Amazon, Powell’s, and eBay

Recent book purchases:

  • Matthew Arnold: The Portable Matthew Arnold
  • Wendell Berry: The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry
  • Robert Bly: Eating the Honey of Words
  • Billy Collins: The Trouble with Poetry
  • Emily Dickinson: Collected Poems
  • Kilala Kitamoto: LEGO book museum Vol. 1
  • W.S. Merwin: Selected Poems
  • William Stafford: The Way It Is
  • William Stafford: Writing the Australian Crawl
  • David Wagoner: Dry Sun, Dry Wind (First Edition)

Crashing a poetry reading at Open Books

I’ve driven by Open Books on 45th here in Seattle many times, but I’ve either been too busy or they’ve been closed. My wife and I were driving past last night after dinner when I noticed that they were open.

We parked around the corner and walked through the rain, only to see that the store was crowded with people, spilling out onto the sidewalk. I suspected that this was the tail end of a poetry reading, but hey, the cash register was open and people were still looking over the shelves (an inventory of 9,000+ books of poetry, according to their Web site), so I thought I could sneak in and grab the book I’ve been trying to find — one of Wagoner’s collections published after the Collected I have. (Fine, call me a Wagoner fanboy/groupie — he’s a great guy, and I love his poetry.)

Anyway, I pick up the book and make my way back to the front of the store, noticing for the first time that the center of attention seems to be someone other than the cashier. Crap!, I think, It’s the poet herself! (I’d been hoping the reading was an open-mic or something, I guess.) I didn’t recognize her based on any book jacket photos I’ve seen, but then I wouldn’t be able to recognize most of the poets I read (mainly in journals). I edged close enough to read the name on the cover of the books stacked next to her. I pride myself in knowing the national and local poetry scenes reasonably well, but her name still didn’t ring a bell. Now I was in the awkward position of being in line to have a book signed by someone I didn’t know, or to blow past her to buy the book I really wanted.

I opted for a strategic retreat instead. So, back to the shelves, wending my way through the chairs neatly aligned to face the back of the store, back to the front, through all the poetry aficionados looking shy as they asked to have their books signed, out into the rain and cigarette smoke.

I think there’s a poem in all that somewhere…

Wind, bird, and tree / Water, grass, and light…

Cross-posted from The Brothers Brick.

It’s not often I attempt to honor someone I’ve actually met in real life as a LEGO minifig.

Earlier this year, I took a class at Richard Hugo House from one of my favorite poets, David Wagoner. I spent ten weeks listening to David’s stories about studying under Theodore Roethke and his friendships with poets as diverse as Dylan Thomas and Richard Hugo (the poet whose name graces Hugo House). I also learned a lot about my craft — David’s feedback helped me truly grow as a writer.

Adding to my other Northwest poet minifigs, here’s David in LEGO form:

You can read some of David’s poems on

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. 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.


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.

Route 242

We see eagles now and then this far north,
where salmon still run in the Snohomish
and rabbits are plentiful on islands
in the Sound. Still, when one of us cries Look!
we fold our papers, close our books, put down
our pens and turn as one to scan the treetops
for a flash of white and smudge of black.
We’re all on a field trip again, children
who point, jostle, and stand to lean against
windows fogged from the damp of our wet shoes.
Our bus moves on and we become adults,
the day ahead weighted with importance.
At home late tonight we’ll lie in our beds
and tell of the eagles we saw today.