I am looking forward to participating in the first poetry contest held by Cirque. Feel free to Zoom with us at 7:00 pm, Pacific Time, on November 22 and listen to poets read their winning poems. In addition to the winners, other poets were selected from the submissions to be published in the next issue of Cirque and will also be reading. I will be part of that latter group and will read two or three poems. If you aren’t too swamped with holiday plans, I hope you can make it.
Poet Kristin Berger from Portland, Oregon, has recently released a new book of poems titled “EARTHWORK”, that I highly recommend. Berger is a masterful poet who writes with equal parts love and grief about changing landscapes—both literal and familial, and in doing so, gives us, her readers, a hand-hold to scramble our way to hope and keep us on the span when the water goes down.
I wrote this poem in 2015. Seven years later the problem of children being killed by guns in America has only escalated. How much mental illness in fact begins with living in a country where it does not feel safe to go to the grocery store, first grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, high school, college, a movie, a doctor’s office, your place of employment, a concert?
As poets we write about what we feel and witness. As poets we record-keep the actions of a culture. As poets we express in a few words the horror and beauty of this world. May the horror move you to action. May you find a way to preserve the beauty of this world, so that our children have the chance to bear witness to it.
If you like poetry and haven’t been to a reading in person for awhile, join us at Kennedy School McMenamins on June 4th – 7:00 PM. Each reader will have about five minutes to showcase their work and celebrate publication in Cirque. Hope to see a few of you.
Last weekend I had the great joy to read my poem at the Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita, Oregon, which is just up the road from where I learned to read and write at Garibaldi Grade School. To feel the trajectory of my writing come back to where it started 60 years ago was a homecoming of sorts, and the loss I felt as a child leaving the North Coast was replaced with the understanding that this place had never left me.
Judge Lana Ayers who selected my poem for the 2022 Neahkahnie Mountain Poetry Prize had this to say about “Birthday Fires”.
“Birthday Fires is a marvel of imagery and complexity in 9 couplets. The fires are birth, creativity, life. The poem reminds us that even as hardships and sorrows sap joy, we can still celebrate and make our own light, as in the final captivating image of the poem.”
This poem began after I read the line in a poem from Henri Cole: “I came from a place with a hole in it”. As poems are wont to do, it found its own story to tell, its own feelings to express.
Having learned to read and write at Garibaldi Grade School, I am thrilled my words have returned full circle to this part of the Northern Oregon Coast. I have fond memories of living at the Coast Guard Station in Garibaldi, learning to swim at the Nehalem pool, and having the ability to roam this small town with the freedom of an earlier era.
I am honored to have my poem “A Woman on 22nd and Killingsworth” published in the 8th edition of the North Coast Squid.
Please check out the link above for where to purchase this journal doing great work on the north Oregon coast. Isn’t the cover just lovely? I can’t wait to settle down with my morning coffee and check it out.
I have fond memories of my time as a child living on the north Oregon coast at the Tillamook Bay Coast Guard Station where my father was Chief. I learned to swim at the Nehalem Pool, had my tonsils and adenoids taken out in Wheeler, met my first best friend Marla, in Mrs. Jones first grade class at Garibaldi Grade School.
I can still remember my father pulling our car onto Highway 101 and heading south after yet another Coast Guard transfer. As I looked back at the base, and then out to the boathouse, I began to cry. It was the first time I had a feeling that I would only understand later. How a heart can attach to place.
To come back to this place through my words is both an honor and a reminder that we can go home, because any home we have been loved in, embeds itself into the core of our being.
On August 12, 2012, I had my first poetry reading with Cirque. I was so nervous, but here I am nine years later still on the circuit with them. I will be forever indebted to editors Sandy Kleven and Michael Burwell for seeing something in my early poems and for being part of my poetic journey from the beginning.
Each summer Cirque hits the road to launch new work, welcome new members into the family, and celebrate those of us who keep calling Cirque one of our literary homes. I will be reading via Zoom for the Seattle event and I sure hope I see some of you!
After a long year, it was time to leave the house, and I knew where I was headed. To those early places of sand and sea.
I watched a tug crossing the Coos Bay Bar. Sat on the same jetty I climbed on as a young girl. Found comfort in the smell of ocean. The wind blowing my hair. Remembered bits of a poem by John Masefield called Sea-Fever.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day and white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the the sea-gulls crying.
It has been a long 15 months—a sitting on the knife’s edge of coming and going.
But I am one of the lucky ones, who has been lucky enough to walk the beach again, grow a garden, give peas to the neighbors, bouquets of flowers to the bedroom, create one small patch in the middle of a changing city, where bees, hummingbirds, and scrub jays, can find a place to land.
Just imagine if moving forward we could all find one small thing that would show this stressed planet how much we love being here and how much we long to stay. What if we wore amulets of sea water around our necks to remind us what holiness is?
Editors, Sandra Kleven and Michael Burwell not only publish a beautiful, inclusive journal, but they have created a Cirque community that is still as important to me today as it was when I first began publishing with them.
Poet friends, consider submitting your best work to Cirque. Lovers of poetry, consider purchasing a copy of this journal to help support this fine publication.
I am honored to share that my poem “In Like a Lion” has been included in the Oregon Poetry Association 2020 Anthology of Pandemic Poems. This is a stunning collection of poetry written by Oregon poets as witness to these times. It is a document that will have both significant historical value regarding the event itself and the writers in this place who have shared their poetic response to it.
I urge you to consider purchasing a copy of this anthology either through Submittable or Wild Apricot. All the proceeds will go to continued funding for the Oregon Poetry Association. If you love poets, or if you just want a record of this year told through the words of Oregon State poets, I encourage you to buy a copy.
In so many ways my thoughts of this year will probably not be completely known until more time has passed. It has been such a difficult time for so many, especially to those who have lost people to Covid-19. I have been privileged to have a warm home to live in, food to eat, health care. I have had the privilege to reflect during this time, to think about how I would like to contribute to the world in a way that helps those less able to have the basic needs of life. And frankly, I have no desire to return to “Normal”, for it was with the slowing down, the staying put, that helped me see how much happiness could be found in my own home, my small block, my changing neighborhood. There have been things I have missed, like live music, poetry readings, coffee shops, going to dinner with friends, and I look forward to doing them again. But I have changed, and these days I wonder what I will find when I re-enter the world and will I belong?