Studio Updates

The studio is now scheduled, mostly weekly, through October.
here are the dates:
  • September 2, 9, 16, 30
  • October 7, 14, 21

The only break in that stretch will be on September 23, when I will be teaching a daylong poetry workshop at SFZC City Center in the conference center, The Obstacle in the Path Becomes the Path. There are still spaces available in that if you’d like to register.

On September 14, I’ll be teaching a daylong workshop for Memoir Journal, The Feast of Losses:  Writing into Transience.  To register, click here.

Feel free to email me for more information on either of these workshops.
In November and December, the Studio will be held at Montalvo Arts Center on selected Sundays. Dates TBA
The studio is scheduled to return to SFZC City Center in February.  Dates TBA



Can you LouReed this?

I’m particularly interested lately in what it takes to finish something, being, myself very good at starting things, but less equipped when it comes to signing off on something.  So I’ve been working on what I’m calling “finisher’s mind,” the ability to see something through.

My friend Farnoosh and I have a tradition we call LouReeding that is extremely helpful in that stage when something’s almost “finished,” but needs to be considered from a fresher perspective, usually not one’s own.   The verb “to LouReed” is inspired by this clip below from  Homeland:  The Story of the Lark, in which Laurie Anderson talks about moving through a profoundly murky phase of making Homeland.

After watching  this video below, we started to ask each other, “Can you LouReed this? Meaning, The piece is pretty much almost there, but what works better, this word or this word?  Or it could be about helping to decide between two different versions of a sentence, or poem. Or whether to include a poem in a manuscript.  Pretty much any place where you feel hung up, and that your own judgment has become weary. To LouReed something is to offer a friend whatever witness and listening helps her have the heart tolerate the uncertainty of finishing something.

We invoke Lou Reed’s name with the deepest honor for the process he and Laurie Anderson describe in this account, the scale of the undertaking of Homeland, and the profound mutual respect in their relationship.

When we say it, we call into play all the ways one person can be present for another. On whatever scale.  Having a witness can help you let one option go, in favor of another.   The other night, it literally came down to hamster or gerbil.   With the help of Farnoosh’s LouReeding, I decided on hamster.  She said, That was one of the best LouReeds yet.

Here’s a transcript of the end of the video:

Laurie Anderson: I was going to give up because it was simply too daunting, and too lonely, so I’m kind of crying about it every day, and finally Lou –and that’s Lou Reed, the guitar player, and my husband, and my best friend of nineteen years got a little sick of hearing this and said listen I’m going to sit with you until you finish it. And I said, no you’re joking right? Who would do that?

Lou Reed: Sometimes it’s useful to have somebody else come in who loves and admires the thing you’re working on, but maybe has a little bit of distance.  The author may be so deep in, in her case, 106 tracks– What do you do with 106 tracks? It’s almost–

Laurie Anderson: He became familiar with the million little pieces. It was a way for me to go, “It could either go these six ways, and he’d go ‘#3.'”

Lou Reed: It’s useful maybe, not maybe, it’s useful to have someone you can trust, who’s on your side, not trying represent the point of view of the record company, or their own whatever, just help you get were you wanted to go with the thing as soon as possible.

Here’s Farnoosh’s notebook:

And here’s my own file in which I was putting various passages that were still a bit unclear. It helped to have them in a specific place that held the promise of LouReeding.   

The Pamphlet Stitch

I find that I’m often wanting to show people how to sew a pamphlet binding so i thought I would gather together some resources here.  I first learned this stitch abt. 10 yrs ago in a workshop with genius book alchemist, Peter Madden at the Fine Arts Work Center and it’s been supremely handy for making blank books and chapbooks, cards, etc.  There’s something very nimble and immediate about this structure and it can be adapted for larger dimensions by increasing the number and size of the stitches proportionately to the paper size and weight.  The main thing is just that there be an odd number of stitches.

Here is a sampling:

Instructions from UCSD Preservation Education and Awareness website

a cheery chronicle of a small blue notebook, with photos, from  My Handbound Books

A pamphlet stitch instruction sheet from Booklyn Artists Alliance (mainly on p.2, but lots of other useful info there too)

and another excellent account, from Reframing Photography

and of course a YouTube video, How to Sew a Pamphlet Stitch, from Charmaine Martinez

More pictures to come, but for now, here is a simple pamphlet made from paper bags.

Jen Bervin in Beyond Perfect-Bound, a conversation with Nancy Kuhl and Andrew Mauzey and Michael Dinsmoor on the Poetry Foundation website, says, of Emily Dickinson’s fascicles, “her manuscript groupings feel considered from inner necessity. Some private coherence the poems called for and the simple act of a stitch. Why are these 21 poems held together? Those 10? Or those 8? If those decisions are in the poet’s hands, she can respond purely to the work, to what its needs are.”

Hope you enjoy making some of your own.  Here in SF, you can learn this and much more at the SF Center for the Book.

here’s a video about how to lay out pages in inDesign so they can automatically paginate.

Glow at the Extremest Verge: An Evening with Mark Doty

Saturday, July 21, 7:30pm
San Francisco Zen Center City Center
300 Page Street, San Francisco

Patricia Hampl, in Commonweal, writes that Doty is “poised on exact perception. When he sees the ocean–the salt spray hits you.”

Mark will read from his poems and discuss and read selections from What is the Grass, his forthcoming book-length prose meditation on Walt Whitman, desire, the ecstatic, and the limits of the body.

“With his clarity of vision and great heart, Doty stands among us an emblematic and shining presence.” – Stanley Kunitz

“It’s a poet’s job to show us what we knew but never saw before; and it’s a poet’s job to tell us over and over what love is. Doty is this poet.” – Gerald Stern

Mark’s reading is in conjunction with Deepening the Poem, a poetry retreat led by Mark and and Jeremy Levie at Tassajara from July 22-27.

Mark Doty is the author of over a dozen books of poetry and prose, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, winner of the 2008 National Book Award for Poetry. His eight books of poems and four books of nonfiction prose have been honored by the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award and, in the United Kingdom, the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Doty has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

He lives in New York City and on the east end of Long Island. He is a Professor of English at Rutgers University.

And then a Plank in Reason, Broke: Memoir & Uncertainty

I’ll be teaching an all-day workshop July 14 in the new Memoir Journal Workshop Series.   The workshop takes place from 9-5 in Berkeley at Art Jam, Suite E, 725 Gilman St. 

Includes a complimentary subscription to Memoir Journal. Students should bring a brown bag lunch. 

Maximum enrollment 12, by advance registration only.

The essential trait of the poet, for John Keats, is the capacity for “being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” The uncertainty Keats speaks of is not a blandly passive “,” but rather an actively curious posture, an empathic receptivity, and flexibility of response.

In writing memoir, as well, an adventuresome relationship with doubt and uncertainty helps us find a way into writing that considers the “story” in an open and fresh way, and helps us see experience prismatically.

What Robert Motherwell said of painting is perhaps true of tolerating uncertainty as well:  it cannot be taught, but it can be learned. This workshop will be analytical, experimental/ experiential, and generative. In our discussion, we will draw upon practices and points of references from other arts and sciences to cultivate strategies for negotiating friendly obstacles in the writing process.

For more information, contact Rae Gouriand at