To Do List for the Damaged

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To Do List for the Damaged:
My Hedgebrook recipe for writing a book

By Tammy Robacker

Journal in Willow Cottage

Journal in Willow Cottage

As Hedgebrook opens their call for women writers to apply this June, I cannot help but express gratitude for my own poetry residency there in 2011.

My experience at Hedgebrook is especially humbling today since I celebrate recent news that Villain Songs, a poetry manuscript I began drafting in that residency, will be published in 2016 with ELJ Publications. Villain Songs is a collection of poems I wrote that are informed by my personal experience surviving a life-altering trauma as a child.

When I applied to Hedgebrook in 2010, my application was a compelling, emotionally-charged proposal describing my intent to write a poetry book about my experience with childhood sexual abuse. Additionally, I submitted a folder full of very private poetic purges rather than finished, well-crafted pieces ready for journal publication. I just wasn’t sure how I could focus to do such taboo work without their help.

I needed to go deeply into the dark cave of my memory and sit there writing about the monsters, goblins and grief I found inside.

At the time, I worked as a communications manager for a Washington State non-profit, and my day was full of writing dry publicity and announcements; scheduling political events; and managing board member travel and legislative affairs. Also, I served as Poet Laureate of Tacoma in 2010, so my evenings and weekends were full of volunteer teaching, workshop, and reading engagements. I didn’t have much time leftover to build up my personal portfolio of poems, not to mention I did not have a lot of the privacy and solitude. I needed to go deeply into the dark cave of my memory and sit there writing about the monsters, goblins and grief I found inside. I applied to Hedgebrook with great hope in my heart to get the support I needed to write this book.

On December 16, 2010—also the 6th anniversary of my Father’s death—I received a letter announcing that I had been chosen for a Writer in Residence award at Hedgebrook. Out of nearly 800 applicants, I was one of the final 38 selected for a stay. It was the greatest gift of time and quietude I needed to dive into this project. To have the Hedgebrook community back my literary concept empowered me with a tremendous feeling of courage and support. To be a survivor and have such a grand affirmation and valuation of your narrative is a great gift as many of us walk around unheard and disbelieved. Hedgebrook’s acceptance fueled my story forward. It sent my dream into action.

Hedgebrook

So how does one write a book at Hedgebrook?

I took time off work. I moved into a cottage. I lived in Willow Cottage for nearly 3 weeks—my small woodsy retreat with a bedroom loft and wood burning stove. I let down my guard to allow someone else to shelter and provide for me. I watched the sun come up. I drank free trade coffee. I napped after writing all morning long. I nibbled dark chocolate. I bathed in a huge, claw foot tub nearly each day of the week. I journaled in the cottage. I journaled in the grass. I took long walks. I picked fresh lavender and sunflowers. I read books from the on-site library full of Hedgebrook authors and poets. I ate white strawberries and tried fresh kale for the first time grown right there on the Hedgebrook Farm. I sat at the Farm Table every night and dined on healthy, nourishing meals prepared and served by a friendly chef. I met new people. I made lifelong friends— I found camaraderie and connection with a number of women writers from across the globe that, like me, arrived at residency with a dream to document.

And mostly, at Hedgebrook, I wrote my poetry. I wrote a new poem every day. I wrote about the bad. I wrote about the beautiful too. I wrote whatever sprouted and sprung up from the soil of my sad/mad brain. Many of those jottings and journalings became seedlings for more carefully sculpted pieces in later months.

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If I did not have the time, the privacy, and the support that Hedgebrook awarded me to begin the poems of Villain Songs, I don’t think I could have embraced the project as deeply and fully as I did. To create art about something as pained and private as childhood sexual abuse was work that I believed I would have to do alone.

But the Hedgebrook community created a safe, welcoming environment for me to do the difficult while they absolved me of my own life’s constraints. I was sheltered, fed, and supported at no-cost to freely write about something even my own family will not let me speak about. It was the place I needed to be to give all those bad memories, strange fragments, and troubled images their own kind of freedom and credence to write them out of myself. For me, the gift of Hedgebrook was transformative. It helped me take something terrible and spin it into song.

For more information about Hedgebrook, including the Writers in Residence Program and upcoming readings and events, check out the website at: http://www.hedgebrook.org

Q & A with Claire Harden

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Claire Harden is from Napa, California and currently lives in Corvallis, Oregon.  She attends Oregon State University and is working on a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Claire works at Interzone Cafe and enjoys slacklining, hiking, camping, unicycling and painting.

Claire is hosting an open studio art sale at her apartment on Sunday, June 7th on 9th and Adams between the hours of 2 and 7 p.m. Wine and Appetizers are provided.

Q & A:

1. What is your preferred medium of choice?

Oil paint is my medium of choice but I am recently becoming a fan of egg tempera. My major focus is in painting. Egg Tempera is made with ground dry pigments, water and egg yolk. 

2. What inspires your artwork?

The natural beauty of people and things in present state. I began with just drawing portraits and developed a love for the human body and its forms.

3. What art projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on hair studies that comments on how society relates hair with sex and gender. This summer I’ll begin a nude figure series showing the body in different states; contortion, pressure and exploring the human condition.

4. What female artists have inspired you and your work over the years?

My professor, Julie Green. I’ve learned more from her than any other artist. I feel like it is difficult to learn from someone you’ve never met or seen the process of how they go about doing something.

5. Do you personally identify as a feminist? If so, do you find your feminism has become integrated into our artwork?

Yes! In some recent works, yes. I have only recently attempted a more content based work, which included paintings of an armpit of a female that had her hair grown out. I was commenting on women’s oppression based on how they style or grow their hair.

6. What are your future goals as an artist?

My future goals: To go where I find inspiration and keep learning. Near future goals: Graduate college and work on finding an internship or job related to my degree. I would love to intern with another artist. I find so much inspiration working closely wit someone.

7. What advice do you have for aspiring female artists?

To try EVERYTHING! Every kind of art you can find. I often sign up for classes not knowing what they are and fall in love with another form of art I never knew existed. Being well-rounded in the arts is a quality well-appreciated and will take you far.

By: Karen Osovsky

An Interview with Writer Kate Ver Ploeg

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Kate Ver Ploeg’s “Fall From the Sky” was incorrectly published in CALYX Vol. 28:1 as fiction. Her piece is, in fact, a true experience told from a vulnerable place in her heart. We are deeply apologetic to Ms. Ver Ploeg for the misprint, and wish to give her the space to reclaim the label and explain the significance of “Fall From the Sky” as nonfiction.

Ver Ploeg, who writes almost exclusively nonfiction, explained that writing this piece was a way for her to work through the questions her experience left her. The investigation of the harassment she faced brought up questions within herself and from others about her credibility and memory. When “Fall From the Sky” appeared labeled as fiction, those unpleasant feelings resurfaced.

“Seeing my explanation of that experience labeled as fiction brought back many feelings from those two years: doubt, uncertainty, erasure,” she said.

So much of her experience was about silence, and writing her story was a way to give a voice to herself and others.

“In publishing “Fall From the Sky” as nonfiction, I wanted people to know that this erasure, so frequently unmentioned in trainings on sexual harassment, happened to me, and it happens to many and it keeps happening,” she said.

There is a stark difference between fiction and nonfiction for Ver Ploeg, as she explained that nonfiction brings the subject much closer to the reader.

“Knowing that a story is about real people, that these events happened in a world that I too inhabit, shifts the story into a space that feels rawer,” she said. “In fiction, everything that happens bends in service to the story, and what doesn’t happen can be fabricated. But nonfiction doesn’t have that luxury.”

I wanted “Fall From the Sky” to be viewed as the truth. A slanted truth, in that it definitely represents my perspective, but true to the events that unfolded and the emotions I felt.

It’s important to Ver Ploeg that “Fall From the Sky” be published as nonfiction, because it changes the ultimate purpose and perspective.

“As a piece of nonfiction, I’m telling the readers that I did not fabricate the facts, that sections lifted from the university report and emails to friends are direct quotes, that my research is accurate, and the events are faithful to my memory,” Ver Ploeg said. “With the option to conveniently manipulate fact, the label of fiction introduces a seed of doubt. It calls into question the validity of those facts and can undercut the authenticity of the writer’s perspective…I think this affects how readers engage with a text.”

Additionally, Ver Ploeg viewed writing this piece and other nonfiction as a powerful tool for advocacy and change, which is a purpose that can be minimized with a fiction label.

“It became vitally important to me that this piece stand as a testament,” she said, “for those who have also been silenced and for those who have no idea of the extent of this silence or how it feels.”

“I wanted “Fall From the Sky” to be viewed as the truth,” she said. “A slanted truth, in that it definitely represents my perspective, but true to the events that unfolded and the emotions I felt.”

Featured TPIP Reader: Connie Eggers

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR! Connie Eggers

The Poetry is Political (TPIP) is a poetry reading event that will be held in honor of National Poetry Month. CALYX, Inc. embraces the words of women and other underrepresented voices, and so, too, is the purpose of this event.

Meet our final featured poet, Connie Eggers, and be sure to come out for an evening of poetry with an open mic to follow.

A native of Southern California, Constance Eggers lives in Corvallis and is a past member of the CALYX editorial collective. Before retiring from full-time employment in 2009, she taught English composition and literature to secondary and college-level students for 34 years. Her poems have appeared in Faultline, Jeopardy, The Seattle Review, The MacGuffin, Pudding, The Wilshire Review, Creative Transformation, Eclipse, Sounding, and Mount Hope. Her chapbook, Reliquary, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012.

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How do you believe poetry is political?

Everything is personal. Everything is political.

-Connie Eggers

Featured TPIP Reader: Amy MacLennan

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

Amy MacLennanCALYX, Inc. is hosting a poetry reading, The Poetry is Political (TPIP), tomorrow in honor of National Poetry Month. It will feature poets who share an interest in poetry as a form of personal politics. This is the last of our featured readers, and we hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know our poets.

We have featured some of our event’s readers this past week and have one more before the event. Meet our fourth featured reader, Amy MacLennan, and watch for the last featured poet tomorrow!

Amy MacLennan has been published in Hayden’s Ferry Review, River Styx, Linebreak, Cimarron Review, Elohi Gadugi, Cloudbank, Windfall, The Oregonian, and Rattle. Her chapbook, The Fragile Day, was released from Spire Press in 2011, and her chapbook, Weathering, was published by Uttered Chaos Press in 2012. Her book, The Body, A Tree will be published by MoonPath Press in January, 2016. Amy is an editor for Cascadia Review and The Cortland Review. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.

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Why do you think poetry is political? 

Poetry is political when it addresses societal views and judgments. A poem can be obvious or subtle. I always look for metaphors that speak for the needs of others.

-Amy MacLennan

Featured TPIP Reader: Tammy Robacker

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

Tammy Robacker

CALYX, Inc. is hosting a poetry in honor of National Poetry Month called, “The Poetry is Political” (TPIP). The event will feature poets sharing poems about identity and the different ways that poetry can be political. We will feature each poet with a blog post leading up to the event.

Meet our third featured poet, Tammy Robacker. Keep an eye out for the next few posts this week!

Tammy Robacker served as Poet Laureate of Tacoma, WA in 2010-11 and she is a 2011 Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence award winner. In 2009, Ms. Robacker published her first collection of poetry, The Vicissitudes, with the generous support of a TAIP artist grant award. Tammy’s poetry has appeared in Canopic Jar, Duende, So to Speak, Crab Creek Review, WomenArts, Comstock Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Cascadia Review. Currently enrolled in the MFA program in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University, Tammy is working on a second poetry collection and lives in Oregon.

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Why is poetry political for you?

Poetry is political for me because it is a place of freedom to describe what is just or unjust in our world. By using words, ideas, language and emotion to convey what the human heart cherishes or rails against, poetry becomes a kind of power.

-Tammy Robacker

Featured TPIP Reader: Qwo-Li Driskill

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

Qwo Li Driskill

CALYX, Inc. is hosting “The Poetry is Political (TPIP),” a poetry reading in honor of those who’s voices have been silenced. Poets will share how their experiences with intersecting identities have shaped their poetry, and how that is in turn political. We will feature each poetry reader with a blog post until the reading on April 23.

Meet our second featured poet, Qwo-Li Driskill, and watch for more poets in the coming week.

Qwo-Li Driskill is a Cherokee Two-Spirit and Queer writer, activist, and performer also of African, Irish, Lenape, Lumbee, and Osage ascent. They are the author of Walking with Ghosts: Poems and the co-editor of Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature and Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions is Theory, Politics, and Literature. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, their work has been published in several publications including The Crab Orchard Review, Shenandoah and the Poetry Foundation’s online poetry database. They are currently working on their second volume of poetry, How to Make a Tear Dress, and their book Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory will be published next year by the University of Arizona. They are an assistant professor of Queer Studies in the Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at Oregon State University.

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How can poetry be political for you?

Poetry is an invitation to language to move into our body and transform the world around us. My poetry emerges from personal and intersecting community struggles for survival and healing in the face of ongoing colonization and violence. What I hope most is that my poetry can do the work that it needs to do in the world: bear witness, help others survive and thrive, and aid in multifaceted and ongoing processes of healing and decolonization.

-Qwo-Li Driskill

Featured TPIP Reader: Hannah Baggott

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

hannah baggott

CALYX, Inc. is hosting The Poetry is Political (TPIP), a poetry reading in honor of National Poetry Month. The event will explore identity and politics and how they are expressed through poetry. Each day until the reading we will feature one of the poets who is reading with a blog post.

Meet our first of the featured readers, Hannah Baggott, and look for more poet bios in the coming week!

Hannah Baggott is a Nashville, TN native currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at Oregon State University while teaching writing courses with a rhetorical focus on gender and media; she has also recently become a regular contributor with PDXX Collective. Her work can be found or forthcoming in Calyx Journal, Bellevue Literary Review (2015 Marcia and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry), Tupelo Quarterly, The Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Stockholm Review, Contrary Magazine, and other journals. Connect with her at hannahbaggott.com.

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Why is poetry political to you?

I see poetry as political in terms of its relationship with power, whether we write from a private, lyrical place or with a particularly public voice. As poets, we are exercising or seeking power over language and through language. When we are heard, we become momentary vessels of pathos; our audiences can experience being swept up in empathy, belief, and support of the poet’s voice.

-Hannah Baggott

10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

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Not sure what to do to make National Poetry Month special this April? Poets.org compiled a list of 30 ways to celebrate. Here are ten of our favorite!

1) Attend a poetry reading.

Calyx-Flyer4

CALYX is hosting a poetry reading at Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, Ore. to celebrate underrepresented voices during this National Poetry Month. Please come enjoy our featured poets, and stick around for the open mic. Bring your friends!

2) Pick you favorite poem and memorize it.

3) Buy a book of poetry from your local bookstore.

via uopfindsomt on Flickr

via uopfindsomt on Flickr

4) Try your hand at writing different styles of poems.

5) Write or read a poem each day.

6) Start a poetry reading group.

7) Write a letter to you favorite poet to thank her or him for their work.

8) Chalk a poem on the sidewalk.

via jaynev on Flickr

via jaynev on Flickr

9) Sign up for a poetry class or workshop.

10) Visit poets.org for more National Poetry Month fun.

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