There is no other power. No other name.

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My desk is covered with piles of books, some new, some old and tattered, some filled with sticky notes and underlining, some still pristine, but all by the same author, Ursula Le Guin.

When she passed a few days ago, I was among the thousands of people who wept for a person they’d never met in the flesh. I’d always hoped that our paths would cross. That somehow, impossibly, I’d get an opportunity to hang out near her and listen to her funny, irreverent, whip-smart conversation. Reading her books was as close as I ever got.

It wasn’t just that she had incredible talent; she understood how writing as a woman might be different than what the mostly male canon dictated. Everything she wrote was infused with an incredible generosity that might at any moment turn into a lesson in intelligence as spear to deflate wrong-headedness. But my heart, my heart lived in Earthsea.

The Wizard of Earthsea was a book that spoke to the deepest part of me. The part that longed to accept that my shadow, the bad self that was so often pointed out and scorned, might be integrated and necessary. The part that admired balance, equilibrium, friendship. The part of me that longed to know the true names of things, to work the magic of language.

I suggest that you read some of her work. Her latest essay collection No Time to Spare was announced as a Pen Literary Award finalist just this morning. Her oeuvre is wide; you can find a book to please any taste and age range. Her poetry is a profound as her fiction, as insightful as her essays.

Let me leave you with her words from The Wizard of Earthsea:

It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

Strictly Speaking…. Thursday’s treasure

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Just in case you needed someone to see you. David Rivard sees you. Here is a treasure for your day.

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Strictly Speaking

There is the question
of bearing witness, of being yourself seen
by yourself, & seen clearly, cleanly,
without weapon or bible in hand;
as this was the wish,
the sturdy & not-so-secret wish
of those who named us—
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our parents wanted us to be
known to ourselves without confusion:
without judgment,
sans suffering. Never force it,
they said, always find it.
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OK, strictly speaking, that’s not entirely true.
My particular, sole, insistent, moody mother & father
probably never thought much about it at all.
Those two anxious citizens,
they were never exemplars of patience.
The weightlessness of detachment & acceptance
as I think of it now
would have frightened them—
for good reason.
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If you could see these words
I’m speaking to you tonight printed on a page
as typeface & magnified x 500
you would feel just how ragged & coarse
they really are, heavy.
.
Well, playing the part of a butterfly
must be tiring, right?
I’m happier being the old ox, right?
.
On some plane of existence
these two scraps are all my news:
where the mess is
that’s where my heart is.
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~ David Rivard

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Boundaries: A chapbook and an observation

It was 10:48am when I started writing this and still quite dark outside – overcast, yes, but also the sun rose at 10:03 today and it takes an additional half hour to crest the mountains across the bay. We’ll only lose another sixteen seconds before the pendulum swing holds for a moment on Thursday morning at 7:28am and then the light sputters and begins to return.

My desk is filled with piles that mark tasks that need to get finished before the end of the year (or at least organized so that they can be tackled intelligently in January), but really all I want to do is read poetry and write poetry. Oh, maybe talk about poetry, share poetry, and throw in a little informal teaching of poetry.

I’m entering the last half of my Rasmuson Fellowship year, and I’ve cleared a lot from my calendar until the end of May 2018 so that I can really dive deeply into my own writing. Last time I was on fellowship, I had two residencies, but during one, my mother passed away. I had gone to that residency at Willapa Bay AiR thinking that I would do one last round of revisions on my second manuscript (Every Atom which will be released by Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press, in April 2018). Instead, it took another six months as I wrote new poems and reworked the arc of the manuscript.

When Cyndy Hayward, the amazing founder of Willapa Bay AiR, invited me back the next year to complete my month’s fellowship, I had no project to complete. I didn’t even have a project begun. I worried that I might spend a month playing solitaire on my computer. Instead, I read deeply each day and let the that inform my writing. In one month, I wrote an entire chapbook’s worth of poetry now titled Boundaries.

Sparked by the intertidal world of the Long Beach Peninsula; by mourning the death of my father, mother, and a good friend; and by the books that I was reading, Boundaries explores the questions surrounding what separates self from other, what separates life from death.

As I head into another deep dive, though this time at home, I am proud to say that you can purchase the chapbook Boundaries from Dancing Girl Press, a small, independent press based in Chicago. They should be shipping around the beginning of January. I am very grateful that Kristy Bowen was interested in this quirky and deeply personal work.

Soon we cross of the boundary of the year end/ year beginning. What will 2018 bring us? The light. The light. The light. At least we can apprentice ourselves to the light.