Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, Day 4, and back to Anchorage

 

Naomi Shihab Nye, the keynote poet, at Monday morning’s opening workshop.

Naomi’s a poet (and children’s book writer, novelist, memoirist, teacher, and so forth). She opened with “Oh my God! I thought I had three hours this morning and I have one. So we’ll cram a lot in.” And she proceeded to do just that, tossing out aphorism after aphorism about writing, along with brief exercises (like practicing scales each day to warm up), then gave us three minutes to write; and then repeated the cycle -advise, write, read aloud.
 
“If you‘re having a dull time, write a thank you note or a love letter — to the soap dish, to a time of the day, to the window, to someone you admire. Or write a farewell — to a fear, or a bad habit, or something you’d like to say good-bye to. Just a few minutes.”
 
She read bits of poetry from others: “There are mornings when everything brims with promise. Even my empty cup.” (From Braided Creek by Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison).  “Dawn in the north. His nose stalks the air, seeking coffee.”
 
She read a sentence from Ted Kooser about revising: “You can learn to love tinkering with drafts of poems till a warm hand from somewhere above you reaches down, unscrews the top of your head, and drops in a solution that blows your ears off.”
 
From there I spent an hour and a half listening to Christine Byl (lives near Fairbanks, and makes a living by operating a trail design company; she just published a book about working on a trail crew with a bunch of guys in National Parks). She talked about Haibun, a Japanese form in which haiku are incorporated into prose pieces. That meant that we got to spend a fair amount of time with Basho (about 1644 to 1694, Japan). An example, from The Knapsack Notebook or the Records of a Travel -Worn Satchel:
 
“They say the ancient poet Sogi nearly staved to death in the high village of Hinaga. I hired a horse to help me over Walking-Stick Pass. Unfamiliar with horses and tack, both saddle and rider took a tumble.
 
     If I’d walked Walking-
     Stick Pass, I’d not have fallen 
     from my horse.”
 
Also, “I believe in traveling light. I sought things I might dispose of, but most were necessities. I had to carry raincoat and overcoat, ink stone, brush, writing paper, various medicines, lunch box — a load. With each slow step, my knees ached and I grew increasingly depressed.
 
     Exhausted, I sought
     a country inn, and found
     wisteria in bloom.”
 
[It sounded so like the Camino.]
 
In short, I had a good time (and, of course, we tried our hands at both haiku and haibun during the workshop).
 
We headed back to Anchorage after stopping at Bishop’s Slough to see if the sandhill cranes were there. They were, off in a distance; and one of the swans from last night was also foraging. 
 
Bishop’s Slough, looking toward Cook Inlet. The big birds were too far away to get good photos. But the air was sunny and cool, and everything is green. 

 
Bishop’s Slugh a month ago; everything brown.
 
The lupine carpets the roadsides, especially near Turnagain Pass and Portage. In spots, swathes of the deep blue run alongside patches of dandelions, perfectly representing the Alaska flag. This is one little spot at Portage — the larger pictures were hard to get  from the moving car.
 
The trip back was uneventful. Some of the road work from Friday had been finished, so there were fewer waits along the way. The water was high in many places — the glacier-silt green Kenai River, Kenai Lake, Tern Lake, and Potter Marsh (from the Rabbit Creek flooding).
Tern Lake.

 
 
We stopped briefly at Portage, where the walk along the lake’s edge lies underwater in places.

Cool blue iceberg in Portage Lake.
Last night’s moon over Cook Inlet, about midnight, from the window of our room at the Driftwood.
     End of this year’s Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, for me. It was well worth doing. Now it’s time to get back to work on the blog. Thanks for coming along for the trip!

 

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