New Poems Up at Bellingham Review and Pontoon

I’m honored to have two poems published this month! “Amanda Bubble Crafts a New Creation Story” appears in Issue 71 of Bellingham Review; my thanks to former Editor-in-Chief Brenda Miller, current Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Paola Antonetta, former Managing Editor Ellie A. Rogers, and current Managing Editor Louis McLaughlin for including my poem. When you visit, please check out the gorgeous essay “He Worked as an Electrician. He Enjoyed Television. (His Obituary Was Plain.)” by Spokane poet Maya Jewell Zeller!

In addition, my poem “What Was Good about Going to Church” has been selected for this year’s issue of Pontoon, the journal of poems by Washington-state poets who submitted chapbook manuscripts to Floating Bridge Press. My thanks to everyone on the editorial committee at FBP! For the first time, Pontoon is now online, allowing wider access to readers. You can click to my poem from page 2 of the table of contents, but while you’re on page 1, check out Bellingham poet Susan J. Erickson’s amazing persona poem “Miss O’Keeffe Makes Pea Soup.” I hope you enjoy!

Episode 3 of Thinking on My Feet: Doc Bullis’s Virtual-Radio Trail Report (Early August)

This episode of Thinking on My Feet: Doc Bullis’s Virtual Radio Trail Report is brought to you by The Drought. Already famous for its results in California and the Southwest, The Drought has recently expanded operations to the Pacific Northwest, where it has successfully reduced the mountain snowpack by 78%.

Though I normally lump The Drought in with bad actors like Halliburton* and Monsanto*, today I thank The Drought both for its sponsorship of this episode and for its opening up a new-to-me trail. I’ve walked past it dozens of times in the past, but today I was able to see it for the first time, because the foliage normally concealing the entrance to this trail is withering.

*Not actual persons.

This trail is near the far end of my usual route. Since its beginning consists of about 50 feet of small granite stones, I named it the Rocky Start Trail. It passes through a grove of alders down to a small stream bed (currently dry), proceeds up the opposite bank through a mixed stretch of cedars and firs, and leads to a branch off the North-South Trail that I’d previously thought was a dead end. What this means, friends, is a loop trail! Now I can hike a two-hour-and-fifteen minute route shaped like a lollipop, or a tennis racquet, or a half note—no longer a one-way, out-and-back, linear, or snake-shaped route.

Speaking of snakes, let’s get to today’s Trail Report. I did indeed see a snake: garter, two feet long, frozen still, head held up half a foot off the ground, smack in the middle of the Middle Loop Trail. After recovering from my zero-at-the-bone moment,* I backed away, not wanting to scare the snake worse than the snake had scared me. It didn’t move, so I walked closer, very slowly, looking for a way around it to the side of the trail. The snake still did not move at all, apparently focused on something in the underbrush on the left side of the trail. I stepped slowly around it, then walked slowly down the trail beyond it, turning several times to look. It never moved. I can’t wait to check tomorrow to see if it’s still there!

*Not an actual Emily Dickinson sighting.  But here is one of my favorite Emily poems:

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him—did you not
His notice sudden is,
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your feet,

And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn,
But when a boy and barefoot,
I more than once at noon
Have passed, I thought, a whip lash,
Unbraiding in the sun,
When stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled and was gone.

Several of nature’s people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality.
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

–Emily Dickinson, #1096


Berry Report: Snowberries by the birdseed trunk are plumping. Rowan berries are drooping. Salal berries and huckleberries shriveled to nonexistent. Blackberries plentiful—ripening and sweetening nicely. Let’s hope the rain forecasted for two days from now will actually arrive (don’t tell today’s sponsor I said that) to plump the juice cells so that the berries will ripen before they shrivel in the heat.

Noises Heard: The quiet ticking sounds of GREEN HEMLOCK AND FIR NEEDLES FALLING TO THE GROUND. It’s dry out here, people. Scary dry.

Please stay tuned for Episode 4, in which I’ll go looking for that snake again!



Episode 2 of Thinking on My Feet: Doc Bullis’s Virtual-Radio Trail Report (Mid-June)

Welcome to the second episode of Doc Bullis’s Virtual Radio* Trail Report. Today’s episode is brought to you by Mystery Rot™, a subsidiary of 2015, The Hottest Year on Record.

* Not an actual radio.

Friends, allow me to tell you a little bit about my walking habit. My town—Bellingham, Washington—has an incredible wealth of trails. Not all of the area is pedestrian-friendly, but trails, and systems of trails, are numerous. With only a few miles of pavement stomping necessary, it’s possible to string together a whole day’s calm by rambling through interurban forests, undeveloped woodlands, and neighborhood networks. Some trails are in designated parks; others have been established through long habits of use by dedicated walkers.

For the 23 years I’ve lived in western Washington, I’ve attempted to maintain basic health and mental equilibrium by hiking several days a week.  (Some days I ride my horse or binge on tortilla chips instead. The former works very well, the latter not quite so much.) Daily walking, especially when I can be on the trail for an hour or more, is a way to derail my anxious thoughts, which otherwise steam-engine through my brain—thoughts I amplify if I sit at the computer intending to write but instead read news websites and despair about the rapidly worsening condition of our planet. When I get up and go outside, get on a dirt trail and move my legs, some kind of kinesthetic therapy takes place. I burn off the stress hormones—adrenaline and cortisol—induced by all the bad news, and replace some of my despairing, spinning, anxious thoughts with serene thoughts, creative ideas, and images of natural beauty.

Sharpie on paper, June 2015

Sharpie on paper, June 2015

I’ve been meaning to write about this natural beauty for some time. I’ve been slowly learning to draw and paint, following a parallel urge to create visual versions of what I find in these coastal Cascade lowlands and foothills.

My impulses to draw and paint have taken on additional urgency from the distress my local nature is currently experiencing. We on the west coast of North America are experiencing The Hottest Year on Record. Last winter, our mountains got just 22% of normal snowfall. Since spring, El Nino conditions have meant that most of the rainstorms usually saturating our landscape have bypassed us. It’s possible that this dryness will be prolonged, as part of a new pattern of regional heat and drought that are part of a changing global climate. The Pacific Northwest is hot, folks, and our forests are hurting.

I know this with a deep dread that feels different from my usual anxious dread. For years, I’ve been able to alleviate anxiety by taking myself to the woods. Now, the woods are in distress, and they are are distressing me back.

What am I going to do? I’m going to keep walking the trails. I’m going to tell you what I experience. I’m going to bear witness, to bring you words about the peril and the beauty I see.

So what did I see this week? Let’s get to the Trail Report.

Noises Heard:

  • Swainson’s thrushes along North-South Trail. Love those fluting, upward-spiraling notes! Apparently, the males use these songs to warn other males away from their nesting territories.
  • The sound of leaves falling. Whaaaa? Seriously: it’s only June, and with this year’s warm, early spring, the trees have gone all in on leaf production. Even on still days, blackened alder leaves—rotted from early heat? Some kind of fungal infestation? —slowly drift to the ground. Meanwhile, more alder leaves, big-leaf maple leaves, and cottonwood leaves continue to flourish and proliferate on every available stem.
Not actual huckleberries.

Not actual huckleberries.

Berry Update: Salmonberries done; thimbleberries ripe and delicious. Salal berries forming from heather-like buds, which appear to be fewer this year. Tiny green huckleberries forming. Elderberries plentiful: abundant and striking red throughout the woods.

Wildlife Sighted: Downy woodpecker on fir trunk along Upper Loop Trail. Douglas squirrel at Five Cedars One Nurse Log.

Wilddeath Sighted: Dead mole on North-South Trail; dead mouse on Maple Cathedral Trail. Not sure what to make of these deaths: no indications of predators. Are these further victims of Mystery Rot?

Thanks for listening, and please stay tuned for next week’s episode, in which I’ll be having another episode!

Chris Jarmick–Two Readings in Bellingham, September 26 & 28

Christopher Jarmick and NOT ALOUD

Christopher Jarmick and NOT ALOUD

Seattle-area poet Christopher Jarmick, who has a new book out with MoonPath Press, will be in Bellingham this Saturday night to read at Village Books, and again on Monday night for PoetryNight.

I know Chris from his excellent work organizing poetry events around Western Washington. He’s a lively and engaging presenter of his own fine poems, which are now gathered into a collection published by the same press as my chapbook.

MoonPath Press Editor and Publisher Lana Hechtman Ayers writes,  “Not Aloud presents some 30 plus years of Christopher J. Jarmick’s marvelous poetry. Jarmick’s thematic territory is expansive– family, relationships, the art of writing, philosophy, his patented poem starters, and much, much more. His language is musical, approachable, and memorable. His refreshing turns of phrases stand clichés on their heads: “The clouds/are not metaphors at all./ They hide the sky,/they get fat,/sometimes they burst,/but not with tears,/Mr. Tambourine Man,/just with rain.” Full of humor, acute observation, and deep emotion, Not Aloud is a collection you’ll want to return to again and again.”

Here are the relevant particulars for these Bellingham readings:

Saturday, September 26, 7:00 p.m.
Village Books
1200 11th St. in Fairhaven
Bellingham, WA


Monday, September 28, 8:00 p.m.
Bellingham Public Library
210 Central Avenue,
Bellingham, WA

Learn more about Chris and his poems at the MoonPath Press page and Facebook page for Not Aloud, as well as the book page on Chris’s blog. (While you’re there, check out the huge list of Western-Washington poetry events Chris publicizes on his home page. Lots of poetry throughout the region!)

I hope to see you at one or both of these readings!

Introducing “Thinking on My Feet, Doc Bullis’s Virtual-Radio Trail Report”

Welcome to Episode 1 of “Thinking on My Feet, Doc Bullis’s* Virtual-Radio Trail Report”

*Not an actual medical doctor.

This episode is the first of a ten-episode season of my new blog-based radio show, Thinking on My Feet. Here, you’ll find berry updates, wildlife sightings, and noises heard. Stay tuned as I spend Summer 2015 hiking local trails and attempting to self-heal. Along the way, we’ll appreciate natural beauty, consider eco-news from elsewhere on the Internet, and try to reconcile instances of metacognitive dissonance.

Since you’re reading this as digital text, you’re probably uncomfortably aware that you’re not listening to this trail report with your actual ears. “Jennifer,” you want to tell me, “your blog is not a radio. You haven’t given us a file we can listen to. Please stop deluding yourself and making us uncomfortable.” And I say, Please go along with me here. Embrace the synesthesia, the weird swapping of senses. I have to do this radio show in writing, to maintain my contact with the written word. I need visual images, and, if I join the 21st century soon and get a phone with a built-in camera as my family keeps urging me to do, will post some photos from the trail. I may even post—and here I give you fair warning—gratuitous pictures of my horse*. Mostly, I want to share with you the audio that plays in my head while I’m walking around.

*Not an actual trail horse.

And now, a word from our sponsor.

Thinking on My Feet is made possible by a grant from Solitude, The Balm to Introverts Everywhere ™.  Solitude is proud to introduce Thinking on My Feet’s Cast of Occasionally Recurring Characters: folks I encounter from time to time on the trail—some in person, some only in the form of clues they leave—who kindly refrain from engaging me in lengthy conversation.

Thinking on My Feet’s Cast of Occasionally Recurring Characters:

Pipe Guy. Early 20s, moderate beard. Sits on a mossy stump beside the junction of two neighborhood connector trails smoking blackberry tobacco, the scent of which makes me think of my long-departed maternal grandfather. Pipe Guy always hears me approaching from around the bend and, if the breeze isn’t carrying pipe smoke in my direction to alert me to his presence, kindly makes a preemptive remark about the weather so as not to startle me.

Labradoodle Guy. Late 60s. “Walks” two different Labradoodles on alternating days. Greater Labradoodle is blond, boisterous, off-leash; always jumps up and muddies my shirt. Lesser Labradoodle is sandy-brown, boisterous, also off-leash; always jumps up and muddies my pants. “Don’t worry!” shouts Labradoodle Guy from eighty yards down the trail. “He’s friendly!”

The Commuters. Two young men, possibly college students, wearing messenger bags. Bump through the woods on West Ridge Trail riding fixed-gear bikes (not mountain bikes) at high speed as though late for class. Always nod to me wordlessly without taking their eyes off the trail. They are concentrating on not wiping out.

Phone Lady. Mid-fifties, high-volume, patient. Phone Lady engages in cell-phone communication with her elderly mother, for whom she needs to repeat herself frequently. If I had to have phone conversations like that, I’d do it from the trail, too. Phone Lady always greets me Scots fashion, giving me a thumbs-up with her free hand.

Dog Groomer. Mystery character, known only by what s/he leaves on the trail: variously located tufts of dog hair. Hair is white with an orange tinge, medium-length, wooly, often in clumps straight from a dog brush. Judging by volume of hair, the dog is enormous.

Trail Builder. Slowly but diligently constructs new trails through dense woods. Not authorized but obviously skilled; willing to haul and hand-chip deadfall trees to make walkways through muddy areas (complete with 4” PVC culverts to channel water under). Appears to do a little work every day, though I have never seen him/her in action. Hypothesis: Trail Builder is motivated by desire to avoid walking on a stretch of noisy, foot-punishing, crusher-gravel trail built by the Parks Department a few years back. Sharing this motivation plus a love of exploring new footpaths, I appreciate Trail Builder’s work.

Weeder. I have never encountered Weeder in person; I have only seen evidence of her or his passing. Weeder digs up small specimens of non-native plants and leaves them to dry and die in the trail. Occasionally digs up native plants, causing me to puzzle over Weeder’s motivation. Maybe Weeder just likes to dig.

Feeder. Places birdseed on a stumps and feeds the squirrels in two different locations (Fallen Maple Log and 5 Cedars 1 Nurse Log). When I see a new pile of food set out, I’m always tempted to leave a note informing Feeder that feeding wild squirrels is counter to their survival: the squirrels could become dependent on human feeding; they may not teach their babies how to find food on their own; the overabundance of peanuts and sunflower seeds may discourage the squirrels from foraging for other foods they need to meet their nutritional needs, etc., etc. Interestingly, the squirrels in these two places are native Douglas squirrels (small, reddish-brown), not the larger, more-aggressive gray squirrels that have invaded much of the West. Is it possible that Feeder is intentionally (though misguidedly) supporting the Douglas squirrels against this encroachment on their habitat? Is it possible that Feeder is also Weeder, one person on a mission to purge this forest of non-native invaders? If so, why does Weeder-Feeder not go after the rapidly proliferating blackberry vines or English holly bushes in these woods? So many questions.

Flagger/Blazer. Possibly Trail builder; possibly multiple characters. Places various markers (spray-paint dots, colored-plastic surveyor’s tape) on tree trunks to designate trail routes, property boundaries, and who knows what else. Future utility lines? Loggers’ selections? Development plans? Flagger/Blazer is an ominous presence, hinting at changes coming to these woods.

Thank you for listening, and please tune in next weekend for Episode 2 of Thinking on My Feet, Doc Bullis’s Virtual-Radio Trail Report. Next time, I’ll have our first actual Trail Report, including Berry Update, Noises Heard, and Wildlife Sighted.



Tahoma Literary Review Reading at Elliott Bay Books July 23, 7:00 p.m.

!cid_0_28876465680_542034058747999009Tahoma Literary Review, edited by Kelly Davio and Joe Ponepinto, will host a reading at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company on Thursday, July 23, at 7:00 p.m. to celebrate the journal’s one-year anniversary and launch issue #4. Featured readers will include some of my fave Pacific Northwest poets!

One of my poems appeared in Issue #2 of Tahoma. Favorite poems in the new issue, #4, include one by Ronda Broatch, whose new collection is out from MoonPath Press; and a stunning 20-part poem, “A Geneology of the Word,” by Nickole Brown.


New Poem Up at Heron Tree Journal

I’m thrilled to have a poem of mine, “Amanda Bubble Recalls a Beautiful River Flowing Through Her Past (after William Stafford),” published this week at Heron Tree, an online journal collected in annual print volumes. My thanks to editors Chris Campolo, Sandy Longhorn, and Rebecca Resinski for choosing my poem, and for their work curating Heron Tree, which I’ve been enjoying as a subscriber for over a year now. Please have a look around the archives herehere, and here!