Postcard Feedback



I know what you are thinking. Don’t put any more energy into things like this, but my strong sense of justice is begging me to respond. So, after changing another dirty diaper from my 3 year old and reading her a pre-nap story of Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore (also a poet!), I figured I would take ten minutes to explain a little for those like today’s miffed commenter Diane Cammer:

0 approved

After six consecutive years, I didn’t sign up this year due to the charge – thought over $2000 for an administrative fee (assuming at least 200 participants) too much. Would have if I knew some of the money was going to promote poetry in schools, etc.

Well Diane, since 1997 SPLAB, the non-profit I founded in 1993 has facilitated hundreds of workshops mostly in the Puget Sound region, with testimonials like:

“Paul Nelson created the best lesson my students have experienced this year…” – Brian Schuessler, Eastlake High School, Sammamish, WA

“…The poets you brought to teach the workshops were inspiring and at the same time encouraging to our audience of all ages and experiences…” – Lauren Murphy, Supervising Youth Services Librarian, Pierce County Library System

“Last night was our SPLAB performance at Vashon’s new Youth Council club, the Crux. Wow! It was one of the most amazing, high-energy poetry evenings I’ve ever seen…” – Rayna Holtz, Vashon Island Library

“…Paul, I would like to congratulate you on facilitating this very successful program. The SPLAB! curriculum proved to be very effective with this group and I was truly amazed by the caliber of work produced by these students!…” – Bonnie Cline, Young Adult Librarian, Auburn Library


And I especially like what Sam Hamill said about my work in a reference or grant application letter:

“Over the past decade or so, no one has done more for poetry in the Pacific Northwest than has Paul Nelson. He has sponsored and hosted free public readings and workshops while bringing to Seattle notable poets like Wanda Coleman, Nate Mackey, Michael McClure, Brenda Hillman, George Bowering and other leading figures in the world of Organic Poetry. He is as fine an interviewer of poets as anyone working today, coming to each interview thoroughly informed but retaining great flexibility, letting the various threads intertwine. These interviews, combined with lengthy scholarship, have produced a number of remarkable essays and, ultimately, his manuscript American Prophets…”

Sam Hamill, Poet, Translator, Founder of Copper Canyon Press

Yes, the poetry festival I founded, and directed twice and helped direct in the third iteration, is volunteer work, as are my interviews and the MOOC SPLAB is creating on Innovative Cascadia Poetry in conjunction with Cascadia College, as well as a few other literary-oriented projects.

So anyone’s contribution to the fest helps with these and other projects. (More at I could give you a list if interested, but this should be enough for any reasonable person and literary supporter to make an educated decision. Remember, each postcard participant is asked for $10. So it comes down to this: is $10 worth it to you. Sorry it is not to you, Diane, and sorry you had the impression that those funds won’t be used for a director of a small non-profit organization to continue a rather serious dedication to poetry and poetics. Someday I might even have health insurance, but not likely because of all the rewards I am reaping through my poetry activism.

Still, the real reward is in the work itself. May you get half as much satisfaction in whatever it is you do to make it in our hyper-materialist culture.



Diane responded today (August 3, 2015):

The last sentence in my message said it all – I did not realize you offered free workshops. I apologize. I have promoted poetry and prose through workshops and open mics for years without compensation, as do my friends.

Wishing you a successful month of amazing poetry.

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Susan McCaslin on Robin Blaser

Susan McCaslin

Susan McCaslin

Susan McCaslin has a wonderful piece that was posted yesterday to the Cascadia Poetry Fest blog:

Trailblazing with Blaser
by Susan McCaslin (pdf)

From the moment I heard Robin Blaser lecture in my first graduate course at Simon Fraser University, I was drawn like a moth to the strings of a piano, to borrow a metaphor from his well-loved “The Moth Poem”:

The moth in the piano
will play on
frightened wings brush
the wired interior
of that machine

I said, ‘master’

Coming as a callow graduate student from Seattle to SFU at the age of twenty-two in 1969, I found that Robin had only been teaching there since 1966. Like me, he had emigrated from the States, and similarly (though I had no idea then), we both were to become Canadian citizens and remain permanently in Canada. I had recently crossed the border at Blaine with my draft-resisting boyfriend to pursue graduate studies in English Literature, having chosen SFU over the University of California at Berkeley because of SFU’s edgy northern image, accounts of its radicalism, and memories of visiting Vancouver with my family as a teen. Shortly before my arrival, the students had stormed the faculty lounge, while “be ins” and protests against the Vietnam War were part of everyday campus life.



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After The Japanese 80-82

Zappa's Grave

Zappa’s Grave

More “alternate takes” in this series which I have been serializing here and which is over 18 months old. More poems about Zappa, my late cat and my reaction. You can’t see the “Z” anymore but you get the idea in the photo to the left. I think about the guy who said: “He was only a cat” and am thinking of how there is either a sense that we are connected to all living things or there are levels of anthropocentrism, as in the case of the Minnesota dentist/big game hunter who is now a target.

ATJ 80-82

Or as Krishnamurti said:

When You Call Yourself Krishnamurti

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