Today is Under Construction

Built of timber over the years from 1601 to 1626 as a residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns, the Nijo Castle in Kyoto is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site. I walk in the July heat toward the building’s large winged roof with my daughter Emily, one of her graduate students Laurie, and my eldest … Continue reading

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The Flower That Splits the Rock

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant by Emily Dickinson Tell all the truth but tell it slant— Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth’s superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind— Sometimes, we fear … Continue reading

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Trusting Scrappiness

I have been reading Sebastian Matthews’ book, In My Father’s Footsteps: A Memoir, about growing up the son of the late poet William Matthews. I was fortunate to have William Matthews as my thesis advisor at the University of Washington. Years after my graduation from the program in creative writing, I edited a book about … Continue reading

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As the Dark Days Move into Light

In October, my publisher’s essay spoke about the way I wrote and read poetry to help me after losing my 25-year-old son Seth in a snowboarding accident on December 27, 2000: When I finished one particular poem, I saw that not only did I hurt from profound helplessness to keep Seth from dying, I also … Continue reading

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Thoughts Upon the Birthday of My Son Seth, 1975-2000

My son Seth Bender, to whom Writing It Real is dedicated, would have turned 31 this October 1. He died in a snowboarding accident December 27, 2000, the year he was 25. In the months following the tragedy, the only connection I could feel strongly was to the sun. Certainly, it could have been because … Continue reading

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Digesting World News August, 2006

Every time I open Yahoo on my computer, I look at the upper right-hand corner of the screen to type in what I am searching for and avoid looking at the left-hand area with its news images of death and destruction. When I listen to radio news or watch news on television, I feel too … Continue reading

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You are My Heroes

It isn’t an easy path to write from personal experience. There are no guarantees that editors will want to publish what we have to say and no guarantees that we will successfully find a way to say it, publication or not.  What is guaranteed is that committing words to the page and revising our writing … Continue reading

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Writing is Like Junking

During the winter holidays and New Year’s season, I usually search my files for writing I’ve done on previous holiday seasons, just to see what I was thinking in other years. Looking through my files this past week, I became interested in writing I did a decade ago, when I was exchanging letters with Christi … Continue reading

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A Note to Students of Writing

I once created a daily writing exercise for myself by opening the dictionary to random pages and, eyes closed, circling my finger until it landed on a word.  “This is something like throwing the I Ching,” I thought.  I read the definitions of the words my fingers landed on and wrote the words at the … Continue reading

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Near the Light

We benefit from writing about how something important to us became a passion. Reliving the decisions leading up to reshaping our lives around our passions and reflecting on how our efforts changed us, we learn more about our journeys.  When we read accounts of others following their dreams, we experience the exhilaration of overcoming obstacles … Continue reading

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Try Your Hand at Fiction

Summers in Port Townsend, WA, an arts organization called Centrum hosts a ten-day writers conference.  It is a sensational time, with nationally known poets and writers teaching participants who are serious about writing. Highlights include craft lectures and readings in a small auditorium across from tennis courts at the State Park entrance.  Almost twenty-five years … Continue reading

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The Holiness of the Heart’s Affections

I recently came across the following quote from German philosopher Karl Jaspers whose work influenced theology and psychology: Truth, he wrote,  “only appears in time as a reality-through-communication. Abstracted from communication, truth hardens into an unreality.” For those of us who write from personal experience this means that our words supply the necessary blood, tissues, … Continue reading

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Behind the Scenes

This essay first appeared in slightly different form in The Diarist’s Journal, Volume II, Issue #2 The first week of my first graduate poetry-writing workshop at the University of Washington, our teacher William Matthews came to class in paint-stained clothes.  A new arrival at the University, he was just moving into his house on Seattle’s … Continue reading

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