April 22, 2010

Duluth Poet Laureate

As a poet, I look for the resonating image and pattern. In language, I explore memoir, myth, music, and patterns of the natural world in my quest. My ultimate goal is to break through to a larger vision or break open a deeper emotional landscape. This is what good poems do for the reader and writer; they are like gifts. They open us and provide sustenance for the spirit.

As a person in the role of poet laureate over the next two years, I invite people to join me along this path of sustaining the spirit.

As a teacher and social worker, I know that many people have unique and compelling visions or stories to tell. Not all of these people decide to become writers but nevertheless, they breathe their sparks into writing. Like most creative work, writing can transform the writer. This is why writing is valuable for those in transition or those that are healing. I want to provide encouragement for the community to use poetry for their ceremonies and transitions.

As a person who likes to walk along the trails of our city, following the rivers and creeks, and as a poet who has written many river poems--I am interested in exploring how larger patterns in our ecosystem and world, such as watersheds, erosion or migration can inform an artistic work. Similarly, I am also interested in and want to connect my work with the larger patterns of human experience reflected in our important cultural stories. Jungian psychology, mythology, Biblical story, fairytale, history and other ways that can help connect the individual artistic work to a larger context. In my own family history, immigration of my Finnish grandparents to Minnesota has deeply influenced my poems. My work is also deeply connected to the northern landscape.

As a poet, I like to develop and celebrate art. At their best, literary arts represent both good craft and deep quest. In poetry, the language, history, landscape, and experience emerge for that individual and collectively, for the culture. The poet Linda Hogan once told me, “Whatever you write about makes it stronger.”

A community that honors and celebrates the arts becomes a community of openness and exchange. Unique voices rise that bring images and stories that stir us. The arts foster diversity not uniformity. The community that invests in the activity of art making (and poetry is art) is preserving its culture and promoting creativity. This is why it's a great investment to use taxes to support the arts in our communities. We are all strengthened.

Toward the goal of expanding the audience for poetry and celebrating the unique characteristics of Duluth, I'd like to integrate poetry deeply into our community. The following are some activities that I've proposed. I look forward to collaborating further with the poet laureate committee to adapt them as needed and to have these activities reflect the diversity of our community.

Community Projects:

"Blessings" -- this is community wide project--adults and children—designed to help people in our community to write blessing poems. I'd like to see these blessings given with the bowls at Empty Bowl and at the free Thanksgiving Dinner at the DECC....the best of these should be made into broadsides (collaborating with visual artists) for our area hospice programs, the Women's Shelter, CHUM, the Food Shelf, Detox, and other organizations that assist the homeless or hungry to provide warmth and encouragement.  Learning to write a blessing also enhances one's own relationships.  We can all provide blessings for weddings, births, deaths, traveling, school or training, military service, medical treatments and healing, and other endeavors. The world will be a much better place if we can find a way to bless rather than blame. 

Arbor Day or Earth Day: "Poet Trees": plant a tree and place a poem --either an excerpt of or an entire poem written by a poet in this region on a wooden panel or sign: the harbor - pier or bridge area, Park Point, the Rose Garden (wedding poem here), Munger Trail, Seven Bridges Road, the creeks in Duluth: Miller Creek, Chester Creek, Tischer Creek, Lester River, the Lakewalk.  I look forward to developing this idea with area trail enthusiasts, environmentalists and citizens interested in the city parks and trails and the Lake Superior Hiking Trail. 

Poetry Readings / Events

Hawk's Ridge fall bird migration: "Migrations" Invite poets to share their work that relates to birds, flight or migration (migration of any kind)...the place that we left, the place that we are going....with a special invitation for poems about or from women in transition....

Grandma's Marathon & or Lake Superior Hiking Trail/ ultra-marathon: "Long Journey" -- poems that relate to the theme of journey (of any kind) or quest, with a special invitation for poems about the body and healing.

Gales of November: "The Body, The Vessel" I would propose a multimedia performance that would feature a handful of poets, musicians, and modern dance that pays homage to the lake, the boats, and our history of staying afloat....


"Blessings: Poems for Commemoration" - I'd like to offer a guideline with a few writing exercises for all interested persons, writers or not, about how to write a blessing poem. This could be posted online for individuals, teachers, group leaders, and others to use. Poems like these are useful for commemorating a dinner or special event such as a wedding, birth, graduation, a long journey, moving into a new house, entering military service or any field of work, relationship transitions, and death. They are valuable for those in crisis. It is a gift of love that family, friends and others will appreciate.

"Getting Out There" a day long workshop presented by me and a few other poets on publication and alternative modes of poetry presentation: UTube, blogs, MP3 files, chapbooks and collaborations.

"Poetry and Quest" -- Poetry is both craft and quest. Many workshops and classes focus on improving craft--word choice, lines, stanza, meter, rhythm and sound. These are important. This workshop focuses on another part of the poet's job: quest. Participants will write about their own individual motives and goals in their writing. We will examine aspects of "voice" and pattern. This is not meant to be a comprehensive examination of archetypes, but as a way for poets to consider their larger themes. I will present some thoughts about archetypal patterns in relationship to writing, revision, and manuscript development.

The Quest --King Arthur
The Fall and Ascent--The Bible
Trading with the Gods--Greek Mythology
Spells and Tasks--fairy tales
Guidance on the Journey--Tarot, Runes, I-Ching
Carl Jung--Dreams, Archetypes and Jungian Psychology
Nature--migration, flow, wilderness, the elements

Please share your thoughts with me. I’d love to hear your feedback. And if you are a member of the Duluth area and want to participate, please send me an email at sheila@sheilapacka.com

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