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The front page of the Seattle Times today highlights the work of Ross Palmer Beecher, who is one of my favorite artists. She has put in decades of persistent work at her art, an inspiration! It’s always good to see her get some recognition.

Here’s a picture of one of her flags, from the Greg Kucera Gallery website.

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On the radio yesterday morning, I heard an interview with Chris Delaurenti of the Seattle Phonographers Union. He talked about field recordings and improvising with found sounds to record compositions.

I thought of that last night while we were watching the movie August Rush–during the scene when Evan/August is hearing all the sounds in the city and “directing” them. It was a found-sound symphony.

Throughout the movie, I was inspired by the immense passion by the characters, their passion for music and the way they were consumed by it. I’m still thinking about that today. I’m more the kind of person who seeks equilibrium, stays far away from the deep end, but I’m always wondering what it would be like to embrace a desire that fully.

But I also realize that the main characters in the movie were also looking for something else, and were looking for it through their music, with their music. In that way, using your art as a tool for seeking, maybe we aren’t so different.

How do you embrace and balance your art?

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The other day, I mentioned how poems seem to sneak up when I least expect it—and when I’m not prepared with a paper and pen and often when I am attempting to operate a motor vehicle, most likely in rush hour traffic.

The flip side is that sometimes the poetry stream seems to run dry. Where do you find inspiration? Kelli discussed this recently—that you can get inspiration from the world and all its moments. You just have to get out in it.

But I think that there are different ways to be out in the world. I might be completely absorbed by whatever I’m doing. Or I might be casting about for poem ideas, viewing everything through that filter. The first way works better for me than the second way—but the second is oh, so tempting. (I feel like I’m doing something, like I’m being a writer!)

Perhaps there is a third way. At work, one of my colleagues writes an online comic. We’ll be in a team meeting, riffing along in our usual somewhat cynical mirth, and we’ll see him jotting down notes. Sure enough, in a day or a week, we’ll see the nugget of our conversation turned into a comic. Somehow, he has figured out how to be aware of what’s going on around him without letting his own awareness trip him up. Hmmm…

I was thinking about this while I walked home from the bus. I saw a thick stand of foxglove up the hill. I saw a tree that looked like it grew up dancing. But I did not see a poem. Maybe I was still looking too hard.

How do you do it? Where do you find inspiration? How do you watch?

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Three poets this year

During 2007, I’ve been introduced to the work of Lynda Hull. I’ve been reintroduced to the poems of Roberta Spear. And I’ve continued my exploration of Louise Glück’s poems.

These three women have inspired me, and I’d like to be able to say what I think I’ve learned from each one of them.

Glück’s work has shown me how intellect can work in a poem and how spare writing can increase emotional tension.

In her poems, Spear has shown how to tell stories—how in a few lines a poem can take the reader immediately to a place and the lives of the people who live there.

Lynda Hull’s poems pull no punches. They pierce right to the heart—with empathy and compassion but no pity. Her work has shown me how the poet can begin a poem as an observer, instead of the star, and let images lead into memory, let times and places lead into any sorrow, loss, or joy.

I’ve seen them do it. Now, can I?

Who did you read in 2007? What stopped you in your tracks? What did you learn?


Other people have inspired me this year, and some of these women have inspired me for many years.

Ellen, for her energy, her activism, and her scholarship of Emily Dickinson
Eliza, for continuing to follow her dream
Alix, who has found a job she loves
Nancy, who has found a job that takes her to exotic places like Oslo and Shanghai
Laurie, whose comfort zone is traveling outside of her comfort zone, and her gift for seeing life and recording it on film
T, for her love of food and feeding others well
Judy, who writes and publishes and gets rejected and writes more
Ross Palmer and Gina and Kristina, who work hard and remain dedicated to their craft (and Kristina has found a way to take her work to Italy—twice!)
Bonnie, for her courage, her energy, and her fabulous sense of humor

When I look at this list, the theme is perseverance. My big thank you to you all.

Update: I knew the list wasn’t complete. It still isn’t, and it may continue to grow.

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Whether you’re writing or painting or dancing or singing or cooking (as I will be) or walking in the rain, may you find that creative spark and a good measure of peace in each moment.

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