Photo by Jamie Clifford

Photo by Jamie Clifford

About Michelle

I write because my head is full. The words and images tumble around, pushing and shoving. Poems and essays create themselves whether I want them to or not. If I didn’t write, I think I would have to be committed to an asylum – permanently.  But I also write because I find it is my way to have an impact. I try to speak for those who may not be able to, for whatever reason – not by taking their voice, but by sharing my own stories and what I have witnessed, my vulnerabilities, in hopes that these resonate regarding issues of discrimination, social injustice, violence against women, disability rights, LGBT perspectives, etc. I believe there is power and healing when violence is taken through the crucible of poetry. Something entirely new, and ultimately beautiful, results.

Here’s the nitty-gritty stuff – I have a B.A. in English from Montana State University, and an M.A. in Japanese Studies from the University of Washington. After graduate school, I received a fellowship from the Ministry of Education in Japan to study abroad, living in Osaka and Kyoto for three years. I am also a lay-ordained Soto Zen practitioner, and that influences my writing.

My poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in Sinister Wisdom, The Gay & Lesbian Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, Rain & Thunder, and several anthologies, most recently Digging Our Poetic Roots: Poems from Sonoma County. In October 2012, two of my poems were shown in Sacramento in an exhibit at the California Museum, Creating Freedom: Art & Poetry of Domestic Violence Survivors, with the poem “Dreamwork” taking first place honors.

For 12 years, I worked as the senior staff writer for a community newspaper in the Napa Valley, the Calistoga Tribune. It’s the kind of place where they still keep me in the staff box, even though I left three years ago. The last two years, I wrote a monthly literary column, Off the Page, for a small chain of newspapers, Sonoma West Publishers, and also tackle freelance story assignments for Sonoma Discoveries Magazine. Just to keep things interesting, last fall I taught a course on Dogs in Literature at Bergin University of Canine Studies.

Raised in Montana, I spent much of my adult life in the urban settings of Seattle, Japan and San Francisco, but I spent the last decade in the country in northern California. In January 2016, I moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico with my partner Sabrina, and a ridiculously large menagerie of animals. I am assisted in all of my creative endeavors by my service dog, Ripley, never more than a few inches away.