Poetry Marathon III

Dear friends, I’m challenged, excited, baffled, stumped, inspired, energized, disorganized, and not exactly sure if I’m in my right mind. I’m volunteering again to be a Tupelo Press 30/30 Poet for leap year! Perhaps it’s for the love, the challenge, the creation, the wonder—but probably not for the stress, the demand, the discomfort of sharing unfinished work. Regardless, in February 2024 I’ll be doing a marathon of writing 30 poems in 30 days for Tupelo Press. Your sponsorships will mean so much!

The countdown to February begins! Enjoy the poems of January 2024, and wait expectantly with me to see what the next month brings. All will be working poems—most in draft form—because no poem lands whole the day it emerges.

And this shivery newness/discomfort/vulnerability/possibility/strength is an integral part of growing as a creator. We never feel just one thing. But willingness to leap ahead is everything!

This Writing Train Chugging Along

Wildwrite* 15 minutes

(typed from handwriting)

It’s hard, abandoning my agenda for the page. Not knowing how it will all shake down.

I notice—whew! Thoughts of to-dos bursting in my thoughts like fireballs. How does one ignore a fireball?

I notice how simple this practice is, how good for my soul. It feels completely new and I realize I’ve been resisting actually doing it for some time now. Much easier to save for the class, do when I absolutely have to—

My train of thought goes off the rails** oh so easily. And when it is finally adjusted upright, all the kinks in the train car links worked out, this toy train balks at the crossings where it has to switch tracks—roll into the hands of another force.

Dream Kid. Big, giddy, dreamy-eyed. How do I know she’s not demented? How can I be sure she knows what she’s doing? I’ll just sit here looking shiny if you don’t mind, my little cowcatcher pointing down a track I’m scared to take. I’ll blow my whistle, look loud, look busy. But it’s a different country that direction—wild, uneven, dipping and twisting through ravines and around a mountain. I can’t know the bridge will hold.

If I stay where I am, I can feel oh so comfortable. I’ll check my email—maybe there will be an acceptance, a yes. Surely there will be some clear, even track that requires little fuel, few turns, low risk.

The wilds are calling.

A new way is calling. That says leave the drab, citified, normalized way. I want to do things—edit forever, muse over this verb, over that, clean my kitchen, clean my kitchen. Get my office together. Get my whole world together one safe paper clip at a time, and smile contentedly from the home station, a becalmed attendant in a pressed uniform who never goes anywhere. Let me stop pretending this is adventure.

Time to go.

 

*Wildwriting is 15 minutes of writing without outlining, drafting, forethought, or attention to “writing rules.” This wildwriting was not edited except I added a missing “e.” Note: publishable writing requires editing. This is not publishable writing and yet worthy in itself. Wildwriting prioritizes courage over refinement.

**I’m a train engineer for Halloween.

Your Needs Map

Watercolor & Ink, Christi Krug

 

Noticing my needs!  Plotting them on a map of my imaginary creative landscape.

What do I need? Vast territories of unstructured time, rivers of spark, plains of solitude, easterly reaches of space, the borderlands of challenge, mountains upon mountains of art, a sea of creative pals, a gulf of adventure, more lands of nature, southwest-y ideas, and a shore of mentors, not to mention a gargantuan lake of rest.

What do you need as a writer, artist, creator? So many writing women need time away, self-care, nurturing, friendship, and inspiration–which is why I created Wild Words Camp.

Your needs might be different, or similar.

What will it take, to do what you most want to do?

Imagine, paint, doodle . . . allow.

Your needs should be named. They should have a place in your world.

 

 

 

Wonder, Transformation, and Pain

Yesterday I met Sterling, a gifted memoir writer who has been learning to tell his story. I encouraged him to launch . . . not just a writing life, but a reading life.

When we read, we connect, absorb, grow. So much more becomes available to us than when it’s just us, with our limited experiences, our habitual words.

Sterling asked, then, for my stories.

What were the times you struggled in your life? Did you write about those? What about broken relationships, depression—dark times?

Yes, I wrote about those, I said.

(Those stories became fiction, or poems, much of the time.)

I told Sterling I would share some dark adult moments encapsulated in story.

I’ve been writing about my traumatic childhood for decades now, such as my recent piece at The Good Life Review. After all these years, there’s distance, safety. But I love that Sterling challenged me to share things hard, recent, heartbreaking.

Oh how I love these brave writers in the world!

 

 

Brain Creativity Training and Nature

According to Bas Korsten at the Harvard Business Review, spending time in nature is one of the best ways to train your brain to be more creative.

Because you can!

And you must.

Contrary to what we often hear, creativity is not inborn, but a tendency toward which we can train our neural networks. When we slow down and take in nature, we are getting into step with what makes our brain function best: elements that have supported heightened awareness and sharp focus and intelligence for thousands of years: fresh air, light, beauty, the rhythm of the tide or the whispering of the trees, and even the chemical compounds produced by forests, which have a positive effect on the brain.

We don’t increase intelligence through technology. In fact, studies show detrimental effects on focus and attention. By contrast, our brains function more like plants than machines—as Amanda Gefter points out at Nautilus.

If you’re feeling separated from your creative life, find a way to let nature speak to you. Go to beauty. Take time out to walk or pamper a plant or drive to a park or meadow or mountain or shore.

This brain training might be the best fun you’ve had in days.

The Real Danger of Social Media – for Artists and Writers

Or What I Learned About My Addiction

Hal mentioned how hard it is to be creative these days—but he’s on Facebook every day making puns with friends’ posts.

Ben is alluring on Instagram—that smile, and all that transparency, sharing antics of his kids—no wonder his followers love him.

But Hal and Ben are writers and artists who never have time for their creative lives anymore, and feel dried up inside, have no ideas, can’t find their passion.

I have many clients like Hal and Ben. Especially during the pandemic, it was hard to find that inner grit—creating alone, in quiet. It was easy and convenient to share on social media channels.

As someone who spent one to two hours on social media for years, I understand. In my own social media forays, I had a wonderful time. (Well, some of the time.*) I was engaging in most excellent conversations. I was spreading word about what I do, and my business, and this was of utmost importance—right?

When honest with myself, I had to admit my attention span was tiny, my novel-reading been replaced with scrolling, and that I’d taken an unnecessary, sometimes unhealthy detour on my creative journey.

I still get caught in that loop. Now I have a bit more understanding about how it happens.

It starts innocently.

I think, “Oh, what a beautiful shot of these sanderlings running in the waves and wouldn’t this make a wonderful post?” Or I think, “I should let my followers** know about my recent (trip, event, published story, green smoothie). So I post on Instagram or Facebook or Linked In and, boomerang-like, check to see, first, how many responded, and second, who responded and then I think, “Maybe I’ll get a better response if I . . . ” or, “Maybe they’d like . . . ”

As a creator, I’m losing touch with what I want most deeply to create FOR MYSELF.

There’s nothing inherently evil going on here, but I’m obliterating the time and space and mental energy I need for:

self-listening

pondering

inkling

exploring

discovering

brooding

getting curious

absorbing

I’ve pushed my inner creator aside while an imaginary audience takes up residency. I’m spending my writerly-artist currency on what other people want—not even that, but what I imagine other people want, which is all a guessing game.

Doing so, I lose touch with that free, original artist, the Dream Kid.

Daily I have to choose away from this, feeling the tension of my choices. I do love sharing—but it has to be prioritized far below that sweet creative absorption which only happens when I make psychic room for it.

I think of my creative life as concentric circles, and the inner rings are the most private, quiet, least shared—but the most rewarding, too.

It’s about your purest passion.

 

 

*The nature of addiction is that the brain finds a hit that isn’t one hundred percent all the time, such as a slot machine. When it’s hit-and-miss, the brain gets an extra chemical boost, and engages and re-engages with fervor.

**Think about it. Isn’t there something creepy about craving “followers”? Would you follow you? Do you listen to yourself? Are you worth listening to? It’s enough to work on my most important relationship, the spiritual connection between self and the Divine.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Marathon – Will I Make It?

When I applied to be a Tupelo Press 30/30 Poet for February and was accepted (for the second year, hurray!), I had no idea that my client and work schedule would be exploding—in a good way—making it rough to write a poem every day.  I’d made a commitment. I had to be okay with rough.

The writing process was distilled down to capturing impressions. It became a matter of: “just feel and go.”

It’s exciting to discover that no matter how blank my mental slate is, something will always arise. No matter how spent I feel, I can find one more drop of energy and reach for the pen once more.

Yesterday’s poem was born out of words within thirteen inches of where I was sitting. (I was too tired to go digging around any further.) I got curious, snapped photos of things – the label of my slippers, the tag on the heater, my mug, my lipstick. I created a poem from these random words, thirteen in all.

In the home stretch, I’m 88 percent to my fundraising goal for Tupelo Press. Will you consider supporting me? Three days to go, and I’ve burned so much mental and creative energy, and I feel joy of knowing I’m bringing good things into the world through the amalgamation of a literary nonprofit and the work of my heart.


 

Having formatting issues, so this is just a piece of today’s poem.

Being Thirteen

Thirteen Words to Hand Within a Thirteen-Inch Radius

 

Withdrawn

 

How the camp

counselor de-

scribed

me in her letter.

Granna chewed

on the word.

“Why weren’t you

friendly?” Granna

wore reading

glasses steeped in

White Shoulders perfume.

Peered at me as if

the letter were a

report card, which

it wasn’t,

merely a concerned adult

noting a child

who was quiet—

too quiet.

Please pay attention.

 

Dear

 

How Mother began

every letter from the

hospital. Also a term

of endear-

ment I never heard from

anyone real but her.

June and Ward

Cleaver used

it for each other.

 

Foams

 

at the mouth. How you

know to stay

away from the bloodhound

loping behind

the chain link fence.

 

Transmission

 

went out of my ‘69

Corona six years

later, but my friend

the mechanic poured

jug after jug of

fluid under the hood,

into a tinny, airy engine

so light you could see

the street underneath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Marathon! A Month of Writing Poems

Dear friends, I’m challenged, excited, baffled, stumped, inspired, energized, disorganized, off and running in the month’s marathon of writing 30 poems in 30 days for Tupelo Press. Your sponsorships mean so much! Enjoy the poems of my fellow marathoners, or scroll to see what landed on other days. They are working poems—most in draft form—because no poem lands whole the day it emerges.

Here’s my Day 9 poem . . . .

 

Pigs in a Blanket

At the IHOP

silver-quarter horse in the lobby—

Giddyup! Pat the shining mane.

Get down it’s time for breakfast.

Sun glows giddy amber and cherry

through glass jugs of table syrup.

Grandma Mimi—Isn’t this fancy?—

orders for Mother, Theodore, and me.

Your mother’s doing much better.

Probably we won’t have to stay

with Grandma Mimi like we did last year.

 

Monday

Mother won’t roll out of bed.

I pull a sock soft and wheezy with dust

from under my twin bed, doing things I don’t know how

while Mother drools on her pillow—

pills on her nightstand, numbers by the phone.

I go looking and looking for a shirt,

the gruel of the day.

 

Tuesday

At the end of every line, lunch, recess.

Unchosen to bat, run, catch, kick.

Bitter as the thin skin of the red apple I eat for breakfast.

 

Wednesday

Late to school, a bad time to walk in,

heads turning, teachers frowning,

I wait on the swings for lunchtime

spooning the porridge of loneliness.

 

Thursday

Theodore doesn’t bother eating,

walks out with math book,

hand-me-down shirt dragging its tail.

I shake down the rattle of cereal with no milk.

 

Friday

Log Cabin syrup on Wonder Bread

kind of like french toast.

Last drops sweet like sugar all the sugar all the sugar.

Find dirty pants, wear those.

 

Saturday

Lincoln Logs on the floor.

Breakfast an idea forgotten in the tall stack of the day,

toppled.

 

Sunday

Grandma Mimi says it quiet, like other tables shouldn’t hear.

Doing better, aren’t you, Marilyn? 

Mother’s hand halfway to her mouth,

ruffly egg white on her fork.

Theodore pokes his over-easy.

It pops and runs orange yellow.

My plate. I unfold the blanket.

Three brown-pink sausages, safe together,

hot, close, stuck.

Roll out of bed, piggies.

I pick up the syrup and pour, drowning all.

 

 

 

Saying Yes in 2023

Lighthouse - site of Write at the Light retreat

YES

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out—no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.
—William Stafford, from The Way It Is

The title of the above poem, YES, is my word for the year, inspired by the yes’s of 2022.

The nonprofit, Centrum, said yes to my application for a residency as an emerging literary artist. Every morning in October, as a ferry coasted in, I poured out my heart on paper while overlooking the sunrise on Admiralty Bay in Port Townsend.

My biggest YES from my experience was reframing my roles.

When I left on September 30, I was a coach who writes.

When I returned on November first, I was a writer who coaches.

I said YES to scheduling writing. I said YES to a new writing office. I said YES to creating quality time for stories, poems, and novels, rather than squeezing writing into spare moments. I saw that my energy and enthusiasm and joy would benefit every writer and creator I work with.
I learned to say YES to finishing a story rather than first answering an email. To quit wasting time on social media. To say YES to what I love, rather than something Instagram fans might like.

I braved rejection. I relaxed ideas of how my house should look, how I should celebrate Christmas, and whether I’m being “responsible.” I chose to be responsible to my most personal, creative, and spiritual goals, and in turn, to let this responsibility flow out into the world.

I found balance despite the discomfort of doing things differently.

I witnessed your YES’s, too. In Clark College classes both live and virtual, Zoom sessions short and long, a Vancouver women’s workshop, a stunning group of Master class writers, and in the blossoming Mastermind writers’ series. I enjoyed hundreds of awe-striking one-to-one sessions with phenomenal writers.

I feel grateful not just to be your coach, but to be one of you.

Wild Words Camp in July, along the Siuslaw River North Jetty, was a landmark event. Thank you to the writers who were part of the longest and most rustic adventure I’ve ever led: three nights leading the way to YES, unfolding in vulnerability, authenticity, trust, and community.

Thank you for showing your power and creativity at Wild Words Retreat in August at serene Siltcoos Lake, where fantasy stories mingled with southern roots on an old river dock in the fog. We kayaked, hiked to the beach, and journaled in sun and wind by the waves.

I felt awe leading your December adventure of Write at the Light at Heceta Head Lighthouse. We climbed forest hills, combed beaches, and witnessed night beams of the lighthouse sweeping through mist over craggy ocean cliffs and velvety trees. Toasty beside our Victorian-Christmas fireside, we shared darkness and light.

We writers say YES when we boldly take time for ourselves or our work. Whenever we sit with pages and laptops and notebooks. Every time we listen to each other, admire what we’re reading, or treat ourselves to adventures, classes, cohorts, and coaches.

Without guarantees, but with a full heart, I’m saying YES to whatever is next, for me and for you.

Don’t Leave the Beach!

 

I can’t believe it’s been nine months since I moved to the Oregon Coast. Some adjustments have been huge, some small. One thing that’s changed: all my jacket pockets are lined with sand.

When I walk the beach, the sun gleams on frills of incoming tide. Waves ebb, revealing sunset striations of shells. Driftwood branches twist like the elegant limbs of dancers. The rocks are warm and curious in their smooth, odd shapes. I stoop, turn a stone in my hands, stand breathing.

Can’t resist filling my pockets.

Then I get home and empty my pockets. The rocks are ordinary, dull, flat rocks, and the shells are all broken, and the driftwood is riddled with knotholes, leaking grit all over the floor.

What happened?

I left the beach.

It’s the same with our art. When you or I absorb ourselves in wonder, relaxation, musing, and breath, we recognize the beauty we are holding. But then we walk away, removing ourselves to a harsher light. We set down our ideas, shake our heads and say, “What was I thinking? That idea (story, painting, poem) isn’t special. It’s a waste of time.”

Being a brilliant artist seems to require technique or talent or something we haven’t got.

Not true.

Being brilliant is this:

Staying on the beach.

You can’t sustain passion for writing or creating if you are hurrying yourself along to states of obligation and judgment. Away from the beach, away from the rapture.

I’ve learned how to help myself and others get back to the beach—figuratively, as well as literally.

We can experience breath and ocean, a salt breeze, a stone sparkling. We can fall in love again with our own way of seeing the world.

Don’t leave the beach! Join me in taking time out this summer, a little time every day, a little more time every week, or perhaps a deeper plunge on a retreat. Relish your deepest ways of being. Notice and collect all the beautiful things worth keeping.

Why Be a Rockstar? Why Get Published?

I was at Willamette Writers when first introduced to the writing of William Stafford two decades ago. The poems seemed understated and bland, and I was hoping the speaker would move onto a sexier topic. I have to chuckle, because now Stafford is my favorite poet, his beautiful, spare language full of music and zesty truths. Sexiness at its most elemental.

I stumbled upon this video of the poet (who died before I met him).

Stafford reads “First Grade,” which reminds us of what it is to be children conflicted about performing.

Stafford, the acclaimed Oregon poet laureate, then tells about: writing a poem about garlic for a free dinner. Getting published in some unremarkable high school newspaper. Incidental places where his work found a home.

This great soul found joy in getting published, wherever his work was welcomed. The giddiness he feels over these little wins is evident. Just look at that grin.

No haughtiness, no self-consciousness, no ego.

I had to admit that somehow, I had come to be deeply suspicious of my own desire to get published. I began leaving it out of the equation.

“Oh, that’s just prideful and conceited. You’re a show-off,” I told myself.

I lost touch with that child inside who is just so happy and proud about what she is able to do. “I made something! Look! I’m sharing it with the world!”

What could be purer, sweeter, or more fun?

If you’ve relegated “getting published” to the rubbish heap of selfish dreams, think again. It’s not about showing off, but showing up as the rockstar who is enjoying her place in the glittery lights for the sheer, humble sense of fulfilling her purpose.

This impulse to share our talent is something good. Brenda Ueland says writing is “not a performance but a generosity.”

I was able to sort out what was selfish and what was beautiful. I am grateful to William Stafford for showing me with his smile, what the difference is.

If you’d like to take the next step toward getting short writing published, join me for Get Published class at Clark College July 11 & 12, 2022, on Zoom.

 

 

Get Published in 2022!

Class: Get Published in 2022
New dates: Monday and Tuesday, March 7 & 8, 6:30 – 8:30 pm PST

Want to publish a short story, flash fiction, or poem? Time to learn a little strategy, perhaps? I love teaching this mini-seminar for Clark College—it’s completely different from most of my classes, where we concentrate on the generative creative process and don’t worry about the outcome – namely how to publish. This time, we get right to it. Here’s where to look, how to prepare your manuscript, and the nuts and bolts of submitting.

We’re going to be focusing on short works, and how to find publishers for them. It’s a deep dive, lots of fun, and rich with information you can put to use immediately. It’s live on Zoom, with low pressure and high support for each participant.

Here is the link at Clark College Community and Continuing Education!

 

 

Update: 30 Poems in 30 Days

Dear Friends:

Taking part in the 30/30 Project began with the thrill of accountability and the challenge to daily arrange and rearrange my poem pieces like a secret tray of Scrabble letters in a game, anticipating my next (hopefully!) brilliant move.

I could not have made a start without daily journal practice. Poems came in flashes and sparks. I walked my beach trail in the rain on February 1, acquiring new boots which brought to mind boots of the past. I loved stumbling upon these memories and parallels. “Rubber Boots I” and “Rubber Boots II” emerged. “Sally,” is my first villanelle.

The other thing that happened was that J entered into the next phase of house renovation, and this meant taking down, for sanding and painting, each and every door in our home. Which meant writing poems without solitude, conflicted by appreciation and frustration, working through the chipped paint of the mind. The poems: “Unhinged,” and “Just Let Me Back into the Damn Bedroom.”

Holed up in the cubby-like laundry room, I “found” a poem that recalled a volatile relationship of thirty-five years ago—a validating discovery, “OCD.”

Then I misunderstood the 30/30 instructions and posted outside the guidelines, which brought correction. Though completely mild, the experience threw me into a tailspin, pricking the old me, always exceedingly careful to follow every rule. I had to laugh at my ego, “Waiting to Be Discovered,” another poem. And the gig was up: “Sneak.”

Meanwhile, winter showers melted into glorious sunshine, and J and I experienced many gorgeous adventures. We hiked above a lighthouse to the barking of sea lions, and walked daily to the river jetty, eyed by harbor seals. We tunneled into woods, emerged onto crashing shores, gasped at molten sunsets that gobsmacked us for language. (The double haiku, “Dusk.”) Which brings me to today’s poem, in which I don’t feel I deserve this amazing life and landscape (Day 11: “What They Don’t Tell You About Paradise.”)

The demand to write a poem each day has made it hard to work on short stories (and woe to my novel and nonfiction book, relegated to Procrastination Purgatory), but hurray for the prose-poem/flash piece I wrote for a short inspiring class by the amazing writer and teacher, Sherri Hoffman.

Most days I start my poem by 8 or 9, leave it for several hours, then scramble to revise or perhaps just complete the draft, by 7 or 8:30 pm . . . (it’s due by 9 pm)! There have been many moments of panic and harry. (I’m not sure if I can use harry as a noun here, but there you go.)

It’s constantly there: the awareness that I need to do more, learn more, try more. I’m floored by the talented poets in my company. It’s all I can do to keep from total intimidation some days. If you haven’t explored all the poets and their poems, you’re in for a marvelous treat.

Thank you for the soul-sustaining messages. They’ve made me feel blessed and connected. The fact I am more than halfway to my fundraising goal makes me marvel. Many of you have donated even while experiencing financial constraints. This is humbling.

I am inspired by partnership, and am learning so much. I’m delighted by this Tupelo Press opportunity to participate in the literary arts.

Thank you.

Day One: Writing Marathon

Here I am, Day One!

There’s so much mental activity that goes with “putting your work out there.” I notice it’s not the work – my notebook has been scribbled in daily, and it opens with ease every morning like a friend comfortable to share with me this old habit. But a raw poem is a space just for me, and it’s a bit weird when I invite others to come and look at it, one step removed from “scribble” by having it typed  and “framed” at Tupelo Press.

Today’s poem, “Knife,” began this morning with slicing an orange – a Cara Cara, to be exact, with the Petite Carver, to again be exact.

I hope you enjoy it!

And while you’re at it, please enjoy the work of eight wonderful fellow poets who are marathon-ing alongside me, writing 30 poems in 30 days for the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project!

 

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