December 2, 2016
A 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.
October 8, 2016
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.
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Poet/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)
July 4, 2016
Once again, it’s time to sign up for the August Poetry Postcard Fest. Registration for the 10th annual APPF begins today, July 4, 2016. To pay the small fee and register, you can go directly to Brown Paper Tickets (be sure to complete your address information carefully so postcards will find their way to you through the mail!) and you can get all the Fest details on the official APPF page.
What’s new this year is that participants will be eligible to submit postcard poems for an anthology, 56 Days of August, to be published in October 2017 by Five Oaks Press. More information on the anthology at 56 Days of August.
May 2, 2016
The first week of May is National Postcard Week. After a month of writing (or intending to write) a poem a day, NPW is an opportunity to share snippets of what you wrote during National Poetry Month — or to craft something brief and new. (Postcard stamps for U.S. mail are currently $0.34.)
This is also a good time to get that reminder into your calendar: signups for the 10th August Poetry Postcard Fest begin in early July. (At the APPF link, subscribe to Paul Nelson’s newsletter to make sure you’re notified and then start gathering postcards from shops, garage sales, thrift stores…and that box in your closet.)
December 2, 2015
Though early December seems a trifle late to be doing the wrap-up on the 2015 August Poetry Postcard Fest, here it is, better overdue than never.
The big change this year was that Paul Nelson, who masterfully coordinates the project, decided to implement a $10 participation fee. While this inspired a certain amount of whining initially, it had the overall effect of almost completely eliminating the people who were not serious about participating. In past years, the biggest disappointment has been how many people signed up but never mailed any cards. (Ideally, each participant sends/receives a postcard to/from each person on a list of 31, self sometimes, but not always, excepted.) This year, the deadbeat list was short and many of the non-receipts could be written off to lost-in-the-mail.
While not in its first year, the August Poetry Postcard Fest group on Facebook was more active than ever. One of the added benefits of the group was identifying poets whose names did not appear (by oversight, intent or damage in the mail) on the cards they sent.
About the project, Paul says, “The quality of the writing, of the images and of the kind notes has set a new water mark for the fest for me. I can’t begin to articulate how humbled am I by all the participants, by the liveliness of this here PCFB [Facebook] page and by how many people are chipping in to take this project to the next level… Abrazos!” Here is Paul Nelson’s Highlights from 2015 and his 2015 Afterword.
A number of participants posted their own recaps, some including images and text from their postcards. Here is a sampling (most date from September, so you may have to scroll back): Barbara Jean Sunshine Walsh | Courtney LeBlanc | Elizabeth Woods | Gabriel Cleveland | Kristin Cleage Williams | Margo Jodyne Dills | Mary Beth Frezon | Ruby Kane | S.E. Ingraham | Taffe Cortinas Dongham.
An unexpected bonus to the 2015 Fest has been the arrival of additional postcards well into November. A number of postcarders committed themselves to sending a card to each of the participants on this year’s list — an ambitious undertaking, but that adds up to 208 draft poems that are ready for reworking!
In all, it was a fine month of poetry. Thanks to Paul and all.
2016 will mark the 10th August Poetry Postcard Fest and the countdown clock is already running. See more on the August POetry POstcard Fest page.
November 5, 2015
Allen Ginsberg envisioned an “American haiku,” a 17-syllable poem that he called the American Sentence. In her section on American Sentences in Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, Kim Addonizio says, “What interests me is how a short sentence can have all the qualities of a poem — a quick, perfectly executed brushstroke that surprises and delights, that’s full of mystery and meaning, and set to a rhythm that sings.” She adds, “What’s key here is the moment sharply observed, a brief ‘aha!’ of pleasure or recognition or awareness.”
Paul Nelson, best known on these pages as the instigator and chief wrangler of the Cascadia Poetry Festival and the August Poetry Postcard Fest, experienced his own “aha!” when he read Ginsberg’s book Cosmopolitan Greetings. On January 1, 2001, he initiated a practice of writing an American Sentence every day. Choosing the best from the resulting collection of more than five thousand, Apprentice House Press has now published a book by Paul Nelson, American Sentences.
July 11, 2015
In case you were thinking about participating in the 2015 August Poetry Postcard Fest, it’s time to sign up! Registration ends on July 27, 2015, and founder/postcard-poet wrangler Paul E. Nelson is busy assembling and distributing participant lists.
A few notes for potential participants:
- It’s not absolutely free. New this year is a modest registration charge of approx. $10(US$) (plus fee). You will also have to purchase 31 stamps — standard U.S. postcards (max. 4.25″ x 6″) are now $0.35 and international postcards (all countries) are $1.20. You also need to acquire postcards (see next bullet).
- Select your postcards. Some people make their own, some use a random assortment of picture postcards, some mail the same card to everyone on their list. You can often find inexpensive postcards at garage sales, Goodwill and other thrift stores and used-book stores.
- It’s about the first draft. The idea is not to share something that you wrote last year or last week, but to sit down fresh each day and write a first-draft poem right onto a postcard. If it feels hugely risky, don’t worry: it gets easier.
- Make a copy. All those drafts are yours to re-work over the coming months, so be sure to save copies. Some people scan every card, front and back. (You may also want to note which postcard and which poem you sent to each person on your list. Why? Well, for example, there’s a Facebook group for participants and someone may make a comment about how much they loved your poem; it would be nice to know what you sent them.)
- If you need a prompt, use the image on the postcard itself, or a word or image from a poem/postcard you’ve just received. (You might also find inspiration among our many previous posts on prompts.)
- Put your name on the postcards you send.
- Postcards are machine-processed and are usually marked with a bar code near the bottom of the message side of the card. If your poem extends within a half-inch of the bottom, the last line(s) might get overwritten or obscured.
- Make a commitment. If you sign up, follow through. If you miss a day, don’t stop! Send a postcard to every single person on your list. Well, okay, you don’t have to send one to yourself…but you could!
- Read and honor the guidelines. The guidelines are here.
- Sign up. You can sign up and pay with credit card or PayPal on Brown Paper Tickets. Please be VERY careful when you are entering your address on the BPT sign-up form. Right or wrong, that’s the address that other participants will use to mail postcards to you.
- Have fun!