Author: Splabman

Poet/interviewer Paul Nelson founded SPLAB & the Cascadia Poetry Festival, published: American Sentences (Apprentice House 2015); A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (essay, Lumme Editions, Brazil, 2013). He’s interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Sam Hamill, José Kozer, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Joanne Kyger, George Bowering, Brenda Hillman and Daphne Marlatt, presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Qinghai & Beijing, China, and published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster and Hambone. Awarded The Capilano Review’s 2014 Robin Blaser Award, he writes an American Sentence every day.

Festival Gold Passes Give Big!

Give Big 1For the first year SPLAB is participating in the Seattle Foundation’s Give Big program. The Seattle Foundation was a supporter of SPLAB from back in our Auburn days (1997-2004), and our 2016 goal is modest, $3,500.

We want to guarantee a sold-out house for the 4th Cascadia Poetry Festival in Seattle, November 3-6, at Spring Street Center. We have secured a remarkable lineup: Brenda Hillman, Daphne Marlatt, Colleen McElroy, Sam Hamill, Roger Fernandez, Sarah DeLeeuw, Janie Miller, Peter Munro, Judith Roche, Marilyn Stablein and others in the intimate setting of the Spring Street Center for Mainstage readings, the Living Room democratic reading, panels, workshops and a tribute to Denise Levertov, including a ritual walk to her grave in Lake View Cemetery.

Cascadia Poetry Festival logoOur goal is 100 contributions of at least $35, which will guarantee the giver a Gold Pass to attend all festival events.* Please consider supporting this work via Give Big, as festival tickets will not be available until July 4 and thanks in advance for your support of the work of SPLAB since the founding of the organization in 1993. Other sponsorship levels: $100 – Small Press Sponsorship, $500 – Douglas Fir Sponsor, $1000 – Red Cedar Sponsor.

*Space is limited in the venue, so please arrive early to ensure a good seat.

Give Big 2

Seattle Local Organizing Committee Forming

Subud HouseThe 4th Cascadia Poetry Festival is set for November 3-6, 2016 at Spring Street Center in Seattle. Capacity of the venue is 80 and so Gold Passes will be at a premium. They will go on sale in the next couple of months and will be $35 for every fest event except for workshops, which are to be announced soon.

The Local Organizing Committee will meet Saturday, January 9, 2016, at 1pm. If you are interested in being part of the group that makes this iteration of the fest happen, please get in touch with Festival Founder, Paul Nelson at (206) 422.5002.

Key needs right now are:

Grant Writer/Coordinator
Volunteer Coordinator


Cascadia Maps for Sale

Buy a Cascadia map! Guaranteed to break the ice at parties!

This from Señor Cascadia, David McCloskey:

Metsker MapsAnd another dream come true–proud to announce first wholesale of Cascadia Map to none other than Metsker Maps–downtown– one of my all time favorite map stores and haunts…!
So let folks know–soon Cascadia Maps will be available from one of our region’s true long-time treasures–Metsker Maps of Seattle! Yahoo!
Cascadia Map

George Bowering 2015 Tour

Who's Older?

Who’s Older?

Make It True poet George Bowering has a new website: and will be tour­ing the coun­try in sup­port of the 4 books he’s pub­lish­ing this year — The World, I Guess (poetry), 10 Women (short fic­tion), Writ­ing the Okana­gan (anthol­ogy), and Attack of the Toga Gang (middle-school novel)  — a prodi­gious out­put for a man a quar­ter of his age. – See more at:

GB Ivy ZhangSee also this story about the 14 year old, Ivy Zhang, who saved Bowering’s life. Also:…/vancouver-writer-meets-rescuers… ““It’s no fun getting really old but it’s better than getting really dead,” he said before he left the ceremony, laughing as he did.”


bpNichol Chapbook Finalists

bpNichol ChapbopkMake it True poet Lissa Wolsak is among those shortlisted for the 2015 bpNichol chapbook award. She was nominated for Of Beings Alone: The Eigenface (Nomados Press). From the press release:

TORONTO – October 21, 2015 – The Meet the Presses collective is excited to announce the finalists for the 2015 bpNichol Chapbook Award. The prize, awarded annually since its establishment in 1985, goes to the author of the best poetry chapbook published in Canada in the previous year. It is named in honour of the late poet, novelist, and micropress publisher bpNichol…

Poems from this collection are represented in Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia.

Blaser Display, New Allison Cobb, Georges talk Cascadia

Four Cascadia poetry-related notes today:

  1. Robin Blaser SFUA new exhibit on Robin Blaser has opened at Simon Fraser University. According to the announcement of the display:

    As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration Bennett Library’s Special Collections & Rare Books Division has mounted a display on Blaser’s life and work.  Materials are drawn from the extensive Blaser archive, housed in the Contemporary Literature Collection of Special Collections and Rare Books. The exhibit runs September 10 – October 30.


    2. Allison Cobb PlasticMake It True: Poetry From Cascadia poet Allison Cobb has just released Plastic: An Autobiography. She says: The autobiography of plastic is the autobiography of everything.Because plastic is so ubiquitous, I thought that I could probably uncover a direct link between my body and the plastic inside a dead albatross chick some three thousand miles across the ocean. If I could do that, maybe I could draw the net wider. I could see how wide, how far, how long I could stretch this net connecting my own body to this substance: plastic, which barely existed one hundred years ago and which now is so amorphous, so omnipresent, it seems to disappear if one tries to look directly at it.

    3. Bowering Stanley Cascadia PodcastGeorge Bowering and George Stanley talk Cascadia and the anthology Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia. It happens in the first podcast from New Star Books of Vancouver. More here:



    Jared Leising4. Jared Leising is putting together a MOOC on Innovative Cascadia Poetry. The Make It True poet who also teaches at Cascadia Community College, brought groups of students to two different iterations of the Cascadia Poetry Fest. Working with Seattle Poetics LAB, he’s planning an early 2016 launch for the six week course that will focus on some of the innovations from here. More details soon.

Reflections on Why Maps Matter (by David McCloskey)

Reflections on McCaslin’s Commentary on Cascadia Map: “Why Maps Matter

A lovely meditation… offering an interesting and novel personal “reading” of my new bioregional map from a transcendental perspective.

One might ask at the outset: from what perspective is this map created? And thus, how to attend closely to what the map does, in its own terms?

My intent is to show the natural integrity of the bioregion as a whole.  The goal is to help us discover where we truly are here, together, and show how this world works on many levels together.  And thus, to ground people more deeply in the wider life of the place we call home…. Perhaps we need a guide on “How to Read This Map”!

Susan’s “reading” picks up a subliminal sense of the drama inherent in the graphic image, and reveals an unusual sensitivity to some latent mystical overtones inherent in the map encounter.  Surely something unusual is going on with this map that people intuitively feel, often generating an immediate response—“It’s so beautiful”—that does not require prior belief or ideological assent.  Why else would the good folks at Esri—the leading technical GIS-mapping services company—no sentimentality there!—choose the new Cascadia map as their “Map of the Year”?

So—the interpretive question becomes: well, what  is going on with this map?  What qualities does it exude?

Now, what makes Susan’s “reading” interesting is that it proceeds from a standard Western philosophical perspective (e.g. Idealism/Spirituality, etc.) that was deliberately left behind in the map’s intentionality.  And since we learn so little about what the map specifically shows, it is all the more surprising that this “reading across the grain” offers real insight from a POV opposite to the map itself.

For instance, the commentary notes that one of the key qualities of the map is its “layeredness—geological and ecological features resonating together.”  Then a beautiful line: “For me, David’s map has become an energetic form.”  And that is possible only because I strove very hard to discern, depict, evoke the great dynamics at work in the bioregion on many levels.  It comes thru in the map insofar as its already at play in the place itself!

There are many other important insights herein as well:

Fifth paragraph: “When a person connects vitally to the land….the place opens in an ever-widening series of circles…. Someone so connected may indwell in the land and become inhabited by…. & in this infusion come to feel part of the bioregion.”

Sixth Paragraph: “Moving from a map to embeddedness in a bioregion, continent, and plantetary natural addresses….interconnectedness at successive scales….”

Seventh Paragraph: “ …. take an imaginative leap to becoming present to presence… in the terrain.” And another fine line: “A true map creates a phenomenology of perception” (and vice versa). “A rich map like David’s offers new possibilities of being-in-the-world….”

Real insight!  Which perhaps comes out of the tension between the tacit interpretive frameworks invoked in the opening and closing of this commentary—between Platonic Idealism and Heideggerean “being-in-the-world” (i.e. between Traditional essentialism and modern existential-phenomenology) which are typically incommensurable.  Only an unusually attuned poet and adept thinker

seems capable of joining the two seamlessly….

And so the invitation to poets remains: as in the map,


take on the imagination of the land!

David McCloskey


Why Maps Matter (by Susan McCaslin)

A Matter of Mapping, or Why Maps Matter

by Susan McCaslin

(based on David McCloskey’s map of Cascadia, unveiled at the Cascadia Poetry Festival in Nanaimo, British Columbia, April 30-May 3, 2015)

First off, up to now I haven’t been much of a map person. I’m generally intimidated by maps and can’t figure out how to read them, often holding them upside-down and relying on a GPS. I’ll gladly turn to photos, stories, and even poems when preparing for a trip, leaving the mapping and interpretation of maps to my husband. Woe to us if he asks me to navigate. Unlike me, Mark poured over maps as a teen, dreaming, planning in preparation for extended trips into the wilderness. Maps were and remain for him portals to the natural world he loves. They make possible pre-hensive (reaching out to grasp beforehand) experience of the terrain. 

Yet I’m a poet with a contemplative bent. So, challenged by David, I decided to meditate on his map as one would on a painting, mandala, or icon. What if I could gaze on a map as sacred art, enter it as sacred space? I wanted to engage with the map as conduit. What might go on between my body, mind, soul, and the lines, forms, and colours of the map would surely become a liminal place, a threshold. Transport me, o map!

Plato speaks of the Forms: Beauty, Truth, Goodness. I used to think the philosopher’s Forms were abstractions, but realized when going deeper into Parmenides and the Pythagorean roots of Socrates’ dramaturgy, that the Forms are more like living beings (Gk. Zoes, life forms) that connect us to a more holistic reality. Maps can be complex layerings with biological and geological features demarcated but resonating together.  As Robert Bringhurst pointed out during his talk at the Cascadia Poetry Festival, we could add to maps the layering of languages (especially the indigenous languages that preceded western presence on this continent).  For me, David’s map has become an energetic form, a living blueprint or field evoking the complexity and beauty of our bioregion.

At the conference, B.C. poet Harold Rhenisch presented a compelling account of his zig-zag journey back and forth across the border between Canada and Washington State to explore the Columbia Gorge. For him, the political border between the Canada and the US, an artificial construct, became inconsequential, as it had been to the aboriginal peoples who had roamed freely in this bioregion stretching from northern California to southern Alaska. Harold discovered himself as “trans-national” through his connection to the particularities of place within a wider ecology. He related how the border guards were suspicious of a guy wandering back and forth across a well-monitored post-911 border. Was he a drug dealer, a potential terrorist?  No, just a seeker, an explorer, a lover of rivers, petroglyphs, waterfalls that claimed him. A poet.

My map meditations proceeded. When a person connects vitally to the land through the portal of a map, that that place may open to an ever-widening set of interrelated circles. Someone so connected may come to indwell the land and be inhabited by particular birds, animals, sounds, winds, weathers. Someone so infused, starts to feel part and parcel of the bioregion. We are all essentially connected to the earth, but most of us don’t live that intimacy very deeply. At this time, it has become more and more apparent that we are plundering and destroying the very ecosystems that support us.

By moving from map to a feeling of embeddedness in a bioregion, we may access the interconnected circles of the local, continental, global and planetary ecosystems. “Systems” is perhaps too mechanistic a word for the process of waking up inside Gaia, sentient earth-consciousness. Someone who experiences a particular ecosystem in this way, might just momentarily feel all the eyes of the spheres looking through her body, her eyes. This is what the ancients called the realm of the cosmological as it ties to the particular. So maps have the potential to move us from microcosm to macrocosm and back. A dance. We too are mapa mundis, smaller maps of the world.

By gazing at a well-wrought map we have the opportunity to take an imaginative leap from looking as from outside (apparent objectivity) to being present in the terrain. A true map creates a phenomenology of perception. A rich map like David’s offers new possibilities of being-in-the world, breathing what you first only conceptualized and considered separate. Being present in this way helps us progress from bioregional, to planetary, to cosmic consciousness. Sounds abstract but it’s not. 

Maps can be reminders that we are meant to be at home where we are. Like a good poem, a good map like David’s participates in the reality to which it points.