Mark your calendar for Friday, May 27, 2022, 7:00pm, when contributors to The Madrona Project #3: Human Communities in Wild Places will read live, in person, at Pelican Bay Books in Anacortes. The new volume from Empty Bowl is edited by Michael Daley and features the writing of 73 contributors. The evening’s readers will include Luther Allen, Michael Daley, Virginia Hietpas, Georgia Johnson, and Bob Rose, as well as 2021 and 2022 Washington State Poetry Out Loud champion and Student Poet Laureate Lucy Shainin reading her work.

Oh, how we’ve missed these live, in-person gatherings and oh, how happy we are to see them emerging once again.

Tomorrow, Friday, April 29, 2022, at 7:00pm, Empty Bowl presents a reading by Jessica Gigot and Gary Thompson with musical accompaniment by Erik Christensen at Pelican Bay Books in Anacortes.

Finding Light Together

December 21, 2021

This is a guest post by Holly J. Hughes

To share stories during dark times has long been a necessary, radical act.
~ from the Introduction to
Keep a Green Bough: Voices from the Heart of Cascadia

As I write this, we’re losing just four seconds of light each day as we approach the winter solstice, when the days will begin to stretch longer again. This incremental, daily loss of light is elemental as gravity, our seasonal rhythm, but for the last two years, the darkness has felt darker, deeper. And for the last two months, I’ve had to look hard each day to find the glimmers of light that sustain me. I know they’re there — all I need do is step out my door to see them: rain-slick rhododendron leaves, abandoned apple trees still holding a few apples, bright berries of the madrona, billowing clouds that part for a few stray rays of sun. But some days even those glimpses aren’t enough. For me, one of the enduring lessons of the pandemic is that we’re in this together — and that’s when I turn to other writers to help sustain my spirit.

A year ago, I was invited by the publisher of Empty Bowl Press to edit an issue of The Madrona Project. Responding to the mission of Empty Bowl as a publisher of “literature that reveals human communities in wild places,” I put out a call for submissions, asking my sister writers how living in our Cascadia bioregion has sustained them during the past challenging year. I was hopeful that in these divisive times, this invitation might offer a way to come together around this place and our shared common fate.

My hope was to express the diversity of voices in the Cascadia bioregion, so I reached out to many writers, starting with those who’ve lived here since Time Immemorial, as well as women working the land and the sea. My inbox was soon overflowing with poems, essays, and art reflecting not just the beauty of our place but the resiliency of the human spirit. As the voices came together, the title, too, came: Keep a Green Bough: Voices from the Heart of Cascadia, after the Chinese saying, “Keep a green bough in your heart, the singing bird will come.”

Keep a Green Bough has been out in the world for six months now. From the amazing turnout at our Finnriver farm launch to our last Zoom reading hosted by Peninsula College’s ʔaʔkʷustəŋáw̕txʷ House of Learning, those in the audience have been visibly touched and, I hope, heartened. Each time we read together, I find myself in tears at the end, moved by the beauty and power of words spoken honestly, and the resilience not only of the human spirit but of all our kin.

For me, this collection has become a steady reminder of what was affirmed last year: how essential that we connect with our living Earth and witness her human history, even the painful parts, then join together to do all we can to create a just and sustainable future for all beings.

As Rainer Maria Rilke reminds us, this is the role of the poet:

O tell us, poet, what do you do? — I praise.
But those dark, deadly, devastating ways,
how do you bear them, suffer them? — I praise.

. . . . .

In addition to editing Keep a Green Bough: Voices from the Heart of Cascadia, Holly J. Hughes is the author of Hold Fast and Sailing by Ravens, coauthor of The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World, and editor of Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease. Her fine-art chapbook Passings received an American Book Award in 2017. She lives on the Olympic Peninsula, where she leads writing and mindfulness workshops, consults as a writing coach, and directs Flying Squirrel Studio, a writing retreat for women on the aboriginal territory of the Suquamish (suq̀ʷabš), who continue to live on and protect the land and waters of their ancestors for future generations. You can find out more at her website: hollyjhughes.com

author photo by John Pierce

best selling

September 3, 2021

Nice to see two Cascadia-region publishers (Empty Bowl and Fonograf) and five titles among the top twenty poetry bestsellers for August from Small Press Distribution! All available through your favorite independent bookseller.

meanwhile on Vashon Island

August 20, 2021

Back in 2016, we introduced the Vashon Poetry Post in a conversation with Vashon Island’s inaugural poet laureate, Ann Spiers. The Poetry Post is still there, and so is Ann Spiers, who is busier than ever, though Sandra Noel has recently been appointed poet laureate.

In fact, Spiers has a brand-new, full-length book of poems, Rain Violent, published by Empty Bowl Press.

On a recent hot, smoky day, Elizabeth Shepherd sat in her battery-operated, air-conditioned Nissan Leaf to write this review of Spiers’s collection, which we happened upon in the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber.

It’s not the easiest time to launch a book, so we’re happy to see that Rain Violent is available through Empty Bowl and independent bookstores everywhere.

Sunday in Sequim

July 23, 2021

The town of Sequim, Washington, doesn’t get a lot of play on these pages (most Washingtonians know how to pronounce it; do you?), but just last week we introduced The Poetry Cafe, which is curated by Sequim poet and resident Risa Denenberg. Now Sequim is back, with a reading from of Empty Bowl’s Madrona Project #2, Keep a Green Bough, this Sunday, July 25, 2021, at 4:00pm, in the amphitheater outside the Dungeness River Audubon Center at Railroad Bridge Park.

You can hear Risa Denenberg, along with poets Tess Gallagher, Meredith Parker, Alice Derry, Carmen Germaine, Kathryn Hunt, Paula MacKay, K’Ehleyr McNulty, Mary Morgan, Kate Reavey and Charlotte Warren. The volume’s editor, Holly J. Hughes, will emcee.

Take a hike, do some picking in the Lavender Capital of North America, take in some poetry, have a meal: enjoy Sequim.

today in Chimacum!

July 14, 2021

The Madrona Project, published twice a year for a total of seven issues, by Empty Bowl, features the best work by poets and writers who are “outsiders” — who write in and of this world: outside of self, outside the mainstream, or simply outdoors.

Today, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, at 6:00pm, at Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum, Washington, Empty Bowl will celebrate the publication of The Madrona Project, Volume II Number 1, Keep A Green Bough: Voices From The Heart Of Cascadia, edited By Holly J. Hughes.

For this issue, Hughes invited 64 women writers and artists from Alaska to Oregon to reflect on what it means to live and write in the Cascadian bioregion at the end of 2020, a year that challenged resilience on every level. Reaching out to national and regionally acclaimed poets and essayists as well as new and emerging writers, she brings together a diverse chorus, including Indigenous voices and those 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.”

There will be a reception, followed by readings by ten authors, including Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest, who will read from her preface to the volume. Four artists will also be showing their work.

next Friday in Anacortes

January 24, 2020

The Empty Bowl Reading Series at Pelican Bay Books in Anacortes will kick off 2020 on Friday, January 31, at 7:00pm with a reading by Ed Harkness and Donald Kruse. [NOTE CHANGE: Donald Kruse is unable to attend; Rena Priest will read in his place.] They will be joined by Yesica Solano, a young poet from Skagit County who has released her first chapbook, Talk About Me, published by Underground Writing. Plus, there will be musical interludes by The Dovetails.

Michael Daley will also be introducing Empty Bowl’s latest publications: Hold Fast, by Holly J. Hughes, and The Blossoms Are Ghosts at the Wedding: Expanded Edition, by Tom Jay.

A congenial atmosphere and good sounds. Try it.

honoring Robert Sund

November 21, 2019

The Empty Bowl Poetry Reading Series (fourth Fridays in Anacortes) will honor the life and work of Robert Sund this Friday, November 22, 2019, 7:00pm, at Pelican Bay Books & Coffeehouse. Nice venue, good company, fine readers. Stop by.

next Friday in Anacortes

September 20, 2019

After a summer break, the Empty Bowl Reading Series at Pelican Bay Books in Anacortes resumes next Friday, September 27, 2019, at 7:00pm. The season’s first program features Lorraine Healy and Jane Alynn, two excellent poets and photographers

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