This is a season of homecoming for me. I’ve moved back to the region where I grew up in Minnesota after almost ten years away. Summer humidity stokes the air with the smell of new cottonwood leaves along mucky lakes, tugging me back into memories. Each day brings a reunion of past selves and ages. Old layers rise and teem like each evening’s insects.
Fittingly, The Hopper‘s third print issue arrived in my mailbox this week. We asked writers and artists for work related to the term “ecesis,” which formally means the making of new habitat and home. In ecology, “ecesis” refers to species pioneering or invading (which verb?) new places — sometimes places altered by wildfire or storm. As climate change, resource wars, and inequality worsen, the numbers of people and living things seeking homes where they can thrive or even survive will increase. Our intentions to tend one’s place and widen community become more crucial.
The artists and writers who answered our call for submissions are visionaries. I’m honored to have worked with the poems and poets in these pages. I hope that as you dwell in this smart, thriving, diverse collection, the world you inhabit grows. Order and read more here.
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.
Roberto Ascalon and I will read at Redmond’s Soul Food Poetry Night on Thursday, February 19th at 7:00 p.m. I promise some circus poems, and Roberto will stun us with whatever he’s got up his sleeves these days, because that’s what he does. I would love you to come! In fact, you could come with your own poems, because this reading series is also an open mic…
Great, see you there!
I got to ask Natalie Vestin questions about her writing for Bellingham Review‘s fall edition. Her responses are stunning. She says things like: “I think many people walk around feeling like there’s something, big or small, that’s irrevocably wrong with them, that they’re separate from everyone else. I know I feel this way sometimes, and art is the only way to counter it.” Read it here: http://bhreview.org/2014/10/25/interview-with-natalie-vestin.