Woodrat Podcast 42: Tea with Fiona and Kaspalita

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita on the waterfront at Aberystwyth, Wales
Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita on the waterfront at Aberystwyth, Wales

Brew yourself a nice cuppa and join Fiona Robyn, Kaspalita and me for a conversation about writing, religion, spirituality, science, small stones and more. We met on May 7 in Aberystwyth, Wales; Fiona and Kaspa subsequetly tied the knot on June 18th, and starting on July 1 they will again curate a month-long river of stones, with contributions from around the world.

Fiona Robyn is a novelist, a blogger, a therapist, and a creativity coach. She is very fond of Earl Grey tea and homemade cake. Kaspalita is a Pure Land Buddhist priest, a sometime blogger and is still learning to play the ukulele. Together they are on a mission, they say, to help people connect with the world through writing. In addition to the river of stones (see the aggregator blog) they also host the Writing Our Way Home forum and run e-courses on writing, spirituality and connecting to the world. Fiona has even written an e-book, available as a free download, called How to Write Your Way Home.

Podcast feed | Subscribe in iTunes

Theme music: “Le grand sequoia,” by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence).

Link roundup: Things I give a flying f*ck about

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A few links I’ve shared on Facebook over the past three weeks. With all the poetry reading I did last month, I didn’t have much time for anything else.

Truthout: “Why the United States is Destroying its Educational System”
Chris Hedges, depressingly on-target as usual.

The Atlantic: “Stephen King on the Creative Process, the State of Fiction, and More”
Stephen King has some nice things to say about poets. (But preferring Judas Priest to Black Sabbath? No accounting for taste!)

Harriet: “Death of a Kingmaker: A Critical Evaluation of Silliman’s Blog”
How being a powerful blogger can interfere with writing. I found Silliman very cordial the couple times I communicated with him, a genuine guy with some strong opinions and an equally strong streak of generosity. I wasn’t a regular reader, though.

Poetry Daily: “Casino” by Osip Mandelstam — a new version by Christian Wiman
Probably the single best poem I read all April.

Glenn Greenwald @Salon: “Lessons from Manning’s transfer out of Quantico”

This episode should be a potent antidote to defeatism, as it provides a template for how issues that would be otherwise ignored can be amplified by independent voices creatively using the democratizing and organizing power of the Internet, and meaningful activism achieved.


Not just a gag gift, but a very simple concrete or visual poem. I’m trying to think how I can integrate one into a panel discussion at next year’s AWP.

Link roundup: Advice for writers, Planned Parenthood, public radio poetry, treeblogging and the King of the Porcupines

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Austin Kleon: “How to Steal Like an Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)”
I usually hate advice posts, but this one is gold. For example:

There was a video going around the internet last year of Rainn Wilson, the guy who plays Dwight on The Office. He was talking about creative block, and he said this thing that drove me nuts, because I feel like it’s a license for so many people to put off making things: “If you don’t know who you are or what you’re about or what you believe in it’s really pretty impossible to be creative.”

If I waited to know “who I was” or “what I was about” before I started “being creative”, well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things that we figure out who we are.

Marly Youmans: “The House of Words (no. 11): One writer’s lessons”
The most popular post in Marly’s on-going series to date. I particularly liked this part:

Every book purchase says you want to read a certain writer and that the publisher should have confidence in him or her. In the case of poetry, a modicum of readers voting this way may even mean that a house decides to retain its poetry line rather than jettisoning it.

The comment thread for that post is also well worth reading.

Busily Seeking… Continual Change: “The Perils of Planned Parenthood”
A very different — and, I would argue, crucial — perspective on “choice,” Planned Parenthood and legislative priorities.

North Country Public Radio: “One April”
Wow, this public radio station’s web manager is doing NaPoWriMo! And they’re good poems, too. Yet another reason to move to the Adirondacks.

Call for Submissions: Festival of the Trees 59 with Spirit Whispers
For Festival 59 our host Suzanne of the Spirit Whispers blog asks, how do trees inspire you?


Watch on YouYube
via Peaceful Societies: “Lepcha Magazine Provides a Cultural Feast”

Link roundup: Nanopressing, bombs not food, and carnivores after dark

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Nanopress Publishing: alternative poetry publishing, with gravitas
The indefatigable Nic S. has set up a website to advocate the new model of poetry publishing she’s pioneering with her own book, Forever Will End on Thursday (which I’ll be blogging next month).

The nanopress is a single-publication, purpose-formed poetry press that brings together, on a one-time basis, an independent editor’s judgment and gravitas and a poet’s manuscript. The combination effectively by-passes both the poetry-contest gamble and the dwindling opportunities offered by existing poetry presses, while still applying credible ‘quality control’ measures to the published work.

Join the discussion about this new paradigm at Nic’s blog — in particular, a post titled “Nanopress poetry publishing: Avoiding the publisher’s cycle of need.” Beth Adams, Ren Powell, Sarah Busse, and Rachel Barenblat are among the contributors to the comment thread so far.

The Washington Post: “In the Mideast, U.S. policy is still driven by realism” (Eugene Robinson)
Is it realism, or is it surrealism? It is certainly frustrating the way we never seem to have money for anything but destruction. We can only laugh to keep from crying: The Daily Show for March 21 was devastating.

The Palace at 2:00 a.m.: “The House of Words (no. 1)”
Novelist and poet Marly Youmans kicked off what she promises will be a 25-part series “on persisting, giving up, and other topics” connected with the writing life.

Giving up writing is easier than persistence because–surprise!–nobody much will mind if you give up. It’s not like giving up a job with a salary; there are few reproaches, and in fact many of your near-and-dear will heave great buffalo sighs and snort with relief. People will be glad to think that you may be a solvent person some day, rather than a struggling writer with the usual garret, heaps of foolscap, and bargain Toshiba laptop.

The New York Review of Books Blog: “The New American Pessimism”
Charles Simic is smarter than your average poet.

They say the monkey scratches its fleas with the key that opens its cage. That may strike one as being very funny or very sad. Unfortunately, that’s where we are now.

t r u t h o u t : “Instead of Bombing Dictators, Stop Selling Them Bombs”
But Gaddafi promised he’d only use them on terrorists!

NewScientist: “Fake tweets by ‘socialbot’ fool hundreds of followers”
“The success suggests that socialbots could manipulate social networks on a larger scale, for good or ill.” Good idea. I’ve heard that terrorists can use Twitter and Facebook to foment unrest.

xkcd: “Beauty”
It’s not every day that I get to read a web comic about my favorite organism, the dog vomit slimemold.

O: Maria Shriver interviews Mary Oliver
I’m not entirely sure who Maria Shriver is — some sort of Kennedy, apparently — but somehow she managed to lure the famously reclusive poet out of her shell. (And I’m pleased to see O magazine devoting its April issue to poetry. Here’s the New Yorker’s review.)

Finally, here are a couple of videos from Plummer’s Hollow that complement this past week’s podcast, “Creatures of the Night.” Thanks to our neighbors Troy and Paula for doing such a great job documenting the local wildlife with multiple trail cameras and sides of venison for bait.


Watch on YouTube.


Watch on YouTube.