Two Poets Talking

One of my favorite poets, David Budbill has been dealing with rapidly declining health lately and while the conversations I’ve had with him over the years have been marked by a striking optimism, the challenges of being a writer who is losing the physical ability to write are becoming too much for even the most optimistic and zen of mountain recluse poets.   Here’s a recent conversation between Budbill and longtime friend, David French.  HIt the link for the full conversation,

David French’s questions and comments are in italics. Unless otherwise indicated, all the poems are David Budbill’s.

But let’s talk about whats happening in your life right now.

The major thing that I’m dealing with is my Parkinson’s disease, my rare form of Parkinson’s disease. It has incapacitated me and made me incapable of all the things I used to love to do: I would cut wood and garden and mow, and I can’t do any of those anymore. So I’ve had to revise my life completely. So far I haven’t revised my life; I’ve just cancelled it, dropped out.

Now that’s not entirely true, because before I dropped out, I was able to finish a novel and a short story and a collection of poems, and they’re all coming out in the next year. So I did that before I cancelled my life.

The last time I was here, you said all this happened a year ago, when you moved to Montpelier.


Up until then, you’d still been working on your novel and your stories and your poem.

I suppose, yeah.

There recently was a song cycle of your poems at the Elley-Long Music Center. One song was about doing things for the last time. It was beautiful, but with an ache to it. You must have done a lot of that leaving Wolcott, walking around, looking around, knowing that was the last time you’d cut this wood or stack it or put it in the stove.

It was. Yeah, it was heartbreaking, because that was my identity, and now it’s no longer that. Which is no doubt one of the reasons I’m in limbo now.

So you’re not writing now.

No, I’m not.

You’re not making music.


Another theme that keeps coming up in your poetry, sometimes in very funny ways, is the lament over not having been a major voice in the poetry world. You wrote about the life of “genteel poverty and meditation” you lead:

…which gives me lots of time

to gnash my teeth and worry over

how I want to be known and read

by everyone and have admirers

everywhere and lots of money!

Is that something you would still write a poem about at this point, or is that an old theme that isn’t something you think about anymore?

I certainly think about it.

You still do?


You would like to be higher on whatever the poetry best-seller list is?


And have more money from it, recognition.

Yeah. Of course, who wouldn’t?

You’ve written:

When I came to Judevine Mountain

I thought

all my troubles would cease,

but I brought… my ambition –

so now, still,

all I know is grief.

Well, that’s true. I have this thing about ambition. I can’t live with it, and I can’t live without it.



Writers’ Showcase

Excited for the opportunity to have the talented Clint Farr tackle my obsessive wood-stove rant poem this week on Writers’ Showcase. The event was recorded live for television and will be broadcast on 360 North on Thursday 3/31/16 at 8pm AKDT.  The archive is now also available (YouTube and the Writers’ Showcase site).  My segment (read by Clint Farr) begins around the 19 minute mark.


Jazz World | KRNN-Juneau

Saturday night sit-in at the station, amazing that I’ve somehow managed to stay away from sharing deep-bottomed jazz with the world so long, so selfish, so typical of people like me and this abstract, driven music, pulsing, this music.


  1. Desu (a slight return), Charlie Hunter, Charlie Hunter
  2. Hottentot, John Scofield + MMW, A Go Go
  3. Mis Does Pequenas, Orlanda Cachiato Lopez, Cachiato
  4. A Gozar el Tumbao, “”, “”


  1. Freereggaehibop, James Carter, Conersin’ with the Elders
  2. Over and Out, Sex Mob, Sex Mob does Bond
  3. On The Surface, Bettye LaVette, I’ve Got my own Hell to Raise
  4. Take a picture of the moon, The Ladybugs, The Ladybugs
  5. My Favorite Things, Joey Alexander, My Favorite Things
  6. Nardis, Bill Evans Trio, Live in Paris 1966


  1. No Ke Ano Ahiahi, MMW, Combustication
  2. Hypnotized (fade out) , “”, “”
  3. In the Sweet Embrace of Life, Wynton Marsalis Septet,  Live at the Village Vanguard
  4. Come Rain or Shine, Ray Charles and his Orchestra, Europa Jazz Compelation fet. Memphis Slim, Joe Turner, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles
  5. Run, Charlie Hunter Quartet fet Kurt Elling on sax, Songs from the Analog Playground
  6. Where’s sly, MMW, Last Chance to Dance Trance


  1. LLe lfe, Philadelphia Experiment, Philadelphia Experiment
  2. Trouble Man Theme, “”, “”
  3. Sleep to Dream, Bettye Lavette, I’ve got my own  hell to raise

Did I mention…

…that I started an MFA program in May of 2015?  I’m finding it quite amazing that I’ve not posted since October 2015 despite a very productive writing period.  Glad to be working through draft after draft with the talented and generous Zack Rogow.  He’s so generous he’s giving away his sage advice on his blog.

So for the sake of bringing some recent work into the light, here’s one from the fall that’s nearing completion.


Nevermind the stillness— / the deep sleeps to awake.
–Nazim Hikmet from “The Epic of Sheik Bedreddin”

To get out
of the deep, first
go down

work that furious club-tail
through tunnel twists,
down, then up, then out.

Out of the deep-den,
beaver through waking,
through mist music,
light deep like black spruce
down at roots but rising.

Brittle sap floored-forest,
so many needles dropping,
daylight falling but trapped
in drooping night-net.

Rise, emerge,
outside den
and water warp, sight
swarms as translucent eyelids lift
forest and fractured light
come into focus.

Swim beaver, wet still,
become day, walk now,
spit spruce sap, build.

Read Local | An Alaska Book Week Celebration 10/10 @ Coppa

Excited to be working with the Alaska Center for the Book and to take part in the Alaska Book Week Celebration with an event here in Juneau.  Ernestine even asked if I planned on reading, I better get some poems revised.  Hope to see some familiar faces.   Download a flyer to post around town anywhere I missed.  AlaskaBookWeek_final2015

Read Local | An Alaska Book Week Celebration  
October 10, 2015 | 7:00-9:00 PM | Coppa (917 Glacier Avenue)

Join us for a celebration of Alaska’s books and authors plus an exciting announcement!

  • A reception for Ernestine Hayes, author Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir the 2015-16 UAS One Campus, One Book selection.
  • Author readings by Ernestine Hayes (Blonde Indian), Carrie Enge (Crab Bait), Aleria Jensen (A Soldier’s Station, 2015 Poems in Place Selection) and Joan Kane* (Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, Hyperboreal)
  • Special announcement by Alaska Writer Laureate- Frank Soos, of the title of the book for the upcoming statewide reading program, Alaska Reads.
  • Coffee and ice-cream available for purchase.
  • Sponsored by UAS One Campus One Book, 49 Writers, Alaska Center for the Book, Alaska State Library, Anchorage Public Library, the Alaska Quarterly Review.  
  • * Kane and Soos will participate via Google Hangouts.

More info at

Facebook Event page:

Author Bios:

Ernestine Hayes was born to the Wolf House, Tlingit Kaagwaantaan clan in Alaska at the end of World War II. In Blonde Indian, an Alaska Native Memoir, she weaves reminiscences of her life, stories from her grandmother, Tlingit history, nature writing, and fiction into a testament of the twentieth-century Alaska Native experience and a love song to the land.

In 2007, Blonde Indian received an American Book Award and Honoring Alaska Indigenous Literature award, was named October 2006 Native America Calling Book of the Month, was a finalist for the 2007 Kiriyama Prize and the 2007 PEN Non-fiction Award and is the 2015-16 UAS One Campus, One Book selection.  She received her MFA in creative writing and literary arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage and is currently Assistant Professor of English at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.

Carrie Enge has taught English for the last forty years, first in Petersburg, Alaska and later at University of Alaska Southeast. She received her masters in creative writing from University of Alaska limited residency program. Miss Howe, her third grade teacher, told Carrie she should be an author, but it took 60 years to implement the plan. Besides teaching and writing, Carrie has commercial fished, squeezed herring, coached debate, pulled a lot of weeds, and raised two lovely daughters.

Aleria Jensen’s poems and essays have appeared in Orion Magazine, Potomac Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Tidal Echoes, Camas, Sea Stories, and the 49 Writers Blog.    She has work included in the collection Wildbranch: An Anthology of Nature, Environmental, and Place-Based Writing, released in October 2010 by the University of Utah Press. In 2015 her poem, “Soldier’s Station” was selected by The Poems in Place Project of the Alaska Center for the Book for placement at Caines Head State Recreation Area near Seward, AK.  She lives in Juneau, Alaska with her partner, six year old son and three year old daughter.

Frank Soos has published two works of fiction: Early Yet, and Unified Field Theory, the 1997 winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and one book of essays, Bamboo Fly Rod Suite. The recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alaska State Council on the arts, he is professor emeritus of English at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  In 2009 he published, Double Moon: Constructions and Conversations with visual artist Margo Klass. Klass and Soos began their collaboration in 2002. They make their home in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Joan Naviyuk Kane is the author of The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife and Hyperboreal. She has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, the USA Projects Creative Vision Award, an American Book Award, the Alaska Literary Award, and fellowships from the Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska State Council on the Arts, Alaska Arts and Cultures Foundation, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and the School for Advanced Research.

Kane graduated from Harvard College, where she was a Harvard National Scholar, and Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where she was the recipient of a graduate Writing Fellowship. Inupiaq with family from King Island and Mary’s Igloo, she raises her children in Anchorage, Alaska, and is a faculty mentor with the low-residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Poems wanted for Poetry OmniBus Competition


The ninth annual Poetry Omnibus program is now accepting entries from Juneau residents for the 2015 competition. Winning poems will be read at a to-be-announced celebration and then displayed on Capital Transit buses for a full year.

The deadline for submissions is October 15. There are two age categories: fifth through twelfth grades and adults over 18 years old. Poems can be on any subject, but must be suitable for public display and not exceed ten lines. One poem may be submitted for free and additional poems may be submitted for $3 each. Entry forms, which contain complete rules and instructions for submitting, are available at local public libraries, the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, and the Canvas Community Art Studio.

Questions may be directed to