portrait by Honor Woodard

Writing

I first saw my writing in print when The Totem of Spring 1971 (published by the School District of Omaha, Nebraska) included five of my poems. I pursued creative writing in college and on April 4, 1975 I received a letter from The Alice M. Edwards Memorial Creative Writing Award Committee which, in part, read, “We hope that you will continue to write, not only because we believe that creative writing is a worthwhile end in itself, but also because we believe that by sharing your perceptions you will be enriching the human community.” I framed that letter because of those words and because one of the signers was J B Wallace, the man who had taught me so much about writing. Jon wrote, “To Bruce– A friend & poet whose work I admire. May he soon arrive where he should be: in print,” inside my copy of his Looking For Home. That inscription seemed prescient when on the first page of the Spring 1984 issue of Studio One my “This Is The Poem” appeared. The College of St. Benedict invited me to read the poem at an event celebrating the publication of the journal. So I went, wearing my Baja “poet shirt” hoodie, and read my poem.

So there’s one way of telling a story of how I came to think of myself as a poet. There were other publications of my writing and other public readings. Then in 1986 I wrote a long piece entitled “Housebook.” It contained traces of the very first piece I wrote in high school, of the poem that won The Alice M. Edwards Memorial Creative Writing Award in college, of anything that I had written that still felt alive to me. For about a year I sought a publisher and it was accepted for publication by a journal in the fall 1987. However, the journal ceased publication before “Housebook” could appear. It was at this point I began to consider that if I was ever to see something like “Housebook” in print, I might have to do it myself. And twenty years later I put together Running With The Sun, which opens with “Here In My Eyes” (a later version of “Housebook”). The making of this book followed the death of my mother, to whom that book is dedicated in memorium.

It was also in 1987 that I had the first of a series of dreams about cups and bowls which refered my writing life.

I had a dream on June 10, 2005, which showed me that the I would have to rebuild my life: I’m looking at “my” house (but not my house from waking life) and it looks completely burned. I’m looking at the charred skeleton of a house. It has been burned so long that the forest has grown into it; I see leaves where the inside of the house would have been. I’m looking at the room that I understand was my writing room. It is completely burned, except in one corner I see an old manual typewriter and a stack of paper untouched by the fire—perfect white paper, a big stack, maybe two or three reems. Everything is dark (as if I am deep in the woods) except the stack of white paper seems bright.

Writing, it seemed, would be all that remained, and might offer a way forward. And this is the space from which much of what appears in The Long Loop, Some Way Back, and The Daughter Of The Moon emerged after my wife relapsed in 2006 and then died in 2011.

(My son, Bryce, put together this brief film while I was recording poems from my book Some Way Back.)

The process did not end with the appearance of those books in 2012 and 2013. In 2017 I took the material (some slightly reworked) from The Long Loop, Some Way Back, and The Daughter Of The Moon, combined it with subsequent writing, and rearranged everything into Dreamimg The Mandala Cafe, As I Carry On, and Loose Pages. Once that process was completed, I began to work on updating my website, and as the year ended, I drew The Twilight Mandala.