Poetry of Revolt

January 13, 2021

The 23rd Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Conference presented by the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force will include a variety of events, workshops, and presentations, including Poetry of Revolt.

This free online gathering of diverse poets from Cascadia and beyond will celebrate poetry as a form of resistance, revolt, and healing. Performers include Rena Priest, Romeo Romero, Danny Canham, PoetryNMotion, and others. Poetry of Revolt will livestream on Facebook tomorrow, Thursday, January 14, 2021, 5:30pm.

Listen to Margaret Bikman’s interview with Rena Priest about the Poetry of Revolt today, January 13, at Noon, 4:00pm, and 9:00pm, on KMRE 102.3FM or find the podcast on the KMRE Arts & Entertainment Spotlight.

This is a guest post by Rena Priest.

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.” Virginia Woolf

I first read this quote from “A Room of One’s Own” while lounging in a bathtub in Spokane. I was 19, and it was cold, and a hot bath was the best, cheapest way to stay warm. I was very poor, and this idea that writing what you wanted was more precious than silver, well, it was exhilarating.

For many years I stayed true. I said as much of what I wanted to say as my abilities would allow. But recently, I’ve felt daunted by having so little to show for the years and effort I’ve devoted to writing. What I “want” to write has changed. I no longer want to write the truth in my soul. My soul has too much grief, too many expletives, and not enough flowers, birds, or sunsets to appeal to mainstream poetry audiences.

These days, I want to write the kind of poem that I can screen print on a pillow and sell on Instagram by the truckload. I want to write a sing-song children’s book that will fly off the shelves like hot-cakes so that I can cast off the shackles of my student loans.

Last year, for the first time, I made sacrifices from the hair of the head of my vision and went for the silver pot. At the urging of a colleague, I applied for and was awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society to write about a captive killer whale. I did the work. I researched, and I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again and again until I had a draft of something that someone else would perhaps pay money to read.

In the beginning, it wasn’t writing that I wanted to do so much as writing that must be done. I was doing it for the cause, and the byline. Eventually, the story drew me in. It raised questions in me. I became deeply invested in the whale’s fate. The more I learned about her, the more imperative it became to share her story. Nothing has ever felt so important to get right as the story of this whale, and I have never been so engrossed or challenged in my writing.

In the end, my vision aligned with the work, bringing me to this conclusion: If you don’t want to write something, you’ll half-ass it for a while until you chuck it and start over, or you won’t do it. But if you give yourself to the writing — authentically give yourself to it — you’ll be true to your vision. It can’t be otherwise. Not “a shade of its colour” will be sacrificed.

Publishing, however, is a whole other story. 😉

. . . . .

Read “A captive orca and a chance for our redemption” by Rena Priest, just published in High Country News.

. . . . .

Rena Priest is a poet and a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. Her literary debut, Patriarchy Blues, was honored with a 2018 American Book Award. Her most recent collection, Sublime Subliminal, was published by Floating Bridge Press. Priest’s work can be found in literary journals and anthologies including: For Love of Orcas, Pontoon, and Poetry Northwest. She has attended residencies at Hawthornden Castle, Hedgebrook, and Mineral School. She is a National Geographic Explorer and a Jack Straw Writer (2019). She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

tonight in Seattle

January 16, 2020

It’s Thursday, January 16, 2020, and that means it’s time to crawl out of your snow cave, strap on your snowshoes, and go hear some live poetry. Tonight at Common AREA Maintenance in Belltown, Margin Shift Presents this stellar lineup: Sarah A. Chavez, Anne Liu Kellor, Rena Priest, and Suzanne Bottelli. Doors open at 6:30pm. Go!

Poem Booth time again!

January 7, 2020

The Bellingham Poem Booth once again invites submissions from Whatcom County, Washington, residents. The winning poem is displayed for three months on the Forest Street side of the downtown Bellingham Co-op. Winning and runner-up poems are posted on the Poem Booth blog. The deadline is midnight, Saturday, February 15, 2020 and the guidelines are here.

The Poem Booth, which has been ably guided by a handful of volunteers since its inception, now has a new team: John S. Green, Rachel Mehl, Rena Preist, Sheila Sondik, and Elizabeth Vignali.

Jack Straw voices

November 2, 2019

You have two opportunities to hear the 2019 Jack Straw Writers, this year selected by curator (and former Washington State Poet Laureate) Kathleen Flenniken.

Today, Saturday, November 2, 2019, at 2:00pm, the Downtown Seattle Public Library will present new work by Dianne Aprile, Shankar Narayan, Rena Priest, Sylvia Byrne Pollack, Samar Abulhassan, Christianne Balk, Leanne Dunic, Michael Schmeltzer, Josh Axelrad, Gabrielle Bates, and Suzanne Warren, hosted by Kathleen Flenniken.

Tomorrow, Village Books in Bellingham will host a six-pack of Jack Straw writers reading selections from the 2019 Jack Straw Writers Anthology. Join the audience at 4:00pm to hear Dianne Aprile, Christianne Balk, Leanne Dunic, Sylvia Byrne Pollack, Rena Priest, and Suzanne Warren.

Both readings are free.

More about Jack Straw.

tonight! Seattle!

November 3, 2018

Come hear a rollicking collection of voices at a MoonPath Press reading curated by Risa Denenberg, tonight, Saturday, November 3, 2018, at 7:00pm, at Open Books in Seattle. The stellar lineup features MoonPath poets Ronda Piszk Broatch, Glenna Cook, Alice Derry, Lorraine Ferra, Christopher J. Jarmick, Carol Levin, Rena Priest, Raul Sanchez, and Connie K Walle. See the poets’ bios here, then join them in person.

Congratulations!

August 14, 2018

It’s pretty exciting when there are names you know on lists of winners, and that’s the news today as Bellingham’s own Rena Priest is named an American Book Award winner for her book Patriarchy Blues (MoonPath Press). Congratulations to Rena and all of The 2018 American Book Award Winners!

Saturday in Bellingham!

April 19, 2018

SpeakEasy 21: Poets Talk Poetry is going to be an exceptional evening of insightful reflections and scintillating words from poets Bruce Beasley, Ramona Elke, Jory Mickelson, Kevin Murphy, Nancy Pagh, Dayna Patterson, and Rena Priest. Please join us on Saturday, April 21, 2018, at 7:00pm, in the Encore Room of the Mount Baker Theatre, Bellingham, Washington. The event is free and the poets’ books will be for sale.

Poetry-About-Movies

April 13, 2018

And as long as we’re talking about the intersection of poetry and film, we should mention Poetry-About-Movies: a celebration of Film Is Truth happening at Honey Moon in Bellingham on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. The evening will feature poetry about movies by Dee Dee Chapman, Rena Priest, Susan J. Erickson, and Jessica Lee.

Film is Truth 24 Times a Second is a beloved, locally owned and operated DVD, Blu-ray, and VHS rental store in Bellingham with a little bit of everything and a lot of foreign films, independent movies, arthouse films, and documentaries.

In our continuing effort to cover all bases for National Poetry Month, we offer this early notice of SpeakEasy 21: Poets Talk Poetry, to be held Saturday, April 21, 2018, 7:00pm, at the Mount Baker Theatre, Encore Room.

An occasional poetry series that emphasizes themed, audience-friendly presentations of quality poetry by Cascadia-region writers, this SpeakEasy program will present seven distinguished poets reflecting on their own work, their inspiration, and the importance of poetry in their lives. The poets are Bruce Beasley, Ramona Elke, Jory Mickelson, Kevin Murphy, Nancy Pagh, Dayna Patterson, and Rena Priest. You can see the poets’ bios on the Other Mind Press SpeakEasy page.

The event is free and Village Books will be on hand to offer the poets’ books for sale.

%d bloggers like this: