David Oates PortraitMy work as a writer and teacher explores how our human world connects with the larger world of natural wildness.

We need to reconsider how we live on this planet. The next generations will face climate change, disruption,  and almost unimaginable losses. But I believe that the natural world is full of renewal. Our best hope is to consciously align ourselves with this amazing, sometimes scary force.

How to do it? By engaging the imagination.

Imagination is wild. Dreaming, writing, even building cities – these are instances of the mind’s wild ability to do what nature does: create something new. The whole self is engaged when the imagination is active: intellect – heart – body – community. Imagination is a natural resource, endlessly renewable, implanted in us and ready to spin wonders (if we let it).

My life’s work is to connect with this abundant, joyous process, and to help others do so.

Wildness is the inner life not just of writers and artists, but of anyone who has found his or her way. I am always looking to see what I can learn from other fields and disciplines, other lands and other ways of being. In particular I’m engaged with music (Schubert!), with visual art (Bill Viola, Cy Twombly, Caravaggio!), with French and German language and literature, and with the perplexing delights of “new urbanism.” All of these are expressions of human wildness. In them I think we may find many hidden clues about how we must go about reforming our polluting, acquisitive, unjust global civilization.

Recent and upcoming events and activities:

My poem sequence The Heron Place won the 2015 Swan Scythe Press Poetry Award, and will be published as a small book in December or January. I’m thrilled to get this work out into the world at last. See link to right.

January – March 2016: Wild Writers Seminar. As in other recent WWs, we will focus on the “shortie,” the 750-word personal essay, with time on the side for poetry.  Participants will write one shortie per week, and these will be honed and revised until we can send them out to magazines and journals. Readings in abundance to inspire, and in-class writing sessions on technique.  Contact me for information about joining this workshop (for experienced writers). For a general description see the “Wild Writers Seminars” link to the right in the nav bar.

“Every Right Act is an Ark” will appear in the Spring 2016 issue of The Fourth River (publication of the Chatham University MFA in Creative Writing program). It’s a brief, intense “braided essay” about hope and despair as our world teeters on the edge of global climate disaster. See the excerpt under “New & Current Essays” (link to the right in the nav bar).

Coming in 2017:  Workshop “The Shore Ode: Writing the Edge of the World” at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. Walking the ocean beach,  standing at a lakeshore, or pondering the coming-and-going sameness of a river: this familiar moment of meditation has generated some of the world’s best poems and lyric essays. It’s a kind of secret genre, full of tradition – and undiscovered potential. We will have two days to read some “Shore Odes,” both classic and contemporary, and walk the nearby river-edge and beach, practicing specific observational and verbal techniques. We will talk about form, vivid detail, and voice, then craft our notes into finished poems and essays. This was a very successful workshop we’re running again. Keep an eye on www.sitkacenter.com for dates.

My essay “The Run: A Memnoir” won the nonfiction award from Northern Colorado Writers in August 2014. It has been honored with a Pushcart Prize nomination.

A new poem “Pelican Landing at B-Reactor” appears in the Spring 2015 issue of Windfall: Poetry of Place (Portland): http://www.hevanet.com/windfall/index.html.

Poetry and an ongoing exchange of “public letters” with editor Johanna Hansen are appearing in the literary journal Wortschau (Düsseldorf) (2015-2016…). They’re in both English and German: http://www.wortschau.com/.

During the month of May 2015 I enjoyed a residency at Vermont Studio Center. (My thanks to RACC Regional Arts and Culture Commission for a Grant to assist in this, as well as an Artist Grant from VSC.)

For the Winter/Spring Semester of 2012, I was invited to mentor a select group of emerging writers as the Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer of the Environmental Studies Writing Program (University of Montana, Missoula).

See “Events” page for more info.