I just got home from Till–a writing residency north of Seattle.
First of all, I’m quite new to the concept of writing residencies. Here is a little explanation of what Till is.
The cost is reasonable so that writers like me can attend and I feel that there is a spirit of great generosity from the
founders of the event: writers Chelsea Werner-Jatzke and Arne Pihl. The space is amazing and the people are nice
and welcoming. I love that there was no pressure and the structure was free and easy. It is truly a space for serious writers.
I always feel a sense of awe whenever I approach Seattle on I-5. I chatted about “the traffic” to a few Seattle-ites and then exclaimed “but isn’t it just SO inspiring when you see the beautiful skyscrapers of Seattle in the distance?!” They just looked at me in the same way I look at people who exclaim “I LOOOOVE Astoria!”
…..but the traffic
I arrived at Till on Thursday evening–7 hours after leaving Astoria–all because of Tacoma/Seattle. But it was so beautiful.
And deer are so much more fascinating away from home even if you see them all the time.
Some shots of this amazing place called “Smokes Farm” in Arlington, Washington –north of Seattle.
Getting up early to write in the morning was my absolute favorite. I just can’t sleep in when I camp outside, so it worked out well. The first night I set up my tent on the corner of the woods. There was a huge crashing of elk through the trees and lots of coyote sounds; I barely slept the first night. The second night I moved into the “Loafing Shed” to sleep among other writers on cots in what used to be a place where cows slept.
Till –in its 5th year–glad I got to experience it thanks to a new teacher friend.
The Library– a great place to write–and a bit warmer than the outdoor areas.
Writing inside the library early one morning before everyone else was up.
A few views from other places I wrote throughout the weekend.
I did a lot of walking and being outside which was great. I talked with a really nice guy I met about “forest bathing” and studies about being outside for 3 days and how it changes brain function.
Baby sluggies everywhere
On Friday was a workshop with Zachary Schomburg.
The gist of the workshop was about releasing control as a writer and letting poetry in as opposed to controlling it. I was pretty resistant to this idea at first being a writer/control freak. Yet, a lot of amazing things happened. He told us to think of it as recording a poem that is already out in the world fully formed and just harnessing that. We wrote a group poem which was pretty crazy–in a good way. There were tons of weird synchronicities–as if the words really were out there in people’s minds in clouds above our heads and our jobs were to just capture them. For example, a group wrote a poem with the word “Gibralter” in it. The idea was to go around the table and each person supplied a word for the poem–not thinking too hard but coming up with the first thing that came to mind. I was tasked with recording the poem. Each person also had the choice to “end poem” or create punctuation.
Upon reading our created group poems out-loud, one group member said she couldn’t help but say the word, even though it had nothing to do with the poem they wrote. Later, during a writing exercise in which Schomburg hid eggs with prompts inside someone found the word “Gibralter.” As well, our poem was randomly about a “beer cozy.” In my head the words “Rainier Beer Cozy” kept circulating and on my walk about during our writing time—where we were supposed to compose poems in our heads—I ran across this Rainier beer can. I guess beer is common, but definitely not the word “Gibralter.”
During the generative writing time, we all went on little walkabouts looking for our eggs with the prompts in them. I was looking at the ground when I came upon this old Rainier beer can. The prompt was: What do you see that no one else can see?
….and some other beautiful things…..
…the words “alluvial flood plain” and “flash flood” kept dropping down from the sky as I attempted to “not control” my thoughts too much as I composed a poem without the aid of pen and paper….I later found out that the area was indeed a “spillway” from snow melt
…and magically I looked up to find my egg!
…and I found this inside:
I looked it up later and it’s a traditional nursery rhyme referring to magpies
Two For Sorrow
I see sorrow
blood red flash flood
etching my womb
a womb of debris;
it cannot be undone
when all that is good is dry
and all that is bad is alluvial
At night, Till was magical.
And dinner + dessert was cooked up by some talented people in the kitchen.
I talked to a lot of amazing writers working on everything from plays to poetry.
I’ll never stop taking pictures of my food. Never. Never. Never. Especially when it’s a hazelnut torte and homemade custard.
Saturday finished –for me–with a fiction workshop with Stacey Levine
Because I am currently obsessed with the word “exigency,” I’m trying to distill the “urgent need or demand” not only in my writing practice but in my life in general. In writing, “exigence” is the issue or problem that causes someone to speak or write. I believe this is the heart of writing and of life in general. Space is precious. Life is precious. What do you want to say? What do you want to learn? What is the one kernel of truth? The call to action? The take-away?
For me, it’s “be yourself” as corny as that sounds. Or just “you do you.” A seemingly simple concept but really it’s not. When I encounter other creatives and writers, my instinct is always imitation–how can I be like them? In essence, I’m a magpie? This brings sorrow–trying to be something I’m not. I feel a lot of sorrow and frustration that I can’t just fearlessly let my thoughts and words just flow out of me like a flash flood. I worry about judgement. I worry about repercussions.
One morning in the Till library I encountered a book on Zen poetry by Japanese Zen master “Ikkyu Sojun” (1394 to 1481). The book is called “Crow With No Mouth: Ikkyu” translated by Stephen Berg. On the back of the book it states that he denounced rampant hypocrisy among the monks” and basically just let it fly and started saying stuff that maybe he “shouldn’t say” as a monk but was actually true and authentic for him.
The point being that he was unabashedly himself. And writing is scary and hard and too personal at times. And lately–if I’m being honest with myself–I consider myself “outspoken” but really I hide so many things I want to say all the time. I’m extroverted in my mind and writing is the only way to let this talkative magpie in myself come out.
In the forward of the book, I found these words:
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”