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:

January – March 2017: Special Wild Writers Seminar: WRITING IN DARK TIMES. We find ourselves at a moment of historical darkness, as forces of reaction and hatred take over our politics and national identity. In this seminar we will face the question of darkness together. We will forge a creative bond, be our own best audience, and explore this question: How do we find our true, loving, creative voice under these conditions?

  • Personal darkness and difficulty have always been central to writing. It’s like a miracle when our hardest experiences are transformed into our most humane, welcoming, and healing explorations
  • The aim of this Seminar will be to see how our collective suffering and difficulty – our public life, our commune — can also demand (and liberate!) creative response.

We will respond to both kinds of darkness, letting the personal exploration open up into the public one. Emphasis on the short personal essay, but with side-doors to poetry and other kinds of expression.

Readings from Václav Havel, Adrienne Rich, Hannah Arendt, Derrick Jensen, Orwell, Auden, Solnit, Lopez. . . and many more.

Participants limited to ten: intermediate or experienced writers (if you’ve been writing steadily, or taken other workshops, you’re probably ready).

Space: A private home with ample room and a quiet garden

Cost: $325 (discount available for returning Wild Writers)

Schedule: Ten meetings, Sundays 3-6 pm. January 15 – March 26

Place: SE Portland/Hawthorne neighborhood 

* * *Special Project***: We will invite submissions from former Wild Writers and others for a collection to be published by Kelson Books as On Writing in a Dark Time (working title). Seminar participants will select and edit this book and see it through all stages of publication. Participants will also contribute to the collection.

Contact me for information about joining this workshop (for intermediate and 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” appeared 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). News: new Pushcart Prize nomination for this essay, November 2016.

First-place nonfiction awards for three chapters from my new book ms The Mountains of Paris: How the Sublime Saved My Life! The journal Tiferet: Literature, Art and the Creative Spirit honored two key chapters. And the chapter “The Run: A Memnoir” won the nonfiction award from Northern Colorado Writers,  as well as a Pushcart Prize nomination.

My poem sequence The Heron Place won the 2015 Swan Scythe Press Poetry Award, and was published in January 2016. I’m thrilled to get this work out into the world at last. See link to right.

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) (ongoing from 2015…). 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.