Spring 2019



Nathaniel Youmans, Editor
Class of 2020


Some of us may be experiencing the early onset of spring, with windows open and a sixty-degree breeze slinking by, while some of us are still beset by feet of snow, subzero temperatures, and roads covered with the orange stain of magnesium chloride deicer. Looking south from a large window in my house out upon a frozen lake covered with drifting snow, I see little stirring except a biting wind and the young deer in my yard eating the artichoke leaves I left out for her in a bucket last night. Wherever this dispatch finds you, I am excited to present this issue of Soundings, not only in continuous celebration of RWW’s fifteen years of operation, but also because of both the imminence of AWP in Portland in a few short weeks and the volume of outrageous recent accomplishments by the RWW community. The latter includes two Oregon Book Award nominations, a Wabash Prize for Nonfiction, multiple Pushcart nominations and prizes, two NEA Fellowships in poetry, and several upcoming AWP panels, among others.

Our featured collaborative article by Wendy Willis (RWW Class of 2013) and her spouse, faculty member David Biespiel, discusses living a literary partnership with one another; they remind us, as writers and citizens, parents, artists and animals, to seek stillness with as much ritual openness as we do stimulation and exchange. To nurture the ways we write “not on, but from the back of each other’s interior experiences.” Their article also puts us in mind, of course, of the parents of this MFA program, Judith Kitchen and Stan Rubin, a staggering literary partnership in their own right and the progenitors of the vast literary community the RWW enjoys today.

Seeking the contemplative stillness in the midst of disruption is also a ready theme in Sarah Pape’s essay. Sarah discusses the process of writing her recently published New York Times op-ed about the Camp Fire that ravaged Paradise and other California communities and the emergency responses that ensued. As she describes so deftly, although writing is more often than not an exercise in the de facto tinkering of experience, it, too, falls on us, as gatekeepers of words, to articulate the immediate process, sometimes fragmentary, sometimes unforeseeably salvific, of the ways we gather as community.

Additionally, Contributing Writer Hannah Comerford offers many useful tips for establishing an online presence, from design specs to smart ongoing website maintenance. Whether your blog pats its fat belly or languishes with lonely pixelated cobwebs, we can all take Hannah’s advice to heart. This article was inspired by the class Building Your Website: A Writer’s Guide to Creating a Powerful Presence Online, offered at the last residency by Hannah and Soundings designer and digital mastermind, Garrett Brooks. Presentation slides and handout materials from this class can be found here.

As always, we celebrate publications, announcements, opportunities, and literary citizenship at the end of the issue. Finally, we take a moment to honor the passing of Boyd Benson, a 2007 graduate of RWW and an accomplished writer. May he rest in peace and his loved ones be nourished by his memory.

With the AWP conference so soon upon us in Portland, Oregon, it is my pleasure to offer you this kinetically charged issue of Soundings. Let us continue to celebrate the vitality and diverse range of accomplishments among the Rainier Writing Workshop community. Hope to see many of you in two weeks.