Poetry Club discusses two poems by American poet W.S. Merwin (b.1927-d.2019), “Thank You” and “For the Anniversary of My Death”. Linda starts us off with his biography, then Amory guides us through two of his poems. Merwin had a simple life as a Zen Buddhist, pacifist, environmentalist, and writer. Can we ever know what the author truly intends? Safe to say, we walk away from the two poems in awe of his world-class abilities, and personal life.
Next week we’ll discuss “In Time” and “Elegy For A Walnut Tree”
I started a Go Fund Me for my daughter. My daughter, Hannah, called me Monday to say her cat Boo broke or dislocated her tail. Her two cats were wrestling in the living room and her new kitty got hurt. Hannah sent me a video of her cat where the tail has a bump at the top, and it points straight down. It used to fly like a flag! That kitties tail is over a foot long and pretty fluffy. My daughter is super upset because the vet wants to see the cat right away. However, the accident happened at a bad time for them and me.
Click on the link and you’ll fall in love with this sweet kitty like we have. Please consider a gift of any size towards the vet visit and fixing this tail. From my heart, thank you.
I’m very excited to have a small collection of my poems published in The Abstract Elephant Magazine this month. It’s such a beautiful magazine with an ideal mission. Please visit it sometime soon.
“The Abstract Elephant Magazine is an interdisciplinary, digital publication dedicated to understanding the issues of the human condition through the arts, the sciences, and philosophy. This magazine began with the intention to create a space for comparative endeavors and interdisciplinary research since our basic belief is that improvement in the human condition takes place in open dialogue and debate.”
Reviewing my submissions and acceptances for 2020 tonight and holy moly I forgot about a publication in the 20th issue of Cirque Journal! Such a beautiful PNW Rim magazine.
Cirque brings together the finest literary and artistic talent from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
Cirque was founded in 2009 by Anchorage poet Mike Burwell. Cirque, published in Anchorage, Alaska, is a regional journal created to share the best writing in the region with the rest of the world. This regional literary journal invites emerging and established writers living in the North Pacific Rim—Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Yukon Territory, Alberta, British Columbia, and Chukotka.
Cirque #20 celebrates 10 years in print. It’s a large issue of 175 pages. We are glad you will be part of it.
Thank you The Showbear Family Circus ( http://lanceschaubert.org/ ) Lancelot Schaubert’s and Tara Schaubert’s liberal arts circus, for including my poems, Crab, Grandmas Closet, and The Bog in your November 2, 2020 edition.
Your website stimulates the senses. Selected articles, short stories, poems, words jump off the page! I love this philosophy you have…
We want to focus on the liberal arts philosophy because we hope to reorder common ways magazines and readers think about news, scientific research, creative writing, and art reviews. We want all of the work shared at the Showbear Circus to focus not on money, power, lauds, or pleasure but on whether the thing made, the thought reasoned, and the feeling felt are good and beautiful and true.
You can find my poems in the November 2nd edition on the main page and here:
So many songs begging Ruth Bader Ginsburg to “hang on” until there is another democrat in the white house. This one caught my attention. SNL 2019.
Thank you Red Wheelbarrow writers for accepting my poem, “Day 53”, for publication in This Uncommon Solitude your upcoming anthology of pandemic poetry.
“We are honored to showcase and share your powerful and poignant words during this unsettling time of crisis.”
Day 53 By Shannon Laws
If the world were normal now,
as it may never be again,
I might enjoy the morning.
This morning where I woke,
at 8:37 a.m., ate breakfast
drank coffee in bed, started writing,
and still under the sheets at 11:36.
If this was, let’s say, Friday, September 20, 2019,
I would not label this morning a case of pandemic fatigue,
no—it would be relaxation.
It is what the pre-pandemic modern world
used to refer as a “personal day.”
(remember personal days?)
I could find joy in working at home if all
my neighbors got into their cars and
drove to work this morning!
THEN today would be a special day for me.
But, it is not.
It is day 53 of the lockdown, and there is nothing
but the heavy responsibility of
staying home and
Jury Duty for women as a right- In 1979, Ginsburg argued Duren v. Missouri, a case in which a Missouri man accused of murder argued he couldn’t get a fair trial because of a law that made jury service optional for women. She told the court that such exemptions didn’t just make the jury pool unfair; it devalued women’s contributions to juries.
Equal pay regardless of sex- In her 2007 dissent, which she read from the bench (a rare move for any justice), she argued that the Civil Rights Act’s 180-day time limit shouldn’t apply in the case of discriminatory pay since gender-based discrimination can happen gradually. “A worker knows immediately if she is denied a promotion or transfer,” said Ginsburg. “Compensation disparities, in contrast, are often hidden from sight.”
“Mr. Coal operator call me anything you please, blue, green, or red, I aim to see to it that these Kentucky coal miners will not dig your coal while their little children are crying and dying for milk and bread.”
— Aunt Molly Jackson, the ultimate Pistol Packin’ Mama,(1880-1960)
This morning I’m thinking about The Great Depression of the 1930s. Over the course of four years, 1929-1933, the unemployment rate reached its peak to 25% of the population. Today, twelve years after The Great Recession of 2008, America’s unemployment rate is 25%. This morning CNBC reported Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged Sunday that the U.S. unemployment rate may have already reached 25% as the administration works to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
I like that word “may”. As if they have no way of telling; probably because the system is so overwhelmed. There is a good chance the government may not actually know how many are without work, without income, have no savings, have not received a stimulus check.
During The Great Depression, there was a union war. The folks that were pro-union were among the bravest souls in history. They stood up for their rights in the face of dire circumstances including starvation and death. Coal miners, exhausted from working +12 hour days, demanded an eight-hour workday, more safety features for the miners, and also a fair wage. Many union members paid with their lives; the henchmen of the owners shooting some on-site!
Like the Aunt Molly Jackson story and song, today there is an injustice, a darkness, that is costing the lives of many, pressed by the heel of greed and power. The worldwide shelter in place mandate emphasizes the hurt that was already here. If the world ever needed the voice of a hero it is now!
Oh, how I wish justice could shine down from heaven like a bolt of lightning and solve all the world’s problems! I am not political or a part of any militia; I am a poet. Designed to observe and report. This is the job of all artists. Although I have no solution, I have an alarm to sound and it is saying the bent branch has split! You can no longer demand buds, flowers, or fruit from what has died! The devotion to the wicked will end quickly! Home of the brave you say? The brave are in neighborhoods donating time and supplies to their neighbors. The brave are working in grocery stores and hospitals. While our leaders lay impotent, the common person once again helps the helpless. Although I understand the solution to CORVID-19 & why we shelter in place, I am angered that the epidemic of homelessness, disease, and poverty has festered for decades. In America, WHY is it a constant fight for equal rights, equal pay, a fair living wage, affordable healthcare? Why is that?
All this week Aunt Mollys song played in my mind while processing some sad news about an acquaintance. The stoic teaching tells me the obstacle is the way. We all have our own gutters to climb out of, I hope I am brave enough to reach out a hero’s hand to those around me.
Here is an old poem I shared with the Poetry Discussion group on Saturday.
Lunch at the Sycamore Square April 2019
Fountain water hits each tier
breaks off into the air
landing on my notebook paper
sprinkles a blank page
A cart of baked bread
rolls by through the courtyard
towards the Italian restaurant
A tourist asks when does
the shoe store open
A dog on leash pisses
on the floor
We all ignore it
even the owner
This photo really touched me. It is my current mood expressed by a news photo. -take care & be well, Shannon
On March 8th historian and award-winning fiction author, Janet Oakley and I visited Kendall Elementary to share an introduction to poetry and encourage 4th graders to write their own poetry.
This project is inspired by the depression era Civilian Conservation Corps statue dedication. On June 16, 2018, at the Glacier Ranger Station built by CCC workers, the statue will be dedicated. Janet Oakley is working with Mike Impero and me to coordinate community events for all ages in celebration of the statue dedication. (Read more about the Corps below)
The CCC boys printed their own newspaper called “The Bulldozer”. Copies of the paper still exist. After Janet discovered that the boys wrote many poems for the newspaper, she recruited me to help spur a poetry contest with the local 4th-grade class. The contest went well. The Kendall kids are creative! Select poems are on display at the ranger station and the Kendall Library. Winners will be read at the dedication ceremony on June 16th. Kendall is about 10 miles from Glacier and some of the students are direct descendants of CCC workers who stayed in Whatcom Country after the CCC was dissolved.
Yesterday Janet came over to my home and shared some of the Thank You notes from Kendall. What a warm surprise! I am so thankful for the experience! These cards made my day.
About the Civilian Conservation Corps Statue
On June 12, 1933, a group of forty-three men from the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived in Shuksan in the Mount Baker National Forest. A week later they were joined by thirty enrollees from Illinois. By July 12, Company 2915 was at full complement of 200 men. During the summer and fall, the company worked on the construction of truck trails on Hannegan Pass and Twin Lakes, felled snags, and strung telephone lines. On November 2, the company moved to their permanent site on the Mount Baker Highway between Maple Falls and Glacier. Over the years, Company 2915 would build the Douglas Fir and Silver Fir campgrounds, the Glacier Ranger Station, the Austin Warming Hut, fire outlooks and hundreds of roads and trails
This June 16, 2018, nearly eighty-five years after the first group of CCC boys arrived at Camp Glacier, a statue will be erected at the Glacier Ranger Station to honor the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work. Though Mount Baker District is used heavily in winter and summer, few today know the history of the CCCs in our area. This statue will serve to tell their story.
A Little History Lesson
The Civilian Conservation Corps came out of the desperate days of the Great Depression. In 1933, only 30% of the population had jobs, mostly halftime. Banks, farms and businesses failed. With 25% of all young men ages 16 to 30 unemployed, serious social problems arose. To meet this national crisis, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed the Emergency Conservation Act, soon known as the CCC. FDR was inaugurated on March 3, 1933. He proposed the bill on March 21. Both houses passed it on March 28. FDR signed it March 31.
Whatcom County’s first call for young men to sign up was in mid-April. A qualifying family had to be on the welfare rolls, their son between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years old. The family received an allotment of twenty-five dollars a month. The enrollee would receive five dollars a month, but they were also fed, given shelter and soon training in a variety of things –from radio, auto mechanics to packing horses and setting up phone lines. Some finished their high school certificate.
The CCC Worker Statue
Sometime in the early 1970s, former CCC boys formed alumni chapters to get together, share their stories and support the preservation of their work in state and national. Today, most of the chapters are closed as members have passed away. The concept of the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC Worker Statue program was developed by the former Chapter #129 of Grayling, Michigan in 1995. Program coordinator Rev. William Fraser had the dream to have a statue in every state. The CCC Legacy, a national non-profit group, took on the task recently and now owns the CCC statue mold.
For the past year, author and historian Janet Oakley and Mike Impero, North Fork historian worked to get a CCC worker statue for the Glacier Ranger Station. Oakley grew up on stories of the CCCs and wrote a novel, Tree Soldier, set in the Glacier area. For two years, she was a Washington Humanities speaker, going around the state talking about the CCC’s impact on the state’s treasured parks and soil conservation. Mike Impero has written books about the Glacier area. He has a personal reason for the statue: his father was one of the first CCC boys to serve at Camp Glacier. Last month CCC Legacy signed with the Mount Baker National Forest to allow such a statue. The statue will be the second in Washington State and seventy-second in the nation.
On June 16th at the Glacier Ranger Station built by CCC workers, the statue will be dedicated. Janet Oakley is working with Mike Impero and local poet Shannon P. Laws to coordinate community events for all ages in celebration of the statue dedication.
A 4th grade Kendall poetry contest in March through April. Poems will be displayed at the Kendall Library and at the Glacier Station. On April 28th Janet and Mike will give a presentation at Village Books. All the events are free and open to the public. -press release
2018 Poem Booth Kickstarter
December 6th – January 20th
Team Poem Booth announces a 2018 Kickstarter to raise money for the continued support of the Poem Booth located on Forest and Holly at the downtown Community Food Co-op. The Poem Booth Kickstarter is LIVE December 6th through January 20th. We had an amazing 2017 launch for the Poem Booth and are looking forward to 2018!
The 2018 campaign offers many enticing awards. Please visit our Kickstarter page to learn more and donate today.
A complete remodel of the phone booth that transformed an eyesore into a communal treasure, live poetry readings at the Poem Booth, a beautiful and informative website about the Poem Booth project (poembooth.weebly.com), 75 fantastic poetry contributions from local talent, a chapbook compilation of the year’s poetry selections, a poetry reading event at Bellingham Food Co-op, Saturday, 6-7:30 p.m., January 13th , publicity in Bellingham Alive, Cascadia Weekly, Whatcom Talk, Community Food Co-op News and Take 5.
This new year we are looking to expand the art involved in the Poem Booth and are exploring ways for the community to get involved in creating the look of the booth.
Second Year Goals
Enlist and support local artists in transforming the Poem Booth with their artistic vision, provide a unique and fresh venue for local poets while honoring their talents through awards and publicity, continue to provide a democratic and free encounter with art for pedestrians. Funds will be used for our poetry chapbook, printing costs, paint, cleaning tools, and maintenance supplies. We are also exploring creating a new Poem Booth on Holly Street.
Your support for this Kickstarter will give us the funds to have more creative license over how the poem booth is refurbished in the new year.
We hope you will join us in getting community poetry to the streets in 2018.
Poem Booth team members for 2018 are Christen Mattix, Summer Starr, Shannon P. Laws, Sheila Sondik and Jory Mickelson.
Last evening I received my second Mayor’s Arts Award. Allow a moment of confession, just to help the editor in me get back to sleep. You see I woke up at 2 a.m. bothered. I prepared a speech expecting a five-six minute read time. Excited to share a bit of WHO I am and WHAT I do. However, twenty minutes prior to the event I was told I would be the first person up, please keep it to a sharp 3 minutes.
As I type a “Breaking News” alert on BBC Radio announces that Prince Philip, 96, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, is retiring from public service. Perhaps I should take some pointers from Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His speeches were known to be short and to the point. In Canada one time he said, “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.” Short. Sweet.
For completely personal reasons, which this whole website is up for completely personal reasons, I need to post my complete speech. RED is what was removed to accommodate the schedule. -SPL
Thank you Mayor Linville and the Bellingham Arts Commission for awarding “Bellingham Art Beat” the Mayor’s Arts Award, it is a great honor.
I am the producer of the program. Boosie, the host, couldn’t be here tonight. She sends her thanks. She is on assignment on a sandy beach off the coast of Cuba. Poor girl.
I’d like to also extend a special thank you to the many dedicated listeners to the program and the 60 plus guests who have appeared on “Bellingham Art Beat “over the last two seasons, especially three previous guests who are also receiving awards tonight, Mary Gillilan, Fredrick Dent and Lisa Spicer. A town is only as great as its’ people. The people of Bellingham are extraordinary!
I’m in the story collecting and sharing business. I particularly love biographies. It is my belief that testimonies have a sort of power. A person’s story when shared can alert a listener to the possibilities toward their own solution.
I’m mesmerized at the properties of storytelling in general, whether shared around a campfire, read in a book, presented on stage, or projected in IMAX. Telling a story is human. Our society has punishments for people who tell false stories with intent to harm. We value words, tales, history and truth, even embellished truth.
Stories are all around us. In 2010 I went looking for my own story. After my dissolved 21 year marriage, I moved to Bellingham to be closer to my family. But that is not where my story starts.
Born in Seattle, and raised in the sleepy and slightly odd truck stop town of Federal Way. A town that, at the time, had the distinct problem of too many trees and not enough strip malls.
As I shared in my BTV interview, I discovered television broadcasting and field production in my junior year of high school. It was my first career love. I worked in field and studio production for about four years, then a decade later I returned to a related field of cable commercial insertion.
Moving to Bellingham I landed a job with the beloved KVOS TV, up there on Ellis. Since the sale of KVOS in 2012, I have worked at a variety of temporary jobs doing what I can to stay in Bellingham.
When I first moved here I asked my brother what is the best way to learn the town and meet new people, he said “Volunteer.” I tried volunteering at a few places before I found a perfect fit as a radio producer and host broadcasting on KMRE 102.3 Spark Radio in 2011-2015. In 2016 I decided to offer a fresh radio program for air at the new station KZAX 94.9 Make.Shift Radio.
Producing my radio program reminds me of my television days. Radio and television are cousins. This work keeps me connected to the original passion. I do it for free. I simply love it, and I will continue to do it until it stops being fun.
By this summer Bellingham Art Beat will rotate on a total of three stations in the Northwest, online and over the airwaves.
Often people approach me with an idea for a radio program. You can see the fever in their eyes! There are many good ideas out there, but most things “good” take time to make.
People think this is easy to do. It’s not easy. It’s [Radio] a craft as much as any art form, and it takes time to learn. It takes time to research a guest, compile questions that will spur stimulating conversation for the audience. It takes time to edit the work. I’m talking, for example, editing 30 minutes of an interview down to ten. That persons story needs to be represented well. Their words respected. Bellingham Art Beat is a half-hour weekly radio show; each show takes at least four hours to produce, so that is about 16-20 hours a month volunteered.
If there is one common denominator with the artists I have interviewed over the years it’s perseverance. They fight for their idea, roll up their sleeves and work to make their business, class, band, play, collaboration, project a reality.
I’d like to close with the reading of a poem that came to me at the right time, and seeded hope in my heart when it was very tender. And I’d like to read this as a “Thank You” to the guests who have shared their story with me, and allowed me to share it with you, the listeners.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.