A poem in process.


Kudos to Carol Scott for sharing her writing process! Three versions of her poem, “Honey Crisp” appear below, and I hope you enjoy seeing the poem’s evolution as much as I did. Carol participated in a Writing Visually class I taught earlier this summer at Carver County Libraries that was geared toward their Poetry/Art Collaborative. Here’s my post about the poem we wrote as a class here.

Participants were encouraged to take the rough draft and run with it to create their own work. And Carol did! I hope she’ll enter her poem once she’d finished. The Library is accepting entries until August 3; there’s also a call for artists. Email Angela Hunt for more info — ahunt AT co.carver.mn.us

#1 HONEY CRISP  by A. Carol Scott

Its bee-kissed bloom
long since faded
for this very moment
Of lusty, earthy perfection.
Wise men infused  their gifts:
Shapely perfection,
Silken beauty,
Flamboyant tenderness.
Minnesota nativity testifies:
This beauty is not like others,
Those from far away,
Those foreign to this fertile place.
No. Cloaked seductively in a
Shiny green-accented
red envelope modestly
Enfolding velvety succulence,
This enchantress is poised,
Suspended tauntingly
Out of reach like a star
Twinkling a promise,
Eliciting Pavlovian reactions:
Stomach pit pain, yearning,
Igniting textured memories of
Dewy trails tracing down wrist
Leaving a honeyed kiss
On pulse point
Breathing a delicate,
Heavenward, fragrance
Tempting those vulnerable
To pluck stabled treasures
From straw laden manger.
#2   HONEY CRISP by A. Carol Scott
Its bee-kissed bloom
long since faded
for this very moment
of lusty, earthy perfection.
Wise men infused their gifts–
silken perfection,
unrelenting fragrance,
flamboyant tenderness.
Minnesota nativity testifies
this beauty is not like others,
those from far away,
those foreign to this fertile place.
No. Cloaked seductively in a
satiny green-accented
red envelope modestly
enfolding firm white succulence,
this enchantress is poised,
suspended tauntingly,
out of reach, like a star,
igniting textured memories–
stomach pit yearning,
dewy trails tracing down wrist
leaving honeyed pulse-point kisses.
Bearing its sweet bouquet
on heavenward breezes,
the vulnerable are beguiled.
Bowing to temptation they visit
the orchard’s straw laden manger,
select bag-swaddled treasures
to offer consuming praise in private
#3 HONEY CRISP by A. Carol ScottIts bee-kissed bloom
long since faded
for this very moment
of lusty, earthy perfection.
Wise men infused their gifts–
silken perfection,
unrelenting fragrance,
flamboyant tenderness.
Minnesota nativity testifies
this beauty is not like others,
those from far away,
those foreign to this fertile place.
No. Cloaked seductively in
satiny green-accented red,
this enchantress is poised,
suspended tauntingly, a star,
igniting textured memories–
stomach-pit yearning,
dewy trails tracing down wrist
leaving honeyed pulse-point kisses.
Bearing its sweet bouquet
on heavenward breezes,
the vulnerable are beguiled.
Bowing to temptation they visit
the orchard’s straw laden manger,
select bag-swaddled treasures
to offer consuming praise in private.

My poetry/art collaborative


For a recent workshop, I put together an afternoon about writing visually. The workshop was a kick-off to Carver County Library‘s unique Poetry/Art Collaborative, a new event this year that challenges poets to submit poems about Carver County — places, events, people, activities, objects, scenery, etc. — and challenges artists to create work for an exhibition in November.

Doesn’t seem right to ask my students to do something I haven’t attempted, so I wrote a poem about the apple tree in my back yard and challenged my beloved, Dick Osgood, to create a photo that reflected my poem. Dick’s beautiful photo is above. Here’s my poem:

Apple Tree, Spring

This morning
a pink gull passed over
the bluesilver lake.
Under her rosy wings,
ten thousand ancient spurs
newly white.
Eighty years
twenty-nine thousand evenings
past the careful parsing of
youth and the prudent provisioning
of prime, every year a glorious
exuberance. Because any year
might be the last.
Bushels, baskets, climbs, nests, forts, bees,
swings, kisses, robins, jays, picnic blankets.
The annual passerines for two weeks
every May. Bud, flower, fruit and
fruit-fall. Malus domestica.
The star at the white heart
of every apple.


And, but, yet.

Poetry tip of the day: Eliminate and and but and yet from your poetry. See if you can get rid of them in your very first edit, simply by using punctuation or line breaks or re-arranging words. You may even find you need fewer words to say what you mean. Which is, after all, the point of poetry, isn’t it? Conveying meaning with the rhythmic lilt of carefully placed words and spaces.

I don’t remember where I first heard this — I’ve used it for a long, long time; most teachers emphasize this for all writing, not only poetry. It’s a quick way to focus your ideas, challenge yourself to choose your words carefully, say what you mean with clarity.

See? In the paragraph above, every time I could have used and, but or yet, I chose punctuation instead, or I re-arranged words.

It’s not that you’ll never see these words in good writing. You will. But using them sparingly   guides attention to your main point.

Writing Visually, and a collaborative poem


This gallery contains 3 photos.

Writing Visually, and a Collaborative Poem Setting: Saturday afternoon, June 6, at the Chanhassen branch for Carver County Library’s class on Writing for Real People: Writing Visually. Purpose: to have fun with words! And to get ready to write a … Continue reading

A handout!

Here’s the handout from a wonderful class last night — not at all the same as being there, but this version has live links!

Writing An Artist’s Statement, TEXTILE CENTER, Minneapolis, October 7, 2014

My beloved partner is a scientist; he’s convinced physics explains the world. I’m pretty sure poetry does. Makes for interesting dinner conversation. Here’s the thing, though. While physics certainly existed before language and poetry, we humans needed crafted language — poetry — to explain physics to each other.


Physics is what allows us to manipulate materials into art, and physics holds the materials together to match the artist’s vision. (Or fails to hold them together, in the case of intentional or unintentional deterioration.) Poetry is what the physical manifestation of art says to us, how it connects to us as humans.

Words tell the story of the art and the artist — that’s the artist’s statement.

 “In general, an artist statement should address what you make, how you make it, why you make it and your understanding of your work’s meaning.” — from the Writing Center at Claremont University

Here’s a word person talking about an artist: He still does not really believe that an artist needs occasionally to use words. David Hockney’s English teacher when he was 13 years old

And here’s a musician talking about words: I like to think that when I sing a song, I can let you know all about the kicks in the ass I’ve gotten over the years, without actually saying a word about it. — Ray Charles

The challenge in writing an artist statement — in writing anything, really — is to write like we speak. To say what we mean, and trust that our experience, our truth, our story will shine through.

The goal by the end of the two-hour workshop is for everyone to have at least an elevator speech about their work, a sound bite. (OK, we can say ick! But sound bites existed long before modern media communications — it’s how we humans listen.) Here’s my elevator speech when people ask me what I do: “I’m a freelance writer. Most of my work this year is with older adults who want to write their life stories — fascinating twist to 30 years of telling stories with essays and poetry.” Gives me openings to say more about life story writing, or about essays and poetry, depending on which my listener is most interested in.

I’ve never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances. — Anne Tyler

On to a review of the exercises we covered:
Write MY ART at the top of a blank page
Freewrite 3” – everything that comes to mind about what you make, how you make it, why you make it, what it means to you
End with a noun, concrete depiction of material or tool. Use adjectives if you like.
EDIT — circle anything you like or want to work with, cross out stuff that doesn’t belong

A painted picture is like a vehicle. One can either sit in the driveway and take it apart or one can get in it and go somewhere.Mark Tansey

Write MY ART at the top of a second clean page
Freewrite for 3” — Where does your art take you?
Freewrite for 3” — Where do you hope your art takes others?
EDIT — circle anything you want to keep, cross-out what you don’t

Adapted from exercises created by:
Sarah White, Madison, WI
Cara Ober, MICA

Sometimes I see the world as one gigantic sewn image, held together with small, neat stitches.— Sherry Brody.  Dollhouse Room by Miriam Shapiro and Sherry Brody features Brody’s handmade lace

Top of new page, write the noun from the last line of List Poem #1
Now the Microscope/Telescope part: Most of us tend to write from big picture to small — which can result in too much extraneous background before we get to the action or tension or question. This exercise helps focus our writing on the essentials first, then we add background. We write three paragraphs. (Or we write lots more than that and winnow it down. Working from abundance, we say.)

Write these pages one at a time:
1) OBJECT — Describe your materials and tools, noting anything unique about the way you use them
2) SETTING YOUR STORY/CONCEPTS/COMMUNICATION — how do you use these materials/tools and what do you make with them? Tell us what that means to you, or what you’re communicating or questioning or exploring. Use List Poem #2 to help you start.
3) ACTION/TENSION — How do 1 and 2 interact in your work to reinforce or contradict one another? What does your art DO?
EDIT BY GUT — put these paragraphs in the order you like them at the moment

In class, we share our writing and ask others to respond to phrases and concepts they find effective, or to ask us questions about something they want to know more about. We can also ask family, friends and colleagues for this type of feedback at this point before proceeding.

Good writing, writing that we humans want to read, either asks or answers a question. And the questions are almost always more important than any particular answer.

Suppose no one asked a question. What would the answer be? Gertrude Stein

There are certain mysteries, certain secrets in my own work which even I do not understand, nor do I try to do so. — Georges Braque

I’m not qualified to, nor particularly interested in, generating a discussion about art vs. craft. But I like this definition from Mary Hark, an expert papermaker who teaches at MCBA and the University of WI-Madison: “Tension is what makes art. Tension is what draws our eye and holds our attention.” There’s tension in unanswered questions, sometimes even in asking a question. That’s a good thing. It’s an invitation for people to engage with you and your art.


 It is not hard to compose, but it is wonderfully hard to let the superfluous notes fall under the table. — Johannes Brahms

FURTHER REFINING. LATER. AT HOME, OR WITH FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES. OR THE PEOPLE SITTING NEXT TO YOU IN THE COFFEE SHOP. Again, put these pages you’ve written in the order you like them at the moment — go with your gut. Read them tonight. And again tomorrow or next week when you have time. Live with your words for a while; make notes and doodles to yourself. Then try to connect these paragraphs into a story, adding and subtracting words and sentences until it tells your story. Re-arrange your paragraphs as you like, and strive for three beautifully constructed paragraphs that only you could have written about your work. Our best art, and best writing, comes from our gut, our heart, our core, whatever we call the essential part of ourselves that makes each of us a unique human being. We can trust this to connect us — and our work — to other human beings.

Even in the most sophisticated person, it is the primitive eye that watches the film. — Jack Nicholson

Every story is completed by the reader. — Grace Paley


Analog: Textile Center Library, local libraries, Springboard for the Arts workshops and services (some of them free), workshops posted on mnartists.org, other artists working in your area or other areas.

Upcoming mnartists.org workshops about their new web site, free at Walker Art Center:
Thurs, Oct 23, 2014            5 – 7 pm
Thurs, Oct 30, 2014                       5 – 7 pm

Springboard for the Arts

 Alan Bamberger’s site artbusiness.com has an excellent article: “Your Artist Statement: Explaining the Unexplainable”: “On this planet, people communicate with words, and your artist statement introduces and communicates the language component of your art.”

Leslie Pontz, recent Mondale Gallery exhibitor, wrote a beautifully direct statement about her art

Matt Siber’s advice for a photography seminar at Columbia College, Chicago explains how statements “provide insight into the artist’s concept and motivation behind making the work.”

Daniel Blight’s advice in the UK Guardian on the pitfalls of International Art English: “…writing about your work should be an open and compelling activity…”

Iris Jaffe on hyperallergic.com: “The Anti-artist-statement Statement”

Robin Grearson on hyperallergic.com: “In Defense of the Artist Statement

Cara Ober on BmoreArt.com leaves her notes after teaching a class at Maryland Institute of Art on Professional Practices for Visual Artists: “What does your work DO?”







Grace Paley and me at Carver County Library Writers’ Retreat.


Last Saturday was the Carver County Library Writers’ Retreat at Charlson Meadows in Victoria, MN — a wonderful day funded by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.  The librarians who organized it were hoping to attract a mix of members from their established writing groups and people new to writing. They succeeded. An interesting and engaged group of people paid attention to each other, and to writing, all day.

I carry Minnesota writers with me wherever I go — in my head, quoted in my notebooks, passages copied into my calendar. Minnesota is awash with talented writers. When I teach, I read passages from their books — Alison McGhee, William Kent Krueger, Louise Erdrich, Tim O’Brien, Joyce Sutphen, Patricia Hampl. Because I was talking with other Minnesotans in Minnesota, I relied even more on local writers for this retreat.

But I was pleased that heads nodded at this passage by Grace Paley, who knew a thing or two about good writing. From her essay, “Some Notes on Teaching, Probably Spoken”:

“It’s possible to write about anything in the world, but the slightest story ought to contain the facts of blood and money in order to be interesting to adults. That is — everybody continues on this earth by courtesy of certain economic arrangements, people are rich or poor, make a living or don’t have to, are useful to systems or superfluous. — And blood — the way people live as families or outside families or in the creation of a family, sisters, sons, fathers, the bloody ties. Trivial work ignores these two FACTS and is never comic or tragic.”

A good reminder, especially when writing memoir, to LET SOMETHING BE AT STAKE. Because something always is. In any good story, there is always something at stake. Something changes between the beginning and the end of the story. It’s the reason the writer needs to tell the story. It’s what keeps the reader interested. Whatever is at stake is what connects two human beings who might otherwise never encounter each other.

On Saturday, we were talking about memoir, a particularly personal kind of writing. But I maintain that all writing is personal. All good writing either asks a question, or answers a question. As long as we keep that question in mind as we write, we can’t go far wrong.

We ended the day with William Stafford’s poem, “You Reading This, Be Ready,” written just two days before he passed away. I cried when I read it. I always do.

Oh, goody! The Textile Center!


I’ve been invited to teach a series of writing workshops for artists at the Textile Center in Minneapolis, one of my favorite places on Earth!

Register for one or more. The Textile Center on University Avenue is now served by the Green Line light rail (Prospect Park Station) — think about giving yourself time to explore this wonderful neighborhood of restaurants and shops! I might have to treat myself to an early dinner at Ngon on University at Dale…

Tuesday, October 7 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM       Writing An Artist Statement
Tuesday, October 28 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM     Write to Sell Online
Tuesday, November 4 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM    Writing for Proposals and Grants


Safe in the arms of Koko.


Robin Williams left too soon. When you hang yourself with a belt in your bedroom, there’s not much doubt that you intended to end your life. That is sad beyond words. But words are all I have, so here goes.

Sadder still is the story and photo posted by the St. Paul Pioneer Press a few weeks ago when Williams visited the Dairy Queen in Lindstrom, Minnesota while he was in treatment at Hazelden. He looks gaunt, even ill, but poses dutifully with a DQ employee, his eyes avoiding the camera. I have some familiarity with this Dairy Queen from the time a few years ago when my former husband spent 28 days at Hazelden. Pete didn’t enter Hazelden willingly, and hoped that the family would keep his secret. It was a disorienting four weeks for our kids and me, but of course, much more so for him, another step in recognizing what the disease had done to him and to our family. He did the work as best he could, and boarded the van a couple of times each week for the DQ outing. You take what breaks you’re offered, I imagine. He wouldn’t have welcomed being recognized by anyone he knew.

And yet Robin Williams put his private self on very public display, surely knowing he’d be recognized. Perhaps he felt he had no choice.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between curing and healing. There’s no cure for addiction or mental illness. Nor for most cancers, or heart disease, or diabetes, or a host of other medical conditions. No cure for the human condition at all. But we can learn to manage our conditions. We can help each other heal. And we can be — should be — very sad when beloved people leave in spite of that.

My friend Ed Hessler sent me a link yesterday to a piece on Slate.com about Robin Williams’ encounter with Koko, the gorilla who has learned American Sign Language. Ed has taught me a great deal about science, and poetry — about life — in the years I’ve known him. With this link, he reminded me of our deepest connections to every being, every thing, in the “entangled bank” of our world.

“We shared some interspecies laughter,” says Williams in the video. At the end, Williams and Koko embrace, at first tentatively, and then Williams smiles and relaxes into the embrace, eyes closed. Whatever greeted him on the other side of yesterday morning, I hope he was embraced with that joy. And I hope he joyfully returned the embrace.

It’s here! Carver County Library Writers’ Retreat


Registration is now open for the Saturday, September 13 retreat from 10 AM to 3 PM. Call Tari Clay at Carver County Library at 952-227-7609 for details and directions. We’ll do lots of fast and fun writing exercises, with a couple of breaks for quiet writing time on the grounds of the retreat center.

Sharpen your pencil, pack a lunch and join us!

Other good stuff.


I recently changed my email signature from “Writing, Editing, Research” to “Writing and other good stuff.” I still pay the bills with Writing, Editing and Research, but I’m having a blast with Other Good Stuff now, too.

Behind me here at Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis are pages of handmade paper dipped in indigo dye. Mary Hark does wonderful things with indigo and paper. She taught a really fun and not-as-messy-as-you’d-expect weeklong workshop in which we made many, many sheets of linen/abaca/hemp paper and then dipped most of it in indigo. I’m more familiar with indigo and textiles, like the beautiful Shibori techniques, from which tie-dyed T-shirts came. (Remember RIT dye?) It’s still around.

The strength and suppleness of the paper was a delight to behold. It was a leap of faith to dunk those gorgeous sheets into a stinky vat of dark, oily, bubbly sludge. But the results are incredibly beautiful — darkest navy to be sure, but overlaid with hues of green, pink, purple, sometimes even iridescent. Most of the papers I dipped are heavy enough to be book or journal covers, and I’m looking forward to binding them with small signatures of white and ivory, maybe pale green and lavender. After I gelatin-size them and hang them to dry again, lest that lovely blue rub off on the hands, clothing, etc. of gentle readers.

And here’s what happened when I wrapped and twisted an old linen dresser scarf from my great-grandmother, and dipped it in indigo. Other good stuff, indeed!