tidal pools. We saw Japanese tea ceremony and Pele venting.

Yesterday Joe and I flew over the Pacific and now I'm in another heaven--the company of grandchildren.

We'll head on Tuesday to AWP in Washington D.C.

(Hope this post comes through!)

Anonymous said...

Hi All,

I am online.

--Mike Burwell

Zack Rogow said...

I want to also speak to Sandy's question about the dark months, about what you can accomplish particularly in winter. Shakespeare called one of his romances "A Winter's Tale" because that was the traditional name for a story that had magic in it. In his play, a statue comes to life, all sorts of things happen that don't happen in everyday life. The darkness of winter is a great backdrop for the inner landscape of the imagination.

Sandy Kleven said...

Looks like all are on board. Do read the early posts - Zack, for instance, Anonymous asked a question about translation - a focus of some of Zack's work.

Zack Rogow said...

I'm not sure my reply to Andromeda's excellent question got posted. It's true that the music of a work of poetry or prose can never be completely carried over into another language. But there are equivalents. The job of the translator is to find the liveliest and closest equivalents. It's like a 4-D Scrabble game in two languages. It's fun, it's agonizing, you always lose, but you do get a few triple word scores.

Sandy Kleven said...

That's what I was thinking about, Zack. Alaska's native arts are carried out during this time, too. Time for stories and dance. Others?

Kersten said...

Thank you poets for sharing your time with us today. I hope to hear about the writing process frm each poet - do the ideas start in brainstorm format? Are they first handwritten in journal format and then later typed? And finally, any tips on when and how to move to that next level of publishing. Many thanks!

ken said...

Hello everyone,

Listening for now. By the way, I couldn't find this event on Facebook because from its time-zone challenged point of view the event is already over.

Mike at Cirque said...

Yes, Zak it's that permission to go into the interior that winter--at it's best--is about

Zack Rogow said...

The other thing about winter that can be useful for a writer, is that it's a time to hunker down, to think about working on a longer project than you usually attempt. There is the indoor time, the opportunity for reflection. Right now I'm working on a play about a Japanese woman poet, a project I've been wanting to work on for a long time, but because it's winter, I feel I have the focus to take on a bigger project.

Peggy Shumaker said...

As for winter--

A mindfulness happens in deep cold. We have to pay attention or we can be in deep trouble.

That kind of urgency and that kind of mindfulness are both energizing for poetry.

Reminds me of a moment--I was hosting a visiting writer in Fairbanks in winter. He asked me to look over the remarks he planned for a high school class. I said, "Um, this 'taming nature' part? We don't do that around here." On the way into town, we had a flat tire. We rode on the rim all the way from Ester to Cripple Creek. No way was I changing a tire at 40 below.

Knowing that our little spheres of warmth and light are fragile and that the weather is utterly indifferent to us is healthy, I think.

There's also the night sky in winter--vast and swathed with lights. Who wouldn't be overwhelmed?

Erin said...

Hello everyone from afar. I'm posting in chilly clear Cordova today. I wonder if our poets might address how living in Alaska has formed/informed their work. Has it influenced theme, length, figurative language, sound, etc.? I find that my own poetry has become much more sound oriented since moving to AK. I'm paying attention to the way words sound and how to make them carry double weight in a poem.

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

Thanks to all the participants. I'm here too, just "listening" and eager to find out what everyone has to say.

Zack Rogow said...

To speak to Kersten's question, increasingly I type first drafts on a computer. I always use to write them out long hand, but now I appreciate the computer's flexibility, the fluidity of being able to change anything quickly. I think that's useful for a first draft. As far as publishing, look at the magazines you like to read, look at the acknowledgments at the front of the books of poems you like best. Get to know magazines before you send to them. Choose your work carefully. I think theme issues and anthologies are a good place to start, because it's not about the poet's previous publications but about whether the poem you send fits the theme.

ken said...

Winter, night, cold, dark. Seems it's all about potential. The cold, dark dusty ballroom before the dancers arrive.

Sandy Kleven said...

While we have Zack online (another 45 minutes or so), I want to ask everyone about the challenge and pain of deeply personal poetry. Peggy's incision into her early life in Just Breath Normally, Zack in The Number Before Infinity, an end to a marriage, an affair, Vivian when she writes about her mother who ran off with a cult -- this is hard stuff. What allows it? The passage of time? Particularly when it comes to publishing... knowing its is possible that some will be exposed and some hurt. For me, thinking that my mom's dying, I am not letting her read my poems. Chicken, huh?

Zack Rogow said...

I would like to go back to the fine question about word choice, which Peggy answered so well. I think the word you want for a poem is the word that is the most unlikely yet appropriate for that spot. I know that sounds contradictory, but for instance, a thesaurus is almost a no-no for a poet. If it's the logical choice for a line in a poem--don't use it. Poetry is not about logic. Push the language as far as it can go to the fringes of meaning, so long as it still says what you want to say, at the deepest level.

Sandy Kleven said...

Ken is writing from Oshawa, Ontario... as he did during our discussion last year. Thanks, Ken.

Zack Rogow said...

To address Sandy's point about personal poetry--sometimes you have to write about something very intimate, just to stay afloat. It's a way of staying balanced in a very difficult time in life. The difficult part is to make it poetry, not journal writing, to make it interesting to others. I think part of that is letting the language bend and crumple to accommodate the intensity of the experience.

Vivian said...

Hi Kersten,

In answering your question about the poet's process, I usually get a whole poem not fragments(not typically, anyway) and I write the poem down in my Mead five star/half sized tablet in blue ink. I usually do a few drafts before I take it to the computer.

And your question about the next step-I first started submitting poems to university publications like Tidal Echoes and regional journals before I got enough courage to submit to some BIG ones. I have the rejections to prove it!

Mike at Cirque said...

On personal poetry I would echo Zak's comment. Sometimes making extremities into poems is the only way through the event...

Peggy Shumaker said...

Hi, Kersten,

Every writer's different--there's no one way to write and no right way to write.

That said, I'll describe my process. Most times, I'll begin with a trigger--an image, a rhythm, an event, a scene, a story someone tells, a word I love, something I've read. Then my imagination takes off. During the first sitting I try to get an idea of the shape this piece might take--whether it's going to be a brief lyric or a long narrative, whether it wants to live in lines or in paragraphs. Usually that takes three to six hours or so.

During the next few weeks, I try to look for what's not there yet. These are still discovery drafts, and I want to see what's possible for the piece.

By this time I usually have an idea about whether the piece is a keeper. Is it fresh? Interesting? Is there room for insight or humor or images to do their work?

At this point I might start trimming parts that aren't alive. In my practice, often I write my way into a piece. That's necessary to get a piece going. It's almost never vital to the finished piece. So I'm very skeptical of the first few stanzas or sentences. They have to be really strong to stay.

If I need to do research, now's the time. Maybe I need to clarify a detail or find out more about a character.

Then I polish. I read the piece aloud, over and over. Anywhere I hesitate, that's a place that needs more attention. Often I change phrasing to please the ear and the tongue.

When the piece is as strong as I can make it, it's time for it to go live in the world.

If you're just starting, take a look at www.newpages.com. On that site, you'll find links to hundreds of literary magazines. Browse. Look for places you think might be hospitable to your work, based on what they've posted.

Grow a thick skin about rejections. As soon as the manuscript comes home, send it out again. You might tinker a bit, but keep it out there. If it stays in the drawer, you know what the answer is.

Oh, and if you ever have the chance, go to the AWP conference and meet the editors sitting at the bookfair. They're people. Just like us. People who are often underpaid or unpaid, but people who value reading and writing. They're nobody to fear.

Good luck!

Zack Rogow said...

I have a question for Vivian. Vivian, since you are now spending much of your time in Puerto Rico, and since you have written so much that takes place in Alaska, how are you handling that displacement? Are you writing from memories of Alaska, or have you gotten to the point where you feel situated enough in Puerto Rico to be able to write about your life there?

Sandy Kleven said...

Vivian and I have both supported each other in submitting the work when it is done. I am so much better at the submitting process than I used to be. There was a time, when a poem was done, and I sent it somewhere national and waited to hear if they accepted it. When they didn't I stopped writing poems for a few years. Didn't they know genius? I have a wee bit of success under my belt and a broader understanding of what is involved. Now I submit, early and often. I expect many rejections for every acceptance and I send out the rejected work to another journal - working with a poem until it finds it's right place. Would you agree with this, Vivian, others?

Vivian said...

Yes, writing deeply personal poetry is hard. Sometimes I use another perspective/voice to tell the story. I like to use a bit of magic realism in a poem that might be difficult to write. For example, I wrote one poem about my mother's cult and I included something about Captain Kirk having an afternoon adventure with my mother while we were napping. Obviously, that didn't happen, but it showed that my mother had a great imagination that took over her whole life at the expense of her family. Star Trek became a part of the cult's religion. Plus, my father looks a lot like William Shatner.

John McKay said...

I’m not sure if I’m on the right page, since I haven’t seen any postings since mine, but let me throw out this question/thought riffing on Sandy’s themes of winter and translation, and the exchange between Peggy and Lynn about choosing the right word.
I grew up in Michigan, which like Alaska has “real winter.” Snow, ice, winter sports, etc. I remember being startled the first time I went to Hawaii (not surprisingly in winter) because I saw children coming out of a school in their school uniforms. My mind had trouble grasping children being in school in “summer” -- which is what my senses told me it was.
So many of Peggy’s amazing word choices will be readily understood by those familiar with northern winters, but may be unfamiliar to those who aren’t (like “set tracks,” “kick wax,” and “caribou dance fans,” from “Long Before We Got Here, Long After We're Gone” to pick a few quick examples. 
 Zack, I remember you questioning snow machine in one of my poems as a phrase that readers might assume was a machine that made snow.
How do you poets think about this dilemma? How do you strike the balance between using language that is so wonderfully specific, that gives a sense of place, and lends a distinctive voice to your work, on the one hand, but which, on the other hand, may be lost on many readers?

Sandy Kleven said...

I think you have to periodically refresh to get new posts.

Zack Rogow said...

To get back to the question about publishing, I think it's important to see every submission to a magazine or an anthology as part of your process as a writer. Use it as an opportunity to make the poem as good as it can be. I never have as clear an editorial eye for one of my poems as I do the moment after I hit SEND or drop the envelope in the mailbox. Use those moments to keep improving the poem. And if it comes back with a rejection or an acceptance, read the poem again, not to be hypercritical, but just to imagine others reading it and to use their judgment, as you picture it, to make your poem even better.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Hey, Erin!
Because I grew up in the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona, Alaska has changed quite a bit of my literal life and my literary life.

I'd never felt winter! I didn't have any shoes with toes. (Got over that pretty fast.)

When my ferry landed in Ketchikan, I saw for the first time salmon thrashing water out of a stream. In Fairbanks, I soon saw alpenglow on blue snow and whirling spirals of the aurora.

I wrote like a madwoman--one susceptible to landscape.

Over the last twenty-five years I've come to feel at home, but never that I could take Alaska for granted. I've only begun to see it, only begun to feel it.

((Your sounds resonate with me!))

Vivian said...

Zack,

I'm so homesick I can hardly stand it. "Displacement" is an understatement. Anyway, I have written about Puerto Rico. I have a poem coming out in the Caribbean Writer journal called "Seismic Boarders" about the US policy on the 'illegal' immigrants who sometimes end up on the beach below the base. I wrote it just after the Haiti earthquake. Also, I've written about sitting in the sun beneath a palm tree longing for a glacier. And a poem on experiencing my first hurricane. So yes, I've been writing here about this confusing-wonderful- exotic place. Puerto Rico is so unique.

Zack Rogow said...

I guess I'm never going to live down that comment I made to John McKay about a "snow machine" being a machine that makes snow. Context can make an unfamiliar word understandable. I think it's great to use a term that is local, since it adds spice and color, so long as it doesn't completely confuse the reader. There are always notes, but I think of them as a last resource.

Sandy Kleven said...

To Michael Burwell, editor of CIRQUE, last year you said this. "My work as an editor seems to take all the energy I have after my day job and working on my anthropology degree. But it's so much fun. The conversation that develops with the other writers. I'd never quite felt this sort of exhiliration before..." I imagine this group will agree that CIRQUE has been a wonderful success with it's magazine layout, photos and great work. Esp. the last with it's perfect binding. You haven't missed a deadline, with three issues... are you still feeling exhilarated?

Peggy Shumaker said...

More concepts about publishing--you're entering a literary conversation. It began before we were born and will continue after we're silent. It's part of literary citizenship. It's part of an exchange. It's an act of generosity. It's also a way to find friends you've yet to meet.

Mike at Cirque said...

Following up on Peggy's last comment about "place:" I had a dream about 20 years ago to make a list of all the lakes and islands I could remember. I woke up and made that list that was mostly Alaska and Pac NW places. The poems that grew from writing about each lake and island formed the basis for Cartography of Water...

Vivian said...

On publishing. I agree, Zack, every submission is a revision. I usually allow myself some time for revision, the cover letter, etc. I hardly ever have a submission that doesn't require revision.

Zack Rogow said...

I see that Anonymous also asked also how my translations have influenced my other writing. I view translation as a sort of apprenticeship. By looking at each word choice (back to that!) that a writer makes, a translator gets to see how their literary heroes have created their works. There are so many lessons a writer can learn from that. If you want to try out something new, such as a new genre, translating a writer who has already mastered that is a great way to learn to the ropes.

Sandy Kleven said...

Zack, Has Alaska entered your writing (yet)? Also, I want to post this synopsis of The Number Before Infinity (Barnes and Noble) - a wonderful collection: Synopisis from Barnes and Noble.
The Number Before Infinity reads like a novel or memoir in verse. Each poem is a chapter in the story of two lovers united by passion but separated by previous commitments. In lyrical, accessible verse, the book follows the lovers as they choose between their deepening connection and their existing loyalties.

Mike at Cirque said...

Sandy, thanks for the Cirque question. Yes, I think the synergy just keeps building. The conversation between NW poets and Alaska poets and the Canadian connection makes Cirque very rewarding. In this vein, it was really exciting to have Vivian and Nicole Stellon O'Donnell have work in the most recent issue and then find out that Peggy was doing a blurb for Vivian's new book and working on a mss of Nicole's for Boreal/Red Hen Press.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Writing the hard stuff--

Facing up to one's own death helps clarify quite a lot. I was badly injured in a bike wreck. Physical pain brought up memories of my chaotic childhood and thoughts of my ancestors, many of whom had it much harder than I ever have.

So if we're going to write about scenes drawn from lived life, might as well be honest. Might as well show how it felt to be alive--the exuberant and the crushing parts, the delights as well as the shame and fear.

I get to deal with alcoholic parents--still dealing, though they're both dead. My father got to see many poems and a few bits of prose. He told me he felt proud, even when the writing didn't flatter him. My mother died when I was sixteen. I really wish she could have seen some of my books. In some ways my writing would have vindicated her ferocity in keeping us well stocked with books, even when there wasn't money.

Are there costs in writing the hard stuff? You bet. Are the costs higher than not writing the hard stuff? Each writer has to answer that. For me, not a chance.

John McKay said...

I agree with Mike that writing about intimate, personal stuff can be a way of dealing with it, and working through it. It is also (hopefully) what you know best, and the intense feelings associated with these events can translate into inspired writing. Mike published a poem in the latest Cirque about a miscarriage we had between the births of my two sons. I used this publication as an opportunity to talk with my sons about it; they never would have known otherwise. Another poem I published last Fall had to do with my older son's serious car accident, and I found myself changing it significantly after a first draft because even though I thought the original was better in some ways, more interesting artistically, it wasn’t true to him. The biggest problem I find writing about intimate, personal things is reading them. When I know I am going to read certain poems in public, I will often have to read them aloud, and alone, three or four times or as many times as it takes to be able to get through them without crying, so that in public I can read them as if they were someone else’s.
As for process, I like to write on my computer mainly because it is so easy to come back to things by doing a word search. I can “jot down” ideas and phrases, and go as far as time and inspiration allow, and then come back to them any time, whether the next week or years later, to revise. It’s also a handy way to keep successive drafts, using the “Save As” function, and to save "dead ends" and "darlings" that should be abandoned at the moment but may be explored productively another day.

ken said...

A question for Zack and other people familiar with the conundrums of translation: Where (or how) do you draw the line between what you translate and what you don't? For a much-used example, if you're translating from Russian, what do you do with street names, or familiar words like samovar or troika? In other words, how much do you try to maintain the exotic character of the original while translating the universal essence?

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone. A college professon once said that whatever we students find in a poem we should assume the poet meant it to be there and give credit to the poet. Yet I'm often surprised by things I find in my poems, as I write them and even later. Do you have that experience?

Zack Rogow said...

Back to the question about publishing, I do think that it helps to be present in the literary community. To go to as many literary events as possible, to meet people at those events. That may be difficult in some places that are more remote, but there are online equivalents. There are so many chat rooms now--Poets & Writers has one, for instance, that is very active and visible.

I'm going to have to sign off--have to go meet students. It's been fun to hear your questions and to dialogue with the other poets.

Thanks to Sandy for organizing and moderating

Warmly,

Zack

Kersten said...

Good tips all - on writing and publishing. Thank you. I teach a class on Alaska Literature at the high school level. I spend a great deal of time introducing students to northern poets/poetry. Peggy, your poem "The Circle of Totems" is a favorite study among many of my students. Who would you recommend as essential poets for this type of study - northern voices you admire? Thanks.

Vivian said...

In response to Peggy: I hadn't thought of submitting one's work as an act of literary citizenship, a conversation, an exchange, and generosity. How wonderful! I think I'm goint to cut-and-paste your post to Word and stick it to my computer(love those computer/speak verbs: cut-past-post-stick). It will remind me why I'm sending stuff out and perhaps give me the courage to do so.

Sandy Kleven said...

Thanks, Zack. You can back to answer Ken's question, later, tonight. We'll all be gone but I can forward it to him. I really appreciate your participation.

ken said...

Anonymous, that seems to be an "open sesame" to interpreting a poem or other work of literature: Whatever you find there, the writer meant you to find it. I'm not sure I believe it, but I like what it leads to.

Peggy Shumaker said...

John, re: specialized vocabulary

Sure, some words will be unfamiliar to some readers. That's one of the pleasures of reading poetry--finding words I don't know or finding familiar words used in unexpected and startling ways. Because I enjoy this as a reader, I'm willing as a writer to offer my reader the joy of living beyond the boundaries of ordinary perception for a little while.

I don't appreciate deliberate obscurity or phrases available only to an in-group. I don't want my poems ever to require an intercessor or explainer. But I figure nearly every curious reader will have to tools to look up some words, use context to figure out others, and use imagination to conjure others.

Sandy Kleven said...

Peggy, As you get a chance, with so many topics on the board, please say something about your plans as Writer Laureate, as well as, something about Red Hen Press.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Zack!

When I think of all the languages I'll never learn, languages ancient and living, I'm immensely grateful to translators willing to play that game they'll never win. We readers win.

And one day I want to reach toward some triple word scores. Great analogy!

Peggy Shumaker said...

Vivian,

I miss you! When do you come home?

Vivian said...

Bye Zack and Happy Writing!

Mike at Cirque said...

Thanks for your words, Zack, lots here to think about and try out.

Mike

Peggy Shumaker said...

Re: Zack's comment: The difficult part is to make it poetry, not journal writing, to make it interesting to others.

Yes! When I worry about how a piece will bear consequence in the life of a reader, language matters big time. Our little lives are not automatically interesting. The language has to be.

Vivian said...

Peggy,

I get to come home as soon as I can. We are both missing Alaska. My husband (a reservist) has asked for extended active duty in Kodiak and we are supposed to know next week if he gets it. Kodiak Air Station wants us by April. So we'll see. If he doesn't get extended then we have to finish out the contract here which means we stay in Puerto Rico until fall, then we get to go home to Sitka.

Writing keeps me sane here and I've got my adult writers group that Howie and I started for the MFA practicum. It's still going. And I started a teen writers group and a 9-12 yr old group. So three days a week, I'm moderating writers' groups.

Sandy Kleven said...

Vivian, I just reread Slick last night, noting how all of us are "Slick" when it comes to the oil industry, disapproving, but using, and, as you so artfully show, when our kids get jobs in the oil patch... we're glad they are working. Dividends? Like you point out, there's always something we need at Costco. We just change perspective from the bad oil industry to the one we see clean as a dairy farm in the BP commercials. We are slick that way. (The link to Vivian's collection SLICK is on the poets' webpage). What do you have coming out next? I know there is a book in the wings... what, when and where? Also, congratulations are in order for your nomination for a PushCart Prize.

John McKay said...

Thanks, Zack. I appreciate the generosity you and the others display with taking time to participate in this. This forum is an refreshing kick-start and encouragement re-engage more completely and productively.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Thank you so much to everyone who's doing good hard literary work in Alaska--

To Mike, for Cirque, a fine magazine

To Vivian, for Raven's Blanket and for all her work reviving language

To Ron Spatz for Alaska Quarterly Review

To Sandy for this forum and this exchange

To our own Andromeda and Deb, whose energies seem boundless, for 49 Writers the site and 49 Writers the Center and 49 Writers the sponsor.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Boreal Books update:

I'm bringing out one book per year via Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press.

So far we've published Leaving Resurrection, a book of essays by Eva Saulitis of Homer. A marine biologist who has for more than a quarter century studied killer whales in Prince William Sound, Eva found that there are some questions science doesn't allow a person to ask. These essays explore those questions.

Frank Soos responds in brief and inventive pieces of prose to the gorgeous artwork of Margo Klass in Double Moon, a true Alaskan collaboration. Four Alaskan photographers made images of the artwork, and then Wanda Chin did a truly elegant design. Dixon Jones made the technical wizardry work.

The title for 2012 is a book of poems by Fairbanks poet Nicole Stellon O'Donnell. She did copious research in the archives of the Rasmusen Library, and found the papers of a woman who came north during the gold rush to find her son. She never got rich or famous. She did live an exceptional life, washing miners' dirty clothes to feed herself, a life the poet reveals in Steam Laundry.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Mike, wow! That's a fruitful list you made!

Peggy Shumaker said...

Thanks, Zack!

Great to "hear" you!

Peggy

Vivian said...

Kersten,

As far as my delve into Alaskan lit, I first discovered Alaska Native writers: Mary TallMountain, Nora Dauenhauer, Sister Goodwin, Fred Bigjim, Jim Shoppert and the late Andy Hope III. For my other Masters degree I designed a course in Native American and Alaska Native Literature.

John McKay said...

Peggy, you mentioned you'll be at AWP this week. Hope to see you there.

Regarding publication, my assumption is that at gatherings like AWP, even though they are filled with journal editors, they aren't a good (or appropriate) place for showing anyone your work -- that people don't have the time or inclination to look at other folks' work in this setting, and that you need to simply rely on the traditional written submissions route.

Is this right, or are you missing the boat when you attend a gathering like this and don't come prepared to show your work to editors you meet?

Sandy Kleven said...

I, too, have become more aware of the literary community, especially in the work I was doing about Roethke. I saw his national links to Dylan Thomas, Berryman, (friends!) discovered his students, Kizer, Wright, Hugo. Met (interviewed) David Wagoner through my son in Seattle. Then with repeated visits to Hugo House... starting to get the picture of a collective we. Making links to something I feel about Seattle and the mystic element with the painters, Mark Toby and all. It quickly gets layered... with my own childhood. I sense this richness, something to draw on. Curiously present even when people by quite a few dead poets. I think CIRQUE is contributing greatly to this. And in it's equinox and solstice dates, it's somehow right in a planetary sense.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Kersten-- (and anybody else who's interested)

I've made a list of terrific Alaskan poets, which I'll be glad to email to you.

I also have one for nonfiction (it was the longest) and one for fiction (the shortest).

Just email me--peggyzoe@gmail.com

Sandy Kleven said...

Perfect segue to speak of the Andy Hope Literary award...

Peggy Shumaker said...

Alaska State Writer Laureate

It's a real honor to represent Alaskan writers both in state and beyond.

Projects:

I've hired Liz Bradfield to develop a website called The Alaskan Writers Directory. It'll be a simple site to allow writers in Alaska to find one another, and for sponsors of literary events both in state and Outside to find us. Liz will be in touch very soon to invite you to submit information so you can be listed on the site.

I've also begun working with the University of Alaska Press to develop a literary series that will publish fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction by writers in Alaska and the circumpolar north or set in Alaska or the circumpolar north. We have to lay the foundation for this series. I'll keep you posted as this develops. We're not quite ready for submissions from writers yet.


Travels-- (insane) I'll be updating the schedule here. Hope to see many of you in person!

http://www.peggyshumaker.com/calendar.shtml

Peggy Shumaker said...

Thanks, Kersten, for using my poems with your high school students. When shall I come visit them? (Really!)
Where's your class?

Vivian said...

Sandy,

I have many books 'in the wings.' Seven manuscripts to be exact. I went into my MFA with a ton of material and had to pick a genre. Of course, poetry is my first love. It's who I am. But, I have a poetry collection "The Hide of My Tongue," coming out this spring, hopefully. It's about the Tlingit language revitalization. I feel that that book is a collaboration, though, because of Lance Twitchell, my Tlingit language consultant. He helped with the entire manuscript. I wrote some poems in Tlingit and there are a lot of Tlingit phrases and words.

I have my MFA poetry collection being considered by another press; at least it passed the query stage.

I've finished my short story collection (linked stories) and now I'm trying to get an agent (if she likes it, that is) and I'm looking at presses including UAA Press. I'll have to admit that those stories, written over the period of almost three years, were almost as fun as poetry to write.

Mind you, this is years and years worth of work that I'm trying to get published now. Initially, I was so scared to send things out that I ended up with all these unpublished books/manuscripts.

Mike at Cirque said...

Vivian approached me last summer during the UAA low residency residency events about the Andy Hope Award and I thought it was a fine idea. What was interesting is that I was thinking along these lines and then Viv showed up with her proposal.....

Peggy Shumaker said...

John, re: AWP

No, you don't show work to editors right there. Instead, after you've read their journal, you pick pieces that might appeal to them. Then in the cover letter you say, "Thanks so much for talking with me at AWP. I really appreciated your letting me know about your upcoming special issue on fishing. Here are some poems for your pleasure and consideration."

Just try to remember who talks about what!

Leslea Smith said...

Sometimes I wonder if poets are just writing for each other. We read the journals so we know if our poems belong in them. We buy our friends' and teachers' books. Are there people reading poetry other than poets?

Vivian said...

Ah, the Puschart Prize nomination. That was a suprise to me. I'd gotten a rejection note from another editor the same day and then the e-mail letter from Turtle Quarterly came saying that my poem "Fish On" was the best poem they had published in their journal the entire year. "Fish On" was published in their 'work' themed issue. When I sent the poem in, I figured they'd have poems about offices, farms, whatever, but they wouldn't have one about halibut fishing during the 80s moratorium, when commerical halibut fishing was, essentially, a dangerous derby.

We'll see. The winners are annoucned in April.

Vivian said...

Peggy,

Yes, please email me your list of Alaskan writers. Gunalcheesh.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Sandy--

What else do you want to know about Red Hen Press?

John McKay said...

On the notion of literary community, I feel very fortunate to benefit from those of you have done so much to create this for us, from Zack's lunchtime reading series and the UAA program that's brought Peggy and others into more frequent contact with us here, to Cirque, and the outreach that Sandy and Vivian and 49 Writers and others are making possible.

And I never get over the minor thrill I get when I look at my bookshelf and see Zack sandwiched in between Adrienne Rich and Rumi, or Peggy between ancient Ch'an master Sheng-yen and Charles Simic, and think that I know these writers, these people who are part of a literary community that will always be there, and who I know will graciously help me join them if I do the work.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Forgot to acknowledge that Erin Hollowell will do the upkeep on The Alaskan Writers Directory site. Thanks, Erin!

Has everybody seen her blog Being Poetry? It's a beauty!

Mike at Cirque said...

Erin's blog is exemplary!

Sandy Kleven said...

I was at AWP when it was in NYC a few years back. The journals/publishers are all represented at booths, in a huge section of their own...as at a trade show. Many are giving away copies, so it's a good place to collect them, since it's hard to gather them together, otherwise. I met the editors of Kenyon Review, Fail Better, just to name two. At the time, I could not distinguish one journal from another. Since, then, this is beginning to sort out. Duotrope - a digest that Vivian has recommended is a good source to see these journals listed. CWLA grad Signe Jorganson is involved with a new journal StoneBoat. Anne Caston, of CWLA faculty knows the editors of Praxilla(an online journal). Little by little these seemingly thousands of journals move into categories... become familiar. I have been advised to submit to contests but it also seems that once you have published a group from a manuscript, that there is merit in submitting a collection directly to a publisher, rather than languishing in the contest circus for a long time. It has been the way for several on the faculty at CWLA but now I see this other route.

Vivian said...

I envisioned The Andy Hope Literary Award as a part of my non-profit's (and my own) literary citizenship. I had been thinking about how to go about creating the award when Cirque was founded. I thought the journal was a perfect home for it. Raven's Blanket's (my non-profit) goals are to encourage and promote Alaskan writers.

I wanted to honor the memory of my friend and colleague, Andy Hope. He was a poet and also a prose writer. He was very active in Alaska Native politics. Andy and I served on the Alaska Native Educators board together and performed our poetry at Juneau's Beyond Heritage several times, as well as orgainzed a poetry reading at a clan conference in Sitka.

Sandy Kleven said...

That post about your plans with Red Hen were great. Here is something else. The editor, from Red Hen, who spoke at the summer residency (I apologize for not having her name at hand) said quite a bit about developing a platform. This was in reference to making submissions. Details included social networking, blogging, website, Twitter. These are ways of demonstrating that you have something to say, that you believe in it and want it to reach the world. As I prepared for this conversation, I noticed that Vivian has done wonderful things with webpage and blog. Planet Alaska. Very nice. Any thoughts in general about the need for a strong web presence?

Sandy Kleven said...

Vivian - What does the prize involve? Who is eligible to receive it? Who are the judges? If you said this already, I missed it.

Kersten said...

Peggy, I would quite enjoy receiving your list of poets and fiction/nonfiction writers. I have a feeling my Monday prep will be spent compiling poetry sets representing each of the poets here today to share with my students. I live/teach in Sitka - you are always welcome to come visit my classroom. Thank you. @Vivian, thank you for your list as well. I have poetry sets in place for many of the writers you mentioned, Nora Marks Dauenhauer being a personal favorite. Did the late Andy Hope III publish any collections of his work? I have pulled some of his poetry from collections to use in the classroom. Thank you.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Leslea,

Poetry demands a lot of a reader--to stretch, to make connections, to span centuries and cultures, to question cherished assumptions, to imagine and create new possibilities, to enlarge the range of perception.

The readership for poetry has always been, in most of the USA, a devoted self-selected group.

In some oral cultures, everyone knows poems just as everyone knows songs and stories.

Peggy Shumaker said...

John, that's some pretty terrific company on your bookshelf!

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

So many comments that you step away and need 15 minutes reading just to catch up. I love it!

Vivian: Can you explain just a bit more about the Andy Hope prize? (Maybe I missed this.) Is it for a single poem or any single piece of writing in Cirque? Is the prize cash? Is it only for Alaskans or anyone? Cheers to you for your "literary citizenship" (I'm liking that term).

Peggy: I'm so excited about your UAA literary series plans. I think we need more of that, and recall a post long ago from Nancy Lord about how she got started when a now-defunct nonprofit AK publisher ran a contest and put out her first story collection. (Hope I have that right.) Promotion is so difficult, and the great thing about these prizes or special series is they can also help raise a writer's profile, which can be just as important as getting the work onto the printed page.

Thanks to all for the kind words about 49 writers the blog and thr 49 Alaska Writing Center.

Vivian said...

Direct from their website: The Pushcart Prize - Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in the pages of our annual collections.

The Pushcart Prize nomination process: Little magazine and small book press editors (print or online) may make up to six nominations from their year’s publications. The nominations may be any combination of poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot.

Mike at Cirque said...

About the Andy Hope Award:

The award is annual and anyone having published in Cirque that calendar year is eligible. As editor, I will have the final say. Viv & I agreed that we needed few other stipulations...

Peggy Shumaker said...

Kersten--
I'll be in Sitka during Arti-Gras, Mar. 17-20. Maybe we could do something with your students on Mar. 18. Any maybe your students could come to the reading at Kettleson Library at 7:00 on Mar. 17. Email me?

Sandy Kleven said...

Mike - Please comment, too, on the next First Friday CIRQUE reading planned at MTS gallery in Mountain View. Time? Featured readers?

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

Mike, Has the process of culling through submissions for Cirque changed how you think about your own work and/or submitting your work to other pubs? (And perhaps just as important: are you still finding sufficient time to write with all the other things you're doing, and if so, please tell me what you secret is!)

Vivian said...

Kersten,

No, Andy doesn't have a collection. He edited Raven's Bones which has some of his work and others'. Raven's Bones was published by Sitka Community Association in 1982 (You can still find it on Amazon used books). I think that organization was the predecessor of Sitka Tribes of Alaska. I might talk to Andy's son, Ish, about it and see if we can come up with enough material for at least a chapbook. Good idea.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Sandy--
The Red Hen editor you met is Kate Gale.

She was trying, I think, to say that you need to show an editor that you're part of the literary world. If you've published your poems in many magazines in many parts of the nation or the world, that means the book editor sees that you have a track record. You're not asking him or her to take a huge chance on an unknown.

If you have a following on your blog, or a few hundred "friends" on Facebook, you can help get the word out about your newly-published book.

The days of a writer handing over a manuscript and expecting the publisher to promote and sell it are over (if they ever really existed). You'll have to be active in helping your work make its way in the world. The more you inform yourself about how things work, the fewer unhappy surprises.

Leslea Smith said...

Thanks, Peggy, your response is helpful. It seems, too, that there's reason to believe the circle of poetry is widening. I've encountered some people who recently discovered poetry as a kind of escape from sound bites, advertizing TV news, and all the other clamor. People are longing for deeper meaning.

Mike at Cirque said...

Cirque 1st Friday reading at MTS Gallery in Mountain View Feb 4, 8-10pm

Potential lineup will be Marybeth Holleman fresh from a 49 Writers 1st Friday signing at the Int'l Gallery. Other readers will be Cirque contributors Kirsten Anderson, Randol Bruns, Katie Eberhart, Jason Eisert, Jim Hanlen, Amy Otto, Doug Pope, Mark Muro, Sue Pope & Peter Porco

Vivian said...

As far as the Andy Hope Award is concerned I wanted the editor, Mike Burwell, to have control over the award. I have too many relatives in Alaska and I might choose my third cousin's wife if she promises me a case of smoked salmon (just kidding). So I will have nothing to do with who receives the award. I also liked the idea of having an award that reaches a wider variety of writers, which is why I liked Cirque as a home for the award. Cirque publishes writers from the North Pacific Rim.

Erin said...

Goodness, I stepped away for a moment to get a good picture of the amazing sky (check it www.beingpoetry.net) and missed so much. Wish I'd been in Anchorage for Kate's discussion about platform. I initially started my blog as a way to stay in touch with the writing community that I'd developed at the Rainier Writing Workshop while I pursued my MFA. Now the blog has grown into much more than that and I have to admit that I think it really helps sell your work if your publisher can direct folks to your blog. Blog software is free, but remember its free like a puppy not free like beer. A blog is a lot of work, but so worthwhile. It's been a fabulous way for me to "meet" writers from around the world.
Anyone who is considering asking Peggy to come to their classroom or their community - do it, she's an amazing reader, speaker and person. Your community will thank you.

Vivian said...

Hi Leslea,

I think that the internet has made poetry available to a wider audience. Now, we have poetry videos on Youtube and blogs like Erin's. I'm seeing a huge amount of print journals having a web presence too.

It's interesting, though, that during our UAA MFA residency, only one poet, our own Derick Burleson, was the only one who had published online or even made mention of the internet wonders. Everyone else on the panel looked liked 'deer-in-headlights.' I hope that this year there will be a panel on such a discussion as digital publishing, the internet, etc...

ken said...

signing off. Lovely to eavesdrop on your conversation!

Peggy Shumaker said...

Erin~
I'll try hard to live up to those compliments!

Sandy Kleven said...

Thanks,for connecting, Ken.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Erin mentioned Rainier Writing Workshop.

Just thought I'd let you know that it's a very strong Master of Fine Arts program. Two Alaskans teach there--Sherry Simpson and yours truly.

Many Alaskans are students and alumns.

If you want on-line info just google mfa@plu.

If you want a faculty member's perspective, feel free to email me. If you want a student's perspective, I bet Erin will reply to you.

Vivian said...

Andromeda,

The Andy Hope Literary Award will be for a single piece of prose or poetry published in Cirque during the previous year. The award is $100 dollars. But if anyone wants to make a donation to increase the annual award that would be great.

Mike at Cirque said...

Peggy,

I get many submissions from past and present Rainier alumni!

Vivian said...

Bye Ken!

Sandy Kleven said...

We have twenty-five minutes left - it might be good to see if there is more to add, say, about winter. Maybe, the internal winter... the sadness of winter, the promise. Did we exhaust winter? Is there more to say about writing practice? About the importance of submitting the work? This has been a rich conversation. Last year, we kept it open for five hours, which seemed fine, then, but this seems better. It's amazing how close we can feel when, in fact, we are scattered all over the place. Michael, are you really East of the Cascades or is that a book title? Anyway, to all, guest poets and others, as we work toward wrapping up, what would you like to add?

Erin said...

I'd sure be glad to correspond with anyone who wanted to talk about RWW and my experience getting my MFA in a low residency program.

Thanks to everyone who has been posting today and thank you Sandy for hosting, and for 49Writers for providing the venue. I feel so lucky to be able to be a part of the Alaskan community of writers.

Sandy Kleven said...

I love your blog, now that I have discovered it, Erin. And will follow it. Thanks for your insightful comments, today.

Vivian said...

I was just mentioning to a fellow writer here in Puerto Rico about the benefit of seasons and how winter was a time to take notice of life, a time to settle down, a time one can feel in your bones (and it's not just the cold). A real 'change' that's good for one's soul. She had no idea since she has lived in warm year-round climates all her life.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Nutty travel schedule--hope to see some of you!

February 2-5, 2011
AWP Annual Conference
Washington DC

February 26-27, 2011
Keynote speaker
Wildness Symposium
Iowa State University
Ames IA

March 3-6, 2011
Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College
Homer AK
Reading March 4
One-credit writing course
Personal Stakes and Wider Concerns: Upping the Emotional Ante
Thurs. evening, Saturday, Sunday

March 13-14, 2011
POET LAUREATI: A NATIONAL CONVERGENCE OF STATE POETS LAUREATE
Lawrence Arts Center
Lawrence KS
Ted Kooser, keynote speaker

March 17-19, 2011
Sitka Arti-Gras
Sitka AK
Reading March 17
Workshop March 19 Geographies of the Land and of the Heart

March 28-April 1, 2011
Creative Writing Class, 10:00-12:00
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, UAF Fairbanks AK

April 8, 2011
Reading at Beyond Baroque
Anne Coray, Steve Kahn, Peggy Shumaker
Venice CA

April 10, 2011
Boreal Books at the Ruskin
Los Angeles
Anne Coray, Steve Kahn, Peggy Shumaker

June 1-4, 2011
Skagway Writers Symposium
Skagway AK

June 10-14, 2011
Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference
Homer AK

July 17-31, 2011
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival
Creative Writing Class

August 6-17, 2011
Rainier Writing Workshop
at Pacific Lutheran University

August 19-21
guest speaker
Whidbey Island Writers' Association
Aug. 19 Constructing a Book workshop
Aug. 21 Craft talk/reading

September 11-17, 2011
Dunrovin Ranch's This Montana Place Expedition
in cooperation with the Boone & Crockett Club's Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area
With Lisa Flowers, Peggy Shumaker, Angela Swenberg, Michele Usibelli, Pam Voth
Writing, art, and ecology.

For more info, please visit www.peggyshumaker.com, Calendar

Vivian said...

Also, winter is when Alaska is alive with literary events. In Sitka, it's the place to be. We have writers in residence, the Monthly Grind and a local cafe that hosts music and poetry. I always hated to vacation from Sitka in the winter because there is so much to do there as far as writers are concerned.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Forgot these:


Talkeetns, April 15-16
Palmer, April 17-18
Cordova, May 6-8

Ela said...

Just got to Barnes and Noble, having driven up from Homer--took me 30 mins to read through the comments!

Vivian--interesting perspective from your conversation with a Puerto-Rican friend who hadn't experienced winter. Having spent most of my adult life in California and Hawaii, I have something of the opposite perspective! It's only my second winter in Alaska, true, but I still struggle with how dynamic and changeable it is (especially living in Homer, with the maritime tempering). I can't just trust it to remain the same and look away from the window: there's always something remarkable to see or feel.

Of course, there's so much to write about too, and my challenge is to find equilibrium from within myself so that I can settle down and write it out. Does anyone else find winter stimulating in this way?

Peggy Shumaker said...

How could anyone exhaust winter?

Sandy Kleven said...

In other events, first, in April for Poetry Month, I've put together a program about Roethke and his students. I need readers to play his students. The whole gig will be semi-dramatic, but a reading, nothing memorized. Here's a more formal version of the call for readers.

The Influence of Theodore Roethke: “I Teach out of Love.”
Need five men and one woman.
One rehearsal
One presentation
Wednesday April 20 from 5:00pm-7:00pm at the UAA Campus Bookstore

This special presentation includes readings of poems written by Roethke's former students; a segment from a play by David Wagoner called First Class that shows Roethke holding forth in the classroom; and the short film, “To the Moon: A Tribute to Theodore Roethke,” by MFA candidate, Sandra Kleven.
Email me, if you are interested.

Leslea Smith said...

I usually write more in the winter - because there's no baseball.

Ela said...

On writing 'the hard stuff:' I've been thinking about poetry as a way to mediate strong feelings/'difficult stuff' by simultaneously providing reflection and, through the recognition they evoke in other people, transforming the feelings/traumas into something more universal and less one's own 'burden' or problem.

I find that sometimes I'm tempted further to distance or mediate such 'difficult' material by treating it within the constraints of a form: this makes it more obviously and squarely a member of the age-long 'literary conversation' and thus, in a way, makes it less 'personal.' Do you think that this can be a successful strategy or does it run the risk of pastiche?

Peggy Shumaker said...

Hi, Ela!

Welcome.

What have you been writing?

Sandy Kleven said...

My other event is related to the Spenard Jazz Fest that takes place in June. Yngvil Guttu just emailed me from Norway. She is actually coordinating the Jazz Fest from there. She wants a night of poetry... an expansion of what we did last year. I'll talk to Mike about bringing Cirque into this event. I have in mind the title Poet's Live and Moving. Everything about it is still open except that it would be part of the Jazz Fest. During the main stage events, poets will offer to write "instant" poetry any subject for a dollar and anyone who is game for that should get in touch with me. You get to keep the money.

Vivian said...

In winter, my grown son is out building snow caves to camp in, snowshoeing, skiing, hiking, nearly every spare moment. Myself, I like the outdoors, but not the horizontal rain/wind that Sitka gets. But, I bundle up and go outside every chance I get. Especially if I can be out in a boat. I have to get outside every day in order to write well.

In Puerto Rico, I still deal with the elements: SUN, lightning, rain. But I get to sit outside on the veranda every day and every weekend Howie and I hike down to a beach below the base (we go through the jungle, a small cave, and hang onto ropes) and sit in the tide pools and collect sea glass. Just being out-of-doors makes the muse perk up.

Vivian said...

Hi Ela,

I like your philosophy of "transforming the feelings/traumas into something more universal and less one's own 'burden' or problem." That's something I learned from my mentor Zack Rogow during the UAA MFA. Also, I think my other mentor Anne Caston mentioned it.

Mike at Cirque said...

A few final thoughts:

(1) Read other poets (in any medium!)... Alaska & NW poets must read other poets of their region: this is where the "real" conversation occurs. If Cirque has a purpose, this might be one of its contributions

(2) personal poetry is powerful, so keep at it. The epistolary/letter poem is a great formal way to keep your hand in that game.

(3) Peggy's laureate projects sound very exciting!

(4) Keep at your own personal literary citizenship by submitting, being rejected, revising and submitting again. Keep your poetry in play....

Ela said...

Hi Peggy!

I miss you: so looking forward to connecting more, and to seeing you in Homer next month.

I've been writing various things (including 'work stuff' and 'blog stuff,' both of which I'm making more of a conscientious effort to mine for 'the important stuff'). With thanks to Jeanne Clark, I've recently been trying my hand at haibun, and greatly enjoying the fluidity and yet constraint that it offers. We've been driving back and forth to Anchorage a lot and I've had some scares driving on the ice, so I've been writing about that.

Otherwise, a combination of new things and quite a bit of revision of previous work, with the eye to putting together a collection.

Oh, and here's another 'general' comment about writing in winter (although pretty obvious really): I've noticed that when I'm revising something that was written in spring or summer during the winter, there's much more of a feeling of disconnect than there used to be when I revised things while living in more temperate/tropical areas. Sometimes it makes it harder, but sometimes it's actually easier to read with an impartial eye.

Kersten said...

Thank you poets - Peggy, I look forward to meeting you in March. Vivian, I hope to meet you in Sitka one of these days! :)

Deb said...

What a wonderful dialogue you've assembled here! Good thing we've got archives - I know I'll be returning to re-read. Thanks so much to Sandy and company for an inspiring exchange. I, too, am on my was AWP and looking forward to visiting with some of you there. It's humbling to be part of this amazing community of writers.

Vivian said...

I feel so honored to have Peggy Shumaker representing Alaskan writers! She is such a good example of literary citizenship.

Sandy Kleven said...

Thank you, all. Peggy best of luck with this wonderful mission, Writer Laureate and then, for life, to be Emeritus, well, it doesn't end. Vivian, you surely inspire. Michael, you have done something important. All of those who have been reading and posting thanks so much for your questions and comments. And for those who have been following -- thanks so much for spending the afternoon with us.

Ela said...

On reading the poets from one's own region: just like with any form of 'participation,' we have to start from where we are. As somewhat of an 'accidental Alaskan,' I'm feeling increasingly honored and awed that this is my 'literary community.' Thanks so much to you all.

Peggy Shumaker said...

Ela-

Form sometimes can create distance, but doesn't necessarily do so.

Taking two or three steps closer to the material can be a way to see it anew. Often we create barriers so we can cope. The poem doesn't need to cope. It can take us right into the bones.

What do we fear? Being ridiculed? Revealing what we want to keep secret? Being shallow or merely human?

Often, allowing our humanity to show through creates an honest poem.

I have a friend who says that our shame and our fear are two of the writer's best allies.

Vivian said...

Thanks Sandy and Alaska 49 Writers for the wonderful time in cyberspace. Now, I really miss Alaska. Bye, everyone. It's ten p.m. here in Puerto Rico and time to go to bed. Chau.

John McKay said...

Thanks again, Sandy for hosting, and to all who participated.

One other poetry event worth noting is Anchorage's "Poetry Parley," the brainchild of Jon Minton. We meet once a month, on the third Wednesday, at Out North, 7 p.m.

The evening consists of two segments. In the first, a local poet reading her or his own work, for about 20-25 minutes. This is a nice length, since often in readings with multiple readers there is only time for a few poems from each poet, and less opportunity to get a true feel for the writer's work.

In the second segment, we read from the works of an established, published poet (a wide variety, living, dead, many nationalities, etc.) Seven to ten folks each read two or three of the poet's works. Jon coordinates who is reading, starting with those who volunteer for that work, and assigns poems, or confirms choices made by readers.
We've found that it works best to have the local poet go first, because it guarantees that there isn't a dramatic drop in the audience after the break, since the eight to ten readers usually have friends and family with them.

The format is one that could be readily followed anywhere (at least any community that has more than a couple poets, and you'd be surprised to find poets come out of the woodwork that you didn't know about).

Peggy Shumaker said...

Thank you everyone for this nourishing conversation! I'm grateful.

I hope we can all make room in our lives for words, for the great adventure of reading, and for the serious play of writing.

May words come looking for us. May we be awake to welcome them.

Mike at Cirque said...

Sayonara all,

Thanks for the opportunity for such spirited conversation...

--Mike

Sandy Kleven said...

You are all most welcome. I just checked last years conversation and we had 146 posts then in about five hours. I am really tempted to make one more post after this one... but I will leave it to fate. How curious that the number would nearly match?
With kindest regards to all, Sandy

John McKay said...

Final PS.
This was my first time (I'm embarrassed to say) to participate in an online discussion like this, but I know it won't be my last.
Thanks for continuing to foster a literary community for Alaska (an Alaska that includes Puerto Rico, Hawaii, etc.) And it really is a community, as I think that I've met all but one of you in person at various writers' events in the past couple years.
Viv, looking forward to seeing you back here this summer. Ela, glad you made the effort to get into Homer to find an internet connection. Leslea, I've been thinking of you often.
Signing off.

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

Thanks, this was great! And a last comment about John McKay's mention of Poetry Parley -- I haven't yet gone, but I do PLAN to go! Susanna Mishler, who was the most recent featured poet, fully explained the format to me just today. What a great idea it is -- people who attend each month get a chance to connect with classic authors and hear a new voice at the same event. A great way to commit to one's own continuing poetic education while also building community. (Susanna also mentioned it's an excellent way to work on one's reading/recitation skills.)

Ela said...

I love how this discussion has formed a braided conversation that can be read many ways and enjoyed many times. I appreciate the connection offered by this, and hold out the sincere hope that it encourages more 'in person' connections among us.

Brian Campbell said...

Hi, I'm a friend of Sharon Lax, who just directed me to this discussion. I don't have much time to contribute, but Re a question for Zack: language has many values and dimensions of meaning,and some of these can be translated into another language with some degree of success or at least, refreshing, informative and indeed inspiring results. For me poetry that
consistently translates well features
startling juxtapositions of
image and meaning; poetry that does not translate well depends heavily on the musicality of the language, which is rarely felicitously rendered in another language.
Example of the former: Neruda. Example of the latter: Lorca.
Think of the influence though that translation has had on our literature: without translation of Homer or Dante there would have been no Milton; without translation of Petrarch, there would have been no Shakespeare. Clearly something is being taken from one side to the other, which is what translation of course means etymologically. For examples of my own translation, check out undressingthenight.blogspot.com (a website devoted to discussion of my translations of Francisco Santos, a Nicaraguan poet)... More discussion of poetry on my blog. Enough tooting of my own horn though. I hope this "gets through"... all the best to you all.

Sharon Lax said...

Commenting on the question about representing winter. I picked up a very interesting book this year, entitled "Canada and The Idea of North," by Sherrill E. Grace. In this compilation of essay and display of art, Grace draws a vivid picture of how south 'Canada' really is and that the consideration of those who truly do live in the north is next to nil. In this book, there are so many metaphors for winter, and ways of seeing this time.

Sandy Kleven said...

As a late, probably final, post I add this by Rimbaud, offered by Jeff Oliver in his Alaska Literary Arts' Calendar.

A Dream for Winter

In the winter, we shall travel in a little pink railway carriage
With blue cushions.
We shall be comfortable. A nest of mad kisses lies in wait
In each soft corner.

You will close your eyes, so as not to see, through the glass,
The evening shadows pulling faces.
Those snarling monsters, a population
Of black devils and black wolves.

Then you'll feel your cheek scratched...
A little kiss, like a crazy spider,
Will run round your neck...

And you'll say to me : "Find it !" bending your head
— And we'll take a long time to find that creature
— Which travels a lot...
.....................
Arthur Rimbaud (trans. Oliver Bernard). 1870.