Cascadia Poetry Festival

March 26, 2019

Registration is now open for Cascadia Poetry Festival – Anacortes 2019: A Tribute to Sam Hamill. Held May 9-12, the Festival will include readings, music, book launches, panel discussions, and workshops. The event celebrates poet/editor/translator and founder of Copper Canyon Press, Sam Hamill, who lived in Anacortes the last eight years of his life.

Gold Passes ($25) are on sale now at Brown Paper Tickets and admit the holder to all events except Steve Kuusisto’s master workshop.

Here comes the Cascadia Poetry Festival! Get thee to Tacoma! Events begin on Thursday evening, October 12, 2017, 7:00pm, at King’s Books and continue all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Washington State History Museum.

There will be a tribute to Tacoma native Richard Brautigan with his daughter, Ianthe Brautigan, as well as readings and/or workshops featuring Michael McClure, CAConrad, Patricia Smith, Bruce Weigl, Washington Poet Laureate Tod Marshall, Sharon Thesen, Lucia Misch, and Lorna Dee Cervantes, among others. A $25 Gold Pass gives you access to everything except workshops. See the complete schedule and performer bios as well as links to workshop descriptions and event registration.

coming up in Cumberland

August 30, 2017

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Cascadia Poetry Festival. It has a dynamic presence, if no permanent home, and has been enjoyed in Seattle and Nanaimo (BC), and will be coming up in October in Tacoma. But before then, there’s one more Cascadia Poetry Festival — in Cumberland, BC, on Vancouver Island.

It opens on Friday, September 8, 2017, with a reception, poetry reading, and party. On Saturday, there will be a panel, small press fair, open reading event, poetry reading, and another party. On Sunday, the festival will close with a morning workshop. Your $20 Gold Pass gets you into all events except the Sunday workshop.

Spend the weekend on Vancouver Island and enjoy the words and the scenery. Details at Cascadia Poetics Lab.

Denise LevertovA plaque to honor the memory of internationally-renowned poet Denise Levertov will be unveiled in a ceremony at 10:00am, Saturday, December 3, 2016, at her former Seattle home, 5535 Seward Park Avenue S.

The memorial is being presented by SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) and the Rainier Valley Rotary, the two organizations that helped raise funds for the plaque. More than forty individuals and organizations contributed. Longtime Levertov friend and University of Washington Professor Emeritus Colleen McElroy is scheduled to attend and address the participants.

SPLAB Founder Paul Nelson comments, “Denise Levertov was one of the most gifted poets to ever call Seattle home. That there is no public acknowledgment of that is an oversight we felt needed correction. Thanks to the Rotary’s efforts and to the crowdfunding campaign that included some of her longtime friends and fans, this beautiful plaque will inform the generations to come that Levertov lived here, in Seward Park, where she wrote some of the best poems ever written about Mt. Rainier. We honor her life and achievement.”

Levertov lived at the home the last eight years of her life, until her death, December 20, 1997. In her storied career, she published over thirty books of poems, essays and translations and her work clarifying the open form approach she called Organic Poetry was a huge influence on post-World War II North American poets. Her work and legacy was the subject of a tribute at the recent Cascadia Poetry Festival produced by SPLAB.

. . . . .
Portrait of Denise Levertov by Elsa Dorfman

yes, yes, November

October 28, 2016

NaNoWriMo

It’s almost November, and if your calendar isn’t already bulging, please note:

  • National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) celebrates its 18th year of encouraging creativity, education, and the power of the imagination through the largest writing event in the world. This year, NaNoWriMo expects nearly 500,000 people to start a 50,000-word novel in the month of November, guided by this year’s theme: Your Novel, Your Universe. More than 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published. Many poets use the project as a challenge to write a poem each day of the month. To find out more, sign up, get pep talks, participate in forums, and get inspired, visit the NaNoWriMo website.
  • Writer’s Digest will offer the 2016 November PAD (Poem A Day) Chapbook Challenge. Robert Lee Brewer, author of the Poetic Asides blog, will post a prompt each day. The idea is to write a poem in response to that prompt and then, at the end of the month, assemble and submit a chapbook of the best 20 or fewer of your poems. Find out all the details on the 2016 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Guidelines page.
  • November also brings the Cascadia Poetry Festival (Seattle, Nov 3-6) and Wordstock (Portland, Nov 5).
  • Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 6, 2016, 2:00:00 AM, when clocks are turned backward 1 hour to 1:00:00 AM local standard time.

Get some Cascadia!

October 8, 2016

Cascadia Poetry Festival

This is a guest post by Paul Nelson

The fourth Cascadia Poetry Festival happens Thursday through Sunday, November 3-6, 2016, at the Spring Street Center, 15th & Spring in Seattle, and three other venues. Inspired by the Taos Poetry Circus, the fest features Academic, Democratic and Performative aspects, as well as late-night events that have more of a party feel.

The Academic portion of the fest is handled in two ways: Workshops and Panels. One workshop, Poetic habitat now (Daphne Marlatt), will investigate what Wendell Berry’s call for a “biocentric” vision to replace our dominant anthropocentric one might mean in poetry. “Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human.” This challenge is a call for a radical shift in our attention, one that foregrounds our relations with other species and with the elements that make up our habitat, one that recognizes how interdependent, even coterminous we are with them. Daphne Marlatt, the brilliant (and much overlooked south of the border) Vancouver poet, will facilitate and incorporate a notion from Denise Levertov, to whom this iteration of the fest is dedicated. (More about the Denise Levertov plaque project here.)

The other workshop will focus on the creation of beautiful hand-made artist books and be led by Portland poet Marilyn Stablein.

Panels happen on Saturday morning and will focus on the confluence of water and poetry in Cascadia, as well as Levertov’s legacy. That Marlatt, Sam Hamill, Tim McNulty and Brenda Hillman will be on the same stage talking about Levertov is something anyone interested in her legacy should not miss. In addition to the main stage poets already mentioned there will be UW Professor Emeritus Colleen McElroy, whose poems about her youth each equal about a thousand Black Lives Matter speeches; Sarah DeLeeuw of Prince George, BC, whose book-length poem Skeena looks at that mighty river from the river’s perspective; JM Miller, the UW-Tacoma faculty member and healer, whose new book is Wilderness Lessons; Peter Munro, the NOAA Fisheries Scientist who runs the popular EasySpeak Seattle reading series (& facilitates the panel); David McCloskey, the Father of Cascadia who gave the bioregion its name; Jordan Abel, the Vancouver indigenous poet whose erasures of settler texts was an award winning book, the place of scraps; and Elwha storyteller Roger Fernandes, among others. The closing reading will happen at Open Books.

A daily Democratic reading is Living Room, in which all poets can share their original work with other poets. The late night readings, called the After Party, are curated by Seattle poets Matt Trease and Greg Bem and happen at the trendy Common Area Maintenance, and a Cascadia Invitational Slam happens at Black & Tan Hall in Hillman City on Friday and Saturday nights.

On a personal note, the fest is part of a 20-year Cascadia Bioregional Cultural Investigation which also includes a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Innovative Cascadia Poetry, the first Cascadia Poetry anthology, Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia, interviews under the banner of American Prophets and soon Cascadian Prophets and my own serial poem re-enacting the history of Cascadia so far in two hunks: A Time Before Slaughter and Pig War & Other Songs of Cascadia. Through these efforts I hope to discover the Sh’te or animating spirit of place and become a fully re-inhabited Cascadian. See you at the fest.

Gold Passes for entry to every event (except the workshops and the Slam) are $35 and available at Brown Paper Tickets. Admission to single events will be available at the door for $10.

. . . . .
Paul NelsonPoet/interviewer Paul Nelson founded SPLAB & the Cascadia Poetry Festival, published: American Sentences (Apprentice House 2015); A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (essay, Lumme Editions, Brazil, 2013). He’s interviewed many poets, including Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, George Bowering and Brenda Hillman, presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Qinghai & Beijing, China, and published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster and Hambone. Awarded The Capilano Review’s 2014 Robin Blaser Award, he writes an American Sentence every day and lives in Seattle in the Cedar River Watershed.
(Author photo by Susan M. Schultz)

the region in print

June 1, 2015

Leaf Press

Showcased last month at the 2015 Cascadia Poetry Festival, in Nanaimo, B.C., MAKE IT TRUE: Poetry from Cascadia is an anthology of work by 89 poets from “the bioregion lying west of the continental divide and spanning from Mt. Logan in Canada to the north and Cape Mendocino in California to the south.” The collection is edited by Paul Nelson with George Stanley, Barry McKinnon and Nadine Maestas, and published by Leaf Press. Read more about the volume in a Vancouver Sun article by Mary Ann Moore, and watch for (or request) it in your local book store.

think of it as dessert

April 16, 2015

Cascadia Poetry Festival 2015

If you’ve been dining on National Poetry Month’s prompts and readings and many other daily options, the Cascadia Poetry Festival may be just the delicious dessert you need. Held in Nanaimo, BC, on Vancouver Island, the Festival begins the afternoon of Thursday, April 30, 2015, and continues through Sunday, May 3, with a tasty selection of panels, readings, a small press fair and social events. The lineup of poets is impressive. A $25 (!!) Gold Pass gets you in to everything except workshops.

Vancouver Island is beautiful at this time of year, so don’t miss dessert. Visit the Cascadia Poetry Festival website and see more Cascadia Poetry Festival on Facebook.

Cascadia Poetry Festival 2015

As National Poetry Month is winding down, the Cascadia Poetry Festival will just be getting started. From April 30 through May 3, 2015, Nanaimo, BC, on Vancouver Island, will welcome writers, artists, scientists and activists to collaborate, discover and foster deeper connection through poetry. The Festival includes performances, readings, a small press fair and several workshops.

See the schedule and more information on the Cascadia Poetry Festival website and follow the Festival news on Facebook. (Not sure about Cascadia? Here’s a map.) (Not sure about Nanaimo? Here’s some info for visitors.) See more on CPF3 from its founder, Paul Nelson.

Paul Nelson at Burke Museum
This is a guest post by Paul E. Nelson (pictured above at the Burke Museum).

Each August for many years now I have had the good fortune to be consumed with the ritual activity of reading and writing poems in a community of poets. When Danika Dinsmore moved from Boulder, Colorado, to Seattle in 1995, she brought with her the 3:15 Experiment in which poets would wake up at 3:15AM every day in August and write spontaneously.

Bernadette Mayer was one of the more well-known participants in the project and it was in part an homage to her writing experiments, like Midwinter Day. In that project Mayer, on (Winter Solstice) December 22, 1978, attempted to record all of her thoughts and experiences of a single day in poetry and prose. Alice Notley called it: “…an epic poem about a daily routine.” The notion of waking up (or staying up) and writing in the middle of the night was to engage the state between waking and sleeping.

I had participated in the 3:15 Experiment for several years with a wide range of successes and failures. (Mostly failures. They call it “experimental poetry” for a reason.) I did enjoy the notion that I was part of a community even if I did not see other members, or their work, until well after the act. Knowing these other poets were at a desk by a window wondering what the hell to write at the same time as me was oddly reassuring. (This was before Facebook.)

The postcard project began, in part, to recreate the essence of a ritual poetry experiment in August with a community that was there, but in a tangential way. I asked Lana Ayers, then part of the Striped Water Poets community in Auburn, to help create a project that involved postcards. Lana agreed immediately without knowing what it was going to be, and helped shape the project that came to be known as the August Poetry Postcard Fest.

In the first year there were nearly 100 participants. I remember giddily adding folks to the master list and giving Lana regular updates. Many of us were so excited about the project that we continued to write poetry postcards as a weekly effort for a year.

In Year One I wrote three postcards a day, so I was getting a lot of experience with “the form.” That Jack Kerouac had as a constraint the size of the pocket journals in which he’d compose poems like Mexico City Blues and Ted Berrigan and Robin Blaser understood and utilized the postcard as a form were both inspirations.

The notion of writing spontaneously was also part of the idea from the beginning and remains at the core of the project. Some people have to learn to trust that they can fail now and then, since any card has an audience of one. David Sherwin’s piece, “Creativity, First Class,” about how he cheated at first and then had a transformation about writing ONTO THE CARD is something I think every potential participant should read.

I think of the Japanese art of calligraphy and the concentration, trust and discipline required to create in such a way, and that’s a soul-building effort.

I have been very good about saving the poems I receive and documenting my own poems. Here is one from 2007, the first year:
Paul Nelson to Marjorie Rommel

And one from last year, in which we had 302 participants from Alabama, Alberta, Arizona, Australia, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, France, Georgia, Germany, Hawaii, Illinois, India, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Mumbai, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Ontario, Oregon, Pakistan, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Singapore, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, United Kingdom, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin:
Paul Nelson to Aaron Kokorowski

I love that there are folks all over the world writing spontaneously, developing threads, sharing colloquialisms and dedicating their Augusts to a ritual poetry experiment that has the potential to deepen their own experience as human beings. What is more noble than a human being creative, reaching deeply into their own experience and sharing a little of their own soul with a person in another postal code? In the age of Facebook and Twitter, it seems so subversive to pick out a weird, profound or cool image, actually write something in ink and send it across the continent or world. How long can this go on?

Poetry is part of the gift economy, is a peace-building activity, exercises the imagination (when done right) and postcards are an art form unto themselves. Do it right and you and your Augusts will have been transformed.

To participate in the August Poetry Postcard Fest:

  • Visit paulenelson.com and sign up for the newsletter.
  • A call for participants will go out around July 6, 2014. Respond to the call to get on the list.
  • Get (or make) at least 31 postcards.
  • Purchase postcard stamps. Some of the people on “your” list may live in a different country, so buy some international postcard stamps, too.
  • Read the instructions. The official August Poetry Postcard blog is a good place to start.
  • The list of participants will be distributed later in July.
  • Each day in August, write an original poem directly onto a postcard; no editing. Mail them, in order, to the 30 people below your name on the list. Some postcarders start sending cards in late July so they will begin arriving on August 1.
  • Enjoy your mail!
  • If you Facebook, you might want to join the Postcard Poetry Fest group.

. . . . .
Paul Nelson founded SPLAB in Seattle and the Cascadia Poetry Festival. He is author of Organic Poetry (essays), a serial poem re-enacting history, A Time Before Slaughter (shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies. He has interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Joanne Kyger, Brenda Hillman, presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Nanaimo, Qinghai & Beijing, China, has had work translated into Spanish, Chinese & Portuguese and writes an American Sentence every day. He was awarded a residency at The Lake, from the Morris Graves Foundation in Loleta, CA, and published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster, Hambone, and elsewhere. Winner of the 2014 Robin Blaser Award from The Capilano Review, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Meredith, and youngest daughter, Ella Roque.

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