Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Oh, Mighty Tieton

In the most recent PoetsWest special announcements message, I saw this:

POETS OF WASHINGTON, UNITE! Tieton Arts & Humanities announces LitFuse 2007: A Poet's Workshop. This 2-day workshop to be held November 3-4 in Tieton, WA (15 minutes west of Yakima), features hands-on letterpress printing opportunities, Susan Rich (winner of the PEN/USA Poetry Award and Peace Corps Writers' Award, among others), Kathleen Flenniken (winner of the Prairie Schooner Book award), a special narrated screening of Voices in Wartime, which looks at the experience of war through poetry, walking meditation, open mike reading, Cody Walker & Paul Nelson's astonishing teaching, and a murder of your fellow poets itching to channel the MUSE. All in a hilltop rural setting guaranteed to inspire. Check it out at to register, or email for more information.

I was downright giddy—a poetry workshop in Tieton?

My mom grew up in Tieton, which is about 12 miles west of Yakima, and my grandfather was born there. I've been traveling across the mountains to visit my grandparents there since I was about six months old.

That direction I mentioned the other day is all about Tieton!

I promptly sent in my check. I am so excited!

In the meantime, here is a Tieton poem:

Over the Umptanum

Always the dawn wind rustles the largeness
awake and fidgets in the chimes.

Dry hills dust an old woman’s blood
the way sap sweetens apples,
gray barns house the devils of starlings
and barbwire blends in the hardpan.
Rusty steel laces the desert tight as water
the years it didn’t come.

She has learned the deeper needs of thirst,
sent roots in search of sustenance
and watched the gruff limbs of apples
grow up around her
through seasons of frost
and blood-orange harvest moon.
She has stayed here,
steady as the skins a snake will shed each summer.

The road sidles toward Naches,
slides through the valley
and up over the Umptanum.
Ridges sweep, sharp against the sky.
She feels the wide light on her shoulders,
smells sagebrush when she closes her eyes.

Reprinted from Weathered Steps.

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