I spent a rich and meaningful afternoon reading poems with fellow Pacific University Alumni: Kathryn Belsey, Michelle Bitting, Jonathan Harris, and George Wallace — as well as eminent faculty member David St. John. The Ruskin Art Club played host, thanks to the ever-gracious Elena Karina Byrne, to this reunion of sorts. Afterward I heard audience members remark that they felt the variety and quality of the readings gave testament to the strength of Pacific’s writing program. David St. John kindly remarked that, to him, the real secret of teaching is that one actually gets back, through the students, so much more than one gives. It was an afternoon full of generosity and goodwill — not to mention outstanding poetry.
“How open to suggestion / they have always been, carrying nothing // with them of the past, content to leave almost / everything behind…”
-Christopher Buckley, “New Clouds”
I received a complimentary copy of the premiere issue of Cloudbank today. The journal is co-edited by Peter Sears, core faculty in the Pacific Unviersity MFA program, and the index reads like a roll-call of some of that program’s most talented writers: Arthur Ginsberg helps us see behind sight, Ron Bloodworth takes us into meditative country, Marianne Klekacz makes a Christmas-morning discovery of flight, Jennifer Whetham extols the sensuous mushroom, Beth Russell defends the curious appetites of the female praying mantis, and Abby Murray brings a glimmer of hard-earned compassion to a dog-eat-dog world. More than this, new poems by Christopher Buckley, Carolyn Miller, Margaret McGovern, and a host of other wonderful poets — some from the Pacific Northwest, others not — round out this impressive debut. A publication of Cloudbank Books in Corvalis, Oregon, Cloudbank the journal is accepting submissions for its second issue, including offering a $200 prize for one outstanding poem. Details for submitting poems, and ordering a copy of their excellent first issue, are available on the Cloudbank website.
I would not have been able to complete an MFA in writing poetry while holding down a job as a technology executive had I not been a longtime practitioner of the GTD® methodology. In a recently released podcast, David Allen, my boss and the inventor of GTD, asked me about how the GTD concept of the ubiquitous capture tool relates to poetic inspiration. (That conversation begins around 16:56.) My process has evolved considerably in the past few years, from capturing phrases and lines whenever they came through my head to “assemble” later into a poem, to establishing a regular practice of opening up to the muse. This shift sees me capturing fewer individual lines in the moment, and focusing more on getting my head clear of work and personal responsibilities — by using GTD — so that when I do sit down to write, I can slip through the keyhole unencumbered into that poetic space.
The practice of capturing inspiration in the moment is nothing new to artists and writers. After the Ojai Poetry Fest Fundraiser, I had a stimulating conversation with a fellow writer who also happens to be a journalist. As our chat got interesting, he whipped out a pad and paper, seemingly on reflex, and began to take notes. He was “off duty” in the sense that he wasn’t taking notes for a news story — but it got me thinking that if one is, indeed, a student of life, there is no “off duty.” And a good student takes good notes about subjects that fascinate. The difference GTD makes, of course, is that it presents a systematic approach for what to do with those notes — including tracking any resulting commitments to oneself or others, and executing appropriate action and regular review in order to make one’s dreams more than just a scribble on a notepad.
So, in case I haven’t said it lately, thank you, David, for bringing this methodology into my life, helping me to bring appropriate focus and attention to the many different worlds I inhabit. The gift of being more present in my life is truly precious.