News & Upcoming Events

May 2023

I’ve been thinking about bridges, both real and metaphorical. This moderate obsession started several months ago when Northfield Poet Laureate Rob Hardy issued a call for topographical poems about Northfield. On May 13, readers and listeners will move from site to site throughout the day for the Northfield Poetry Tour to experience poems about place. The challenge for me was to choose just one place. I kept returning to a pedestrian bridge over the Cannon River in downtown Northfield. Because there’s no car traffic, I can linger and watch the river move. Some days it’s slapping and turning, other days barely moving. Water reminds me that it’s natural to respond to weather.

April was a chilly month. Ice lingered, and some days seemed endlessly gray as the campus where I teach faced a threat of gun violence. We were spared the physical violence, but community healing conversations revealed how individuals carry impacts and memories of one mass shooting after another. As I wrote a poem every day for National Poetry Month, I was grateful for a small group sharing our poems. Our anger and impatience, our calls for mutual care, and, yes, even the weather, emerged as common threads. Our daily poems were bridges across fear and isolation when I most needed connection.

The first of these new poems to go public, “Great Egrets Return,” was featured on Autumn Sky Poetry Daily. If you want to receive a poem each morning, I encourage you to subscribe. Or you can browse the eclectic archive of poems.

As dandelions burst on the fields and lawns, I’m finishing a second edition of Let Birds Be Whole in a Broken World. Each of the ten small books holds one sentence of a 10-line poem. They are outdoor installation pieces, to be hung from trees and read in any order. Together readers make sense of the whole from their experience of the fragments. The text is hand-stamped, one letter at a time. Purely meditative work.

Although poetry month has ended for another year, poems go forward. If you’re in or near Northfield, I hope to see you on May 13. While poems are bridges, they are sometimes lifelines. My recommendation this month is a new anthology, Poetry of Presence II: More Mindfulness Poems. Published on May 1, this collection blends new and familiar voices I’m longing to hear.

April 2023

True confession: I wrote at least a third of the poems in each of my books in April, as part of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). The timing of this poem-a-day challenge may contribute to all of the ice and snow in my poems. But here I am again, eager to dig in or dig out with a poem a day. I have some books to keep me moving, and I’ll read widely from my shelves and in current journals. My stack includes two books by teacher, writer, and bookmaker Beth Kephart about writing memoir. By mid-month, I’ll be trying too hard to write poems. I’ll need to step back from craft to generate stories before I find language and lines again.

NaPoWriMo prompts take me where I don’t expect to go, even when I drift. For example, today’s prompt is to write a poem based on a book cover. I may browse my shelves or the web, but my mind goes to HathiTrust Digital Library, a collection with many public domain books. I start browsing frayed cloth covers then wander into an 1897 lesson planning book to teach children about spring. Although the book as a whole speaks of another time, it prescribes learning through music, poetry, science, drawing, and direct observation of plants and frogs. This list of questions interests me. I think a draft can begin with “It is . . . .” Not sunshine and rainbows, but maybe sandhill cranes and snow and the possibility of justice.

Check back for poetry resources and progress updates. And here’s a snapshot of April 1 in southern Minnesota, to confirm that my new book will be sufficiently snowy.

February 2023

During a recent string of sub-zero days, my mind has been wandering to summer. I’m not wishing away winter days or dreaming mindlessly about sun and humidity. I’m thinking and writing about beetles.

A new essay, “Too Much With Us,” recently came out in the 2022 Bacopa Literary Review. While telling the story of a previous summer’s encounter with beetles in my garden, I grapple with the impact of invasive species in various ecosystems.

American Carrion Beetle Postcard

Then came an opportunity to contribute a poem about Necrophila americana, or the American carrion beetle. If I’m fantasizing about anything for the coming summer, it’s the chance to see these insects in action. This means getting really close to a dead animal, but the researcher in me is curious.

The research sounds morose, but it’s grounding me in deeper awareness of cycles: seasons, semesters, physical energy, life and death. In retrospect, I realize that my most recent poetry collection, The Feast Delayed, is about cycles. As I begin to structure two new books–one of poems, another of essays–I’m still discovering themes. That clarity comes with time and different experiences, the way writing about beetles helped me understand work already done.

Meanwhile, my debut essay with Inside Higher Ed, “Coping With Course Evaluations,” was published earlier this month. And the winter issue of The Indianapolis Review, just released, includes my poem “Before Words.”

And finally, I’ve updated my contact email. Innovation Prompt is the name of my coaching services, which include writing coaching and holistic life coaching. Spaces are currently limited, but I’m expanding with new programs later this year.

Wishing you curiosity as the days bring more light.

December 2022

Snowing ski trail with rising sun.

I was skiing yesterday morning when two deer, a few feet from the trail, moved just enough to catch my attention. I kept moving, and two more stepped into sight. Snow. Sun. Deer. Solitude. In this month of short days and long checklists, I needed nothing more in that moment.

At this time of year, editors are clearing their submission piles. Rejections? Yes. Acceptances? Yes. I’m grateful to the volunteers who keep journals alive and accessible and to the editors who’ve selected my poems and essays. I’ll post links to new issues as they emerge.

Along the way, good reading fills me. I just discovered Radar Poetry, which offers stunning lyric poems. I’m also reading Laura Walker’s psalmbook. While the book itself is a bit larger than a standard poetry book, the adaptations of psalms are spare on the page. It’s a calming, filling book.

The advanced poetry seminar I’m teaching will wind down this week as we carve blocks and print poetry broadsides. The process begins with uncertainty, but every writer will make something unique and meaningful. I’m looking forward to carving and printing.

Meanwhile, I’ve been experimenting with mono-printing for a new artist’s book. Practice means postcards, postcards, postcards.

Wishing you surprise and discovery and creativity for the coming month.

November 2022

In the bookcase beside my desk, I keep An Emily Dickinson Year Book. Published in 1948, it has pages made of that thick creamy paper of old books. Each day offers an excerpt from a poem or a letter. November 3 offers a particularly curious line from a letter: “November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”

Why Norway? I was so intrigued by Dickinson’s choice of country that I brought the quote to an advanced poetry workshop where students and I respond to daily writing prompts. Dickinson’s words took me quickly into lengthening nights and cold days, into a meditation on my own turning north in winter, when I go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota to ski and write, to celebrate obscenely early happy hours of beer and popcorn with my partner before night wraps the cabin in -20 degrees.

Some quick checking confirmed that Dickinson never traveled to Norway. She associated November with a country she knew only through books or letters. I found more context in the letter, dated 1864. She wrote, “It is also November. The noons are more laconic and the sunsets sterner, and Gibraltar lights make the village foreign.” Ah, there it is. Light that makes the familiar foreign. That’s November. And here we are.

As I worry about the economy, the election, and the strange dreams in which I’m running in wooden sandals in the rain or climbing endless stairs to nowhere, writing with others calms me. It quiets the energy of a weird dream that I drag through the day like a deflated parachute.

When we turn back the clocks tomorrow, I’ll believe I’ve gained an hour. Something real, like coins or a print book.

November brings acceptances, rejections, and beautiful things in the mail, like this new issue of the Bellevue Literary Review. In my essay “What Anna Ludwig Saw,” I visit the history of the first human X-ray through my own experience of studying X-rays of my broken hand a few years ago.

New poems are forthcoming, so please check back.

And if you’re looking for a writing prompt, use Dickinson’s observation of November as the opening of a draft that you let surprise you. 

October 2022

View from my office, St. Olaf College

This update follows months of transition. From remote living back to in-person activities and teaching, from prairie to mountains back to prairie, and now summer turning to fall. I’m not the kind of gardener who covers the tomatoes and mums and marigolds to prolong them. I admire that care and dedication. But, I just let go, like the woods and the prairie, even though the morning after a killing frost is hard to face. Brown edges and dull colors. Then neighbors are out stringing lights, and a different sense of day and night and color emerges.

Through these transitions, some new poems and essays are making their way. I’m grateful to journal and book editors who have weathered surges in submissions, backlogs, canceled readings, delayed printing, and overall disruption.

The Fall Anniversary Issue of Stirring is now available, including my poem “Small Bones.” The features and artwork are stunning. Please take a look.

Bellevue Literary Review‘s issue 43 just arrived from the printers, and I’m to looking forward to reading. This journal feels like a welcoming home to me as my interests and research move more into a blend of humanities, art, and science. My essay, “What Anna Ludwig Saw,” looks into the history of xrays in context of my treatment for a broken hand.

Later this fall, another essay and new poems are forthcoming. Please check back. Here’s to transitions, letting go, and discovering what remains.

July 2022

Postcards, postcards, postcards

I enter July thinking about reversals.

After the recent Supreme Court vote, I’m working to reject and respond, to thwart further reversal and denial of human rights.

This morning on my way to yoga at Prema Studio, someone on the radio noted that we’ll lose 50 minutes of light in July, 14 minutes during the coming week. The inevitable reversal of light. My first thought was to set an intention for today’s yoga practice to receive and hold on to light. Then I wondered how I might experience this seasonal change differently if I focused on letting go instead of holding on. What if I create space for longer darkness, more stillness?

As a rhetoric teacher, I think a lot about different responses for different purposes. This morning’s question was a reminder that I can gain energy to respond to one reversal by embracing other reversals.

We began our yoga practice with legs up the wall, reversing the flow of fluids, taking pressure off a complex system of veins and arteries that I too often take for granted. I felt restored and energized by the end of that segment of our practice.

As a writer and visual artist, I switch between words and images to let one energize the other. Sometimes the two come together, as in the visual poems in Heron Tree posted last month. At other times, I stay in one medium–book arts, collage, or fabric postcards, pictured above. I love postcards of any kind. They were the artifact and genre for my chapbook This Space for Message. I favor them because they are small and they invite fragments. And they are reversible. One side is typically the image, the “I am here” of the moment. The flip side is blank space, but not so much that it’s intimidating. It’s just enough for a few words to connect with someone.

We began and ended our yoga practice with this quote, paraphrased here: “I reflect in stillness before moving into purposeful action.”

Light and darkness. Word and image. Fullness and blank space. Done and undone. These pairs seem like binaries, but only if we ignore the immense gap between them. I’m living in the gap this month. Where are you?

June 2022

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments, a law that transformed sports opportunities for girls and women in the U.S.  I dedicated a hefty chunk of twenty years to co-authoring Playing for Equality (2016), a collection of oral histories that chronicle Title IX’s passage and implementation. While offering the facts of the law, these stories of eight women–physical educators, coaches, Olympic athletes, and administrators–are snapshots of the daily efforts required to overcome inequity and create legal and social change.

Some of the writers I now coach ask how I stuck with the project for so long. I admit, I was often lost in the evolution of sports governance for girls and women because the facts are buried in archives beyond the internet. But the stories kept me going. Celeste Ulrich loved to play as a child, and she told us how she turned that passion into a teaching and coaching career, and ultimately applied that experience in her work as a college dean. Five-time Olympic athlete Willye White brought us inside the racist, sexist practices of the games and her training leading up to each competition. Their perseverance inspired me through every revision.

Today, June 23, I’m thinking about the excitement, the risks and sacrifices, and the energy required to create social change. You might find this book at a local library, purchase it through a local bookstore, or learn more on my For Readers page.

In other news this month, Heron Tree published two word and image poems in Volume 9. The journal publishes found poems created from public domain books. Editors add to the volume throughout the month. I invite you to take a look now and return for more.

Two new essays are forthcoming. Please check back for details. I’m ever grateful to editors and readers for your support.

If you’re heading out to play on this summer day, or facing challenges and obstacles, I wish you inspiration and strength. May stories be your guide.

May 2022

I enter May grateful for community art spaces and the opportunity to come together to make and share and inspire. This weekend I wrapped up a productive National Poetry Month at the Red Wing Arts Poet Artist Collaboration. I met artist Lynn Brown, whose painting “Wild Again” responds to my poem “No Longer Wild.”

I recently completed Interrelations, an artist’s book drawing from Anna Botsford Comstock’s How to Keep Bees (1905). The inspiration came from Heron Tree‘s call for found poems. The journal published one poem I submitted, and I was so involved with Comstock’s book that I made Interrelations with text from Chapter XVIII, “Interrelation of Bees and Plants.” You can see more of the book on my Word and Image page. I debuted the book during a reading from The Feast Delayed at Content in Northfield.

5 Editions of Interrelation

You may find a new poem among fine words in Issue 2 of RockPaperPoem, an upcoming journal sponsored by the League of Minnesota Poets.

Although the weather has been grey, reflecting the heaviness many of us feel about COVID, wars, and racial injustice near and far, April enabled me to connect with hope. At each reading, and for several Monday evenings with a writing class at the Northfield Arts Guild, I was able to see beyond worry into the power of centering art in community. Art doesn’t always solve problems, but it shapes how I see and respond. Please watch this space for new publications and upcoming events.

Bookmaking at Northfield Arts Guild

March 2022

Between winter and spring live days of reawakening, solitude, and curiosity. For hours I ski and reflect on changes that occurred during the darkest months. This weekend, I thought about longtime friends affected by war. Fresh air and sunshine settle me to read poetry. I return to worn copies of books by Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, and more. My annotations remind me of how much I didn’t know when I read their books in my 20s, my 30s, again and again, and how much still I have to learn.

As I plan for coming events, I imagine how to invite the voices that have influenced me. In some ways, they exist in my poems. In other ways, I integrate them at events by reading from their books as well as my own.

Here’s where you can find me reading, teaching, and in print this spring:

April 7, Poetry Reading and Discussion, 7:00 pm Content Bookstore, Northfield, MN. This event will be live on Facebook. Please check back for details.

April 24, Poetry Reading, Amanda Bailey, Becking Boling, D.E. Green, Diane LeBlanc, Casey Patrick, 2:00 – 3:30 pm, Red Wing Depot, Red Wing, MN

April 29, Red Wing Arts Poet Artist Collaboration Exhibit. Please follow the link for locations and details.

Heron Tree has begun to post poems for Issue 9, which features found poems from fiction and nonfiction published before 1927. The issue will include two of my poems in June.

The Strategic Poet: Honing the Craft edited by Diane Lockward, Terrapin Books, has made a fabulous debut. I’m looking forward to spending time with this book of craft essays, model poems, and prompts during a summer residency.

And if you’re thinking about revitalizing your writing practice this spring, check out this Writing Series I’m teaching at the Northfield Arts Guild, Mondays, 6:30 – 8:00 pm, in April.

April 4, Write Into Spring

April 11, Revealing the Language of Metaphor

April 18, The Single Poem Book

As always, a few surprises are in the works. Please check back, be kind, and stay well.