Song Cousins

My regular open mic (sorry Peter, but “mic” is short for microphone and “Mike” is short for Michael) EasySpeak Seattle has been on hiatus since February AND WE BOOKED SO MANY COOL FEATURED POETS and they’ve all been cancelled. Ugh. (Well, their feature has been cancelled, not they themselves.) Best guess now is a return to EasySpeak in April since public health is now a culture war in this age of hating people who have such a commitment to study that they are EXPERTS. Oh to be Canadian!

So my one-lettered Song Cousin, T., sent a missive to we EasySpeakers and this morning I added my response, which I thought you might enjoy:


Thanks for this glorious missive. I miss all you do AND the gyro Caesar salads with feta. Summer is a time when, for me, the focus is on the writing (postcards included! 14 days left to register for POPO 2020: and the aspects of life that are fodder for the writing: camping, long days, sunsets, hiking, day trips, travel, &c., so this time of year feels like an ok time to break from in-person gathering, but then I still miss the Bumbershoot Book Fair to call us back to the Literary Season, so the missing of things seemingly does not stop!
And Peter tells me he does not expect there to be EasySpeak until April. What kind of world will we have by then? How much will have happened as 2020 is only half-over! New leadership? New programs to begin to address and dismantle the various longtime injustices that in many ways this country was built on? “May you live in interesting times” is the Chinese curse and here we are. “Poetry is the language for a state of crisis” says Mallarmé and here we are.
I am reminded of the Rune Tiwaz. It looks like an arrow pointing up. There is a great write-up on this rune at: It says: “Tiwaz is a warrior rune named after the god Tyr who is the Northern god of law and justice… Tyr is a one-handed god with a long history, and his hand was sacrificed to trick the wolf, Fenris, into being chained. Tiwaz is just victory according to the law of accumulated right past action…”
And while it seems simple and easy to stay at home and wear a mask when you are outside shopping or getting gas or taking videos of another police lynching, it is NOT common sense in our selfish culture, so the common sense crowd continues to sacrifice our rituals, regular poetry gatherings among them. We go inside (in all aspects of that phrase) and we come back stronger and with more life force. In runic culture they would use the word hamingja for a kind of luck passes down via generations.
Bhakti was reading the Dale Pendell book Pharmako Dynamis last night in bed. (It was a birthday gift from someone who loves her.)  She pointed out that in Inuit culture, the special relationship that develops between two poets has a certain name:
Bless all of you, my Song Cousins. I look forward to hearing your Cante Jondo upon our joyous return.
P.S. One more Cyberknife treatment for prostate cancer Monday and I should be good to go.
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Benefit Reading for the Community of Writers at Sq— Valley

I am delighted this week to participate in the Community of Writers at Sq— (virtual) Valley. Virtual because of the ongoing (& well-founded) concern regarding the novel Coronavirus. There are some advantages to virtual. I get to have meals at home and walks in my neighborhood. I don’t have to give up a minute of Cascadian summer. I can attend in my studio with my library within the radius of my headphone cord. And the workshop has worked as I had hoped, allowing me to meet new poets, reconnect more deeply with “cabin mates” like Kelli Russell Agodon and helping me generate a LOT of new poems. (It helps to come in with ongoing projects like Sonetos de Cascadia, American Sentences, POPO and a serial poem on Carla Bley, all of which have been expanded, or continued here.)

And the virtual format means you can attend the benefit faculty reading!

Camille Dungy  •  Robert Hass  •  Brenda Hillman
Major Jackson  •  Ada Limón •  Matthew Zapruder

This year hear six poets including one Pulitzer Prize winner, a recipient of the Griffin International Prize, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, two National Book Critics Circle Award winners, and a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.

Thursday, June 25, 2020 via Zoom
5:30 p.m. Pacific Time (Reservations HERE.)

Admission is free and donations greatly appreciated.

My workshop experiences with Major Jackson and Brenda Hillman, “Poetry First Aid” sessions with Bob Hass and Brenda, Brenda’s craft talk on “soul” and just the general high level of poetry literacy are all highlights of this experience so far. Please consider attending and supporting this legendary workshop now 50 years old.

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Death of an Indian (Birth of a Shaker)

I was delighted to read as part of the Margin Shift series on Thursday, June 18, 2020. Earlier in the day I thought I would rehearse a long poem that is a huge part of the newly expanded edition of my book A Time Before Slaughter. The new section is Pig War: & Other Songs of Cascadia.

A story I would have told during the reading is that when I first moved to Seattle, in 1988, I had already been seeking a spiritual path and I ended up finding indigenous people and communities, including Beaver Chief, a teacher and friend who served on the Board of the organization that is now SPLAB. Through him and his Red Cedar Circle, which happened for a while at the Auburn SPLAB I learned many Shaker Songs. So when I started researching the history of Cascadia, it was interesting to see the Shaker Church as a uniquely Cascadian thing: not quite indigenous, but surely not in the “monotheistic religion” category. The poem I read below is a telling of the founding of the Shaker Church and John Slocum’s near death experience.

The interesting thing to me about my connection to the songs of the Shaker Church is that I joined Subud in 2004 and when my Latihan practice really caught on, it was as if my deep self was composing something like Shaker Church songs, but as if influenced by the music of the 70s fusion band Weather Report. So “Beaver Chief meets Zawinul.”

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