Information and Inspiration for your poetic journey
October 2010
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In This Issue
Minding Words
The Write Direction
Poets To Know
Catching Voices
Featured Poem
Creating Space for Writing
The Cook, The Writer, The Gardener, The Business Woman
Discover New Poetry Markets and Get Published
The Poetics of Community
The Writing Life
Writing the Life Poetic Zine

Publisher & Editor:
Sage Cohen


Brittany Baldwin

Dale Favier

Sara Guest

Jenn Lalime

Christopher Luna


Toni Partington

Shawn Sorensen

Steve Williams

For your  bookshelf

The Productive Writer Cover

WTLP cover with link

Like the Heart cover with link

Sage Cohen News, Events & Appearances

Writer's Digest features Q&A with Sage Cohen

"10 Ways to be a Productivity Pro" published in September 2010 issue of Writer's Digest

"Top 10 Pitfalls Writers Should Avoid" published at Writer's Digest online

 October 18: VoiceCatcher 5 Reading

November 1: Deadline for "The Life Poetic iPoem Contest"

November 20, 2010 // 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., "Break into Business Writing: Boost Your Income and Creativity" workshop with PDX Writers

December 1: Spike Day for The Productive Writer

Order your copy from and help Sage get to the top of the charts that day!

January 23, 2011 // 11:00 a.m.

"Success Strategies and Systems for Writing & Selling More"
Writer's Digest 2011 Conference
in New York, NY

February 1-5, 2011
AWP 2011 Conference in Washington, DC: "Finding and Creating Online Teaching Opportunities-and Sustaining and Succeeding in Them" panel

February 13, 2011 // 7:00 p.m.
Poetry reading featuring Sage Cohen and Jay Nebel
Stonehenge Studios // 3508 SW Corbett Ave,  Portland, OR


February 22, 2011 // 7:00 p.m.
The Productive Writer book launch reading and celebration
Barnes & Noble Vancouver
7700 NE 4th Plain Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98662


"Top 10 Success Strategies for Writing More and Selling More" lecture and workshop
March 5, 2011: Willamette Writers of Southern Oregon
March 10, 2011: Willamette Writers of Salem


I remember wondering if I could possibly love anyone or anything as much as I loved my first dog, Henry. The synchronicity of our beings was such that he was (and still is) clearly my canine soulmate. When Henry's little (but much bigger) sister Hamachi entered our lives, this wildly spontaneous beast and I had little in common, with the exception of our propensity to shed.

Henry & HamachiDespite the fact that absolutely nothing about her initiation into our lives was easy, and much of it was costly--in the way of major surgeries and major home repairs--our affinity for each other grew and Hamachi quickly came to hold an equal share of my heart (as well as more than three quarters of the bed). Suddenly, my sense of my own capacity to love had split like a cell from one to two.

Two. My son Theo loves this word, having recently grasped the concept of pairs of related things. And having just turned two years old himself, he is thrilled to now identify with this exalted number, one that seems to signify to him: so much of something good.

Two. I am now the author of two, nonfiction books. As my second, The Productive Writer, awaits its release this December, I find myself at that strange crossroads of calling in the love for this latest creation that has come through me. With poetry being my first and most natural path into authoring, what pocket of this old, stretched-out heart of mine might productivity claim as its own? Which 3/4 of the bed is it planning to cover in paw prints?

Then I think of my favorite beach in Manzanita, Oregon: the thirst of water carving itself down the dunes, across the hard, wave-battered flats of sand, in rivulets back to its source. Productivity, poetry, Henry and Hamachi are some of the primary tributaries of my heart, each sourcing the deep waters of who I am. Each one sending me further out into the darkness of whom I might next discover myself to be.

There is room enough for everything we love to shape the path that we travel.What are you stretching to include in your heart and your writing these days, and what wisdom might it have to offer about so much of something good?


The word is the way,


Sage Cohen

Publisher & Editor

Minding Words
Some Thoughts About Metrics
By Dale Favier

First, and most important, is: you can write great poetry without knowing a thing about it, just as there are brilliant musicians who have never learned to read music. I know some wonderful poets who never trouble their heads about metrical patterns and scansion. That's fine. Why should they?

On the other hand, knowing something about metrics won't ruin your poetry, either -- unless you take it too seriously and try to force things to be metrically regular that just don't want to be. I find it very useful in writing my own poetry, even though my poetry is not usually very regular. When I get in trouble, when the rhythm seems not quite right, I start counting out syllables and looking at how this line or that is fitting or not fitting the pattern. It doesn't give me a solution, but it gives me a way to think about it.

What is meter? Well, in English poetry it's patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. A common one is iambic pentameter:  five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables, like this:

   shall I  | com-PARE | thee TO | a SUM- | mer's DAY


It's a framework, a guide: very little good poetry is "perfectly" metrical. And it's more complicated than it looks. For one thing, "stress" is not so straightforward. Do you really stress "I" and "to" when you say that line? I don't.

Two syllable words are the easiest to work with. The noun "impact," for example, is stressed on the first syllable. "It will explode on IM-pact." But the verb "impact" is - by some speakers, some of the time - stressed on the second syllable: "how will that im-PACT the bottom line?"  It just gets worse when we move on to multisyllable words. Different dialects of English handle this differently: Americans will say AD-ver-TISE-ment: primary stress on AD, secondary stress on TISE. The British, though, who don't like two stresses in one word, will say ad-VER-tise-ment.

And then there's one-syllable words, which get stress or not, often, according to meaning: I went to the park means "I myself, and not anyone else, went to the park." Whereas "I WENT to the park" means, "I already went to the park. (And now you're asking me to go again?)" And "I went to the PARK" means, "I went to the park and nowhere else (certainly not to that woman's apartment!)"

My point is, you can't even begin to do metrics without getting tangled up in meaning and dialect. Now, if you're a poet, you should love getting tangled up with meaning and dialect: but it means that the variables multiply very rapidly, and very soon you're dealing with interpretation as much as with technicalities. It's unfortunate, maybe, that most people meet metrics, if they meet them at all, in the context of Shakespeare's dialect of English, which is quite different from Modern British English and even more different from modern American English. It can be hard enough to learn to identify stress in your own dialect. Learning to do it in an unfamiliar dialect is harder.

Which brings me to the last thing I wanted to emphasize. I've done a fair amount of teaching metrics, and I've always been surprised by who takes to it and who doesn't. Some of my smartest students, and most sensitive readers of poetry, never get it. Some students who are not very clever and not at all sensitive to poetry get it right away. So far as I can tell, there's a gift for one sort of linguistic abstraction that makes metrics easy for some people, and it doesn't have much to do with the gifts that make you a good reader or a good poet.  So give it a shot if you want.  (My favorite introduction to metrics is John Hollander's Rhyme's Reason.) But metrical analysis is just one way, among many, of approaching poetry -- one way of playing with it. If you can't get the hang of it, just forget about it. There are plenty of others.

* * * * *

Dale Favier has taught poetry, chopped vegetables, and written software for a living. Currently he works half-time as a massage therapist and half-time running a database for a non-profit in Portland, Oregon. He is a Buddhist, in the Tibetan tradition. He writes about meditation and poetry, and whatever ever else he may be interested in at the moment, at Mole.

He has an M.Phil. in English Literature from Yale, but he never wrote much poetry until he began blogging, a few years ago, and fell in with bad companions. With them he eventually brought out an anthology, Brilliant Coroners. His poems have also appeared in Qarrtsiluni and The Ouroborus Review. His first chapbook, Opening the World, will be coming out next year from Pindrop Press.
The Write Direction
October Poetry Prompt
By M and Steve Williams

We're sure you've heard the old saying: "First impressions are lasting impressions." This month, we're going examine that phenomenon and learn how to use it to its best advantage in our poetry.  

Step #1:


Read the following poem carefully, which came to us in a broadside by Marie Reynolds called Late Harvest published by Rattlesnake Press, and consider how you feel about it at the end of the read. Jot down notes as soon as you've finished reading it - general observations about the poem itself, as well as what emotions the poem stirred within you, what you thought, how you reacted. Note, too, what you imagine about the characters in the poem. Let your imagination play with the ideas of who they are, what their back story is, what might have brought them to this place and how they feel about it. For instance, are these people family members, lovers, friends, escaped convicts, etc.? Think about the images and their metaphorical as well as literal meaning. Concoct as many details and write down as much as you can. Please complete this step and your notes before proceeding to Step #2. Don't read ahead.




by Marie Reynolds


We fled to the coast,

holed up in a cottage above

the stone white sea.


We walked on the bluffs, heard the drone of sage

and juniper, saw for ourselves

where the soil had slipped, sheared off

and slid under the waves.


Each day the earth loses ground to the sea.


We sat on the porch and faced the sun, shore birds

reeling, cliff sides streaked white

with salt. We watched the brown hawk

ride onshore currents, a blade suspended

in blue light, falling and rising.








Step #2:


The above poem was not complete. A crucial piece of information was missing. The very first line was left out. Just one line, five little words. But that small bit of information is what the whole poem turns on. Now read the poem again, this time with its initial line intact.



by Marie Reynolds


Before they confirmed the diagnosis, we fled

to the coast, holed up in a cottage above

the stone white sea.


We walked on the bluffs, heard the drone of sage

and juniper, saw for ourselves

where the soil had slipped, sheared off

and slid under the waves.


Each day the earth loses ground to the sea.


We sat on the porch and faced the sun, shore birds

reeling, cliff sides streaked white

with salt. We watched the brown hawk

ride onshore currents, a blade suspended

in blue light, falling and rising.



Now that you know what's contained in the first line, how do you feel about the poem? Look back at your notes, your initial impressions and feelings, and what you wrote about the characters lives and motivations. Has the poem's emotional impact changed for you? Do you consider the contents a little differently now that you know that tiny bit of crucial information? Does everything else in the poem take on a heightened sense of urgency or immediacy, joy or sadness, sacredness or melancholy? Does each word and image have more impact? Do they sit in a different place in your consciousness?


This exercise was designed to teach you that every line, every word of a poem can be extremely important. The best poems are constructed with careful attention to the smallest details. And the moment in which a poem turns can happen at any point in a poem. It's not always the ending that's most important. Sometimes it's the middle. Sometimes, like this poem, it's the first few words that flavor everything else that comes after. Those words are subtle, but they have great impact. We readers are allowed to determine for ourselves what that "diagnosis" might have been, and whether it had a good or a bad outcome. Those five words don't disclose too much. However, there's just enough there to make us consider everything in a different, more intense, light. We know, before we even begin, just how much this escape means to the characters. And everything that's said takes on a heightened emotional importance mainly due to those first few words.


Write a poem in which the first line divulges some crucial piece of information that flavors the way a reader will respond to the rest of the piece. What's disclosed shouldn't be long or unnecessarily detailed. Let it be a small tidbit with great impact. To test the effectiveness of this small disclosure, remove it after the whole piece has been written. If you've done it properly, the poem should make you feel one way without this initial line, and slightly to very differently when that line is included. You might even want to test it out on someone by giving them the poem to read without the initial line and then with it to see how they respond. Let the Reynolds poem be your guide in how to construct and achieve this effect, and make the most of it.


The unfolding of a poem is a great art, both for the writer and the reader. Not every one of your poems needs to unfold itself in precisely the same way. Not every poem's emotional punch comes at the end. Sometimes, you might want to put crucial information, and make a lasting impression, right in the very beginning.

* * * * *
M has served as Associate Poetry Editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection for the past one hundred years or so. More than a few editors have found her poems acceptable, and included them in their journals. She received her B.A. in literature so long ago, she's pretty certain her diploma has crumbled to dust. She also serves as an administrator of on online poetry workshop called Wild Poetry Forum. If you cannot find her (she never answers her cell phone), call Powell's Books. The employees there know exactly what room she's in. And most importantly, she is very grateful for the enormous amount of love in her life.

Steve Williams lives and works in Portland with a lovely woman who writes and edits much better than he but refuses to admit it.
Poets to Know
Of Body and Breath
By Dave Jarecki

Courtney's miscarriage may have started on a Tuesday in early April. It may have ended in June. The actual facts? She started spot bleeding on Tuesday. As a midwifery student, her books and colleagues told her the bleeding was common. The spotting increased for the next five days. Then she began cramping. That Sunday her cramps and bleeding intensified. Late Sunday night she went through labor. Even as she expelled blood and tissue, we weren't certain until Monday's ultrasound that the pregnancy was over.


But when did the miscarriage end? Sunday night? Mid-June, when she passed what she believed to be the body? When she got her tattoo? When she learned she was pregnant again?


Between April and June, I failed as often as I succeeded at being a good partner. I stayed in bed while Courtney labored, worried about pressing deadlines, two early meetings and the workshop I'd teach that day. When Courtney said she was miscarrying, my response was something along the lines of, "It'll be OK." I had no frame of reference about what was happening. The word "miscarrying" was new to me. In my mind, a miscarriage was a finite event with a definable start and end, complete with gusts of blood and breath. Even the next morning, when we lay down without talking, my thoughts wavered between, "The baby's dead," to "Maybe she was carrying twins and one is still alive."


Such is the problem with hope, with projecting into a future lifetime. We'd fallen in love with the baby growing inside Courtney. We wanted to believe this future was still coming.


With so much focus on the unborn spirit, I lost track of what was happening with Courtney and our relationship. The next two months brought a series of sharing hurt and passing blame, of moving forward and staying stuck. Marriages fail during such times. Ours was hardly swimming along, but the waters pulled back, the dam held. After two months without intervention, Courtney decided the miscarriage was over. The body passed. She held it in tissue in her hand. We had a burial. A friend designed a tattoo. Courtney had it inked into her right shoulder - two concentric circles with an opening at the base, the phases of the moon floating off to the right, a spiral on the left that represented the spirit that briefly graced her womb.


Over those two months there was still writing to be done. I didn't intentionally stay away from the topic of miscarriage, but I didn't go looking for it either. When it showed, I followed the thread in three distinct voices-the partner, the escapist, and the witness, each an accurate description of who I was and wanted to be.


* * * * *



By Dave Jarecki


What is the word for pain at the end

of a tattoo artist's gun? After an hour

of work on your right shoulder you still

don't know.


You're one long grin on the table, then

some grit when he shades purple

around the circle that means belly, then around

the other circle that means womb.


Only when he draws the tight black spiral

that means baby - not the body

you passed but the spirit that flew - that's when

a single tear starts down your face,

dries into your skin.

* * * * *

Dave Jarecki writes Jareckipoetry, fiction and nonfiction from his home in Portland, Oregon. In addition, he facilitates writing workshops throughout the Greater Portland area. You can read and listen to his work at

Catching Voices
Choosing Content and Honoring Voice
By Jenn Lalime and Sara Guest

It goes without saying that the evaluation or selection of any work of art, writing our example here, is subjective. However, each editor, or group thereof, and consequently each publication has a nuanced aesthetic that established itself and grows over time. So it has been with our publication.


VoiceCatcher works with ~ 9 editors each year and while the subjective voice of each member of our editorial collective is valued in its own right, we recognize that VoiceCatcher, as an entity, does have its own loose filter through which it looks at the stories and poems it considers.


A key component in staying true to our mission to respect and nurture local women writers is transparency - transparency with our editors, transparency with writers who trust us to read their work, transparency with the community at large. That is to say we are open not only about what we do, but how we do it as well. Thus, early on in our history, with new editors wanting to better understand what makes one piece of writing more VoiceCatcher-ready than another, we set out to define, to the degree we could, VoiceCatcherness.


What seemed like a daunting task at the outset in actuality proved quite simple - while we value writing across the spectrum of voice and genre, VoiceCatcher is looking for manuscripts that embody the highest standards of writing craft, provide an element of novelty, and ensure an impact for the reader. While not every piece we publish has all these elements, the manuscripts that really pop to the top of our reading stacks do, or are so strong in one singular area that the additional criteria may be superfluous.


These are the questions we ask in reading teams: Is the writing solid? Is this a well-told story? Is this a fresh voice or perspective? Is this piece uniquely Portland? Did this manuscript move me - to laugh, to cry, to shift my thinking?


With so much strong work to consider for publication each year - it is the pieces for which the answer is yes to many of these questions that end up gracing the pages of the anthology. VoiceCatcher4 is now out in the world and ready for readers such as yourself - we hope you'll read and have your own chorus of yeses to endear you to the writing within its pages.


[Editor's note: In fact, VoiceCatcher5 is also now out in the world!]

More about VoiceCatcher at

* * * * *
Sara Guest, a native mid-westerner, has been tripping the light wowtastic in Portland, Oregon since 2004. A longtime producer and editor, Sara works as a program coordinator for Write Around Portland and volunteers with Literary Arts and VoiceCatcher (currently as board chair). She writes poetry and fiction and is a voracious reader and lover of Powell's City of Books.

Jenn LalimeJenn Lalime is a northwest native, a writer and editor, a mother and a wife. She's lucky to work with the following organizations to bring the words of fellow writers out into the world: Portland Women Writers, VoiceCatcher, and Tin House Books. She thanks the universe every day for President Obama whose presence in the White House gives her the peace of mind to stay focused on her first and true love: reading great fiction.
Featured Poem
My Favorite Queendom
By Sage Cohen

in homage to Li-Young Lee


My favorite day is Saturday.


My favorite color is

dog tongue and empty bowl.


My favorite color is

"happy," the way my son says it,

clutching his small ambulance.


My favorite day is Thursday.

Thumb of circumstance.


My favorite window hinges

on the distance

of open and closed,

my heart its trapped glass

blushing a sunset-streaked descent.


My favorite dream is the one

in which I am high enough above

San Francisco to perceive the patterns.


My favorite room is hunger.


My favorite time of day is

when the light loosens me

to impression.


My favorite door ticks time.

I clip the biggest blossoms,

bouquets of days,

let the petals fall like mirrors

free, at last, of reflection.

Creating Space for Writing 
Creating Balance, Part 1: Self Evaluation
By Toni Partington

Toni Partington

Feeling unbalanced usually means we are spending more time on things that aren't as satisfying as we'd like. We imagine that spending less time doing those things would bring more satisfaction. But is it our to-do list or our attitude that's really bringing us down?


In reality, we all have things we must do that are less exciting. A few of mine include: paying bills, rewriting a technical piece more than five times, unloading the dishwasher, and sitting in long meetings. Yet, all of these are part of my life.


I could walk away; throw up my arms and say, Nope - not this time. Some days I do - mostly I try to remember that my dissatisfaction with certain responsibilities may come from giving these more weight than they deserve. I turn them into a big deal, especially if I've postponed them to do more meaningful activities, such as: spending time with loved ones, time writing poems, contributing to community, being in nature, reading, sleeping deeply, and cooking something healthy and wonderful.


So, how do we make peace with the things, people and obligations that demand our time - and avoid feeling resentful when they take us away from what we'd rather be doing? My personal solution is to be intentional about how I spend my time. OK, easier said than done, but here's a place to start.


Self Evaluation:


Step 1.

  • Identify things, people, and obligations that contribute to feeling unbalanced or dissatisfied.
  • Take just three that contribute to dissatisfaction. Put these in three columns.
  • List the elements each one demands (time, money, drama, energy).
  • List the elements each one contributes (learning patience, grace, kindness).
  • Circle the elements you want less of.
  • Underline the elements you want more of.
  • Next to each circled element, write in a reasonable amount of time you will intentionally spend on this.
  • Next to each underlined element, identify one action you can take to get this outcome.

Step 2.

  • Create a list that includes things that truly satisfy you and contribute to feeling balanced and satisfied (sleep, exercise, quiet....).
  • Circle those already incorporated into your life.
  • Go back and write in the amount of time you spend on each (you can do this as a estimate by the day or week). Answer the question - is this enough?
  • Underline those you'd like to integrate more regularly.
  • Go back and indicate a reasonable amount of time you will intentionally spend on this as a way to become more balanced.


Step 3.

  • Get started by selecting one thing from each list. Balance requires thought and can't happen if you feel overwhelmed, stressed or in a swirl.
  • Keep it simple. Pick one thing from each list that you can start today.
  • At bedtime, make a few short notes to these prompts:

o   Did today add or detract from feeling balanced?

o   What would I change about today?

o   In what ways would the change impact my life?

o   What can I learn from this?

o   How has today added to the quality of my life?


Remember: achieving satisfaction and balance is a process. Like anything worth doing, it takes time, patience and support. Ask for what you need and be generous with yourself. The more balance you create, the greater your sense of calm and clarity; and the better choices you'll be able to make to sustain that balance.

* * * * *

Toni Partington lives and works in Vancouver, WA. Her poetry has appeared in the NW Women's Journal, the Anthology of the River Poets' Society, VoiceCatcher 3, the Cascade Journal, and others. Toni's other work includes career/life coaching, editing services for new and emerging writers, and grant writing. This winter she joined the editorial collective for VoiceCatcher 4. She holds a BA in Social Work and an MA focused on Literature and Literary Editing.  Before that, Toni was a high-school drop out, pregnant and then married at age 16 whose life came faster than it should have and toughened her into a self-described survivor. Today, her circle includes family, friends, dogs and poets, not in any particular order.

The Cook, The Writer, The Gardener, The Business Woman
Navigating Writer's Block
By Brittany Baldwin

Brittany Baldwin

My words come in shifts of months, years, then they're gone for months and years. I used to push it. I used to let the Hemingway fear creep in that I'd run out of words some day. But that was before I forgave myself for silence, laid down my pen and picked up a shovel, a knife, a circular saw.

I discovered that poetry always came back and each time the voice changed a little to fit my growth, changed to fit what I had to say this time, it also reflected what I'd read while silent.

I try not to force it anymore, but if I feel I need a nudge I take a writing class. I have fun meeting new writers and trying new things. Plus classes are usually very supportive which helps with the rough edges that come out at first. By the time the class is done I'm focused and can't wait to drop all the forms I've just tried and go back to my own voice.

When I don't have time to take a writing class I get books on the writing life. Even just reading a few pages gives me new ideas. I also of course try to inspire myself as much as possible with cultural events, books, sitting alone at a coffee shop with my music. This helps me put my poet glasses on and see the twisted humor in the world again.

Environment is always important for my process. I try to move things around so that I can find some time alone each week at home. I wake up knowing I want to write all morning. That means I can't talk, just make my tea, find the right songs to listen to and begin.

New Years resolutions always include finding more time to write. I usually draw up a weekly schedule creating a morning each week where I write. A few phone calls and that space is quickly absorbed by a banquet or cooking class. When I do have days off, it's hard to avoid the stacks of office work on my desk and sit and write with it there watching me.

I rarely had trouble finding time to write when I was a pastry chef working for someone else, but self-employment is a challenge. So now each year I hunker down and bring in the New Year with a writing class, a writing slot in my schedule and a polite "no" when people request that time for their event.

In truth I'm telling the businesswoman in me "no". She tempts me with money, then lays a guilt trip down and sometimes I give in. I make sure not to give in all the time so the writer in me can get out to play.

* * * * *

Brittany Baldwin runs a small catering and personal chef company that maintains its own organic garden. She has written poetry in Portland for eight years while starting her own business and self publishing her own poetry collection, Broken Knuckles Against Knives, Cutting The Food To Feed Me Through This (2005). In 2002 she received a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado. Her poetry has appeared in the poetry collections Ephemeris and Broken Word: Alberta Street Anthology Volume 1 and 2. She has appeared on KBOO's Talking Earth,  won an honorable mention in the Oregon State Poetry Associations fall 06 contest and was featured in the 2006 and 2007 Silverton Poetry Festival.

Discover New Poetry Markets and Get Published
By Shawn Sorensen

Jenn Lalime

Howdy folks!


Have you ever been overwhelmed by the cornucopia of literary journals, websites and contests out there accepting poetry submissions?


Well, I'm here to help. I only choose fun, organized outfits in which the odds of getting published are more favorable (a 5-40% acceptance rate). Sure, publications typically receive hundreds of submissions every year or month. If you get published - and the more you submit, the better chances you have - then you have every right to feel proud and spread the news (see the end of this column). If you don't get published, then the publication got a lot of entries and was looking for something more particular to their needs. Bottom line: take that rejected poem, revise it if you will, and submit it somewhere else. Sometimes rejection can be a useful thing, a blessing, because it gives you a chance to improve your work. As the revisions increase, quality usually does, too.


Here are some great choices:


Online option: Pulse Literary Journal


A classy, beautiful website, Pulse accepts email submissions year-round. They respond in 1-2 months and sometimes comment on rejected poems, a real bonus. They have some fun theme issues, so check out the website to read the poems that did get published and to preview the submission guidelines:


Pulse Online Literary Journal (


Literary Journal: Pebble Lake Review


A well-regarded journal that's not overly challenging to get published in (they accept about 5% of everything they get). Published three times a year in a perfect bound format and color cover. They have a good website and if you'd like to get a feel for the quality of work here, samples are $10. Here's where you get the goods on submitting:


Pebble Lake Review (


Contest:  Soul-Making Literary Competition


This is an open, creative poetry contest with at least three cash prizes for their November 30th deadlined contest. Their website states that "Soul-Making Literary Competition invites multifarious works that address soul-making in innovative and expanded expressions." I like it.


Check out the guidelines at:


We really want to hear about any and all of your submission success stories. Keep us encouraged! Email Sage or yours truly at There's so much out there to submit to, so consider starting with these three solid choices and going from there. If you're looking for a great, free website with tons of fun, quality poetry publications, check out New Pages. ( There are publications out there that want your work. You've just got to find them.

* * * * *

Shawn Sorensen is a published, award-winning poet whose recent work can be viewed at Wild Goose Poetry Review (page 13) or In Our Own Words. His poem called "The Yard" won 1st Place in the Oregon State Poetry Association's spring 2009 contest, New Poets category. Shawn's poetry submission goal is to send something in at least every other week and get published/recognized a few times per year. He's written dozens of complete book reviews, many of them for poetry titles, on and braves a perilous river crossing to be the Community Relations Manager at Barnes & Noble in the hinterlands of Vancouver, WA. He plans and hosts a monthly Poetry Group that, starting Novemeber 2010, will be every last Tuesday at 7 pm and always feature the area's best poets and a great open mic.

The Poetics of Community
How to Launch an Open Mic Poetry Reading
By Christopher Luna

The Writer Mama

Don't know if your community is welcoming to the arts? Not sure how to discover who the likeminded folks are? One good way to find out is by creating an event which provides a space for poets to share their work.


When I founded my open mic poetry reading at Ice Cream Renaissance in late 2004, I was new to Vancouver, Washington. Although the series was well attended from the beginning, it took a few years before the larger community was aware of our existence. I moved the reading to Cover to Cover Books in January 2007, and things really took off.


Today, we consistently draw between 20 and 40 people every month. I have a loyal group of regulars, and draw new readers every month. Nearly every month I have the great privilege of introducing people who are reading their poetry in public for the first time. We also have about half-a-dozen people who come just to listen. This is particularly gratifying; it is often very difficult to convince non-writers to attend a poetry reading. With the support of the community, the Cover to Cover open mic is a successful series that continues to evolve. 


Most of the work one has to do to create such an event takes place at the beginning of the process. Dr. Timothy Leary wrote of the importance of "set and setting" when embarking on a psychedelic exploration. Similarly, a poetry reading has the potential to expand one's consciousness and alter one's mood. Think about the tone you would like to set. What kind of atmosphere would you like to create? Will there be a time limit for each reader? Will each reading have a theme? Will you invite featured readers to present their work?


If you do not have a space of your own that would be suitable for a poetry reading, you must do a bit of research to find a venue. It is important to discuss your philosophy about the types of people and writing that may be featured with the owner of the space--because you don't want to waste a lot of time and energy planning an event for a business that does not share your perspective.


Once you have found a venue, you must decide how often the reading will take place. Do your best to choose a date that does not conflict with another reading in town. In my experience, monthly readings have more staying power than weekly readings, for a variety of reasons, one of the most important being that they're less exhausting for the organizer.


Also, open mics attract both experienced readers as well as new writers, and most people do not write fast enough to have new poems every week. This can lead weekly events to become boring or repetitive. With effective publicity and good word of mouth, a monthly reading can become a special event that people will look forward to all month.


Once you know where and when the event will take place, begin getting the word out. Create a blog or website for the event. Make postcards and flyers. Begin building a list of people who would like to receive email notices of such events; invite everyone who attends to sign up for future announcements. Research the local press and make a list of email addresses of newspaper and magazine writers and editors. Then keep in touch regularly with pertinent news about your events.


A poetry reading is a bit like tending a garden. You plant a seed, nurture it, and watch it grow.

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Christopher Luna is a poet, editor, artist, teacher, and graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Publications include Cadillac Cicatrix, eye-rhyme, Exquisite Corpse, and the @tached document. Chapbooks include tributes and ruminations, On the Beam (with David Madgalene), and Sketches for a Paranoid Picture Book on Memory. GHOST TOWN, USA, which features poems and observations of Vancouver, WA, is available through Cover to Cover Books and Angst Gallery, or from the author.

The Writing Life
Just Do It
By Sage Cohen
Sage Cohen The Productive Writer

"Just write. I know it sounds cliche or simplistic, but nothing else will teach you to write. You can take a million classes, read a thousand books, but the only way to learn is to put your hand to paper or the keyboard and get started. Imagine a novice baker who read all the cookbooks in the world but never made a cake. So, just write. If it falls flat or gets burnt the first, and hundredth, time, that's okay. It might not feel like it, but you're getting better each time." -- Shanna Germain


Poet Ted Kooser, United States Poet Laureate from 2004-2006, says that in a strategy engineered to impress the girls as a young man, he called himself a poet and carried around large, impressive books to prove it. After a few years, it occurred to him that if he was going to be a poet, he'd better start writing poems. And so he did--to much eventual critical acclaim.


This seems to be a common phenomenon: people fancy themselves poets without doing the work of writing poems because this reflection appeals to them. I don't particularly object to this approach; a poet is as worthy an ideal as any I've ever come across. And as was the case with Kooser, maybe the combination of identifying as a poet and carrying around a few fabulous props are all you'll need to grease the wheels of your own poetic process...such that one day you awaken and find yourself writing poems!


I've also observed the opposite: people who have been writing poems passionately, privately for years and never think to call themselves a poet. Some of us believe that the identity of "poet" is earned only via publication or some other type of public recognition. It's no surprise that we hold ourselves in this light, since this is largely how the outer world judges and validates poets: we are deemed legitimate once we have we have something to show in the way of commerce. I noticed among my own community of wonderful, supportive friends and family (who had little experience with or understanding of poetry) a significant shift in regard for me when I was granted a fellowship to study poetry in a graduate creative writing program. Suddenly, because a large and respectable institution said that my poetry was worthy of a financial reward, there seemed to be consensus that I was A Poet.


Having the support of one's community is nice, and being paid to study and write poetry is even better. But neither of these can make or break a poet. As I see it, poets are simply people who write poems. There is no special badge required, no institution necessary to give you it's blessing. Truly, there is no prerequisite other than desire. Nothing but desire will keep you coming back to the page to work and rework and work some more at cultivating language into that exquisite container of poem.


How you choose to identify is up to you. How much you write is up to you. But if you've enjoyed getting acquainted with poetry and are considering a long-term relationship, then I'd advise you to keep those sleeves rolled up and your hands dirty. There's nothing like falling into a poem to keep us receptive and attentive to what is broken open in us. There's nothing like writing through a poem to teach us how to inhabit what is whole.


On Falling In

A Jewish friend told me this story: A man asks his rabbi, "Why does God write the law on our hearts? Why not in our hearts? It's the inside of my heart that needs God." The rabbi answered, "God never forces anything into a human heart. He writes the word on our hearts so that when our hearts break, God falls in." Whatever you hold sacred, you'll find that an unguarded broken heart is the ideal instrument for absorbing it.


If you fall into intimacy without resistance, despite your alarm, either you will fall into love, which is exquisite, or love will fall into you, which is more exquisite still. Do it enough, and you may just lose your fear of falling. You'll get better at missing the ground, at keeping a crushed heart open so that love can find all the broken pieces. And the next time you feel that vertiginous sensation of the floor disappearing, even as your reflexes tell you to duck and grab, you'll hear an even deeper instinct saying, "Fall in! Fall in!" -- Martha Beck

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Sage Cohen is the author of The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success, Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. She has been awarded first prize in the Ghost Road Press poetry contest and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Visit Sage at
Columnist News & Celebrations

If you really want to get inspired by the full spectrum of possibilities in the life poetic, check out all of the good news from WTLP zine columnists.



Dave will be reading @ Wordstock in Portland, Oregon on Sunday, 10/10 from 3-4 p.m. at the Mountain Writers Stage 1 (with fellow poet John Morrison). 


Dave will be facilitating a workshop at the Attic in Portland, Oregon entitled "Time to Write: Direction, Time & Inspiration". The workshop meets on five consecutive Saturdays, starting on 10/2, from 10 a.m. - noon.


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M & Steve Williams

Steve William's sestina "A Hunger" won first place at and will be featured in both online and print publication in the spring of 2011. His poem "Perseids" won third place in the same contest and will also appear in both publications.  

M's poem, "While My Mother Rots in Memory Care at Regency Park," will be published in the next edition of Rattle, #34, due for release in December 2010.

November 18, 7:00 p.m.: a reading featuring M and Steve Williams
Paper Tiger,
Vancouver, WA

Paper Tiger is located between Mill Plain and Evergreen on the east side of Grand, about a mile east of I-5 in Vancouver. Great people, great poetry, great potables!


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Christopher Luna


On Saturday, October 9 at noon, Christopher's monthly poetry workshop, also known as "The Work," continues in our new location: Niche: A Wine and Art Bar located at 1013 Main Street in Vancouver, WA. Pleasebring a poem to share with the group. Cost: $20 for one or $45 for three workshops.


Christopher has a poem in the new issue of Night Bomb Review. You can find a copy of this publication at Powell's Books, or through the publishers.


View a youtube clip of Christopher reading from "more than we can bear."

Christopher has recently published the new book, with Toni Partington and David Madgalene, "To Be Named and Other Works of Poetic License"

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Check out past issues of the WTLP zine in our archive.

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Top 10 things you can do to help spread the word about Writing the Life Poetic.

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Want to receive a Valentine's Day poem in the mail?
Send your mailing address to sage(at)sagesaidso(dot)com.