Monday, July 16, 2012

Tassajara Writing Retreat

For the next four days I'll be at Tassajara Zen Center in the Carmel Valley. There's a poetry workshop in progress, but my domestic partner and I will be doing "our own thing" (without computer/cell phone access), which will consist of sitting in water, sitting in sun (hopefully), reading, writing, and the normal (depending upon the range of your bell curve) things romantic partners do on vacation in a secluded, wilderness retreat environment.

There are no electrical outlets in our rooms, so I will either have to write with pen/paper, or pay $10/night to have my computer charged up in the office. In case that system fails, I printed out lots of beginnings of poems to flesh out, as well as some completed drafts to edit. I also brought books by favorite poets/authors to prime the pump: Michael Waters, Alicia Ostriker, Michael Ryan, Kim Addonizio, Dorianne Laux, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dawn McGuire--the latter, a new addition to the pantheon.

Mainly, I brought a new perspective, fueled by a fresh environment, 4 days of no responsibilities except to let my imagination rule--

I'll let you know how it went...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Healing Art of Writing

There's a conference going on right now (July 8-14) at Dominican University is San Rafael, CA, that if you're anywhere near, you must attend the events open to the public. The Healing Art of Writing--building bridges between patients and caregivers through the written word is sponsored by Dominican University of California, The Foundation for the Humanities in Medicine and Perspectives in Medical Humanities, UCSF.

Here is the remaining schedule open to the public (A token $10 contribution is requested at the refreshment table for guests).


Afternoon Talks in The Creekside Room

Tuesday, July 10 (3-5pm) The Creekside

David Watts, MD: "Writing Two Sides of Consciousness"

Nina Schuyler, JD, MFA: "Creating Dynamic Characters"

Thursday July 12 (3-5pm) The Creekside

Dawn McGuire, MD: "Eat, Sleep, Neurology"

Marilyn Krysl, MFA: "Sacred and Profane: The Sestina as Rite"

Friday, July 13 (2-4pm) The Creekside

Julianna Waters: Heart and Hammer performs "Medicine Song"

John Fox, CPT: "The Precious Word Within: The Potential for Poetry to Heal the Heart"

EVENING READINGS and Documentary Screening
Mon, Tues, Thurs, 7-8 pm; Wed 7-9 pm in The Creekside Room

Faculty members will read from their own work, highlighting poems and stories that reflect the conference theme. On Wednesday night participants are invited to a premier screening of the documentary The Time We Have: The Caitlin Dolaghan Story, about a young woman's battle against osteo-sarcoma and how poetry writing carried her through the last year of her life.

Tuesday: John Fox, Molly Giles, and Alicia Ostriker

Wednesday: Documentary Screening of The Time We Have

Thursday: Dawn McGuire and Joan Baranow


Yesterday I attended Alicia Ostriker's talk entitled "Eros and Metaphor, or, Why Metaphor Isn't Just a Band-Aid." Terrific stuff! Come to find out, metaphor is a whole lot more than we thought: "Metaphor," according to Ostriker (and she should know, being a narrative-lyrical poet for half a century now), "is a sign of love--[it's] what language uses to show that the world is full of connections." After a delightful exegesis of how metaphor accomplishes the act of finding "intuitive similarity in dissimilars," Ostriker delved into how the process of discovering the right metaphors works for her in her poetry. She then read two poems from her "Masectomy Series" that illustrate the connections already inherent in her body and the larger world. Tremendously informative, but even more inspirational!

I also stayed for Molly Giles' talk on endings--a delightful romp through well-known and lesser-known endings of short stories and novels of our time. Afterwards, I told her that even though I was a poet, she had motivated me to go write some fiction--which pleased her very much. I can't wait to hear her read her own work tomorrow night--along with Alicia's world-class poetry.

If you have plans that conflict with these talks and readings--cancel them! The topic is too important, and the writers presenting are too exceptional to miss them. Imagine how long you're going to be dead, and then live this week to its fullest by joining me at all of the remaining events open to the public during this fantastic writer's conference.

Oh yes--don't forget to hear Joan Baranow on Thursday night. I had the pleasure of reading with her a couple of weeks ago--I had not known her or her work prior. She is a top-notch poet who happens to be head of the English Dept. at Domincan. She's also the wife of David Watts, with whom she has produced Healing Words, the stories of patients whose lives have been dramatically changed as a result of Dr. John Graham-Ple and poetry therapist John Fox's incorporation of poetry into their recovery process.

I'm so sorry I didn't post about this conference sooner--but it's not too late to catch most of it. See you there!