Snow on the Beach

At The Waterline
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Our Hotel

I woke this morning to snow covering the rooftops, cars, and parking lot, and ran down to the beach just as soon as I could pull on enough warm clothing. What follows are photos and a brief spin-around video of snow on the beach in Seaside, Oregon. Needless to say both the ocean and snow are pretty incredible to someone raised in the desert. The combination speaks for itself.
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Joe Millar’s talk on the elegy this morning slit me open like a fish. Loss was one motivator for committing to my writing in a greater way by undertaking this MFA, and the possibilities he opened up in this ancient form — not to mention his analysis of the psychological and mythical dimensions — have my head spinning.

Off to a Howling Start

Rain lashed against the windows all night and wind howled all through the hotel ventilation ducts. So I’m bleary-eyed after a long day getting here and a night full of banshees, but fired up after an awesome panel discussion this morning. Here’s an excerpt from my notes:

In the Q&A portion, Marvin encouraged us to just keep writing more with the intention of knowing ourselves and our work, and Pete Fromm admonished that it’s easier to talk about writing as a kind of social consolation prize than it is to actually do it. Marvin closed out talking about writer’s block, which is not the inability to write but writing bad stuff and then quitting (the latter decision being the only mistake). He brought forward the idea, which I found inspiring, that it might be the “bad” stuff that needs to be amplified and made good, rather than cut out in revision, to make a good poem great.

I’m already loving the no-nonsense vibe.

Unfortunately, the wifi in my room doesn’t work, so I’m writing this from the drafty first-floor laundry room, which is only a hotspot in the digital sense. Time for lunch and to meet the writers in my year.

Three Hours in Portland

On the night bus to Seaside now, in the back row, face aglow from the laptop screen. I’m listening to the iPod shuffle my sister passed on to me as a gift — space to hold enough music to last the journey without getting dull plus a backup of all my MFA-related digital files. It’s a bumpy ride, and dark, but at least the bus is warm.

Powell’s Books

I spent about three hours in downtown Portland, between arriving at PDX and catching this bus at the Amtrak station. Most of that time I holed up in the café at Powell’s Books, enjoying free WiFi, good espresso, and being in a real bookstore. This seems to be the Northwest analogue to City Lights in San Francisco. Each section of the store has its own information desk and aisle upon aisle of books. Their poetry floor (!), for example, made the paltry few shelves of your local Barnes And Noble seem like the completely unsatisfying appetizer that it is. And I didn’t even have time to check out the used section yet.

Chinatown Gate

Of course, just a few hours is not nearly long enough to get the real flavor of the place, but I enjoyed a few brief impressions as I wandered around downtown, with dusk and light rain coming on. Between the bookstores, record shops and cafés, and given how grey and drizzly the evening has been, I got the sense people spend a lot of time indoors. Layers are the fashion — seemingly the more they clash the better. Funky knit hats, stripes with argyle, the ubiquitous hoodie — post-grunge is alive and well here.

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On the Oregon Trail

I will be in Seaside, Oregon January 6-16th for the first residency of the Pacific University MFA in writing. I just got the tentative schedule, and given that it looks like eight very full twelve hour days bookended by two full travel days (planes, buses, shuttles, oh my!) — I’m really not sure how much of the experience I will be able to write about on this site. I’d at least like to give a snippet from my daily writeups to share a flavor of the experience. And I’m taking the digital camera. But given this will all be new to me, I can’t make any promises. So, in case you don’t hear from me — I’m not dead, I’m just becoming a better writer. That’s the idea anyway.