I was able to read twice last week. Yay Poetry! On Sunday at the Peregrine Reading series as a guest speaker with three other women featured in the recent VoiceCatchers Literary Journal and the Thursday before that, I went to my favorite open mic, Ghost Town in downtown Vancouver (the name makes total sense if you have ever walked in Vancouver). The lovely and talented Tiffany Burba-Schramm records all of the Ghost Town open mics, as well as many events hosted by our local poet laureate Christopher Luna and his lovely wife Toni Partington-Luna. I am on the 4th video, which is below. Just before me is Michael C. Guimond who is well worth the listen! Seriously, he is one of my favorite local poets. His style gives a glorious punch that leans all the way into slam territory. His performance has the guts I hope to possess some day, and he always leaves me smiling.
Having Mike and I read back to back is a wonderful example of why Ghost town is great. There is such diversity in the style and content of the writers! If you keep listening, you will hear story-telling poems, sonnets, limericks, poetic history, futuristic imagery, legit slam poems, rants, fan fiction poetry, beat poets, politi-poems, the Greats recited, and song poetry in all it's splendor. In fact, if you enjoy what you hear, go and watch all the videos. I will link them below. I am on video #4, which is above, so I will just post Ghost Town (GT) videos # 1,2,3,5, and 6 below. Ghost town is a lively evening with lots of spectacular writers, and May was a fun night. There was even a little drunken drama, which has never happened before, and I doubt will happen again. See if you can find it!
All these events, and the way I am attempting to build my life as I re-stack the rubble I have created, point to an attempt to live a poetic life. If you watch any of the videos, you will quickly see that poetry is not pretty, delicate, or tidy. No, I am not aiming for a life of serene perfection (wouldn't that be nice?). I am striving for more authenticity. Sometimes that will be bare knuckled bleeding. Sometimes that is texting raw novels to a friend in the middle of the night. Sometimes that is slowing down to appreciate the black capped chickadee that has nested in the tree near our porch. Sometimes that is fighting, really fighting, to get at the underbelly of pain we are living with. Sometimes it is leaping at adventure when it comes my way. Sometimes it is striving to see outside my self and help. Sometimes it is sinking my fingers deep in the soil or making lavish meals in my very modest home. Sometimes, it is sitting very silent. Always, it must be honest. Even honest about when I am not honest.
I hope I can incorporate this way of life into my work, not just on the page, but also with my children, my partner, and work in my future.
Also with the horses I groom, the wild animals I meet, the people that hold anger against me, the people that have needs greater then me. I want renewed eyes to behold them all in words and heart. I want this poetic life.
I am pleased to announce that I will be a featured reader at the Peregrine Literary Series this Sunday May 15th at 3pm. Everyone is welcome! I hope to can join me. The other readers are fantastic, including the host of the series. I am honored to be reading with them.
I hope to see you Sunday. It is free and open to the public. Donations of canned food will be given to the Marylhurst University food pantry. See you in Lake Oswego!
ANNOUNCEMENT! We have some exciting news! My poetry book is being published by Rainy Day Reads! See their author bio on me below! Celebrate with me friends!
"The romance of reading begins with a rainy day read."
Erin Iwata, author of “Theories of Relativity & the Space Between” is a woman of many talents. – A doula, writer, mother to men, and teacher on hiatus. She loves how writing connects us and thrives on the bright edges of human experience.
Erin is active in the literary community of the Pacific Northwest. Her work recently appeared on 33 public buses, local literary magazines, newspapers, and featured at Show and Tell Gallery Assembly. She can regularly be found attending poetry and literary events throughout the greater Portland metro area.
You can find where Erin will next appear by following her website www.eriniwata.com. She calls Ridgefield, Washington her little home on the prairie. She travels and writes as frequently as she can. She is married to artist and illustrator Nat Iwata and has three constantly moving boys.
“Theories of Relativity and the Space Between” will be releasing from Rainy Day Reads Publishing in late 2016.
RAINY DAY READS PUBLISHING & BOOKSTORE
When I found out I was pregnant, I tried to give the baby a name as soon as possible, just in case. I wanted my little people to have a name if they didn’t make it through the pregnancy. I named my second son Judah. More than once, when I pressed my rounded belly into a friend and announced the name of this being growing inside of me, they recoiled and mouthed: “JUDAS?” My heart would sink. The very idea that someone would confuse my precious baby with the most vile character in all of christendom made my blood boil. In some cultures, effigies of Judas are pelted with rotten produce, hanged or burned during Passion week. Why would I name my child after that? Or even choose a name that could be confused with him?
This Passion week, like many of the holidays this year, is a perspective shift for me.
I found myself one dark Monday morning, listening to the story of Judas and crying -not tears of hatred, but tears of pity. When I told my sweetheart, he made that same cringe as if I had made my son his namesake: “Why would you feel for Judas?”
It seems Judas kept himself in denial, even on the night that he turned his teacher in, saying “surely not me” when Jesus said someone would betray him. After it was done, Judas felt so much anguish that he committed suicide. Most orthodox Christians believe that Jesus’s death (and resurrection) was God’s plan all along, whatever Judas’s role.
It is easier to stay blind to our great potential to damage each other. We’re easily distracted by our own perceived need, not trusting that there is enough, or caring for those right next to us. I think it is rare that we intentionally go out to damage one another. It starts more quietly, a selfish pang that if left unchecked ripples into self-justified carnage. We hurt each other, we hurt ourselves in the process.
In this, I am utterly guilty. It turns out, that Judas, not unlike the story of Judah, King David, or Eve, is not just a cautionary tale, but actually my story.
I want redemption for Judas like I want redemption for myself. The fact that he sunk down into utter despair gives me compassion for Judas and fear for myself. Will my effigy be pelted with tomatoes for all time, my image remembered with scorn and hatred? Maybe. There might be those that need me to be a conduit for their anger at the lack of justice in this world. I’ll admit, my past, and probably future, actions deserve that. Yet, I am not abandoning hope. Somehow, by what I can only articulate as a miracle, I am still here, painfully aware of myself. Now the unbelievably difficult work is sitting in that, and trusting that when the time comes, there will be enough: Enough courage. Enough time. Enough compassion. Enough strength. There is no just in case. Just one step, then the next, then the next. Astonishingly, in these simple steps, this gradual surrender, I discover embedded goodness. I am surprised by joy, exceptional forgiveness, and whispers of unspeakable wonder and grace.
I hope these words makes sense to you, even if you know nothing about Judas or Judah, or are turned off by scriptures. To redeem means to exchange, compensate, and make amends. Hopefully, the idea that we are imperfect vulnerable beings that need the hope of redemption resonates with you. This certainly changes the way I see others, even Judas. To me, that is what Easter is all about.
It seems strange that we call it leap year when it is really just one day.
I set arbitrary goals for myself: never run less than 3 miles, always fold the clothes when they come out of the dryer, write X number of words before that cup of coffee, never press snooze more than once, etc. There are often caveats I allow myself: never run less than 3 miles unless you are stuck on a terrible, mind-numbing treadmill. Always fold the clothes when they come out of the dryer, but who knows how many days I will leave said clothes in the dryer. You get the idea. I have come to lean heavily on this tactic to shape my "work day." I say "work day", because as of leap day 2016, I do not have an employer. Even so, my sweetheart has invested in a workspace for us to share downtown. I am the only one to use it so far, mainly because he is disciplined enough to work effectively at the house.
One arbitrary goal was to send out a particular query letter by leap day. I wrote it, I re-wrote it, I reworded it again, I wondered how it would be received, but on leap day I sent it. I leaped.
Then I tried to not agonize on what might be wrong with it. I have to move one way or another, so I let it go. This seems to be a theme of this blog: I have to move, I have to try. Maybe, to set the goals with no caveats. To find the strength and courage that I had forgotten or maybe never believed existed in me. I bruise easily- both inside and out. I'm sensitive, hyper-empathic, and my skin breaks and bleeds with little pressure.
This is going to get messy.
Here's the more honest way to say it: it's already messy. I am a mess, and I'm not going to keep hiding. The same courage I use to dig out of my closets and the dark corners of my home is unearthing hidden parts of my soul that, with the right goals and nurturing, are going to change into something. I hope it's beautiful, but there are no guarantees. I'm quite certain a lot will need to be discarded: drafts of work, ugly elements of me, damaged relationships I have carried. I am attached to all these things, and they are weighing me down. I have to let go. This does take courage and strength, and a lot of deep breathing. This takes trust.
Friends, you will see me fail here.
Just try not to laugh too hard, okay?
Welcome to leap year.
Happy Valentine's Day darlings. I write this from a Seattle hotel room with my sleeping boys piled like heaps under the white sheets. Even the dog is snoring. We are all weary from our travels up here- not far, but still, moving all of us any distance takes effort.
Plus, I have news to share: in the Winter 2016 edition of VoiceCathers magazine, two of my poems have been published and are now available! It was a lot of fun working with the delightful editors. They were so helpful and hands on. The feedback was tremendous and I plan on submitting again in a year.
There has been a shift in me, purhaps subtle, yet noticible to others in my countenance.
I hope it overflows to you here. I hope you enjoy the poetry and article and celebrate with me, but mostly today and everyday,
I hope you feel loved. Loved in a way that makes you feel safe, in a way that allows your messes and encourages you to not be afraid. Loved in a way that makes you want to change.
Good night sweethearts.
Merry Christmas everybody! I got a lovely text from my mother-in-law this morning letting me know I was on the front page of The Columbian, our local newspaper. It was inspiring to meet with the reporter and talk with all the people on the bus. The article gives you an idea of the kind of connections I hope my writing makes. I haven't picked up a paper copy yet, they will probably only be out today if you want one. The article will stay up online.
Most people who know I do poetry probably have no idea what that actually means. I guess it means a lot of things. Stay tuned and you'll get the picture through this blog.
ONE of the things I do when I do poetry, is Ghost Town. It just so happens that all of the Ghost Town open mics are recorded and put on YouTube.
This month, I was towards the end of the line up. It just so happens I was the first reader for video 5 for the December Ghost Town open mic. Lucky you! No hunting if you want to see me read! The first man you see on the video is Christopher Luna, Clark County's own Poet Laurette. Let me tell you, that man DOES HIS JOB! As a community, we are very lucky to have such a dedicated poet who is so proactive about growing the local writing and poetry community. He is well known among any poet I meet in the greater Portland Metro area. His wife and partner in poetry is an active writer and editor in the NorthWest. Her name is Toni and her poetry reminds me every time that a story is the best thing to tell, even if it is delivered in a poem. Come see them read their work at Ghost Town sometime! Enjoy!
Just when I least expect it, something breaks through.
This time in came in the shape of a 30,000 pound rectangular public vehicle. A Vancouver C-Tran bus to be specific. I needed that crowded slightly smelly bus more then I care to admit. Not just because I am a horrible driver (those of you that know me -shushy).
I prefer public transit because driving feels like a dangerous waste of time when I could be people watching, journaling, or reading another chapter. I would rather make a to-do list on a scrunched up subway than drive in the rain (sleet, wind, or sun) any day. Unfortunately, my current abode is squarely in the country, and me owning and using a personal vehicle is necessary for my lifestyle.
Nonetheless, this month, the bus carried me. And my words.
I was selected among 8 other Clark County poets to be published for Poetry Moves, an annitiative through Printed Matter, the Arts of Clark County, and C-Tran. That means that this week, my poem went into 33 buses. During a rather difficult time, this was exactly the little win I needed. Then Christopher Luna, the editor and publisher called and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by The Columbian on a bus discussing the poetry on a bus. A poet on a bus discussing her poetry on a bus? Yes please!
These were little wins during a dark December. The real wins, the lasting one, the ones that I am not a little embarrassed to talk about, were the connections. It was the encouragement from Toni Partington that felt like she meant it. It was Christopher giving me his time to talk. It was a fellow poet and her husband remembering my work a month after a reading. It was that same poet agreeing to critique my poems sometime. It was Jan Piece and her unwavering confidence in me. She even brought her husband to the public reading at the Vancouver Mall, even though I am sure he could not hear a word I said. It was the positivity of Scott Hewitt who interviewed me on a bus and reminded me that writers are out there actually making money. It was a comedic author who blew me away by publishing a moving memoir in under a year- then turned around and telling me he would be willing to read my novel. It was meeting a writer who gets paid to interview local chefs while they dine on the cuisine. It's friends who I know would be right next to me if they could, but instead sent me supernaturally timed texts precisely when I needed them. These new and old friends were the big wins. These people are carrying me, reminding me to lift my head up, and write something.
So in my own, slightly poetic way, as I dawn my black beret in the plastic seat of this human packed chariot, I thank each of you Warriors of the Pen.
snap snap snap snap snap snap snap snap snap.
Yesterday I was at a gathering of great writers. 20 people, all of them published, powerful global speaker flown in from DC, and me feeling like a fraud with my scuffed up journal and cheap clicking ballpoint pens. The first person I noticed was this beautiful black woman. Everything about her struck me as full and meaningful, from her wide soft hair or her honey conviction voice that had no shame, no hesitation whatsoever. I wrote that I wanted to crawl into her lap and learn. I hoped the thin german next to be wouldn’t notice those words. People went around and shared their works and I knew mine were mostly hopes but I said them anyway. Immediately I scribbled my doubt down in my journal:
“I sit and write and I write and sit and drink and if it is a more conservative group I drink coffee -am I a writer or a poser?”
I was on the verge of leaving at that point -not walking out but checking out through the texts that were silently lighting up my phone. Demands - it took a dozen phone calls and three separate babysitters to be able to come to that event. I told my partner I wouldn’t mind switching places with him and he asked how I would possibly be able to support all of us. Friends need me, family needs me, and I am damn good at loving them so what the hell am I doing here? What makes me think I have anything new or important to say? Who cares anyway?
Then the guest speaker began- a dark lean man with tattoos peeking from behind the rolled sleeves of his black button down. His called himself an introvert with extroverted tendencies, but there was nothing introverted about his ambition. He described how he came from a place where he thought no one cared, how he reconciled his own story and the doors opened. This man finished his book and went to South Africa, he went to Rio, he’s going back, they want him back. I can see he might be running, but I respect that he’s not stopping.
Underpinning everything he said was this raw vulnerability. It was so beautiful, so attractive, that I couldn’t help the tears spilled from my eyes, my engaged head nodding my presence, my affirmation. Then he told us, he told me, to go get what I deserve.
I do not know if I deserve this. I just know I need to try.
So here is where it begins. Last night, the speaker said to write a 6 words sentences about what you wanted your life to be about. I knew exactly what my 6 words were today, and I also knew that they were all wrong, not at all what I want my life to be about. This is my attempt to change. I want to be a doula, a writer, I want to engage in the human experience with all that I can -I want to touch everything, feel everything, and to know you too. Join me on this journey- I need your stories and your insight and experiences because we were not meant to be alone. I promise to laugh at myself often, to stay up late and wake early, to gripe together, and notice small things, and fill every moment I can with connection.
Let’s do this.
Oh, and just to wrap up the story, that beautiful woman I first noticed, she was reading the book I brought along in my bag. She hugged me and prayed for me and invited me to the next meeting. The speaker took my number -next time he's in Portland, we're going to go food cart hopping. My partner does want this for me, he just wants the bills covered as well. And the babysitters survived.
Erin is a doula, writer, mother to men, and teacher on permanent hiatus. She loves how writing connects us and thrives on the bright edges of human experience.