Studio Updates ~

cropped-untitled.jpgLots of events coming up~

There’s still space in the all-day workshop, Inspiration as a Sustainable Practice March 31.

Please register early as space is limited to 12.

This Thursday, March 14th, I’ll be reading with Kazim Ali, giovanni singleton, and Christian Gullette at University Press Books in Berkeley.

& coming up next Saturday, March 23,  I’ll be teaching with Theresa Wong at Montalvo Arts Center.

Here’s how Theresa describes her  ongoing workshops in Berkeley:

Theresa will lead a workshop exploring the voice through raising awareness of the body. During the workshop, the following topics will be explored: using the breath, singing long tones, awareness of body tension, the location of vibration frequencies and creating sounds via focusing awareness on the body. Simple games of conducting via free movement gestures will be used to generate vocal sounds including textures, melodies, text and noises to allow the voice to take flight into its infinite expressive qualities. The emphasis will not be on ‘having a good voice’, but rather on each individual’s use of their voice in a natural and personal way.  All levels/experience with the voice are welcomed.

I’ve long wanted to teach a poetry workshop with Theresa to explore the sounds of poetry in a more spacious and embodied way so I’m thrilled to be teaching this workshop with her.

• THE SOUND OF HAPPINESS: A Voice and Poetry Workshop

Saturday, March 23, 2013, 1 p.m. 3 p.m.

SoundofHappiness13062I’ll be joining Cellist/vocalist Theresa Wong for an afternoon of vocal and writing exercises exploring the relationship of voice, language, and happiness. Theresa Wong will guide participants in vocal improvisations which explore how chance creates the possibility of creative freedom. And I will lead a series of writing exercises inviting participants to explore how uncertainty can be a ground of possibility and generativity in writing poems.

This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience and is open to all ages, including children.

This workshop is organized in association with Happiness is…, the inaugural exhibition for Montalvo Art Center’s new theme, Flourish: Artists Explore Wellbeing. Over the next twenty months join us in exploring the question: how do we live meaningful, happy and healthy lives

more info here

Please note that there is no studio on Sunday, March 24.

February 24

March 3

March 10

March 17

March 24  No Studio

March 31 No Studio/All-day workshop

April 7

April 14

April 21

April 28

May 5

May 12

May 19 No Studio/All-day workshop

May 26

and on into summer:


Monday, July 15, 2013 – Friday, July 19, 2013

9 a.m. – noon (Ages 9+)

Apr09_3 077BLURWriting and gardening both invite us to pay close attention to the world around us. Each day in our creative writing camp, we’ll explore Montalvo’s grounds and let our discoveries help to shape our writing! Activities include writing poems, stories, making a journal from found materials, planting seedlings, and papermaking. Students will read their work at the end of the week.

More here


What is a Neutral Practice?


What is a neutral practice?

A way to relate to language thrown clear of the constriction of the too high stakes imposed by ideas about writing.

Neutral practices involve other texts sometimes, or repetition, or a change of mode, or of material.

Pleasure is key, or if not pleasure, at least a sense of lift, of relief, release, a lighter hold on permission.

Neutral practices aren’t always neutral, but they are perhaps less subject to the eye of the critic.

Neutral practices sometimes have benefits off to the side of what seems like the express purpose.

Some Examples:

1.  Memorize a poem

Some of the boons:

  • choosing the poem, all the browsing and reading that goes into that
  • becoming aware of the choices the poet has made as you make others in your memory of the poem
  • giving your mind something more fun and substantive to do than cycle through old news
  • having the poem at hand
  • embodying the poem
  • feels like translation
  • to be able to say it in the dark

2. Holograph

Handwrite a poem of your own.

Already this isn’t very neutral but is more of a helpful tool as you “re”vise.
Writing by hand slows you down and helps you see how lines are working, makes evident things you don’t need because it’s so much work to write it out.

The shapes the letters make become something your body needs to do differently, which is not the case in typing. So perhaps there is some sense of pattern one subtly internalizes.

3.  Type 3-5 pages of a book you love

Typing is a weirdly relaxing activity and it necessitates attention to all the particulars of the text, where paragraphs break, etc. It’s long enough that you enter the task as if it were your own.

4.  Take a walk

Walk for 20 minutes

Let your arms move in a converse motion.  This seems good for balancing your brain.  Stop at intervals and notice ten of some category and write them down without needing to know why.

e.g. all the nouns you can see, i.e. actual words

anything of a certain color

anything of a certain shape

5.  Browse the dictionary (in printed book form) No plan, just let one word lead you to the next.  Make notes of words you especially love.  See if you hear them in conversation or can find an occasion to use them.

Here is what a printed book looks like:


Here is what the inside of a printed dictionary looks like: Yes, you have to turn pages to get to another word, but you can look at this all day long and get almost no radiation.  (just a very tiny bit every 5,000 or so years.)


Notes on “the Vault”

“Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.”

–Thomas Tranströmer, Romanesque Arches

For this week’s studio, we’ll be thinking about “the vault,” i.e. the space of enclosure that allows for opening.

That enclosure can be composed of time, as in, I’m going to dedicate this ten minutes to writing, etc. Or space – having a designated, uncontested space for writing.  It might be somehow held in the company of a friend with whom you share a commitment. Or in the regard of someone who cares for you and your work.



Here’s Tomas Tranströmer‘s poem, “Romanesque Arches”
~translated by Robert Bly

Romanesque Arches

Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous Romanesque church.
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered.

An angel whose face I couldn’t see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
Don’t be ashamed to be a human beingbe proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.

Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini—
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.


And here is Naomi Shihab Nye, on how poems create “a certain kind of “High Line” within yourself” that you keep wanting to return to, “a sudden savoriness of experience”

And here’s Stevie Nicks, backstage, in that kind of vault that comes from free play

And here is John Cleese  on creativity and the vault.

There are remedial vaults, as in those programs such as Anti-Social or Freedom, which keep you from venturing out into the Internet every fourth minute for a dopamine flush. You would think we wouldn’t need to have some kind of program when we could just turn it off ourselves.  But I think these things are helpful because they add another level of interaction. We’re not just turning it off alone. We’re turning it off with all the other people who have noticed that they’d like to follow through on a thought. The testimonials on these sites at first feel triumphant: “Worked for 60 minutes with! Writing session complete, so no matter what else I do today, I’ve already been productive” What happened that now we think if we just manage to work for 1 hour, that’s all we can hope for? But I do think we’re at a stage that has become highly remedial. If something helps, we need it! In Provincetown summers I sometimes brought a sewing project to the beach. It’s very difficult to sew in whipping winds. The internet feels this way now. My desk is a low chair at the beach and whatever I’m trying to work on keeps blowing out of my hand.

* thank you to Joyce Brady for bringing this Tomas Transtrømer poem to my attention