Monthly Archives: September 2011

Writers Write

Don’t they?  It’s odd to me that this thing that we supposedly love, that inspires and feeds us, is so hard to make ourselves do.  What is up with that?  I suppose there’s some performance anxiety, and some inertia, and some straight-up mental and emotional laziness.  It takes a lot out of a person to create.  Or that’s what I say to myself when I’m not writing much.  When I really write (as opposed to sitting down with paper and pretending to write), it doesn’t seem like work.  When I can get into the flow, the poem seems to materialize “without my stir,” as Shakespeare might say. I think the thing is not to try to control it too much–not to be too invested in getting a good outcome, but to be willing to just try stuff and see what happens.  That is a weak spot for me.  I don’t like to commit things to paper unless I think they are going to work, to become something “Worthwhile.”   So, my goal for this week, which I am writing here in an effort to make myself accountable, is to write at least two draft poems.  I have the seed of an idea from the Ekphrasis class I just finished teaching–a poem in response to a painting.  So this week I vow to get that seed in the ground, and to find at least one other to plant.  At first I wrote “one other worth planting”, which (just to keep the plant metaphor going) would be the root of the problem, wouldn’t it?  So NO, not one “worth” planting, but just one that I have in my possession to plant.  Because, in the words of Banquo, “who can look into the seeds of time, /And say which grain will grow and which will not”?

Not sure why all of these quotes from Shakespeare’s Scottish play (bad luck to say the name) are coming to me this morning.  Perhaps my subconscious is sending me a message about ambition? Perhaps a reminder from my old buddy Will S. that (to paraphrase)  “the poem‘s the thing.”

Quote for the week:  “The scariest moment is always just before you start [writing]. After that, things can only get better.” ~~Stephen King

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A New Season

It’s the start of my very favorite time of year.  I love the cooler weather, the smell in the air, and the feeling of “fresh start” that’s all around.  I know some people feel that more in the spring–rebirth and all that–but I guess I’ve been forever imprinted by the school calendar.  Others leave that schedule behind as they get older, but teachers never do.  Give me a cool day, a vista of changing leaves , and a new notebook any time.

Last week I had the overwhelming pleasure of attending Concordia College’s symposium, The Role of the Artist in Society.  It was one of the most thought-provoking and inspiring things I’ve attended in a long time.  I went with artist collaborator and friend Tiffany Besonen, who had a piece in the exhibit (Dis)covering the Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces. The exhibit is an offshoot of a larger show that includes a piece of Tiffany’s work that incorporates my poetry.  We were able to spend some time with the exhibit’s curator and general force of nature, Jennifer Heath, who is one of the most generous and creative people I’ve met.  We also fleshed out the plan for our next, much more complicated, collaboration.  Very exciting!

Today, I’ll be attending the book release party for The Talking Stick, a Minnesota Literary Journal.  This is volume 20.  Hard to believe!  I became involved with The Jackpine Writers’ Bloc, which publishes the journal, many years ago.  I’ve had quite a few poems in the book over the years, and actually designed the layout for a few of the early editions.  I’m so happy to see it still going strong.  I’ll be especially proud today to be there to hear one of my best student-poets, Ashley Ziehm, read the poem she had included in the book.  She’s only the second high school student to be published there.

I’m just about to finish the class on ekphrastic poetry that I’ve been teaching at the Nemeth Art Center.  It’s been a wonderful experience.  I’m always so gratified by the generosity of the participants in classes like these.  They bring such careful attention to the work–their own and their classmates’.  My little secret is that I always learn more than they do.  This class will culminate with a reading at the Art Center on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2:30 pm.  The class participants and possibly a few of my high school students will be reading poems written in response to the artwork currently on exhibit.  Hope to see you there!

Week after next, I’ll be starting to teach Writing the Short Poem for The Loft Literary Center.  It’s an online class, and it will be very interesting to see how it all comes together.  I have a wonderful group of students, a few of whom I’ve worked with before in one capacity or another.  It will be a dynamic group!  Registration closes next week, so if you’re on the fence, you’ll have to decide soon.

Finally, this is what I’m dreaming about this morning…a little writer’s shed in the back yard.  Maybe someday.

Quote for the week: The difference between the right and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.                  Mark Twain

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