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Solstice: Light & Dark of the Salish Sea

Tomorrow evening — Sunday, 11 April 2021, 7 p.m. PST — I’ll be participating in the launch of Solstice: Light & Dark of the Salish Sea (Chuckanut Sandstone Press), a delightful collection of poems, selected (solicited!) and edited by Carla Shafer. The collection features the work of 29 poets in two sections, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice.

The reading is on Zoom, hosted by Village Books. You can find a list of the poets and register for the reading,  here.

This is my winter solstice poem:

Solstice Song

Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea
.
—Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”

At the winter solstice, darkness
falls early, thin band of copper

as the sun winks out.
No matter how faint the light,

I walk the shore,
hands in my pockets, my hood

pulled up against the wind.
I might be a witch,

muttering incantations.
I might be a raven,

dreaming of spring.
The year turns, indigo,

burnt umber. My words

rhyme with the green weeds,
thick tendrils that lay in windrows

along the dark shore.
What chains are these, light

and lengthening?
What song is this, the sea

bids me sing?

      —Bethany Reid

Carla Shafer

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

AUGUST POETRY POSTCARD FESTIVAL 2011, Carla Shafer. 2011. self-published, 32 pages,  https://chuckanutsandstone.blogspot.com/.

My dear friend Carla Shafer is a force to be reckoned with. In addition to being a fine poet (and coordinating multiple poetry events in her hometown of Bellingham, Washington),  she’s a political activist for peace and justice, and a fierce advocate for indigenous peoples, as well as our beleaguered planet.  No matter how bleak the headlines, she never despairs, but always sees a way through. She inspires me every day.

I have several of Carla’s self-published chapbooks of poems and I’ve been after her to pull together a collection to submit to presses. Here is one poem, written nine summers ago. (To learn more about the August Poetry Postcard Festival, visit Paul Nelson’s https://popo.cards/.)

Beauty and My Story Return

To see for the first time (with your own eyes),
the steady up and down flux of wings
by a stilled butterfly and realize what it means–
that it is sucking nectar through its proboscis
in rhythm, feeding from the pool below the petals.
When you compare that to something you have watched
all your life–noisy bees hovering over borage
and lavender–you continue to wonder, follow the
threads of your own unanswered questions
step again to the drum, apply pressure
from your fingers wing-like, tap in steady motions
repeat the throbbing of the earth, buried in your heart
somewhere between the buzz and the silence.

Carla Shafer, “Ten Good Lines”

My dear friend Carla Shafer is retiring from her job as a grant-writer at Everett Community College. (Click on her name to find an interview.)

Yesterday was the retirement party and today is the poetry reading. You kind of have to know Carla to understand why retirement = poetry reading. But I will be there, along with a few other poets, to read and pay tribute to this amazing person. Two o’clock, Russell Day Gallery, if you are interested. (Come early! It will be crowded!)

This poem is from an early collection of Carla’s, titled Rain Song, which William Stafford called, “a rich array…so sweet…so warm…and onward.” I have at least a dozen other favorites to choose from, but this one strikes me as a tribute-poem, through and through.

TEN GOOD LINES

Rilke says to wait to write the poem.
Experience must pile up like laundry.
Later picked through, it will relinquish
maybe 10 good lines. Worthy of one’s life time.

Once I watched William Stafford construct
a poem. Early in the day he planted seeds —
“…a picnic on the beach, a campfire in the sand.
You bring your violin, I heard we have a banjo player…
come…sometimes people choose to sing.”

Under a cool summer sky, kicking sand,
we gathered around the fire.
Bill was there early and stayed until the end,
collecting the scene’s pieces and
sensing careful phrases. The next day
he shared ten good lines.

So I thank Rilke for telling me that
I might spend my life to reap
a meager, but worthy, feast.
And I thank Stafford, who lives
each minute as a source for poems
cooked and served up daily.

World Peace, and Poetry

When I heard that my friend Carla Shafer was teaching a poetry workshop in Bellingham on Feb. 28, I told her I would attend. One of my daughters goes to Western Washington University, and I thought I could have lunch with her, and thus kill two birds with one stone.

I didn’t pay much attention to the topic of the workshop–yes, I really have been that busy, just kind of moving from one thing to another, keeping my head down–but “killing two birds” was not in keeping with the day.

It turned out that Annie was going to be home for the weekend. It turned out that I was mucho stressed about my mother, kind of (not kind of, really) depressed, in fact. I woke up Thursday morning with a sore throat and decided that I would tell Carla I was sick and not attend the workshop afterall.

Then, the most amazing thing happened. I talked to a friend about being depressed, and she gave me an assignment to do something that brings me joy. Joy? I laughed nervously.

I just want to nap, I said. I just want to bury myself in a mystery novel and stay in bed all day. And that brings you joy? she said.

Well, I said, poetry used to bring me joy, and I was supposed to go to a workshop Saturday morning.

Then go, she said. And so I did.

I had an absolutely amazing day. In addition to being about poetry and poets, the purpose of the day was an award ceremony hosted by “World Peace Poets.” I saw a film about Oregon poet William Stafford. I drafted a new poem. I met a number of Bellingham and British Columbia poets, saw a few old friends. And, as a bonus, was able to have dinner with my friend Carla.

World peace, and poetry. Can it get any better?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1ZOWwW2agQ&w=560&h=315]