Welcome The Sacramento Poetry Center has been a literary resource since 1979. MISSION: The Sacramento Poetry Center's mission is to promote and advance the practice and application of poetry and the literary arts in our community, to enliven and extend the cultural boundaries of Sacramento's literary arena by creating and maintaining forums for local writers; to support and empower emerging and established poets, and to bring the best practitioners of the craft into the community.
Sacramento Poetry Center 1719 25th Street Sacramento, CA 95816 Membership information available here: Sacramento Poetry Center
Two Farewells: Francisco X. Alarcón and Abe Sass In January we lost two wonderful poets in our region, and it’s hard to imagine that our poetry community will ever be the same in their absence. Francisco X. Alarcón was one of California’s most esteemed poets, and yet he was always down-to-earth, kind, and incredibly giving of the art form he loved. His poetry was for everyone: adults, kids, readers of both English and Spanish, and his message was that we must love and respect each other and the world around us, even as we must call for society to heal its wounds. Francisco read at many SPC events and led memorable workshops over the years. He leaves a remarkable legacy: he gave readings, lectures and organized programs all over the world; he has written more than a dozen books – stories, poems, folk tales, children’s books, not to mention dozens of academic articles. Most of all, he has a devoted following of friends, students, fellow poets: truly a familia de poesía. Francisco passed on January 15th after a few months of battling cancer, but his message lives on with those who were touched by his life and work. You can find some of his work at poets.org, the site maintained by the Academy of American Poets, if you want to begin exploring Francisco’s considerable contribution to poetry. I watched Abe Sass come to poetry late in his life, and he roared into it with such a passion that his last five years were like a rushing torrent of words. In those years, Abe had a chance to create a collection of his own work, which he read from at SPC in the Fall of 2015. Like Francisco, Abe was a strong force for social justice, and his poetry reflected that as well. He loved Sacramento, he loved to meet new people, and he loved telling stories. We were fortunate to see him unfold as a storyteller (though I think he was always a storyteller!) It’s hard to believe he won’t be wandering in to SPC with a sheaf of new poem-stories to share. Farewell, Abe and Francisco – two men who painted with the bold colors of their words and lives. SPC Update: We are very fortunate to have an active board of directors – the SPC board is really a group of volunteers who design and implement our events and programs. So I want to thank a number of them (and a few poetry volunteers not on the board) who have
helped make SPC even more active in our fourth decade of poetry programs! Please attend their events, or spread the word about these free programs if you can. Phillip Larrea has been hosting the popular Sacramento Voices program for a few years now, and it continues to be a great venue – every month it’s on the Third Saturday from 4:30 to 6pm at SPC on 25th Street. Mark your calendar now for March 19
Thanks, Phillip, for keeping this event ever-lively! Nancy Aidé Gonzalez continues the thriving Mosaic of Voices program at the Avid Reader Tower on Broadway – First and Third Sundays from 2 to 4pm. For the next few months, plug into your calendar app these dates: Feb 7, Feb 21, Mar 6, Mar 20,
Thanks to Nancy for this twice-a-month gem! Rhony Bhopla is leading a new writing workshop every week at the Valley Hi-North Laguna Library, and it begins February 4th, 2016. Modeled after the ever-popular Tuesday Night Workshop, this provides a supportive place for writers to share their work. All writers welcome! Every Thursday from 6 to 7:30. And as Rhony points out, it ends early enough for poets to get to Luna’s in time for Poetry Unplugged! Pencils ready to get these dates down? Feb 4, 11, 18, 25,
March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31,
April 7, 14, 21, 28
Sandi Wasserman felt that some poetry was needed “across the river” in the area where she’s living now, (the Arden Area), so she took matters into her own hands. SPC is proud to co-sponsor this new series; Sandi calls it Poetry at Einstein. This once a month reading is on First Sunday afternoons from 4:30 to 6pm at The Albert Einstein Residence Center, 1935 Wright Street (between Cottage and Wyda Streets.)
I could go on – Bethanie Humphreys organizes our Second Saturday Art events, Mary Zeppa and Lawrence Dinkins continue the Third Thursday Poetry at Central Library program, and Tim Kahl, Wendy Williams, Emmanuel Sigauke, Bethanie Humphreys and Rhony Bhopla currently anchor the Monday night program. Special thanks to the ever-inspiring Kara Synhorst, who leaves the board after serving as board secretary for a number of years (Come to readings when you can!). I can’t list it all here – if I did, there’d be no time for anybody to read or write a poem. See our website calendar for details! Be sure to come down and check out our new décor – thanks to Linda, Penny, and Bethanie, our poetry place is warmer than ever. And mark your calendars now for our April Poetry Conference – Saturday April 30 at SPC – a stellar lineup of poets and poetry teachers is guaranteed. Bob Stanley
Distance I cured the salmon, given to me by my uncle, with salt, sugar, and dill. He gave me huge loins of the fish (often salmon, or abalone, or deer, he catches, finds, hunts). After three days in the refrigerator, I pulled the pink flesh from the salt,` rinsed it carefully, and sliced itcutting thin, smooth fillets from the small bones so they could be eaten on bagels with cream cheese. But when I took a bite of the lox I had made, I did not feel the earth turning I did not sense my trophic position I did not know the rivers the salmon knew nor could I feel the sting of the hook the breathless pain of flopping in the boat those last fish thoughts I looked out the window and saw no more than what was there.
Aunt Hazel Her dark hair, perfect pin-curls, lush lips--red thick lipstick, her fleshy legs under the full flowered skirt. She was my girlfriend, but no one knew it. Only she and I. My five year-old body pulled by magnets, drawn down on grandmotherâ€™s couch where Aunt Hazel leaned into pillows, pulled me against her, stroked my long curls as Uncle Al strummed the guitar and made me sing You Belong to Me right there in front of everyone.
Densho* (adapted from oral history presentations, Time of Remembrance exhibit, California Museum, Sacramento, March 2014) I never found out what happened to my dog we left a bowl of food we left a bowl of water then we were gone wearing tags like Minnie Pearlâ€™s hat first they sent us to live in a stall like Seabiscuit then to Arkansas swamps double roof on our barracks but no fans no doors on the restrooms we made no eye contact we learned to create our own privacy my mother wore a paper bag on her head to hide her shame for the first time in their lives the adult Issei didnâ€™t have jobs they took English lessons practiced crafts played sports schools were formed in the spare rooms of our barracks few pencils or paper we shared our books knelt on wooden floors to write on crowded benches
my brothers first rejected by the Army how could that be when we didn’t consider ourselves anything but Americans? were then drafted into the 442nd Regimental Combat Team a segregated unit with the war’s highest casualty rate it became the most decorated unit of its size in U. S. history after the war when we returned people thought we had done something wrong there were incidents we didn’t talk about them just because I looked like the enemy Densho—Japanese term meaning “to pass on to the next generation,” or to leave a legacy. www.densho.org
Luna Blancaâ€™s Poem Here is a row of Ginko trees waiting for color, for a snap of cold, in this time of extended drought; their aspiration for radiance suddenly impending and personal, though I no longer harbor the kind of rooted confidence trees effuse, there are yet things that I attend my sinews now, closer -- as they work to be free of biography -- to raw nerve. The words of Guru Nanak stew their integrity deep into piles of patinaâ€™d browns, though nothing yet is falling. Transcending the merely documentary a ball, green with season, magically appears in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe, cheering the small dog who, knowing only the fierce heart of things, does not question how matter comes into or departs from this world; be it a message from the silent reserve or mana from The Arden Tennis Club, next door. Vendanta Gardens, Sacramento
WRITING the WRITING 2016 Workshop Julia Connor, Poet Laureate Emerita the lyf so short the craft so long to lerne â€”Chaucer Using formal instruction methods as well as hands-on techniques, we will attempt to access and empower the artistic mind from which our writing springs. My intention is to foster a small on-going group study and practice of the craft. Sessions will include writing exercises, practice in a range of forms, sharing of resources, study and discussion of selected texts, and attention to participantâ€™s work. Texts for the January to June segment will be selected from: Denise Levertov, New and Selected Essays, New Directions & The Ecopoetry Anthology Eds. Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street, Trinity University Press This workshop is open to a wide range of experience. Advance registration necessary. Please contact me for more information. Julia Connor www.juliaconnor.com
What a good poem can do is take something hard and render it soft, maleable, animate if we are lonely and needy of comrades. It can whisper in ears sore from street noise or the voiced anger of those who find us "inadequate." The poem would say "Sit, breathe, you are with us: the poets who would not harm a fly," unless, of course, it landed on Pericles' Golden Apple.
Early Morning Walk This is how I like it best. Just my little dog and I owning the neighborhood. Nobody out but us. I can concentrate on what there is here: the season's colors, bird-gossip, airplane's drone
Union Pacific's distant salute, agonizing sound of old redwood shakes yielding to the workmen on Yates' roof. They are going with wood again. Tomorrow this stretch will smell like freshly sharpened pencils.
The Achievement of Perfection In some hierarchy complete ranks above incomplete, so dates bracketing must be greater than just one side—the original left and then empty to apparent infinity until shut—a gate finishing the job and thus raising the rank of the notation—which, if one is famous enough will enter the edition or later web-page, capped, cutting off developments to the right and indicating it’s all there, trapped between the number series—snaked fences— as you are now below
Christopher Mulrooney album leaf I tore it out to remember it all well and stuck it back loose to forget now I donâ€™t know what to do with it this is the manner in which it lies unglued on the floor between us
The Immortal The herald bee finds the hollow of deadwood tells the others, then they swarm his trunk where they paste together a thin lantern, the bare beginning of new heart. They build and build until catacombs of wax line the chamber which they tend and furiously clean. Their seething wakes him from a long dream of winter and he breathes again as they stream in and out the high sawed-off branch he hadnâ€™t considered for years. They spread a conflagration of pollen through his chest, the fine dust trailed by thousands through his tunneled core. It feels like fire about to catch, ferment cooled by fanning wings until it beads to the proper torpor and then is capped like the white half-bees still fomenting in their cells. The blissful schwirr is a reverie of molt, the thrum and crawl through his middle by the same stoic odalisque who seems to be immortal, duplicated to infinity and indifference, while he loves her without reserve for her toil, for her list into the spirit world to the curled ears of the gods to bring back the resin found there, and at deep center, the severe high holy queen whose low hum he feels a constant song, a slow call vibrating through the heavy swells of honey where before there had been nothing.
"Humboldt Bay at Low Tide" â€” Joshua McKinney
“Three Stages”— Nanci Lee Woody
“Jetty in the Snow”— Katy Brown
Book Review Travelers With No Ticket Home by Mary Mackey Reviewed by Susan Kelly-DeWitt Mary Mackey’s new book of poems, Travelers With No Ticket Home, is mystical, passionate and strange. It picks up where her previous collection, Sugar Zone, left off— continuing the journey through the ravaged jungles and rainforests of the 20th and 21st centuries, reminding us that, wherever we are, history insinuates itself into our lives, exiling us from ourselves, from the past and from each other—so that we are always “travelers with no ticket home.” Here Mackey also continues, as she did in Sugar Zone, to weave the English and Portuguese languages together into a lyrical text that becomes, in its own way, a third language unto itself—as if to say that all language is finally one language if we can learn to speak as members of a global community. -==The first section of the book begins with a poem called “Jacobs Ladder,” that sets the tone for what is to come. In it we get a portrait of the speaker’s great aunts, “hair done up in braids/ calico feedsack dresses aprons full of chicken feed”—turn-of-the-20th century Midwestern farm women for whom a Brazilian landscape, an Amazonian rainforest, or their great-niece speaking the Portuguese tongue to them, might have seemed incomprehensible: “queridas tias / dearest aunts the jungle is thicker than corn mais grosso do que o milho greener than cucumbers/ mais verde do que pepinos filled with black lagoons that shine like obsidian
In the Old Testament story, Jacob’s dream of an unbroken ladder to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it, comes to him as he flees in exile toward an unknown future; the dream connects him to the promise of a homeland, a kind of earthly and spiritual ticket home. (Genesis 28:11-22) The great aunts might have grown up with that story, but the poems that follow catalogue a brokenness that dispels that myth. The poem ends with two lines that set out the theme for the book: “we all stand at the foot of a ladder that’s missing rungs/ speaking in tongues no one can understand.” (Mackey’s endnotes also remind us that “Jacob’s Ladder” is a traditional block quilt pattern; one can think of Mackey’s book—six separate sections, each with its own design—as a kind of word-quilt.) The second section of the book, called “The City of Apocalyptic Visions,” drops us into that very world so “foreign” to the great aunts: “How you loved it in the beginning the flashing sequins the bare thighs and breasts the drumming that you said made you feel as if you were being passed from hand to hand over a crowd of 72,000 people who loved you more than your own mother… the samba whispers terrible secrets! you cried but you would not tell me what they were how easy to it is to give ourselves to the gods, o meu bem how hard to take ourselves back [from “After Carnival”] And so it is with Mackey’s “travelers”—which is again to say all of us—who are “like souls trapped between two worlds.” (Mackey has traveled to Brazil regularly for twentyfive years and, as in Sugar Zone, the poems here are grounded in those years of exploration and travel.)
Amazonas we walk on the bottom of an invisible ocean under us the ground heaves in slow waves look the masts of a thousand ten thousand a million sunken ships surround us in a cage of pale flame over our heads vast green clouds tremble in the dying light the Waika have warned us to be silent they say if we open our mouths here we will drown Much to the poetryâ€™s advantage, Travelers also reintroduces the surrealistic shamanistic dream figure, Solange, who first appeared in Sugar Zone. Tempting as it is to think of her (at least in part) as doppelganger or alter ego, Solange insists on being much more than that: She is soothsayer, truth-sayer, lover and doommonger; materializing and vanishing again and again throughout the book. To my mind she is surely one of the most interesting characters ever to appear in a book of contemporary American poems. Solange Taunts The Colonels of Para She lifts the flowers to her lips and blows on them until the petals flap like the wings of egrets she disappears becomes invisible incorporeal immaterial/delusional transforms herself into a snake stalks us like a jaguar tears out our throats and heals us with a kiss when the colonels and their jagunĂ§os come to kill her she greets them by pulling up her skirt which of you fat men with big guns and small pistolas
is brave enough to enter the door that leads nowhere she cries which of you wants to die with the taste of cashews on your tongue? after they run away she sleeps for forty days when she wakes she tells us to place another row of small black seeds on her tongue calls them the bitter stones that pave the path to Paradise Not surprisingly reviewers have compared Mackey to Elizabeth Bishop, who traveled to Brazil intending a brief visit and stayed on for the better part of two decades, living there during the Fifties and Sixties with her partner, Lota de Macedo Soares. (Soares committed suicide in 1967.) Bishop would surely have described herself as “a traveler with no ticket home,” and Mackey alludes to her Brazil-Bishop connection in the poem “View From The Balcony”: View From The Balcony Nine times the sun rose over the bay nine times the sea looked as if some great fish had been slaughtered between the channel and the point in the streets people dressed in strange brightly-colored clothing danced to songs of drought and starvation each night the spirit of Elizabeth Bishop walked in the park her lover had designed where palm trees waved like human hands the wind was a cough that stopped and started and the heat burned like strong coffee from our balcony high above it all we could see long white ships taking people to kinder places
this is how we learned about despair this is how we were schooled in it “Bright-colored clothing; dancing to ”songs of drought and starvation; ships “taking people to kinder places”—these are things Mackey’s travelers see along the way—this is how they enter the land of Despair. -==Travelers chronicles much about the Brazilian world—the favelas, the homeless street children, the military “fat men,” the polluted waters, the anacondas and bocarubus—the cruel and gorgeous set side by side or peeled away in layers. The poems here seem to say: No matter how much good the travelers intend, no matter what beauty remains in the degraded land/human-scape, history has left things in ruins. We understand then why, when the travelers encounter “the last six speakers of Arikapu” (in the poem “Under the Bocarubu Trees”) they did not turn to look at us standing there beside our canoes we were the noise that had drowned their silence the thieves who had cut out their tongues pale ghosts in their green light our words harsh and incomprehensible as the ringing of axes -=In the last three sections of the book, Mackey shifts her focus to include some intimate family poems that in some ways hearken back to “Jacob’s Ladder”—poems like “Language Lessons” and “To My Mother on her Second Non-Birthday”—among the most emotionally touching poems in the book.
These are followed by a penultimate section of poems called “The Kama Sutra of Kindness” (several poems reprinted from earlier books), which explores the place of kindness in erotic love (eros and agape). Walking Toward the Largo do Machado when the smell of jasmine flows through the streets of Catete like a warm fog when the scent is so liquid you can breathe it in get drunk and stagger I think of all the years I have loved you and all the years I will go on loving you I think of how we protect each other from pain and betrayal how each night we wrap ourselves around each other and peace floats above our bed like a canopy of white petals The final section, “The Martyrdom of Carmen Miranda,” is composed of a single poem, an elegy for the Brazilian samba dancer and film actress who became one of Hollywood’s shooting stars but was, in the process, reduced to caricature—with “the fruit basket hats,” allowing herself to be “done up in pompoms like a pet poodle.” Here is an excerpt from the closing stanza: Carmen like you we are all travelers who set out believing we can bring back something to make it worth the trip… something that will make us happy and whole… It is a poem that brings us back to the central theme of the book, to exile and to those missing rungs in our own Jacob’s Ladder.
Susan Kelly-DeWitt is the author of The Fortunate Islands and ten previous print and online collections; a new book, Spider Season, is forthcoming in 2016. She is a member
of the National Book Critics Circle and the Northern California Book Reviewers Association; her reviews have appeared in Library Journal, Small Press Review and Poetry Flash, among others.
Editorâ€™s Choice Dogs at Midnight Underneath the Moon When we tottered out to check on our barking dogs, nothing suspect lurked in the dark, so our drowsy hearts sashayed their usual waltz until we saw our malamutes' eyes ablaze, their fur razed, as though both dogs had battled intruders off the premises. The moon rested her head on the pond's lap while the malamutes circled and re-circled its muddy banks. Each time the canines dipped their tongues they first stopped to bark as though multiple dogs were reflected in the stillness of water. But our multiple lives are not too much, especially when the moon sends us her white lilies â€”Dianna MacKinnon Henning
"Dogs at Midnight Underneath the Moon" is from Henning's third book of poems, Cathedral of the Hand," by Finishing Line Press.
Book Launch Reading: Sacramento Poetry Center on Monday, March 21, 2016.
Bethanie Humphreys, Sacramento Poetry Center Art Curator, provides her perspective on being an artist and art curator. Humphreys answers questions posed by Alysa Joerger, Guest Interviewer 1. As an artist yourself, how does your work inform your decisions to accept or not accept work for SPC? As Curator for the Sacramento Poetry Center Art Gallery it is my mission is to promote cross-genre work, new and emerging artists, empower those who don't always have a voice, and to encourage collaboration between the visual art and literary communities. As an artist, I’ve seen the way women, minorities, and emerging artists are sometimes treated in the art world. Although that has not been my experience in Sacramento, (everyone in the art and poetry communities here has been very welcoming) it has definitely motivated me to create opportunities for the underrepresented and promote inclusivity and inspiration. 2. What has been the most rewarding experience? What is the most difficult part of the job? I’ve only been curator since June of 2015, but the most rewarding experience so far has been the merging of my creative worlds—the art and poetry scene—and the growing gatherings at the Second Saturday receptions. Busy-ness has become a religion, and seeing people take time out to gather and celebrate the arts is wonderful. The most difficult part for me has been juggling all of my responsibilities and maintaining a more constant social contact. I work part time as a paralegal and office manager, have a husband and two children, take classes, and do art and writing when I can. I love talking and writing with my fellow creatives, but I also have a pretty large need for solitude. Balance is, as always, a challenge.
3. How do you determine the themes for each collection? From there, how do you determine which pieces make it into the space? Generally, there are three ways that a theme is decided upon: 1) An individual artist or group expresses interest or has been recommended to show at SPC, 2) invitational shows that I organize, or invite a guest curator to help organize, and 3) three months of the year are prescheduled—Sable & Quill is an annual show in January of writers who are also artists, organized by Jennifer O’Neill Pickering. Also, Women’s Wisdom shares space at SPC, and is a wonderful organization that supports women through art. They have a group show twice a year, in February and September. As I said earlier, my mission as curator is to promote cross-genre work, new and emerging artists, empower those who don't always have a voice, and to encourage collaboration between the visual art and literary communities. If anyone is interested in showing at SPC, I ask that they e-mail me some images and the basic idea for a show at: firstname.lastname@example.org. 4. What is the theme for the upcoming collection at SPC? February will be a group show of women who participate in Women’s Wisdom, guestcurated by Helen Plenert and Susan Kelly-Dewitt. March will be Woman in the Convex Mirror: Women’s Self-Portraits. This is an invitational show inspired partly as a way to celebrate Women’s History Month, and partly because of a series of conversations I had with other artists on the particular psychological difficulty that women particularly seem to face, not only in creating but also in valuing and showing self-portraits. It is the discomfort, and questioning the role gender plays in the intent and purpose of self-portraits as fine art that I’m interested in.
Do gender roles somehow alter the motivation an artist may have for creating a selfportrait in the perception of viewers? Do women and other repressed groups feel the need to justify creating one? How have the ways we view and interpret self-portraits changed through time with new technology, most recently with the growing popularity of the “selfie?” In addition to the Second Saturday Reception, there will be a panel discussion involving Sarah Solis (artist, professor, and head of the art department at ARC) and some other artists to discuss these questions. I’m also hoping the self-portrait concept will be explored in other areas of art-poems that are self-portraits, interpretive dance as selfportraits, etc. Submission is free and open to the public. Please e-mail me for the details and any questions at: email@example.com 5. Which senses inform your own art? What is your current favorite medium? The visual and tactile feed my art. Writing is my truest form of expression, and visual art is how I expand and make the images created through text, that won’t leave me alone, into something tangible. Mixed media will probably always be my favorite because the possibilities for innovation are endless. Every project I begin I consider an experiment. I’m not interested in mastering a particular technique as much as exploring new ways to use or combine them. The process is what satisfies me, and occasionally, the end result will too. I had to hurdle the bar of imperfection and leave it behind in order to give myself permission to do art. A little recklessness and a steady hand go a long way. 6. How has the Sacramento Poetry Center changed over time? This would be a great question to ask Mary Zeppa (she would also be a great person for your next interview). She is SPC’s unofficial (or maybe even official) archivist, and has been on the Board since the beginning.
7. While working as the curator, what do you feel is your biggest accomplishment? I have only been the curator since June of 2015, so I’m sure there is a lot of wonderful work ahead of me. That being said, the Haiku Art small works show in December was the first invitational show I’ve organized, and I was thrilled with how it turned out. 33 different artists contributed 81 pieces, and there was a great crowd who fully cooperated with an impromptu artists’ talk and an open mic reading of haikus at the Second Saturday reception. 8. Art has traditionally been a vehicle for resistance, change, and reformation. Do you find this is still true in the Sacramento art community? Of course. The best part of art is that it doesn’t have to be anything, but there are certainly artists in our community that are politically and socially active. 9. Who has been the most influential artist in your own life and work? I was given my first book of poetry, Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic, when I was nine. I’m pretty sure that book is what made me think poetry was accessible and fun to write. My first obsession with a visual artist was Van Gogh his vivid colors, expression of mood in even the simplest landscapes and still lifes, and the sheer audacity in the thickness of paint application and brushstrokes! I’ve had so many art crushes since then, I don’t know if I could say who has been the most influential, but now I get excited when I see new techniques or unusual combinations of old ones.
Board of Directors Bob Stanley, President Tim Kahl, Vice President, Hosting Coordinator Al Gutowsky, Treasurer Rhony Bhopla, Host, Editor Poetry Now, Thursday Workshop Linda Collins, Membership Lawrence Dinkins, Co-Host Third Thursday Poetry Nancy AidĂŠ Gonzalez, Host Mosaic of Voices Allie Gove, Assistant Editor Poetry Now Frank Graham, Editor, Tule Review Dennis Hock, Board Member at Large Bethanie Humphreys, Host, Gallery Curator Penny Kline, Board Member at Large Phillip Larrea, Host Sacramento Voices Rebecca Morrison, Host Alex Russell, Real Poets Emmanuel Sigauke, Host Wendy Williams, Host, Advising Editor Poetry Now Mary Zeppa, Archivist, Co-Host Third Thursday Poetry
Poetry Now Editors Rhony Bhopla, Editor Allie Gove, Assistant Editor Wendy Williams, Advising Editor Carol Louise Moon, Advising Editor Alysa Joerger, Guest Interviewer