Although this video from 2014 can be seen elsewhere on this site, I wanted to post it here, now, as I commit to writing more deeply, clearly, and joyfully in this new year.
Reading so many beautiful poems of gratitude and thanks-giving this week, I wanted to share this, from my last book, Crazing:
The storm drives all ashore—thrown stick with dogteeth, twig of twisted pine,
thumbnail jellyfish with dark sails fallen, torn kelp, fouled ballast, soapy olivine foam.
Everyone here has the same story.
We are blown here out of sight of ourselves, staggering and dismayed.
Yet we are perfect — without ladder or pyramid, pinnacle or pietà —
perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect— as one would say this, this, this, this—
seeing, in this dire wind, what there is to worship.
Rivendell Writers’ Colony was magical in October. The main house is set on a bluff looking east over a long, often mist-filled valley.
Each morning from my beautiful room I watched the sun rise
over the valley and the mountains behind.
During long Indian summer days I wrote in a hammock under huge oak trees, watching the changing clouds and light; I walked through the woods to talk with the neighbor’s horses; I sat beside a pond littered with red and gold leaves.
I love that Rivendell was named by a previous owner’s children for the hidden elven refuge in Lord of the Rings. A safe house, a sanctuary. And I love that it once housed a girl’s camp – despite its grace and elegant lines, it still has a bit of that happy camp feel, ghosts of girls’ voices calling, games.
There were five other writers in the main house, all working on major projects, several of us under deadlines. As the lone poet I was the only one without “pages completed” to report – to cheers – as we drank a glass of wine and cooked our dinners together – or celebrated around a campfire down at the pond. I felt honored to be there among them – terrific young writers working on interesting projects – and now, friends.
Rivendell restored my creative energy. I filled a notebook with raw images and lines and ideas for poems. I completed several revisions. I had a major epiphany about how to approach the next phase of Whale Fall. Here’s a poem from the first day:
Noon light clear and diffuse,
sky empty, like the beginning
of a fairy tale. So we set out,
belongings wrapped in a kerchief
of amber leaves. We step
into unbound light, blithe as birds.
Beneath the falling shadow
the hammock swings at its mooring,
bow pointing into the risen breeze.
Oak nuts pour like rain.
The light turns gold as field
corn, sharp-edged with autumn.
A bright yellow butterfly
is a leaf charged with intention.
You must empty, strenuously,
if you wish to follow it. You must
rise from dead, dropped, moored:
become that small sun, that fire.
A short film is being produced about the Whale Fall” reading in February 2017 at Poetry Flash. In the meantime, here’s a link to some footage from the practice session. I like it because of the informality and the experimenting with zooming in close.
I leave for a residency at beautiful Rivendell Writers Colony (http://rivendellwriterscolony.org/) next week. Fall in the Smokies! After years in the lovely but seasonless tropics, to think of October in the woods!
I wanted a residency in the mountains. My father’s people came from the Blue Ridge, and we grew up camping in the Sierras and the Coast Ranges. For years in Los Angeles, I hiked the chaparral of the Santa Monica mountains. Later I fell in love with the deciduous forests of the Appalachian foothills in western New York. Here’s our little woods in Colden, along Cazenovia Creek:
Recently I have come to know and love the otherworldly landscapes of 14,000-foot Mauna Kea, and the red-gold canyons of the desert southwest.
But to be in a deciduous forest in fall! – the time of falling to earth, falling away, the great wheel falling toward darkness. Of leaf-fall, and its revelation of what lies behind, that has been hidden by soft greenery.
Thinking of leaf colors, I remember the orange and gold canyon walls of Ghost Ranch, once Georgia O’Keefe’s ranch in New Mexico, where AROHO (A Room of Her Own Foundation) held their summer writing retreats:
And I remember looking up at the brilliant sandstone cliffs on a Colorado River rafting adventure with Page Lambert and other women writers.
How similar the colors of rock and leaf! As if intensity announces the dropping away of all disguise. What greenery, fancywork will I shed during this residency?
If you rub your hand across bright sandstone or hold a bright leaf in your hand, they will turn to dust of transformation in your palm. Every day I am aware of how translucent my own body, falling, hung from veins, transforming.