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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines



Final Week of Clarion West 2003

So now it's all over. Today we had our wrap-up board meeting. Yesterday the students all left and we cleaned ourselves out of the house. Friday was the last class and the last party. Sunday was the last orientation. Everyone's gone home and the party's over. I miss it all already. So, yes, we're out of days, but here are the last ones we had.

Sunday's orientation was preceded by Octavia Butler coming in to talk to the class. This week's instructor, Samuel R. Delany (Chip) sat in on it, too, as they're old friends. She is a such a delightful person and inspiration; clearly the students loved hearing from her. It was too short. Then Chip talked and took questions from the students. It was such a busy week I really can't recall the conversations in detail, but they were intense and interesting.

Chip is a wonderful teacher and a powerful but also comfortable presence. I think I, along with all of the students, fell in love with him. He's intellectual but also very down-to-earth, interested in theory but also physical detail. A perfect instructor to inspire, challenge, but also support the students in their last week.

The week was full of all the things we need to do to get ready for graduation and for closing down the workshop. Little errands and jobs that seemed to fill in every spare minute. Though I wasn't in class Monday I still felt unready for the week, and I can't remember at all what I did with the day. Probably slept a lot, as I still am having a lot of trouble getting to sleep at night--my mind keeps running with thoughts, worried I'll forget something. Tuesday is the day Leslie and I are in class together, and the reading night, so I stayed in the dorm for the afternoon. The reading itself was moved into one of the bigger lecture halls in Kane Hall, which thankfully had air conditioning, as the weather has been amazingly, steadily, hot for Seattle, in the high 80s and low 90s, causing the students to suffer. Leslie and I introduced the students and Leslie announced next year's instructor list, and then Leslie introduced Chip and he read a vivid portion of his upcoming novel. We didn't have our usual drink at the bar at the Allegro/College Inn as Chip was going out with friends, so I just drove students home and then went home myself.

Thursday was the final day for Kinko's to pick up and deliver stories, so I prepared thank yous for the wonderful staff at the store there and for the driver, who has been just amazing. Hard to believe that for six weeks they were totally on top of copying the stories and getting them back to us in such a short amount of time. But it felt eventful to say goodbye to them. I hung around for part of the afternoon (after running some errands) and had dinner with the students, trying to start packing up.

Friday was the last day of class, and was quite fraught as we were trying to prepare for graduation and Leslie had trouble getting out the graduation cake and we had a few slips ups with the prizes for the class but it felt like a proper event. Leslie gave out the graduation certificates, Deborah gave out the story list and finger puppet gods ("personal muse and protector of prose"), Chip gave out reading posters that had been signed by each of the instructors, and I sprinkled the fairy dust (confetti).

To add to the confusion of the day, the students found a weird blister in the paint of the wall outside the main floor bathroom and it was full of water, and travelled down the wall as the morning wore on--a leak in the walls. The day was complicated as we tried to figure out how much of an emergency it was and could the plumber come today or wait until Monday...

The afternoon disappeared as we tried to get tidied up, said goodbye to the first student to leave. We went to dinner with Chip and a couple of the students, then came back to the house to pick up students to drive them to the party. It was out in Issaquah, a longer than normal but lovely drive out into the suburbs. I was tired enough to let down my administrator guard and be silly and more myself with the students. A little fiestier. Less in the background, where I try not to interfere too much with their experience of the workshop. Driving back Gabriel teased me about shifting a little too late, so I nearly threw him out of the car. On the freeway. That sort of thing.

Back at the dorm I had trouble leaving. Leslie was spending the night on the chesterfield, and I might have spent the night on a chair had Gabe not reminded me that Jim needed getting home to. So I did, and had a brief sleep before getting up in time to go with Leslie to take Chip and Gabriel to the airport. To say see you later. At least that's what it felt like. Not goodbye.

Leslie and I went and had breakfast at the Luna Cafe, then back to the dorm another airport run. We packed three students, Michael, Daniel, and Claud, and all their luggage in and off we went. Then back to the dorm.

Jim arrived there shortly afterward and the day disappeared in farewells and running up and downstairs and packing everything up and laundry and emptying fridges and garbage. Charlie, one of the students, is in town for a few more days and cleaned up most of the upstairs for us, and I bless her. Leslie had gotten very little sleep and mostly cleaned up our classroom materials. At 4:00 or so Kate, Glenn, and Eileen arrived and packed up all the leftovers and hauled it away to the office. The last thing I did was close the windows and blinds, take the last load of garbage and recycling out, lock the back door, then leave by the front, sadly.

After getting home it was a night of phone calls. First a long one with Tamar, and then an even longer one with Elizabeth from Missoula (the Bette mentioned in my entry below) whom I hadn't heard from in quite a while though it seems to both of us that our connection is as strong as ever. She is one of the homes of my heart. Friendships like that are such rare and lucky things.

There are things I can't remember. Was it this week or last that we packed three of the students (and me) in my little car and went out to lunch at Red Mill for burgers? Certain conversations have lost their content, and all I can remember is talking and feeling.

Christina and I had several phone conversations about airfares and other details. And, oh, here's a photograph of the lighthouse we're going to be staying in while we're in Scotland.

Today a brief meeting with Eileen and Kate and Leslie before the board meeting, just to go over things, and then the board meeting, where we had so many things to talk about that items were time for 5, 10, or 15 minutes and we mostly kept pretty much on time, but afterwards spent more time writing thank you letters, which my brain wasn't very good at.

Then getting dinner at the Thai place we like, and coming home (Jennie was walking by so I saw her for the first time in months and months) and then the evening disappeared. It's over.

You can sleep when you're dead is a Clarion West motto. I'm dead. And I still can't bring myself to sleep.


last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing



I have a bunch of new discs but haven't really had time to listen to them. This is not a good thing.

last week's listening § next week's listening



In Hilari Bell's young adult novel, The Goblin Wood, a young hedgewitch is orphaned when the villagers kill her mother. To save herself, she runs away to the woods, where goblin tease her but eventually she comes to an agreement with them and later to be their leader as they try to keep humans from invading their territory. Meanwhile, back in the human world, a young man is sent on a mission to capture her. An enjoyable read.

Elizabeth E. Wein's A Coalition of Lions is a young adult novel about the aftermath of a particular version of the Camelot story. Here after the battle that kills her father, Goewin, Princess of Britain goes to Africa to meet with Constantine, her fiancé, who is now regent for the country of Aksum. She is caught between him and Aksum's ambassador to Britain, who has accompanied her there. Like her first novel, The Winter Prince (see comments in my September 10, 2000 entry) I found this a surprisingly interesting read and an interesting take on a story that until now I thought I had heard too many times already.

last week's reading § next week's reading



Not yet. Soon.

last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

September 1990

1612. Self-Analysis 2--11 years on[1]
September 2, 1990

  1. Themes: love, friendship, ordinary lives, the forest and sea, still essentially mystical, but in the sense of household gods, homely nature gods, folk gods. Inspiration and language, yes, but not with such a heavy hand. How the world is a blessing (and how sometimes people are not). Maintaining ties: with the land, with each other, with ourselves.
  2. Structures: still free verse. I use rhyme more frequently, but still try to keep it hidden. Often use stanza patterns now, simple number of lines and stresses sorts of things. Some mouth music always aimed for--I still strongly hear my poems and love to read them aloud. Enjoyed writing a sestina recently. I think I may move back to using some forms. Repetition is sometimes part of my organizing principle, like song.
  3. Personal landscape: has expanded as my life has. The home of my heart is still the West Coast sea and forest, and it has been a joy recently to return to poems about that, but Montana is also the home of my poems, and now the city and its encroachments as my life has become more city-bound. I also now have poems set in places I don't know, or know from other sources: "Shoah", "Berlin Dreams", "My Mother Drumming", "My Father Among the Mayans".
  4. Diction: has matured somewhat. I still tend to stick to "earth tones," though I am now more willing to use the latinate, sometimes for contrast and sometimes for accuracy. I am not so frightened of abstractions or using "intellectual" words as I was.
  5. Imagery: still very focused on the visual, but now more mixed with touch and taste, smell and sound--not just pictures. I mix the concrete with the more diffuse, with a surer hand than before. More home imagery than before, but still a focus on the forest and sea.
  6. Symbols: water still somehow the most important--lakes, streams, rivers, ocean, and rain--more snow. Still pointing to inspiration and creation and spirit, but also purification and blessing where the natural touches the human. Trees still sentinels in the land, wind a change, sky and openness, stones and constancy, fabric, weaving of life, city and confusion.
  7. Where next: More outward more inward? I don't know. I would like to do a volume of connected poems. Perhaps about family, perhaps borrowed stories, perhaps more of the same--maybe some folk tales or portraits. Not that subject means so much, it is perhaps the guide to the vision.
  8. Aims and intentions: understanding, of course, to share what I see of people and of the world, to communicate this. To see the ordinary as extraordinary, or at least that it points to what's constant and true + therefore extraordinary--to see the infinite in the finite. And also to find out for myself what I know, and if I know anything. (Poems as gifts to my family, my friends, and my readers.) To learn language, means of expression, to weave and unravel it, both. See both sides of it. What we take for granted and dare not. Life, joy, language, forest. Love. To remind.

1613. Airs & Graces
September 5, 1990

After a month of hard work on the poems, I truly feel as though I have accomplished something. It was so wonderful to be able to work full time on them [2], and I believe it paid off: I think I've done my best work ever. Not necessarily the best poems, but certainly the best work, and I felt capable. Organizing them this afternoon, getting a submission ready, adding the new poems to the ms list was wonderful. Airs and Graces [3] has taken its quantity if not its shape. I still have four poems that may work out (or not) and soon I will really begin to organize them. It may be very hard. I hope not. I would like to think it would fall into place. We'll see. It's been wonderful so far.

1614. Starting in September
September 20, 1990

Like a new school year. Beginning now, with the leaves just starting to turn, the sky bluer, night falling fast, but colder. My favourite season, of change [4].
     I'm back at my job now, and the days seem too full almost to do the real work [5]. So many little details to take care of that take up so much time. O well.
     Last weekend we went to Missoula to see Bette and to see how the place (and we) had changed. I still felt as though I could walk up the steps of the house at Walnut Street and be home. Something about that place. The rest of it, taking classes and the jobs we had after seemed so distant--but so does my life now. I'm now quite withdrawn from it all, but my life splits into time at work, time on errands, and time on my own, time lost in books. I need to come home and work.
     Despite the taste of fall it still seems like summer. Warm and all, despite morning fog and chill. It's cool waiting for the bus, but when I'm out after works it's very warm and summer again. Susan and Alan are going to the fair tomorrow. It's that sort of weather.
     Jim's trying to get back to working in a fall sort of way, but it will be difficult--we have visitors ahead and lots to do. I'd like to as well, but we'll see.


1. I had done the original one for my 4th-year poetry workshop under the direction of Robin Skelton.

2. Thanks to a grant from the Canada Council.

3. This was the working title for Spells for Clear Vision.

4. My favourite season now is spring. How did that happen? I got older. The romance of autumn faded.

5. By this I mean writing.

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