The Guttery Takes to The Road


What happens when a group of talented writers gut one another’s writing for nearly a decade?

Join The Guttery for an evening of eclectic ecstasy.

St. Johns Booksellers

8622 N. Lombard St., Portland, OR 97203
Wednesday, June 5th at 7pm

Guttery Writing Group members will share
poetry, nonfiction, and fiction at this free event.

Let the guttings begin!

David Cooke
Bruce Greene
Beth Marshea
Lara Messersmith-Glavin
A. Molotkov
Brian Reeves
Kip Silverman
Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk
Robin Troche

David Cooke
David Cooke is one of Portland’s established poets. His debut poem earned the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize and a Pushcart nomination. Winner of AmeriCymru’s Night of the Living Bards and the War Poetry Contest award, David continues to promote poetry globally as a builder, distributor, and curator of

Bruce Greene
Bruce Greene taught for 33 years at an urban high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a teacher-consultant for the Bay Area, Oregon, and National Writing Projects, he’s offered many workshops on the teaching of writing and literature. His specialty is using Blues music in Language Arts and Social Science curriculum. In his eclectic writing career, Bruce has been a correspondent for a national thoroughbred horse magazine and published everything from poetry to creative non-fiction and memoir. Recent credits include the anthologies The Pressures of Teaching, and What Teaching Means: Stories from America’s Classrooms. He was the 2010 winner of WORK Literary Magazine’s memoir competition. A founding member of The Guttery, a Portland based writing group. Bruce currently supervises and mentors beginning teachers at Marylhurst University. He lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Read his memoir Above This Wall: The Life and Times of a VISTA Volunteer 1969-70 or check out his blog, Daily Views and Blues.

Beth Marshea
Beth Marshea managed a plumbing and heating manufacturers’ rep for years. Then she quit and moved to Portland to start my family and write. She has written dozens of unpublished short stories and two unpublished novels.

Lara Messersmith-Glavin
Lara Messersmith-Glavin is an educator, a writer, an editor, and a Fisherpoet. She performs her work around town and at the annual Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Alltopia Antholozine, Perspectives, The Spoon Café Journal, and MaLa, the premiere English-language literary journal in China. She is a co-editor of the recently published Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency, and she serves on the editorial collective of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the journal of the Institute for Anarchist Studies. She is a member of the Guttery Writers, and she also serves on the directorial boards of Living Stages Theatre (a community theatre project for social change) and the IAS. She is the partner of Paul and the mama of Silas.

A. Molotkov
A. Molotkov’s work has appeared in over 70 publications and won the New Millennium Writings and E.M. Koeppel fiction awards, as well as Boone’s Dock Press poetry chapbook contest. He co-edits The Inflectionist Review. Visit him at

Brian Reeves
Brian Reeves is a writer, English teacher, and former Peace Corps volunteer, who earned his M.A. in creative writing from Florida State University. His short fiction has appeared in Sand Hill Review and Spark: A Creative Anthology. His short story, “Wild Horses,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and his novel, A Chant of Love and Lamentation, was a finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter.

Kip Silverman

Kip Silverman is a writer, technologist and father of three incredible daughters. He writes poetry, fiction, spoken word, essays, political diatribe and was one of the original “online diarists” (you kids call it ‘blogging’). Kip ran Nirvana Flats, a spoken word web site from 1996 to 2004. He is involved in disaster relief and food security projects and Occupies things from time to time. He also ran for President of the United States on the “It May Be Too Late in ’88? platform. It was, indeed, Too Late.
He currently runs several strange web sites including and the facebook page Haiku Sundays. He also writes many very bad haikus. He has made Portland, Oregon his home since 1998.

Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk
Carrie-Ann’s second novel, Only Ghosts, received an Honorable Mention in the 2013 Great Novel Contest. Her screenplay version of Only Ghosts was a collaboration with a school in Nepal, an artist in Iowa, and five other Portland musicians to create a percussive performance that Willamette Weekly wrote wasn’t like “anything we’ve seen in Portland for ages.” Her writing has also won Best Short Story at Third Goal, and most recently has been published in Portland Bridge Poem Anthology. She lives with her ten-year-old daughter in Portland.

Robin Troche
A graduate of Portland State University’s M.A. program in English, Robin was first introduced to writing groups in 1996 through a course facilitated by author and professor Tony Wolk. Since then, she has taught writing and language arts at the college, high-school, and middle-school levels in a wide range of settings. In 2007, Robin participated in the Oregon Writers’ Project, reminding herself that she is indeed a writer. Currently, she teaches a mix of high-school freshmen and juniors how to express themselves in non-self-destructive fashions.
Robin Troche is a writer who feels inferior in the company of her peers. She has published nowhere and has extended internal debates on whether publication is a form of commitment, all of which should be avoided. While she appreciates thoughtful critique and effusive praise of her work, Robin persists in the belief that all words have both a half-life and a shelf life, after which they should be dismantled and put to new use. Titles in particular may survive the useful expectancy of their content and can be periodically unearthed and repurposed. In fact, she is currently considering an assemblage of poems based on the same title to be printed on soluble rice paper.


This short piece, about a memorable dive

off Ecuador, won the 2012 ‘Ocean’

magazine short nonfiction prize.


(c) Cameron M. Smith / August 2009 

On the Eastern Pacific equator I lay at night in a shaky bamboo cabin dumbfounded by the crash-upon-crash-upon-crash of breakers. I cannot see the swells approaching shore, but I sense their even rise-which has so often elevated and then lowered me-I sense their precise rise higher at the appointed line and then they topple forward and come down with unblievable sounds; the crashing of great swords; the faintest echo of colliding galaxies;the hiss of hurrying electrons; the sound of acres of metal sliding against acres of metal.

Some waves pound the sand like cannonballs, but these are just side-shows. The essence out there is in the rush, the slide, the sand-grinding of the ocean ashore; the billion-billion white noise of eternity. There is no code there, only particles in motion, but suddenly there is communicated to me the sense that I know nothing at all.

The moment passes: Not true: I know something now, I know that these crashes and hisses are important. They preceded all humanity and they will succeed all humanity. You may never understand them, I think, but if you don’t listen for messages in there you are a fool.

The next day, five fathoms alone under the dull surface of the Pacific, as I glance at my air pressure gauge, I am halted by another sound–a low whistle twisted by distance and water, a low whistle blending into a short, uprising moan. Whale! I breathe the word aloud through my mouthpiece in astonishment, the word roils upwards in silver bubbles. I kneel on the sandy sea floor and hold my breath.

Again, another low whistle, whorled by miles of current and salt and thermocline,but unmistakable. It trips my mind, putting me right back in the bamboo hut. Two whales,I think, dumbfounded, they preceded all humanity and they will succeed all humanity andthough it´s time to turn around and swim back in, you had damned well better committheir sounds to memory.

But back in the cabin I cannot reproduce the sounds in my mind. They have already been washed out by fish-trucks, barking dogs, the rumblings of the cat-food factory on the beach. It’s Ok,I think, you heard it. You can find recordings. It won´t be the same whales, I chuckle to myself, but so what? You don´t have to hear that twice.

Walt Whitman 150 Call for Submissions

The Guttery is proud to announce that two of its members David Cooke and A. Molotkov are editors, judges, and coordinators of the Walt Whitman 150 Award and Celebration. Joining them is good friend and collaborator John Sibley Williams and returning as the founder of the Walt Whitman 150 Celebration,  David Oates. The last Walt Whitman Celebration gathered poets from around the state to read all 52 sections of Song of Myself aloud at the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

This time we will be featuring the great poets inspired by Whitman’s words and work. One of these great poets could be you. The Walt Whitman 150 Celebration is taking submissions for inclusion in the celebratory chapbook and a chance to win up to $1500. Visit for contest guidelines and submission forms. There is also a call for visual art inspired by Whitman. Be sure to enter your poems so that when you echo Whitman’s words “I celebrate myself and sing myself” we can celebrate with you and sing your body electric!

Poetry as Dialogue at The Northwest Poets’ Concord

At 9:12 am when the rainbow attired A. Molotkov has usually been soundly sleeping for 3 or 4 hours, he shuffled and dealt out the handouts to a conference room filled with poets. John Sibley Williams moving his Lincolnesk height about the room seemed at ease and I was guessing we should start especially since the “Bad Grrrlz” of Poetry were up at 10 am. If you attended the Northwest Poets’Concord you may have caught the presentation on Poetry as Dialogue. I have to say things went well with only one complaint. Some did not want the conversation to end. Well, it hasn’t. Look to this site for further postings on the topic and feel free to chime in. It can’t be a conversation without you.

For my part we were a bit short on handouts so I wanted to make sure if you wanted to look it over, you could. This also gives me a chance to correct some typos that made it through the rush to prepare the pamphlet. If you find more feel free to alert me. Start here with the link to Meat Puppet which was never meant to be Meet Puppet.

After the conference and all the jawing on about poetics I want you to think about the conversations you found memorable. The inspiring and the insipid, the boasting and the boring, the gut busting guffaws and the disheartening gaffs. If you remember it, it is important. After all remembering is repetition and repeated things are important and important things are repeated.

Poetry As Dialogue handout

I’m not Crazy I’m just Reading

I have been thinking about voice. The voice that a piece of writing creates. But when you read, voice is your creation. A creation using the building blocks a writer drops at the worksite. Building materials neatly stacked on pallet paragraphs, in sacks of stanzas, page after page piled at the curb. You with your shovel and wheelbarrow at the ready. Your ability to hear the written voices is the major reason that film often fails. Often the cameras and microphones can’t capture what you bring to a text. How do you do it? How do you get writing to speak? What are we doing as readers when we create these voices in our heads?

As a special education teacher I think of teaching as non-invasive brain surgery. I hear voices of teachers in my own noggin and I wonder what quotes of mine students will hear reverberate in theirs. My skull is crowded. My mother’s words, my father’s silence, sibling lectures and jokes, friends laughing, teasing, insulting. Advice, ridicule, warnings, each with a decidedly distinctive voice. This is not schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is the malfunctioning of this ability. When this ability functions it is more like cognitive behavior therapy, it is what results from the Socratic Method.

In the Janssen’s Mindstorm schizophrenic simulation the voices frustrate, undermine, constrict and isolate. Voice in literature has a different effect. Actually, people with schizophrenia often report that reading quiets the voices. What if the brain uses the same regions to create a character’s drawl as it does to bombard someone with paranoid ranting? The key difference between the auditory hallucinations of reading and schizophrenia would be in the ability to differentiate the source and reality of the voices. Schizophrenic hallucinations with their paranoia, fear, and derision may be coming from another part of the brain and passing through the synaptic voice box. Malfunctioning parts of the brain may be pumping the unfiltered chemicals and electricity like a fire hose through the same region or regions used to create voice from writing. So when someone with schizophrenia reads are they occupying the part of the brain that gives voice to the paranoia and using it to create the written voice?

Writers in their attempt to marshal that same brain space, that synaptic voice box, succeed at various levels. The ability to inspire the creation of an articulate voice in the reader is a challenge. To supply material for multiple voices complicates things. To have those voices converse and to converse in an entertaining and enthralling manner is still more difficult. To enable the conversation to include the reader, for a writer to supply material and elicit a conversation that allows space for the reader’s input to actually listen to the reader, well, that is the sort of mastery writers aspire. Think of it in terms of dimensions. One dimensional would be one voice, two dimensional dialog, and three dimensional, conversation. Removing, as the thespians say, the “fourth wall” and listening to and getting input from the reader would qualify as the fourth dimension. Just as the visual arts trick us into seeing depth and space, writing sets readers up to hear auditory hallucinations that are deep, rich, and ultimately immersive.

This is a new way of thinking about reading for me. Will it help me write more immersive poetry? Do you think it will help you write better? Will it help one to read more insightfully? How does this change our way of looking at dramatic monologues, play dialog, abstract poetry? Or is it like explaining a joke or diagramming ballet? I am deeply curious to know. Especially, from those with more knowledge, first or second hand, about auditory hallucinations.

And Get Some Feedback

(This note continues my earlier post, “Get out of the House”.)

A year ago I wrote about abandoning a solitary existence and joining two writers’ groups. It’s time to follow up. What has this move done for me?

I can say confidently that subjecting my work to peer review is the best thing I have done in the last 10 years.

I had been giving myself too much leeway. Allowing myself too many easy choices. Just because something rang true or interesting, I would use it without questioning the reader’s ability to share my reaction. I had not bothered to take responsibility for every word I used.

Now I found myself subjected to the scrutiny of other writers, with their distinct views of literature. They were unwilling to give me a free pass with one or another of my arbitrary choices just because they liked my work in general. This increased my demands of myself. I could see my work more critically. I developed more respect for the reader. I was given an opportunity to improve.

Much of my prose and poetry has been significantly optimized after being “Gutted”. It’s amazing how, as authors, we may overlook the most glaring errors in our plots that others will immediately notice. The most egregious typos! Other eyes help. Educated, creative minds behind the eyes help tenfold! And by no means is this limited to detecting the problems I missed. It’s also about pinpointing the opportunities I might consider, alternate developments that might make more sense. Every now and then, a work will take on a new dimension after I incorporate all the feedback.

I hear voices. The voices of my fellow writers, commenting on one or another decision I make, sentence I use. Although one might feel insane with so many voices in one’s head, I feel enriched. I have the wisdom and the experience of a dozen other creative minds in my toolkit. Often, I don’t even need to have them read the work to gauge their reactions.

And there is more. Giving constructive feedback is also a challenge and a learning process. Do I speak about the work from my own point of view as a reader? Do I adopt the view of the author’s “target reader”? Do I find a good balance in between? Do I propose a major change if one seems warranted to me? Is there more of myself or of the author in my feedback, and which is best? Are my literary theories and writing recipes sound, interesting, well thought-out?

But it’s not all about discussing one another’s work. There is more to discuss. I have become exposed to so many fascinating thoughts, brilliant works, talented authors – enough for two lifetimes of reading. Thought spurs thought. Information exchange spurs enhanced creativity. We step up to become small players in a larger world. I’m no longer a solitary writer stewing in his own isolated universe. I’m part of a larger context. I have escaped into the outer realm. In doing so, I have obtained not only a strong team dedicated to helping one another grow, but a wide frame of reference, and, last but not least, a lovely bunch of friends.

I have upgraded to a better version of myself as a writer while having a lot of delightful interactions.

I would love the Guttery to pour over every word and every punctuation mark I have ever set down, but one gets only so much reviewing time. I await my next opportunity to be Gutted and whatever that entails in my growth, as a writer and a person. In the meantime, I am inspired by the others: their thoughts, their favorite literature, their participation in life as creative beings, their ways to string words together, their emotional worlds, their particular ways to tell their particular stories.

The world is full of voices, and only one of them is my own.

Polish your work.


Got this email from Writer’s Digest selling critique services with the heading “Polish Your Writing with a Professional Critique from Writer’s Digest!” I thought they had mispelled “Publish” or that it was making fun of the Poles. I sent them an email asking if the Polish joke was intentional.  This was while I still thought it was a mistake.  Laura from customer service wrote back, “Are you kidding?” Here is Laura’s phone message on my voicemail.  The greeting for my phone says “Hello you’ve reached David Cooke The Lawn Guy…”

Love Outlives Us

A. Molotkov–Producer, poet, vocals, handsonic, duduk, percussion
Bruce Greene–poet, percussion
Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk–poet, vocals
David Cooke–poet
Ragon Linde–Music Director, music
Shawn Austin–poet, percussion

Writers Reflect on Reading: Part Two

My Book Group

I am certain that everyone has stories. I’m equally convinced that everyone is capable of writing these stories up into novels, short stories, articles, letters, notes, emails, blogs, texts, bumper stickers, billboards, songs, or graffiti. Writing is the legacy of our opposable thumbs and our ridiculously labyrinthed brains.

However, just as not all runners are equal, nor all athletes, all writing is certainly not equal. At some point during my college years I promised myself to never, ever waste my precious time reading junk. Never. Unless it’s a magazine. Then it’s all bets off.

For several years I only read the classics. Only the names bound in those Literary Anthologies you read in college: Hardy, Whitman, Woolf, Shakespeare. Under my definition of “classic”, Steinbeck was a bit of an upstart. Then after living in Nepal, I went through a long bout of only reading Indian writers—preferably ones who used magic realism. Do you know how difficult it was to make a steady diet of this writing? Salmon Rushdie hasn’t written that many things, nor has Gita Meeta, nor Tagore. It was like eating a very limited diet of only orange vegetables.  Yummy, but limiting.  My creativity, like a body on such a diet, was grinding to a halt.

Then I befriended someone who existed on a diet of everything, with a generous helping of sweet reading candy. Marianne read several books a week, reading them to sleep and waking to them before work. She read whatever was in front of her, whatever she found, whatever, whatever, and loved it. Marianne was a sweet novel addict and, as such, had the enviable ability to talk books with whomever she met. She called me a book snob and I called her a book whore. We were best friends. We parted—listen up Red and Blue voters—by mutually respecting one another’s views.

After meeting Marianne, I expanded my views. Here’s my adjusted creed: If for entertainment purposes only, and if (this is my caveat) the reader is intelligent enough to know the difference, and game enough to throw in superbly written novels, then the average reader may read crap.  The aspiring writer, though, is an exception.  To become exceptional, a writer must read more like an Olympic athlete in training.  A great writer must, like an Olympic athlete, read a well-balanced, varied diet. I know, I know: it works for Billy Bob Thornton to only eat orange food (okay, to set the record strait, he eats only raw food, not necessarily orange. Big difference), but not for the writer.  Sorry.  Even a straight genre writer should cross train.

With my new creed in mind, I joined a book group. It was kind of like the Nutrisystem for me. A prescribed diet of someone else’s food, just enough to pry me from my old habits, and get me on the road to a healthier diet. I’ll admit that I didn’t like all the books my group chose. I don’t care if he does write a pretty sentence; Jonathan Franzen struck me as a pubescent boy stuck with a nasty god complex. Mostly, though, I read wonderful books I never would have chosen with my own sensitive nose.  I was introduced by Mandy to Iris Murdock’s The Sea, The Sea, by Maureen to Peter Carey’s Parrot and Oliver in America, and by Tracy to Jennifer Vanderbe’s Easter Island.  The camaraderie of a group to gush over or trash a book is added fun I didn’t take into account when I joined.

Like many people who have kicked an eating disorders, I maintain my Nurtisystem support group, but I also go on my own hunts. These days I’m like a reformed meat-eater who now leads groups on urban mushroom foraging. I will spend my late hours on the Internet searching the Independent Publishing sites such as Dranzen Books, Algonquin Books, Other Press. This search has led down some strange paths, such as The Mullet: Hairstyles of the Gods, or Shitting Pretty. It has also put some gems in my hands.  On these excursions, I have found Galore by Michael Crummey and The End of the World by Sushma Joshi.

While most of my college promises to myself (big hair, stonewashed jeans, cheap beer, Nihilism) are better off dead, my promise to stay away from bad writing has solidified like cement beneath the post of my own writing.  I have many coaches.  Thomas Hardy and Virginia Woolf will always be there, but so, too, will Louise Erdrich, Orhan Pamuk, Gao Xingjian, and Cormac McCarthy.  I may not make great art yet, but with the help of these Olympic coaches, I can strive for more.  Who knows, with time, practice, and lots of good reading, I could break the record–or put a deep scratch down it so it won’t play on the record player any more.