Inspiration takes form

October 18, 2021

This is a guest post by
Caitlin Thomson Jans

Over the last two years, many writers have struggled to find time, space, energy, and inspiration to write. I am not an exception to this rule. For the first time in many years I considered not writing a poem a day in April. However, when I decided that every poem I wrote should be a formal one, I found a way forward.

Even though I have written poetry my whole life, I didn’t consider writing formal poetry till my mid-twenties. Formal poetry struck me as dated, stiff, and predictable. In the last decade I’ve discovered that I was wrong about every one of these statements, and have come to embrace Golden Shovels, Sestinas, Bops, and Pantoums, among others.

However, this April the form I came to embrace the most was the Zuihitsu.

The Zuihitsu is a Japanese form and genre that is often compared to a lyric essay. Zuihitsu are generally on the shorter side of the essay form, often one page in length, sometimes longer. They are made of fragmented ideas that are only tenuously connected; their order is best described as haphazard.

You can read an excellent example of a Zuihitsu here, by Jenny Xie. It should give you a good feeling for the flow and tone of the form.

The poets Kimiko Hahn and Tina Chang have both crafted some powerful and exhilarating Zuihitsu. Hybrida by Tina Chang is one of the most exciting books of poetry I have read in the last year and I highly encourage anyone interested in writing Zuihitsu to pick up a copy. The Narrow Road to the Interior by Kimiko Hahn was published in 2008 and it was many Westerners’ first exposure to the form.

I really engage with Zuihitsu because even though they are often chaotic and scattered, that approach interacts well with the way my mind works, particularly during times of anxiety. I find that, unlike a more traditional free-verse approach, the first draft of a Zuihitsu is open to a world of possibilities, where one fragment of thought leads to another in an unexpected and exciting way.

I like to write Zuihitsu with a 30-minute timer, but that might just be a personal quirk. I know some writers like having a collection of quotes from other authors to jump off. I encourage you to experiment and find out what works best for you.

– – – – –

Caitlin Thomson Jans is co-founder of The Poetry Marathon, an international writing event. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals including: The Adroit Journal, The Penn Review, Rust + Moth, and Typehouse. For the last nine years she has run Authors Publish Magazine. You can learn more about her writing at her website or read a Zuihitsu she wrote here.

. . . . .
top image: title page of Ogata Gekko’s Zuihitsu
author photo by Jacob Jans

job?

October 17, 2021

We don’t often post job openings here, but this one seemed too good to pass by.

Literary Arts, often seen on these pages, is a dynamic “community-based nonprofit with a mission to engage readers, support writers, and inspire the next generation with great literature.”

Based in Portland, Oregon, Literary Arts is currently seeking a full-time Senior Executive Assistant, reporting to the Executive Director. The application deadline is October 31, 2021, so if you’re interested visit the Open Positions page and follow the link for complete details.

Some poems to watch

October 16, 2021

A handful of poetry films, listed alphabetically by poet (watch films for additional credits):

Safia Elhillo “Application for the position of Abdelhalim Hafez’s girl”

Mary Elizabeth Frye “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”

Fiona Tinwei Lam “PlasticPoems”

Alice Oswald “Shadow”

Percy Bysshe Shelley “Ozymandias”

Eduardo Yagüe “Los caballos están tristes” / “The horses are so sad”

on poetry

October 15, 2021

“For me, it’s less a matter of inspiration and more a matter of process. I carry a little notebook in my pocket and throughout the day I overhear things, remember things or think of things and jot down notes and then every morning before it gets light, I have an appointment with myself and take out my notebook and pick something that caught my attention and find out what it wants to be.”
Kim Stafford
(b. October 15, 1949)

. . . . .
photo by Brooke Herbert
quote

live and in person: haiku

October 14, 2021

Seabeck Haiku Getaway, the annual haiku retreat sponsored by Haiku Northwest, will take place live and in person, Thursday, October 28, through Sunday, October 31, 2021, at the Seabeck Conference Center. Registration is still open and all the details are available on the Haiku Northwest Seabeck Haiku Getaway page.

recommendation roundup

October 13, 2021

Here’s a new batch of recently recommended poetry books from a variety of sources:

Beat news

October 11, 2021

In case you missed the announcement from the National Beat Poetry Foundation, or didn’t even know there was a National Beat Poetry Foundation, the NBPF has appointed new Beat Poets Laureate for the 2021-2022 year. Pilar Rodríguez Aranda is the new International Beat Poet Laureate and Ron Whitehead is the new National Beat Poet Laureate USA. Sadly, the Cascadia region is unrepresented among the U.S. Beat Poets Laureate present and past.

Find out more on the NBPF website and on Facebook.

hooray for rain!

October 10, 2021

About five years ago, we did a post about a Mass Poetry project in Boston that used a Seattle-based product, Rainworks, which makes words or images appear on the sidewalk when it rains. Since then, rain-inspired sidewalk poetry has appeared in many places, including Oklahoma City and Adelaide, AU, Newcastle and Vancouver, WA, as well as Worcester and Methuen, Massachusetts. Ed Madden, Poet Laureate of Columbia, South Carolina, used the product to display the words of local poets around the University.

Now that it’s officially rainy season, you may be inclined to add some poetry to your sidewalk, too. The good news is that Rainworks is now water-based and non-toxic (“You still shouldn’t drink it though,” the website warns, and “Rainworks Invisible Spray will not make you invisible.”). Get your poetry on the Rainworks map and let it rain!

The Madrona Project

October 9, 2021

On Friday, October 15, 2021, at 7:00pm, please join Village Books, the North Cascades Institute, Humanities Washington, and ArtsWA for a group reading from The Madrona Project Vol. 2, No. 1, featuring Holly J. Hughes and Rena Priest.

For this issue of THE MADRONA PROJECT, editor Holly J. Hughes invited sixty-four women writers and artists from the Northwest to reflect on what it means to live and write in the Cascadian bioregion at the end of 2020, a year that challenged our resilience on every level. Reaching out to national and regionally acclaimed poets and essayists from Alaska to Oregon, as well as new and emerging writers, she brings together a diverse chorus, including Indigenous voices and some who work the land or sea. The voices gathered here remind us that our lives in Cascadia are still interwoven with fir and cedar, salmon and kingfisher, heron and eagle, raven and crow’ perhaps even more so as we face an uncertain future together, turning to the natural world for signs of resilience and hope. Throughout this powerful collection, writers and artists bear witness to the hard truths not only of our history but of ongoing inequities laid bare by the pandemic and the consequences of centuries of colonialism and exploitation, inviting us to consider the urgent question of our time: how to move forward into a future that’s socially just and sustainable, that honors all our voices and stories. With a moving preface by Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest of the Lummi Nation, this collection affirms the beauty, strength, and resilience of Cascadia and her people, and how our fates have always been deeply intertwined and interdependent, now more so than ever.

Advance registration is required.

ten poems

October 8, 2021

JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization helping the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways.”

JSTOR Daily draws on JSTOR’s digital library of academic journals, books, images, primary sources, research reports, and other materials to provide background for understanding the world.

Today, JSTOR Daily offers 10 Poems for National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15). Enjoy.

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