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

Two Sylvias in Forbes

April 11, 2020

In-depth coverage of an indie poetry press is not exactly what you’d expect from Forbes. But there it is: “How Poetry Publisher Two Sylvias Press Operates And Selects New Authors” by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Happy National Poetry Month to Kelli Russell Agodon, Annette Spaulding-Convy, and Two Sylvias Press!

are you ready?

March 28, 2020

Poets, sharpen your quills. It’s almost National Poetry Month and that means it’s almost National/Global Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo). Again this year, Maureen Thorson invites you to register (it’s free) for prompts and encouragement and to post your poems.

If you don’t want to follow those prompts, there are plenty of other ways to get your poems going. Some people start or join 30/30 duos or groups. Some poets commit to a theme for the month’s poems. You could sneak over to the internet and grab this list of 30 prompts by Kelli Russell Agodon. Robert Lee Brewer has again posted the annual April Poem-A-Day Challenge on Poetic Asides at Writer’s Digest. Daily prompts will begin on March 30 at Poetry Super Highway. And while National Novel Writing Month doesn’t officially begin until November, the NaNoWriMo folks are concerned about your well-being, so they have started a new initiative that includes daily prompts: #StayHomeWriMo.

However you choose to meet the challenge, get ready: 30 poems in 30 days. You can do it.

on poetry

January 9, 2020

“Being rejected is part of the deal as a poet. It’s doesn’t always make it better to know that, but it’s true. You will be rejected more than you are accepted. You will celebrate an acceptance then sadly weep into morning coffee over a rejection that rolls in the next day.”
Kelli Russell Agodon
(b. January 9)

. . . . .
photo by Susan Rich
quote

tonight in New York

April 18, 2019

This evening, April 18, 2019, the National Arts Club in New York City will welcome the 109th Annual Poetry Society of America Awards Ceremony. The evening will honor the 2019 Frost Medalist, Eleanor Wilner, who will deliver the annual Frost Lecture, and celebrate the new winners of distinguished Annual Awards, with readings by Darcie Dennigan, Sara Henning, Anna Maria Hong, Cecily Parks, Vitoria Perez, and G. C. Waldrep.

We congratulate all of the winners, and in particular Seattle poet Kelli Russell Agodon, winner of the 2019 Lyric Poetry Award for her poem, At Times My Body Leans Toward Loss.

See the complete list of current and past winners here.

Sunday in Seattle

February 27, 2019

The brilliant bookstore, Open Books in Seattle, is the place for poetry books, readings, and workshops in the Northwest. Their calendar of events is action packed. See for yourself on Sunday, March 3, 2019, at 5:00pm, as Open Books hosts the launch of Gravity Assist by Martha Silano. Martha will be joined by poets Kelli Russell Agodon, Rick Barot, and Molly Tenenbaum. Go!

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