Deep in Cascadia

Huge thanks to Adelia MacWilliam, Danika Dinsmore, Dominick DellaSala and all the attendees and participants at the first Deep in Cascadia Poetics Retreat in Cumberland, BC. Special thanks to Andrew Engelson of Cascadia Magazine for  writing about the event:

A Cascadia poetry retreat

I recently had good fortune of being invited to  attend the Deep in Cascadia poetry retreat in Cumberland, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. It was a fun, intensive workshop paired with public readings in  a former timber  town with a storied union history that now hosts mountain bikers and offers an assortment of cute restaurants, a microbrewery, and an organic food co-op.

Nadine Maestas, Lorraine Martinuik, Matt Trease, Carla Stein at the Masonic Hall, Cumberland, BC

It was a gathering of poets from across the bioregion, and it grew out of a Cumberland poetry retreat and the Cascadia Poetry Festival. Paul Nelson, creator of the Seattle Poetics Lab and author of Elegy for Tahlequah’s Calf, recently published at Cascadia Magazine, reflected that the retreat “was about how we get deeper into this sense of place, and how can that be reflected in our work, and how can we hunker down and be here and have a poetry aesthetic that reflects that deeper connection than somebody just passing through.” Among the poets reading was longtime BC poet George Stanley, who was recently interviewed at Cascadia Magazine.

The retreat was organized by poets Adelia MacWilliam and Danika Dinsmore, and the writing exercises and discussions ranged from finding an impersonal voice to the collaboration between science and poetry. The intimate setting helped set up a series of two fantastic public readings. Adelia says the poets were inspired to give some of their best readings because they “felt so connected to the other participants, a closeness forged by spending time with each other at this level of inquiry.”

The program also included a talk by conservation ecologist Dominick Della Salla, which emphasized the importance of poetry and the arts in communicating the severity of climate change, as well as using the language of wildfire ecology to further enrich poetry and vice versa.  “If poets can incorporate these luminous details from science,” notes Paul, ” but in a way that makes an emotional connection with reader, that’s how we’re going to get change. And now is when non-human nature needs advocates more than ever.”

–Andrew Engelson

More photos from the retreat here:

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The Cards I Got (2018)

Here are two short videos of the postcards I received during the 12th August POetry POstcard Fest. #APPF12. These cards were the ones I received by September 4, 2018. 50 as of mail delivery time today. I am humbled and honored at how this fest has evolved. To folks like Judy Jensen, who said: “As a longtime participant, the fest has become a fixed part of the calendar, as established as Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas” and to Terry Holzman, who is a postcard machine and contributes so much to this community, and to everyone who has participated, even the people like Raymond Maxwell and Anthony Kolasny and others who sat out this year, my humble appreciation.

The official festival page is:

August POetry POstcard Fest

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#APPF12 (2018) Afterword

I did not get a chance to write about my experience with the 12th August POetry POstcard Fest yesterday as I was leaving Ian, Jennifer and Gavia Boyden and their home on San Juan Island with my daughter Ella. We had been there to help Ian celebrate his NEA award to translate the poetry of Tibetan poet Tsering Woeser.

(Photo by Ian Boyden)

There were several noteworthy developments for me in this past fest. I abandoned epigraphs to start the poems and instead went with a seriality, or sequential effort. I recorded Sam Hamill a few years ago discussing this impulse, or approach, and just listened again to his words. Hear them here. As to the why of seriality/sequential, hear this. His thoughts are very much in sync with the spontaneous methods that I’ve alluded to many times before and helpful in understanding the APPF’s emphasis on spontaneity.

Sam was a presence during this festival not just in this sequential method, but in the content as well. I mentioned him directly in 18 of my 45 poems and indirectly in a few more. I went to his books for inspiration and could even hear what I pegged to be his own voice coming into one of the poems. I put all of his words from two different books of poetry into wordclouds and wrote a poem based on that and others which used phrases derived from his wordclouds:





754. Sam’s Rain Mask to Libby Maxey was a good example of Sam’s influence coming in through wordclouds. Others coming through the poems included Corita Kent, Georgia O’Keeffe, Kenneth Rexroth. Ted Joans, Emanuel Swedenborg, Basho, Denise Levertov, Leonard Cohen, Ian, Jennifer and Gavia Boyden, Jack Kerouac, Van Morrison, Pat Metheny, Patricia Barber, Ed Varney, Gary Snyder, John Coltrane, Michael McClure, Langston Hughes, Merce Cunningham and Stanley DelGozo. I loved the postcards of his that came to me and Bhakti, as they were casual, authentic postcards that were very immediate and very much out of his own experience written to us. Not an attempt to write great literature, but to simply connect us with his huge heart. Thank you Stanley.

Ella Nelson, August 2018, American Camp, San Juan Island

As Amy Miller did in her fest this year, as reported in her 2018 wrap-up, I composed many poems in clumps and then sat-out a couple of days. You have to get the poems while the mood is right and also strike when there are no six year olds vying with the muse for attention.

Some things that DID get my attention during the “month” included specular reflectance, my older daughter Rebecca’s engagement, the (sans U.S.) World Cup and, as always, the domestic terror of the Blue Angels.

That was early in the fest. Once I was clearly past the bar of my required 32 poems (we had an extra poet in the first few groups this year) I was liberated to take time and create collage cards, which was a very satisfying way to end the fest and send bonus cards to some friends and other poets handpicked from groups 2 through 4. I wish I could have done more. Examples include one EARLY collage poem that was a collage front and back. The back was made up of words taken from other sources, like a ransom note and did not arrive in one piece:

One collage went to Ina Roy-Faderman, the driving force behind the 56 Days of August: Poetry Postcards anthology:

The last one went to Aaron Kokorowski:

And then September came. Ugh. Moving “august” up into July seems just fine to me, but moving August into September does not. Maybe it’s because September is my birth month. Maybe because I have backpacking to do, which I have done most Septembers since 1995. I don’t know, but each year the August POetry POstcard Fest gets better. As Judy Jensen said:

Thanks to Paul and Lana for kicking off the August Poetry Postcard Festival and to Paul, for continuing to steward this creative endeavor from year to year. As a longtime participant, the fest has become a fixed part of the calendar, as established as Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s been lovely to see old timers’ names from year to year, and new poets popping up each year. I appreciate all of your poems, postcards, and thoughts here in the Facebook Group and wish you the very best of luck with your poetry. Until next year— Judy Jensen

This is something postcarding during other times of year does not achieve. And an attempt to alleviate the confusion about starting a fest that has the word August in its name, but starts in July, I am considering that word, august, an adjective in this context and not a proper noun. That should solve things.

The countdown clock on the official fest page has been reset to July 4, 2019 at 12:01am PST. This means there are 305 days of the year that are NOT part of the fest, but the PoPo police are not stopping folks from continuing to send bonus cards in the “off-season.” I intend to give late-senders some slack and write about cards I got before too long.

Paul E Nelson, August 2018, photo by Bhakti M. Watts.

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