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Christopher Luna by Alisha Jucevic for the Columbian

Christopher Luna by Alisha Jucevic for the Columbian
Christopher Luna by Alisha Jucevic for the Columbian

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Partners in Truth and Beauty March 2011: A conversation with Sage Cohen, author of The Productive Writer

Portland writer Sage Cohen talks with Christopher Luna about how to be a productive writer

Sage Cohen has achieved a level of success that many writers merely dream about. A respected poet and teacher, she has also written two books on craft for Writer’s Digest: Writing the Life Poetic and The Productive Writer. Sage has worked hard to establish herself, and has learned many important lessons along the way. Her generosity of spirit has driven her to share what she has learned with others who are struggling, or just getting started. Writing the Life Poetic is a great book filled with practical advice for beginning and veteran poets alike. Sage also edits an e-zine of the same name that contains words of wisdom from local authors including Steve Williams and Constance Hall, Brittany Baldwin, Toni Partington, and myself (

The Productive Writer contains many helpful tips on time management, professionalism, building relationships, and “putting vision into action.” As Cohen explains, “productivity is a lifestyle choice. Just as a vegetarian reinforces daily this way of life with the food he chooses to eat, the Productive Writer holds a clear and meaningful value that gets expressed in a myriad of ways every single day—in the writing she does, the relationships she has, the spirit in which she works, and the opportunities she creates to move toward her goals.” The good news is that the ideas Sage shares are simple, useful, and easy to implement right away. The Productive Writer can be used to make big changes in your writing practice through exercises designed to help you face your fears, motivate yourself, and manage your submissions.

Sage Cohen recently agreed to answer a few questions about her new book and her work helping writers increase their output and efficiency. I was particularly interested in how her ideas can help poets to be more productive.

How did you begin writing?

This question lands for me much the same as "How did you begin living?" At some point when I had enough mastery of language and writing to put them in service to my needs, I found that life made more sense and my experience was easier to navigate with writing as my lens. It took many years to have self-consciousness that I was actually writing, as there was no goal other than to keep myself company, and no intended audience beyond myself.

What was the hardest part of becoming a productive writer? What time management challenges did you face?

This challenge is different for everyone. For me, the hardest part has always been prioritizing myself and my writing ahead of my many, many other commitments. It's been an ongoing dance, discerning how to live a life that reflects my goals -- both personal and professional -- and nourishes my being while giving service in the ways that matter to me.

When did you know that you had discovered your platform? How did it change your creative process?

In a class on platform with Christina Katz, I proposed platforms on a variety of topics ranging from single parenting to pet care, and Christina reflected back to me very simply, "But aren't you a poet?" Somehow, I had neglected to consider my most important craft to be platform-worthy. With this feedback, a lightbulb went on. I named my platform "Writing the Life Poetic," and within a year, I was teaching online poetry classes, producing a zine and writing a nonfiction book by that same name.

What have you learned from business writing that has helped you to write poetry?

I have become more methodical in my approach to writing poetry and learned to trust the labor of it, regardless of outcome. I sit down and work at something, anything -- revising an older poem, freewriting, following a phrase or image to see where it leads me -- understanding that it is the work of showing up to the blank page with an open heart and moving pen (or fingers on the keyboard) that creates the space for what wants to come through to reveal itself.

And, because I have come to trust my authority as a business writer, I think I also trust myself more as a poet. I know what I'm doing with language, which helps me surrender to all that I don't know about language as I'm in the throes of a poem's particular blindnesses.

One of the great things about The Productive Writer is that it demonstrates how useful it is to be organized. Have you always been this organized, or was it a skill you developed over time? What
mistakes did you make, and what did they teach you?

I am definitely temperamentally suited to organization. I feel better when my life, my work and my stuff is orderly. But I see my organization systems as a work in progress -- one that I've been refining all of my life. I don't like to feel overwhelmed, and I don't like to miss deadlines and I don't like to lose information that is important to me. These discomforts have driven me to find ways to effectively manage and prioritize a huge amount of information, paperwork, goals, deadlines, and now the ever-outgrown toddler clothes! I claim no mastery over this pursuit, but I do have a passion for the process.

Who inspires you?

My son Theo and our muse menagerie of two dogs and three cats are constantly awakening me to the poetry of our ordinary, magnificent lives together.

Who are some of the professionals who inspire you to be productive?

The example and guidance of Christina Katz ( taught me a great deal about career trajectory, pacing, platform, community building and authoring in the productive writing life. Christina was the most powerful influence in my platform creation and pitching, writing and promotion of my two, nonfiction books.

Seth Godin ( is the most productive thinker / writer / paradigm-transformer I have ever experienced. He churns out insightful books faster than Superman leaps tall buildings.

Jen Lemen ( is a social media / community-building / content-creation genius.

Chris Guillebeau ( has cultivated a movement through his blog that has sustained him financially and led to a traditional book deal. On his blog, in his book and through a number of free offerings, he generously shares with readers how he's done the whole shebang.

Do you have a professional mentor? What did you learn from this person?

One of my favorite tips for writers is, "Pretend you are Pam." Meaning, when you get stuck in fear that you don't know enough or aren't good enough to do something, pretend you're someone you believe to be worthy. I swear, it will catapult you right out of your own imagined failure into something far more interesting.

This example has grown out of my own habit of imitating my dear friend, colleague and role model for many, many years: Pamela Kim. Back in 1997, she was my boss and then my business partner. Over the years we have collaborated on endless work and life projects, often serving as each other's primary feedback loop. I have learned from Pam so much about being a professional business woman, creating truly useful systems, and having a productive writing life that is in harmony with who I am and what I want from my life and my work.

How is business writing different from writing a poem?

When I'm writing copy for a client, my goal is to understand their objectives, get inside the perspective of the targeted reader, and then tell a story that bridges the two--showing the end user how a particular product or service is going to address some specific problem or need. So, the writing approach is extremely strategic, with a focus on telling a particular story that inspires a very particular outcome. And, I'm working with a client who is the ultimate decision maker about what I've written. When they are satisfied with what I've written, that's how I know when content is final.

When I write a poem, I am in a completely receptive space that is pretty much the opposite of strategic. It's more like listening for language to choose me, and then meeting it at the page. As words, images, music start unfolding, I grope around for a palpable sense of what they want from me. It's almost like being a beginning partner dancer -- the follower -- paired with an expert leader. I follow the cues as best I can. And once I have a draft, I'm generally cutting back to the quick of the poem's barest and truest intention, trying to release its scent from the burden of words.

In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake that many writers make?

Ready for a tongue-twister? I think that thinking of mistakes as -- well -- mistakes is the biggest mistake a writer can make. I try to view things that didn't go as I had hoped as opportunities for learning more about myself, my writing, the human experience, the publishing world -- whatever the case may be.

How does one repair one’s relationship with a client if the work is unsatisfactory?

I don't think a client relationship is ever irreparable if the writer has been professional about meeting deadlines, communicating well and delivering something that reflects their best effort to meet the client's expectations.

I consider any content that doesn't meet a client's expectations to be a reflection of a miscommunication about objectives. If something isn't hitting the mark, I ask for more information about what the client is striving to accomplish with the communication, how they feel that my draft is not achieving that, and then refine from there.

Of course, it's possible that a client and a writer could decide that they are not a match after a few rounds of revision, and that's ok. Like any relationship, sometimes you have to take a few paces together before discovering that what the client is seeking and what you are offering do not resonate well.

In the book, you talk about embracing fear. Please say a few words about how and why writers should embrace fear, and how this has been a useful tool for you.

I think fear is the number one productivity kabosher. Perfectionism and procrastination are two sneaky ways that fear derails us. Chances are good that if there's some goal you have in your writing life that you're not moving toward, fear is at the root. I dedicated an entire chapter in The Productive Writer to helping writers work with fear in the hopes that it becomes a source of fuel rather than a dead end--because fear actually has tremendous energy that can be harnessed to our benefit.

Probably the scariest thing in my writing life has been public speaking. Because I have been so terrified of it, I made myself do it at every opportunity throughout my life. The more I have practiced, the more relaxed and effective I have become at speaking to an audience. These days, I'm noticing how I actually need that fear energy to give me the big burst of adrenaline that gets me through the hour or two or three when I'm "on."

My hope is that writers will find ways to honor the negative stories that come up when we are afraid, while learning not to let them stop us. In the movie A Beautiful Mind, there is a moment when John Nash (played by Russell Crowe), the famed, schizophrenic mathematician, is is told that he will be awarded the Nobel prize in Economics. He is taking a walk with the person from the Nobel prize committee who asks him, approximately, "How did you silence those voices that were interfering with your work and your life?"

Nash replies something to the effect of, "I didn't stop them. They're talking to me right now. I have simply made a choice to stop engaging with what they're saying."

This is every writer's opportunity with fear -- to learn to live with the negative stories that get air time in our minds -- without letting them limit what we know we are called to do. The productive writer feels the fear and does it anyway.

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. She holds an M.A. in creative writing from New York University and a B.A. from Brown University. Sage lectures and teaches widely—including the popular online class Poetry for the People, publishes the Writing the Life Poetic zine and recently launched the online community and learning laboratory The Path of Possibility ( She and her son, Theo, live in Portland, Oregon.

The interview above is the latest in a series of conversations between Christopher Luna and his Partners in Truth and Beauty. To read the earlier interviews in this series, follow the links provided below.

Derek Fenner, artist, writer, and co-founder of Bootstrap Press:

Ryan Gallagher, co-founder of Bootstrap Press and translator of Catullus:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

GHOST TOWN POETRY returns to Cover to Cover Books April 14

Vancouver’s Cover to Cover Books
re-opens in a new location April 1
Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic returns to Cover to Cover
for a fourth anniversary reading April 14
Cover to Cover Books, which closed in October due to a fire, will re-open April 1 in a new location. Ghost Town Poetry, the popular open mic poetry reading series that Christopher Luna founded in 2004 and moved to Cover to Cover in 2007 will return to the bookstore on April 14 with a special reading to celebrate National Poetry Month and four years of readings at Cover to Cover.

Current Ghost Town Poetry co-hosts Christopher Luna and Toni Partington took the series on tour to poetry-friendly venues in town while waiting for the bookstore to re-open: Angst Gallery (October), The Stray Gallery (November), Niche Wine and Art Bar (December), the Clark County Historical Museum (January) and Gallery 360 (March). February’s reading was held in a private home belonging to local performer and teacher Marcia McReynolds.

Since 2005 the series has also featured local and national writers including Charles Potts, Lorraine Healy, Neeli Cherkovski, David Meltzer, Michael Rothenberg, Marc Marcel, Walt Curtis, Barbara LaMorticella, Brittany Baldwin, Sage Cohen, Judith Arcana, Sharon Wood Wortman, Judith Montgomery, Penelope Scambly Schott, Dan Raphael, Carlos Reyes, Ed Coletti, Jack McCarthy, David Madgalene, and Turiya Autry. Featured readers have also included Washington State Poet Laureate Sam Green and Oregon State Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen.

According to Luna, “I am very proud of the local arts community for stepping up to provide space to us during our brief period of homelessness. It was always our intention to return to Cover to Cover Books, and we are very happy that they will be back in business soon. We have run an all-ages and uncensored reading every second Thursday since late 2004. I am very grateful to Mel Sanders for staying open late and providing a space for local poets to gather every month. A writer herself, Sanders truly understands the value of community.”


(and every second Thursday)

6300 NE St. James Rd.,
(St. James & Minnehaha)
Suite 104B
Vancouver, WA

all ages & uncensored since 2004

Friday, March 11, 2011

Upcoming performances by songwriter Matt Meighan

From Matt:


I get to play 3 shows this weekend: with the trio and duo on Friday & Saturday, and then Sunday in a house-concert-like setting at Artichoke Music with my friend Colorado songwriter Danny Shafer. (You can read about it in the Southeast Examiner, at

Monday, current members of my "Songwriting as Truth-Telling" classes will perform songs they've written in the class, at Alberta Street Pub. Details are below; I hope you'll join me for one of these shows:

Friday 3/11 - Matt Meighan Trio at McMenamin's Grand Lodge
w/ Sherry Pendarvis on upright bass and Michael Henchman on guitar
7 - 10 pm, free, 3505 Pacific Ave., Forest Grove, OR

Saturday 3/12 - Matt Meighan Duo at Edgefield Winery
w/Sherry Pendarvis on upright bass
7 - 9 pm, free, 2126 SW Halsey, Troutdale, OR

Sunday 3/13 - Danny Shafer & Matt Meighan at Artichoke Music
7 - 10 pm, $12, 3130 SE Hawthorne, Portland

Danny is one of my musical mentors and heroes and I look forward to sharing the stage with him!

Monday 3/14 - Truth-telling Songwriters at Alberta Street Pub

Members of my songwriting class share songs they wrote in class. Hosted by Alexa Wiley.

7 - 10, free, 1036 NE Alberta St, Portland

All of these shows and all my other upcoming shows are on my website, at Thanks for supporting live local music!

- Matt

Friday, March 4, 2011


MARCH 2011
Compiled and edited by
Christopher Luna

Local photographer Tina Tran

Many thanks to all those who came to Niche last Saturday for our first bilingual poetry reading. Tina Tran spoke about the Vietnamese culture and read a few poems in Vietnamese and English. We were honored to have her parents in attendance. Then we heard from Sarah Arslanian, who sung a song in Chinese as well a few tunes from her latest CD, “Darling.” We finished up with a few of my own poems, which I read accompanied by Stuart Jackson on upright bass. Tina has posted video of the reading on Facebook. It was a great evening of poetry and music. I am grateful to Leah Jackson for allowing me to put together events like these.

I am hoping that this will be the first of many multilingual poetry events this year and beyond, so if you or any of your family and friends would like to present poetry in a language other than English, please let me know.

On March 12 I will facilitate my monthly poetry workshop at Niche (1013 Main Street, Vancouver), also known as “The Work.” The workshop costs $20 (or three workshops for $45). We discuss and listen to poetry and writing based on a series of prompts that I will provide. For inspiration, we also listen to recorded examples of poems from my personal collection. No pre-registration is required, but if you join us please bring a poem of your own to share by way of introduction.

I also want to thank Marci McReynolds for opening her beautiful home to us for February’s open mic, featuring Turiya Autry ( Marci’s expansive living room was the perfect spot for what turned out to be an emotional event filled with laughter, sadness, and wonder. I am particularly grateful to Turiya’s friends, who made the long journey from Portland to support her, and in some cases, to blow us away with their own work.

This is how you support community: Congratulations are due to Steve Williams and Constance Hall ( for their successful, transcendent reading featuring Patricia Smith. I am also happy that they decided to have Mel Sanders ( sell books at the event.

This is how you keep poetry alive: We were also treated to an amazing reading at Paper Tiger Coffee, hosted by Dan Nelson and featuring Jenney Pauer. This was one of the best poetry readings I have ever been to—the work was consistently good, and my reaction ran the gamut of emotions. I alternated between laughing, crying, and staring ahead in astonishment. For example, I wept uncontrollably at the finish of Dennis McBride's incredible piece which invites us to contemplate that Hitler may have once had love in his heart. Or Jeff Samuelsen's hilarious depiction of an estrogen-fueled Western. To read my comments about this event, as well as a slightly filthy collage poem gleaned from my fellow poets, go to:

Brautigan scholar John S. Barber shares a few memories
of Richard Brautigan with the crowd at January's open mic 

I also posted photos from our Richard Brautigan reading at the Clark County Historical Museum:

David and Caroline Chaparro
of Sea of Oaks
Photo by Anni Becker

This is how you nurture a neighborhood’s creativity: I also want to congratulate Greg Bee, Cara Cottingham, and everyone involved in Nada, a multimedia spectacular at Tryckpress Galleri that featured art, improv, dance, and music including a great set by Sea of Oaks. If you haven’t seen Sea of Oaks yet, you’re missing out on two incredibly inventive and talented musicians.

This is how you get The Work out there: Finally, congratulations to Cedar Sigo for his excellent book Stranger in Town, published by City Lights (, and Sage Cohen, whose The Productive Writer was recently released by Writer’s Digest Books ( I encourage you to pick up both of these books.

Cedar and I were classmates at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics ( I really enjoyed seeing Cedar again—after more than a decade--at his recent reading in Portland.

One of the things that makes VoiceCatcher 5 so special is that it includes great art work from women in our community such as Anni Becker and April Bullard. Although the submission window for writing has closed, artists can submit their work for VoiceCatcher 6 through the end of this month. Please see for submission guidelines.

For this month’s open mic, we will gather at Gallery 360, which is run by some of the same people behind Sixth Street Gallery. Their grand opening featured a wonderful photography exhibit. The gallery is housed in a great space which is perfect for our needs.

The Ghost Town Poetry Tour continues*
Open Mic Poetry
hosted by Christopher Luna and Toni Partington
7pm March 10, 2011
(and every second Thursday)

This month’s reading will be held at a special location:

Gallery 360
111 West 9th St.
Vancouver, WA

With our featured reader, Dennis McBride, the author of Looking for Peoria and Killing the Mockingbird (both from Quiet Lion Press) and recipient of the 1996 Andreas Berger Award for poetry

*While Cover to Cover Books rebuilds after a recent fire, Christopher Luna is taking the open mic series he founded in 2004 on tour to various poetry-friendly locations in or near downtown Vancouver.

Dennis McBride
Photo by Elizabeth Archers

Birds in search of a poem
by Dennis McBride

When the galaxy of South American swallows
returns to fill the Anchorage evening sky
with their swift black constellations,
this is not the poem.
But have you seen them!
I mean the million birds expanding and contracting
for real, on the edge of chaos,
right up there above you,
neck-bending, head-looking-up real
and then also in the sky of the mind --
the mind that knows only the small facts of migration,
where they are from, where they are going.
The mind that is reduced to the mud-star wonder of it.
It! This hundred thousand million birds
shooting and swirling and darting
above the giant grade school chimney
awaiting the soft signal of dusk to descend into it
like a million black sky rabbits disappearing
back into the magician’s large stone hat.
This is not the poem.
But when the last five become the last one.
When the inscrutable instruction
swallows the last Swallow into the giant mouth.
When the great stone chimney
is silent and still.
This is the poem.


Here’s to more great poetry in March,
Christopher Luna

MARCH 2011


1. Dan Raphael reads from “Children of the Blue Supermarket” March 7 and 13 (Portland, OR)

2. Dirty Queer open mic at In Other Words March 11 (Portland)

3. SPLAB presents a reading and workshop with Nathaniel Mackey March 11 and 12 (Columbia City, WA)

4. Figures of Speech Reading with Clem Starck and Jay Nebel at In Other Words March 15

5. Open Mic with featured reader Alex Birkett at Paper Tiger Coffee March 17 (Vancouver)

6. “Song of the Third World Birds,” a new poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

7. Artist Trust's Grants for Artist Projects (Deadline: May 10, 2011)

8. “Adrift in a Sea of Oaks” and a short poem for Anni Becker by Christopher Luna


This week's edition of 3 Friends Monday, produced by Show and Tell Gallery (, celebrates the release of new CD, live performances of poetry by dan raphael, saxophone by Rich Halley and drums by Carson Halley. Children of the Blue Supermarket was recorded at the Penofin Jazz Festival in 2008 & 9.

Impulse & Warp: The Selected 20th Century Poems contains works from dan raphael's first 13 collections. He has performed at Wordstock, Bumbershoot, Powell's Books, Burning Word and the Portland Jazz Festival.

Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival by the Rich Halley Quartet was recently reviewed in Downbeat. Rich Halley is a linchpin of creative jazz on the west coast, through various combos, including a yearly outdoor performance on Powell Butte, Carson Halley plays in a number of combos, including the Vibration Path Quarter with their upcoming CD Requiem for a Viper. The show will have a little solo poetry at the end, a big middle of all three of us, & closing with from Rich and Carson. They'll be followed by the weekly Show and Tell Open Mic, sign-up at 8 p.m.

And on Sunday, March 13th, dan rapahel is joining Tola Molotkov (a poetic force of nature) 7pm, as featured readers at Stonehenge Gallery, 3508 SW Corbett. Our reading is followed by an hour of open mike. Both events are free and open as the prairie.


Dirty Queer
Fri, March 11, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

In Other Words Books
14 Killingsworth St.
Portland, OR 97211

Dirty Queer is an X rated open mic: a place to celebrate sexuality and strut your creative stuff! Hosted by renegade writer and poet Sossity Chiricuzio, Dirty Queer has proven itself to be a thought provoking evening of excitement, passion, laughter and full body shivers. We're looking for queer erotic entertainers of all sorts: dancers, jugglers, singers, musicians, comics, poets, storytellers, magicians, gender performers ... if you can do it in 5 minutes or less (w/ minimal props/equip), this open mic's for you! We average over 120 people a month, so come early if you want a seat. Everyone who attends has a chance to win door prizes from local businesses, as well as a percentage off items at our very own feminist bookstore and host, IOW! Your donation of $1-$5/person for this event goes directly to supporting IOW, and more donations are always welcome. Caveats: 18+, consent is key, no hate speech, sign up is first come, first serve. Need a dose of Dirty Queer sooner than that? Come check out our photos, samples, bios, videos, and podcast on our website: Contact:

sign ups for the open mic will be first come, first serve as always - we may not be able to get to everyone on the list if we run out of time. we're averaging 120+ people these days, so come early if you want a seat!

After Dirty Queer, get Bent! it's a big huge sweaty dirty hot queer dance party w/ dj's jodi bon jodi and roy b giv. 9pm until late, $3, foggy notion, 3416 N Lombard.

Saturday, March 12 - Kicked Out Anthology in Portland!

Featuring readings from local contributors and anthology editor/ former Portland local Sassafras Lowrey. Kicked Out published by Homofactus Press brings together the voices of current and former homeless LGBTQ youth and tells these forgotten stories of some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Diverse contributors share stories of survival and abuse with poignant accounts of the sanctuary of community and the power of creating chosen families. 6-8pm, In Other Words.

for more info on dirty queer, including podcasts (which will be updated as soon as we get a new host) from previous shows, see our website:

From Paul Nelson:

SPLAB welcomes legendary poet, essayist, novelist and editor Nathaniel Mackey to Columbia City, for a reading & workshop at the new SPLAB location, 3651 S. Edmunds, Seattle, in the Cultural Corner of the former Columbia School and a talk at the NW African-American Museum. For more information:

On Friday, March 11, Mackey gives a talk and prose reading at 7:00 pm at the Northwest African-American Museum, 2300 S. Massachusetts St.

He’ll read from his latest prose collection and answer questions from Moderator Paul Nelson and Interlocutor, University of Washington/Bothell professor Jeanne Heuving.

Admission is $5, and space is limited. The event is co-sponsored by the CD Forum.

On Saturday, March 12, Mackey will lead an afternoon writing workshop from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, followed by a public reading at 7:30 pm. Admission to the public reading is $5. The workshop and reading will be held at SPLAB, 3651 S Edmunds in the Cultural Corner of the former Columbia School.

The workshop cost is $75 per person, and space is limited. To register for the Nate Mackey workshop, or for more information, please contact Paul Nelson at or call 206-422-5002.

Sponsored by 4Culture, Poets and Writers, CD Forum, The Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, The Shirley Marvin Hotel, Richard Hugo House and WESTAF.

From Steve Williams:

First of all, thank you to all who came to see Patricia Smith on Feb 11th and PSU and 4 nights later at the 100th monkey to see Jon Seaman and Don Colburn. Both evenings were very special to both of us.

We are pleased to officially announce that Figures of Speech has found a new home at the independent feminist bookstore "In Other Words." Both the reading series on the third Tuesday of the month and the critique group on the second Sunday of the month will be meeting there starting in March. The reading series will start at 7 p.m. each month and the critique group will be from 4 - 6 p.m. except for March 13th when will be there from 1 - 3 p.m.

Note: March’s critique group has been canceled.

We want to support our local bookstores and think this will a good partnership. In that vein, we will start offering broadsides at each reading with poems from the two featured readers for that month. We ask you make a minimum donation to In Other Words of $5.00 and we will give you a broadside in return. Smaller donations of $1-$4 are also welcome or else you can certainly purchase something from the store (they'll be open for both events). We think this is a good way to support the venue and we want to do our part in making sure it stays solvent.

Our next event 7 p.m. on March 15th at In Other Words features a past Oregon Book Award winner (Clem Starck) and someone we think has a shot at being a future winner (Jay Nebel).

This will be our first reading at our new venue.

CLEMENS STARCK is a Princeton drop-out and a former merchant seaman. He has worked at many jobs, but mostly as a carpenter and construction foreman on the West Coast—San Francisco, British Columbia, and Oregon. His first book of poems, Journeyman’s Wages, received the 1996 Oregon Book Award as well as the William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. His next two books—Studying Russian on Company Time (1999) and China Basin (2002)—were also finalists for the Oregon Book Award. His most recent collection, Traveling Incognito, is a letterpress chapbook from Wood Works in Seattle. He lives on forty-some acres in the country outside of Dallas, Oregon, in the mid-Willamette Valley.

Jay Nebel’s poems have appeared in journals including Tin House, New Orleans Review, Massachusetts Review, Poetry Northwest and are forthcoming in American Poetry Review. He lives in Portland with his wife and their almost four year old son Maximus. Jay is thankful that he has not had a speeding ticket in over 3 years and that currently there are no warrants out for his arrest.

From Dan Nelson

Hello again poetry lovers,

Thanks to everyone who promoted or attended our February reading at Paper Tiger. It was an amazing night! Jenney Pauer kept us spellbound with here powerful imagery and gut wrenching words. This woman has been through the fire that would've melted my waxen core yet it tempered her iron into steel. Don't know how that small frame carries such a huge and giving heart. Thank you so much, Jenney! And our biggest crowd yet really rose to the occasion by delivering an outstanding selection of great verse. Pathos, humor, rage, surrealism, love, lust, and paradigm shattering insights were all there. I really thank all of you for a night so inspiring I couldn't let go of it enough to sleep.

For next months event, Thursday, March 17th at 7pm at Paper Tiger Coffeehouse,(703 Grand blvd. in Vancouver, located between Mill Plain and Evergreen about a mile east of I-5), we will be featuring, in addition to our usual open mic, the by turns literary, real and surreal, funny, shocking, emotive and always entertaining poet, Alex Birkett. Alex Birkett is a joyful malcontent, whose brief tour through community college served to illustrate how little he knows. And he is okay with that. A painter and philosopher at birth, he discovered writing while dreaming on a Grey Hound bus bound for Vancouver Washington where he now resides.

Here is an appetizer of his work to whet your appetite.

Agamemnon’s Fortune Cookie by Alex Birkett
"Someone out there is interested in you. Pay close attention"

Strange and terrible that foreboding words
Spring from delicious treats.
To me they dictate detestable fate;
That I, ignorant, am pursued by something sweet
And that I perish in turn pursuing dates!
Strangers that I might know sharpen their hatchets,
So I'll dismiss banquets, baths, and avoid the nets!

Many times I have relieved myself by rationalizing the improbability of doom saying fortune cookies.

But I am always troubled by an intuitive pang that I am ignoring Cassandra, my waitress, whom I insist on tipping very well.

Hope to see you all there for great beverages, great company and some of the finest poetry in the PNW.

And btw; Someone left a Grey/Blue Knitted Scarf made of Acrylic and Mohair from American Eagle Outfitters. If it's yours or you know who left it contact Toni Partington @

Dan Nelson

A new poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Note from Christopher Luna: Blogspot did not allow me to maintain the original formatting of this poem. Pleas see if you would like to see how this poem is supposed to look:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights in San Francisco

A cock cried out in my sleep
somewhere in Middle America
to awake the Middle Mind
of America

And the cock cried out
to awake me to see
a sea of birds
flying over me
across America

And there were birds of every color
black birds & brown birds
& yellow birds & red birds
from the lands of every
liberation movement

And all these birds circled the earth
and flew over every great nation
and over fortress America
with its great eagle
and its thunderbolts

And all the birds cried out with one voice
the voice of those who have no voice
the voice of the invisibles of the world
the voice of the dispossessed of the world
the fellaheen peoples of earth

And which side are you on
sang the birds
Oh which side are you on
in the Third World War
the war against the Third World?

Artist Trust's Grants for Artist Projects (GAP)
Online Applications Available
Application Deadline: May 10, 2011

Individual artists who reside in Washington State are encouraged to apply to the 2011 GAP (Grants for Artist Projects) Program. Artist Trust's GAP Program provides support for individual artist projects by awarding up to $1,500 for projects including (but not limited to) the development, completion or presentation of new work. Last year 795 artists applied to the GAP Program and 63 artists were funded from around the State.

The GAP Program is open to artists working in all creative disciplines including visual, performing, literary, media, emerging and cross-disciplinary arts. Applicants must be residents of Washington State but cannot be a graduate or undergraduate student enrolled in a degree program.

A peer review panel of artists and art professionals from across Washington State selects GAP recipients. The panel's selections are based foremost on the artistic excellence of an artist's work as represented in their application.

To apply, visit Applications must be submitted online by 5:00pm on May 10, 2011. Artists are invited to visit Artist Trust's office or visit your local library for free online access.

Artists are encouraged to attend a "How to Build A Strong Grant Application Workshop" and "Applying for the GAP" webinars offered free for all artists. Visit for more information.

Artist Trust is a not-for-profit organization whose sole mission is to support and encourage individual artists working in all disciplines in order to enrich community life throughout Washington State.

Contact: Miguel Guillen, Program Manager; 206/467-8734 x11; toll-free 1/866/218-7878

Poems inspired by Nada
By Christopher Luna
Caroline Chaparro of Sea of Oaks
Photo by Anni Becker
Adrift in a Sea of Oaks


Welcome to my little world
where you are free to exhale
         ever so gently
   unanticipated forgiveness
into the atmosphere.

We can ride it.
We refuse to be paralyzed.

I promise to open my eyes this time.

I have made it this far.

I am determined to see.

            The centipede will not stop me.
            No marionette can block my path.
            My airway is open

                                              clear of obstruction
                                              rid of bile

             new semblance of openheartedness
             blossoms without delay

and we fade
nicely into the
moment after
this one
watch the frame
fall away

Cara Cottingham at NADA
Photo by Anni Becker


There is a creep inside each of us. “Hasn’t had a kiss in 12 years.” Sit down beside him. Let him go. Set him free to stalk your long-forgotten woe, like Marcel’s fever dream. “Everything’s OK, even thought it doesn’t seem like it is.” Take this aphorism. May it serve you well. My cracked gift to you. “It’s just a feeling.” Cara likes paranormal things.

Actually, it is a story. Only a story. Thankfully temporary. If you don’t like the story you’ve been telling yourself, launch a new narrative. Face the horrific possibility of a new page. Fall in. Fill it with the contents of your head.

The cat waits. Honored to sit beneath you. The cat does not contribute; instead he watches the proceedings silently, occasionally mumbling, surveilling the scene. Blank. Aloof. Toe twitches. Tail swings. This too is illusion. Cotton candy gleam in your eye. First eye. Slit. Observing all. Reserving comment.

Allow your focus to drift and the veil falls away. You are now able to perceive the space between. The negative space in which The Real resides. In which The Truth Hides, waiting for you to take its hand.

Christopher Luna
at NADA 2011
by Anni Becker

A short, as-yet-untitled poem
in honor of Anni Becker

Anni: abandon fear
get right up in her grill
make love to her nose
become the Eye of us all

Christopher Luna
Tryckpress Galleri
Vancouver, WA
February 5, 2011

Brittney at NADA
Photo by Anni Becker