Saturday, April 28, 2012

Earth Day Arts Salon at Good Earth Farm: ATHENS, OH

This past Earth Day, an intergenerational group of local folks gathered to share their love and awe of creativity and creation. We sat in a living room warmed by a wood stove. We shared songs, photographs, stories, and poems. We sang together, oohed over the joyfully taut art of juggling, and took an afternoon to ponder how the arts often ask us to see the world differently--then to live in that different world.

For me, art is ever-evolving proof of the Spirit moving among us. Since I was a wee thing, I've thought about creation/creativity as a gift from the ultimate Creator--not only something vast and remarkable God gives us, but an ongoing conversation God expects us to join. Our Earth Day celebration reminded me that, despite too much evidence to the contrary, there are people of faith who care deeply about the natural world and sustainability in the name of a Greater Good.

By the end of the afternoon, after the potluck with blue corn cornbread and local honey, chocolate popcorn, chevre, and hearty casseroles of red beans and rice--after the table had been laid with visual art and after a quick visit out to see the new lambs, I felt as if we'd lived out a new psalm. Selah.

A Trio of Poets/Reading at Arts West: ATHENS, OH

So grateful to live in a town that brings out a crowd to hear new poetry and where reporters write full-page write-ups on new poetry books! In a dangerous move, I will compare poetry to football and say that the Arts West reading in April felt like a big home game, and poetry won. In this photo, we're surrounded by Wendy McVicker's haunting imagistic poems (on the banners!) before our Arts West reading.

Please do yourself a favor and check out the work of Wendy, Carrie Oeding, and Kent Shaw. They are making this world better and brighter. & to hear their work, listen to this joyful interview:

Look Now

April's been flinging about her poetry dress, a flamenco dancer that leaves me awed by cadence and color as she blurs off the stage. For the first time in four years, our irises are having a purple party. No more tall green stalks that taunt but don't deliver. All that storing up for the final last week of April in Southeastern Ohio.

And yes, I'm also reveling in the last few days of this National Poetry Month--especially as I try...and try again... to better envision/embody a National Poetry Life.

This week I signed a publication contract with a journal I've been submitting to for five years. I sensed a real inner shift when I found myself thinking, "That's not that long of a timespan. You've got a lot to learn, girl. You've got this whole life." 

Spring reminds me of the difference between grace and expectation, also, how each year Mother Nature forgives us for our neglect and gluttony. With red bud trees blooming along the highway or fawns on the front lawn, Gaia tells us there's still time.

These irises will fade in a few days, shrivel up to be slippery knots of petals. Now, now. Look now, they urge as I stop to stare at them, only a blip in my day as I cross off my to-do list and try my hardest to keep in touch with the people I love and the life I am daily building. Why must we always feel so behind?  

In a week that's also brought a towed car, harsh words said in haste, angry emails from strangers, little sleep--and, as usual, not enough time to be the partner-writer-teacher-daughter-in-law-sister-friend-child-of-god I want to be--there's been plenty of opportunities for deep exhales, nevertheless, for large portions of self-forgiveness, for small bursts of (purple) celebration. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012



March 17th: Lawrence, Kansas
Writers' Salon with local creative writers

March 29th-April 1st: Harrisonburg, Virginia
Eastern Mennonite UniversityMennonite/s Writing Conference:
Readings March 30th & 31st

April 1st: Official Book Release

April 10, 11 a.m.-1:00 p.m: Athens, Ohio
Book signing at Little Professor Book Center

April 12th: Athens, Ohio
7:30 Reading & reception at ARTS/West with poets Carrie Oeding & Kent Shaw

April 22nd: 4:30-7 p.m., Athens, Ohio
Earth Day Arts Salon + local foods potluck
at Good Earth Farm w/ local artists--anyone's invited to share!
Theme: Creativity and Creation
Reading, book signing

May 19-20: Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati Mennonite Church
Reading (as part of May 20 Sunday morning worship)
"Creative Mothering" workshop 3-6 p.m., May 19

June 25: New York City, New York
Cornelia Street Café, 6-8 p.m.
Reading with fellow Bennington poets

June 30: Bluffton, Ohio
Ohio Mennonite Conference Youth Retreat
Writing workshops for high schoolers

July 6-8: Bluffton, Ohio
MennoFolk Bluffton Music Festival

July 18, 5-6 p.m.: Orrville, Ohio
Orrville Public Library
Reading with poet Jen Kindborn

More to come!

*Would you like the book-and-arts tour to come to your area? Contact Becca.

Backer Thank Yous

So many folks to thank since it's official as of an hour ago: the book-and-arts tour's officially funded with the help of more than 50 backers!

Here's a thank you toast to the following folks who are making this tour monetarily possible (There are many, many more who are sending notes of encouragement, buying the book, hosting and attending tour events and workshops, etc. etc!). So in no particular order:

Rolf Potts
Jayne Byler
Laura Grimm
Reyna Clancy
Carol Beale
Willa Carroll
Denise Vigneron
Donna Lofgren
Sarah Green
Bob and Trisha Lachman
Dennis Davenport
Aimee Anderson
Heather Frese
Kevin Haworth
Kelly Cooke
Sarah Einstein
Sarah Ellen Mitchell
Laura Kung
Amy Juravich
Joel Miller
Ashley Seitz Kramer
Sarah Kraybill Burkhalter
Angela McCutcheon
Patti Rossiter
Adel Wang
Hank and Marilyn Rossiter
Ruth Lapp Guengerich
Heidi Bender
Ben Lachman
Kathy Mast
Ruth Amstutz
Helen Horn
Wendy McVicker
Caitlin Mackenzie
Peter G. Jarjisian
Julia Lichtblau
Jen Hinst-White
Joe and Ashley Dallacqua
Kari Gunter-Seymour Peterson
V. Hansmann
Hillary Dorwart
Jen Colatosti
Deborah Michel Rosch
Sara Gilfert
Eric and Kristin LeMay
Michael Lachman
Heather Frese
Elizabeth Witte
Annah Korpi
Ada Tseng
Amanda Remnant

Mennonite/s Writing: HARRISONBURG, VA

Easter Sunday, and more perennials--wild ginger, phlox, daffodils--are happily tucked into our land. Every year, we plant spreading greenery, hoping one day not to have to haul out the clippers and mowers on our San-Fran-like hills. (We're even considering getting a goat to help us with this job.)

Yesterday, we tended to our acres for blissful hours, cancelled social plans, felt the sun remember our faces. Slow down, our lives had been tea-kettle-whistling. Why must we wait until a Holy Day to listen?

Today we ate breakfast--local eggs and donuts, strong coffee--and read aloud from Mary Oliver: "Don't bother me. I've just been born." We ducked into the old cemetery right across the street to remind ourselves of our living. Later, I will listen to a podcast from my home church three hours away, mostly to hear the hymns and to recognize the voices of people I know. (I sang my favorite Easter hymn in the shower this morning-- "Up from the grave he arose!"--but it's just not the same without that jovial bass line.) Soon, we'll go to restorative yoga to remember how the soul is planted in a body--on purpose. The late afternoon sun shines through blue and green bottles in our side windows, and Beef Bourguingnon (OK, the cheater's version of it!) bubbles away at the stove.

There are many kinds of redemption.

Last weekend, I was honored to read from my book and to give a lecture on "creative nonviolence" as pedagogy at the 6th Mennonite/s Writing Conference, held at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. (Check out my Mennonite World Review post about the conference here.) The conference ended on Palm Sunday, the same day my book of poems officially released.

I'm finding that having a book out there makes you look at your own creative work with a transformative eye. I was that person, I find myself saying to myself. My life has taught me this..., and Look how the Spirit moved. I also find myself wanting to make revisions to these now-published poems--to stretch a line or delete a word. Who knows: when I read them in public, they may show up wearing something a little different--another ending, an alternative line break, a slight twist of adjective. Does the transformation process ever really end?

The poet Gregory Orr offers this line: “Praising all creation, praising the world: / That’s our job—to keep / The sweet machine of it / Running smoothly as it can.” Mr. Orr spoke at the Mennonite's Writing conference about the ethical responsibilities of lyric poetry, which means the "I" can be transformed, move beyond the individual and out into the world. Selah. Alleluia. Whatever slows you down, may it help you step out into the bigger world, renewed.

With poet Gregory Orr