Poets from the West Coast

Pacific Forest by Robin Gross

 

Introducing Devreaux Baker

It is a deep pleasure to introduce the Guest Poetry Editor for the Western Region issue, winner of the 2014 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry prize from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (among many other honors), Devreaux Baker. It was my luck to coincide with this remarkable poet ten years ago at the Wurlitzer Foundation, and to have been privy to the extraordinary circumstances that produced her stunning third collection, The Red Willow People. The Wurlitzer is located on land where the ancient paths that connected the original three pueblos around Taos, New Mexico met many centuries ago. The only pueblo community still extant is the thriving Taos Pueblo, home to the tribe that calls itself “the red willow people.” Taos is a magical place, and sometimes it happens that inexplicable things occur there. One night Devreaux had an insistent dream of writing about the Taos Pueblo people, but because she is not Native American, she ignored it. After three nights dreaming the same dream, however, she accepted the gift and began writing the poems now collected in Red Willow as if they were channeled. She wrote one hundred pages of poetry in draft over the next week!

 

The poems are spare, tactile and textured. They hover between worlds: “I do not know why the ghost of the woman from the pueblo // visits me,” the poet confesses. Her task, she discovers, is to journey to that “core place // where bone meets spirit,” “the other side of air,” through time and “beyond knowing.” What the poet brings back from such shamanic journeying heals as well as instructs us. In her fifth collection, Hungry Ghosts, Devreaux walks us into the valley of loss and grief, bearing eloquent witness to the ravages of environmental degradation. She counters destruction with a piercing attention to Nature and a largesse of insight that deepens into wisdom, and a prayer so that we might “open each day/ /into its own beautiful mystery.”

I encourage you to read more of Devreaux’s beautiful poetry at your leisure. In the meantime, please settle back and enjoy the magnificent poems from the American West that she has selected for this summer issue of Persimmon Tree.

 

Introduction: Thirteens Poems and More

It is difficult to express the amount of gratitude I feel for being asked to judge the poems in the Western States selection. Many of the poems were written during the onset of a pandemic crisis we all share. If the question arises in times such as these as to how we navigate life in such circumstances, clearly the creation of poetry that continues to enrich, inspire, and ultimately transform our lives is one of the answers. I am honored to have had the privilege of reading poems from so many talented poets and give my sincere thanks to each and every woman who shared her work with me.

 

 

 

Healing

Scent of cottonwood permeates the starless night,
pungent, medicinal. A million sticky buds
damp with rain, dropped by wind, trod
by deer, mingle with river air and pine bark,
a tonic for healing.

Walking the dog
at day’s late end, breath clouds my sight
in the faint light of headlamp. Each step
a crunch of gravel or hush of grass, bathed
in humid perfume.

How long in the mist
until I’m saturated?

How long in this life
until I’m healed by what I love enough
to notice?

 

 

What the Godmothers Told of Origins

Distant lands close to home. Foreign voices,
native tongues – these are cell tissue
to us. Paradox is in our marrow
just as ghosts live in the scaffolding of our bones like

native tongues. These are cell tissue:
foxfire on the downed white pine. Our ancients live
just as breath lives in the bellows of our lungs like
wind is-and-inhabits sky.

Foxfire on downed white pine, our ancients live
wings tucked in after celestial navigation, real as
wind is – and inhabit sky.
Herons and fish fly, touch down,

wings tucked in after sensory navigation, real as –
to us – paradox is. In our marrow
herons and fish fly, touch down –
distant lands close to home, foreign voices, native tongues.

 
 

A Musical Interlude

Bios

Devreaux Baker
Devreaux Baker’s awards include the 2017 Joe Gouveia Outermost National Poetry Prize, the 2014 and 2019 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Prize from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the 2012 Hawaii Council on Humanities International Poetry Prize, the 2011 PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Award, and the 2010 Women’s Global Leadership Poetry Prize. She is a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Hawthornden Castle, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. She has published five books of poetry and lives on the Mendocino Coast in Northern California.

Subhaga Crystal Bacon
Subhaga Crystal Bacon is the author of two volumes of poetry, Blue Hunger, forthcoming in June 2020 from Methow Press, and Elegy with a Glass of Whisky, BOA Editions, 2004. She lives, writes, and teaches on the east slope of the North Cascade Mountains, in Twisp, WA.

Carol Barrett
Carol Barrett holds doctorates in both clinical psychology and creative writing. She coordinates the Creative Writing Certificate Program at Union Institute and University. Her books include Calling in the Bones, which won the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press, Drawing Lessons from Finishing Line Press, and Pansies from Sonder Press, a finalist for the 2020 Oregon Book Award in General Nonfiction. Her poems have appeared in JAMA, Poetry International, Poetry Northwest, The Women’s Review of Books, and many other venues. A former NEA Fellow in Poetry, she lives in Bend, Oregon.

Gail Entrekin
Gail Entrekin’s five books of poems include Rearrangement of the Invisible and Change (Will Do You Good), nominated for a Northern California Book Award. Her poems were finalists for the Pablo Neruda Prize and won the Women’s National Book Association Prize. This year they were first runner-up for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize and finalists for the Blue Light and the Frontier Open Prizes. Poetry editor of Hip Pocket Press, she edits the on-line journal of the environment Canary (canarylitmag.org).  She lives in the hills east of San Francisco Bay. 

Lorraine Jeffery
Lorraine Jeffery has a bachelor’s degree in English, a MLIS in library science, and has managed public libraries in Texas, Ohio and Utah. She has won poetry prizes in state and national contests and published over sixty poems in journals and anthologies, including Clockhouse, Kindred, Calliope, Ibbetson Street, Rockhurst Review, Orchard Street Press, Bacopa Press, League of Utah Writers, Riverfeet, Regal Publishing, and Naugatuck River Review. Her short stories and essays have appeared in many publications, including Persimmon Tree, Focus on the Family, Mature Years, Elsewhere, and League of Utah Writers Anthologies. She lives in Utah with her husband.

Sigrun Susan Lane
Sigrun Susan Lane is a Seattle poet. Her poems have appeared in a number of publications including Amsterdam Quarterly, Arnazella, Albatross, Bellowing Ark, Cascade, Chrysanthemum, Crab Creek Review, Cirque, Duckabush, Hubbub, Floating Bridge Press, JAMA, The Mom Egg, Malahat Review, Melusine, Passager, The Poeming Pigeon, Pontoon, Rain City Review, Raven Chronicles, Sing Heavenly Muse, Seattle Review, Stringtown, and Still Crazy. Lane has received awards for poetry from the Seattle and the King County Arts Commissions. She has published two chapbooks, Little Bones and Salt, both from Goldfish Press.

Eileen Malone
Eileen Malone has published her poetry in over 500 literary journals and anthologies, some of which have earned significant awards, i.e., four Pushcart nominations. Her award winning collection Letters with Taloned Claws was published by Poet’s Corner Press (Sacramento), and her book I Should Have Given Them Water by Ragged Sky Press (Princeton) and most recently It Could Be Me, Although Unsure by Kelsay Books/Aldrich Press.

Judith Montgomery
Judith H. Montgomery's poems have appeared in the Bellingham Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and Poet Lore, among other journals, and in a number of anthologies. She’s been awarded fellowships in poetry from Literary Arts and the Oregon Arts Commission. Her first collection, Passion, received the Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Her fourth book, Litany for Wound and Bloom, was a finalist for the Marsh Hawk Prize, and appeared in August 2018 from Uttered Chaos Press. Her prize-winning narrative medicine chapbook, Mercy, appeared from Wolf Ridge Press in March, 2019. She lives in Oregon City, Oregon.

Melanie Perish
Melanie Perish’s poems have appeared in Sinister Wisdom, Calyx, Willawaw Journal, Brushfire, Desertwood (University of Nevada Press, 1991), Emerging Poets (Z-Publishing, 2018, 2019), and di-vêrsé-city (AIPF, 2017-2019). Passions & Gratitudes, a collection of her poetry, was published by Black Rock Press (2011). The Fishing Poems is her most recent chapbook (Meridian Press 2017). Sometimes crabby/always grateful, she is a member of Poets & Writers, Inc. Poetry, friendship, and social justice are the organizing principles of her life. She cannot imagine living anywhere except the high desert and the Grace that gathers in its skies.

Judith Quaempts
Judith Kelly Quaempts lives and writes in rural eastern Oregon. Her work appears online and in print, most recently in a Poeming Pidgeon anthology (The Cosmos) and the Buddhist Poetry Review. 

Kenith Simmons
Kenith Simmons is Professor Emerita (English) at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, where she enjoyed a 35-year career teaching literature, film, and women’s studies. In addition to her scholarly writing in these fields, she has published dozens of poems in little literary magazines including Kaimana: Literary Arts Hawaii, The Chaminade Literary Review, Paper Street, Jewish Affairs, Insight Journal, Poetica, and Bridges. After retirement, she was afflicted with writer’s block, so many of her recent poems are about unblocking. The Island of Hawaii remains her inspiration.

Pat West
Pat Phillips West’s poems have been published in various journals including Haunted Waters Press, Clover, a Literary Rag, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing and elsewhere. She is a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee.

windflower
windflower, her wife and two border collies live on the Mendocino Coast in Northern California. She attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst for her undergraduate (English) and graduate (M.Ed. in English) degrees. She co-founded the Feminist Arts Program at the University of Massachusetts Women’s Center where she published and edited, Chomo Uri, a women’s multi-arts magazine, and produced the first National Women’s Poetry Festival in 1976. Her poetry has been published in several journals and in a handful of anthologies. windflower is also a photographer celebrating the poetry in nature.

3 thoughts on “Poets from the West Coast

  1. I enjoyed all these poems so much!! Thank you poets and editors for your good work. I already receive Persimmons emails.

  2. these poets have taken the images from their past, my past and your past, tossed them out into the world where they whirled and danced into my heart giving me breath to go into the future unknown as it is

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