Category Archives: Ruth Thompson Poet

Rivendell Residency II

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
from straight-boled,

kelp-fingered oaks,
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.

About Myself: At Hilina Pali

Thanks to Don Mitchell (video), Ethan Mitchell (editing), and Arvo Part (music), this lovely thing came to be. It was Ethan who suggested that in this first video I should say a few words about myself, rather than speak a poem.


With the beginning of the new year, a brave AROHO friend made a commitment to write a haiku every day. She asked others to join her, and set up a facebook group, The Haiku Room, as a private place for all of us to post our (in my case, clumsy) efforts. The results have been amazing. Every morning I wake up to shafts of light that illuminate the lives and dreams, the profound griefs and hilarious misadventures of people I may not ever have met, but now know at this deep level of poetic witness.

That has been one huge, unexpected gift of the Haiku Room. Another has been the commitment to daily practice. We all talk about it, we try to do it, but somehow the very smallness of the form has, for many of us, made it happen for the first time. “Only 17 syllables – surely I can write 17 syllables! No one said it has to be perfect! I can do this!”

I don’t even particularly like haiku, because the swing and swagger and woe and jackboot of rhythm are so important to me – the pulse of blood in the body and, for me, in the poem.  In fact, one of the first haiku I wrote for the Haiku Room was this:

Damn this Haiku! / All eyes, no hips. To me it don’t mean a thing:/
no swing.

But : Daily Practice. You do it. And gradually you find new doors opening. Small things shining. The trickle of water finding a new pathway through rock.

Some poets have caught fire, in just one month of this daily haiku practice, blazing into such stunning intensity, concision, brilliance that it makes me feel like laughing and shouting with joy.

But even for me, this daily practice has been a way of honoring my craft and myself, despite the quotidian overwhelm of moving, renovating, landscaping, editing other people’s books, and all the rest that has taken me away from the page for a year. It is a way of keeping faith. And a record of – something.

Avocado musubi –
green, gold, white, kelp-tied:
little Hilo gift.

Rainforest house: big
roof, windows, not much wall. Wind off
mountain ice: brrrrrrrr.

Voices whispering.
Scuffle in the eaves. At the window:
mynah eye.

Tongan master
rock wall builder. Chips lava, fits
each to the next. Sings.

Slow wakening: “re-
source,” “re-source,” still turning
in the current, shining.

Fat orange moon rises
from monkeypod’s Harpo hair:
oooogah! clown nose!

Gaia opens like
a flower – shedding gold pollen,
green feet pounding.

Solar flares. Spine-wires
humming. Rosin up – leap out
upon their singing!

Pouring paths today.
Window music: slump-crunch of concrete,
shovel shove.

In dream my selkie-
skin, such tender seaweed, came home
around my bones.

 (Albatross at Midway)
You can band them then,
sitting on eggs, deep dream, eyes
remembering sky.

Brief rain in darkness,
like wind in trees. Not-rain in window:
moon-green moth.

My dear friend and magical haiku-poet Lisa Rizzo has written about the Haiku Room on her terrific blog Poet Teacher Seeks World. Read it at


January 4, 2014

Two days of thunder and lightning, torrents of rain, flood warnings, the sky cracking and slamming and booming and blasting!

And wow, did it just run all that old energy of 2013 right out of here! Banging out the old, banging in the new, clearing the air and  pouring that champagne effervescence into our lives — the absolutely best, freshest, most exciting start to a new year in my entire life. Woo hoo! Thank you!

Here’s the view from Mauna Kea, the Canada-France-Hawai’i Telescope  “cloud cam” at 14,000 feet:

No need for New Year’s fireworks! This was the real thing. Electricity!

Smells like effervescence, this 2014 does — like super-charged ions, like crystallinity. Vinho Verde, prickling the tongue.

2014! Gorgeous! Bring on the joy!