January 2013 Open Mic at Village Books
Here’s a verse from “January, 1795” by the great poet Mary Robinson:
Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.
As relevant as her wonderful poem still seems today, I also have to say, sorry, Mary! Because Monday’s lineup of writers had no shortage of merit, grace, and talent.
Congratulations to Shannon Laws for publishing Madrona Grove: Poems Written Under the Canopy, a collection of Northwest-inspired poetry. Madrona Grove was printed on Village Books’s Espresso Machine and is available on shelf or online at Village Books. Shannon is an artist and created numerous different cover designs, so anyone who buys the book may have a different cover! Shannon shared poetry from her book as well as “No Morrow,” which is published in Volume 4 of Clover. She’s on fire!
Not to be outdone, Rae Ellen Lee read from her newly published book Cheating the Hog. A Sawmill. A Tragedy. A Few Gutsy Women. Points as well for the title, and congratulations to Rae Ellen for this newly launched title. She manages to make mill work, which we all can guess is exciting, hard, and dangerous, somehow also hilarious, and further, uses the tales from the mill as a jumping off place for other fearfully funny vignettes. Note that Cheating the Hog is a featured giveaway on GoodReads and the Kindle edition will be FREE on Feb 1, in honor of Groundhog’s day.
Monday night’s lineup also featured Deanna Hawkins, reading on her topic of “Where Can Rapture Be Found?” Deanna taught us about sins of the flesh, which in the modern world include Kobe beef. From this very humorous note, she took her essay in a beautiful direction to reflect on life and beauty. CJ Prince delighted us with “Before the Northwest” and other contemplative poems. She reports that she often reads her poetry aloud in her kitchen to try it out and then after reading at open mic finds additional inspiration to make some final revisions. CJ closed her set with “Packing for Boston,” discussing not only packing but packing ideas to carry.
Poet Harvey Schwartz added to the wonderful cadence of the evening with “Colleen’s Poem,” noting how rhythm and rhyme can be for the poet like the white tape atop crutches, adding an assist or starting-off point. He also read about free will, asking the age-old question of whether we actually have it, and closed with “Everything that I Know,” a delicious allegory of life.
Shannon Hager mesmerized us with another excerpt from her memoir manuscript titled 5000 Brothers in Law. “My First Time in the Big House” detailed her trepidatious experiences entering a prison in the south on a work assignment and feeling vulnerable watching inmates work plantation-style—swinging scythes and hoes in the garden, as she walked by. From Vince Landi we heard a marvelous tale of a splintered family, delivered through the voice of a character reporting to his relatives on the terms of mama’s will. A smug ending had us all chuckling.
Andrew Shattuck McBride gets points for this title: “Making Space, in which Bigglesworth and I Bat the Puck Hope, Write, and Otherwise Seek Sustenance.” Here’s the poet at his kitchen table/writing table, amused and annoyed while his beloved cat knocks his papers onto the floor—and then loses interest. Those of us who serve four-leggers can relate to Andy’s feeling that his cats ultimately leash him to life.
We welcomed Sean Dwyer to our ensemble. A seasoned writer, Sean brought a lovely piece about the writer finding his justification for his own creativity in the realization that he has passed it along to his son. If you love writing in coffee shops, you may very well share a wall outlet with Sean, who has turned his penchant for coffee shop writing into a blog to guide fellow writers to the best writing cafes. Pretty cool. Check out http://dwyercafe.com/. You can also read my notes from the coffee shop at Dogpatch Writers Collective.
In sauntered poet/musician Matthew Brouwer to perform a poem that is also a short ballad, “The Minstrel and the Merchant’s Daughter.” He also brought a poem he created for his workshop of the same title, “Writing Poetry that Has Power.” After his successful Kickstarter campaign last year, Matthew has been busy both performing and producing creative events. His next workshop is Writing Poetry that Has Power, scheduled for Saturday, Feb 2, 9 am to noon at Allied Arts of Whatcom County, 1418 Cornwall Ave. We really need to work as a group to bring Matthew out of his shell.
Nancy Canyon read from LOOKOUT, her memoir in progress. She has the knack for weaving multiple story lines and time jumps effortlessly, taking us from a scene about loss and divorce to childhood experiences to the relationship between a brother and sister, connected by the shadow of sadness that looms over these beautifully rendered moments. Join Nancy Mondays at 1 pm for a Weekly Writing Practice at Studio #21, Morgan Block Bldg., 1000 Harris, Room #21 (third floor), Old Fairhaven.
Jim Milstead read “The Scream,” a beautiful piece about taking stock and memory, and of what is heard in life that can be either run from or embraced. Jim also had the news of the evening. As many of us know, Jim has had the laudable goal of walking the equivalent of the circumference of the earth—just under 25,000 miles. Well, he did it! In his words, he is “circumferenced!” Way to go, Jim! His next goal—walking the equivalent of the circumference of the moon.
Here’s some more sweet stuff:
- Registration starts in early February for the Chuckanut Writers Conference on June 21-22. This has turned into an amazing event and I will hope to see you there! I will guest teach a Pitching 101 session on opening day. Here’s a quick tip: Work to say what your planned submission is about in just one sentence. If you can hone it to one polished line and say that line with quiet confidence, you will project an air of professionalism.
- Sunday, Feb 17, 7 pm at The Amadeus Project, 1209 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham: SpeakEasy 10 presents Out of the Box, poems presented in non-traditional ways.
- Monday, Feb 25, 5:30-6:30 pm at Village Books Readings Gallery: Right before open mic, I will give an info session for the upcoming Writing Children’s Literature class at WWU that I’ll again co-teach with the amazing Nina Laden and Paul Owen Lewis.
- Tuesday, Apr 2: Heads up—submissions are due for The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. As you know, this is a great conference. I’ve been three times and had a blast as well as learning a lot from the great writers there and meeting my agent. So get to work on your submissions pieces!
- Earlier I mentioned My Year as a Clown, a great new book by fellow writer and friend Robert Steven Williams. If you’re a radio fan, you may have caught his interview this morning on Ocean City MD’s Rude Awakening show. Robert will be doing numerous radio spots in small markets. It’s great to listen to these as mentoring for your future self-promoting published self. See reader reviews of Clown, including one from me, on Amazon or better yet, read the book!
- As always, send me your writing-related event notices so I can help spread the word! Pretty please, tell someone else about this blog.
- Check out the open mic “regulars” page. If you’d like to be added you must have read within the last three months. Send me your site link, too, so I can include it!
- Read more from me at Dogpatch Writers Collective.
The next open mic is Monday, Feb 25 at 7 pm in the Readings Gallery at Village Books. Bring your heartfelt tales of the beloved, the unloved, the undead—or any creative work in progress. The rosters fill early so be sure to sign up ahead of time at the main counter on the first floor or call (360)-671-2626.Write on!
xo Laurel Leigh