ABOUT ME

For most of my life I have used the thrill of adventure to expand my mind and overcome fear. I grew up in New England on my grandparent’s eighty-acre tobacco farm on the Connecticut River and spent most of my time outdoors playing in the woods and meadows. I read books while perched in trees and, when I began to write poetry, it was about animals. My favorite books were by the nature writer Thornton Burgess: Reddy Fox, Sammy Jay, Billy Skunk. In fifth grade my teacher had an exhibition of my book reports, each one illustrated with the appropriate animal. ‘You’re going to be a children’s book illustrator,’ she predicted.

At age ten I won a poster contest for Drink Milk Week. My poster showed a family sitting at the table drinking milk and under the table a kitten drinking from its own bowl. Next to the illustration was a poem, which I’ve lost, but I’m sure it rhymed. I won first prize and a hairdryer. A hairdryer was a big deal in the 1950s, and my mother was very proud of me.

As it turned out, I didn’t become an artist, but a writer. My coming-of-age poems were tirades against God and death. When I was twenty-one, I boarded a plane for the first time and flew to London on a secretarial exchange program. I used my earnings to travel to France and Spain and then hitchhiked back to England. In 1971, looking for more adventure, I moved to northern California where I worked as a waitress, an artist’s model, an amaneunsis for a children’s book author, a nursery school teacher, and a research assistant at the Institute for the Future. I also met my future husband.

Maggie and John on Kala Patthar, Nepal (18,500 ft)

Maggie in Tibet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1977, John and I embarked on what turned out to be a three-year odyssey, traveling from England to the Greek Islands and then overland through Asia. We bumped along on the back of a pick-up truck crossing Afghanistan from Herat to Masar-i-Sharif to Kabul, chanted inside the Taj Mahal on a full moon night, trekked in the Everest region of Nepal, and undertook a two-week silent meditation in a Sri Lankan monastery. In Southeast Asia, we hiked to the villages of Thai hill tribes, were the guests of former headhunters in Borneo, and lived in a hut without electricity on Pilau Tioman in Malaysia.

After two years of rough travel, we decided to settle in Peliatan, Bali, where we lived in a bamboo pondok on a Balinese artist’s compound. Every day for nine months Sangayu Ketut Madra would come to my house to teach me traditional Balinese dance. Afternoons I would hop a ‘bemo’ to Mas to learn mask carving from Ida Bagus Anom. John learned how to play the gangsa (a type of metallophone in the gamelon orchestra) and studied cultural anthropology. Nearly every night, we’d don Balinese clothes and attend a festival in a small village.

Maggie and John at a Balinese festival, Peliatan, Bali, 1978

 

In 1980, we returned to the U.S. to touch base with family and friends before deciding where to go next. Although we had spent weeks and even months in the countries we visited, we wanted to live in another culture for an extended period of time, while earning a decent living. In June, we embarked for Japan and quickly found a traditional house to rent on the outskirts of Kyoto. I was offered teaching positions at Doshisha Women’s College and at Kyoto Seika University, where I taught twelve creative writing and English classes a week. For relaxation, I’d get on my motorbike and head up into the mountains to meditate in Buddhist temples and write haiku. I also studied ikebana (flower arrangement) and woodblock printing. Several of these experiences are described in Tales of a Paper Lantern: Seasons in a Japanese House, published in The Unswept Path (White Pine Press, 2005).

Maggie at Koto-In, Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto, 1982

Maggie and John at Rengei-ji Temple, Kyoto, 1989

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After twelve years in Japan, John and I returned to the U.S. and rented a house on a large estate in Portland, Oregon. We established Katsura Press and, working together on design and content, published my first collection of haiku. Grinding my Ink received the Haiku Society of America’s Merit Book Award and is in its third printing. This Moment, a collection of tea-ceremony haiku, has received acclaim from tea masters in Japan and the U.S. In Shadow Lines, Rich Youmans and I introduced a new literary form combining traditional renku (linked verse) with haibun (prose/haiku). Shadow Lines received an HSA Book Award and is used as a model for teaching Japanese poetry in Portland schools. In 2001, White Pine Press published Always Filling, Always Full. Jane Hirshfield describes the tanka as ‘concise, moving, alive perceptions of the wide range of human feelings amid the common events of our lives.’ The title for The Smell of Rust was inspired by John’s photograph that graces the cover—a rust-colored wall in downtown Portland. My most recent book is a seven-year collaboration with quilt artist Cathy Erickson on the topic of Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II. What Remains details their lives through poems inspired by readings, archival photographs, and interviews with Japanese Americans. Each poem is written in the voice of a different person. Cathy’s quilts echo the emotions and experiences of Japanese Americans through color, design and texture.

John and I have lived in Portland since 1992. I love the natural beauty of the landscape and the Portland Japanese Garden, which we’re both actively involved in. I am also grateful for the support of the community of poets, particularly my two writing groups, the Pearl Poets and Word Sisters.

Valentine's Day Reading by the Pearl Poets, Looking Glass Books, Portland, OR, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRANTS AND FELLOWSHIPS

2001 Technical Assistance Grant, Regional Arts & Culture Council, Portland OR
1998 Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction
1998 Project Grant, Regional Arts & Culture Council
1998 Technical Assistance Grant, Regional Arts and Culture Council
1995 Technical Assistance Grant, Regional Arts and Culture Council

WRITING RESIDENCIES

2009 Hypatia-in-the Woods, Shelton WA
2008 Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Taos NM
1996 Vermont Studio Center, Johnson VT
1998 Vermont Studio Center, Johnson VT

AWARDS

2010 First Prize, Haiku Poets of Northern California International Tanka Contest
2010 Second Prize, Tanka Society of America’s International Tanka Contest
2010 Pushcart Prize nomination
2010 International Haiku Award, Itoen Tea Company, Tokyo. Haiku printed on tea cans.
2009 First Prize. 6th International Tanka Competition, Japan Tanka Poets’ Society

TEACHING

Portland State University, University of Oregon, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Creative Arts Community at Menucha, Olympia Zen Center, Haiku Society of America (New York, Boston, San Francisco), Montessori School, Seabeck Haiku Retreat, Oregon State Poetry Association, Haiku North America (Ottawa, Washington, New York, Oregon), Mountain Writers Center, Yamhill Arts Alliance, Buckman School and Catlin Gabel School, (writer in residence)

EXHIBITIONS

Quilts by Cathy Erickson, Poems by Margaret Chula from What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps

2011 La Connor Museum, La Conner, WA.
2010 Springville Museum of Fine Arts, Springville UT
2010 Sacramento State Library, Sacramento CA
2009 Manzanar National Historic Site Museum, Manzanar CA
2008 Colorado State University, Visual Verse Exhibition
2007 Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, Portland OR
2006 Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden, CO, Visual Verse Exhibition
2005 Portland Japanese Garden, Portland OR
2005 Systemic Constellation Conference, World Trade Center, Portland OR
2004 Oregon College of Art and Craft. Visual Verse: Collaborations in Poetry and Cloth
2003 Seattle Art Museum, Visual Verse: Collaborations in Poetry and Cloth
2006 First Prize, Oregon State Poetry Association Contest
2006 Second Prize, Twelfth Annual Robert Frost Poetry Contest
2005 First Prize, Artists Embassy International Dancing Poetry Contest

Maggie at "The Smell of Rust" book launch. Portland Japanese Garden, 2004

READINGS

Wordstock, Bumbershoot, Haiku North America (Ottawa, Boston, New York, Chicago), Poets Concord, Silverton Poetry Festival, University of Oregon Honors College, The Pond House, Stayton Second Sunday Series, Oregon State Poetry Association, Annie Bloom’s Books, Paulina Springs Books, Broadway Books, Looking Glass Books, Portland Japanese Garden

PERFORMANCES

Solo Performances

‘Three Women Who Loved Love: The Life and Poems of Izumi Shikibu, Yosano Akiko and Suzuki Masajo’ a one-woman production choreographed, written and performed by Margaret Chula with costumes, music, and poetry read in English and Japanese. Performed at:

Haiku Pacific Rim International Haiku Conference, Ogaki, Japan
Haiku Canada, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
With Haiku into the XXI Century, An International Haiku Conference at The Manggha Centre of Japanese Art & Technology, Krakow, Poland

‘Women Haiku and Tanka Poets,’ a one-woman performance with music and costumes, Bumbershoot, Seattle’s Art Festival

Selected Multimedia Collaborations

‘Embracing the Firebird: The Life and Poems of Akiko Yosano,’ with Elizabeth Falconer on koto and Haruno Hashimoto as Akiko. Portland Japanese Garden and the Portland Art Museum

‘A Sketch of Life and Tangled Hair: Two Meiji Poets,’ lecture and poetry with Elizabeth Falconer on koto, in conjunction with the Portland Art Museum’s Meiji Art Exhibition: Splendors of Imperial Japan.

'Autumn in Kyoto,' Elizabeth Falconer on koto, John Hall photographs and Margaret Chula poetry. Portland Japanese Garden, 1999

‘Cell Phones and Sabi: Autumn in Kyoto,’ with slides by John Hall and Kathi Read on koto. Haiku North America International Haiku Conference, Boston, MA

‘Autumn in Kyoto,’ Elizabeth Falconer on koto, John Hall photographs and Margaret Chula poetry. Portland Japanese Garden, 1999

‘Poetry Reading and Slides of Art Quilts: What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps’ with quilt artist Cathy Erickson. Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CA

‘Tales from a Paper Lantern: Twelve Years in Kyoto,’ lecture and presentation to commemorate the Momijigari celebration. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, NY

‘Autumn in the Gardens of Kyoto,’ presentation with John Hall’s photographs and Shoji Mizumoto on shakuhachi. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, New York

‘Celebrate Genji,’ tanka from the Heian era to present day, with koto master Elizabeth Falconer. Portland Japanese Garden

‘Spring Blossomings: Koto, Haiku and Slides from Kyoto,’ with Elizabeth Falconer and John Hall. Portland Art Museum

‘Haiku and the Arts,’ a lecture and haiku presentation with John Hall’s photographs and Kaori Kammerzell on koto. Haiku North America, Portland State University

 

 

‘Crossing the Bridge of Dreams: Women Poets A Millennium Apart’ Elizabeth Falconer on koto and Margaret Chula reading poetry. Portland Japanese Garden, 2001