I am struggling with this predicament as I expect are many of my gracious readers.
Finishing the fifth draft of revisions to my Doris Duke: The Invention of the New Woman leaves me preparing to send it off to my editor in New York and to give my first reading from the manuscript next Tuesday evening at St. John’s College here in Santa Fe. I’ve been invited to be part of a new series of presentations by writers and artists, tempering, I hope, the heady intellectual atmosphere of the college, if not dissipating it entirely.
At the same time, two literary events here in Santa Fe are leaving me, as these occasions always do, with a painful sense of being, always, an outsider.
These are the events attended by my fellow writers, most of whom I don’t know—my unacknowledged clan. The report we heard at one dinner on the state of publishing today was dismal, or maddening, depending on which attitude I can slip into more or less comfortably; our incomes have decreased by something like thirty percent in the last few years, due to publishers’ cut of advances. Even more alarming, publishers are at least according to one writer, only interested now in the famous or infamous bottom line, so that serious literary work by midlist writers like me can’t find a home. Self-publishing which has taken off with explosive power leads to nice-looking but entirely unedited books, burdening their authors with the entire work of selling them—and with making no money. Friends, beware! You will be asked to make what turns out to be a contribution to the miserable livelihood your writer friends earn with full-time work.
But—beware! We have never been paid a living wage. Even at the height of publishing success, full-time writers didn’t make more than seventy thousand dollars a year. Never a princely—or princessly sum—our incomes are now not equal to sustaining even a modest life.
Can we possibly believe that we are freer because of that?
Only if we chose the life that sum supports.
Not too many of us are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
But isn’t art, in any of its forms, always a sacrifice?
And not only on the material level. We sacrifice the comfort of sharing a common point of view, of “fitting in,” and benefitting from the great comfort of feeling like one of the team—or the tribe.
Now I turn to hiking with my dog Pip for comfort, reciting one of the many verses I memorize for use on the trails, so that the endless rat-chasing of discontent stops for a moment:
“The earth is our mother, and we are her children.”
The Santa Fe Artists Series events at St. John’s College
All events are at the Peterson Student Center and open to the public.
- March 7th (Tuesday): Sallie Bingham (Fiction Writer, Poet) (SENIOR COMMON ROOM, 7-9pm) (more info)
Sallie will be reading from her forthcoming biography of Doris Duke, entitled Doris Duke: The Invention of the New Woman, to be published next year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
- March 28th(Tuesday): Gerald Hausman (Fiction writer, Poet) (SENIOR COMMON ROOM, 7-9pm)
I will read from Island Dreams: Selected Poems and from various collections that have been published over the years. As you know from the biography, I have done a number of children’s books,so I usually pull short pieces from Duppy Talk: West Indian Tales of Mystery and Magic which was included in the History Channel’s film “Haunted Caribbean.” I always do a question and answerand talk about why I became an editor as well as a writer and how the two complement one another. As a working writer I also like to talk about how one works, why and where – and how place influences a writer’s world view. Overall, I speak about the three places that I know the most about: the Caribbean, the barrier islands of Florida, and New Mexico. Much of my published work deals with animals, so I won’t leave them out of the picture either.
- April 4th (Tuesday): John Macker (SENIOR COMMON ROOM, 7-9pm)
The Roaring Stillness Across Open Ground: How to Make Your Writing Speak to the World Around You. In poetry is it ok to violate “the facts?” As writers, we owe reality nothing but we owe the truth of our feelings, everything. Richard Hugo said truth should conform to music, not the other way around. Do we live in a post-truth world? We will discuss how to make the ordinary sacramental. We will discuss poetry as a retrieval mechanism and how the poem triggers our emotional priorities. We will briefly touch on writers such as Diane DiPrima, Norman MacLean, Richard Hugo, Charles Simic, Chief Joseph and others.
- April 7th (Friday): Judith Ford (SENIOR COMMON ROOM, 4:30-6pm)
Write What Scares You; Why It Matters and Some thoughts on How to Go There. We do our most interesting and complex writing when we allow our creative minds to run away with the buried impulses, thoughts, images, and narratives that frighten us. Or make us damned uncomfortable. As Natalie Goldberg instructs, “Go for the jugular; if something scary comes up (in writing practice), go for it!” This workshop will expand on this idea and offer a variety of methods for generating the flow or creative trance that can take you deep.
- April 8th: Linda Whittenberg (JUNIOR COMMON ROOM, 2-4pm)
Currently I’m constructing a manuscript with the working title True North, poems exploring ways we find our place in the world. I’ll be reading poems from that manuscript but some from earlier books also. It is a delectable pleasure when someone out there finds something that makes them laugh or say Um-m-m or shed a tear in response to one of my poems. Who knows, maybe it will happen.
- Apr. 12: Elaine Coleman (Poet) (FIRESIDE LOUNGE, 7:30-9pm)
“From Memoir to Mystery~ Reflections on the Writing Process” It will focus on two of my books, The Goodbye Baby~Adoptee Diaries (nonfiction) and Beast of Bengal (fiction). I’ll also include my soon-to-be-published suspense novel All the Wrong Places.
- April 14th: Mary Dezember and Elaine Ritchel (SENIOR COMMON ROOM, 4:30-6pm)
Poetry Inspired by Art: Close Looking and Reflective Writing In this workshop co-led by Elaine Ritchel, MA, and Mary Dezember, PhD, participants explore a close-looking method of viewing visual art. We share our experiences based on the four steps that guide the viewer to effective reflection and evaluation of the artworks. Next, we explore with participants the seven poetic responses to visual art as identified by Dr. Dezember. Each participant then, individually and through materials provided, find an artwork that “calls” her or him, chooses one of the seven responses, and with the foundation of the looking and reflecting exercises, writes a poem inspired by the art. We conclude the workshop with sharing our poems on a volunteer basis.
- April 15th (Saturday): Joan Logghe (JUNIOR COMMON ROOM, 2-4pm)
Following your Obsessions, a poetry reading from a long career, Followed by discussion. I will be reading from a selection of my poetry.
- April 18th(Tuesday): Debbi Brody (SENIOR COMMON ROOM, 7-9pm)
I will be reading from my current publishers’ query for my next book, working title Second Generation American. I will be talking about poetry activism, which is about sharing and getting your words and the words of other poets out there, sharing poetry in a way that has a positive impact on the community in which the poet resides and/or visits (this is distinct from regular ie: political activism.) We will do a generative writing after the discussion based on one of the query poems. The actual exercise works best if I don’t give any other details in advance.
- April 19th (Wednesday): Lisa Bertsch*
Poetry of Embodiment. In a playful weave of poetry reading and writing, awareness exercises, guided meditation and movement, we will explore the intersection of the embodied experience, inspiration and creative expression. We will draw from writings collected throughout the evening to construct a group poem.Please wear comfortable clothes to move in and a yoga mat if you have one. All levels of ability welcome.
- April 21st: Dana Levin (SENIOR COMMON ROOM, 4:30-6pm)
Dana will be reading from her new book, Banana Palace. Dana Levin’s fourth book, Banana Palace, confronts the deep anxieties of our age with bemusement, incredulity, outrage, and hope. Observing the crisis of human appetite through the lenses of psychology and science fiction, Levin’s disquieted at a world “ruled by a bipolar father-god, unconscious, suicidal.” Mutation, social media, eco-collapse, a dream of survivable “End Times”: no less than the future of the body is at stake, bodies corporeal and political, ecological and spiritual.
- April 22nd (Saturday): Ann Betz (FIRESIDE LOUNGE, 2-4pm)
- April 25th: High Desert Poet Collective (SENIOR COMMON ROOM, 7-9pm)
- April 29th (Saturday): Mary Dezember and Galaxy Dancer (JUNIOR COMMON ROOM, 2-4pm)
Rites of Passage through Poetry: Four Directions and Four Steps: In this workshop co-led by Galaxy Dancer and Mary Dezember, participants will meet outside, in Nature, to consider the four directions in terms of the four seasons and the four stages of life. Next we explore with the participants the four steps to the right of passage to identity, or vision quest, that are enacted in signature poems by poets such as Whitman, Neruda, Santiago Baca, Ginsberg and Dezember. Based on Dezember’s recently-released poems “Still Howling” and “Endnote to Still Howling,” we will lead the participants in taking the steps of the rite of passage to identity in poetry (which she has christened “The Howl Form”) in their own writing, applying the work they did with the four directions outdoor workshop. Using this foundation, participants will wander outside with a solo walk of contemplation and writing. We conclude with a final circle and sharing.
- May 10th(Wednesday): Tim McCord (Sculpture Artist) Grout release party/Final open mic (GREAT HALL, 8-10pm)
Tim McCord’s work is an expression of his obsessive curiosity about the container we refer to as the body as its maneuvered through the desires and sufferings of the human condition. His work is most informed by his childhood witnessing of his mother’s bout with terminal cancer and the ravishes of aggressive chemotherapy and radical mastectomies, along with his mortuary tour and detailed demonstrations of how she would be prepared for internment. Watching his mother, a former beauty queen, and how the devastation of her body forced her to reframe her identity as a woman, a wife, and a mother has had a lasting impact.
- May 16th(Tuesday): Mary Strong Jackson (Poet) (SENIOR COMMON ROOM, 7-9pm)
Mary will be reading poems from my upcoming chapbook, From Other Tongues, which will be published this March by Finishing Line Press. The poems are inspired by words considered to be untranslatable into English. She will also read a few other poems. I’ve attached the poems from this chapbook. She will also lead a discussion group along the lines of “Is poetry the last bastion of truth as the use of precise language diminishes?”