Thursday, June 24, 2010

RESIDENCY READERS

Greetings from Forest Grove, Oregon!

While I'm missing my pets and the awesome weather we're apparently having in Colorado Springs right now, I just can't put a value on my experiences with the writing faculty at Pacific University's MFA Program. I've been working as the emcee for the nightly readings held in Taylor-Meade, a lovely concert hall on Pacific's campus. I'm currently staying in one of the swankiest dorm rooms I've ever seen, and I actually need to get going soon to tonight's reading!

Fortunately, I've been able to work on my poems while I've been here, when I'm not reading the fiction of my students being submitted online. I'll post some of those later! For now, here are some pictures of the fine guests here...



Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of American Salvage, finalist for
the National Book Award in 2009.


Jack Driscoll, author of the novels Lucky Man, Lucky Woman,
How Like An Angel, and Stardog. One of the nicest guys on the planet too.



Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness,
Waltzing the Cat, and tons of short stories.


Peter Sears, author of collections of poetry titled The Brink,
Tour: New and Selected Poems, and most recently Green Diver.
One of the best mentors, ever.

Marvin Bell, creator of the Dead Man poem
and author of Nightworks, Mars Being Red,
and over twenty other books of poetry.
Tied with Peter Sears as best mentor ever.


View from Elk Cove Winery, where the MFA Program
conducts one reading each summer. Lucky them!



View of the front of the crowd at the winery reading.
They've really had to work to fit everyone in here!



Judy Blunt, nonfiction author of Breaking Clean
and shorter pieces which have appeared
in Oprah magazine and The New York Times.
...
More pictures to come as the residency winds down... tonight's readers at Taylor-Meade are poets Ellen Bass and Joe Millar, plus fiction writer Kellie Wells!
...

Monday, June 14, 2010

WRITING OVERLOAD

So, I'm about to leave Colorado for a little over two weeks. I'm going to be in Forest Grove, Oregon, at Pacific University's MFA residency, where I'll be one of two alumni volunteers, introducing brilliant writers at the nightly readings and interviewing a couple of them for Pacific's website. The days will start early and end late, and I'll be doing my best to briefly adjust to dorm life. Fortunately, Forest Grove is one of the more beautiful, quiet, and lushly green towns on the west coast, and if I can get any spare time, I'm going to go on a nice walk... maybe through the hazelnut grove up on one of the hills!

I'm excited and, as of last night, a little nervous. I'm trying to get ahead on the creative writing class I'm teaching at PPCC so I don't falter while I'm gone... unfortunately, we're going to be covering Point of View and Dialogue, two of the more difficult elements of fiction writing for beginning writers. My students this semester are dedicated and put a truly admirable amount of effort into their writing, and I mean that. Sometimes, when I read their comments, I wish I had their determination. I've been introduced to some wonderful characters in the past couple weeks, some of them in war zones, some in magical realms, and can I tell you it's a relief just to know they exist? Go students!

Anyway, I read stories, graded, and planned last night until my right eyeball was literally twitching and I had to sign off. (Sometimes, work is just not healthy. Of course, I wouldn't have had to work so late if I hadn't spent Saturday stalling, crafting and making homemade pasta, but whatever.)

I think I may be moving past this hitch on brevity. After signing off last night, I flopped face down on the couch for fifteen minutes and listened to Tchaikovsky long after Alec Baldwin's classical program had ended on the radio. I closed my eyes and retraced the steps of my day. When I sat up, I felt I had maybe ten minutes of writing within me. So, back to the computer with the timer set. Here's what I got, a poem over five lines! Hurray!

Thanks all for reading. (I know my working at the residency later this week is going to prompt more writing, and I'm looking forward to it. I'll post more as it progresses!)


GERMAN WAR BRIDE

She is alone in the church when usually

I am alone in the church,

one sleeve pulled over her hand

to wipe beneath her eyes, left to right.

When I sit down behind her she stops.

I can see a card on the pew beside her

with a man dressed in brown on it,

he is helping a young woman stand up

beside a faded blue fountain,

or maybe he is proposing to her

or kissing her ring, maybe she is a queen?

Beneath the tiny painting it says

Heilige Gerhard, Saint Gerard.

She is German. The lines running down

her face and neck are fine.

She stares straight ahead.

I say, “Bist du…shit…zufrieden?”

which is actually “Is you…shit…content?”

She shakes her head and whispers “Nein.”

We both stare straight ahead.

The children of the parish have drawn pictures

for the altar, all of them showing Mary

who touches her belly with one hand,

reaches for Elizabeth with the other.

...