Thursday, February 21, 2013
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
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
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.
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
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. Kodiak, Alaska
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
and is Assistant Professor of
Creative Writing at the Juneau,
Alaska . 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). University of
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 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.
Posted by Deb Vanasse at 7:00 AM