Paul E Nelson

October 14, 2009

To what do you train your attention?

For over 30 years, Paul E Nelson has interviewed poetic luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Robin Blaser, Sam Hamill, Wanda Coleman, Eileen Myles, Jerome Rothenberg, Sam Hamill and George Bowering. As host of a whole-systems public affairs radio interview program, he also interviewed authors and activists who understand the shift from a mechanistic ethos to one of process, partnership and interconnection.

Now, you can listen to his visionary interviews online, find resources for Organic Poetry , or book a workshop with Paul and bring him to your community. His workshops are transformative experiences for writers of all skill levels.

About Paul’s most recent collection of poetry, A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, Oct ’09), Michael McClure said:

“Here’s one more big hunk of the American shoulder, as Olson carved his from the North East, Nelson takes his from the Pacific North West. It’s beautiful time-space in new words.

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Paul has written a 17 syllable sentence every day since the first day of 2001. Read more about the form he uses at American Sentences.

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He was shortlisted for the Stranger Genius Award in Literature in 2010:

They don’t get much more inventive than this: Paul E. Nelson’s A Time Before Slaughter is a book-length epic poem about Auburn, Washington. (Fun fact! Auburn was originally named Slaughter in honor of fallen U.S. lieutenant William Slaughter. Slaughter residents quickly got cold feet and changed the name.) It’s not the one long, boring spray of stanzas you’re picturing. Nelson split up his epic into dozens of smaller poems, varying in length and content. There are elegies, sonnets, prose poems, images, and even testy e-mail exchanges with easily outraged Auburn civil servants, forming a literary collage of a little city that usually escapes notice. Nelson brings a cacophony of voices together to form a chorus. That chorus sings the stories of dozens of men and women—full of regrets and muddled memories, complaining about traffic while piloting their SUVs, murdering and being murdered, feeling unseen and abandoned. In other words, he has built a city out of words. A city named Slaughter. And Auburn. It’s a brilliant achievement.

– Paul Constant


His serial poem, A Time Before Slaughter continues with the next chapter of Cascadia history in verse, Pig War & Other Songs of Cascadia. A reissue of Organic Poetry and the first of several books of American Sentences is due out in 2012. He is also working on a series of Haibun inspired in part by the neo-barroco poet Ramon Gomez de la Serna entitled Haibun de la Serna.

1 Comment

  1. Marty Williams

    Hi Paul,

    I have been part of a poetry postcard project with writers in the S.F. Bay Area and around the country that grew out of a writing retreat with Diane di Prima. We are not the only group that has grown out of one of Diane’s gatherings. For some reason, I’m thinking you were the impetus for these groups, or the originator of this particular format, or somehow that we inherited the format, the sort of chain letter structure (send 3 poetry postcards to the people ahead of you on the list, then one to the next person as soon as you receive one, etc.). Jannie Dresser, who writes a blog for Examiner in the Bay Area, wants to interview me regarding my participation in this project, include a few photos of my postcards, etc. If you are indeed an inspirator for this work, I’d like to say so. Please tell if it’s so, and what citation you would like, e.g., what website, etc.

    Ms. Marty Williams

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