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Tag Archives: Jennifer Bullis

Tonight! SpeakEasy 27: A Spiritual Thread

If you’re interested in the intersection of poetry and spirit, you may want to Zoom in to this evening’s SpeakEasy 27: A Spiritual Thread. I won’t be reading, but I co-produce the SpeakEasy series with Luther Allen and I think the program will offer considerable food for thought.

Each of the poets — Susan Alexander, Luther Allen, Bruce Beasley, Jennifer Bullis, and Dayna Patterson — will share a poem and comment on the process of writing linked poems.

This will be our first virtual SpeakEasy, but definitely not the last. In fact, the poetry produced for SpeakEasy 27 quickly exceeded the constraints of a single reading, so it will be presented as a series. This program, Saturday, November 14, 2020, 7:00pm Pacific, will be followed by another on Saturday, December 12, with future dates TBA. The sessions will be recorded and available for viewing online.

Participation is free on a first-come, first-serve basis, but you must have a password to access the Zoom room. You can find a more complete description, the poets’ bios, and access information on the SpeakEasy 27 page. (This is also where the videos will be posted.)

“this is just to say”…

Poets on AssignmentAs writing groups go, six years is not a particularly long time; such groups meet for decades. But last night, as we sat down for our “Poets on Assignment” session, Jennifer Bullis pointed out that in that time we had rarely missed a month. And that’s a lot of poems.

Each month, Anita K. Boyle, Jeanne Yeasting, Jennifer Bullis, Jim Bertolino and I write a poem to a common prompt.* Sometimes the prompt is formal — sestina, pantoum — but more often it’s a word, a subject or a quirky combination — yellow; Möbius; maps and diacritical marks. If the prompt percolates in our minds for a month, we have each confessed that much of the writing gets done on the day of our meeting. Still, it’s a poem we might not otherwise have written.

When we meet — in various drinking or dining establishments around Bellingham — we read the poems aloud and discuss both questionable and triumphant aspects of the writing. Our drafts go home for polishing and we rarely see one another’s poems again unless and until they appear in print. Anita, Jennifer and Jim have published books since we started meeting and we have all done readings and published in literary journals.

I suppose that writing groups don’t always work out, but ours has for a variety of reasons. First, and perhaps foremost, is that we are each utterly unique in our vision and language. As I sit down to respond to a prompt (yesterday’s was hermit crab, and yesterday’s found poem just a happy accident), I am certain that all of us will take the same approach. But even if there is some resonance between the poems, they are always entirely, and surprisingly, different from one another.

Our comments also reflect those differences, offering important perspective that helps us clarify not just the poems we have written, but the poems someone else will read. We are honest in our assessments — honest, and kind — our intention always to improve each poem as if it were our own. We are committed to the process, recognizing that the prompts take us in directions we might not have ventured, encourage us to stretch. We trust one another. And that’s a lot.

I am immeasurably grateful to this group of poets, whose work I so admire and whose generosity, honesty, humor and friendship I so value. So this is just to say: thank you.

*Dave Cole remains an honorary member; he started out with us but moved away within the first year.
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artwork by Anita K. Boyle

one more for a busy morning…

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