Speaker Bureau’s Judith Roche on Land, Memories and The Poetics of Place

Writer and poet Judith Roche explains how a sense of place – and, in particular, the natural beauty of the state of Washington – can elicit emotion and feeling in poetry. She’ll be offering a workshop in Pasco May 17 as part of the Mid-Columbia Literary Festival.

Judith Roche

Judith Roche

The diversity of the landscape in Washington state is profound: Seemingly endless miles of beach and ocean. The emerald rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula. Majestic, snowy peaks of the Cascade Mountains. Fertile farmland and golden deserts to the east.

Our state offers many opportunities to view beauty.

Judith Roche turns this beauty into poetry.

For more than 30 years, poet and writer Judith Roche has been inspired by nature, andd as a member of Humanities Washington’s 2010-12 Speakers Bureau, she is teaching others to harness this inspiration.


What: Judith Roche’s The Poetics of Place workshop at the Mid-Columbia Literary Festival
Where: Columbia Basin College, 2600 N. 20th Ave., Pasco [directions]
When: 7 p.m. Thursday (May 17)
Cost: Free

Even for those who have never written a poem before, Roche’s workshop, titled The Poetics of Place, is set to elicit emotional response in an encouraging environment that invites pen to paper. Using examples from her own works and the works of others, Roche hopes to make the process of poetry writing less daunting and more accessible to everyone as a means of expression.

Roche’s next Poetics of Place workshop takes place at Columbia Basin College in Pasco Thursday (May 17) as part of the Mid-Columbia Literary Festival.

In advance of these events, Humanities Washington talked to Judith Roche via e-mail about the art of writing poetry using the emotions and memories triggered by a sense of place.

Humanities Washington: Why do you think people find writing poetry so difficult?

Judith Roche: Because it is so often badly taught in schools. Many teachers are afraid of poetry and only cover it because they have to. But, I’ve also met a number of wonderful English teachers who do a thoughtful job of it. We are trained, in schools, to use our rational mind and to ignore our most playful and creative mind. The process is to encourage people to be playful and unafraid of the wilder places in the psyche.


Check out samples of Judith Roche’s poetry online:


HW: How would you describe your own poetry writing process?

Roche: I’m often inspired by lines from other poems, so language itself is my starting and inspiration point. I get a first draft done in a wild rush – forgetting everything I thought I learned – then comes the revision stage in which I go back and draw on everything I learned. Again, it’s a play between two parts of the self – the emotive, childlike inner self and the schooled and taught self.

HW: What about the state of Washington makes it an inspiring place to compose poems?

Roche: It’s such richly evocative land with the mountains, the sea, the rivers and, of course, the salmon, our totem animal of Western Washington. But also, the rolling golden hills and windy deserts of the Eastern side of the state. As well as a rich history.

HW: Why is our connection to the land and our sense of place such a good catalyst for soliciting emotion and feeling in poetry?

Roche: We are triggered emotionally by places we have some history in – like “Over there I had my first real kiss” and “My grandmother raised her children on that land.” Sometimes we’re triggered by a land that is new to us – but it usually evokes older, more familiar feelings. For instance I wasn’t raised close to the ocean but it evokes in me something wild and thrilling that probably connects to childhood feelings. We are emotionally based in land.

HW: In your poetry writing workshops around the state, have you had any surprising or memorable moments?

Roche: Many. In Omak, I was touched by participants – mostly from the Coleville Res – and their connection to the land there and their unique history. They wrote well and were thoroughly engaged. In Seattle, I was surprised by the writerly ability and intelligence of participants. It made for really lively exchange and a thoroughly enjoyable workshop. On Orcas, nobody came because there was a howling snowstorm that afternoon, except one person, and we had a lovely and in-depth time writing and sharing one-one one together for three hours and could have gone on. They’ve all been as valuable for me as a writer as for the participants. This is a wonderful program.

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