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.


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?