Kerry Ruef


Poetry, “Planet Hand,” and The Private Eye

On a hot summer day many years ago, I’d been thinking about the enormous power of the metaphor mind, the mind that sees the world through the lens and network of analogy. The doors of my studio were open and bees sometimes swept in and began banging their heads against the skylight. The bamboo outside was rustling like taffeta skirts and it was an altogether lovely day to be thinking.

 I glanced, by chance, at my bookshelves and saw an eye loupe sitting there, next to the clay alligator. (An eye loupe — or jeweler’s loupe — is a magnification tool that looks like a tiny top hat. You hold it so the flared end cups one of your eyes, while an object of study is held about two inches away.) A friend, the architect Fred Bassetti, had given it to me. He’d shown me seedpods that he kept in a box. Strange and exotic seed pods from Africa and Latin America. He’d drawn lessons for architecture from those pods.

 I picked up the loupe and wondered. Everything has an unlocked secret. What was the secret of the loupe? I’d been a classroom teacher in San Diego, but in Seattle I’d thrown myself into “the writing life”. Both worlds ticked like dueling, sometimes rhyming, clocks inside me. What secret did the loupe hold that perhaps kids, or even adults, could use?

 I had nothing exotic to explore, so I looked at the closest thing: my hand. It was like another planet… dry as a desert, folded and rumpled like the earth seen from an airplane. It was like a quilt and reminded me of chicken tracks in the mud and of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome and the lines made me think of expansion joints in the facades of buildings. I had really never seen my hand before! Since I was in the habit of writing poetry, a poem about my hand bubbled up. It was so easy and so much fun. But what was the question that drove the lines of my poem? Ah. “What else does it remind me of? What else does it look like? What else? What else? What else?” With the loupe and that first question, kids could generate all sorts of writing! Then I went outside. I slid down the throat of a foxglove, traipsed across a furry leaf, and took a walk on the back of a beetle. Poems came tumbling out, but also scientific questions and mathematical inquiries. I practiced drawing a flower through a loupe.

 That afternoon The Private Eye program was born.

 The Private Eye Project, originally grant-funded and piloted in the Seattle Public Schools, has grown into a national program. It brings out the poet, scientist, and artist in anyone. With the help of the loupe — which smashes stereotypes — and four simple questions, students and adults easily generate “the bones-for-poems”, the bones for stories, essays, reflections, then move into hypothesizing, theorizing, inventing, designing.

 Here’s an example of a child’s poem using the process:

My Hand

I sat on a brown miniature rock
Looking at all the big rocks above me
I looked farther out
I saw the cracks that ruined the light skinned road
As they dried up, weeds blew along with short scars
The blue waters made continuous ripples

Natasha, 6th grade, Mercer Middle School, Seattle Public Schools

For 25 years now, kids and adults have been using The Private Eye approach to write, draw and theorize across subjects. What’s the larger purpose? It’s to build the habits of mind of writer, artist and scientist — in one fluid motion.


 NOTE: Some elements of the above article are adapted from the introduction to The Private Eye — (5X) Looking / Thinking by Analogy: A Guide to Developing the Interdisciplinary Mind, by Kerry Ruef (The Private Eye Project, 1992, 1998, 2003).


Kerry Ruef is founder and director of The Private Eye Project, a hands-on program to spark creativity and critical thinking that fuses poetry, science, and art, K-16 through life. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, in 1979, on a year-long writer-in-residency with the Seattle Arts Commission, Kerry created “The Floating Poetry Gallery”, one of the first efforts nationwide to bring poetry into public places. Artists created works based on juried poetry integrated into the art. The results rotated through Seattle public buildings. Kerry’s poems and essays have appeared in Harpur Palate, Prism Review, Whole Terrain, and other literary journals. She won the Prism Review Poetry prize and was a finalist for the Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Prize (Harpur Palate), the New Letters’, and the Third Coast poetry prize.  She lives in Lyle, Washington.

Julene Tripp Weaver

Face to Face with Audre Lorde


……..What is it you want? She asks. She
looks at me across her desk, her dark brown eyes
deep set. I st, stam, stamm….mmer and pout—
she, so full of powerful words—what do I want
but a life of meaning and telling.

……..I don’t know, honest my answer. She tells me,
go jogging, do something, anything, to move into yourself.
I know there is no perfect answer, no plan, to make life
come together well. The masters lived, went jogging even,
stumbled poorly city to city, traveled wide breached plains
to get where they’ve been.

……..Audre crosses her desk and hugs me. But,
the best thing she ever did? Throw that poem back at me,
ask, How old are you? Cowering in my chair I stammer,
Thirty-two. In her booming voice she declares,
Thirty-two, you have more experience in life than this—rewrite,
she throws back my measly attempt at a poem. Huh!?
The word inscribed.

……..Cold honest mother love. Her quest—How
does it make you feel? The response she demands
to every poem. My shock to feel! Long history of denial
suppressed grief my main reason to write—move this grief
from the deep down stuck place it hides in an inner
box wrapped, hidden even from myself. Her tough words
push all of us, I will not be here someday, you must learn
to carry on without me.

…………….Thank you for your push. The grains of sand
in my underwear uncomfortable and humbling to shake out
in front of you. All my excellent mistakes. This gratitude
comes deep from the yet closed boxes wanting and afraid.
Sharp-leaved grasses cut, the words said to me by Audre
shearing open the boxes. Her questions echo, strong internal
probes, the way I’ve learned to gauge my life.


“Face to Face with Audre Lorde” is reprinted from The Arabesques Review.


Julene Tripp Weaver has a private counseling practice in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle. Her book, No Father Can Save Her was published by Plain View Press. She is widely published in journals, and anthologies, a few include Qarrtsiluni, Drash, Menacing Hedge, Gutter Eloquence, Redheaded Stepchild, and Pilgrimage; her work is included in Garrison Keillor’s collection, Good Poems American Places. Her chapbook, Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues, contains writing from her work through the heart of the AIDS epidemic. She sometimes does wordplay on Twitter @trippweavepoet and has a website:


Sharon Cumberland



When he arrived in September he could say “hello”
and smile with eyes one might have seen
in a caravanserai a thousand years ago.
He would leave his shoes outside his bedroom
door, wear perfume in his hair, excuse himself
from the table to pray on a carpet on the floor,
guided by his compass and a yellow schedule.
I taught him how to grill a cheese sandwich,
boil pasta, fry an egg, so he could feed himself
when I was at work. His mothers and sisters
had fed him in Jiddah, and washed his clothes,
so I showed him how to do laundry, empty the trash,
sew on a button. His buddies came over
to practice English, smoke sheeshas—apple
tobacco flavoring the air. Their mothers
sent them spices and recipes for kapsah;
I showed them how to thaw the chicken,
steam the rice. He called me his American mother,
because there is no word in Arabic for a single woman
who owns a home, or drives a car to teach
at a university. His four mothers sent him sugar dates,
almonds and green coffee. They sent me a pound
of saffron. At Christmas I gave him a snow globe
of Santa Claus. He asked to come to church with me,
but lost his courage. He went home at Easter,
returned with a pink hajalib for me, his third mother
proud to have found a dress large enough
to fit such a big American woman.


“To the Saudi Student Who Left his Prayer Schedule Behind” is forthcoming in Strange with Age (Black Heron Press, 2014).


Sharon Cumberland has been writing poetry since 1983, and has published in a wide variety of magazines and journals, including Ploughshares,The Iowa Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kalliope and Verse. Her first full-length collection is Peculiar Honors (Black Heron Press, 2011). Her second collection, Strange with Age, is forthcoming from Black Heron in 2014. After a career in New York as an arts manager, working for the Lincoln Center Theater Company and the Metropolitan Opera, she earned a Ph.D. in English from the City University of New York. She is now an Assistant Professor of American Literature and Poetry at Seattle University.

Library Club

by Craig Seasholes, Librarian at Sanislo Elementary in West Seattle


Cynta-Liyah has the touch.

Last year, early in second grade, Cynta-Liyah started stoppin’ by the library as others headed to the playground. She’d ask if this was a time she could stay inside to write a poem.

15 minutes later, as other kids were streaming in from recess, she’d quietly hand me a short piece she’d written.  Just picked. Fresh. Ready to be added to our poetry anthology. She’d smile, then slip ’round the corner and back to class for the final hour of the day.

Remarkable. And that was before she started bringing in the boys.

Boys whose names were heard as teachers raised their voices “Cut-that out-and-stoppit-NOW” levels. Boys who tied teachers in knots of frustration and sent them over the line and down the hall to the principal’s office. Boys who would look up from the chair outside the principal’s office while classmates went out to lunch recess and their teachers headed to the lounge to flush their frustrations with “I can’t believe he did it again” conversations over lunch.

But later at the start of our  short afternoon recess,  I’d see these boys with Cynta-Liyah. Coming into the library for recess, asking for permission to write another poem.  “Please?”  She’d plead, “He’s my cousin,” or “He wants to try.”  “OK?”

That’s how our Poetry Club began.
Cynta-Liyah taking boys under her wing.
Working together on a little poem.
Finding something good inside; going and growing from there.

This year other second graders saw what was happening and asked to stay in, too. Our poetry club was formally announced. Girls writing friendship poems to one another. Others began writing love notes, birthday wishes, Valentines and “things I love”  lists that capture perfectly their precious aspirations and emotions, preserved on paper against the amnesia of adolescence yet to come.

April arrived bringing National Poetry Month and Elliott Bay Books offered an opportunity for our poetry club to recite a few “Poems to Learn By Heart” for Caroline Kennedy’s public appearance in Seattle.  I spotted Janet Wong’s “Liberty” as a perfect group recitation, following the cadence and updating the sentiments of The Pledge of Allegience we recite at the start of each school day.

I pledge acceptence of the views
So different that make us America.
To listen, to look
To think and to learn.

One people, sharing the earth
For liberty and justice for all.

Our poetry club kids took to it immediately, their faces and names reflecting beautifully the sentiments of the poem: Wang, Vu, Nguyen, Martinez.

I also spotted this as an opportunity for special students to shine before a large public audience. It was easy to choose two by Langston Hughes, including “The Dreamkeeper” for Quinton:

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

and “Dream Variations” for Cynta-Liyah:

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

A week before the event, I was informed that Ms Kennedy would like to visit our school, to bring media attention to the role of school libraries and to meet our student poets. Ms. Tsuboi’s first grade class came into the library with their classroom poetry notebooks in hand, and read several poems.

Then the poetry club kids came in, with “Liberty” followed by Quinton and Cynta-Liyah sparkling with irrepressible joy.

And when Caroline Kennedy asked, “Why do you like the library?” it was Quinton who busted out with the quotable quote, “I like the library because there is never someone mad here. Books make people happy!”

Photo Credit:  David Rosen, West Seattle Herald

Poetry Out Loud

ArtsWA joins other state arts agencies in partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation to support Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation competition that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. By participating in the program, students also master public speaking skills and build self confidence. Each state hosts a competition annually, culminating in a national competition among the state winners.

Langston Ward of Mead High School, in Spokane, won the Washington State Poetry Out Loud finals on March 9 and has moved on to the national finals this coming Monday and Tuesday, April 29 and 30, in Washington D.C.  He will recite “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee, “The Bad Old Days” by Kenneth Rexroth, and “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Walt Whitman. Watch a video of Langston’s performance of the Whitman poem below.  This is the second state championship for Ward, who represented Washington state in the 2012 national finals. He placed in the top nine students nationally last year.


Langston Ward recites  “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Walt Whitman:


More than 23,000 students from 76 schools in Washington state participated in Poetry Out Loud this year. Following classroom-level and then school-wide competitions, top students from the schools continued on to one of seven regional finals, held in Northwest Washington, Southwest Washington, Central Washington, Eastern Washington, Southeast Washington, and the Puget Sound region.Thirteen students advanced to the state finals, which took place Saturday, March 9, at Theatre on the Square, in Tacoma. Through three rounds of poetry recitations the students performed works selected from an
anthology of more than 600 classic and contemporary poems. Participantswere judged by a panel of experts in poetry and performance. The panelists scored each student based on presence, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding, accuracy, and other criteria.
Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the Washington State Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Poetry Foundation. This is the eighth year that high school students in Washington state took part in Poetry Out Loud, a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry. This year, the Poetry Out Loud National Finals will award a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the National Champion.

(from the press release from ArtsWA)

Poetry Out Loud goes multimedia with a live webcast and viewing parties

You can watch the entire semifinals and finals through a live, one-time only webcast at Or make plans now to gather fellow poetry fans and host a Poetry Out Loud Webcast Viewing PartyRegister here and find tips on hosting your party, promotional materials, and details on other viewing parties around the country.

The NEA is taking Poetry Out Loud online on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POL13. For more information on the event, webcast, or viewing parties, visit or call 202-682-5606.

Good Luck, Langston!


Raymond Carver’s 75th Birthday Event


A downloadable poster for you to help publicize your Roethke/Carver event



The Raymond Carver Festival will be celebrating the legendary author and poet’s 75th birthday in a series of events this spring in Port Angeles.  You are invited to take part in your own community with programs for adults and children, schools, civic organizations, and libraries.

Please note the “Carver/Roethke” button that has been added to The Far Field banner, above.  There you will find resources to help you create a program around the poems of Washington’s own Raymond Carver, along with Theodore Roethke.  Poet Tess Gallagher (Carver’s widow and a student of Roethke) and poet Alice Derry have secured permissions for poems  by Carver and Roethke that you may download for reading, recitation, and discussion, and have designed lesson plans for high school students and elementary students.  There is even a beautiful poster that you can download to help you publicize your event.

Please help us spread the word about this marvelous opportunity!

A High School Poetry Experiment

Creative Writing Class/Photography Class Exchange: A New Source of Inspiration
by Jim Deatherage


During my 42 years of teaching secondary English, 36 years at Richland High School, one of the most rewarding activities resulted when I paired my Creative Writing class with the Photography teacher’s class.  Students and teachers alike grew from the experience.

When I first approached the Photography teacher with my idea of collaboration, he was at first reticent, but quickly warmed to the idea.  It was simple.  I had a three-phase plan for our students.  Phase one: his photography students would take a picture of their choosing and my Creative Writing class would write a poem that captured for them the photo’s point or essence.  Phase two: my writers would write a poem and have the photography students take a picture that resulted from their reading and analysis of the poem.  Phase three:  Students who had not had the option of connecting with the other paired student prior to the group presentation were encouraged to work together…jointly choosing a topic for a poem and/or an idea for a photo.  After each of these phases/exercises, our classes would meet together in the library and a picture would be projected on the screen after the poem was read or vice versa.  In both cases, both writer and photographer would then have an opportunity to share their ‘creative/artistic’ intent and react to the other’s interpretation.

The time frame for these was basically seven to ten school days, during which students also worked on other class projects.  Specific due dates helped keep students working.  Poems had to be written, edited, and polished and the photos had to be taken and printed.  The photography teacher had all photos on a disc for viewing during the presentations.

Each presentation was brief…maybe five to seven minutes in length.  The picture was shown, the poem read or reversed.  After this there was a time for sharing by the artists.  Students were keenly interested in how their work was interpreted and were equally anxious to share their original intent.


  1.  No contact between writer and photographer until after their presentations.
  2. Students are paired randomly by lottery/drawing.
  3. Specific instructions are given and due dates firmly established…this aided both teachers in motivating their students to complete the work and to take more pride in their work as it would be shared with all the students involved in the project.
  4. This provided a unique and much desired expansion of real audience for both groups of students.  Hard copies of the photos and copies of the poems were paired for display in the library and several hallways, enabling other students to see the work done by their peers.  Again, another ‘reason to do well.’  (So well in fact, that several photos and poems were stolen.)
  5. The teachers modeled the process in advance.  The example below is the result of Phase one, where the Creative Writing teacher received a picture and wrote a poem.  We were bound by the same rules as the students.  This proved very powerful as the teachers were able to share their own frustrations in completing their part of the project to their satisfaction.  I often shared my struggles with my class, soliciting student opinions on the many subtleties of writing my poem.  Likewise, the Photography teacher experienced a unique sharing with his class regarding the varied aspects of photography.  This sharing creating a equaling  of sorts that encouraged student growth in both classes.
  6. These high school students were mostly seniors, although a few juniors were also involved.  We did the project with the classes we had during the same period of the day.
  7. A really special aspect that resulted from the project for writers was their increased  intensity in peer editing.  The photography students actively pursued their teacher’s expertise regarding advanced techniques to compose the ‘perfect’ picture.
  8. Other students working in the library quickly surrounded the two classes and quietly listened to the presentations.
  9. Other teachers/librarians/counselors and principals were invited to attend the presentations.
  10. Students were given a simple form to fill out after each presentation, providing them the opportunity to critique the process and the individual presentations.  This feedback was at first somewhat intimidating, however, by the second phase of the project, the students requested the forms and provided some very valuable insights and advice to improve the process all the way around.

Richland High School, 2010 (and other years)
Jim Deatherage, Creative Writing teacher
Shawn Murphy, Photography teacher


Coastal Logging Town, 1998
by Jim Deatherage


This morning’s mysterious

shafts of light slice

deep wounds,

baring those years before

the bustling town went bust.

You can imagine them, before it all went bad,

this building teeming with children’s voices,

hymns and hallelujahs,

the bell’s sweet salutation.

Look at the looming remnant of trees;

they leaned hard, heard it all,

and shook their bristled heads.

Who knew what that could mean?

Or consider the ocean just beyond,

its tide indifferent

to their loss of hope.

You know the fog’s response,

rising and falling,

blanketing their sufferings.

I like to think they were all like us,

had dreams,

could see clearly through that fog,

imagined lives enriched, fulfilled.

When it happened,

some blamed God,

shook their gnarled fists at the sky.

Others slowly succumbed,

bereft, empty as the church.

Then they were gone.



Photo by Shawn Murphy