fall workshops!

August 31, 2019

With the generous participation of outstanding poet/instructors, the Sue Boynton Poetry Contest offers a number of workshops each fall and winter.

Workshops are held at Mindport, 210 W Holly Street, Bellingham, Washington. Registration is required and all fees benefit the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest: $30 for one workshop or $50 for both workshops offered the same day, paid by check or cash at the workshop.

Register by sending an email to boyntonpoetrycontest@hotmail.com indicating the workshop(s) you wish to take and including your name and a phone number. No previous poetry experience is required. Please bring writing materials.

(This information is also available on the WORKSHOPS page.)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Stefania Heim
Ekphrastic Practice: Writing with Art

For centuries, poets have been making works that speak to, about, or out from pieces of visual art. John Keats asks direct questions of the Grecian Urn (“What men or gods are these?”). Carol Ann Duffy gives voice to the painting’s silent subject, the “Standing Female Nude.” Mary Jo Bang leaps from photographs to philosophical musings (“Art is what looking takes you to”). And Robin Coste Lewis collages descriptions of Western art objects in which a black female figure is represented in order to animate a history of art’s complicity in violence. Each of these writers uses art as a jumping off point for vibrant, original poems. We will join these experimenters, writing poems that describe, animate, and talk back to works of art in all genres. This workshop will be generative, giving participants a chance to expand their usual subject matter and deepen their practices of looking. Together, we will develop strategies and prompts for writing new poems, playing with imagery, sensory detail, perspective, voice, narrative, and history.

Stefania Heim is author of the poetry collections HOUR BOOK, chosen by Jennifer Moxley as winner of the Sawtooth Prize and published in 2019 by Ahsahta Books, and A Table That Goes On for Miles (Switchback Books, 2014). Geometry of Shadows, her book of translations of metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico’s Italian poems, is forthcoming with A Public Space Books. She received 2019 translation fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Stefania has taught at a range of institutions including Deep Springs College, Duke University, Hunter College, and University of Montana; she is currently an assistant professor at Western Washington University.

Keetje Kuipers
Bringing Back the Magic

If ancient poems were originally incantations and spells, why do contemporary poets often feel compelled to stick to story or straight lyric, only allowing the fantastic to feature in their work through imagistic leaps or fanciful metaphors? Particularly as a way of exploring such very real-world strictures as gender, sexuality, race, or class, magic can create opportunities for a new kind of engagement with our identities. We’ll dig into how magic-making works on the page, and what we can do to bring more of it into our poems. By examining the use of magical realism in contemporary poetry — including work by Alberto Ríos, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Marilyn Nelson, Sharon Olds, and Cornelius Eady — we’ll explore the effect that the surreal has when placed within a poem that might otherwise feel narrative or naturalistically lyric. Finally, we’ll cast our own spells through writing exercises that ask us to both invent magic and also acknowledge the ethereal all around us.

Keetje Kuipers is the author of three books of poems, including Beautiful in the Mouth (BOA, 2010), winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and a Poetry Foundation bestseller. Her second collection, The Keys to the Jail (2014), was a book club pick for The Rumpus, and her third book, All Its Charms (2019), includes poems honored by publication in both The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Narrative, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, Orion, The Believer, and over a hundred other magazines. Her poems have also been featured as part of the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series and read on NPR’s Writer’s Almanac. Kuipers has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, a Bread Loaf fellow, and the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident, among other honors. She now teaches at Seattle’s Hugo House and serves as Senior Editor at Poetry Northwest.
Saturday, December 7, 2019

Claudia Castro Luna
When in doubt make a list

Lists are ubiquitous in our lives. We use them as we gear up to travel, for grocery shopping, as everyday to-do reminders. It turns out poets use lists widely as armature for their poems. Sometimes the lists are so well disguised it takes some sleuthing to see them, at others it is the obvious structural element. We will take a close look at poems that contain lists and write our own.

Claudia Castro Luna is Washington State Poet Laureate. She served as Seattle’s Civic Poet from 2015-2017 and is the author of Killing Marías (Two Sylvias Press), also shortlisted for WA State 2018 Book Award in poetry, and This City (Floating Bridge Press). She is the creator of the acclaimed Seattle Poetic Grid. Castro Luna is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship, the recipient of individual artist grants from King County 4Culture and Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, a Hedgebrook and VONA alumna, and a 2014 Jack Straw fellow. Born in El Salvador she came to the United States in 1981. She has an MA in Urban Planning, a teaching certificate and an MFA in poetry. Her poems have been featured in PBS Newshour, KQED San Francisco, KUOW Seattle and have appeared in Poetry Northwest, La Bloga, Dialogo and Psychological Perspectives, among others. Her non-fiction work can be read in several anthologies, among them This Is The Place: Women Writing About Home (Seal Press). Claudia is currently working on a memoir, Like Water to Drink, about her experience escaping the civil war in El Salvador. Living in English and Spanish, she writes and teaches in Seattle where she gardens and keeps chickens with her husband and their three children. Photo by Timothy Aguero.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
Self-Portrait, Selfie, and Snap Poems

We read and write poems in an era where the self is at the center of our considerations and artistic representation. Self-Portraits are abundant in poetry as they are in visual art, and offer a rich landscape to explore, question, subvert, and re/define the self. “Selfie” was officially added to the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2013 and the Selfie is now considered an art form in itself, with its own museum! And from my teenage daughters, I have tried to learn and been fascinated by the culture of Snaps — quick and often partial self-portraits, disappearing as soon as they are consumed. What can all these visual art forms offer us as poets? What does it mean to write a self-portrait, selfie, or snap poem? We’ll explore the blurry boundaries between these forms and use them to generate thrilling and revelatory poem drafts.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her first book, Water & Salt (Red Hen Press), won the 2018 Washington State Book Award for Poetry. Her first chapbook, Arab in Newsland, won the 2016 Two Sylvias Press Prize. Her forthcoming chapbook, Letters from the Interior, will be published this fall. In 2017-18, she served as inaugural Poet-In-Residence at Open Books: A Poem Emporium in Seattle.

starting soon!

August 30, 2019

We’ve mentioned Modern & Contemporary U.S. Poetry (aka ModPo) many times before. A free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), ModPo is a ten-week intensive that includes panel discussions, videos, reading, and, if desired, writing assignments. While course activities happen on a schedule, all of the materials remain available throughout the year, so it is entirely self-paced.

The next live 10-week session of ModPo will begin on Saturday, September 7, 2019, and will conclude on November 18, 2019. Find out more, review the syllabus, and sign up.

American Book Awards

August 29, 2019

The Before Columbus Foundation has announced the winners of the Fortieth Annual American Book Awards. Created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community, the awards recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions.

The 2019 American Book Award Winners are:

Frank Abe, Greg Robinson, and Floyd Cheung (editors)
John Okada: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy (University of Washington Press)

May-lee Chai
Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories (Blair)

Louise DeSalvo
The House of Early Sorrows: A Memoir in Essays (Fordham University Press)

Heid E. Erdrich (editor)
New Poets of Native Nations (Graywolf Press)

Ángel García
Teeth Never Sleep: Poems (University of Arkansas Press)

Tommy Orange

There There: A Novel (Knopf)

Halifu Osumare
Dancing in Blackness: A Memoir (University Press of Florida)

Christopher Patton
Unlikeness Is Us: Fourteen from the Exeter Book (Gaspereau Press)

Mark Sarvas
Memento Park: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Jeffrey C. Stewart
The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke (Oxford University Press)

William T. Vollmann
Carbon Ideologies: Volume I, No Immediate Danger, Volume II, No Good Alternative (Viking)

G. Willow Wilson (author), Nico Leon (illustrator)
Ms. Marvel Vol. 9: Teenage Wasteland (Marvel)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Nathan Hare

Editor/Publisher Award: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center

Oral Literature Award: Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa)

The winners will be formally recognized on Friday, November 1, 2019, from 1:00-4:00pm, at the San Francisco Public Library Koret Auditorium. Congratulations one and all!


August 28, 2019

Though we tend to think of ekphrastic poetry as an interaction with visual art, the interplay with other art forms is equally legitimate. Enter Ben Goldberg (Bb clarinet, contra-alto clarinet) and his latest release Good Day For Cloud Fishing (Pyroclastic Records).

Goldberg explains that when he read Bender, a collection of poems by Dean Young, he “right away was just crazy about them. The feeling of a dire situation where our only hope is imagination.” So he devised a plan with his producer, David Breskin. Here’s how it worked:

  1. I write a song based on one of Dean’s poems.
  2. Get my band together and record the song.
  3. Dean is in the studio. I don’t tell him which of his poems the song comes from but as he listens on headphones he writes a new poem based on what he hears.
  4. So now we have a new poem which is like the old poem filtered through a song.
  5. Repeat.

Thus Good Day For Cloud Fishing was born. It’s brand new. Listen to a track here.

here comes Cirque

August 27, 2019

Volume 10, Number 1, of CIRQUE: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim is on the road and set for launch in Portland, Oregon, and Bellingham, Washington. In addition to the magazine, Cirque is now a press, and the two readings will include the launch of the latest Cirque Press book, Holy Ghost Town by Tim Sherry.

Join Tim Sherry and Cirque in Portland on Thursday, August 29, 2019, 7:00pm, at Central Lutheran Church, along with poets Kristin Berger, Shawn Campbell, Maggie Chula, Diane Corson, Paul Haeder, Sandra Kleven, Alex Leavens, Rosemary Lombard, Ryleigh Norgrove, Paulann Peterson, Leah Stenson, Carey Taylor, and Nancy Woods.

Join Tim Sherry and Cirque in Bellingham on Friday, August 30, 7:00pm, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, along with poets Luther Allen, Susan Chase-Foster, Gerrie Ellen Davis, Sandra Kleven, Jerry McDonnell, Rainbow Medicine-Walker, John Morgan, Anne Nolting, Harvey Schwartz, Allen Weltzien, and Richard Widerkehr.

on poetry

August 26, 2019

“One reason I like to think in series and sequences is that it tends to pull us out of the problem of preciousness. In other words, if I have written ten poems or one hundred poems it becomes easier to cut one up or throw it away, or to see how a particularly bad poem I have written might have been necessary as a means to moving toward something more interesting.”
Laynie Browne
(b. August 26, 1966)

. . . . .


August 25, 2019

2019 Walk Award
By Bella Flynn-Mendoza, Grade 12

Boxes of hunger sit in our cabinets
no one cooks here anymore
my stomach cries for love

Tiredness overflows the kitchen sink
it was my turn to wash the dishes
but no one paid the water bill

Across the street a happy
childhood plays on the swing
laughing with her mother

In our house laughter is a lore
our mother is the putrid perfume
of Marlboro
and happiness won’t be birthed

until tomorrow

. . . . .
*Copyright 2019 by Bella Flynn-Mendoza. Broadside illustrated by Kimberly Wulfestieg.

. . . . .
Bella Mendoza is a student that is new to poetry. She has never been published and this is her first contest. She will be graduating from Squalicum High School this year and plans to attend Seattle University in the fall. She lives in Bellingham with her grandparents, uncles and cousin.

“2011” was written about a tough time in Bella’s life that she has been thankful to work through. She hopes that writing about her experience will bring hope to others in similar situations.

HNA sizzles

August 24, 2019

This is a guest post by Michael Dylan Welch.
Photo by Garry Gay.

I’ve just returned from the 15th biennial Haiku North America conference, which took place in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from August 7 to 11, 2019. A huge bow of thanks to Bob Moyer who led the local organizing committee.

This year’s conference featured many dozens of presentations, readings, workshops, a conference anthology titled Sitting in the Sun (which I coedited with Crystal Simone Smith, with artwork by Kate MacQueen), a banquet with honky-tonk music and dancing, a memorial reading for haiku poets who had died in the last two years, dance performances, tours of nearby historical sites (Reynolda House and Old Salem), an insect walk, letterpress printing workshops, writing sessions, my own haiku workshop for beginners, a book fair that sold more than $8,000 worth of haiku books, a silent auction, HNA-branded T-shirts and tote bags, a contest for haiku printed on a custom artisan chocolate bar (won by Terri L. French with “slowly melting / a square of chocolate / on my lover’s tongue”), and more. You can view the complete schedule on the Haiku North America website. And in case you might think haiku poets are a stodgy and conservative bunch, a dozen of them even went skinny-dipping in the hotel pool on the Saturday night. We have pictures.

Standout events included readings by haiku poets with recently published haiku books, Kala Ramesh visiting from India and sharing haiku activities in India (including dance charades where we tried to guess which haiku was being performed), a renku performance led by Issa translator David G. Lanoue, late-night collaborative renku writing, a panel about Haiku Society of America activities, an academic presentation by Richard Gilbert on philopoetics (poetic-philosophical exploration) and diversity in haiku, my celebration of National Haiku Writing Month, and the official “Higginson Memorial Lecture” by Jay Friedenberg on “Presence and Absence in Evocative Japanese Haiku.”

We had a haibun slam, a stirring reading by African American haiku poets, a jazz poetry reading by Lenard D. Moore (with the band staying on stage for an hour after that for improvised music during an open-mic reading — mostly not haiku). Other highlights included a discussion and reading of senryu poetry by Alan Pizzarelli, Alexis Rotella, and Michael Rehling, an editing presentation by Susan Antolin, and a panel on the upcoming “Haikupedia” website project coordinated by Charles Trumbull, Jim Kacian, and Dave Russo for the Haiku Foundation.

So much more, such as two workshops on effectively reading your haiku aloud (by Kala Ramesh and Jerome Cushman), presentations on meditation and the moon and their influence on haiku writing, a presentation on copyright and fair use, a workshop on writing “death haiku” led by Terri L. French, qigong sessions, lectures on community building by Makoto Nakanishi from Japan and on allusion in Japanese haiku by Shinko Fushimi also from Japan, a reading of haiku written by nearly 200 contributors to the Red Moon Press New Resonance anthologies, a reading of the conference anthology, a group photo by Garry Gay, a regional reading, an origami session, my own presentation on haiku and tea ceremony, a haiga workshop by Patricia J. Machmiller, and Lori A. Minor’s remarkable presentation on social awareness in haiku, about mental illness, gender equality, and the #MeToo movement in haiku.

We also had a hospitality suite all week with free snacks, wine, and beer. And we managed to brave the 90-degree temperatures and high humidity outside to enjoy nearby restaurants for lunches and dinners. As thick as all the presentations and activities were, the chief benefit to attending, as always, was to meet fellow haiku aficionados and to socialize as much as possible.

All of this was followed on Sunday evening and all day on Monday with readings, workshops, and presentations for Tanka Monday, sponsored by the Tanka Society of America.

I’m on the board of directors of the nonprofit foundation that runs these HNA conferences every two years (starting in 1991). The event moves around the continent, and the previous one, in 2017, was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was my pleasure at the banquet to announce that the next Haiku North America conference in 2021, for our 30th anniversary, will be in Victoria, British Columbia.

meanwhile in Manassas

August 23, 2019

Here’s another community that’s found a way to bring poetry into the conversation. In Manassas, Virginia, a local writers organization, Write by the Rails, is placing framed poems in local shops, galleries, libraries, bookstores, cafes, and other civic and commercial locations. Participation in Poems Around Town is offered at no cost to the host location and is promoted on social media. Seems like a win-win.

If your poetry passion is the current state of our environment, you might want to consider submitting your work for The Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize. Offered by the Academy of American Poets with generous support from Treehouse Investments, the prize will honor three poets who submit “exceptional poems that help make real for readers the gravity of the vulnerable state of our environment at present.”

Find out more about the Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize and the complete guidelines.

In a related note… if you are engaged with the topic, the literary journal apt is accepting submissions that address climate change for issue 10 through August 31, 2019. Note that apt publishes long-form work, but for this issue will consider “shorter” work, defined as 1,000 words/100 lines/7 pages minimum for poetry. See the apt submission guidelines here.

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