notes from a writing residency, not Hedgebrook

New rule: Never go to a writing residency in the Pacific NW without rainboots #emergencypurchase

New rule: Never go to a writing residency in the Pacific NW without rainboots #emergencypurchase

When you live on the west coast and say “writing residency” everyone asks, “Hedgebrook?” No, sadly, I did not get into Hedgebrook, but they write some of the nicest rejection letters in the whole, wide world. Mine is a self-designed writing residency. It is called: I Go to a Little House on an Island to Write Poems All By Myself. You can see that I’m using the word “residency” loosely — but I’m using it because it makes me feel more responsible about my time here than the words “retreat,” “getaway,” and — my kids’ favorite — “mom’s poetry escape.”

But first: AWP. AWP was so heartening and energizing (and also heartening and exhausting). What I loved most was the time spent together with dear po-friends, the chance to look other poets in the eye and say, Thank you for your work, which has been important in my life, and the chance to personally thank the editors of journals who have published my work. Although I missed a few people I’d have love to seen/thanked, I crossed paths with many without running myself ragged. I drank plenty of tea and took plenty of naps. I attended interesting panels. I fell in love with Seattle, which in many ways reminded me of my old hometown, St. Paul, minus the 10-foot banks of snow — neighborhoodly and liveable.

Now here I am in a room. There is no noise besides the clicking of my keys and the shifting fire. I am surrounded by many poems, too many poems, but I know this and that’s part of why I’m here. I’m trying to wrangle some mysterious subset of the too many poems into a manuscript. Yes, it’s the zombie walk again. Zombie walk: a technical term meaning “to walk around and put poems in small groupings until you have them in some kind of organization and order that only afterwards can you articulate your reasons for.” Or something like that. To wit:


This time I’m trying a method I learned from Sandra Beasley in an online class I took from her. She suggested identifying key pairings of poems that belong together and working outward. To this general approach, I added the idea of “pivot poems” — poems that can act as points upon which the manuscript can turn — and the strung thread of one series in particular, in an effort to manipulate the flow of time in the manuscript.

I am also writing new poems, and reading a lot, and going with the flow and blundering. I’m taking walks and marveling at all the green in this wet corner of the world:


…into which I will now walk, then return, blunder some more, give thanks for time and space to do my work, and miss my kids. Amen.

Not sure I will be back here this week, but wherever you are and whatever you’re doing I wish you well.

3 thoughts on “notes from a writing residency, not Hedgebrook

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