Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Bright Spot in Winter: a guest post by Vivian Faith Prescott


In southeast Alaskan winters, Raven pulls the clouds right down to the shoreline, creating a gray winter landscape that feels quite lonely. William Wordsworth wrote a poem about being “lonely as a cloud.” Are poets lonely? Well, that depends, since writing tends to be solitary work. Only one person typically holds the pen and there’s usually only one person typing on a computer keyboard.

I spent most of my early writing years, in my twenties, alone, or at least feeling alone. I lived on a small island community in southeast Alaska where winters were cold and dark, and oftentimes rainy. I didn’t have a poetry mentor, or a writers group, either, and I hadn’t yet discovered writers’ conferences or the MFA. (This was pre-Internet days, when I typed my poems on a typewriter and mailed them out.)

Winter can be lonely, but not anymore. The Internet provides poets with some sense of togetherness. Critique groups and literary journals are often online. When I’m out of town, my Sitka writers group meets on Facebook. In fact, the first time I reached out to other Alaskan writers was through the 49 Writers website. I was amazed: writers were getting together online.

On Sunday, February 24th, 49 Writers is hosting With Poets in Winter, an opportunity to be inspired by poetry. “I wander as lonely a cloud/That floats on high o'er vales and hills,/When all at once I saw a crowd…” The “crowd” that the narrator in Wordsworth’s poem discovered was not a real crowd but bright yellow daffodils. We can be like Wordsworth’s daffodils: a bright spot in another writer’s life. We can encourage and delight.

Since poet Sandra Kleven created With Poets in Winter, an annual event, I’ve participated from Puerto Rico and Kodiak, Alaska while being stationed with my husband in the Coast Guard. With 49 Writers it’s about “inclusion.” We don’t have to be lonely writers, but we can use the state of solitude to tap into our creativity, our “inward eye” as Wordsworth calls it.

But Poets in Winter isn’t just for poets. It’s for writers and readers of fiction or nonfiction, too. It’s for anyone who loves poetry, writing, or wants to be inspired. Last year Poets in Winter featured Kelsea Habecker, Gretchen Diemer, Nicole Stellon O’Donnell, and Tom Sexton. This winter the featured poets are John Morgan and Emily Wall. Emily Wall lives in Juneau, Alaska and is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Alaska Southeast. She is the author of two full poetry collections: LiveAboard and Freshly Rooted. John Morgan is the author of four poetry collections: The Bone-Duster, The Arctic Herd, and Walking Past Midnight, Spear-Fishingon the Chatanika: New and Selected Poems, as well as four chapbooks. Morgan has also published Forms of Feeling: Poetry in Our Lives, a collection of essays. (For complete bios see With Poets in Winter).

Are you interested? Do you need a bright spot in a cloudy winter? Here’s how it works: moderator Sandra Kleven, who has organized this yearly event, has created an informational page at her website. Prior to February 24th, go to With Poets in Winter’s informational page and read up on the featured poets. You’ll find their bios and a few sample poems. Then on Sunday February 24th from 1 – 3 p.m. head over to 49 Writers website and you’ll see a link to the chat. It’s easy to participate. It’s just like responding to a FB message or a blogpost; you type in your response and push send. You can even participate anonymously.


The best thing about participating in With Poets in Winter is that you can put on your yoga pants, pour your favorite cup of tea, open your laptop, and curl up on your favorite chair. Get cozy. Get poetry. It is winter but it doesn’t have to be dark and lonely. This winter, lift the clouds and peek beneath them—you’ll be surprised at the brightness.

“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
                        ~William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (1804)



To check out the archives from past With Poets in Winter events, click here.


87 comments:

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Sounds like a great event--isn't the internet a beautiful thing for writers?

John said...

Hi, I'm just checking in early to see how it works. John

John said...

Trying again to be sure. J.

Sandy Kleven said...

Coming up in 13 minutes...

Emily said...

Practice Post!

This is Emily just trying this out.

John said...

I'm here too. John

Sandy Kleven said...

Hi Emily ~ John, Welcome to our 4th annual chat with Poets in Winter. Let's start by having both of you locate yourself geographically and then saying a bit about what you are doing in winter. Meanwhile, I'll jump to our social media and to bring our audience to this section of the 49 Writers blog.

Emily said...

Hi John and Sandra,

Thanks again for the invitation to be on Sandra--this is such a cool project. I loved reading last year's dialogue.

Right now I'm in Douglas, the little island community across the channel from Juneau. I'm sitting at my desk in my writing room which overlooks Gastineau channel and Mt. Roberts.

Do you want me to talk about my current writing project? Or what did you mean by "doing in winter?"

John said...

Hi, Sandy, Emily,

I'm in my office in the downstairs of our house outside of Fairbanks. Out the window is snow almost up to my chin, but over it I can see the frozenTanana River and the Alaska Range--clouded at the moment.

Vivian Prescott said...

Hi everyone, I just got off the ferry and hooked up my desktop and here I am! How fun to be able to chat with Poets. What a welcome home!

Sandra Kleven said...

Take it anyway you wish - maybe in the context of winter as a time for focus on a project. Run with it... in any case. Your current book Liveaboard was reviewed in the most recent Cirque... but that was last year... sounds like you have more brewing.
And John has a collection of prose out, Forms of Feeling.
So what are you up to... ?

Anonymous said...

I am in urban Anchorage. A little light snow in the air.

John said...

In winter it's important to get outside, so I do some cross-country skiing, but most mornings I'm in my office puzzling out poems.

John said...

Emily, I'm interested in how you organized Liveaboard. Particularly how the Eve poems fit in.

Emily said...

Ok, thanks. And it's great to have you on Vivian; thanks for your great blog post and all the help with promoting our work. I'd love to hear what you're up to these days too.

I was really happy to have the book reviewed in Cirque--I liked the in-depth look and appreciated the close reading of the poems. It's the first time I've had a really thoughtful review and it helped me think about my work in a new way.

Right now I'm working on a new collection. I’m not sure what shape it will take, but I’m working first on a series of birth poems. I've been collecting birth stories from other women and turning them into poems. I have absolutely loved this project. Women have given me the most intense, unedited, raw stories and it's amazing material.

I just finished one for a friend that ended up being a villanelle. I've been trying to write a villanelle for 15 years and not been able to. Somehow this material unlocked that for me.

So this project has really stretched me and I'm feeling really energized in the writing right now.

Sandy Kleven said...

Once you've both posted a bit about whatever is going on this winter (since I do understand that "pushing the book" is another time consuming requirement of publishing)I want to give another general topic here since, we don't want you to have to wait for another question. But noting that you are both "teaching poets," I have the following consideration. I interviewed David Wagoner for Cirque a few issues back. He said that he had an "easy" time of it because his teacher Roethke helped him grasp the fact that a poet could make a living as a poet and teacher, could make a life of it. I think few of us get that kind of advice - instead more often we are discouraged from trying to turn writing of any kind into a career. How has this been for you? From first understanding that you might be a "teaching" poet, to pursuing the lifestyle of teaching and writing poetry?

Emily said...

Hi John,

That’s a great question. Organizing the book was one of my favorite parts of writing it. After I had collected the poems I felt most likely to be in the book, I did a couple of organizing things. I’m kind of a type-A person, so I love organization anyway, but I especially love how much we can change a book of poems through organization.

First, I came up with four main motifs for the book (birds, God, cities, and sailing). I grouped all the poems together into those motifs to see how many I had in each, which was the biggest, which ones overlapped, etc. Some cutting and adding happened in that phase.

Second, I spread all the poems out on the floor in my office and started grouping them into 3’s. At an AWP conference a few years ago a poet talked about how when we read poems we read them in 3’s—the poem immediately proceeding the one we read influences the one we are reading now, and this one influences the one following. I loved that idea. So I created groups of 3 and thought about how different groupings would change and enhance the poems.

Third, I thought about tone. I wanted a range of tones—some of the poems are dark and some have a lot more light and hope and I wanted to move between those tones as a way of creating more tension in the book.

Finally, I thought about the narrative arc of the book. Since this book chronicles my four years of living aboard, and all the trips we took, I wanted the readers to feel like they had gone sailing with us—both literally and emotionally. I wanted the book to feel like a journey. I’m not sure if that comes across to readers or not—maybe you guys can tell me.

Phew, that was a long answer!

Vivian Prescott said...

Wow, Emily, birth poems, how interesting. I love that idea! Seems like every person has their "birth" story told to them by their mother or relative. And women tell those stories to one another all the time. But using poetry to tell those stories is really cool.

Sandy Kleven said...

I am going to post both your bios here for easy review: Emily Wall

Emily Wall is a poet and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. She has been published in a number of literary journals in the U.S. and Canada. She has two books of poetry, Liveaboard (2012) and Freshly Rooted (2007) both published by Salmon Poetry.

John Morgan

John Morgan has published four books of poetry, most recently Spear-Fishing on the Chatanika: New and Selected Poems, as well as a collection of essays, Forms of Feeling: Poetry in Our Lives. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, APR, The Paris Review, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Cirque, The New Republic, and many other journals. Morgan studied with Robert Lowell at Harvard and won the Academy of American Poets’ Prize at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He moved to Fairbanks in 1976 to teach in the Creative Writing program at UAF. In 2009, he served as the first Writer-in-Residence at Denali National Park.

Erin said...

Hi folks,
Am I in the right spot? Is the conversation on this thread or another?

John said...

That's great, Emily. I recently finished a long poem (around 40 pages) about a raft trip on the Copper River. It's called "River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir." Kabir was an Indian mystic poet with a lot of edge to his work and he really got my poem going. The artist Kes Woodward who was also on the trip has put in about a dozen paintings and we're hoping to publish it as a collaboration.

John said...

Hi, Erin, glad you're with us.

Emily said...

Hi Erin,

I'm so glad you're here! I'd love to hear what you and Vivian are up to this winter.

John that's amazing--40 pages! How did it feel writing such a long poem? I've always wanted to do that.

Erin said...

I've been getting ready for my first book to drop. There's a little pre-sale at AWP, and then Pause, Traveler is officially in the world on June 1.

Working on a new set of poems based on lines from "Song of Myself." I'm sixteen poems in and plugging away.

Vivian Prescott said...

I have a question for John: What inspired you to write Forms of Feeling: Poetry in Our Lives?

John said...

A couple of years ago, I read a review of a new translation of Kabir. I loved the samples quoted in the review—very colloquial, hip, but also cosmic in scope. I bought the book (SONGS OF KABIR translated by Arvind Mahrotra) and started writing responses that incorporated lines from the poems. Kabir gave me the energy, and I wrote a lot of pages, not knowing where it was going. It seemed to need some sort of central narrative to hold it together, but I didn’t know what that was. Then one day I remembered the raft trip from ten years before and realized that it could give me the structure I needed.

John said...

Forms of Feeling was actually written over about 35 years as separate pieces. But it all came together in a couple of days when I figured out how to organize it--the four sections helped make it seem more of a piece. And I hope the voice and themes give it some unity.

Sandy Kleven said...

Dropping back to Emily's post about orgainzing the poems in Liveaboard. Here is one quoted in the Cirque review. It's remarkable. I am sure formatting will be messed up and I apologize for that.

And other things

don't wake us. Jonie, eating at the pub on steak&prawn

night, drinking her usual bottle of wine, slips

coming down the dock, slips,

into the cool, green river next to her own boat

which must have rocked a little, in the wake

of her body. Which must have rocked a little

in the wake of her body.

Kersten said...

Hi Poets, Kersten from Sitka here. My online attention span is shortened by actual warm sun streaming through the windows and a morning spent outdoors. Vivian - welcome home! Emily, I just read "Grace Harbor, Desolation Sound" and I love the moon imagery and connection to jellies. Wow!

Vivian Prescott said...

John, from the description of "Forms of Feeling" I think it might be a great book for my Sitka Writers group. We are a group of about eight writers from all different levels of experience and genres.

Emily said...

Hi Kersten, and welcome! I'm glad you like the poem.

That one was a gift I feel like I can hardly take credit for--it came to me all at once and is one of the few poems I didn't edit much. Most of the others took a lot of work. One poem went through over 30 drafts in four years.

Have any of you guys experienced that--a poem that just came to you whole and finished?

John said...

That's a powerful poem and the way the ending repeats a sentence with a rocking motion I found pretty amazing.

John said...

"November Surprise" came pretty easily, but not it one draft. I had to find the stanza form

Emily said...

Thanks John. :-)

Speaking of organization, how did you decide to open Spear-Fishing on the Chatanika with "The Dive Master's Manifest"? I really like that poem, and I'm always curious how writers decide which poem to open with.

Erin said...

@Emily, I rarely have a poem come through whole. Sometimes. Lately I've been incubating them... walking around with the title on an index card in my pocket, jotting down ideas. Sometimes when I actually sit down to write, I come away with a whole poem. But it doesn't seem like a gift... it seems like an egg I've sat with all week.

John said...

One reason for starting with "Dive-Master..." was that I didn't want the book to be seen as just about Alaska. So I with a completely different place. Also, it's an instruction poem and gives a suggestion to the reader about how to approach my poetry. I love reading it aloud because of all the hand gestures it describes.

Sandy Kleven said...

I just went to Erin's link and discovered a whole new world - How could I have missed Being Poetry and the interviews with so many poets - many of whom are known to me and so many I will have to discover. It's been like that I think entire year with Cirque. Expanding my horizons by leaps and boundaries. Also, what a resource for Poetry Parley - when we need to expand to new local poets.
And one more thing here, John, I've spent a lot of time with Forms of Feeling... you cover so much. Loved reading about your classes with Robert Lowell - liked that you panned him a little. Also, where in "Traveling Through the Dark" a directed reading you not only ask questions about the poem (for, perhaps, a student) but later on you suggest answers. This is so great as it allows the affirmation "Ah... so that's what he means," as something of an assurance that the reader is on the same page. A very generous touch.

Emily said...

I keep trying to find the "like" button on this page!

A student of mine is trying to get on and having trouble, so I'm working with her on email. Hopefully she'll join us soon.

@Erin: I love the egg metaphor. I'm also intrigued by the idea of not getting a whole poem out on a first "draft" but writing a line at a time. Is that typical for you?

Sandra Kleven said...

I see you used the direct link on your FB page, Emily. We should add that they need to scroll down to comments.

John said...

One of the nicest responses I got to the book was from a woman who reviewed it for New Pages, and she that Stafford piece taught her a lot, even though she's a non-fiction writer rather than a poet. It was actually the last piece I wrote and I wrote it for the book specifically to fill a gap.

John said...

Emily, I wanted to ask you about the sestinas in Liveaboard. I have a lot of trouble with that form because I keep wanting to make jokes and pun. I can't keep a straight face. But you do a terrific job.

Sandra Kleven said...

Just to pose, again, the question of teaching and how it allows a poet to, essentially, be a poet, full time. (It seems to me.) As opposed to the day job at the bank or something less related. How did this come about it your life? Did you have teachers who, either by being a model or by giving advice, introduced this option as a possibility?

John said...

About getting poems quickly. I'm currently on the 25th draft of a poem about Hillary Clinton falling down, and I think it's getting close. If I get a poem done in a month, that's typical.

Emily said...

I want to go back to Sandra's question about teaching, which is an interesting one.

I teach full time at UAS, and the first thing I'll say is that I love my job. I spent 15 years doing part time work and working multiple jobs working toward a full time job there. I feel lucky every day to have that job.

The question you're asking is a complex one--is it good for writers to teach? Is it good for me?

Yes and no. On the one hand, it takes up so much time and energy. I spend 40-50 hours a week on my teaching and most of the rest of my time with my family, so poetry get scrammed into the margins. I often do most of my work in the first four weeks of the semester; by mid-terms I just can’t find the time to keep up with it, no matter how determined I am. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. I’m more of a “sprinter” by nature so working intensively for a few weeks and then taking a break works for me.

I am also lucky enough to teach creative writing and that’s the real magic of a teaching job. I’m constantly reading work by young and new writers and they push and inspire me. And of course any time I’m prepping a poetry lecture, I’m “working” on my own work as well. There aren’t very many ways to get paid to read poems, and this is one of them.

I had a really interesting experience this week that’s kind of tangential but maybe I’ll share it anyway. I’m working with Kelsea Habecker this semester in a mentor program through 49 writers. Kelsea is reading my poems and offering me advice. It’s been an absolutely marvelous experience. I didn’t realize how hungry I was for this until we got started. What was interesting was that I found her writing me advice using almost the exact same language I give to my students—in essence telling me something about diction and word choice that I teach every semester. Her words could have been mine in my 4th week lecture for my intro workshop. This amazed me because of course I “knew” what she was telling me but somehow that knowledge wasn’t making it between my teaching brain and my writing brain. Hearing her say it made me realize how much we writers can benefit from being “taught” by other writers—regardless of our level of experience, publication record, etc. I feel like a starving person who has just been given a big bowl of soup. I so hope my students feel like this too, when they are reading my comments on their poems.

Vivian Prescott said...

Emily, funny, but when I was a very young poet (teens/early 20s)I used to think that every poem came to me the way it was supposed to "be." I dated the poems with time and date. I had no idea what revising was. Fortunately, now I revise. But occasionally I do get one right the first time through.

Emily said...

@Sandra: Haha! I was just writing that as you posted.

I'll add a p.s. here. I studied with Ira Sadoff as an undergrad. I went to Colby College in Maine, and it was one of those wonder brick-and-ivy affairs. His office was up in this clock tower and was all windows and books. I remember sitting in his office when I was a sophomore and realizing--this is the dream. This is exactly what I want to do.

After that moment a LOT of people told me not to try--that it was too hard. Teaching jobs like this are not easy to get, and of course they are right. But I also remember thinking, well...he's doing it. Someone has to do it. Why not me?

John said...

When I finished grad school, there were lots of jobs for poet-teachers. It was a very different time. I had done some teaching of undergraduates at Iowa--one of whom was Denis Johnson--and I didn't have many other marketable skills, so I applied at got a job at UVa.

Emily said...

@John: About sestinas...it's a devilish form. But somehow I'm really falling in love with them.

For me, the secret is not to draft in sestina form. The ones I like best are the ones that started out in free verse but just weren't working, that I then revised into a sestina. The villanelle I mentioned earlier happened that way too. I don't know how others write them, but that seems so much easier and frankly more fun that way.

Vivian Prescott said...

Emily, I love what you said: "how much we writers can benefit from being “taught” by other writers—regardless of our level of experience, publication record, etc."

I think I needed that bit of advice, today. Gunalcheesh.

Emily said...

John? What was the Iowa Writer's Workshop like? You've actually walked those hallowed halls!

Ela said...

Ela from Homer here.

I think Vivian's question and much of Emily's comments about mentorship really point at the unasked question, of when a poem really is "ready," or "done;" if it ever is.

I have rewritten the same poem for different contexts to the point that it's no longer the same poem, and have seen other poets do that time and time again.

John said...

Now, I'm retired for 15 years but I still work with students, helping them with their theses. This is also important to my own writing--it gives me a sense of keeping in touch. The poets who come up here are often fascinating people and it's fun to get to know them. Many are also very fine poets.

Ela said...


John--are there ways of keeping in touch with other poets without being a teacher/part of the academy?

I'm wondering about doing the teacher training element of my MFA program, but I'm not sure I'm temperamentally suited to teaching...

John said...

My start at Iowa is a strange story. (I cover it in Forms of Feeling.) The main thing later on was making friends with some very talented contemporaries--Jon Anderson and Steve Orlen. James Tate and Alice Notley were also there. But back then there were only a couple of M.F.A. programs in the country and Iowa wasn't particularly singled out.

mcharris said...

Hi Emily and others. I just tried to post a comment to Erin. Love your idea, Erin, about carrying around index cards to hatch poems. I'm going to try again, Probably no more time after that.


Erin said...

As a former high school teacher, I can tell you that I had NO time or energy for writing at all. I can't believe that I managed to finish my MFA and teach. Teaching creative writing (one class per semester if I'm lucky) has been a whole different subject - inspiring and wonderful. But one class as an adjunct will not pay the bills.

Don't you just wish that our society valued poetry half as much as it valued football? I'd take half a professional football player's salary.

@Emily - I don't usually eke out a poem line by line. I try to get a draft or most of a draft down in one sitting. But these days, I'm finding that I get my best ideas on the treadmill or when I'm at work, so the index card helps me not lose them.

Is anyone out there a line at a time drafter? I sure would like to hear about your process if you are.

Emily said...

Hi Mary Claire--so glad you made it!

John said...

Ela, I have a writers' group in Fairbanks, made up of 5 or 6 friend who all write. We get together about once a month and workshop our stuff. Cindy Hardy is in it and Linda Schandelmeier and we all value each other's comments. I was in a similar group in Cambridge, MA when I was on sabbatical. The country is full of writers and everyone can use the feedback.

Ela said...


Of course, there's the alternative point of view, that it's ideal to be a poet with a pedestrian day job, someone ulterior, in the community, making poetry of the life outside the academy. So many important poets in that category. What do y'all think?

Sandra Kleven said...

And then there is this... Do you think I am onto something?

I think that there has been a beautiful up-surge in the creation of a large and loosely linked Alaska writing community in the last four years. Where there was isolation there is an ever growing network. I credit 49 Writers, Cirque, Poetry Parley, the UAA low residency writing program, as well as, the instruction and events that have arisen from the creation of these organizations(I will now add Erin's blog to this). I love the fact, that not only do I know Alaska writers (and some from the northwest) but I can quote their poems - not because I memorized them though that would be good- but because I have heard them read that frequently or have read them online or in Cirque. Examples include Vivian Prescott, Elizabeth L Thompson, Emily Kurn, Peggy Shumaker, Susanne Mishler, Kelsea Habecker, Michael Burwell, Brian Hutton -- John and Emily, too, of course. These are just the first to come to mind. I know their work - not just their names. I am delighted with this. I have the contention that we rise on the same tide both in recognition and because being in community gives our work polish. I've studied this with Roethke's group of about ten students who went on to do very well and, of course, with Lowells (Plath, Sexton, Kumin and others). Their association with each other contributed to their accomplishments. I think we have begun to create an artistically empowering environment and that remarkable things will come from it.. Perhaps, like the way Seattle developed the Northwest "school" of mystics in the group of painters that included Tobey,Morris Graves, etc. Not to be narrow here but just to emphasize that this network builds goodness - We enhance each other and, because it is Alaska with our small population we aren't overwhelmed by so many individuals that we have to create little cells to be heard. I think something remarkable is going on. ( Gees, my word to prove I am human is Lick Snot. I guess that does it. )
Anyway, do others see this same difference?

Ela said...

John, I agree. Gosh we can use the feedback!--that sounds like a great group of writers.

There's a guy here who lives all the way out at the head of the bay...when he makes it in for a writers' group, he always mentions wanting to create an online writers' group, where people could critique one another. That's probably an increasing possibility now.

John said...

Ela, I'd say if you're not committed to teaching, don't do it. There are better paying jobs that take up less time. Or you could move to Greece. I hear the living is pretty cheap there and of course it's a beautiful place.

Ela said...

John, wow! I speak modern Greek fluently, am an ancient Greek scholar, and adore the place. What a psychic suggestion. Have you been there?

I appreciate the recommendation not to teach if you don't love it.

Emily said...

Sandra—I’m really encouraged by what you said here, and I think you’re absolutely right.

I first got a sense of this community growing closer last year at AWP. There were several parties and dinners for anyone from Alaska, and they were magical. I remember sitting in this pub in Chicago across from a couple of Fairbanks writers I was just getting to know and marveling that we’d come all this way to hang out. But there was an immediate sense of closeness and interest in each other’s work and that continued beyond AWP. I spent some wonderful time with James Engelhardt there (the new acquisitions editor for the U of A press) and we swap poems with each other regularly.

Your post is really solidifying something that’s been in my mind since I read Vivian’s post this week—that it’s not just about loneliness or parties or contacts, but about the way we shape each other’s work. And I’m intrigued by the idea of an “Alaskan Aesthetic” or group emerging from this community of writers.

Emily said...

John: Yes! I love the idea of an online writer's workshop. What would be the best medium to create this? Vivian? Erin? You guys have done some terrific online work with Facebook groups and blogs.

How would we do this?

Sandy Kleven said...

I can barely believe that we are down to just 13 minutes. Urghhh... In this year's format, I like the fact of having just two poets (officially). There's been less of a traffic jam and clearly you feel okay writing longer posts. I think when we had as many as four, people tried to be brief, even though we had a longer span of time. I think I'll go longer and stick with two poets next year. But there are two other things I want to cover... One is this marvelous publisher Salmon Poetry who apparently both of you found independently (maybe Tom Sexton was the link). Can you share something about working with this Irish press? And Vivian, please share the inspiration behind the Andy Hope Award. I am making this a longer post and perhaps my last but to say over and out... Cirque submission deadline is Mar 21. Don't worry about going over time, here. No one is going to cut us off but I do want to respect the time you set aside for this venture. Cirque can be found full-text at www.cirquejournal.com Back to you~

Ela said...

Sandy, I like the observation about collegiality and a small community of bright and observant literary citizens. As I contemplate the possibility of moving Outside, one of the things I wonder is whether there's anywhere else with quite this kind of community of poets. Vivian and others can attest that thanks to the Internet, we can remain part of the community even Outside, though.

Emily said...

Ok, about Salmon. I found Salmon Poetry through Tom Sexton. I heard him read years ago and when I was ready to send out Freshly Rooted and looking for presses, looked back through Tom's early books and found them.

Salmon is an independent press in Ireland and they publish almost exclusively poetry (I think your book John is one of the few prose books they've done).

Salmon seems to be exist almost magically--they get funding through the government in Ireland, and are able to publish quite a few poetry books each year--more than most poetry presses. Jessie Lendennie is the publisher and she's...well...generous, smart, hands-off, desperate, funny as heck, and somehow able to make poetry books in this day and age.

The thing I love best about Salmon is the group of poets they publish. I've met some amazing writers and we Salmon poets keep touch online and have formed this loose community of writers that stretches all across the U.S. and of course to Europe too. Salmon is publishing some truly remarkable poets and I count myself very lucky to be working with this press.

Erin said...

Emily, let me do some snooping. A private Ning sounds like the best format for an online community of Alaskan poets that would be secure enough to run critiques on. I'll let you know what I discover.

I like the idea, and it does seem like a good fit as an addition to Being Poetry!

Vivian Prescott said...

In regards to online groups, my Blue Canoe Writers uses FB plus we meet face to face. I think you can use FB to share files in your "Group" and post feedback. If your members are on FB, anyway, that would work. But some folks forget to check group messages or Private messages on Facebook. So you have to consider that.

Yahoo groups is also user friendly. But I tried one of those free online group hosting services and, yikes, I needed a PhD in html to figure it out.

John said...

I met Jessie Lendennie, the publisher of Salmon, about a dozen years ago when she came up to Fairbanks. Jerah Chadwick was the connection then. She lives in Ireland but has always loved Alaska and actually has owns cabin somewhere up here. Then a few years ago at the AWP conference in New York, she asked if I had a new manuscript. I did and that became Spear-Fishing on the Chatanika.

Sandy Kleven said...

Many who live outside remain connected. Maybe, this association we are developing is a permanent arrangement. For, instance, when Dylan Thomas traveled, in the US, he moved from one poet friend to another. They all did (speaking of these guys of the 1950s). KTarr relocated to FLA, but remains well connected and is here now to teach Spiritual Writing for 49 Writers. Burwell is in Santa Fe but I cannot do Cirque without him. It's a three person job (designer Paxson Woelber being the third). Morgan? You spend a bit of time in Bellingham, as does Pataky. Again just a quick review. There are no doubt more.

Emily said...

Erin & Vivian: Thanks for thinking about this. I will too. I'd love to find a really simple way for us to just post poems and the rest of us to comment on them. I have two friends I swap with now, but I'd love a larger, looser group for this.

sandy Kleven said...

I'll wrap up at about 3:05 to allow for final posts.

John said...

Yes, Emily, I love your description of Jessie. She does amazing things! And the Salmon poets make for a great community. It's one of the reasons I keep going to AWP.

Emily said...

I'll just say thanks to all of you for being here and especially to Sandra for hosting this! I feel quite encouraged after our afternoon, and I'm looking forward to seeing all of you out and about in cyberspace.

Erin said...

Hey everyone,
Thanks for spending some time to talk - especially John and Emily. Thank you Vivian for rousting this up. I will continue to do some research, but I just found two free possibilities for private "communities."

There are lots of considerations though. Emily, I'll be in touch and perhaps we can figure some things out together. Vivian, you too!

Is there an AK meeting at AWP this year? If so, I want in!

Ela said...


Sandy, I hope I can be part of that illustrious company if I do move outside.

Emily and Erin, the gentleman I first mentioned who brought up the online critique group idea is a fiction writer--I wonder if there could be different sub-forums. It should be easy to get the word out, and I think people will be hungry for it. Small a community as we are, what with snow etc, we can get far flung.

Vivian Prescott said...

The Andy Hope Award was established at Cirque to honor my friend and fellow poet Andy Hope. He died of cancer a couple years ago. I ran the idea by Ishmael Hope, Andy's son, and Ish thought it was a good idea, too. So with Ish's blessing I established the prize.

Andy's poetry was what one would consider "political" as Andy was very involved in Alaska Native politics especially Alaska Native Education. But one of my favorite Andy Hope poems is full of Tlingit humor.

I established the award at Cirque because I wanted more people to know about Andy as a writer. To me it seemed that only folks in SE Alaska were aware of Andy's poetry and prose.

Emily said...

Erin: Yes! Let's work on this. FB me or email me and we'll talk more.

John said...

Thanks for setting this up, Sandy. I really enjoyed doing it. Ela, I have been to Greece but had no idea it was your specialty. I heard a poet make that suggestion once and know several others who've spent time there.

Vivian Prescott said...

It's been wonderful to chat with you all. I'm heading to the bookstore in Sitka this week to buy John Morgan's Form of Feeling. And I already have Emily's books. And I'm looking forward to reading Erin's new book when it comes out. Thank you for this opportunity Sandy! Happy Writing everyone.

Kersten said...

Ela, I do believe a Ning would allow certainly for a variety of subgroups - fiction, nonfiction, poetry...

Sandra Kleven said...

Maybe in this issue, we could devote a page to the prize - with the winner and some of Andy's poetry.

To all, please submit to Cirque at cirquejournal@yahoo.com. The deadline is Spring Equinox and the issue comes out on the Summer Solstice.

Thanks, all. This has been delightful. But, too, fast. John Morgan, Emily Wall, we absolutely appreciate your time. The pages I created will remain in place until the host collapses. Prior years can also be found.


For those who have been following and not posting - a quick post to say "good-bye" would allow us to get a feel for our audience.

I'll monitor for the next twenty minutes or so.

Kersten said...

Thank you all for sharing...and for organizing this!

Erin said...

Hope everyone has a great day! Thanks Sandy for hosting!

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

I joined late and am still catching up reading all the comments in order -- so, I'm more of a lurker than an active participant this time. But I always appreciate this online event, both as a live discussion and as a stored resource. Thank you all!