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Passion of Place—Reading and Writing the Land in Verse
“The land was ours before we were the land’s.” Robert Frost’s poem recited at JFK’s inauguration speaks to us in the West, and particularly the Northwest, where sea and mountains, evergreen forests and wheat-covered hills, Native American origins and the cultures of the Pacific Rim and East Asia all exert their power over our imaginations and in the poetic voices and traditions that flourish here. We will read poems from a number of poets of the West and Northwest—from William Stafford’s quiet illuminations in his Reports from a Far Place, to Richard Hugo’s Triggering Towns, to Carolyn Kizer’s tutelary Great Blue Heron, to Gary Snyder’s Zen reflections in the Sierras, to Madeline DeFrees’s iconic Blue Nun and more. As a native of the Pacific Northwest, and a former student of Stafford, Hugo, and DeFrees, among others, I have been immersed in this poetry, and its organic connections with the region’s natural history, lore, and culture, since the beginning of my own poetic practice. With the immediate beauty of the Pacific Northwest all around us, we will write our own poems about scenes and landscapes that move and matter to us, using as many senses as we can to describe the scene, and if there’s a story associated with it, tell the story.
Carolyne Wright’s ground-breaking anthology, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace (Lost Horse Press, 2015), received ten Pushcart Prize nominations and was a finalist in the Foreword Review’s Book of the Year Awards. She has nine earlier poetry volumes, five books of poetry in translation from Spanish and Bengali, and a collection of essays; and has received Fulbright, NEA, 4Culture, and Seattle Arts Commission fellowships. After visiting posts at universities around the country, she returned to her native Seattle in 2005, and since then has taught for Richard Hugo House, Seattle’s community literary center; for the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA Program for its entire 2005-2016 existence;