The Hummingbird Podcast
By Catherine Graham and Jessica Outram
New episode every two weeks!
The Hummingbird PodcastFeb 20, 2022
What happens when we move from word to image? Catherine talks about her experience leading a creative problem-solving workshop and how the images that appear know more than we do. What happens when we let go of control? Jessica talks about what her books have to say to her (yes, they do know where they want to be in her new home!). She also shares her experience braiding sweetgrass and the poem it inspired. We end our chat with Catherine’s poem on metamorphosis: “Imago.”
The Circle and The Creative Act
We talk about Rick Rubin’s book The Creative Act: A Way of Being and what it awakens in us as creators. What does it mean to lead a creative life? How do we get into a creative space? Catherine shares what recently happened on a walk to circle her back to her poem “Wind Tricks.” Jessica shares some insights about her intuitive painting journey as well as her poem “Lost Lesson.” And yes, the forest has eyes.
As we kick off season five, we explore full circle moments and how with aging we carry more questions than answers. Catherine shares the story behind her poem “The Rain Barrel” and Jessica talks about writing her first picture book Bernice and the Ancestors. Plus “The Red Poppy” by Louise Glück, the link between silent and listen, and how listening leads to seeing and being seen.
Summer with Rilke
We discuss Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, a book we read in a workshop together twenty years ago when our friendship began. We read an excerpt from the first letter that explores life lessons and the interaction between the inner and outer self. This leads us to chat about what it means to be a writer vs author, the role of attention, and connecting to the core of the inner self. Plus the importance of the everyday as a source for writing and the letting go of outcome.
The Writing Spiral
Our conversation circles and spirals as we revisit Jessica’s book The Writing Spiral: Learning as a Writer. Rumi, T. S. Eliot, solitude and self-awareness all feed our talk about the labyrinth as a metaphor for our life path and how to arrive at the centre of the self. Plus Emily Carr and the “unity of movement.”
Creative Life, Creative Journey, Creative Conversation
We explore looking back to look ahead. Catherine talks about her just published book, Put Flowers Around Us and Pretend We’re Dead: New and Selected Poems, the micro journey and the macro, the role of attentiveness and what it’s like putting a New and Selected book together. We also share quotes by Mary Oliver, Albert Einstein and a mourning dove visits us too.
Heartbeat of the Ground
We talk about the heartbeat of the ground (a line from Catherine's poem "A Leash of Deer"), the pulse of everything, plus the current that connects us. Jessica shares her poem "A River Flows" and its origin story. We discover how a poem can hold a poem beneath it. Catherine reads her poem "Chthonic" and takes us to the underground. We see how imagery can lure us to slip beneath.
Catherine shares her poem “A Leash of Deer” and the story behind it. (Yes, it started with a coaster purchased in Edinburgh.) We talk about how poems and encounters with animals open us up and bring us closer at the same time, how they expand and contract. Jessica reads an excerpt from her latest book Bernice and the Georgian Bay Gold that includes an encounter with a crow. When we lean into the energies around us, we feel the connections. When we pay attention, the gifts come.
The Shake and Shimmer Loop
We explore how art shapes our lives and our lives shape art. We talk about what shakes and shimmers, negative capability, and chance encounters with animals. Catherine reads an excerpt from her novel Quarry. We move from the ‘ice-cream realm’ to the weight of grief. We realize if we can let go of control and let the body guide us—that’s when the magic appears.
Ancestors and Family Part 2
We continue to explore how ancestors and family impact our writing. Jessica talks about her Métis roots and shares her poem “Search Out the Water.” This poem explores the life of her Great-x5-Grandfather, Ezekiel Solomon. She also shares an excerpt from her forthcoming novel for middle grade children, Bernice and the Georgian Bay Gold. We talk about reciprocity, silence and how to listen deeply.
Ancestors and Family
We explore how ancestors and family impact our writing. Catherine reads a passage from her novel Quarry that links silence with trust and creativity. She also shares some excerpts from Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric. Jessica and Catherine talk about the darker side of silence and how the act of writing can lead us to truths.
Snow and Going Inward
Catherine reads one of her all-time favourite poems “Snow” by Louis MacNeice. Catherine and Jessica explore the poem’s abundance, beauty, complexity and mystery. Jessica reads her poem “Was Grandmother Lonely Too?” and we see how snippets of family stories come together to make a poem.
Poems That Find Us Part Two
What happens when we put loss and hunger on the page? Catherine reads the poem "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop and talks about how this poem opened up new pathways in her writing journey. Jessica shares the story behind her recent discovery of the poem "The Hummingbirds" by Mary Oliver. All this and more. Plus hummingbird cake!
Poems That Find Us
We talk about how poems find us. Jessica shares the prose poem “Desiderata” and the story of how it found her. We explore the poem’s content and talk about how each sentence serves as a guidepost for life. Plus wonder, seeing something anew, and the importance of listening.
What Feelings Teach Us
As we continue to explore what feelings mean to us as poets, we share and discuss a quote by E. E. Cummings which leads to a chat about metaphor and imagery. We also talk about the importance of play and discovery during times of transition when we are between writing projects. After sharing a quote by Muriel Rukeyser, we urge our listeners to find the poem that’s out there waiting to give you goosebumps.
Looking Out & Looking In
We talk about ways we move between the inner and outer world and share a quote by Pearl S. Buck. Catherine reads her poem “Doll’s Eyes” and discusses the role dolls played in her childhood to muscle her imagination. Jessica talks about the need to better understand the language of feelings and shares her poem “Begin Again.”
Being an HSP
As two HSPs (Highly Sensitive Person) we talk about the impact this trait has on our creative lives. Jessica reads the Emily Dickinson poem, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” and shares a story about the unexpected gift that arrives when letting go. Catherine reads her poem “The Bullied” and we explore the power of the inner life. Plus Orchid and Dandelion Children, intuition and trust.
Write What You Know
We talk about how this widely known writing rule both serves and doesn’t serve our creative journeys and explore variations such as: write to know. Catherine reads her poem “MRI” from The Celery Forest and discusses the relationship between the real and the imagined. Jessica shares her poem “This Morning a Mirror” and talks about presence and absence, the “welcome” and the “worrisome” in a landscape she loves.
Behind the Cotton Wool & Paying Attention
We share quotes by Virginia Woolf and Robin Wall Kimmerer. We talk about what connects us to the living world and explore the power behind hidden patterns. Plus birds, being present, and “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.
Poems & Songs
We explore how songs make their way into our poetry. Jessica and Catherine read Jessica’s poem “Act 3” and talk about the balance of passion. letting go, and how with every blackout there’s always hope. Catherine reads her poem “I Thank You Burt Bacharach” and we explore how songs transport us and what it means to “live in the poem.”
Shivers & Blackouts
We explore the blackout in the creative process—as pause, as gap, as moving deeper into surrender. Catherine shares her poem “For A Lost Stepdaughter” and how it came to be. Jessica and Catherine read Jessica’s poem “Act Two” and we explore what it evokes. We talk about what leads to worries and fears plus the never ending flux of the creative process.
Creative Space & Voice
We step into another creative portal by exploring voice. Catherine shares her poem “The Queen Is Not Welcome Here” and the story behind it. Jessica and Catherine read Jessica’s poem “Act One” and Jessica shares why the image of the jar continues to capture her imagination and work its way into her poems. We talk about the exchanges between the external and internal, beginnings and endings, and after each “blackout” the importance of hope.
How to Get into a Creative Space: The Tilt
What do we do as creators to tilt our journey towards a creative space? We discuss various ways to enter in. Catherine shares the story behind her poem “The Red Element” and Jessica shares her work-in-progress poem “Being Poetica.” We ‘ache and soak’ our way into the creative journey.
Keep the Channel Open
We kick off the season’s first episode by sharing a quote by Martha Graham about what it means to “keep the channel open.” We discuss our hummingbird vision through identity, signs and synchronicities. We also explore two poems: “Hummingbirds” by Patrick Lane and “Sketch in October” by Tomas Tranströmer. We are happy to be back!
We had some technical difficulties with sound in this episode as we get used to new equipment. By the next episode we will have sorted things out and they will be much improved. Thanks for your patience!
Omit Needless Words
In this last episode of our season we explore the writing rule omit needless words. Jessica talks about revision through the four seasons of story. We chat about the importance of listening to the work, allowing for discovery through play, trusting our gut reaction and following our instincts. Also, Julia Child, dreams, Seamus Heaney and what leads us to this: who I am as a writer. All this and more.
What Branches Above Us and Spreads Below
What branches above us and spreads below: How two poets connect with the oak tree.
Catherine shares the story behind her poem “Oak” from The Celery Forest and Jessica shares the story behind her poem “On Being a Tree” from The Thing with Feathers. We talk about the thin line between the living and dead, dreams, ancestors, mothers, air-dancing and what it is to be inside a song.
Hidden Passages & the Energizing Spin of Spring
Circles, beginnings, awakenings and bursts. Catherine reads her poem “Chthonic” from Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects. We explore a poem’s soundscape and how poems communicate with each other. Catherine talks about how the colour red is key to her work and Jessica talks about how ideas move towards us or away from us to find a home. We explore cycles and season and what thoughts are with us when we’re writing. Also process as art and writing by hand.
The Otherworldly: The ease and unease embedded in transformation. We explore fairy trees, the wee folk, thorns, blooms and portals. Also, secret gardens, hums and hummingbirds and the real estate of the poet. Catherine reads an excerpt from her second novel, The Most Cunning Heart, and Jessica reads her poem “If She Had a Secret Garden” from The Thing with Feathers. What is it to travel further into the self? Plus connections, relationships and how stories help us to see and be seen.
The Between: from writing to publishing to letting the book go. We talk about good questions to ask an author, energetic tendrils and the intimacy of the first person. Catherine reads an excerpt from her second novel, The Most Cunning Heart and Jessica talks about her first poetry book, The Thing with Feathers.
How does poetry transport us to other places? We explore inwardness through Gwendolyn MacEwen’s poems “Dark Pines Under Water” and “Invocations” and talk about how poems are vessels for holding mysteries and untold stories. We share the impact MacEwen’s poetry has had on our creative journeys, outer/inner worlds, what’s creepy and/or triggering, and how what we’re called to share comes through a full body response. Tom Thompson, discomfort, calling the voice up—all this and more.
Looping Back to Begin
Celery trees, human-watchers—we start with Catherine’s poem “What Birds They Were” and explore other eerie things. Then we explore about how it is we find our way through poetry to link the real and the unreal. We chat about the impact art galleries have had on our creative process— where life and art intersect—and how what inspires us has its own time line to surface. This was the case for Jessica’s forthcoming book, Bernice and the Georgian Bay Gold.
How Birds Inspire Us and Fly Into Our Work
We talk about the connection between birds and poetic process. Catherine shares her poem “The Lifting” along with its backstory. Jessica shares the Christi Belcourt poem “In Neither Hope Nor Despair, Birds Fly.” We talk about how poetry invites us into a pause and takes us to profound places. We finish with Catherine’s bird poem “What Birds They Were” from The Celery Forest. Through air and motion, we take flight!
Dwelling in Possibility
What holds the lessons we’ve learned over the years, what reaches out—a call to action or a pause—the path to possibility continues. We explore Emily Dickinson’s “I Dwell in Possibility” and Jessica shares her poem “When She Found Her Voice.” We chat about signs, connections, portals and encounters.
Called Into a Crowd of Feathers: Omen/Gift
In this episode we talk about the challenges of balancing work and life and creative projects, the value of signs and what seeps into our skin. Catherine shares an excerpt from Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric and Jessica shares a powerful dream. We explore synchronicity, mystery and the energy in the unexplainable.
Season Change and Worry Dollls
“As if the top of my head were taken off,” writes Emily Dickinson when it comes to knowing poetry. In this episode we talk about how poetry is tied to the body. Jessica reads her poem “Season Change” and Catherine reads her poem “Worry Dolls.” We talk about perception, alignment of energies and how inanimate objects “speak” to us if we listen.
Continuing the Conversation: Poems that Inspire Other Poems
We talk about Catherine’s poem “Peas & Barbies” from Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects and the impact of Dorothy Molloy. We also discuss the glosa, deconstructed glosa, peas, rules and breaking rules and how we naturally link our own lived experience when reading poems. All this and we talk about “choir peas” too.
Poems: A Place to Find Ourselves In
Poems are a place to find ourselves in. We talk about when to read poems and when not to read poems. Jessica shares her Emily Dickinson inspired poem “The Thing with Feathers” and Catherine reads her Tilda Swinton inspired poem “The Buried.” We chat about poetry and perception, pivot points, portals, P.K. Page and much more. Join us!
New Maps in Old Waters: Poetry & Place
Dive In: A Creative Journey
"Dive in. Turn to water before it freezes."
How Hummingbirds Inspire Two Poets
Celebration: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit
Listen in as we unravel the next layer of the creative process: celebration.
Social Media for Creatives
Do you have questions about how to use social media effectively? For our monthly business episode we invited social media expert Rachel Spence in to share her knowledge and expertise. We had lots of questions and made lots of notes so fair warning, have paper and pen near by. Rachel will tell you how to be more effective and reach more people in an authentic, meaningful way.
Work and Play: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit
We are coming to the end of our book study soon. Two more chapters. Today we continue our book study with ‘Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit’ by Corita Kent and Jan Steward. Last time we talked about versatility and possibility when choosing tools and techniques. In this episode we unravel the next layer of the creative process: the relationship between play and work, or as they note in this chapter, Plork.
Shannon Linton joins us. She is a singer-song writer, choral conductor, and music teacher. She is a Hummingbird listener too.
Tools and Techniques: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit
We continue our book study with ‘Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit’ by Corita Kent and Jan Steward. We’ve been talking about the energy of connect and create. Today we look at another big part of the creative process: Tools and Techniques. We also welcome Choral Conductor and Music Teacher Marie Anderson to the conversation. This is where we get into craft but where we go may surprise you.
Connect and Create: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit
Today we continue our book study with ‘Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit’ by Corita Kent and Jan Steward. We’ve been talking about sources and structures. Today we look at another big part of the creative process: Connect & Create. These two words summarize everything.
In this episode we connected with guests Jennifer Trefiak and Jenni Burke and created something we feel is pretty special. Have a listen and enjoy the journey with us.
Money and Emotion: The Business of Art and Writing
Today we continue our monthly focus on Business for Creatives and look at Money & Emotion with Joan Sotkin. How do you feel about money in your creative business? You may want to look deeper because, as Joan says, "It's never about the money."
This episode is a bit of a departure from our normal format in that we mostly sat back and let our guest share her wisdom. And we barely scratched the surface. Check the show notes on our website if you'd like to learn more.
Structure: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit
Sources: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit
In this episode we explore the idea of sources. How do you gather and use sources in your creative work? What or who inspires you? We continue to explore the ideas in our book study to expand what's possible in our projects.
“Working from a source is not the same thing as copying. The work is yours only--drawn from your experience and coloured by your perceptions. The source frees us to depart from something rather than from nothing or everything. We do not seek to duplicate the source, but to use it as a reference. It relieves us of thinking we have to make something new or great (a scary idea). We will make something new when we work at the source with our mind and leave our hands and pen (stick, chopstick, pencil, etc…) free to get on with the job of drawing (painting, building, etc…).”
p. 47, Learning By Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit by Corita Kent and Jan Steward
Looking: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit
In this episode we talk about Chapter 2 in Learning by Heart: Looking.
Nurturing and developing ways of seeing is one of the most important practices any artist or writer can engage in.
Beginnings: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit
In this episode we begin a deep dive into ‘Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit” by Corita Kent and Jan Steward.
Each week we integrate the ideas into our practice and talk about how it goes, one chapter at a time. We hope you'll join our Facebook Community "Hummingbird Podcast Community" where we can continue the discussion and share the learnings with each other.