SPC Sacramento Poetry Center
POETRY NOW JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2011
DORINE JENNETTE INTERVIEWS RAE GOUIRAND | SHARON RAMIREZ REVIEWS A.D. WINANS | LITTLE M PRESS
FREE featuring CAROL
DE CANIO ZACH
QUARLES ALLEGRA JOSTAD
SILBERSTEIN Photos: Trina Drotar, Sandy Thomas
WHELAN Poets around in 2010.—Clockwise—Kathy Kieth at The Book Collector; Allegra Silberstein in a dance pose during a poetry performance in Davis; Laura Cook and Sean King at the 2010 Word Festival at the Guild Theatre; Crawdad Nelson reads at the Sacramento Poetry Center,
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POETRY NOW, the Sacramento region’s literary review and calendar, is published by the Sacramento Poetry Center (SPC) and is funded in part with grants from the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. Submissions of poems, artwork, reviews, and other work of interest to the Sacramento poetry community are welcome. Note that work submitted may also appear on the Poetry Now website. POEM SUBMISSIONS Submit poems and a 30-50 word bio to the poetry editor at SPCPoetryEditor@gmail.com. Electronic submissions preferred. Submissions may also be mailed with a SASE to address below. DISTRIBUTION POETRY NOW is distributed in area bookshops, Sacramento City and County libraries, and by mail to member-subscribers. If you are interested in receiving Poetry Now, or want multiple copies to share with others, please contact us. EDITOR: Trina Drotar BOOK REVIEW EDITOR: Emmanuel Sigauke INTERVIEW EDITOR: Lisa Jones INTERVIEW CONTRIBUTOR: Dorine Jennette IN DIALOGUE: Alexandra Thomas POETRY EDITOR: Cynthia Linville STAFF: Linda Collins, Sandra Senne DESIGN/PRODUCTION: Richard Hansen COPYEDITING: Shadi Gex, Ann Wehrman
SPC THE POET TREE, also known as the Sacramento Poetry Center, is a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing forums for local poets—including publications (Poetry Now and Tule Review), workshops, special events, and an ongoing reading series. Funded primarily by members, SPC is entirely run by a volunteer board of directors. We welcome your input and your interest. BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Bob Stanley, President Tim Kahl, Vice President Sandra Senne, Treasurer Frank Graham, Secretary Kate Asche Linda Collins Theresa McCourt Lawrence Dinkins, Jr. Rebecca Morrison Trina L. Drotar Jonathan Schouten Paco Marquez Mary Zeppa CONTACT INFORMATION: 1719 25th Street • Sacramento, CA 95816 email@example.com • 916-979-9706 www.sacramentopoetrycenter.org
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ew year, new projects at SPC. In 2011, we’re excited to help support The Show, Terry Moore’s famed monthly poetry and music event that has recently moved to the Obama Room at the Sojourner Truth Museum (2251 Florin Road). It’s still on the last Saturday of the month at 7pm, $5 at the door, and always a great show with a wide variety of artists. Please support this Sacramento poetry tradition in its new venue! Artwork returns to SPC—The Writers’ Brush in January, artists from Cosumnes River College in February, and more! We’re proud to have work from Alex Escalante, whose portraits of José Montoya and Phylicia McGee now adorn our East THE WRITING TABLE: Wall. a local consortium of writing Good news for writers of all kinds—a local coaches and teachers will be consortium of writing coaches and teachers will sharing our SPC space in 2011 be sharing our SPC space at 25th and R in 2011. The Writing Table will offer classes using the Amherst Writers (AWA) approach, and we’re excited that our space will be more fully utilized with literary activity. More details to follow! I’d like to extend gratitude to Mimi and Burnett Miller for again sharing their wonderful home for SPC’s annual fundraiser. Generous contributions totaled $1200, which will help us as we move into another year of readings, workshops, poetry, and prose. I’d like to extend thanks to all who support the events at SPC and in the greater Sacramento area.
FIRST WEDNESDAYS POETRY SERIES Hosted by Bob Stanley 6pm. Central Library, 828 I Street. Sacramento
SPC READINGS 7:30pm unless otherwise indicated
January 17, 2011 ART BECK NEELI CHERKOVSKI DAVID MELTZER January 31, 2011 BENEFIT FOR AUTISM See the SPC website for more details
A PUBLICATION OF THE SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER
SMALL PRESS CORNER By Richard Hansen
little m press. For six years Geoffrey Neill has been one of the hosts of Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café. It’s one of the longest running weekly poetry events in Sacramento and it’s from this vantage point that he’s launched a small press to tap some of the creative energy that flows from this space. But it’s not all about new blood. little m press is also giving us a new look at a local poet who have gone unnoticed for far too long. Seems like any dick (or jane) with a desktop can become a small press publisher. What’s in it for you? What’s in it for us?
That’s so true, Richard. In fact, any joker (or deuce) with a typewriter—or even a pen—paired with access to modern reproductive technology can collect others’ poems and, as you say on your Poemsfor-All booklets, “scatter them like seeds” to the madding crowd. They had their chance. But only a few people around here do it and I wanted more.The Sacramento culture scene is all of us that live in Sacramento ; if there’s something missing, or something you want more of, do it and it won’t be missing anymore. Like Mos Def says, it’s not some giant living in the hillside, it is us. I started little m press because I wanted to read poems by the people I heard read. Hearing a person read a poem aloud is different than reading the same poem to yourself, silently or otherwise.You might miss words, you don’t have the chance to go back and read the first couple lines to see how they tie in later or to appreciate the wordplay, but you do get to hear how good readers change their tone to guide you through the piece, and maybe you hear more of the assonance. What I’d like best is for all of the poets around here to start printing their own work and handing it out at readings and on street corners, leaving them on buses or with the tip, which would save me the trouble. I think the reasons people don’t do more of that cover more of the seven deadly sins and virtues than not. So I started doing it for them.What’s in it for you is the same that’s in it for me, which is the chance to read more local poetry, and to have something on your living room table that will impress house guests and visiting relatives, whether you actually read it or not. Of course, I also get perks the average reader doesn’t, like glory, riches, and fame. Up next from little m is Gene Avery’s Red Head Woman, Book Four which you descibe as “a serial novel. And it will be killer.” Tell us a little more about this project. Like, what happened to books one, two and three?
As you and too few others know, Gene Avery is a one of the best writers hereabouts. He reads bits of his work occassionally at Luna’s Café, but he has created over the years over a dozen huge, gripping, fantastic, many-splendored books, brilliant collages of novels and poems and pictures that people can only get their hands on if they know about them and if he trusts the person enough to lend one out. Occassionally he’ll sell one. Books 1, 2, and 3 are among these. There’s more on the web! See the full little m press interview on the web at www.sacfreepress.com
You are one of the hosts of Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café. Does this afford you an opportunity to find poets you want to publish?
Yes it does. There’s no formal connection between Luna’s and little m press, but playing host there forces me to be out in the world and listen to local poets, instead of staying at home and reading Blake and Berry and thinking how good poets used to be back when there were poets. Hosting at Luna’s also gives me a monthly opportunity to have a book release party. And in fact, three of the first six authors—Sam Jensen, Terryl Wheat, and Philip Davis, all Luna’s regulars at one time—were the specific inspiration for starting to print chapbooks, because I wanted to read their poems and thought others would too. Your editions are both affordable and nice to look at; color covers, well designed. I’m not going to ask how you can make them so cheaply, but I would like you to talk about their design. Why do you make them the way you do? How much of a role does an author have or get in the look of her or his book?
I wanted the books to look good but still be affordable to the sort of person that spends their last two nickels on a drink and re-inking their typewriter ribbon. Making them cheap precludes a real binding and an ISBN, which I wanted to do at first, even with the digital printing services available online these days. Besides, like I said, my chief motivation was just to make the poems available, and availability doesn’t require a book to be glued and glossy. But it also doesn’t obviate pride of workmanship or perceived value. The authors have as much role in the look as they want, and as time allows, dictatorship being the most efficient method of decision-making. Terryl drew her entire chapbook, except for the copyright block, and it looks amazing. Others gave me the poems and told me to do what like with them. I had to pry Philip’s notebook out of his hands after a reading one night so I could take it home and transcribe it. frank had very specific images he wanted to appear on the front and back. Yaz’s front (pictured) and back covers feature studies of her own artwork. Lara Kaapuni’s front cover is a photo I took at work the day before we printed the book, based on an image I didn’t realize at the time she had removed from one of the poems. Gene’s book is a bit of a different animal, and he has been intimately involved in the production because he has such a striking vision of the final product. So it varies, is what I’m saying. A lot of the standards, like the font, were set making the first one. I do want to make the point, because it’s important, that the poets don’t pay for any of this, I mean, besides all the blood they wring out onto the page. This is no vanity press. Heck, it’s hardly a press at all. We make ‘em cheap, sell ‘em cheap, and the writers get half of what comes in. Which is usually enough to buy a bottle of whiskey or a couple sandwiches, as they like. I have come out almost exactly even overall, which seems like an incredible deal to me. We get Gene Avery in the new year. Who else is in the pipeline to be published in 2011?
The pipeline around here is rich, Richard.The two magpies up next are James Lee Jobe and Genelle Chaconas, both excellent poets. One is a legend and one is a real up-and-comer in the Sacramento poetry community.
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BOOK REVIEW by Sharon Ramirez
Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine: Selected Poems 1970-2010 by A.D. Winans
IT IS INTERESTING TO SEE WINANS AND HIS POETRY MATURE OVER FORTYYEARS, DURING WHICH TIME HE HAS CONTINUED TO WRITE ABOUT THE AGONY OF SEEKING LOVE AND ABOUT AGING IN EXISTENTIAL LONELINESS.
Bottle of Smoke Press, 2010
San Francisco poet A.D. Winans remains best known for his poetry about the invisible among us; he speaks for those who have no voice of their own and for the downtrodden whom society abuses. His poems come from the heart, not from a stale, academic workshop assignment that produces the poetry he opposes. His poetry and prose have appeared in over 1,000 magazines and articles. In addition, he published The Second Coming Magazine and Press for 17 years. Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine: Selected Poems 1970-2010 features poems from Carmel Clowns and his outrageously entertainining Crazy John poems. It also includes an introduction by Winans himself. In it, Winans writes of loneliness, sadness, and anger, while attributing love and humor in his poems to the late Bob Kaufman. Winans wants to be remembered as a poet of the people, and he considers his poems as the wife and children he never had. Part of Winans’ charm is his use of ordinary, spoken language. His words give us commonplace images everyone can appreciate, especially city dwellers. He shows us “one yellow-stained wash basin” and “empty shoes / sitting under the bed” and “single light bulb rooms sealed / Like tombs.” And then there’s the shocking image of a Panamanian hooker, “Naked legs spread open / Labia lobster red.” Winans’ stark images stay with us. His disdain for pseudo-intellectual poets, as opposed to his respect for blue-collar poets, comes through in his condemning lines in “Coffee Gallery Blues.”Winans writes: I heard one of them say poetry isn’t for the masses it’s been raining intellectual snobs all day. Yuppies don’t fare any better. In “How to Spot a Yuppie,” we read, “they look like they want something / and are willing to kill / to get it.” It is interesting to see Winans and his poetry mature over forty-years, during which time he has continued to write about the agony of seeking love and about aging in existential loneliness. As an old soul suffering the angst of a
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godless universe, Winans gives us tender irony in “Trying to Let Go”: Tied to death’s umbilical cord That refuses to let me go Knotting itself like a noose Around my neck Too tight for comfort Not loose enough To set me free. He shows us more angst when he writes in “City Poet” that You walk her streets a hungry vampire Lapping up your own blood On nights when blood transfusions Are not enough. The smell of death lingers in yet another startling image as we see “Death crouched low / Like a sprinter waiting the / Starter’s gun.” Winans’ poem,“The Old Italians of Aquatic Park,” reflects rich imagery with the refrain, “The old men of Aquatic Park,” and echoes the title, lending a sense of timelessness to their bocce ball games. He writes “lady death striking them down / like bowling pins.” And from the same poem, we see the bocce ball rolls slowly along the grass coming to rest like a hearse parked next to an open grave. Winans has an uncanny ability to summon powerful metaphors. In “Old Joe” he conjures up Vietnam when he writes, “nightmares that whirl inside / His head like helicopter blades.” He ends with: “Left tired withered / Like an unattended / Kansas grain field,” leaving no doubt that Joe was a Kansas farm boy before Vietnam. And now he is a homeless drunk in the big city. His range of theme is broad. There is the suffering of others caused by an uncaring universe and the commercial poets he sees as sellouts with “ideas as sterile as surgical
A PUBLICATION OF THE SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER
gauze.” And there is also the love-seeking, lyrical Winan who writes of “The falling away of our clothes” and “inside the heart where / all language stops.” One of my favorites reads, a love affair so fragile it was like trying to thread a needle in the teeth of a storm. Winans tells us in his “40th Birthday” poem that “america is no place for / a poet to grow old in.” In 2006, when he was 70, he writes that “Having escaped the nursing home / Is a small victory in itself.” Because of Winans’ intensity, it might be easy to overlook his wry humor. In his “Dick Tracy” poem, he writes about a transvestite dressed as a cowgirl taking Tracy home when he describes, In the morning when Dick Tracy wakes up He isn’t sure which side Of the law he’s on. Another favorite of mine tells about a dog’s dream: a fire hydrant a buried bone Snoopy defeating the Red Baron Over the skies of Paris.
A GREAT POET AND TEACHER NEEDS A HEART TRANSPLANT Beloved Poet Dean Young has published over ten books in twenty years, has won local and national prizes, and has been in Best American Poetry anthologies. His most recent book, Recklessness, is infused with the energy, passion, and generosity of his teaching, and has moved many students. Young teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, and I had the pleasure of studying with him. Young urgently needs a heart transplant. Even with insurance, his health costs will be massive; thus, your donation might make a difference in his treatment or recovery. If you can’t donate, please consider helping to spread the word to others. To get a sense of Young’s poetry and teaching, here are some excerpts from his poems and essays… from “Elegy on a Toy Piano” Necessary it is to live to love, to charge into the burning tower then charge back out and necessary it is to die. Even for the trees, even for the pony connecting you to what can’t be grasped. The injured gazelle falls behind the herd. One last wild enjambment. Because of the sores in his mouth, the great poet struggles with a dumpling. His work has enlarged the world but the world is about to stop including him. He is the tower the world runs out of. from Recklessness:
Several of the selected poems honor dead poets, including Bukowski, Patchen, and Micheline, all of whom he admires. Of Micheline he writes: Spinning words that Hung in mid-air Like a humming bird Drunk on the Pollen of life. Winans struggles against the tides of time throughout this dynamic selection of poems. He gains comfort not from nature but from his beloved city streets and its denizens. “For Kell” from his 1997 collection, Winans promises that he is Still fighting Still scrapping Like the rest of us For whatever time Is left. Long may this poet live. No one can replace A. D. Winans, the genius loci of the San Francisco beat.
We are all trying, in the writing of poetry, to bring into being something that doesn’t exist, that will surprise us, delight us perhaps, instruct us perhaps, but we must always be prepared for its initial unrecognizability. (Let me help you said the monkey, putting the fish safely up in a tree). …There will be no music made from chains except they be cast off. As critics of each others works we must be very careful making assumptions, constructing interpretations, and making recommendations for revision before we actually know what it is we are looking at. …I am very suspicious of the diagnostic model, that poems are evidence of sickness, of deficiency, like lab reports the doctor looks over, then tells the young poet . . . The imagination is forever in advance of criticism. To Donate: Phone: National Foundation for Transplants at 800-4893863. Be sure to request that the donation be designated in honor of Dean Young. Online: http://www.transplants.org/donate/deanyoung (Follow the directions to the donation mechanism--”Make A Gift.” Then go to “My gift is in honor of the following patient:” and put in Dean Young’s name.) —L. A. Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org
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FIRST WEDNESDAYS POETRY SERIES Hosted by Bob Stanley 6pm. Central Library, 828 I Street. Sacramento
Inside The Kitchen Clutter Inside the kitchen clutter of décor and china, sippin’ on my coffee, sippin’ on the world, sippin’ on the way that God may have intended the day to carry a scent of mint and immaturity; my mother, inside the clutter of hair curlers, sippin’ on her coffee, sippin’ on her cups that match her pretty bowls and match her pretty plates, tells me, again, how inexpensive her new conversation starter was, not like the bathroom remodel she did last spring. Out loudly, I agree, looking down into my coffee, into my world, and quietly argue that the pastel colors of her new found pride are way too dull to drink my coffee in. —By Margaret Stringham 6 | POETRY NOW | JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2011
IN PRAISE OF THE SACRED FEMININE by Ann Wehrman
Naked Sacred Earth Poems (Regent Press, 2010), by Donna Nieto (aka Dona Nieto, La Tigresa), like many poetry books by women throughout the ages, is a slim volume of lyrical verse with a personal focus. However, Nieto’s lucid, honest poetry, and indeed, her politics and way of life, clearly belong dead center in twentieth/twenty-first century California. Putting Nieto’s writing in the context of time, one realizes that seldom during the last several millennia has female sexuality been honored and extolled in verse as Nieto does. In poems shining with tactile references to her daily life, philosophy, love, nature, and above all sexuality (a woman’s own sexuality, as well as the passion shared between a man and woman), she refuses to consider sexual guilt, repressive false modesty, or Puritanism as virtues. She unconditionally denies them and does not look back. Visiting Nieto’s website, http://www.latigresa.net/index.html, the reader, pleasurably flushed and a little stunned after reading Naked Sacred Earth Poems, finds helpful links to Nieto’s bio, further poetry, a link to a video clip of her protest against logging, and much more. The reader learns Nieto is a celebrity, known internationally for protesting logging in Northern California redwoods by stripping to the waist and reciting her powerful poem, “I Am the Goddess,” as she blockades the logging trucks, bulldozers, and startled, sometimes leering, loggers themselves, using only her body, her spoken poetry, and her enormous heart. Watching the powerful video of Nieto’s protests, I was overcome with shame for the foolish loggers’ sake, and with angst at their reckless destruction of our precious resources. Nieto is a bright, Jewish girl who grew up in the 1950’s Midwest, who loved to write, and who embraced the political activism and mind-expanding counterculture of the 1960’s. Her path in life has led her to a personal level of activism that might shock or offend many in our culture, but that shines with her conviction and the intrinsic validity of the causes she espouses. Who is such a fool, when all is said and done, to argue against saving the Earth? Who, having a shred of romance and sensitivity left in his/her heart, will not agree with Nieto’s words, from “I Am The Goddess”: I am the Goddess, and I speak now from the mouth of all women, I am the Earth, the cradle of creation. In the creases of My inner thighs lies your salvation; get down on your knees and worship Me. Lay your face against the soft moss in the valley between My legs. Abandon your clothes by the riverside, and stretch your naked body along My sandy bank. Press your full length against My yielding ground. Dip your head into My cool green waters, and sip ‘til you are full. I f you cannot find a river that is clean enough to drink… If You Cannot Find A River That is Clean Enough To Drink IF YOU CANNOT FIND A RIVER THAT IS CLEAN ENOUGH TO DRINK
Then stop! And think. Then please, stop and think! (1-20) A PUBLICATION OF THE SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER
SPC 2010 POETRY CONTEST SECOND PLACE NOTE TO SELF
We’re not leaving the day after, but the day after that. After: the rapture. * What does it mean that you drew a triangle onto my forearm? Does it mean you like-like me? But then, as Julio Cortazar writes, “Sometimes I am convinced that triangle is another name for stupidity, that eight times eight is madness or a dog.” * Is it true that you can calm any cat by closing your eyes ever-so-slowly while looking at it? Is it ever-so? Are you the cat? Am I the ever? * The wind was wind. It had nothing to do with washing machines. * Is it true that Gabriel Garcia Marquez sold his couch for a carton of cigarettes in order to finish writing One Hundred Years of Solitude? Oh, let it be true. Blink if you also want it to be true. * I know what whores like. Your silly mouth has trouble making such words. But afterall, this is my poem. How dare you court-jester my kingdom? * How Dear and Desperation both start with half of a circle. How dirt got under my skin when the cut healed faster than I could clean it. * The pages of my book uncut. Get out your letter-opener. * Pop-quiz: what was the wind? * WWW.SACRAMENTOPOETRYCENTER.ORG
When A+ is really a B and B - is really an A. When the fingers say four but the hand knows it’s five. * I see that it’s a thumb.You said it was my nose. Liar. It is not true that liar comes from lyre, but if it were, these old bones could cartwheel again. * Is getting to you anything like trying to trim my nails in the dark? * I see that it’s a thumb.You said it was my noise. Oops. * Is it true that where the sidewalk ends is you? That last call is you? That empty space in a full parking lot is you? * It’s about fucking time. It’s about fucking time. How much fun is adding emphasis? (This question is worth extra credit.) * Rye and pastrami is just the kind of sandwich-dancing that I want to be a part of. * How, when it comes to paint swatches, I think you’re pucker up, you think you’re cold shoulder, but really you’re first edition, or maybe swinging door. Is it true that if I count to twenty and don’t slouch, you’ll want me to warm your gun metal? * “What’s yours like?” I’ll give you a hint: it’s high-pitched and heartbreaking. * It is true that we can’t dream what we haven’t seen. A unicorn and a rhinoceros
look similar for a reason. * You write about being, time, want. I waited for Want to stop scratching. Want waits for no one. * What else is there but taking out my eyes and soaking them in champagne? Seeing you gives me the spins. * “Even when all the molecules in a single breath of air have been dispersed evenly in the earth’s atmosphere, there will still be one or two of the same ones taken into the lungs with every subsequent breath.” I am breathing in your breath from when you were a baby. You are breathing in the last breath of Shakespeare. * It’s beautiful. What? The view. But I was looking at the ground, the streetlight, your nose. * Your eyes: loud guitars. Isn’t X beautiful? (Murderous, I know.) * How impossible to be everything one minute and nothing the next. Nada bing. Nada boom. It’s possible. * Note to self: tell you how I burn slow, like lemon slices in water. * I sleep.You thunder up. I put on my surprised face. Pop-quiz: Who does Want wait for? —By Katie Quarles
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SPC 2010 POETRY CONTEST HONORABLE MENTIONS And Can You Love Me can you be the oak pressed black against the dusk the lifting of a waxing moon the last swallow swooping low can you be the bees who loved me stung me the rippling layers of cricket wings the uncertainty in droughted meadows can you be the water in the lake in the river in the stream— can you be the wet pebbles too can you be the newt in slickened leaves the bend in the path the fortitude in pastured cows fenced within the rain can you be can you be last summer’s mockingbird its thirteen songs and can you love me the way it should have been
Nephew, Blurred 1 My sister, amused, photographs a windmill without blades. In the backseat we listen to a crow, and he tells me he hates them. He tells me they bring bad luck. I believe him. He is matter-of-fact, eleven, and last year he swallowed a fistful of lithium. Again this flatness settles in, and it’s clear I need a larger language, a lens less clouded by my flimsy diplomacy. It won’t suffice simply to list the ugly, the incomplete on this tour: useless landmarks, a dark harbinger balanced on a branch.
2 I am looking for him, but he is not the boy in my dream. “He’s not here,” some other child says, pensive in a tub of warm water. I am looking for him, and my sister, haggard, sloshed, offers me a miniature infant in the palm of her hand, flicks a remark, nonchalant, jokey, about my lack of sons. I think of crunching the newborn in my fist. I am looking for him, as if protection were possible, as if rescue required only that I lay eyes on him, explain a few things— what makes a sand dollar, why the ocean has salt. —By Kathleen McClung
The truth was, the whole place was empty, still people enjoyed themselves, were scared, found it creepy, while still others said it was informative and educational, a few more were deeply moved, and even some said it had changed their lives forever.
The Garden You’re pulling weeds in the garden. Two a.m.You cringe, quail.You are a little spilled milk. Eat the earth like cake, eat what you can. This caliginous. Fear crackles and verbs. The moon a bowl full of blueberries. The dream—your mother painting your face with crushed blueberries, looking proud. Grab the fallen leaves. Grab whatever isn’t rooted. You are your brain snuggled in its soup. You are your heart with its brass knuckles and noise, red flare, firework bird. You’re pulling weeds in the garden. Don’t stop until it’s clean.Your knees bloody. Dig yourself a hole and cover it with branches. This myopia: inability to see through the mud in your eyes.
—By Ray Hadley
—By Katie Quarles
—By Laura Hilton A Good Trick at the Zoo To save money they sold off every reptile in the reptile house, Snakes, lizards all of it went on the auction block, to the highest bidder, to the purveyors of exotic animals. The house remained open though In each and every “cage” one thought the snake was hiding behind a rock, or the turtle was under water, or that the lizard was so well camouflaged and immobile up in a leafy tree that you just couldn’t pick him out.
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A PUBLICATION OF THE SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER
Evolution Even Casanova’s poetic account of what happened under Maria Maddelena’s habit Skirts up and her holding a rosary His hunger for one of Christ’s brides Can’t keep me from glancing at the bedroom window between every page-turn at 2:00 a. m. Watching for the serial killer who governs the media A monarchal ghost marching his reign of terror across my back patio What I hear is not the rustle of pyracantha against glass but last summer’s haunt of wildebeest screams in a Masai Mara night The last hour of life as a hyena pulls out the entrails Slow and messy like the suck of spaghetti one strand at a time And I give-in to the inevitability of it all The need of a hawk to systematically pull feathers from a sparrow before eating it alive Or a kea to attach itself to the back of a sheep and hammer beak to kidneys A deviant rabbit that eats her own young The pyromaniac and pedophile The priests who ministered the slow crush of Maria’s foot in a Spanish iron boot I surrender to dichotomy To the world and the obscure wisdom of its creator Throw in my gun and ammunition And with arms over head walk into that place of peace in dreams Where maybe Casanova waits —By Ellaraine Lockie
ode for traveling solo The worst part is, I like it. When I break down at a ticket counter, trying to get farther away from the familiar and the ticket seller does not smile, or care or understand what I am trying to ask: When does this bus leave? Where can I find it? When will it be far enough? I like the woman who approaches me with caution and tenacity, intrigued by my destination which I might not have. The truck drivers who offer me rides, who are reminded of their daughters, and want to talk. The boy on the ferry who asks me why. The look in a passenger’s rear view mirror as the hills pass and I realize that is my own smiling face, and those are the Pyrenees, the Andes, or Atacama— or it’s the desert pressing into the ocean, my hair blown by its dispensation. I like to look around, then, unable to speak of it to anyone but myself. Because it doesn’t matter that the taxi driver took me to taberna Los Pinguinos instead of to the nest of penguins I traveled six thousand miles to see. It doesn’t matter that I slept under a bus station bench in Prague, in the winter. It doesn’t matter that every sentence starts and ends with “I’m sorry”— literally, “I feel it”. What matters is being able to go, or stay, when I please. Is the smoke from a volcano and a $1 box of wine on a dock with that carnal purr of what might happen, how dangerous is a place, how strong am I, as the lake is pulled back and forth by the moon. Is the checking in to a room, the knocking on a stranger’s door with the blessing of a friend. The fingering of a sentence, the licking it into something like communication. —By Carolyne Whelan
Magnolia Blossoms White petals larger than the leaves open wide around the stamen that leaves red tipped lines like deliverance on the oak table. When the petals fall they turn a soft bronze,
curl at the edges into a brown cradle. We say goodbye. Our hands curve one upon the other. Even as we say we need space our bodies move one toward the other, even though we say this is best a prodigal thought cries wait and all the while, the world
moves right along. Magnolias blossom. The petals fall. In the cupped spaces they hold whispers.
—By Allegra Jostad Silberstein
JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2011 | POETRY NOW | 9
POEMS The Human Chain He holds the baby on his lap spoon feeds it carrots with a baby size yellow spoon. She sits next to him on the bench spoon feeds pudding into the dad’s mouth with a silver spoon. They bend over the baby and kiss, the baby laughs. The human chain leaves the park. White flowers like snow drops from the Little Leaf Linden tree catch in the mesh of my shopping bag. —By Ann Privateer
The Eye Angel There are beds in each cubicle of Surgical Arts, with their accompanying IV hook-ups, but the wheeled gurneys look more like eternities’ sleighs ready to slide between day and night, a scary film in the operating room where someone sticks a snowy light so sharp into your eye it deafens sight, your optic nerve sending signals crazy as northeastern blizzards— plastic gloves snapping on, booze of anesthetic shooting up your arm. Didn’t you always want to graze on the music snow makes as it scurries across your face? Wait a minute, it’s not snow on your cheek, rather a white cloth with one eye hole through which a lazar beam obliterates cataracts. “Are you all right, dear?”someone asks and you couldn’t answer if you ransomed your mouth for large sums— momentarily tongue-tied. Oh, Mother of Mary, where are you when I need you most? and you pray right down to your feet that the angel of eyes will watch over yours, but there’s no certainty in prayer; one could slip from the gurney like a ghost without glitter. —By Dianna Henning
i come from suburbanized chicken coops lumped together like oatmeal i come from a woman i call mom who laid one egg at least one that hatched i come from the sidewalks of four sixty harvest circle with a circle of friends that came optional i come from a Vacaville public education system i responsibly ignored i come from a world too serious that’s made me all too seriously sarcastic i come from both front and back doors windows on top and bottom floors as i travel as one piece of that rubics cube i come from bad judgments that’s led to judges i come from country roads that lead me back into town high, eyes red with a smile that stretches around my head i come from a place where words cannot justify acceptance but only landscape residence i come from nine, five, six, eight, seven and when i die i hope to come back to this heaven —By Zach Embry
What’s New at Rattlesnake Press—? JOIN US: Wednesday, Feb. 9: DAWN AND DIRTY by Patricia Hickerson from Rattlesnake Press and a Rattlesnake Press broadside from Rachel Leibrock All at The Book Collector, 7:30pm (Home of the Snake) See Medusa’s Kitchen (medusaskitchen.blogspot.com) for the premiere issue of THE OPHIDIAN. Deadline for O2 is March 1.
10 | POETRY NOW | JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2011
A PUBLICATION OF THE SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER
Wind on the Mountain Will Ripen
Passover Thoughts I know there’s nowhere to go in my flight out of Egypt, nor any law of Moses that can lead me to the Promised Land. But that the road to Canaan cuts across the Moab of my desert thoughts with the staff of understanding, and the haggadah of my heart.
Wind blows through the bones of my heart. The bones don’t hurt my heart. They are laid out like one of those three story bird-cages made of bamboo. Beauty can break your heart— the way we watched the moon crest pines, and the abstracted stars above peaks fell like trapeze artists. Wind blows through the bones of my heart, makes a small sound like a dulcimer.
In this season of growth and renewal, I sweep, searching for at least ten pieces of hamez; feather my dusty room, search in dark corners with a cleansing light that purges pride and clears the way to righteousness.
A bird lives in the cage that holds my heart. Squeeze beauty hard enough and it turns into a passerine who sings from a branch on a mountaintop. When wind blows between the bones of my heart, I can’t remember if the bird nestled there is the bird in the tree, or if the cage instead is made of stars that sprinkle onto water. Because when the wind blows through the bones of my heart I am lifted from earth, and the little villages below blow holy. —By Dianna Henning
The Chinese Dinner I’ve eaten my Chinese dinner And to conclude any such occasion I seek the fortune cookie But there are two Which one Oh well I take and open the closest And it is written “Soon a visitor shall delight you” Just what does delight indicate… A guileless woman? Or one of innocence? Or a man with riches? “Soon a visitor shall delight you” So now I open the second cookie And the mirth has gone For it says “The taxman cometh” —By Stephen Collopy
Same Old Song (of recriminations) You drive me mad, command my attention, then use dulcet tones that slowly turn staccato. Like a crafty composer you play endless variations on that jarring tune. Here the theme’s so hackneyed it’s ignored. There it breaches my reverie while dressed in whipping winds. And even as I lean in my seat to bolt from the discord it vanishes in a host of glissandos that strain the ear to search for its abrasive ghost. Is it lost, primed for harmonic resolution? Not to worry. Beneath subdued cadences, the braying brass begins da capo with a donkey’s laugh.
Yet every year I get lost amidst crowded wheat fields and, with fast-fermenting thoughts, wander along loaded caravans of second-hand goods, gathering loaves of leavened bread that others left behind in their exodus from tribulation. Along the way, I get the urge to bundle into sheaves the whole lot of my long-grained baggage, and burn the least trace of hamez from my cluttered mind. All that I’m dependent on, that keeps my flesh in bondage and the heart confined, I’d scatter to the wind, roam across desert sands with nothing, but mazzah dipped in haroset, and the afikoman in my hand. —By Frank De Canio
—By Frank De Canio
POETRY EVENT CALENDARS
JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2011 | POETRY NOW | 11
BOOK REVIEW by Shadi Gex
Trip Wires by Connie Post Finishing Line Press, 2010
Connie Posts’ new chapbook, Trip Wires, creates an immediate relationship between inner and outer worlds. The first poem, “I Want to Walk Inside a House” moves its reader through containment and release as it contemplates the hidden life of “walls” and “ceilings” in their wordless world. Here, Post explores the dimensions of a house in terms of past, present, and future as she draws us into “the slats / beneath the worn foundation / where hardship grows” (3-5). This house she describes exists both physically and symbolically, and it represents the construction of our own lives. As we read, Post develops an awareness that even as a house holds hidden secrets within its frame, so do we all as we traverse “floors” and “tiles” without ever truly knowing what lies beneath them—or what remains buried within the framework of our inner worlds. In a house—as in an individual—hardship often “grows” in contained places where eyes cannot see. Throughout the twenty poems in Trip Wires, Post’s clear voice resonates and reminds us that the human spirit can and does prevail as it finds release from containment and freedom in the ability to learn “how to crawl / in the darkness / once again.” The speaker of “I Want to Walk Inside a House” remains mindful of the freedom of release from the confines of this house, remembering the “fields / in the ceilings” and harvests of times long past—a metaphor which extends to the labors of our own lives, what we’ve sewn and reaped. With each stanza, Post maintains a thoughtful balance as she acknowledges “the last language of the doorway” and “the texture / of silence / or gratitude.” Here, Post successfully coalesces all moments in time and achieves an understanding about our universal purpose—and what lies beyond the confines of our walls. In her poem, “Trip Wires,” Post continues exploring the theme of the hidden life by focusing her attention on the inescapable “languid roads of memory.” The inner world Post develops in “Trip Wires” is again unseen territory, the inner-workings of our mind, where the speaker declares, “Perhaps I should stop / running in my dreams” in order to avoid the inevitability of falling. Post calls deliberate attention to the conditional words, “perhaps” and “maybe,” in order to set up a contemplative state as she questions what lies buried in our “subconscious strands,” a question not easily answerable. In “Trip Wires,” the speaker blurs the borders between our inner and outer worlds. Perhaps the speaker should be more careful to “tip toe across the cerebral cortex / and be sure to close the door” to keep containment or control—and perhaps not. Maybe, Post intimates in “Trip Wires,” freedom and release from containment comes only in our ability to take the risk to have “frontal lobes / fill with rain of aging sleep” and “still remember / how to wake.” Is waking with the intention of consciousness the release or the containment? Post allows the reader to decide. In her final poem, “The Climb,” Post offers release from confinement with no regret as the speaker paradoxically states, “I climb over unremembered dreams.” Interestingly enough, Post has stripped her poem’s speaker of any useful items for mountain climbing, going so far as to admit, “I don’t know how to climb mountains / don’t own any strong ropes / or clips.” Yet the speaker, “free of boots” to protect against shards of rock and “sheared stone” dares to climb. This physical act, carried forth by sheer force of will and determination—and no fear of falling over “trip wires—“ becomes Post’s defining moment. Whether the dream takes place in the inner or outer world—or both—it symbolizes freedom of fear and release from containment. The vision and the message Trip Wires leaves us with offers hope—without sentimentality. Ultimately, Posts suggests that in life, though we fluctuate between inner and outer worlds, between known and unknown, if we take the risk of falling, we have gained all. 12 | POETRY NOW | JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2011
True Dancing Let your limbs sway and dance sway and dance in the breezes. Drift upon me violate me, my soul make my skin quiver, tremble with your touch.Woo me back and forth with the movement of sexy hips eyes go from side to side watching gracefulness at work. Turn off everything around me focus tuned on totally to you illuminate yourself, glow. Circle my body drawing me closer with each ring made upon me. Your breath, hot, turns me on as it moves down my body. Titillating my heart… making beat beat beat faster. Disappear into me intertwine a web within making a home. Yes, let your limbs sway and dance sway and dance waking my memories of why I asked you to dance ten years ago. Give me reason to dance another ten years. —By David Iribarne
CREATIVE NONFICTION WORKSHOP Wednesday nights at SPC with Rae Gouirand. Contact rgouirand@gmail. com for more information and to register. A PUBLICATION OF THE SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER
There’s Always Room for One
An Interview with
Rae Gouirand BY DORINE JENNETTE Jennette: I notice in your manuscript a persistent interest in how physical spaces interrelate with each other. The reader finds not only the geometries of the natural world and domestic spaces, but how these outer shapes relate to the mind’s inner spaces. Some of the more narrative poems, like the one about Brunelleschi designing his dome, express this spatial interest overtly, but it’s pervasive in the more compressed, oblique lyric pieces as well. One of my favorite examples comes from “The Sands,” where in the dunes “the plains / of sine shifting give limit / its shine.” These lines from “Translation” come to mind also: . . . imagine a kiss there and how it moves feeling away from any line that’s being drawn: how a circle can go in a circle without hurting to be a circle and can show its own shape in shaping . . . I was hoping you would talk a bit about your experience of the spatial world, and how you connect the outer/ physical and inner/spiritual in the construction of the poem’s space.
Gouirand: These days, I gravitate to natural regional life more than to built human landscapes . . ., but once upon a time I was an interdisciplinary urban studies major with a particular interest in architecture and order . . . I really enjoyed my education in urban legibility--it . . . helped me develop an understanding of the dialogue humans have always had with so-called white space. Walking has always helped me to find my white space, to find the clearing at the start of new thoughts and feelings and projects, and then to feel, very physically, whatever voice wants to emerge . . . The shorter (and more recent) poems in my manuscript are born from an interest in exploring the poem as an infinitely breakable world with an infinite number of entry points . . . I think of the visual aspects of my work as being less about boxing things in or making shapes than a kind of marking time or swaying. A recognition of what is moving underneath stillness. Poetry lives in the subtly moving body of every living thing. Poems and songs don’t go into us; they set something ringing that’s already inside us and allow us an experience of it . . . Jennette: I’ve been wanting to ask you about your use of colons. In “traditional” syntax, the colon serves a limited number of functions (unlike the ultra-flexible comma).Yet in your work, the colon serves a variety of functions-grammatical, musical, chronological--as in these lines from Present Tense: . . . like knowing the ocean made: of lemon and the single word sweet: how setting it down and lifting: it again revealed: the single thing: one can lift: . . .
RAE GOUIRAND’S poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review,
Columbia, The Kenyon Review, Seneca Review, Bateau, Memoir (and), Best New Poets 2009, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Open Winter, has been a finalist for Utah State University’s May Swenson Award, Ohio State University Press’ The Journal Award, CSU Fresno’s Philip Levine Poetry Prize, and other prizes. She completed her MFA at the University of Michigan in 2002.The founding editor of One by One Press, she lives in Davis, California, where she serves as Writer-in-Residence for the Cache Creek Conservancy. WWW.SACRAMENTOPOETRYCENTER.ORG
JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2011 | POETRY NOW | 13
Poems and songs don’t go into us; they set something ringing that’s already inside us and allow us an experience of it . . . Could you describe how you arrived at your sense of syntax and punctuation, in particular? How you balance the sentence against the line as you find the poem’s sway? Gouirand: The first poem in which I consciously realized I had an inclination to reset the behavior of the poem with those colons is actually the last poem in the book, a sixteen-line sort-of-sonnet titled “January.” It’s a love poem, though not in the traditional sense--it’s a poem about coming to reside in the willingness to love, openly, that which you cannot possess or even touch. It’s kind of a love poem to abstraction too, in my mind--to all that eludes literal interchange but feels so palpable and real. I cannot imagine anything being more real for a poet than unnameable feeling . . .Talk about white space. One of the things I love about those colons is that they announce it every time they appear. . . . They also [want] to see what [is] coming, to see words coming next in a line . . .They’re about firstness . . . A friend of mine said awhile back that she’d come to understand my colons as the breath of the poem, in a sense. Originally, they reminded me of folds, like in origami--like how when you unfold something that was in one shape you can see the marks of where the paper was challenged to accommodate its own manipulation . . . Jennette: Will you tell me about the creation of your new literary journal, One by One?
Gouirand: . . . I went on a road trip through the southwest that ended in Austin . . . And in my room, tacked next to the bathroom mirror by a straight pin, was a short typed poem by Ch’ien Ch’i. I was totally exhausted and roadfuzzy and half in a daze when I saw it, but it pulled me back into real time, this one little poem . . . I wanted the journal to speak to that--to how real poetry is, to how deeply poems rearrange us. If the letterpress revival has taught us anything, it’s that we crave things we can feel. I imagine One by One subscribers out standing by their mailboxes, stopping to read a poem, coming back into the house with a different set of priorities than they had when they headed out. I think about the kind of relationship One Story readers have with the stories [that magazine publishes] (also one at a time), and I want to see what that could look like for poetry. There’s always room for one poem . . .
New book from A.D. Winans Winner of 2006 PEN National Josephine Miles Excellence in Literature Award and recipient of 2009 PEN Oakland Lifetime Achievement Award. Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine Selected Poems from 1970-2010. 368 Pages. $20 plus $5 shipping. Bottle of Smoke Press 902 Wilson Drive Dover, DE.19904
POEMS By Carol Claassen each time
How Lesbians Make Love in Mourning
behind your ears streaks of peach red rising suns peaking beneath my fingers curling and jumping atop your pulse popping muscles straining against skin the only thing between us between the thing inside of you inside of me your breath filling my mouth my mouth on your salty this and that and nothing not the clock not your appointment my books the phone matters but our bodies and the trembling of words that don’t exist outside of this moment infinite ancient brand new each time
After her mother dies, they busy themselves with phone calls and funeral arrangements. They read sympathy cards and eat anonymous casseroles. They walk the dog and after a couple of days return to work. They smile at the neighbors and small children and are normal until the clock’s hands tick them into bed. There, they do not recognize each other. She flops her arm around the other’s waist. Her arm is cool and heavy. Her waist is thin. They move towards each other like seals, their bodies slow and cumbersome. When their chests finally meet, they are exhausted. Their breaths arrive like ocean waves sighing against a pier. They draw the blankets around themselves like seaweed curtains. A nose presses into a neck, a mouth rests against a forehead. They sleep.
14 | POETRY NOW | JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2011
A PUBLICATION OF THE SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER
CONTRIBUTORS is a cross-genred lesbian, a non-native Portlander with an MFA from CSU-Fresno, and a passionate teacher of college reading and writing classes. She believes in the power of language and contends that a comma, aptly placed, can change a person’s life.
LAURA HILTON has been nurtured by nature,
had been published in Ceremony, Bell’s Letters, and others. He is a self-employed landscaper and handyperson who has worked at myriad odd jobs while raising his four children and his many pets.
he earned a B.A. in English. Presently, he works with a non-profit agency as a Job Coach for the developmentally delayed population.
was born and bred in New Jersey and works in New York. He loves music of all kinds, from Bach to Dory Previn, Amy Beach to Amy Winehouse, World Music, Latin, and opera. Shakespeare is his consolation, writing his hobby. He likes Dylan Thomas, Keats,Wallace Stevens, Frost , Ginsburg, and Sylvia Plath as poets. FRANK DE CANIO
is a new poet who lives in Dixon and is very interested in music and string theory. ZACH EMBRY
PATRICK GRIZZELL is a poet and songwriter
and author of Minotaure Into Night and Dark Music, Chicken Months about which Robert Bly said,“... the poems have a sweet spontaneity and tenderness.” He is a founding member and former director of the Sacramento Poetry Center. He is widely published and performs poetry and music regularly.
art, and books all of her life. She states:“I have been saved by them as well.” Her poetry has been published in Manzanita, Freefall, Ship of Fools, Tiger’s Eye, Song of the San Joaquin, and New Millennium Writings. DAVID IRIBARNE is graduate of CSUS where
is a widely published and awarded poet, nonfiction book author, and essayist. Her chapbook, Red for the Funeral, won the 2010 San Gabriel Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest, and she recently received the Best Poetry Contest Award from OASIS Journal. Ellaraine serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, Lilipoh. ELLARAINE LOCKIE
lives in San Francisco and teaches at Skyline College and the Writing Salon. Recent publications include Tule Review, Bloodroot, and Poets 11 2010, an anthology edited by Jack Hirschman. Her poem, “Reprieve,” won honorable mention in the Robert Frost Foundation’s 2010 Poetry Award. KATHLEEN MCCLUNG
ANN PRIVATEER is a poet, photographer, and
retired teacher who grew up in Cleveland, OH. She writes: “A line from one of my
first poems, written eons ago, reads ‘…and you and I are walking in the forest munching a carrot.’ The years since twenty-something bring back some of that ability to be carefree.” was the recipient of the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Prize in poetry. Her work has appeared in The King’s English, Cahoots Magazine, Cause & Effect, and Apocryphal Text. She is an editor and proofreader living in Roseville. KATIE QUARLES
JOSTAD SILBERSTEIN grew up on a farm in Wisconsin but has lived in California since 1963. Her love of poetry began as a child when her mother would recite poems as she worked. Allegra has over a hundred publications and, in March, 2010, became the first Poet Laureate of Davis. ALLEGRA
work can be found in Thunderclap Magazine, Yes, Poetry!, MadSwirl, Girls With Insurance, and The Southern Quill. MARGARET STRINGHAM’S
received her MFA in poetry and nonfiction at Chatham University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Eclectica, Shadyside Review, and Chapter & Verse, among others, as well as in a collaborative chapbook, Are You Free? (Glass Key Press, 2009). She lives in Pittsburgh, PA and is the editor of Longshore Press. CAROLYNE WHELAN
RAY HADLEY graduated from the University
of Illinois in 1962 and then came west where in the early 1970s he took part in the Sacramento poetry scene as one of the editors at Hard Press. Since 1986 he has owned Keynote, a used book and record store in Lake Tahoe. poetry books include The Tenderness House and The Broken Bone Tongue. Her work has appeared in Crazyhorse, The Lullwater Review, Poetry International, Fugue, and many others. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. She and her husband Kam are owners of a writers’ retreat,Thompson Peak Retreat. Her website is www.diannahenning.com. DIANNA HENNING’S
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his issue brings many book reviews and book suggestions from local poets and Poetry Now staff who were asked to recommend only one book. Surprisingly, few suggested poetry books. What is the book you would recommend or that you would take if you could take only one book? Write me at PoetryNowEditor@gmail.com, and I’ll include your responses in upcoming issues. Small Press Corner will be written by Sacramento’s own Book Collector, Richard Hansen. I encourage you to seek out small press publications because they often present the most innovative writing. The wildly popular In Dialogue has graciously given its space to a special on Dean Young, and it will return in the March/April issue with a feature on Frank Andrick, host of KUSF’s radio show, Pomo Literati and founding member of Drogas (words + beats + sound). Look for Alexandra and Frank In Dialogue in the next issue. I am pleased to have heard from so many Poetry Now readers about the new features, and I look forward to hearing from more of you about the increased book reviews, submission calls, and calendar items. Our website, www.sacpoetrynow.wordpress.com, is where you will find links to the online Poetry Now as well as more submission calls, interviews, and extended articles.
TRINA L. DROTAR
A PUBLICATION OF THE SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER
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