You are a winner! 

Following an unscientific but honest drawing — I closed my eyes and picked a name from my Women Writers Box — I am happy to announce the winner of The Voluptuary by Paulann Petersen. 

And the winner is . . .

Jill Hardin

Thanks to all for playing, reading and writing.

Don't let the poetry love end with this drawing. Purchase The Voluptuary here.

Learn more about Paulann Petersen, Oregon's Poet Laureate, here and here.



Thankful Thursday: Hey kiddo!

Happiness is not what makes us grateful.

It is gratefulness that makes us happy.

— David Steindle-Rast


It's Thankful Thursday!

Gratitude. Appreciation. Praise.

Please join me in a weekly pause to appreciate the people, places & things that bring joy.

This week, I am thankful for:

Kiddo, as a term of endearment

Phone calls with family

Invigorating exercise

Epsom salt baths

My coffee, conversation & play-with-words friend

Insurance companies that pay their bills (yes, this actually happens!)

The low light of autumn afternoon

The word simper 

Genuine smiles

Hush, as in reverence


It's Thankful Thursday! What are you thankful for today?


Fast Five with Paulann Petersen

We write to discover, to define

— moment to moment to moment —

who we are, who we are becoming.

This happens as we write.

Because a few direct questions can offer insight, I'm happy to present Fast Five — short interviews with my favorite writers. Life may be short but who doesn't have time for five questions — and a chance to win a great book?  (To win, simply post your name and contact info in the comments section. See details below).

Paulann Petersen, Oregon’s Poet Laureate, is a former high school teacher and author of five poetry collections and four chapbooks. She has led workshops and given readings in hundreds of places — from Powell's in Portland to Omsania University in India — and in nearly every nook and cranny of Oregon. A Portland native, she is a member of Friends of William Stafford and organizes the annual Stafford birthday readings. Petersen’s most recent book is The Voluptuary, published in 2010. 

You are an accomplished poet and teacher, and now Oregon's esteemed poet laureate. What do you know now that you didn't know when you first started writing poems?

I know now what I couldn't have possibly known when I began writing poems: how the process itself would buoy and sustain and inform my life.  We write to create ourselves, to discover, to define — moment to moment to moment — who we are, who we are becoming. This happens as we write. Not until I was immersed in the process could I begin to realize its potent effect.

You've been called a writer of embodied poetics, and have said, "I believe in body poems, poems that rise from the body."  Would you please elaborate?

A poem is a creature of sound. A poem comes to us, all poems come to us, through the oral tradition. Yes, a poem has a certain life as mere text on a page. But that life as text is only a fraction of the poem's complete life. A poem can't assume its complete life until it's been given voice.   

A poem has a sound form, it's comprised of a sequence and combination of sounds. A poem has musical devices. A poem has kinetic energy. A poem has risen from the physicality of its maker, and it speaks to the physicality of a listener.

For me, writing a good poem means writing an embodied poem.

You've written five full-length poetry books and taught hundreds of classes. What makes a poem work?

Sound form. Compression. Line integrity. Unpredictability — a little or a lot. A sense of incipient recklessness. A sense of conveying something that's coded in the blood. These make a poem work.

A good poem is a vehicle for transformation. It transforms the listener/reader as she or he hears or reads it.  A good poem, in the process of its making, transforms the poet.

Of all your poems, which is your favorite? Why?

Hmmmmm. I avoid hierarchies when I can. Vertical structures are dicey at best. (Best. There's one of those vertical structure words!) So picking a favorite poem: that's a dicey proposition. But there are two poems that I read frequently when I'm giving readings. And both of them sonically and conceptually feel right to me, even after repeated readings. They are among a group that feel like embodied poems, time after time.  "Appetite"  and "Bloodline." 


The moon is wet nurse
to roses. She suckles
each soft-mouthed poppy.

Blame her for menses.
Rail at her for the craving
to binge and purge.

Please her when you choose
to delay the day for planting,
biding your time
until night has fattened
her silver torso. Praise her
when the fleck of seed
poked down into damp dark
takes hold and swells.

Any girl-child is always
her offspring.

Upbraid her for your daughter's
sass and door-slams,
that hot hurry to be what most
differs from you.

Long ago, the moon decided
on a pathway against the route
stars take. No one else
would dare to walk
the black sky backward.

- Paulann Petersen

I'm a collector of words. What are your favorites?

I'm smitten with noun lists. I use them when I'm teaching writing workshops (workshops designed to generate new writing from participants). One of the noun lists I give to participants contains nouns I took from my own work. I often remark that I couldn't have a noun list that didn't contain blood, magpie, magnolia, ink, salt, skin and moon. 

Bonus Question: Is there something distinct about an Oregon poet? or Oregon poetry?

Oregon poetry, like Oregon itself,  is characterized by remarkable variety.

Oregon is mountains, ocean, high desert, rain forest. It's the hotsprings in Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, the Church of Elvis in downtown Portland, pelicans on Klamath Lake, herons in oaks Bottom on the Willamette. Oregon is abundance; it's variety, vast and gorgeous. Our state teaches its poets inclusiveness and gratitude. Oregon encourages a wide embrace, and its poetry does indeed have a very wide embrace.

Another distinction: my bet is that there are, given our total population, as many good poets per capita in Oregon as anywhere on earth.

Meet Paulann

In Waldport, Oregon
Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 2pm
Waldport Community Center, 265 NW Hemlock St.

In Medford, Oregon
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Oregon Book Fair

See more events on Paulann's website.

Win this book!

To win The Voluptuary by Paulann Petersen, add your name and contact info in the comments section below. Feeling shy? Email me, add 'Book Drawing" in subject line:

Your name will be entered in a drawing, and the winner announced on Monday, October 17, 2011.




Thankful Thursday: All the small things

Today I live in the quiet, joyous
expectation of good.

— Ernest Holmes

Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff, they say.
Do give thanks, for every small thing, they say.

So, is the small stuff a pebble in the shoe, or a flower in the sidewalk crack?

It's all attitude, in gratitude and in life. On this Thankful Thursday, I share my appreciation for the small things:

How to Make A Living As A Poet
The fact that this book even exists makes me happy. The inspired ideas (poet-in-hotel residence, blurb-for-pay) and author interviews are quirky and fun. And the author, Gary Glazner, founded the Alzheimer's Poetry Project, so he clearly has a good heart.



Killer horoscopes
I've had some poetic and powerful astrology lines this week:

Go to a park and gawk.

You could lead a beautiful revolution, if you wanted to.

The more you indulge, the worse you'll feel.

(After reading the above-mentioned book, it occurs to me that I would be an excellent horoscope writer. In fact, I've written a squall of horoscope poems. Want your own? Zip me a line.)

Trader Joe's Oatmeal Cookie Recipe
Found on the back of the oatmeal bag, this recipe is fantastic, and it fits all my baking criteria:
- Cheap
- Easy
- Produces a gluten-free treat without sandpaper texture or cardboard taste.

I love a deal, and I love clothes, so it's only natural that I love a great second-hand store. This week my $10 fashion find is small red checks with three-quarter sleeves. This could easily go fashion disaster so I'll minimize the bumpkin with heavy doses of camel or black — and call it country-modern.


It's Thankful Thursday! Gratitude. Appreciation. Praise. Please join me in a weekly pause to appreciate the people, places & things that bring joy. What are you thankful for today?


Lift a line

Go ahead, lift that line. Take it. Use it as your own.

I know, I know. We've been taught "Do not steal."  But I'm breaking the rules and I'm giving you permission to do the same. I gather lines from magazines, horoscopes, and even phrases of poetry and prose. I cut them out, or write them down, and paste them in my journal. I use the words of others as my own springboard. Try it!

There are rules, of course. Well, just one: You must attribute. You gotta give credit to whom and where it's due.

Comb and cull: Thumbing through a magazine the other day, I was drawn to a photograph of a woman wearing a mid-thigh skirt, paired with over-the-knee socks — the very same outfit I wore on my first date with my now-husband! (I loved those socks and felt a bit racy wearing them). The image, and the memory, struck a chord so I clipped the words beneath the photo: I Am The Coat. There's gotta be a poem in there somewhere.

Let words work: I recently read "Resume of Failures," an essay by Kim Stafford that appeared in Oregon Humanities magazine. One particular line grabbed me, and I used it as a writing prompt. The line became my title. Here's the work in progress:

You may think failure is your story *

Let’s say you see us. Our conversation does not stumble or stalk.
There is a lilt in my voice, brightness in his eyes. You see wide
smiles, hear quick laughs. You’d say, happiness.

You wouldn’t know we spend hours pressed against water —
rivers, lakes, sometimes oceans, tears — studying
to understand cement skies and uncertainty.

Every graveled edge is for sale or forgotten. There are no bargains.
All appearances are flimsy replicas, cheap wine in plastic cups.
I’ll pay extra to feel full-priced joy.

* A line from an essay by Kim Stafford, Oregon Humanities, Spring 2011.

Try this: 
Lift a line — from anywhere, anything. Can't find a line? Use a line or phrase from this post. I'd love to read what you create. Share your work here.