A New Beginning?

I’m reasonably confident that I can count on two fingers the people who are even aware that this blog exists, so I haven’t really been taking the time to keep it current. But that doesn’t mean my literary life hasn’t been busy over the last six months. Andrew-Becraft.com really isn’t my top priority, I’ll admit, but perhaps I can keep this blog a bit more current than it has been.

So, what’ve I been up to?

Between March and May, I took a ten-week “master class” in poetry from David Wagoner at Richard Hugo House (a place you can expect to hear about fairly often from now on). I also had the privilege of talking with David one-on-one during his office hours as one of the Hugo House “Writers in Residence.” The class focused on revision techniques, which I’ve applied to several of the poems written in the year prior to taking the class. I have a backlog of about 60 other “active” poems that I need to revisit.

After the end of the class, I participated in my first reading. Reading in class for the first time was gut-wrenchingly terrifying. Reading to David alone was, if possible, worse (though David is a gracious, generous man, and my fear was completely irrational). Reading to an audience? Well, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and my knees began shaking about halfway through my first poem. I got through two poems, though, and felt like I’d accomplished something new in my writing career.

In July, I took another class at Hugo House, a one-day course called “First Impressions” with Kim Addonizio. The focus of this class was on opening lines — both poetry and prose. I’ve been told that my poetry is “quiet,” so giving more thought to ways I can invite the reader into my poems earlier (to paraphrase Billy Collins) was well worth a Saturday afternoon. I’ll admit that the only poems by Kim I’d read before taking the class were those in Poetry and ones I’d found online the night before, but I enjoyed the reading she gave from her newest novel, My Dreams Out in the Street, a follow-up to her 1997 poetry collection Jimmy & Rita.

Earlier this evening, I read at another Hugo House reading. Somewhat less terrifying the second time around, but my knees still knocked a little and I had to lean on the podium. I read four poems. I stuck around afterward to talk to other writers/readers, Hugo House staffers, and people in the audience. I really appreciated Nick the musician’s compliments about both my delivery and the mechanics of my poems. I also spent some time talking to J.T. Stewart, who intrigued me with her unique approach to storytelling via a blog. Naturally, I referred her to Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog.

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Over the last ten years since I graduated from college, my ability to write has followed a fairly specific pattern: If it’s raining, I can write; water seems to be my “triggering town.” Whether it’s because I’m commuting across Lake Washington every day, it’s rained a lot here in Seattle this summer, or a combination of all the focus I’ve put on my writing over the last six months (I hope it’s this last reason), I find that I’m still writing in August, when I would “normally” be into my annual drought.

It feels good.