Thursday, December 31, 2009
From my 40th birthday literary party, January 2009. Come as an author...
Bottom row: Nancy Canyon also as Virginia Woolf, Jennifer Culkin as Dorothy Parker, Kelli Agodon as Sylvia Plath, Martha Silano as Gertrude Stein, Susan Rich as Anna Akhmatova, Kathleen Flenniken without her cape as Marianne Moore
Sunday, January 10: poets Tess Gallagher, Holly Hughes, and David Wagoner; fiction and nonfiction writer Craig English
Monday, January 11, a special appearance by writer Gretel Ehrlich
Tuesday, January 12: Poet Kelli Russell Agodon, fiction writers Bob Mayer and Kathleen Alcala, and nonfiction writer Susan Zwinger
Friday, January 15, Children and Young Adult authors George Shannon and Bonny Becker; fiction and nonfiction writer Melissa Hart; and poet and novelist Lori A May
All readings take place at Captain Whidbey Inn in Coupeville and begin at 7:30 pm.
Some of you may have read here that my family makes New Year's Resolutions for each other. For me they chose (after I lost and found my iPhone): Take better care of my things. My daughter has the same resolution. My husband's is to stay positive and happy when tired.
In the spirit of this making resolutions for others, today, I will take the liberty to make a few resolutions for you (and me):
1. Take more baths
2. Throw out all and any of your tattered, ugly, ripped, underwear and buy new ones.
3. Do the same for your socks
4. Remember that having a glass of red wine each night adds 6 years to your life (source: More magazine)
5. Remember adding meditation to your daily life adds 12 years (same source)
6. Give a "gift" to someone every day (it doesn't have to be material, but a kind act)
7. Less news and internet, more poetry and music
8. Write letters that need stamps
9. Tell someone how much you appreciate them
10. Live as if life is temporary, because it is.
11. Remember you are loved
12. Enjoy your life with coffee or tea
13. Have dessert
14. Yes, take more baths...
I was reading Mary Bid's blog this morning and she wrote:
If you'd asked me on New Year's Eve 1999 (a day that I'm not sure I remember, for some reason) what things I would most definitely not be doing on New Year's Eve 2009, I am sure that the following would be among them:
Her list included a Disney movie and making mashed potatoes.
My list includes a Chipmunk movie and making chocolate cream pie.
I remember my New Year's 1999. My husband (aka the firefighter) was working. I was 2 months pregnant. I had 3 cats and a greyhound. I lived in a blue house on the hill. I wrote poetry. We worried about Y2K.
I remember just as it turned midnight some prankster in our group hit the switch of the fusebox and made all the lights go out. We gasped. 10 seconds later they were back on and it felt all was well in the world.
Now it's ten year's later, my life is that daughter I was pregnant with, the same firefighter husband, 3 cats (only 1 who was around in 1999), a hedgehog, 2 guinea pigs (one named after Sylvia Plath) and a golden retriever named Buddy Holly. I'm still in the same house. I still am writing poetry.
What I wish for you this new decade?
For you to live passionately, following whatever dreams you carry in your paper cup.
For you to find meaning when you think there is none.
For your world to bring you magic and optimism
and for you to have someone, like the photo above, to kiss you hard or hold you when things don't feel so good. May your life continue to be filled with friends and family and experiences that fulfill you.
Go forth into the new decade, grasshopper, mirror beetle, kingfisher
and may it be full of all good things.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
(which I was surprised to get a few good ideas out of, I wasn't sure it would apply to me give that my job is freelance and being self-employed)
Monday, December 28, 2009
"Poems About Place" at Village Books in Bellingham, Jan.16
Join the Skagit River Poetry Festival at 7 pm on January 16, 2010, when six of the Northwest's top poets will participate in a "Poems about Place" reading Jan. 16 at Villages Books in Bellingham.
The event, co-sponsored by North Cascades Institute, is free, open to the public and aims to raise awareness and support for the 2010 Skagit River Poetry Festival. In the lineup are: Washington State Poet Laureate Sam Green, Jim Bertolino, Michael Daly, Oliver de la Paz, Nancy Pagh, and Jeremy Voigt.
A private reception for the poets, with food and beverages, will be held after the reading. Tickets for the reception are $25 per person and all proceeds will benefit Skagit River Poetry Festival.
For tickets and more information, contact Kris Ekstrand Molesworth at (360) 708-6626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More info at http://skagitriverpoetry.org.
I have started an interesting new habit of writing in the morning.
If you know me or have followed my blog, you might have figured out that my prime writing time was from 8 pm - 1 am, right after my family goes to sleep.
Maybe I have just become old, but I've found myself in bed at 9 pm this winter. This is not like me. . .at all.
I have tried to write at night, but I've only realized how tired I am and how blank my mind is. I can't pull up any ideas, images, or even basic words. It had become an evening meditation of staring at a blank screen.
But lately, I've found if I get up, grab cereal and coffee, I can write first thing in the morning. And not just journal-write, but write-write. Poems have come. You don't understand, nothing EVER came to me in the morning. I have always considered myself NOT to be a morning person. Most of my poems in Small Knots and in Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room where written after the sun had set. And now, here I am, a William Stafford-up-before-dawn writer.
I think it's important though to realize that sometimes our best times to write become our worst and to be open for change. Just try it out and see what happens.
I've been trying to revise my life this December.
My main goal is to keep the "retreat lifestyle" in my regular life as much as possible. I am kind of proud of myself to say I have done this pretty well. I have stopped going to news websites and feeling as if I must know all that is happening in the world. I have turned off NPR and instead have been listening to music. I have stopped checking Facebook and email as much as I had been and instead spending a lot of my free time with friends, family, pets and books.
I have found *my* work (and my work with others & with Crab Creek Review) gets completed faster because I'm not putting it off. (Amazing how that works.)
My mum got me this book for Christmas--One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good and honestly, I've completely organized the kitchen and pantry (month one) ending up with 3 boxes for Goodwill (including our giant George Foreman grill we never use) and 3 bags of food for the foodbank. I feel a little OCD as I'm totally loving this book.
It's also funny because I just read What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind, which I also really liked, but it is the really the anti-American belief about organizing and just living enjoying daily pleasures and being in the moment.
But maybe I can do both...
I guess because while I know w my writing is not related to whether I have utensils and odd contraptions I never use, but there is a freeing for me.
In Feng Shui, they say that cleaning (or clearing) a home with what you don't need opens a new flow of energy. I think one thing is does is allows you not to worry about "what you have to do" because it's done. Also, it saves energy in finding things as now I actually *know* where things are and am not running around the kitchen digging through every drawer saying, "Where are the scissors?" The scissors that last week were missing so we had to wrap presents with a child's pair from my daughter's room, after cleaning the kitchen it seems we have no less than SIX pairs of scissors. The problem was, they just weren't where they were supposed to be.
So, this Christmas break, my life has been about writing in the morning and making boxes for Goodwill in the afternoon. I think the Christmas-clutter put me over the edge as we had WAY too many decorations as even my husband said, "That gang of wooden snowmen was stressing me out..." And oddly, me too.
It feels like a good time of the year to be doing this-- cleaning up, starting new habits, especially writing habits because isn't that what New Year's is about? A time to start again. Of course, we can restart anytime, but there's a nice feeling when the clock counts down and we can say, "Well, that year is over..." and see the possibilities before us.
What are you clearing out of your life for the new year?
What are you bringing in?
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I plan on keeping better track of the books I read in 2010.
I was reading January's blog and realized I hadn't mentioned Maya Ganesan's book Apology to an Apple, which came out last year. There were others. I'm going to try to be better with that. And especially with poetry books. I have a new notebook I will keep with me and on my desk called Favorite Books.
And speaking of favorite books (and favorite poetry books), the most lovely poetry book arrived in my mailbox. January O'Neil's Underlife (New Voices)
and wow, what a great book! First, the book is absolutely gorgeous to hold. It's an incredible quality and has French flaps* which I love in books! But even better, the poems inside! While there were some I recognized (one even appeared in Crab Creek Review), many of these poems were new to me and how I love them.
Self-Portrait, a short poem with a great last line is one of my favorites, but I also love "The Kerning," which is in Crab Creek Review. But there are so many others-- Permanent, She's Closest to Breaking, Take Care (which has the title to the collection in it...) and oh so many others...
I definitely recommend picking this book up for your 2010 reads. It's beautiful in so many ways.
*What are French flaps?
French flaps are simply extensions of the paperback cover that fold inside the book. Not only are paperback books featuring French flaps sturdier and more attractive, but they are also useful because the flaps can be tucked back into the book to mark the reader's place.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
It's the day after Christmas... if you have kids, your house may be trashed (like mine). Or maybe you're a better housekeeper than I am. I must say, the domestic arts and I run in different groups. One day I will learn to cook and clean. But there are so many books to read. How to do both?
Santa brought me what I wanted for Christmas (and things I didn't even know I wanted). Books and books. One I can't wait to read is Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections edited by Arielle Greenburg and Rachel Zucker.
I also received The Best American Poetry 2009: Series Editor David Lehman
edited by David Wagoner (and has a poem from Martha Silano in it!), a book on organizing for the year (I know, so Capricorn to ask for this) and a book about how to do Mail Art, as I am one of the people in the world who still loves to write handwritten letters. I just wanted to add a little flair to them.
Also, a bag of Starbucks Christmas blend and an embosser for my books that reads (when pressed hard enough): "From the Library of Kelli Russell Agodon" and has a big KRA in the center. I love this. I cannot tell you how long I've wanted an embosser to mark my books. I'm kind of territorial about my books. They are my paper security blanket. I don't feel right if I leave the house without a book. I can admit this to you because I know there are a few people who read this blog that feel the same way.
My daughter's favorite gift (besides the electric guitar Santa brought her) were the Warrior books (specifically http://www.amazon.com/Warriors-Power-Three-Box-Volumes/dp/0061782297/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261841902&sr=1-6) she received. She loves these books. She started reading them when she was 8 and has been hooked since. I think it's pretty wonderful how kids are hooked on so many great series books. Warriors,, Harry Potter, Magic Tree House, even Twilight. Right now at her school, reading is the thing to be doing. I cannot tell you how it warms my heart to see her or one of her friends take out a book and start reading.
It's one of the reasons I get so annoyed when I read something like the poor next generation and their texting, their internet, their cellphones, etc. Her elementary school is beyond better than the suburban school I went to in the 70's. If anything, my generation was the TV generation, not this group. No one went to a bookstore at midnight to get any book being released in the 70's. I loved Judy Blume and Nancy Drew books, but I wasn't standing in line to get the next one (though Super Fudge came close...) I think adults are way too tough on this generation, maybe they realize just how much they know and how much smarter they will be than us...
But back to the holiday. It was wonderful being with my family on Christmas (all in a great mood), having our traditional Italian Christmas dinner (though we are French), wearing our paper hats (though only 1/2 of us are part English/Irish), and wishing each other a Happy Solstice (though we are Catholic).
I feel very thankful for the people in my life and who thought of me this year.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Because It's Christmas Eve
and past poets sometimes resemble Santa
without the red hat and suit.
Because it's Christmas eve and I write
poetry and try to work the holidays
into verse. Because Walt and his white beard is equal
or greater than snow, than Santa, than the Christmas cookies
I will wear into the new year on my hips. Because Christmas
and poetry can mix, can be the holly on your desk, the holy
in your manger, the candle burning
in the window saying someone is home
and quiet and writing.
Merry Christmas, Poets!
May your Christmas be poetic, creative, and full of all that brings you inspiration.
In the mix of Christmas shopping, green iced sugar cookies, and holiday specials it's easy to forget there are a group of people who won't be coming home this Christmas because they are overseas. And even though the news reports on Tiger and his long list of lovers, there is still a war going on and many men and women who will not spend the holidays with their families.
So today, my thoughts are with these soldiers with wishes of safe arrivals home (and soon). And of course, what I've wished for each Christmas, for the war to end and the even larger wish of peace.
Peace on earth and peace within each of us.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Here's how my head works (remember I am a Capricorn):
- Interest :: account
- Chase :: Manhattan
- Itch :: Seven
- Soothe :: balm
- Lamp :: genie
- Tutor :: Mrs. Robinson
- Nicole :: French
- Sloth :: Tree
- Burn :: bright
- Bug :: aboo
Dear Reader, it's that time to admit I'm on the naughty list. Are you? Though I've always felt that they naughty list always had the best drinks.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Yesterday was comedy of errors, but in the end, all worked out and I'm grateful for a lot of it.
1) Thank you kind person who found my iPhone in the Rite Aid parking lot and brought it into the store in belief that I would return. I did.
2) Thank you MobileMe, an extra feature I bought when I purchased it my Mac because I thought it would make it easier to move my info from one laptop to another. I had thought you were a big waste of money. Who knew that "Find your iPhone" GPS feature would become my best friend and I will renew to you next year just for that.
3) Thank you husband for pulling me out of the way of a car backing up in a parking lot. I was 4 inches away from a broken leg or who knows what. I'm sorry I made the angry face at you first because I didn't know what you were doing and I thought you were just yanking me because I was walking slow.
4) Thank you older gentleman stranger for holding the door open for me when I was rushing in and wishing me a Merry Christmas.
5) Thank you to every person I asked "Have you seen my iPhone?" for not telling me "You should take better care of your things."
6) Thank you family for being honest with me and making my new year's resolution that is, "Kelli will take better care of her things."
7) Thank you strangers for putting colorful lights on your homes. When we drove to a local production of the Nutcracker last night, it made our evening.
8) Thank you gray-bearded man at the market for wrapping two bottles of wine in newspaper and saying, "And after you get home, you'll have reading material if you can't sleep."
9) Thank you sweet artists who live your life quietly, volunteering to bring art to a larger world.
10) Thank you Marilyn for adding white lights of peace signs to your Christmas decorations. When I drive off the ferry on the way home, I always see them glowing.
Friday, December 18, 2009
It's not always easy.
It is not always easy to be thankful for the people you are closest too and for what they do. Sometimes it's easier to see their flaws and creases instead of paper angels we all are.
We have a tradition in our house (one I started and haven't regretted so far), in which we make each other's New Year's resolution. My husband and daughter choose mine. My daughter and I choose my husband's. And my husband and I choose my daughter's. It's always interesting to see what others think I should improve on vs. what I think I should improve on. Also, we only get to choose one as we don't want a laundry list of what's wrong with each of us.
They are still working on choosing my resolution.
My daughter's resolution is to take better care of her things. We still have to choose my husband's as well, but think it will be something about patience with girl energy.
If I were to write my own resolutions, the list would be long and incomplete.
But I will try to be more gentle with all of the world's paper angels and to try my best to be thankful for what I have and for the people who continue to do things for me or who are there for me in my life.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The farmhouse dinner table where we ate each night.
Llamas at the farm across the street (and you can see how close you are to Puget Sound here).
Carolyn & me on our last day
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
picture window of the woods (the other cottages had 2 smaller
windows). It's name is Cedar.
I cannot believe how much I wrote here. This tells me that I make my
own limitations. This is also the background image on my phone to
remind me of what I am trying to create in the real world. When I
look at my cottage, my cabin in the woods I see a peacefulness I have
not achieved in the real world. This is what. I'm aiming for.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Me in my cottage. I look kind of sad (or maybe that's my thoughtful look). I'm not sad though, just finking about fings, as my daughter used to say.
Dear Reader, I am back from my week in the forest. It was an incredible time at Hedgebrook, a writing retreat created from women on Whidbey Island. If you have not applied to go there (and you're a woman!) you should. I wrote more there in 7 days than I did all this fall.
There is a lot to share and I'm not even sure where to begin!
I guess we'll just go to the confessional and see what comes out...
I confess it's so much easier for me to write when there is solitude, the energy of other writers (even if not in my cottage), and time. That might seem obvious, but I think I forgot how much you can get done where there's nothing else to get done.
I confess I am trying to recreate the Hedgebrook experience at home by staying off the internet, email, and trying to follow the schedule I created there, which was write first.
I confess it's harder to do this in the real world, but I am trying. I have been on Facebook to post photos, but I have not read or watched any news and only very briefly did I look at others status posts.
I confess that I felt a little overwhelmed when I saw all the status posts. I have been with 6 other women for one week. They were the only ones around me with the exception of the chef and gardener. I had downsized my social circle and seeing it expanded so much seemed a little weird.
I confess I wrote a ton. I had an incredible time and the memories, beauty, spirit of the place will never leave me.
I confess I had a hard time entering back in to "real life." I confess I cried the whole way home on the ferry and was told I was "emotionally raw," and "perhaps, vulnerable" (which I thought would make a great title for a poem or book of poems). My husband also told me he had never heard me so emotional before. And I would agree with that. There is a long story about the tears and fears, but I was surprised at how I ended up pretty much losing the whole first part of the ride home.
A friend said going away in the woods for a week was probably a bit of a spiritual journey. And it was.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
website, but haven't read the book until now (published by Seal Press).
It's wonderful. I finally feel I am hearing the experience of women
who are like me.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
write your resolutions in 6 words only.
Here are a few of mine--
Try to remember: attachment causes fatigue.
It's about the work, nothing else.
Be open, be giving, be kind.
Never throw rocks at whales- never! (that was my dad's resolution
every year). ;-)
Keep faith close, assume the best.
Realize my path is only mine.
Talking about problems doesn't fix them.
Trust myself, but not my fears.
Stay off the grid a bit.
More quiet time, bye bye news.
Be good to myself and others.
Find art in my life daily.
Become a little more Frida Kahlo.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Women writers and good energy
My warm boots
Carrying our baskets with tomorrow's lunch in them back to our cabins.
Our own breakfast club
Walking driftwood beach
My new MacBook (it's awesome. Why did I wait so long??)
Reading poems in front of a fire
No news no Tiger Woods no outside world and their buzzing sounds
The time to be here
My family for taking care of things while I'm away.
Chocolate chip cookies
Not feeling as if running in circles
Time time time to read and write and take long lavender baths
The rubber duck with devil horns, the mermaid.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
going to start fresh. New work. New poems.
It's a good place to be. Starting over. I'm happy about this.
This is my workspace here and my electric blanket over the chair.
We've had beautiful weather but cold. I prefer cold to wet so I'm not
If I stand so slightly in certain parts of the cottage, I get 3 bars
on my phone. And this morning I did. So here is a quick check in.
I more thorough account of my experience here when I return. For now,
stay warm and write lots. It's my motto.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
Sunday, December 06, 2009
I will take photos to share.
My cottage is heated by a woodstove. I will wear slippers and many layers of clothes. My favorite writing clothes which are thermal long-sleeve shirts and either my ripped jeans, green cords, or yoga pants.
I have not yet packed a journal, but have packed 2 bottles of Talking Rain, Total cereal, and cucumber/melon bodywash.
I have also not packed any pens, but have packed chocolate and a box of thin mints.
I am doing all the things I need to do before I leave. Like add things to my Christmas Wish List (hence all the Amazon links lately.) My mum joked that all I wanted for Christmas was "two stupid books." So now I have about ten stupid books on my wish list. Honestly, if you want to make me happy for Christmas, buy me a book or some nice pens. I'm simple that way.
Or don't buy me anything, but donate to my two favorite organizations right now.
Kiva (where you actually don't donate, but give loans to people in different countries and they pay you back. I've had every loan paid back, btw.)
Or to West Sound Wildlife Shelter (You know when you find those injured wild animals or birds that no one will take, well, these incredible folks take them. We brought them an injured baby bird and they nursed it back to health and sent it back into the wild. They do that for SO many animals. They are really the one of the best organizations I have found this year! I think every community needs a place like this.)
By the way, make sure to check out West Sound Wildlife Shelter's websitee for an incredible dose of cuteness. They have many of the baby animals they have helped and well, these photos always make my day.
So these are my thoughts on a Sunday morning. Getting ready to leave, but my thoughts scattered.
I'll pack a journal right now so I don't forget. And a pen. And some inspiration as well.
So, I love to write letters.
I always have. Near my writing space, I keep postcards and in my closets, notecard after notecard. I'm highly unorganized though. But dedicated. And in love with paper. (Sorry trees, but I love you in both forms.)
So I found this blog today: Good Mail Day
And this book: Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art
which I have just added to my Christmas Wish List.
It looks mouthwatering to me. Letters sent and received. Is it a luxury these days? I'm not sure, but I cannot wait to learn new ways to make my letters even better than the handstamped quickies I send out.
Another way to create. Another way to put a little beauty in the world and into someone else's life. I love it.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Note the cute golden who will be staying home.
You see, more than anything in my life, the laundry kicks my butt. But this isn't about laundry, it's about Oprah.
One of my favorite Oprah shows is Her Favorite Things show, so this post, perfectly placed almost 3 weeks before Christmas, will be a list of my favorite things.
Many of the books listed below I read this year, a few are from years back, but they continue to be books (usually poetry books) I still return to. If you go to page 2, I have a few favorite DVDs.
Friday, December 04, 2009
never see myself getting rid of.
This holiday give the gift of poetry, your favorite book, to someone
who might not read poetry.
And if possible, buy directly from the press as they get to keep more
of the profits that way.
This holiday message has been brought to you by a not-quite starving
poet who wants to share the wealth of reading poetry with others.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
They have a name: Amanita muscaria (aka "Storybook mushrooms")
and apparently "primarily famed for its hallucinogenic properties with its main psychoactive constituent being the compound muscimol."
The full article on Wikipedia
Writing Exercise: Use this magical mushroom in a poem.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
I confess I am late. How quickly a year/month/week/day goes by. To make up for it, I posted the photo of the storybook mushrooms I found today with friends. They honestly looked fake on the lawn of the antique shop, or what is the chocolate shop, I don't remember.
But since I'm late, I shouldn't keep you waiting any longer...
to the confessional--
I confess I won't be here next week as I'll be off to a magical place to write. I do not know if they have storybook mushrooms, but I will be looking for them.
I confess I have not been writing much this fall. Wait, I've confessed this before. I used to be someone who believed a writer must write every day, now I don't believe that, except that I do. I do believe it's important to write every day and I've been disappointed with myself for not. But I know that no one can stand behind me and hold up my pen but me. So, this is just a bad habit I've encountered recently/since May, I am the one who is accountable for how I spend my time.
I confess that since I've known I'll be having this upcoming writing week, I've allowed myself to neglect my writing because I know I have this time set aside for me. That kind of annoys me about myself, but I also know that sometimes when I don't allow myself to write, I write even more. We'll see what happens once I get there.
I confess I'll tell you more when I return.
I confess that today was such a beautiful sunny day that a friend and I went mountain biking! It was so cold -about 40 degrees, but so much fun. I should have worn gloves though. In trying to pull my sleeves over my fingers, I twisted my handlebars and crashed. Did I mention it was muddy? Oh yeah.
My bike is fine and clean though. And so am I now.
We were going to go again tomorrow, but I think I'll suggest a hike. My lungs are not at full capacity and they kind ache after today's ride. Does it sound as if I'm neglecting my writing? I kind of am. But I'm kind of not.
I confess there are many different ways to be a writer, but I like my writing life better when I am writing every day. That will be my New Year's Resolution.
I confess I sound a little wishy-washy in this post. Maybe that's the mud running off my bike as I cleaned it. Maybe it's the mud I washed off my hands, arms, side, leg and shoes. Maybe I'm more washy than wishy.
I confess I must leave to do the chores I neglected all day. Writing is not a chore, so it will not be done tonight. Laundry will. Lots and lots of laundry. Washy-washy. I guess I was made for this.
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