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Monday, January 9, 2012

Did you miss me?

Hello! And welcome to 2012. I hope the new quarter is off to a good start for everyone.

My office hours this quarter are MW 10-12 and Tues 1-4; please do feel free to drop by, even just to pet Abbe.
 (this picture is from when she had knee surgery as a puppy; note the chicken legs!)

You should all have received the notice of the Creative Writing Sampler, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4, 5-7 p.m. We had a blast last year; please sign up to participate!

I won't be as active on this blog this quarter as I'm teaching a blogging course, and now have two blogs to maintain over there (as well as keeping track of 20 student blogs. Oy vey, whose idea was that???)
My personal blog is: Spa of the Mind if you're interested in popping by.

Do feel free to post any news or articles that may be of interest to everyone.
Thanks,
Brenda





Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Good luck to the test takers

How nice of us to make you take a major exam on the scariest weekend of the year.... Good luck to all the second-years as they hole up for their exams this weekend! And for inspiration, here's a tidbit from Calvin and Hobbes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Introducing Lynn Graham!

If you haven't had a chance to stop and say hello to Lynn Graham, the new Graduate Program Coordinator, please do. She's in office 325.  She will be a VIP in your life, believe me!

Lynn comes to us from the Psychology dept, where she was the grad program coordinator, and before that she worked at the Graduate School, and before that, right here in the English Dept, so it all comes full circle....

She is married to our very own Bill Smith, and they have two cats: Frank and Shadow.
Lynn also volunteers at the Whatcom Humane Society, where she is a good friend to lots of animals who love her.

Stop by, introduce yourself, give her a warm and hearty welcome!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Publishing Opportunity....

Hello there! I've been away, at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Convention in Portland. While the event was exciting (mostly because it was so wonderful to see that there are still hundreds of northwest booksellers who are surviving!), the best part for me was the train ride, where I sat at a window on the water side and simply looked out. Didn't read, didn't write, didn't work (well, for about an hour....), just got quiet and remembered how lucky we are to live in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.

But anyway, when I returned home I got caught up on email, and this notice calling for submissions caught my eye.
http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/2011/09/introducing-masters-review.html
It will be a "best of the graduate programs" anthology and anyone in a graduate program can send work. Do it! It also looks like a great blog for those interested in future higher education opportunities.

In the meantime, remember to look up and see where you are.
Brenda

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Letter to a Young Writer

My friend Elizabeth Austen, who reports on poetry for KUOW, wrote a beautiful "Letter to a Young Writer" for the Hugo House blog (for those of you who don't know Hugo House, yet, it's an amazing incarnation of literary community in Seattle). I thought it was worth posting for you, not only for your own work, but perhaps the work of your students too. You can substitute the word "poem" for any kind of writing at all. Enjoy.


September 5, 2011
Dear Writer,
Years ago I heard Stanley Kunitz say, “The first job of the poet is to become the person who could write the poems." 
For a long time I thought this meant I had to become a better person than I am. I thought I had to become virtuous and perfect, so that the Muse would give me wise and beautiful poems.
But what I know now is that all (all!) I needed to do is to become myself, not someone else’s idea of me.
Visual artists David Bayles and Ted Orland, in their indispensable book  Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, write that “…becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.”
Or, as W.S. Merwin put it, “No one can teach you to listen for what only you can hear.”
I’ve never written a poem out of perfection. Poems come from the awareness of insufficiency, of confusion. Poems come out of wanting to see more clearly than I can right now. My flaws are openings, points of connection with the suffering and vulnerability of others.
At times I have felt silenced by the ordinariness of my life. But I realized recently that some stories need to be told precisely becausethey are ordinary—to hold the mirror up. My experiences—real and imagined—do not have to be extreme to be fuel for poems. But I do have to practice marrying craft with courage so that what I make out of my experiences, and my idiosyncratic way of perceiving the world, can be art.
Through years of reading and writing poems, I know that there is value in transforming our emotional lives through art and thereby signaling to each other that we are not alone in our experience.
I think it was Kim Addonizio who said, “The artist works to suffer change, the narcissist works for self-display.”
Begin where you are, in the insufficiency you feel. It’s one of the things that makes you human.
Write about what you care about. Don’t be afraid to take on what feels too big.
I found this note to myself in a journal: “What makes me think I can’t speak about the wars, about the larger world? Did I internalize some ‘rule’ about only writing what I know first-hand? Is it guilt about the abundance of my life? Is it simply fear that I don’t have the chops, that what I write will be bad? So what? Write the bad poems. It’s better than being complicit through silence.”
Write the poem that’s in your way. See what comes afterward.
Talent matters much, much less than practice.
And, finally, as Stephen Dobyns says, “Writing a poem is one of the ways to love the world.”
Write. Someone needs to hear what only you can say.
—Elizabeth Austen

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Old habits die hard...

I learned to type on my Mother's electric Remington (okay, I know that dates me!). It sat at a place of honor on the kitchen counter, with its black cover ready to be lifted off at the slightest typing emergency. I loved to watch my mother type, her fingers flying, the merry ring of the carriage chiming out every ten seconds or so. Usually there was a cigarette burning down to a long ash in the ashtray by her side, and a cup of coffee, brewed from the Folger's can, growing cold.To see her type was to witness glimmers of a self that had existed before I was born: a woman who dressed in heels and lipstick, and took the subway to work in Manhattan.

I sat at that typewriter after school, whenever I could, and pecked out The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back over and over, until I could type it by touch alone. And then I practiced more and more, until I could take the typing tests for various and sundry temp jobs over the years, never quite making it to my mother's 100 words per minute, but giving a decent showing of 60 or so. Those were the days of white-out; every mistake cost you something.

My mother and I were both taught to put two spaces after the period at the end of a sentence. Several years ago I learned that was incorrect, but didn't know until now why. Thanks to this witty article in Slate.com, I now understand why something we'd all been doing wrong could be perpetuated through the years. I love the way this writer is so passionate about spaces! I can get the same way about the incorrect use of "lie" and "lay" but I'll save that for another time.....

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/01/space_invaders.single.html

Friday, September 30, 2011

Border Policy Colloquium

Hello All! If you have free time on Thursday this might be interesting. I spent the summer working on this project with other students from different disciplines across campus. The project turned out to be an interesting experience in interdisciplinarity and produced very interesting results. We compared the cross border flow of people into the U.S. and Canada in relation to the legal framework that each nation has put in place to allow for and regulate that flow. Three of us (Susannah, Austin, and I) will be presenting our report.