Whidbey MFA Program

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First of all, it’s simply beautiful here. Secondly, the bartender Elizabeth makes a really good Old Fashioned which is my new favorite drink. I have never been to Whidbey in January and had always thought it would be brutally cold, but it really isn’t. David Wagoner teaches here and he is a legend. Here is what the Poetry Foundation has to say about David Wagoner.

David Wagoner is recognized as the leading poet of the Pacific Northwest, often compared to his early mentor…. He has won numerous prestigious literary awards including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and the Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and has twice been nominated for the National Book Award. Wagoner enjoys an excellent reputation as both a writer and a teacher of writing. He was selected to serve as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1978, replacing Robert Lowell, and was the editor of Poetry Northwest until 2002.

I taught a class in editing which went well and now I am here tonight at the Captain Whidbey Inn for the student reading. In the seven years, I have been visiting this program, I have seen it grow to nearly fifty students. Ana Maria Spagna the new co-director is doing a rock on job. She is smart, capable and doesn’t have a big ego and any strange hang-ups. She’s also really sane. That’s a good combination in a director of a low residency.

I love the stories. The stories of working as a therapist with a gay patient who wanted to be “healed.” The therapist says, no you don’t, you’re fine, and helps the patient build a life. Then, “The Night Sputnik Flew,” about life changing, family clashes, a man who will not believe that his wife is gone. Then one about sailing down the current and the sailing is flying.

Then there’s this girl Mary whose really taken with this guy with lots of thick golden hair like a guy on the cover of a romance novel. He’s thickly sexy dude named Wayde. And he’s from Wyoming. I’m thinking hairy loser, but our protagonist is overlooking the fact that Wayde just got out of the big house and getting all turned on. I like this idea that there is no explaining what turns you on. There’s a woman reading about the rule that women should make themselves small. That is what many men want. For women to make themselves small and part of the house. An amazing story from the point of view of a woman whose husband is transgendered. It is so tender and so beautiful that it breaks my heart to hear it. There is a cancer story which is moving, a woman writing about the cancer of the face which Lucy Grealy had and wrote about so movingly in Autobiography of a Face which is a great book. A story about families broken and splintered like dark spots against the sky. I like this piece because it feels like all of us, together and apart for no good reason yet, it all matters so much. I liked the one with the man staring into his sands and being sad. He lived in a town called Zero. She read well too. All of the readers have done a good job; they practice reading. Then there’s one set in India; there are houses above the clouds. A school called Shangri-La. A woman leaving her children and you don’t understand why. The whole reading has a sort of laughing musical quality. Two stories referenced working in Alaskan fisheries. I guess that’s what kids do in the Northwest when they’re getting all crazy. I liked the one that talked about the salmon eggs and the Egg House enclosed n the Fish House. It was wet and visceral. Roz reads about heart surgery and getting her insurance company to pay for the heart surgery. Roz has a wicked cool hair do, and she’s white hot out there reading. She’s really good, sort of brittle/wild. Rose read this story that was funny, churchy, strange with characters like Ida and Ethel, and those are names long gone. Her writing was all soul, I could have listened to her all night. A great reading on a magical island. I hope I come back sometime.

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Published in: on January 9, 2014 at 9:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. The Whidbey Writers Workshop is such a great program. Glad you are a part of it.


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