Monday, December 29, 2008

Five Crazy Poems at Ditch

Five strange new poems, part-dream, part-imaginatively-assembling-my-life are posted at the Canadian Ditch. So if you want poems about robots, rattlesnakes, Sonny & Cher, crass commercialism, and spray-painting, this is the place to go.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New poem at Willows Wept Review

After reading The Waste Land, after watching documentaries on Shackleton and his disastrous expedition to Antarctica, I wrote a sonnet titled "Endurance" and, after many years, now have found a home for it at Willows Wept Review.

Eliot, Shakespeare, and God at Fringe Magazine

What do Richard III, Eliot's Choruses from "The Rock", and God all have in common? Read about it--abbreviated--at the Fringe Magazine blog.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New Poem at The Corduroy Mtn.

One of my poems from the long series The Fire Sermons (with apologies to T.S. Eliot) is at The Corduroy Mtn.

Friday, December 5, 2008

New poem at Juked

The poem "Inland Among Stones"--written for my father--is posted at Juked. Another poem from my long piece White River Junction will appear here later, as well...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Poems at Sawbuck

Three sections from my long poem White River Junction and another long and fragmentary poem, The pond that wouldn't freeze in winter are at Sawbuck.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Black Friday Blog

A comment on the state of the race at Fringe Magazine.

New Poems at In Posse Review

Two new poems are up at the In Posse Review. The poems "Driving Through Andalusia" and "The Good Rain" will be up for six months.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Review of Dickman's "All-American Poem" at Fringe Magazine

Read my contemplation of this year's APR-Honickman First Book Prize here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Smoking Waters in the Writer's Dojo

Casey Bush, edible mushroom-hunting partner, has published the introduction and prologue of my manuscript-in-progress, Smoking Waters.

You can learn more about the Writer's Dojo in North Portland here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Summits in the Gorge

Sometimes you work for free, but if what you get for your volunteerism looks like this, how can you go wrong?

Although the magazine this is published in--thanks to the Washington Trails Association--is in b&w, the pdf link is in gorgeous color.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I and Thou

So, first you get out the Rilke--preferably Bly's rendering--and reread "Archaic Torso of Apollo". Do that now, then read on.

Go ahead and apply the Heidegger--OK, so the object of this poem is the unconcealing. But, unconcealing of what? Well, let's go with essence, whatever that is.

Now, at some point you'll want to get to Orr's Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved. Because what we want to stress here is the Beloved. What is that? Now we are moving forward.

I began reading Martin Buber, some excerpts from I and Thou, and some other discourses. Rexroth writes of him convincingly. The title is enough: what we are dealing with is the distinction between I and Thou.

Buber seperates relationships into categories, the lowest being between "I" and "it". This is alienation, in a sense--everything outside you is a mere "thing." The best-case-scenario is "I" and "Thou", this being the ability to see the "Other" as yourself, but more than just yourself. This goes beyond mere sympathy and empathy.

This is the realm of Truth...

This goes to the heart of it. Remember, if you can, childhood, the way you saw things: no distinctions. Everything was, in regard, an extension of your universe. Not necessarily self-centered, but you were a part of the whole. This is Blake's innocence.

We lose that. This is what Orr is getting at in his book of the Beloved. This is what Hesse is looking for in The Journey to the East. You can get back on track. Back to Blake's Beaulah. It is not lost, but right under your nose...

You are not looking for God, merely. You are God, yes, but it is more than that. This is the Nietzschean trap: you can't spend your life in a cave. In the end, Thoreau has to leave Walden Pond. You won't find God alone--Buber stresses this.

No: God is the Beloved. And the Beloved is the Thou. Therefore, our relationship to the Divine, the Shadow, is our relationship with the world, and even more specifically with other people. This is how we are judged: by our service to others.

Thou/Tao. Same thing. Our relationships define us. And our goodness.

Rilke says, "You must change your life" in order to see the statue/art/archaic torso as Thou. It is not a "thing", an "it." It is you. You are the archaic torso because it is in your realm of experience. You engage with it as you engage yourself.

This is Emerson, too: "I am a transparent eyeball: I see all."

There is no thinking your way into this. It is all necessarily action. How do we change our life then? Try Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius. First, get your own mind under control. Let the rest go. Kill them, as my wife says, with kindness. The only philosophy that matters--the only one--is one that gets your mind under control to allow it to reveal Truth practically. Practice this.

This is the same discipline that will endlessly help you with poetry. Poetry is a form of Yoga. This is what Plato means, more or less, by "thinking." It's meditation on relationship, nothing else. Forget the self--you'll just get tangled up there.

Let Ariadne hold the thread, and go to meet your inner monster. You don't need to explore every dark corner. It doesn't matter. The beast is waiting. It's always known you're coming. Look: in your poem--the Doctor is the Minotaur.

If you're not serving someone, you're not serving God/the Tao/Thou/the Beloved--Buber stresses this too. "You're gonna have to serve somebody" says Dylan. "It may be the Devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody."

The poet Kenneth Koch may have done great things at Columbia University--who knows? But what he will be remembered for is what he did for the kids at P.S. 61 in New York, teaching them poetry, writing a book about it (Wishes, Lies, and Dreams) that still inspires teachers today. And me. This was his greatness. His service.

At that point, you can exercise the final frontier of abstraction: the Thou. The poem is not about the Thou, it is the Thou. In other words, and I think Orr said this, the poem isn't about emotion, it is emotion. It is energy, contained. Blake: "Energy is eternal delight."

Whitman: a Kosmos. He is utterly absorbed in the Thou. He changed his life. He saw America itself, every facet of it, as his Beloved.

America is the poem. Or, to put it another way, you are the poem. This is not an abstraction or a mind-game. Look at the world as if you were a kid again. Complete absorption in it. Live that way. Someone falls down, you help them. This is Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.

My wife Erynn told me how her teacher watched a bunch of joggers pass the same spot in a park, looking down. They all kept going. When she went over to the spot, an old woman had fallen off the path and couldn't get up.

Do you see? They thought she was a thing. And a thing quickly becomes a No-thing.

I told Erynn, of all my memories of church, the one thing I remember the most is the Good Samaritan. I remember the painting. I remember the part in Godspell, me in 11th grade playing guitar for the play. This image is part of my private/universal language. Simply put, the Good Samaritan has guided my life.

The essence then, that we wish to unconceal is the Thou, the Beloved.

Hence, Neruda's Odas Elementales--look at the thing and see that it is you. Socks, fish at a market, anything. Freud would call this a projection, I think, and in that regard Freud is correct. This is where Jung meets Freud: we are surrounded by the symbols, the personal language. Write a dictionary of them: that is poetry. All the greats say this and do it: Stanford, Hugo, Rilke, on and on.

Define your world, for that is your power. That is what changes your life.

This is the ultimate task of humans: reuniting with the Divine. All poetry springs from that. Now look at most poetry today: I think, and you may agree, that the majority is looking at poetry as an It, as a thing they can control (workshopping, technique, voice, all of it). As something they can intellectualize. You can't. Poetry can only be understood by the heart. And the heart has a mind--we know this. So Stevens can still work for us, but to a point.

Then we must set out on our own. Galvin sees the world as Thou in his best work. Stanford, utterly. Stafford for sure.

The only poets to read are those who address this: Bly, Wright, Borges, and so on. And it comes, many times, through Grief. You can always attain the Divine by understanding your Grief. Not by complaining about it, or putting it on display. Not the psychoanalyst's couch.

When you write, you can avoid abstraction with this simple dictum: Only write from the heart, as if your audience was the Beloved, the Thou, Other Hearts.

When you ask Europeans to point to the part of their body where they "are," where they reside, they point, more often than not, to their heads.

The Japanese point to their hearts. Think about it.

There's nothing to "explain" or "question." The heart, my friend, is not illiterate. Learn it's language. It is us who are illiterate.

I'll wager a guess and say a great deal of poets speak from her head. Their intellect.

Man, we are the minority. Always will be. Always have been. There is nothing new under the sun. We must change our lives. We are in the League with Hesse, Buber, Rexroth, Van Gogh. We don't need to search for the Beloved anymore.

We are the Beloved.

"Poets and Writers": A Found Poem

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Monday, November 3, 2008

RIP Hayden Carruth

Hayden Carruth, one of the last of the greats, died at the age of 87 on September 29, 2008. You can read the New York Times and the Washington Post articles.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

What Else Got Buried

Over the course of many years, I've published little poems in no name journals, many of which have long since folded: Fireweed, The Dragonfly Review, Manzanita Quarterly. In a world of online databases, where poems can be stored infinitely, my wordy children are lost.

I'm trying to gather them together into a chapbook. Well, that is, I have gathered them together, and now the only logic is to find someone to publish them. And thus save them. From what? Time? Dust? This is the wonderful thing about reading Ecclesiastes and Marcus Aurelius: in the end it just won't matter. I'll be dead, the poems will be dead. What is this life?

Without being overtly sentimental (poems are children? Really.) I do want to preserve whatever sensibility and, well, feeling is kept in these jars. Urns. Poems, word games. Whatever this drive is, it has kept me unabashadly in front of the computer monitor nearly all day. Right into the early dark of daylight savings. Saving for what?

But earlier I watched the great blue heron sail east, toward Johnson Creek. Only in Portland, folks. And that's the least of it: then there are the bald eagles, the raptors, the waxwings.

RIP, little magazines, shoddy quarterlies.

Meanwhile I'm on some strange mission, running around town attending every damn poetry reading I can. I'm behaving like an anthropologist to the literary culture here. Taking notes. Working quietly toward a story or two for the Willamette Week. But I must have seen it all when the drunk walked in off the street, pissed pants, and actually threw up at Christopher Luna's reading in the Three Friends Coffee House. Now that's poetry.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On the Wire at Willamette Week

I will be posting here and there on the "WWire" on the Willamette Week's blog. First up, a review of the inaugural night of the Loggernaut Reading Series.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Review of Billy Collins's "Ballistics"

After a long wait (I thought they'd never run it), the Oregonian has published my review of the new book of poetry from Billy Collins, which you can read here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Two new poems at elimae

I have two new poems posted at elimae: "Domestic" and "The Diving Bell".

Blogging at Fringe Magazine

I am now blogging for Fringe Magazine, and will be about every two weeks. So far, I've covered two topics of poetry: the ubiquitous Fellowship Award and Fundraising for Poetry.

Read more at the Fringe Blog here and here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Autumn Touring the McKenzie-Santiam Loop

My latest story for The Oregonian travel section, a piece on leaf-peeping autumn colors in the McKenzie and Santiam Passes of Oregon, is online now.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Poems online at The Foliate Oak

In an astoundingly fast turnaround, The Foliate Oak has accepted and published two poems: "Montana Ghost Town" and a section from my long poem White River Junction, "Housekeeping".

Monday, September 29, 2008

New Blog at Travel Oregon

My latest blog at the Travel Oregon site is "Just Dune It"--hokey, but effective, and anyway I got it from a business near Florence, Oregon that rents ORV's.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Poems, poems, poems...

A couple more online journals picked up some of my poems--Sawbuck and Word Riot--and when they'll be published is anyone's guest. I meant, guess.

According to Alice Fulton, things like that are the happy accidents that make for great poetry.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Art-Hoppin' Blog at Travel Oregon

After bouncing around Portland's autumn art scene, I've a new blog posted at Travel Oregon:

See amazing pictures of kids painting cars...and a guy banging metal with a hammer...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Warning Against Cider Press!

This is a crucial read for poets in an age of contest-dominated publication:

Looks like we need another!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Profile of Paulann Petersen in "The Bee"

For the month of September (and until I get another pdf for the nmew website) you can see my profile of Portland poet Paulann Petersen at

The New Website, Finally

At last, after securing the domain and futzing with the domain mapping, is fully operational.

As a professional website, you can download pdf's of my Oregonian and Bee stories, as well as links to travel articles and poems, poems, poems!

Consider it a calling card.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's a Writer in Portland to Do?

The Portland Mercury ran two concurrent stories this week regarding local media, both affecting local writers--at least to a degree.

On one hand, The Oregonian (for who I have been writing of late, book reviews and travel articles) offered a buyout via email for 100 employees. The publisher, Fred A. Stickel, did not choose the writers; they need to choose themselves. Last year, 50 were bought out. The package consists of a year's pay plus benefits for two years. One younger writer was quoted as saying it was a good deal--they could as well get another writing job. Older columnists were understandably torn. (Story at

On the other hand, a local freelance writer took PDX Magazine to court for both late-pay and no-pay. In disregard of their posted submission guidelines, the three-year old magazine apparently has trouble paying its writers within the allotted 30 days. He filed suit in small claims court, the sheriff serving papers to PDX. The paper paid him, but failed to show up for the actual court date--the judge awarded the writer (Michael O'Connor is his name) court fees, ordering the magazine to pay up. (Story at

This brings up two interesting issues over audience and business, and whether Portland can sustain a community of writers and, hence, writing culture:

Newspapers are suffering most of all. Why subscribe to a newspaper and pay when one can just flip on the computer at a coffee shop for free and see the news compressed into bite-size sentences? From my understanding, the current paying audience for The O consists largely of families, generally middle-aged, in the suburbs surrounding Portland rather than Portland itself. A few years back, the paper launched an advertising campaign designed to pull in young, hipster-readers to the fold. I doubt this will work.

For one thing, the new generation is becoming increasingly weaned on technology rather than paper. Librarians find themselves in the same predicament, helping patrons reference online databases rather than printed books. Not to mention that cultural distrust the young feel for all things "establishment," which generally means "conservative." I fear newspapers across the country are facing the same dilemna, and advertising money is following suit, dropping contracts in favor of the Internet--where the real money and culture is.

The other issue is one of youth culture itself. PDX Magazine is hip, glossy, new-fangled. How old publisher Brett Beber is I don't know, but the editor Hollyanna McCollom is young, no older than her 30's, I presume. If this is the case, it appears that the youth culture as a whole in hipster-saturated Portland, Oregon is sweeping in to fill the void and doesn't know what the hell it's doing, or at the very least is sloppy. It's not uncommon for my wife and I to visit a new business and get shoddy service, sub-par goods (whether it be food or otherwise), and in general a kind of half-assed aesthetic based more on style than substance.

As a writer, what am I to do? I continue with The Oregonian but cannot expect to ever work there full-time, it seems. Not when they're willing to buy out people who have worked there for five-and-a-half years rather than thirty. In today's economy, print just isn't where it's at, and the advertising dollars know it.

But working as a freelance writer, then, must involve also looking for new outlets that look suspiciously like PDX Magazine. And if such media doesn't pay on time or at all, then what? What happens to the writers? The information? The readers?

I asked my neighbor, a published-writer many times over, if it was still possible to make a living on writing. She said Yes. There are always editors, she told me, and editors need writers. But whatever leverage is there is tenuous at best, I think. With such finicky readers, it's a matter of finding the outlet readers want, and an editor willing to keep their staff happy and compensated.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Blog Entry for Travel Oregon--Hood River!

I guess I forgot to post this: but here is my third blog for the Travel oregon site. Topic: fruit picking etc. in the fabled Hood River Valley.

New poem at The Pedestal Magazine

My poem "Enlightenment, or Something Close To It" is now up at The Pedestal Magazine, the site new and expanded, refurbished.

There's even a photo, what I call "Self-Portrait with Canned Goods."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Translating Manuel Vilas

With the help of Oregon poet Efraín Díaz-Horna, I have been translating the poetry of award-winning Spanish poet Manuel Vilas.

It is possible that he googles his name and finds me, which would be great because I can't find him. Not by email, at least.

I am working on a portfolio of his work which I hope to send out to journals this fall. Some need permission, some don't. Either way, it occurs to me that once you translate a poem, it no longer belongs to the writer anymore...

Monday, August 18, 2008

I've been reading all my life

Texas, maybe 1973 or 74. Most likely Sears Roebuck & Co.

New poems at Diode

Two poems, "father of no country. I can lie." and "Pilgrim for rain", are now up at diode, and are among many fine poets--even a few from Oregon.

Friday, August 15, 2008

New Poems at Unlikely Stories

Three new poems are now online at Unlikely 2.0, a site which, as I understand it, prefers a particular political edge to it.

Included is "Carver Country" and two of my "Montana poems"--those I wrote in '06 at the Montana Artists Refuge--"Prospects" and "In the Big Sky Country".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Two Paths to Poetry

In preparation for the reading I will host in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 13, I've considered David Biespiel's Oregonian column from Sunday. I'll make reference to it in regards to the poetics of the so-called Post-Avant, and in particular to Zach Schomberg and Emily Frey.

You can link to the archived column here:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Routes to Like When Taking a Hike

My second major travel/outdoor article for The Oregonian is now in print and online at

With color photos by Ian Malakasian and Terry Richard, the story offers descriptions and deirections to Jefferson Park, the Obsidian Trail, Divide Lake, and Cairn Basin.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Oaks Bottom stories in The Bee and at Travel Oregon

My story on birding Oaks Bottom is now out in two versions--the classic "recycling a story" move. The piece is also a profile of Urban Naturalist Mike Houck, who led the fascinating tour through Portland's first urban wildlife refuge.

One version is in print in The Bee, a local Portland newspaper serving seven southeast neighborhoods including mine, Sellwood. For the month of August, the story is online at

Another version is at my Travel Oregon blog, which you can access here:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Adbusters vs. Hipsters

Whether it's ethical or not, Nikolas R. Schiller transcribed this article from Adbusters: Douglas Haddow's "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization". It is short, but sweet; dense like a block of basalt, focused as a laser-beam. In all my years, starting about '91, I've been waiting to see something this concise on my generation.

I had to consider how deeply, too, "hipsterism" has invaded poetry. A few looks at a few online journals will reveal the answer fairly quickly.

Walking to the Post Office today, I drew out a 5-step plan to a better life.

One, determine values. Whether it's family, home, community, the garden, or all of the above, without values everything just seems value-less. And don't let the Republicans appropriate the term "Family Values" anymore. It's a swindle. This is what Albert Schweitzer means when he holds "reverence for life."

Two, once you determine values then you begin to create meaning. I'm feeling I can move beyond Existentialism. Yes, we recognize the Void. Yes, humans are nasty. But if you derive joy from your values (i.e., my wife makes me happy; growing cucumbers makes me happy), I see much in the fact that joy is the meaning of life. Yes, there is also sorrow, but I've come to believe they are, to forgive the cliche, two sides of the coin.

Three, meaning must be maintained, so we have to build--however individual, a coherent philosophy. So we read Aristotle, Montaigne, Confucius, whoever gives us the scaffolding, the language that holds these meanings in place.

Four, what holds the philosophy in place is creativity. Write poems. Paint its landscape. Sing. Knit, farm, have children. And since creativity is not only a gift to the creator, but a gift to others,

Five, we give. And after my service with the AmeriCorps and as a high school teacher, there is an action that derives from our convictions, and it is simply to question ourselves, What do I have to contribute? It doesn't matter if you're a Senator, a gas-pumper, or a kindergarten teacher, you give what you have. Which creates more meaning. Which creates a community of Values.

I keep this is mind when I generalize "Hipster Culture." And it is a generalization, I know. I seek that despair in myself and counteract with, if not "hope," then acceptance. Because the great philosophy I struggle with is Anti-Romantic, anti-Idealist: In accept that people are the way they are, that the world is the way it is. Not to insinuate giving up by any means, or surrendering to fate, but just to wake up every day and say, "Today I will deal with jerks."

Don't we all? Most of all, I have to deal with the biggest asshole I know: myself.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hosting an Upcoming Poetry Reading

I have been invited to host the Vancouver Barnes & Noble monthly Poetry Reading on August 13, 2008. The readers will be Zachary Schomburg and Emily Kendal Frey, both relatively new to Portland, Oregon.

The reading begins at 7 P.M., followed by an open mike for those in attendance.

You can view Zachary's blog at with links to published poems, including some collaborative poems with Emily.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Travel Oregon

I've just begun writing for the Travel Oregon blog, a state-funded site that encourages people--not to mention locals--to vacation in our block of the Pacific Northwest.

My first entry on a day trip to Eugene is now posted at

New poems later this summer

I have had two poems accepted for the 1st anniversary issue of diode in august, '08: "father of no country. I can lie" and "Pilgrim for rain".

Look for them at

And thus I spent at least an hour emailing all these publications, saying "Sorry, but..."

Life of a "poet", I suppose...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Link to Soul Shelter

My friend Steve Kemper sent me to this, his friend Tim Clark's site.

Thinking of quitting your stupid job and working for yourself? Are you a writer like me, who want to take writing seriously?

Read some of these excellent postings: on quitting your teaching job, Cormac McCarthy says "do it because you love it," and more.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You're Getting Warmer: Hot Springs Online

I didn't realize it was there, but my first Oregonian travel story about Oregon hot springs is archived at OregonLive!:

You can also see a few of the fantastic photos of Jamie Francis, staff photographer at the O.

And though I hate to give it away, there are directions...

Poems at Exquisite Corpse and elimae

In a burst, Andrei Codrescu has published ten of my absolute best poems (well, at least I think they are...) online at Exquisite Corpse.

Also, you can see my poem "Theosophy" in the newest elimae.

Later on this summer, poems will appear in In Posse Review...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Poems in the online Alba, and a book review of William Stafford

Two of my poems, "Glass" and "I was preparing for it as if it were something tremendous" are now viewable at Harold Bowes' Alba.

My review of William Stafford's Another World Instead, a collection of poetry from his time as a WWII conscientous objector in the Civilian Public Service is on The Oregonian's blog at


My name is Sean Patrick Hill, and I am a poet, freelance writer, educator, and naturalist living in Portland, Oregon.

Thanks to the wonders of the Blog, I will use this site as a portfolio space and essay collection, with links to sites where my publications appear.

This summer, I have poems appearing in a variety of online journals and travel stories in Portland's Sunday Oregonian.

I am completing a book tentatively titled Taking the Waters, at once a travel narrative, historical document, and cultural study of the Oregon's hot springs.

My Facebook page is at

Welcome to The Imagined Field...and what is this field? More on that as we go...