meet the judges!

January 5, 2018

The 2018 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest won’t start accepting submissions for until March 1, 2018, but in anticipation of that date, you might want to acquaint yourself with the two distinguished poets who will serve as the 2018 contest judges: Richard Widerkehr and Jane Wong.

Richard Widerkehr’s new book of poems, In The Presence Of Absence, recently came out from MoonPath Press. He earned his M.A. from Columbia University and won two Hopwood first prizes for poetry at the University of Michigan. He has one other collection of poems, The Way Home (Plain View Press), and three chapbooks, including Her Story of Fire (Egress Studio Press). Tarragon Books published his novel, Sedimental Journey. Recent work has appeared in Rattle, Arts & Letters, Bellevue Literary Review, and Measure. Other work is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, The MacGuffin, and Chiron Review.

Jane Wong’s poems can be found in Best American Poetry 2015, Pleiades, American Poetry Review, Third Coast, and others. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the U.S. Fulbright Program, the Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf. She is the author of Overpour (Action Books, 2016).

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edits and revisions

August 4, 2017

We recently ran two guest posts on the subject of revision, the first by Bethany Reid, the second by Richard Widerkehr. It’s a fascinating topic, and a process we don’t often get to observe in the work of the poets we admire.

In an article in this week’s Book Review section, The New York Times opens a window onto the process of writing and revising, with brief statements by six poets and images of their works in process.

. . . . .
Joanne Carson manuscript with edits by Truman Capote


2017 Walk Award
By Richard Widerkehr

Yesterday, the water tossed me on the reef,
jarring my back, scraping my right wrist.

Don’t fall out of the ocean, says Linda.
I line up a break in the coral

with the fifth thatched shed.
Lying on my back, held by waves,

sea held by blue sky, sky held by the earth,
and the universe — it’s held by what?

*

I’m standing in the green shallows.
Whomp. Something hits the water

hard like prop wash. Wings thrash.
A brown pelican’s next to me.

The thing has a bill, big as a thigh bone,
that opens and closes.

. . . . .
“In the last five years, I’ve submitted and published widely. I like to sing and play music at a bar called the Green Frog. I used to be a teacher and a case manager with the mentally ill. I’m retired now. My Boynton poem was written at a resort called Akumal in Mexico and worked on later back in B’ham. My third book of poems, In The Presence Of Absence, will come out from MoonPath Press this fall.”

. . . . .
*Copyright 2017 by Richard Widerkehr. Broadside illustrated by Kim Wulfestieg.

Revising revisited

July 8, 2017

This is a guest post by Richard Widerkehr.

I enjoyed reading Bethany Reid’s blog that mentioned Dylan Thomas’s 67 revisions of “Fern Hill,” a poem I’ve loved for a long time. I remember hearing a story told by the poet Erin Belieu, who said that her husband, a writer, looked through her drafts of a poem and said, “I think you had it at the seventh draft, not the twenty-seventh.” It can be hard to tell at the time, and if you can tear yourself away from trying to get it just right, let some time pass, you can sometimes see more clearly what changes need to be made. Also, one change can lead to other ideas, if you let it.

The most helpful thing I heard about revision in the last few years is what Joe Stroud said: If you find yourself grinding away at a poem and can’t get it right, try reworking it in prose, which can give us sensory details we leave out. Since my first drafts are often telegraphic and leave out things the reader needs to know, putting in more can be helpful. If we’ve been to workshops, people will often tell us what can be cut. Sometimes, the hard part is seeing what we left out. We hide the Easter eggs, as Annie Dillard said. She said she asks herself when she thinks she’s done, “What did I leave out?” If it doesn’t go in this poem, it can lead to the next one.

One example of how I did this is how I worked on my long poem, “Her Story of Fire.” Someone told me Alberto Ríos had given an assignment to write one poem and then write the reply or opposite of that poem. What I did was use two speakers with different voices — one was a mentally ill woman, and the other speaker was her brother. One spoke; the other replied, though they often talked past each other. This exercise became the long title poem of my book Her Story of Fire (Egress Studio Press).

I liked Bethany’s suggestions to rewrite a poem in a different form or using different line lengths or stanza patterns. Sometimes I’ve tried that, and I’ve also tried using different pronouns (you, he, she, we) for the narrator. Often I’ve changed the verb tense from past to present if I want more immediacy.

One thing I do in revising that I haven’t heard many other poets do is find a word that sounds like or rhymes with a word that doesn’t work. Yeats changed “a mass of shadows” to “a mess of shadows.” But then I tend to write using sound and rhythm to lead me to what I want to say, so that works for me and helps me discover or uncover the meaning as I go along, which I like to do. When I wrote my novel, Sedimental Journey (Tarragon Books), it started as a short story about a geologist in love with a fictional character. Later, I made plot outlines but didn’t follow them. It took me nine years to finish the book and another fifteen years to find a publisher.

What did I leave out of this short piece? How to persist and keep writing. One thing I’ve done is switch genres when I got frustrated or bored with what I’m doing. My novel started as a fun break from my serious poems, though it changed and became funny-sad as it grew. My new book of poems, In The Presence Of Absence, will come out in September from MoonPath Press, but I don’t know what comes next.

. . . . .
Richard Widerkehr’s new book of poems, In The Presence Of Absence, will come out from MoonPath Press in 2017. He earned his M.A. from Columbia University and won two Hopwood first prizes for poetry at the University of Michigan. He has two collections of poems: The Way Home (Plain View Press) and Her Story of Fire (Egress Studio Press), along with two chapbooks. Tarragon Books published his novel, Sedimental Journey, about a geologist in love with a fictional character. Recent work has appeared in Rattle, Floating Bridge Review, Gravel, Naugatuck River Review, Cirque, Arts & Letters, and Mud Season Review. He has worked as a writing teacher and, later, as a case manager with the mentally ill.

. . . . .
image

changes afoot…

November 30, 2015

Parkplace Books

Perhaps you’ve heard the rumors. Alas, they’re true. Parkplace Books, Kirkland, Washington’s community bookstore since 1986 and the home of the “Take a Poem From Your Heart” second-Wednesday poetry series for nine years, will be closing their doors at the end of 2015.

As the Kirkland Parkplace Mall is being redeveloped, many local businesses will be closed or displaced. The future of Parkplace Books is uncertain. Owners Mary and Rebecca have either worked in or owned the store for over 20 years. Mary hopes to open a new bookstore, location as yet unknown; Rebecca will retire.

Christopher Jarmick, who coordinates the Parkplace poetry series, says, “Mary and Rebecca are among the most generous, dedicated bookstore owners you’ll ever know. It’s a big bookstore. They’ve made room for over 300 people in the past, and also made it feel full and welcoming when a dozen people show up.”

To honor Mary and Rebecca and to mark the closing of this treasured community resource, Take a Poem From Your Heart invites you to attend the final poetry gathering on Wednesday, December 9, 2015, from 6:30 to 9:00pm.

Richard Widerkehr* will offer a somewhat abbreviated feature reading, plus there will be an additional 15 spotlight readers, for about four minutes each, and then a wide-open mic (under three minutes each) for as many as want to read and time will allow.

Christopher Jarmick says, “Let’s pack the place with poets and have a poetic toast to Mary and Rebecca. Please spread the word. While you’re there, I’d also encourage you to buy some presents, for others or yourself. Hope to see you on December 9th.”

*Richard Widerkehr won two Hopwood first prizes for poetry at the University of Michigan and earned his M.A. from Columbia University. He has two collections of poems, The Way Home (Plain View Press) and Her Story of Fire (Egress Studio Press), two chapbooks, and a novel, Sedimental Journey (Tarragon Books) about a geologist in love with a fictional character. In the last year, his poems have been published in Rattle, Soundings, Floating Bridge Review, Jewish Literary Journal, Grey Sparrow, Nomad’s Choir Poetry Review, Pennine Ink, Cirque, Penumbra, Clay Bird Review, and Crack The Spine.

Cirque in Seattle

August 5, 2015

Cirque reads with friends

On Wednesday, August 12, 2015, Seattle welcomes the artistry of CIRQUE Journal at a reading with art and music to be held at Wikstrom Brothers Gallery. Hear a selection of poetry and prose from CIRQUE Volume 6, Number 2, including works by Beth Baker, Robert Bharda, Lyn Coffin, Michael Daley, Patrick Dixon, Merridawn Duckler, Mary Kancewick, Sandra Kleven, John Morgan, Craig Smith, Carey Taylor and Richard Widerkehr. More information on Facebook.

Good one!

April 1, 2015

Egress Studio Press reading

There’s no shortage of options for National Poetry Month, but this one should definitely be on your list: a selection of readings by Egress Studio Press authors. Poets include Richard Widerkehr, Ann Spiers, Sheila Sondik, Susan J. Erickson, Anita K. Boyle and James Bertolino. See you there: Village Books, Bellingham, 7:00pm, Wednesday, April 8, 2015.

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