Coffee & Oranges

April 8, 2020

We’ve posted news from Kahini before, but have not previously mentioned their quarterly literary magazine, Coffee & Oranges.

An exercise in brevity, “Coffee & Oranges showcases short work that thrives through an alchemy of sensory detail, setting, character, point of view, plot, structure, pacing, voice, style, tone, title, authorial identity, and theme — and which transcends its own craft elements to arrive at the condition of art.”

Submissions to Coffee & Oranges are open. Read the guidelines!

Submit. Subscribe. Sign up for a future retreat.

This is a guest post by Rena Priest.

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.” Virginia Woolf

I first read this quote from “A Room of One’s Own” while lounging in a bathtub in Spokane. I was 19, and it was cold, and a hot bath was the best, cheapest way to stay warm. I was very poor, and this idea that writing what you wanted was more precious than silver, well, it was exhilarating.

For many years I stayed true. I said as much of what I wanted to say as my abilities would allow. But recently, I’ve felt daunted by having so little to show for the years and effort I’ve devoted to writing. What I “want” to write has changed. I no longer want to write the truth in my soul. My soul has too much grief, too many expletives, and not enough flowers, birds, or sunsets to appeal to mainstream poetry audiences.

These days, I want to write the kind of poem that I can screen print on a pillow and sell on Instagram by the truckload. I want to write a sing-song children’s book that will fly off the shelves like hot-cakes so that I can cast off the shackles of my student loans.

Last year, for the first time, I made sacrifices from the hair of the head of my vision and went for the silver pot. At the urging of a colleague, I applied for and was awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society to write about a captive killer whale. I did the work. I researched, and I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again and again until I had a draft of something that someone else would perhaps pay money to read.

In the beginning, it wasn’t writing that I wanted to do so much as writing that must be done. I was doing it for the cause, and the byline. Eventually, the story drew me in. It raised questions in me. I became deeply invested in the whale’s fate. The more I learned about her, the more imperative it became to share her story. Nothing has ever felt so important to get right as the story of this whale, and I have never been so engrossed or challenged in my writing.

In the end, my vision aligned with the work, bringing me to this conclusion: If you don’t want to write something, you’ll half-ass it for a while until you chuck it and start over, or you won’t do it. But if you give yourself to the writing — authentically give yourself to it — you’ll be true to your vision. It can’t be otherwise. Not “a shade of its colour” will be sacrificed.

Publishing, however, is a whole other story. 😉

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Read “A captive orca and a chance for our redemption” by Rena Priest, just published in High Country News.

. . . . .

Rena Priest is a poet and a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. Her literary debut, Patriarchy Blues, was honored with a 2018 American Book Award. Her most recent collection, Sublime Subliminal, was published by Floating Bridge Press. Priest’s work can be found in literary journals and anthologies including: For Love of Orcas, Pontoon, and Poetry Northwest. She has attended residencies at Hawthornden Castle, Hedgebrook, and Mineral School. She is a National Geographic Explorer and a Jack Straw Writer (2019). She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

meanwhile at ModPo

April 6, 2020

We’re huge fans of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo), the massive open online course (MOOC) offered free each year through Coursera. The ten-week intensive begins each September and tens of thousands of people participate, many taking it over and over.

Perhaps you’re one of the people who has considered enrolling but just couldn’t jam in another commitment in the fall. Well, here’s some good news from instructor Al Filreis (italics added for emphasis):

The course site is open every day, all year. Come in and read some poems, watch our videos about those poems, and join the conversation in the discussion forums. You need not wait until September 5, 2020, to be part of ModPo 2020. However, please do note that starting on September 5, and running for ten weeks thereafter, we will all together move through the syllabus during what we call our annual “symposium mode.” That mode features daily office hours held by TAs, super-lively discussion forums, in-person meet-ups in various locations, and weekly live interactive webcasts on Wednesdays.

To clarify: our annual 10-week symposium mode is what our friends at Coursera think of as “a course.” But — again to clarify — ModPo is unusual in that it is an ongoing open session. Once you “enroll” you are with us, unless you un-enroll, season after season, year after year. Our syllabus expands constantly and there are always new poems and new videos to read and watch. So please stay with us!

Sign up. Your poetry may never be the same!

Atlas Obscura calls it “digital detective work”: volunteers who visit online archives to decipher handwriting, tag photos, and other essential archival tasks. Find out more about this project here and see what else Atlas Obscura has mapped for your home enjoyment here. Think of it as one big poetry prompt.

If you’re looking for something a little different to do with your hours at home, consider the Getty challenge: select a piece of artwork you love from the online collection of the Getty or another museum, such as LACMA, The Met, Cleveland, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Walters, or the National Gallery. Then use three (or more) objects you have around the house to recreate the artwork. Then photograph and share your masterpiece.

See more samples and Tips for the Quarantine Challenge.

. . . . .
image: Male Harp Player of the Early Spedos Type, 2700–2300 B.C., Cycladic. Marble, 14 ⅛ x 11 1/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 85.AA.103. Recreation via Facebook DM by Irena Ochódzka with canister vacuum

thanks to Sally Lappen again!

stuff we love

April 3, 2020

In the metropolitan area surrounding Albany, New York (known as the Capital Region), Colleen Wygal is a poet and an English teacher at Schenectady High School. These days, she’s encouraging her students to take to the streets (in socially responsible ways, of course) and express themselves with chalk. She’s gotten pretty good at the chalk toss, delivering boxes of sidewalk chalk to neighbors around town. See more Walk Poetry on Facebook, #walkpoetry on Instagram, and @walkpoetry on Twitter.

listen!

April 2, 2020

The archives of The Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry (BWLS) contain full-length lectures, brief audio and video clips, transcriptions of Q&A sessions, and selected writings by featured poets. They are available for your enjoyment without charge.

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