The Day After Thanksgiving

Day After Thanksgiving

This razor-bright morning, I hike the South Fork
of the Nooksack to see the salmon running.
Up from oceans, following some scent of granite,
they’ve sliced their way to these beds of gravel
to spawn and die. More are dead, now,
than swimming, in the water sharded at its edges
by ice, their brown and silver bodies piling
where the steep stream pools.

I hike higher, up a logging road, its skin graveled
with small stones like salmon scales
and layered with copper leaves:
fish-shaped, blade-like, their centers rotting,
serrated edges glinting and steely with frost.

I rest at the edge of a clear cut and watch
the peaks of the Twin Sisters tear
their slow bite into the sky–rock and snow
piercing the blue–and ponder how all this dying
puts a point on the tip of gratitude,
hooking in the throat like barb-cold air,
sharp like salt on the tongue.

By Jennifer Bullis
Originally published in Cascadia Review, April 15 2013. In Impossible Lessons, p. 53.

Upcoming Poetry Readings

In the next couple of months, I get to do three readings with Western-Washington poets. Next spring, I’ll get to do two more, and possibly four. These add up to almost higher than I can count, so I’ve added an “Upcoming Events” page to my blog so that I can keep track of dates during those long intervals during which my little pocket calendar gets lost in the stacks of drafts and manuscripts drifting around on my desks.

Here’s a preview of the three readings coming up soon:

Sunday, December 15: Ish River Poet’s Circle with Jane Alynn (and another poet TBA), Anchor Art Space, 216 Commercial Avenue, Anacortes, WA

Saturday, January 11: Reading with Kathryn Hunt, author of Long Way Through Ruin, at Village Books, 1200 11th Street, Bellingham, WA

Thursday, January 16: SoulFood Poetry Night with Bethany Reid, author of Sparrow, at Soul Food Coffee House, 15748 Redmond Way, Redmond, WA

Shortly, I’ll be posting more details about each of the poets I’ll  reading with. I’m excited to tell you about them!


AWP and the Anxiety of Non-Affiliation

On Halloween night, late, as the ghosts and zombies and fairy princesses were packing away their costumes and sinking into sugar-fogged sleep, I sat down at my computer and registered for next year’s AWP Conference. It’ll be in Seattle February 26-March 1, and since this national writing conference rotates through the Pacific Northwest only every six or so years, I don’t want to miss it. I’m excited to go to craft sessions, hear author readings, and browse the book fair that will take up two entire wings of the Seattle Convention Center.

Signing up was easy, except for one part. On the page instructing me to enter the information to be printed on my conference i.d. badge, I was asked to provide my “Affiliation.”

Now, I’ve been to a lot of professional conferences. In my two decades of teaching, I attended the MLA, the NCTE, and the CCCC:  the national conferences related to college literature, teaching English, and college composition, respectively. At all of those conferences, my “affiliation” was with either my grad school or, for the other 12 years, the community college where I was tenured. My “affiliation” was thoroughly, purely academic.

I resigned my teaching job when, the year after my son was born, I realized that I wasn’t able to manage both my full-time workload and my new full-time workload. Also, having no time to write, read, or exercise was making me crazy. Fortunate to be able to live on the income of my generous husband, I gave up my job, for a few years teaching very part time, and the past few years, not at all.

Untethering myself from academic life has taken a long time, and I’m still processing this separation between my academic identity and my personal identity. So the AWP i.d.-badge “affiliation” prompt raises the question all over again: who am I, now that I’m not connected to a school? If to “affiliate” is to “attach” to an institution as a child attaches to an adoptive parent (filium being Latin for “son”), then who is my professional family?

The prospect of leaving that line blank on my name badge is, frankly, a little terrifying. So I thought I’d ask you, blogfriends, for advice. In the comments, please list all that you think apply:

  1. “Unaffiliated.” End of story.
  2. “Free Range Poet”
  3. “Local Poet”
  4. “Poet with a Chapbook from MoonPath Press and Pretty Stoked About That”
  5. Badges? You don’t need no stinkin’ badges.
  6. “Institutionally Unattached”
  7. “Institutionally Unattached, But Don’t Back Away Like That; I’m Not Gonna Beg You for a Job”
  8. “Existentially Unattached and Kind of Anxious About It on Behalf of All Humanity”
  9. “Don’t Worry, Be AW-P”
  10. For crying out loud, Jennifer, get over yourself and enjoy the conference!
  11. “____________________” [Your suggestion here]

Your thoughts? And will I be seeing you, by any chance, in Seattle?