Becoming Cascadian — Investigating the intersection of poetics and bioregionalism

I sat down with Paul Nelson, SPLAB founding director, to find out about the upcoming retreat SPLAB is bringing to the Cascadia region.

First, what is Cascadia?

Cascadia is a bioregion that begins in the south at Cape Mendocino, at the beginning of the Cascadia subduction zone, goes north to Mt. Logan and includes Yakutat, Alaska, and the eastern border is mostly the Continental Divide, except in the south where the Great Basin (and Ranges) bioregion cuts out a hunk of Oregon. The definitive maps are created by David McCloskey and available at his Cascadia Institute website.

What is the Becoming Cascadian retreat?

The retreat will be held in (mostly) the Rainier Beach neighborhood in Seattle on May 31 through June 3. It’s a community-building event designed for poets, artists and bioregionalists to gather, share strategies, discuss our role as humans in this time of ecological crisis and end-stage empire. We will also make connections and support one another in our efforts to create the deepest gestures in response to this situation and how that relates to Cascadia.

Paul, you say this is a retreat. What do you mean by retreat? What makes it different from a conference?

Attendance is limited; it’s designed to be a more intimate event. We have one keynote poet. Much of the event’s agenda will be developed organically. During the opening circle Friday night, participants will be given the opportunity to offer a breakout session of their own design. Scheduling will be done via a democratic process.

Tell me a little about the keynote speaker, Andrew Schelling.

Andrew has taught at Naropa Institute for 30 years. He’s a poet and translator who taught himself Arapaho and translates Sanskrit. There’s no one alive who understands the confluence of bioregionalism and poetics better than this man. This is a unique opportunity for participants to connect with a poet working at a very deep level with a renowned commitment to place.

What should I expect from the retreat?

Most of the retreat will be held in Rainier Beach, overlooking the lake. Thursday we sit in Zazen at St. Ignatius at Seattle U. (Optional). On Friday night, there will be a dinner and opening circle, with introductions, in Rainier Beach. That’s the time participants can propose breakout sessions. Saturday will be the breakout sessions and keynote interview/discussion. Sunday is a tour of Kubota Gardens with Zen monk Dr. Jason Tetsuzen Wirth, a closing circle, and a closing reading at Open Books in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood.

I see there are public events attached to this retreat. Which are they?

Three events will open to the public: the Zen meditation session at Seattle University’s St. Ignatius Temple, the keynote discussion/interview with Andrew Schelling at Redwing Café, and the closing reading at Open Books.

OK, how do I register?

Registration is limited, and advance registration is required. The retreat is $80, plus meals. To register, send $80 through PayPal to pen (at) splab (d0t) org by May 29, 2018. Participants will received a confirmation email with all the salient details.

I’m psyched! Where can I find a schedule and more information?

You can find it on our web page Becoming Cascadian.

One last question. If there is one thing you’d like participants to walk away with from the retreat, what would it be?

To have a deep experience of place and poetics. So much in this life is superficial.

Here are some words from Paul about what he finds exciting about the event — and a link to Andrew Schelling speaking at Seattle University on February 20.

by Lisa Fusch Krause

Thank you sponsors!

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