Susan J. Erickson has red cowboy boots and impeccable diction. She’s a poet hero of mine who I met back in the land of Douglas fir, though we’re both ladies of the 10,000 lakes.
Sue won the Brick Road Poetry Press prize last year, and her book, Lauren Bacall Shares a Limousine, is out now. Her collection of lady persona poems is tonally diverse, smart, and powerful.
Sue asked me to make a book trailer for her. We chose to work with her poem “Rapunzel Brings Her Women’s Studies Class to the Tower” partially because I now live near a giant bell tower and tracts of forest, but mostly because this poem is a linchpin poem. Rapunzel is trying to “relinquish the rib of victimhood.” She pushes back against the story we tell about her. She tells her class “your voices are searchlights that can sweep the horizon to reveal fault lines and illuminate passage.” What a good lesson.
While at WWU for my MFA, I took a class from Brenda Miller on autobiography and photography, which led me to hand-make an accordion book covered in maps, juxtaposing NASA Landsat images of the Mississippi River with family photos and memory vignettes. The WWU MFA program has a “multi-genre” focus, meaning lines usually drawn to separate types of writing and art break down. Bellingham Review, the grad literary journal at WWU, recently opted to open hybrid submissions. As WWU English TAs, we asked our students to expand their concept of a “text.” (Our word “text” comes from the Latin for “to weave”—texere.) Students asked questions about how design and juxtaposition and delivery affect their understanding of a work as a whole.
Earlier this year, Brenda asked me if I might be interested in designing her latest book from Judith Kitchen’s Ovenbird Press, An Earlier Life. As a graduate of the MFA program she helped found, with its focus on hybridity and form, I care even more deeply about words, and I have also come to care deeply about the book or vessel that allows these words to meet their readers.
I read and reread Brenda’s manuscript, and months later I’m still stunned by An Earlier Life‘s accumulation of wild places, sacred moments, aches, and questions. Her book is beautiful, and I was honored to set it to the page. Come celebrate Brenda’s book launch Friday night, 4/15, at Village Books, 7:00 p.m!
Oh, and I’ll read poems Thursday night, 4/14, at Village Books, 7:00 p.m. for Noisy Water‘s almost-final poetry month mega-reading.
Long ago, I offered to make the chapbooks for our local poetry contest because I was newly enamored with book arts; even formatting felt exciting to me. JI Kleinberg, a welcome force on any committee, herded me through rounds of proofing after she had passed me the winning poems. Last summer, she and Luther Allen tapped me to design the book for their Whatcom poetry anthology project through Other Mind Press. They call the collection Noisy Water, after the Lummi word,”Xwotʼqom”, from which “Whatcom” is derived. At the end of last month, we finished shepherding their manuscript of 101 poems into a beautiful book.
Working with each poem, noisy in a different way than the last, tuned me in to linebreaks and line length and stanza length and other formal choices. It was a real gift to spend so much time with every poem, calling up the poet, a friend or at least a neighbor, in my mind as I moved through the design file. I think the result is that each poem has some room to breathe. I hope you find, as you make your way through this book’s pages, that you don’t even notice the design, that you can fully immerse yourself in each poet’s poem.
It’s a stunning collection. You can buy one here, or come to the Village Books reading this Thursday, December 10th, at 7:00 p.m.
I won’t be reading, but many other of our community’s poets will be. If you can’t make it Thursday, Other Mind Press has set up a poetry tour, with no less than six more readings in the new year. No-town-left-behind! (Since one of my poems appears, I’ll read at the Lummi Island reading on February 20, and again at Village Books on April 14.)
I’m thrilled to have my poem, “Different Versions of Darkness,” featured in the Shadow Sail Theatre installation and performance at the Lightcatcher Museum. Heather Dawn Sparks, lead artist, makes gorgeous and magical sculpture and theatre. Look at this horse!
Last I heard, there might be letters made of willow, or oil barrels made into lace to project words onto sails… Friday night during Art Walk, swing by the Lightcatcher to catch whatever light and shadow, whatever version of darkness and illumination you can. Performance begins at 7:30. More info on facebook, of course.
I just got this video from Stephen O’Bent, composer, musician, and juggler extraordinaire. Last fall he asked me if I’d be interested in writing a text he might use to compose a piece for his Master’s Recital at UW. He wondered if the text could be “rhymey and pop musicky” with a theme of roads and transition. Also, because of his composing class, he was excited about the idea of listening and hearing on multiple levels. What luck! I am always excited about hearing things on multiple levels, I was experimenting with sonnets last fall (rhymey–check!), and I write about transition and liminal spaces almost all the time. So. Here are the fruits of our labor. Well, mostly Stephen and Shannon’s:
I’ve been writing about the circus lately. Luckily, I know this guy: