Fred Wah, Richard Hugo, Food & Ministry

Last night’s Living Room, our third edition in our new home, was another satisfying exchange of original work, and one poem from one of the best-known NW poets.

Remember, Living Room is a writer’s critique circle happening every Tuesday starting at 7P at the Columbia City Cinema, 4816 Rainier AV S. in the 2nd floor lounge.

Toby Steers was the first to join Meredith and me in the circle. A first-timer, his gf was kind enough to point him to SPLAB. He read a food-oriented blog piece that was intelligent and humorous, with the occasional quirky leap. For instance, he mentioned syphilis in a passage. You don’t expect that in a discussion of food! (Toby can certainly link to the piece he read once it’s on-line.) In the meantime, check out his food blog: and scroll down to see the line: “hell is other people’s kitchens.”

Ramon Hildreth is getting back into his poetry practice. He took the Link from SeaTac and read a Richard Hugo poem entitled:

The Colors of a Bird

A bird sails from the hole in that high stone
circles once and glides down, humming
with his wings He seemed white half-
way up, but green now as he ticks
the river. No one doubts the water.
It will eat the best men from the sky.

Gold. Not gold, but blue. The tan bird
in and out of sunlight hugs the stream.
Now he uses cedar bark for amber,
takes the color of a hostile man.
He has no taste. How satisfied he seems
anywhere he flies throughout the spectrum.

He found shades of pink in Italy.
Man can give one color only,
promise birds a perfect afternoon:
trout and worm, a coy girl brought to answer
in the grass. The bird will never brown
hoping for the sun this river flicks.

The red bird sweeps the evening water flat.
Picnics never work. The army
separates in current as they drown.
Now the laughing black bird draws
a hectic line of nothing on the air
and drives relieved into the rock dark.

I was reminded of Olson quoting Pound’s distaste for picnics when Olson visited him at St. Elizabeth’s. A quote from Maximus, right? (Am blogging at sbux, so no access to my library.) Olson also said present tense is the tense of the mythic & this poem is very much written in the moment, in a meter that is palpable and yet natural. Ramon used the line: It will eat the best men from the sky as an epigraph for a poem he just sent me and may read in the Living Room in the future.

Darla DeFrance read from her memoir about her time doing ministry for sailors in the NY Port Authority in the months after 911. Another first-time Living Room attendee, she heard about it via the Columbia City Wiki. (How cool is this neighborhood?) She could have read a lot longer, the use of language intelligent and the flow quite palpable. But it can be nerve-wracking to expose your work in front of strangers. We try to make it easy at the Living Room.

I read two older pieces I have never yet unveiled, based on a project I started after finishing .
A Time Before Slaughter
. More on that later, as the series is not finished, but Living Room attendees get an early glimpse.

Am still thinking about a quote George Bowering made about Fred Wah, and which we mulled in the Living Room a week ago:

“It is no secret that Wah derived early sensibility from Charles Olson & Ed Dorn, poets who found ineluctable relationships between a sense of place as signified, & the projection of the body’s consciousness as signifier.”

I’ve an email into George about this. More should it arrive.

Hope to see you in the Living Room.

About Splabman

Poet & interviewer Paul E Nelson founded SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) & the Cascadia Poetry Festival. Since 1993, SPLAB has produced hundreds of poetry events & 600 hours of interview programming with legendary poets & whole systems activists including Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger, Robin Blaser, Diane di Prima, Daphne Marlatt, Nate Mackey, George Bowering, Barry McKinnon, José Kozer, Brenda Hillman & many others. Paul’s books include American Prophets (interviews 1994-2012) (2018) American Sentences (2015) A Time Before Slaughter (2009) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (2013). Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia (2015), 56 Days of August: Poetry Postcards (2017) and Samthology: A Tribute to Sam Hamill (2019) Make it True meets Medusario (2019), he’s presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Nanaimo, Qinghai & Beijing, China, has had work translated into Spanish, Chinese & Portuguese & writes an American Sentence every day. Awarded a residency at The Lake, from the Morris Graves Foundation in Loleta, CA, he’s published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster, Hambone, and elsewhere. Winner of the 2014 Robin Blaser Award from The Capilano Review, he is engaged in a 20 year bioregional cultural investigation of Cascadia and lives in Rainier Beach, in the Cascadia bioregion’s Cedar River watershed.
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