Monthly Check-In by Diana Khoi Nguyen

I've survived a month. Over a month! Not sure I can rehash everything here, but I did just finish drafting a potential blog post for Boston Review's blog. Fingers crossed that they'll take it. If not, I'll post it here!

It has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Sheep/wool conference, trip to Reykjavik, Landmannalauger, ride-sharing back to Blönduós, productive days and evenings in the studio, trying to hitchhike and failing, renting a car, taught myself to drive manual, spent a whole day exploring Northern Iceland (Akureyri! Lake Myvatn! Nature Baths! Hverir!) with fellow resident Alma, obtained pony-hair from the slaughterhouse, showed some WIP at the end of September art show, went to Skagastrond Nes Residency and to their open studios--picked wild crowberries,

And now it's just me and Nancy left at the residency here. It feels so quiet here now--and this week only I've been struggling to wake up early like I usually do.

There's so many more things to make! I shouldn't disappear into loneliness.

More soon.

1 Week in Parad-Iceland by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Insane that nearly a week has past now. I feel happy, calm, and in full spirits to be here--not boiling over the top glee, but the slow contentment that can burn through the night, for years of nights. Productive calm, I'd call it.

I feel a bit in a rut at the moment--chiefly due to procrastination at getting some less fun writing done--gotta shell out a micro poetry review and also some Fulbright essays. Will do this weekend so I can be free to make art! And hunker down to revise poems. Am lazy. Am moor--than lazy.

Have also spent more time on walks exploring the town--I love it! The views from my room and studios are killer--love seeing the river and ocean and mountains in the background.

Next weekend is the big international sheep/wool conference, held in Iceland for the first time. I get to attend all the events and at the end, go along on their bus ride through the Highlands back to Reykjavik, where I hope to do an excursion to Landmannalauger. That geothermal creek/pond looks incredible and that alone sold me on that particular excursion. I had a hard time deciding between those colorful mountains and the glacier lagoon of Jokulsarlon. I have total FOMO here, and it's apt. The time-window is closing to do these excursions as summer season ends right about now and winter begins and things become limited in terms of tours.

But! During the sheep conference I'll get to go help herd sheep and be among all the wool my little heart desires.

I'll leave you with two audio postcards recorded during my hike on a small island just across from the N1 gas station (huge meeting spot/hub/place to eat/only place to gather in town).

Greetings, from Blönduós! by Diana Khoi Nguyen

It was an adventure/marathon getting here. Left Vermont with Lydia Conklin at 11am on Saturday. She dropped me off in Andover, where I took a train to Boston. Then took the metro to Boston's Logan Airport. 5-hour red-eye to Reykjavik. Then shuttle to bus terminal. Then 5 hour bus ride to my current beloved village in the north. I arrived at 2pm on Sunday.

In less than 2 days of being here, I have already learned how to use the amazing knitting machine and made some swatches--and extravagant plans to make so many things. Also got to do a house visit of a local ceramicist whose work is gorgeous. She even picks her own tea leaves from the fields and made that tea for me. Insane.

I'm in love with the Icelandic people, but not the poor grocery/food scene here in (this particular) village. The studio is right where the Blanda River meets the ocean, and I feel like I'm part of the soundtrack to Wuthering Heights. It's windy.

The other artists here (who leave too soon at the end of this month) are incredible and I'm trying to learn so much from them before they depart!

There's Moi Tran, who is like my only in that she is Vietnamese, but lives in London and has the most enviable of all accents. There's also Michelle Forsyth, who's been teaching me SO much about all things fiber arts, and Catherine Fairbanks (Cathy) who did these amazing naturally dyed machine knitted sheets--dyed with things found in the fields of this town.

I feel like it's Halloween/Christmas every day--this is surely already better than my time in Sweden AND Greece--and those two places were life/game-changing sojourns. I feel so lucky to be here.

Soon I'll post some videos/pictures of my living space / studios later this week as I'm in a lovely room now, but an even lovelier room come Wednesday.

Michelle taught me how to use the knitting machine and I hope to make wool leggings for myself and JB--as well as blankets! Scarves! And then naturally dip dye some of these items. Cathy learned to weave here and used pony hair as her weft! Apparently I can go across the street to the abattoir, ask the butcher for some ponytails and he will let you know when to come back, at which time he will hand over some frozen ponytails still attached to the horses' spine. Cathy said she would take the spine/ponytails to the river to wash then cut the hair before she wove with it. Insane. I can't wait to do this.

And there's a thrift store in town! And a library! And apparently lots of art supplies to be bought in one town north of here (will likely venture there next month).

There's not enough time to do all the art! And to travel/see Iceland!!!!! Must. Not. Sleep.

Oh! Did I mention? There's a geo-thermally heated pool here open year-round (complete with killer tubular winding slide) that I can get an unlimited monthly pass to! Win!

While I do miss my pack, I'm so busy that I don't feel sad! Soon exhaustion will hit, but not tonight.

Update on the goal list:

Bread Loaf Goals

  • x Don't get sick(er). [I didn't get less sick, unfortunately. Sick the whole time!]
  • x Attempt a sober BL [Sober, save one drink after my reading, which I regretted]
  • Take more walks [fail, took zero walks]
  • x Swim in the lake [it was FREEZING]
  • x Get to know more folks on staff + at the conference
  • x Eat less of the industrial food / stay low-glycemic/carb [yes and no--]
  • x Try to sleep
  • x Make new writer friends (for life) [I hope!]
  • Don't get tired [Failed]

Iceland Goals

  • make at least 1:
    • tapestry
    • woven thing on a loom with more than 4 harnesses
    • machine knitted leggings and scarves
    • felted wall hangings / bucket/bowls
  • produce new version of manuscript
  • read more than 3 books of prose
  • take a walk or swim or pilates every day
  • ride a pony!
  • herd sheep and ponies
  • visit as many natural pools as possible
  • witness aurora borealis


Goals / Boundaries by Diana Khoi Nguyen

In the anxious final moments before I leave Cheesburg, I feel that I should set to paper some goals for the upcoming months, lest I eat popcorn all day long by the window in my room watching sheep go by for three months straight.

Bread Loaf Goals

  • Don't get sick(er).
  • Attempt a sober BL
  • Take more walks
  • Swim in the lake
  • Get to know more folks on staff + at the conference
  • Eat less of the industrial food / stay low-glycemic/carb
  • Try to sleep
  • Make new writer friends (for life)
  • Don't get tired

Iceland Goals

  • make at least 1:
    • tapestry
    • woven thing on a loom with more than 4 harnesses
    • felted object
  • produce new version of manuscript
  • read more than 3 books of prose
  • take a walk or do pilates every day
  • don't waste time feeling lonely
  • attempt to eat one nice meal/snack a day
  • ride a pony!
  • herd sheep
  • visit as many natural pools as possible
  • witness aurora borealis

Now I'm getting homesick, but I haven't left yet. I'm going to miss my pack so much.

Moving Onward by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Hopefully there won't be too many apologies during the lifespan of this blog--where I apologize for long gaps between posts: I'm sorry! 

Been unraveling after the grueling 30/30 month in April--and thoroughly enjoyed my birthday month (May) / wedding of JB's birthday (busy!). But, all relaxation/celebrations aside, I've still been reading mucho--maybe not 5 books a week, but at least 2-4. Am taking notes toward fodder for the poems I'll have to originate during my time lakeside/poet-side in Squaw Valley (Tahoe) come June 22 - 29 (so excited!!!!). 

Also gave my notice to work, which makes me sad--since this is the most supportive work environment I've ever had the pleasure to work in. JB and I are moving to Lewisburg at the end of August. But! I've got such an exciting summer/year:

June 21 - July 2: California! (LA, Tahoe, SF) 

July 4 - 7: Countryhouse living w/ JB's family, Pennsylvania

July 28 - August 2: FAWC Provincetown thing w/ Martha Rhodes! 

August 3 - 10: East Coast road trip / JB chapbook reading tour/BONANZA. Am in the midst of booking venues, asking poets/writers to read, etc. Never done so much event planning for such a short period of time (nearly every day that week), ever! Going to be fun. Our other main focus for this trip is to eat only delicious things and relax/see America!

August 11 - 24: Bread Loaf! (likely my last summer--so grateful for any time here). 

August 25 - 2014: Life in Lewisburg/at Bucknell University! 

And ...  

I've secured at least a 3 (hopefully 6 if I can get a residence permit) month internship at the Textilsetur in Iceland starting in August 2014!!!! My current internship at TAC in Brooklyn is amazing and I'm learning so much--and I love the classes (last week I learned how to needle felt!). My goal is to do weekend intensive weaving (and dyeing) classes in NY in the fall. In Iceland, I'll be working in exchange for living quarters and a studio/use of textile arts facilities. So I'll need to save up funds for living expenses/art supplies/plane ticket. I really want to devote part of my life to fiber/textiles. Consider me happy.

I'll leave you with images of John Berryman and his wife (he married 3x). 

These photographs, taken from the LIFE archive, show the poet on vacation in Dublin in 1965.

Postmath by Diana Khoi Nguyen

[EDIT: I got to choose from a list and I'll be reviewing Joshua Marie Wilkinson's Swamp Isthmus]

Long-time mentor (and amaze-human) Cal Bedient asked if I'd be interested in writing a brief review on Rae Armantrout's latest book. Of course! But now this means I gotta brush up on all the Armantrout books I can get my hands on and then read the new one--and write the 600-word text block. Any excuse to spend time in the Poets House library!

Just put together a rough rough draft of potential manuscript this past weekend.

It was terrifying--I printed all poems which deserve to exist--but I'm not sold that all these poems should belong in a first MS (or any MS). But JB wanted me to send him all potential hopefuls and that he'd give me his hard-boiled editorial roundup.

I find it tricky to revise/edit my own MS since it's so hard for me to take a step back from the whole mess and to view each poem, section, movement--the whole shebang objectively. Instead, I just focus on all the spots I find boring, dull, or lame. Like examining my pores in the mirror and seeing only the filth lodged in my large pores. Sadness!

All self-disgust aside, today I looked at the MS thinking about all the cuts I'd like to make--to really pare down the draft into one momentous punch. I'd like to figure out the one true number of sections--and then treat each section like its own chapbook or book--am even considering named sections, instead of I, II, II, etc. Don't think the poems are baller enough to be alphabetically ordered and unsectioned (see: Harryette Mullen's Sleeping With the Dictionary aka most baller thing ever).

In other news:

Have officially started interning at the Textile Arts Center at the Brooklyn location (in Park Slope). And I love it! In exchange for helping them with operational admin work, they gave me a generous credit which I can use toward their classes. SADLY. all the weaving ones I wanted/could take are full (5 is max cap). But I've enrolled in a dye course and a needle-felting course. Maybe I can do a weekend intensive weaving course after I've moved to Lewisburg.

My dream is to intern at the Textilsetur in Iceland--as an intern, I've provided with housing/studio and use of facilities when I'm not working at the center. But I need skills in order to do this--and I really would like to intern in Iceland for 6 months or so! Amazing. I hope it can happen.

I want to do this:

Long-Term Desires Kindling by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Recently felt something stirring and am trying to put the following goal into place: my life as a sculptor and textile artist.

There's a textile institute in Iceland where I'd like to intern--but I have no have knowledge of the textile arts (of which I have had no formal training). My childhood consisted of wooden rulers and unraveled yarn and wishful thinking (how did Rumplestiltskin weave/spin/whirr?)

Luckily, in Park Slope and Manhattan, there is the Textile Arts Center, who is accepting applications for interns. As an intern, I would be able to take any of their classes for free in exchange for 15-20 hours of work. I'm putting together my application materials now.

The goal is to intern there May - August.

Then hopefully do an internship in Iceland in fall 2014 or so--they offer housing/use of facilities in return to helping maintain the studios, etc. Minimum of 3 months (and why would I do less)?

I want to create textures, weave colors, and spend time in Iceland. I hope this can happen.