A series of free online literary readings and master classes continues through Sunday, September 4, 2022, thanks to the Soul Bone Literary Festival. See the list of remaining programs and registration information here. (Note: some programs, like today’s presentation by Kelli Russell Agodon, are early, i.e., 8:00am Pacific!)

This is a guest post by Susan Rich

I’ve recently returned to the joyous quiet of my home after attending the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Philadelphia. Once again, I was made acutely aware of my discomfort at sojourning with 7,000 of my peers. And I would bet I am not alone in this uneasiness. Those of us who enjoy a well-lit stanza or the swagger of an em dash may not be equally at ease at a cocktail party or karaoke bar. However, over time, I’ve adopted several strategies for managing my shyness because honestly, I do want to connect with other poets. I hope you find some of these ideas helpful.

  1. Write notes of appreciation to poets you admire. Don’t be afraid to be a fan girl. Poets are not like John Legend or Taylor Swift; they do not sell out stadiums (okay, Edna St. Vincent Millay did). I believe even a “big” name poet wants to hear how their words were important to you. Anytime I’ve written to a “famous” poet, I’ve always received a generous reply.
  2. Invite a poet to lunch! Perhaps this is pushing you out of your comfort zone but it might also be the best way to get to know someone whose work you admire. Twenty years ago I wrote a “brave” email to Kelli Russell Agodon asking her out to lunch to talk about publishing in this new way — on the internet. I’m so glad I did. Kelli is now one of my closest friends.
  3. Thank poets who approach you: someone who comes up to you after a reading or an elementary school student who needs to write a report due tomorrow or a poet who saw your work on-line. They are reaching out to you, why not reach right back?
  4. Post poems you admire on social media or on a blog. This is a very easy way to make friends! It’s a great surprise and an honor. This can be done in whatever way that you would enjoy; match a poem with a photograph or a color. Make it fun!
  5. Find a couple of close poet friends that you can share work with, and laughter. These are the people that will keep you going: attending readings together, sharing favorite poems and lots of laughter. Keep them close. One of my closest poetry friends is Geraldine Mills whom I met in Ireland when our first books had just come out.
  6. Be generous. Push yourself to approach a poet at AWP (the writing conference comes to Seattle next year). This year, I went to a couple of different poets’ book signings as I know how awkward it feels to sit at a table and watch people walk right by.
  7. Know other poets are probably as shy as you are. Broadly speaking, we poets are not extroverts. And yet, we want our poems to touch the lives of other people. We want to connect.

. . . . .

Susan Rich is the author of five books of poetry; most recently GALLERY OF POSTCARDS AND MAPS: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS (Salmon Poetry, 2022). Until it launches more widely in July, you can find her new book at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company. Visit Susan at http://poetsusanrich.com.

Author photo by Kristie McLean.

. . . . .
NOTE: Raven Talk, Raven’s online podcast, will present Harold Taw in conversation with Susan Rich this Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at 7:00pm, discussing Susan’s new book, Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems. Details and registration link here.

Writing the Land

February 9, 2022

Writing the Land partners with nonprofit and environmental organizations, such as land trusts, to coordinate the “adoption” of conserved lands for poets. Each poet is paired with a land for about a year and they are expected to visit the location to create work inspired by place and preservation. Selected poets are asked to complete three poems during their tenure, at least one of which will be published in an anthology.

The project accepts submissions year-round and holds them until the land becomes available. They also welcome suggestions of land trusts to be added to the map. See the FAQ page for further details.

. . . . .
thanks to Kelli Russell Agodon, who is currently writing the land

conversation

January 5, 2022

Mark your calendar for Wednesday, January 19, 2022, when Kelli Russell Agodon is joined by Maggie Smith for poetry and conversation. Presented by Third Place Books, the Zoom event is free with advance registration.

surreally!

September 17, 2021

Spend a day online with Kelli Russell Agodon and explore techniques and games used by surrealist writers and artists to create your own new poems. All proceeds from this class will benefit the Skagit River Poetry Foundation. Plus, a copy of Kelli’s new book, Dialogues with Rising Tides (Copper Canyon Press, 2021), is included in the registration.

The 5-hour workshop will be held on Saturday, September 25, 2021. Get the details and register!

your literary summer

May 22, 2021

Not sure about your plans for the next few months? Check out the Event Calendar at Portland’s Literary Arts. There are loads of activities — classes, workshops, book discussions, open mics, and more — starting with One Page Wednesday, on (yup) Wednesday, June 2, 2021, 6:30-8:30pm, hosted by Natalie Serber with guest poet Kelli Russell Agodon (free with advance registration). The events page includes the Portland Arts & Lectures series running from October 2021 to May 2022. Have a look.

Join Copper Canyon Press for the Spring 2021 Launch Party Livestream this Wednesday, May 5, 2021, at 5:00pm Pacific. The reading will celebrate five new collections and feature poets Kelli Russell Agodon, Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Arthur Sze, Nikki Wallschlaeger, and Noah Warren. Registration is free, and all are welcome.

This is a guest post by
Kelli Russell Agodon

I did not screenshot the one-on-one Meet and Greet with Copper Canyon Press, but I wore a paisley button-down shirt and people arrived, to ask questions and just to talk. I had been a little nervous about that event for two reasons. The first was, I wasn’t exactly sure how it would work: would I be chatting with people via text or would we all arrive on Zoom (Zoom it was)? The second reason was, what if it was just me sitting in a Zoom room by myself because no one showed up? Oh the sad life of a poet!, I thought. But thankfully, people did show up, Zoom worked well, and as usual, my worries were for nothing.

The rest of AWP felt like wandering around an empty virtual game. Since you can’t see other participants unless you go to the tab with a list of attendees, it felt like an AWP of one’s own, which for me is the opposite of why I go to AWP. I go to AWP to walk the bookfair and for the surprise encounters with favorite poets and friends I haven’t seen for a while. I go to AWP to hold books, to flip the pages of poetry books, to sit in an audience and listen to a panel.

In my current world, I am Zoomed out, so clicking on a panel (many pre-recorded) and tuning in seemed like another opportunity for too much screentime. But I discovered that because everyone is just sitting in their offices off screen, I could click on a panel, listen, and clean my office! The panels I listened to were good and if they weren’t, there was no awkward leaving mid-panel, just a click of the pause button or shutting the laptop.

While Two Sylvias Press had a virtual booth, we mostly set it up and answered questions by message. We didn’t sell as many books as a normal AWP, but we didn’t have to carry any books from a van to the conference center either!

While this wasn’t the most inspiring conference, I admire AWP for coming up with something that wasn’t too hard to navigate, had a virtual bookfair, and allowed us a little bit of the AWP feel through panels and readings (even if they were on a screen).

This would have been the AWP my book, Dialogues with Rising Tides, would have been released with Copper Canyon Press, or almost (it’s due to be published April 27, 2021). Do I feel cheated or sad that my book is coming out during a pandemic? Not really. Actually, not at all. Mostly, I am thankful for the new ways we unite online, how we find our way through this difficult time. I’m reminded of the many ways we still have to connect and know we are turning the corner for more in-person time.

Since I’m not doing in-person events right now for my book, the online world has oddly become a stage (one I’m occasionally falling off, due to too much screentime). Virtual AWP was a way to meet some new readers, hear my favorites talk about their poetry lives, and actually sell a few more books. During the pandemic I have learned that things do not need to be perfect; good enough suits me just fine these days.

– – – – –
Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Dialogues with Rising Tides from Copper Canyon Press (which you can preorder here or on Amazon.) Kelli is also the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press and the Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Retreat for Women. On May 1, 2021, she will be teaching a workshop on The Surrealists Toolkit, writing poems from prompts and play of surrealist artists and writers. Visit her website to read more of her work.

poetry to watch

September 24, 2020

A couple of months ago, we published a guest post by Kelli Russell Agodon about her pandemic poetry collaboration with Melissa Studdard.

I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast (Saint Julian Press, 2014) is a poetry collection by Melissa Studdard, a poem in the collection, and a short film by Dan Sickles made from the poem. Watch “I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast” on YouTube.

A healthy collaboration

July 15, 2020

This is a guest post by
Kelli Russell Agodon

In early March, Melissa Studdard and I decided we would write a poem every weekday based on news stories just to stay connected and to find new ways to push our creativity. On the day we started, the pandemic became top news and we realized what our focus was going to be — writing poems during the pandemic.

Each day, the news would change, our feelings would change, the world would change — and we would show up to our shared Google document to write about it. We try to document the world, the news, the day — it’s kind of a diary in verse. We have been called “Historians of Emotion” and I think especially with the poems about the pandemic, that is what we’re writing about most of the time.

For each day, one of us would begin with a few lines or images, and then the other shows up later in the day to finish it. Before we share it on social media, we ask the other “anything you want to change?” and once we get the “No, looks good!” response, we post it and consider it “done.” The next day, the person who ended the poem starts the new one and the collaboration continues.

For collaboration to work, both people need to be open to having their words changed and each must focus on the same goal: to write and finish the best poem. Ego needs to be left at the door and instead, a sense of playfulness and openness needs to exist in both writers.

What I have learned through collaboration:

  1. I have learned that poems can go in so many directions. I may take a poem a few places, but seeing a poem through another’s eyes, you see the many places it can go.
  2. A larger trust for each other as collaborators. There are definitely some people I would not want to collaborate with. Collaboration should be fun, and if it feels like a drag, maybe find a different person to work with.
  3. To know there is always backup help! Sometimes I will show up to a poem and, with hardly enough ideas or vision for what to do, I will jot down a few words or images unclear of what I am trying to do. Later, Melissa will show up and make the poem better. I have done that for her as well. It’s a wonderful experience to see how we each find ways to complete a struggling poem.
  4. Friendships matter. I have become closer to my friend Melissa and have been inspired by her vision of poems and her incredible creativity.

Here is the Houston Media’s NPR story on our collaboration:

Follow Kelli and Melissa’s collaborations on Twitter and Instagram @KelliAgodon and @MelissaStuddard.

. . . . .
Kelli Russell Agodon is a poet, writer, editor, book cover designer, and cofounder of Two Sylvias Press living in the Seattle area. She’s a recipient of Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Prize in Poetry as well as a two-time Finalist for the Washington State Book Awards. Her work has been featured on NPR, ABC News, and appeared in magazines and journals such as The Atlantic, The Nation, APR, Harvard Review, The Rumpus, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Her fourth collection of poems, Dialogues with Rising Tides, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2021.

Author photo by Ronda Piszk Broatch

%d bloggers like this: