contemplating nature

by Peter Lacey

Pretty much anyone can organize a few observations into metaphors about dysfunctional relationships or life's ambiguity. But if you're from the northwest, that's not good enough. Authentic northwest writers must acknowledge their regional heritage to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, it's easier said than done; there are plenty of ways to screw it up.

What not to do:

1. Don't copy. Mimicking a popular regional author is an easily made error by those zealous for attention from a professor. But don't be led astray by peers arranging names into their own personal "totem sonnet." Leave that to Mr. Alexie, himself.

2. Don't insert meaningless pop-culture references. Vin Baker and the Ventures are great, but only if your mom pulled a Shawn Kemp on you, and your dad wound up in a locked bedroom playing "Walk Don't Run" for hours. Otherwise, leave famous names out of your lines.

3. Don't say it outright. If you ever have the impulse to include the phrase 'this northwest' or, worse, 'my northwest' in your poem, start over from scratch. All good poetry requires more subtlety and thoughtfulness than that.

4. Here's the best method to get that NW vibe across: Demonstrate a fascination with the complex relationships between man and nature. Be careful; pondering a particular animal -- say, a moose or bear -- won't win much admiration. You've got to focus on something that proves you're an insider. Being a northwest poet is like being into indie music -- bears and moose are a bit like Death Cab for Cutie.