SpeakEasy 22 on October 20!

Bellingham & Whatcom County, please join us at Mt. Baker Theater’s Encore Room for SpeakEasy 22, “Animal Beast Creature”: SpeakEasy22
Many thanks to SpeakEasy curators J.I. Kleinberg and Luther Allen for inviting me to participate!

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April Events: National Poetry Month

Hello, and happy spring!

I get to do three poetry events in three days this April. For the first two, I’ll be appearing at the Orcas Island Literary Festival, which takes place April 13-15 in Eastsound, Washington, in the theaters at Orcas Center and in various venues around Eastsound on Orcas Island:

On the lucky literary evening of Friday, April 13, I’ll be participating in a Lit Walk reading with Rick Barot, Allen Braden (my AWP Writer-to-Writer Mentor in 2015!), Derek Sheffield, and Tina Schumann. (The Kitchen restaurant, 249 Prune Alley, Eastsound, WA, 6:30 p.m.)

On Saturday, April 14, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion titled “Exterior to Interior Landscapes: Writing to Explore” with Rick Barot, Allen Braden (Moderator), Gail Folkins, and Derek Sheffield. In this presentation, we’ll share how contemporary writers use setting to work with themes involving science, myth, history, politics, or family. The panel will also engage participants with generative exercises relevant to writing about one’s environment. (Black Box Theater, Orcas Center, 917 Mt. Baker Road, Eastsound, WA, 9:30 a.m.)

Then, on Sunday, April 15, I jump on a ferry to sail and drive back to Bellingham for an afternoon reading with Maya Jewell Zeller and Kathryn Smith at Village Books. Maya will be presenting Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts, her new eco-feminist, poetry-and-art collaborative with Carrie deBacker; and Kathryn will be presenting poems from Book of Exodus, which narrates the imagined experiences of the Lykovs, a Russian family who lived for 40 years in the Siberian taiga.  (Village Books, 1200 11th St.. Bellingham, WA, 4:00 p.m.)

If you’ll be near Northwest Washington for this middle weekend of April, please join us!

Catching Up and Looking Forward

I’m thankful to have closed out 2017 with an autumn of publications, encouraging news, and lots of literary events to look forward to in 2018.

I spent the first half of 2017 writing and revising a new full-length manuscript of resistance poems titled “The Tongue of Narcissus.” Since then, I’ve continued to polish the manuscript and slide in occasional new poems. I’ve found wonderful homes for seven of those poems in Rise Up Review, Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, Heavy Feather Review, and, most recently, Green Linden. Three more are slated for publicaton in Moon City Review next spring. And in November, I got amazing news: the manuscript is a finalist for the Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes at the University of Wisconsin Press! I’ll need to hold my breath until mid-February, possibly, to hear the results. (Deep inhale with fingers crossed!)

In addition, 2017 was a year of progress for “Wild-Caught Gods,” the full-length manuscript I’ve been working on for 10 years now. I put it through two more revisions, one during the summer and another last month, to implement lessons I learned from the process of assembling my new manuscript. As a collection of persona poems, “Wild-Caught Gods” needed more glue to pull together its multi-vocal distress cries about ecological crisis, epistemic anxiety, and what I call my “toxic patriarchy” critiques of monotheism. As you can guess from this description, it also needed more humor! So I added in my weird, sarcastic-voiced poems using scientific lexicons to leaven and punctuate the seriousness. Poems from this manuscript found good homes in Water~Stone Review, Bracken, Clover, and Washington 129: Poets of Washington, edited by State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall. Amanda Bubble had an especially good autumn, with two poems in her voice appearing in Bellingham Review, and five poems in Muse / A Journal, including the very first Amanda Bubble poem I wrote: “When Your Name Is Amanda Bubble, You Don’t Get to Cry at the Bar.” I’m thrilled that Muse /A Journal Editor Greg Murray has nominated “Amanda Bubble Pines for a God to Call Her Own” for a Pushcart Prize! To cap it off, the manuscript was a finalist for the Moon City Poetry Prize at Moon City Press. It didn’t win, but knowing it advanced so far through the selection process energized me to continue to hone it.

I deeply appreciate the work of all these editors, who do so much to support the writers they publish and nurture the communities they create around their presses and journals.

I tried for other ambitious goals last year. I applied for a writing residency in Brora, Scotland, and was named a finalist. I submitted a lyric essay to The Gulf Coast Prize for Nonfiction and received an honorable mention. My review of Cecily Parks’s anthology The Echoing Green: Poems of Fields, Meadows, and Grasses was published in Terrain.org. Successes (and exciting near-misses) like these have given me great encouragement to aim high with my writing.

In the coming year, I have exciting plans to share. This month, I’m racing toward a deadline on a creative-nonfiction book proposal and partial manuscript for a collection of essays dealing with mental health, motherhood, ecological crisis, theology, and walking. I’ve submitted presentation and workshop proposals for a spring literary festival, and plans are in the works for readings in Duvall and Tacoma.

Also this winter, I’m doing group readings of Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (Edited by Grace Bauer and Julie Kane, Lost Horse Press, 2017) in Bellingham, Redmond, and Seattle. Whatcom County friends: please join Carolyne Wright, Jessica Lee, Susan J. Erickson, and me on Sunday, January 14, 4:00 p.m. at Village Books in Fairhaven for the anthology’s western Washington launch!

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May the year ahead grace you with all good things,
Jennifer

Upcoming Events, and New Poems in Heavy Feather Review

If you live in Northwest Washington, I invite you to attend two events I’m participating in this month:

First is the launch celebration and reading for Volume 13 of Clover: A Literary Rag. I’m one of twelve contributors who’ll be reading, starting at 4:00 p.m., Sunday, September 10, at Village Books in Fairhaven.

Poetry at St Paul'sAnd then, at the end of this month, I invite you to Poetry at St. Paul’s, Friday and Saturday, September 29-30. The Festival program includes evening presentations by Gregory Wolfe, Luci Shaw, Jeannie Murray Walker, and Scott Cairns. Saturday afternoon, three poetry-writing workshops will be led by Luci Shaw, Caitlin Thomson, and me. An open mic will follow. Pre-register for a workshop on the festival website. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 2117 Walnut Street, in Bellingham.

Finally, I’m thrilled and honored to have five new poems up as the #NotMyPresident feature at Heavy Feather Review. These poems are from my new full-length manuscript, “The Tongue of Narcissus,” in which I use Heinz Kohut’s theories on narcissistic pathology and characters from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to engage the current political situation. (Hint: Narcissus stands in for you-know-who.) Many thanks to Heavy Feather Review editors Jason Teal, Nathan Floom, Ally Harris, dezireé a. brown, and Hayli M. Cox for selecting my work!

Poetry News…

… has been happy news for me lately! Here’s a roundup of recent developments to share with you:

  • Back in the winter, Bracken Magazine published my poem “Some Kind of Gift” in its third issue. My thanks to editors Alina Rios and Jed Myers for selecting my poem and presenting it in such great company.
  • My poem “Diana Bristles” appears in the April issue of Rise Up Review, founded after the election to be “a landing site for the poetry of opposition.” That poem has also been selected for inclusion in the Nasty Women Poets Anthology, to be published in the fall by Lost Horse Press.
  • Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall has chosen my poem “Claude Lévi-Strauss Paces the Beach at Pt. Whitehorn, Washington” to include in the anthology Washington 129, which contains one poem for every year of Washington statehood. Published by Sage Hill Press, the anthology was celebrated at a release party last month at the state capital in Olympia. In addition, the poem will be printed as a broadside produced by Tod Marshall’s literary editing and design course at Gonzaga University in Spokane.IMG_1644
  • My poem “In Which I Sense Everywhere a Willingness” has been accepted for next fall’s issue of Water~Stone Review.
  • Since the election, I’ve been writing protest poems.  In late February, I picked up the pace of my writing and now have 36 new poems towards a book manuscript. I intend to continue writing and revising these poems, with the goal of submitting the manuscript to publishers this summer. Working on these poems has been very helpful for keeping a lid on my anxiety about the current political situation.
  • I have two readings coming up in the San Juan Islands! I’ll be reading with my Eugene, Oregon pressmate Laura LeHew, whose marvelous poetry collection Willingly Would I Burn was published in the same cohort as Impossible Lessons. We’ll read at Darvill’s Books on Orcas Island, June 1, and, with Lopezian writer and Shark Reef co-founder Lorna Reese, at Lopez Bookshop, June 2. Thank you to Jill McCabe Johnson (another of my MoonPath Press-mates) of Artsmith and Iris Graville of Lopez Bookshop for inviting me to do these! Please see my Events page for details.
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    I’ve been spending as much time as I can outside. After an exceptionally long winter, we’re having a lush, rainy, beautiful spring. I hope spring is wonderful where you are, too!

    Cheers and courage and good words to you,
    Jennifer

Seattle Womxn’s March

On Saturday, my family traveled to Seattle for my eleven-year-old’s Lego Robotics competition. It was the Washington State semifinals, for which my son’s team of fifth-graders had qualified at the local competition in December. The semifinals happened to be on the same day as the Women’s Marches, and because the competition required that kids have parental supervision all day, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to join in the march. But I did at least want to see it–to witness what I knew might be one of the most important collective actions of my lifetime–and to cheer on the marchers. I also hoped to be able to take my son to see what one form of nonviolent resistance looks like.

As it turned out, the only break parents had from the robotics competition was during the kids’ project presentations. So while our kids’ team was sequestered with the judges, several other parents and I dashed outside to try to find the march. For safety reasons, march organizers didn’t announce the exact route ahead of time, but we were guessing that it would pass through the north part of downtown on 4th Avenue, just a few blocks from the Amazon building where we were.

c2uqj9zuqaaebqrWe did indeed find the march. As we got to the intersection of 4th Avenue and Virginia, police were blocking off the cross-streets. A line of officers on motorcycles assembled across the lanes and slowly moved forward to clear the route for the marchers. Then twenty or more bicycle officers arranged themselves along the curbs. Finally, the leaders of the march, a group of Native American drummers, approached, quietly singing. We couldn’t hear them very well, because a news helicopter was hovering directly above, but the sight was stunning. As the front of the march got nearer, the bicycle cops began slowly pedaling along, making sure the way was clear.

Something unique about the Seattle march was its intentional silence. To me, this was one of its most moving features. The marchers acknowledged the cheers of those of us on the curb by bobbing their signs and sometimes waving to us. It was terrifically powerful, on several occasions, to make eye contact with a marcher and exchange a smile of solidarity.

Here’s a sampling of the photos I took showing some of my favorite signs:

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I was disappointed that my son couldn’t be present to see this demonstration of peaceful collective engagement. The participation of so many children, both in the march and as supporters, made a powerful statement of its own. But afterwards, when I showed him the video footage I took on my phone, he watched with fascination as the marchers approached and streamed by.

Soon the march stretched to the farthest visible points both up and down 4th Avenue. Two news helicopters continued to hover over the march, filming. Shortly after we tore ourselves away and hurried back to the Amazon building, local news reported that the front of the march was arriving at its destination near the Space Needle, and marchers were still leaving from the starting point in Judkins Park, 3.6 miles away. (Here’s a time-lapse video of the entire Seattle march from King 5 News.) Organizers had planned for 50,000-75,000 marchers to participate; the actual number swelled to some 130,000, or possibly as many as 175,000. In spite of this overwhelming turnout, the entire demonstration was peaceful and unmarred by violence.

Before witnessing the march, I confess that I’d been slowly losing ground to despair. Since the election, my thoughts about the state of the world have vacillated between “bleak” and “OMFG we’re in 1936 Germany, panic NOW.” I’ve even considered warning my son–a gentle and loving boy who adores his gentle and loving father, and who, though he has promising talents in golf, basketball, and robotics coding, wants most of all some day to be a dad–I’ve considered warning him that to protect himself from despair, to raise his chances of surviving an increasingly likely environmental apocalypse, and to safeguard his own heart, he probably should not have children.

The march turned me around. Just being close to it, experiencing it from the curb, electrified me, restarted my stalled courage. It gave me my hope back. Hope, you see, is one area I’ve always been deficient in. Hope is a nutrient I don’t seem to have been born with much of, or which I depleted very young, and no amount of research, theology, or reassuring news analysis has sufficiently supplemented it for me. But witnessing the march gave me a potent and energizing dose.

This isn’t to say that things aren’t going to get really bad. Clearly, things are bad already, and we’re only at Day 4. But I see, now, having glimpsed the power of our joining together, how we can resist.

Recent Publications

I’m dimly rousing myself after the election to express my gratitude that three poems of mine have been published this fall. My thanks to Christopher Nelson, editor of Green Linden Press, for today’s launch of Issue 2 of Green Linden, which until last spring specialized in poetry reviews and interviews, and is now a full-service poetry biannual. The inclusion of my poem among those by several of my poetry idols gives me a much-appreciated jolt of joy.

And my belated thanks are due to editors Jennifer Givhan and Molly Sutton Kiefer of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, who selected my prose poem “Amanda Bubble Composes a Fifty-Word, Third-Person Contributor Bio for an Anthology on the Theme of Vulnerability” to include in Issue 3.5. And to Caron Andregg and Ruth Foley, editors of Cider Press Review, for including my poem “I Anticipate a Metamorphosis” in Issue 18-4.

I’m grateful for the work and support of all these editors and for the vibrant, lovely journals they produce. Each issue creates a community with the writers and readers–including, I hope, you!–who join in. That community, and the writing itself, are solace and motivation.