When I read a poem or a novel, I wonder about the creative process. What was the inspiration? How many re-writes. Who edits? When is it complete?
Just as Summer blew hot breath on Bellingham, poets Luther Allen and Judy Kleinberg presented SpeakEasy 11: Poet’s Mind: Concept & Process.
Who could ask for more? A cool breeze off the bay, perhaps but not a better line up or enthusiastic audience. This is what we wanted, the poem and the process. Each poem was projected on a large screen so the audience could see/read the words as the poet read.
I was so engaged in listening that I forgot to take photos of the actual performance. The evening began with Matthew Brouwer, just back in town from a poetry tour. His poem “Ode to a Small Town” made me think he’d just been to Fondis, Colorado. He hadn’t but the words captured the feeling of the fading past of our industrial and rural heritage.
Susan J. Erickson read “Casa Azul”, one of her Frida Kahlo poems in a series about women. When this is available as a chapbook, be sure to grab a copy. You won’t want to miss Sue’s well woven words and perceptions of famous women. She spoke of the writing, the editing and re-editing with her writing group and then with professional poets until the piece gleams, a gem well faceted. Sue said “It takes a village to write a poem.” (I have the good fortune to be in a critique group with Sue.)
I’d never heard Ryler Dustin before but I’m a fan now. His poem “Poorly Possessed” took me into the image not only of place but of the heart. He showed the re-write from the original to the final version.
I’ve known Jeanne Yeasting socially for years. She knocked my socks off with her prose poem. Her stage presence is strong, her poetry inviting us to consider another possibility.
Luther Allen, the man behind the SpeakEasy Poetry series, read a sparse, tanka-esque poem “Spring.” He shared his process of reduction to capture feeling and image.
The artist and poet who helps produce the SpeakEasy series is J.I. Kleinberg. I woke up thinking about how Judy works this morning. She writes “found” poems, words tucked within paragraphs or newspaper articles or magazine stories, words in a vertical connection rather than horizontal. She explained the process and showed pictures of tiny word groupings that eventually tumble together into poetry.
Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson is another poet I was not familiar with and I was fascinated by her dedication to a poetry project of writing a poem every day for a month in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Makes me think I might do that with the Lightcatcher.) Her poem “Other Lovers’ Letters” was engaging. I heard it one way and then when she talked about the process, I saw at least two more interpretations.
Caleb Barber, another poet new to me, is a writer I’ll look for in the future. His poem “A Morning at Adrift” caught me. His reading style is strong, and I just wanted to hear more.
I’ve met Sheila Sondik several times and heard her read. Last night I was captivated by her dedication to a poetry chapbook of “found” poems written from the novel “The Yearling.” The copying, cutting, pasting, and rearranging of words into the poem “A Thin Green April” made me hold my breath.
Nancy Pagh closed the evening with “Oars”. I heard some people say they were attending this event just to hear her. Now I know why. But when she said she didn’t keep previous copies of poems, that she crumples paper and tosses it in a wastebasket, I was shocked. No. Some great word combos may be going to the dump. Wait. Don’t do that I wanted to shout. However, I did speak to her after the performance and she advised me to do it. I shook my head. The refusal prompted her to give me another chance. “Here. Try it. Throw it away.” She crumpled the poem she’d just read and it handed me. You think I threw it away? Nope. It’s sitting by my laptop right now, all waded up and ready for trash. My cat actually tried to nab it this morning. It has a few teeth marks. No, I won’t let the cat chew it (he is inclined). I’m going to “borrow” a line from Nancy’s poem and race away into my own world of creation where I will carefully keep every copy of the re-writes, dated and where I read it at what venue.
The diversity of style, concept, process and presentation inspires me and settles my inner critic a bit. Just keep on writing, in my own style, with my own obsessions and limitations. It’s what makes for good entertainment.