Tuesday, April 16, 2019

SPRING GOLD

SPRING GOLD

OK, so I'll finally admit it is a cold
that finally declared itself in all its snotty splendor
after a day of chasing wildflower photos
in high winds where the air was so laden with pollen
the distant coastal hills were lost in a dream haze
like an alkali curtain had descended upon them.

The first time in over a decade a ritual is broken,
no more travels to the desert in springtime.
My partner dumped me at an unmarked trailhead.
So I learned to find my way and make do
with the local landscape, sneezing all the while,
remembering the trips to the Mojave Desert
where vast floral carpets of goldfields,
poppies, and purplemat stretched farther
than the eye could see.

I release my anger, I release him back
to the darkness that is his alone to bear.
He keeps calling me but I will not take him forth
into a future where the wildflowers
steal small pieces of the sun to dress the hills
in such gilded array that I am sick with joy.

4/16/19

Saturday, April 13, 2019

SOCIAL MEDIA

SOCIAL MEDIA

As I searched for information
on the internet, whether or not
my old MacBook would run the latest tax software,
I never in a million years dreamed
I'd be plugging a laptop in-
to the wall socket of my old classroom.
My call to attention was that snap of electricity
surging as metal made contact with the grid.
I was too busy eating library paste,
peering out of the cloakroom for Miss Lenz
to imagine futures where man
would walk on the moon,
or that we'd all be joined at the hip
via social media.

4/13/19

TEMPORARY ANGELS


TEMPORARY ANGELS                       —For Linda Gregg

At Open Mike, I stood in my old 2nd grade classroom
& pointed to the room where Linda Gregg would've been,
in the other wing of the school with the big kids.
Before I read her poem, to commemorate her death,
The Weight, about a string of horses from Forest Farm Camp.

I told the story of how the Gregg's dude horses
were wintered over for the season in Tamal canyon—
after the summer campers had gone back to the city,
and how the horses crossed a liminal boundary
of barbed wire, seeking more clement pastures,
to the top of our hill, and how we
eagerly raced up the steep slope to greet them.
They whickered, lonely for the company of young girls.
We were their kin, leggy, skittish, happy to see them.
We breathed in their horsy odor as they carefully whuffed,
hoping to find sugar, carrots, or an apple in deep pockets.
They grew bored, sleepy eyed, and lop-eared. Sighed.

It was so easy, leaning on them, savoring their warmth
as they canted their hips and bent massive heads down
to tear at pale winter grasses. We scratched their necks,
leaned farther still, draped over their backs
as they drifted around the crest of the hill.
We slipped our slender legs over, and were astride.
They were all action, dancing in the wind
and we were flying. Wingless angels.
Temporary goddesses, no longer fettered to the earth.
Little did we know it was as close to heaven
as we'd ever get.

Later that night, the sheriff came knocking,
inquiring about the theft of those horses.
We trembled and of course we denied everything,
our thighs still rimed with telltale horsehair and sweat.
I used to have nightmares riding those horses to safety,
not knowing which side of the divide they belonged on.
Horses on the horizon still takes my breath away.
And now Linda is traversing the last long valley,
all the dead horses bugling in the distance.

4/13/19

Monday, April 1, 2019

Near miss

Near Miss

I think I might have just sidestepped fate. A near miss. Or at least a head-on collision. I was getting ready to pull into my usual pullout by the lake for a cellular signal to pick up my email (no reception in Nicasio), but a semi truck was coming the other way, so I pulled off the road to the shoulder to wait for it to pass— just as a pickup was passing it with a vengeance.

Normally I would’ve just turned in front of the semi, and thought nothing of it. I had plenty of time to make the left turn but I was in no hurry. Besides, I was admiring the stray wisps of morning fog curling catlike through the hills—dreamily composing a camera angle in my head.

The pickup spotted me too late, slammed on its brakes, skidding into my lane just where I had been, but by then, I was safely off the road. I just sat on the shoulder, stunned—and popped the clutch. My poor car juggered to a stop, and turned its head as if to look back at me questioningly, like my old horse. Really?

The air is laden with black smoke, the acrid odor of burnt tires and hydraulic fluid. The black skid marks indelibly annealed to the road. Melted tire tracks where I had just been. It all happened so quickly, there would’ve been no time to second-guess, or even avert an accident. It was a fluke. Or Karma. Certainly cars were involved. Some cosmic April Fools joke?

Earlier, I was dwelling on the precariousness of life, and the importance of living each day as if it were the last. Fully, in the moment, as it were—feeling that mortal coil. Having outlived both my parents.

Meanwhile, the pelicans and grebes carry on with the business of trolling for breakfast, breaking concentric fish circles on the glassine lake, making solemn vees on the surface of the lake as they bear down on their quarry. As if a V for victory. A cormorant skims the surface of the lake, stitching the mirrored surface with its wings. Gathers in the view. In the cattails, a pair of monstrous pale bass break the surface, lip and taste the air, splay their tails, entwined in that oldest dance of the world.

4/1/19


It’s time for Robert Lee Brewer's Poem a Day!

A poem a day writing prompts. Visit Robert Lee Brewer's blog for more prompts and example poems. I'm posting the prompts here so I'll have them all in one place as I don't always have internet.

Day 1 For today’s prompt, write a morning poem. Maybe you’re a morning person, maybe not. Your poem can be about a morning. Or it can be set during the morning. And those who’ve done this before probably already know that I have no problem with you interpreting this as a “mourning poem.”

Day 2 Two for Tuesday! Pick one prompt or use both—your choice!
Write a worst case poem. What’s the worst that could happen?
Write a best case poem. Take the worst and reverse it!

Day 3 Write an animal poem. The poem could be about an animal. Or it could just mention an animal in passing. Or include an animal in your title and fail to mention the animal once in your poem. Your poem, your rules.

Day 4 Pick a painter, make him or her the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible painters include Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, or Pablo Picasso. Of course, you don’t have to go with the big names. You can use more obscure painters or more contemporary ones.

Day 5 Write a stolen poem. And no, don’t steal anyone’s poem! But you can write about doing such a thing. Or stealing hearts, stealing time, stealing minds. Or steeling your mind (remember: I don’t care if you play on my original prompt). Steal away into a comfortable place to write and break some lines today.

Day 6 Take the phrase “After (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “After Dinner,” “After You,” “After Hours,” and/or “After I Finish Writing This Poem.”

Day 7 Write a jealous poem. Maybe you’re jealous. Or maybe someone else is jealous of you–or someone else. Whether envious of another or suspicious of a partner, dive deep into this emotion today.

Day 8 Write a lucky number poem. Some people have lucky numbers, some don’t. Wherever you fall on the lucky number spectrum, you can still write a poem about the phenomenon of lucky numbers and/or luck in general.

Day 9 Two for Tuesday of the month! Pick one prompt or use both—your choice!
Write a love poem. All you need is love.
Write an anti-love poem. Or not. There are many forms of love: romantic love, friend and family love, love of being alive, etc.

Day 10 Write a lone poem. Perhaps the poem is about a solitary wanderer or person who just prefers to go it alone. Or a lone winner, lone wolf, or some other solo individual. Or alternatively, I’ll accept poems that are about loans or that are about being alone.

Day 11 Write a dedication poem. This is a poem dedicated to a person, an animal, or an organization. Or hey, objects work too–like a poem to a rock or paper bag. Put the dedication in the title or in a line under the title (“for Mother” or “to the heart-shaped rock between the creek and the tulips”).

Day 12 Take the phrase “The Art of (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “The Art of Writing,” “The Art of Painting,” “The Art of Showing Up to Parties Fashionably Late,” and/or “The Art of Being Awesome.”

Day 13 Write a view poem. Wherever you’re at, you have a view: maybe of a river or sunset. Maybe of a cubicle or a copy machine. Even the blind have a view of darkness, nothingness, or some other -ness. And that’s just being literal, because everyone has views on sports, politics, poetry, etc.

Day 14 Pick a state (or province, territory, etc.), make it the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. A few possibilities include New York, California, Ontario, Bavaria, and Champagne. Feel free to bend this in any direction you wish.

Day 15 Write a prediction poem. Make a prediction. Write about another person’s correct or incorrect prediction. Or, you know, be unpredictable.

Day 16  Two for Tuesday of the month! Pick one prompt or use both…your choice!
Write a catch poem. Catch a cold, a ball, a fish, or someone’s eye.
Write a release poem. Release your anger, a ball, a fish, or someone’s head (from a head lock while wrestling, of course).

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

D8C8AD, OR BEIGE BY ANY OTHER NAME

D8C8AD, OR BEIGE BY ANY OTHER NAME

A photo of a small green bird, and a series of color swatches. A chic fashion statement of sorts. But nowhere on that bird is that particular color beige, for example. Call it bone, as in bone-dead, because sometimes defining colors or what the eye sees, does not precisely fit the rigid structure as defined by Pantone color charts—D8C8AD. It is the imprecise nature of the variabilities of colors that graces that wild canary’s flanks that gives it depth and it both delights and surprises the eye with endless possibility.

3/27/19

PEN THEFT

PEN THEFT

It evolved into something like this:
She loved purple, and so by default,
all purple pens laying about were hers.
No matter that they weren’t. The siren call.
She absconded with the lot. They were like candy.
No pen was safe from her covetous nature.
Relentless as the sea. To her way of thinking:
Possessiveness was nine-tenths of the law.
Or something like that. Or that’s how she rationalized it.
With purple pen in hand, she was always at the ready
for what may, or may not, come.
Better to ask permission after the fact, than not, she thought,
knowing that the answer was always stacked.
She was well armed and at the ready.
By default, she was his Girl Friday,
even though it was not in the job description.
In the process, he, who hoarded his pens
in every possible color, had to relinquish control
of the purple pens, it was payback time
for all the pens he had stolen from his sister, the writer.
Some pens were tinted with the garish mauveine of analine dye,
an accident involving the synthesis of quinine for malaria,
that forever changed the painter’s palette,
and all the colors addressing the modern world—
not to mention mosquitoes.
Other pens were infused with a touch of the poet’s
secret midnight ink with impossible names
such as aubergine, amethyst or tanzanite.
She never knew what those dark pens
would want to say, or would want to draw, next.
Not to mention the uncharted territories.
She held them up to her ear, and like seashells,
they whispered unintelligible secrets
that were more often than not—lost in translation
on the long and arduous journey
from ear to hand to paper, or prayer,
bypassing that relentless censor, the brain.
She gave them free rein. They whispered nonsensical terms,
like blood diamonds, or high mass, and other raiments of desire.
Ultimately it was about truth. Any truth would do.
Or perhaps it was a case of free reign, because
purple was the color of royalty, after all.
It was sort of like channeling those Roddy Doyle
Facebook dialogues. Nonsensical premises
with sensical endings drowning their sorrows over a pint.
You could almost see the premises flocking
just around the corners of the mind’s eye.
She couldn’t help herself, stealing those pens.
Because purple is the color of forgiveness.
after all.

3/27/19

Monday, March 25, 2019

KILLING THE CAT

KILLING THE CAT

Cat wants in and out at the same time
But she is stuck on the stoop of indecision.
Coming and going are one thing to her.
She doesn’t differentiate, however,
she is merely exorcising her rights—
like Schrödinger’s cat. Ah, the variables of physics.
She complains. Looks up at me as if it’s my fault.
We stand in the doorway, frozen in time. And wait.
Maybe we are the thought experiment in action.
This room, this door. This moment in time
caught in the crosshairs. Not the cat—
who is neither dead nor alive,
depending upon your perspective.
And yes, boxes may have been involved.
If I think of her in the box, then, she is dead.
If I don’t, then, she she is alive. Either. Or.
What’s so ironic is that she’s not even my cat.
We wait, contemplate the vagaries of air.
Measure the depths of sky.
And close the door.

3/25/15
rev. 3/25/19

Sunday, March 17, 2019

SUMI-E haiku

SUMI-E

In a small clay bowl,
black carbon ink dreams the final song
of trees into being.

3/17/19

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Wild birds

Wild Birds

There were always unnamed rituals to be upheld. The sisters saved up their hair from the comb and each spring they’d place their old hair out on the bushes for the wild birds to build their nests. In this way they were connected to the air. The birds imprinted on their scent, and circled of them like a halo. Like Saint Brigid. Yes. In this way they were all connected.

3/7/19

Thursday, February 28, 2019

AFTER THE STORM

AFTER THE STORM

Lost by the side of the road
A pair of flightless gloves
The color of bluejay wings.

Each new pot hole
Waits like a hungry bird
To pierce a tire.

On my way to work
I crossed three watersheds
Marveling how water
always seeks its own level.

Trees take on new angles a possibility.
It’s a race against gravity.
And we know gravity always wins.

The bright green promise of grass
Beguiles the eye with false allegations of spring
while herons wade along the clement shores
of new lagoons.

2/28/2019

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

I made a new art blog

I made a new blog, Maureen Hurley Art, to showcase some of my most recent art. Two new blogs in as many months, not counting another blog I made in December. A friend wants me to create an Etsy account and begin selling my work. So this is a stopgap. I may backfill with earlier art at another time. My artwork is lost in this massive blog. I’ve  managed to post most work when it was created, but when I post the older work, I’ll be lucky to get the year correct. Work is posted by month and by medium. As the river crests, during the record-breaking Pineapple Express storm that threatens to rival the 1986 Valentine’s flood, I am surrounded by floodwater. Massive slides, multiple road closures, the only way out is through art. So below is today’s offering, a pastel of  the Nicasio Reservoir from the spillway side.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Two pastels, Nicasio oak & rock

Chalk pastel. I usually work wet, so this is a learning curve.

Oil pastel, same place, same day, different mediums.





Sunday, February 10, 2019

Channeling the clouds on Elephant Mountain


This morning the mountain was completely enveloped in fog. It was a transcendental experience watching the lake emerge from the flat planes of the pewter mist, and the myriad possibilities of fog and light emerge and recombine minute by minute. I never grow tired of watching it. Why did I never find the time to seek out and observe such beauty? It fair takes my breath away. It seems I am channeling the master cloud painters Frangonard, Watteau and Turner—with the clouds posing like that.


Black/Elephant Mountain is made of Franciscan strata and pillow lava, volcanic extrusions from under the sea—a child of the San Andreas Fault. Meanwhile, down the valley, in the distance, I could hear the call of a flock of Canada geese on the move, and a cow bawling for her errant calf. The cacophany of wild geese grew nearer—They were accompanying a lone bicyclist, blithely unaware that the wild geese gods were overhead protecting him on that empty stretch of road. The redtail hawks are flying low, zoning in on the chickens that are digging for worms in the pasture. A flash of red against the green grass, and the intense yellow of mustard. Somewhere, just out of sight, the bald eagle is circling. Leaping bass make concentric coinage on the surface of the lake. Grebes bob on the ripples, tree swallows crochet the air. I may be living somewhat feral existence well out of my comfort zone, but I am doubly blessed when it comes to a matter of light and fog on a lake at dawn.

The bicyclist and his entourage of wild geese.
They followed him all the way around the lake.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A bird and a half a day. Cats and bird deaths—an inflated fact?


Photographer friend Jerry Downs posted a lovely photo of an orange spotted housecat sitting on a car hood enjoying a rare bit of sunshine in an otherwise bleak and rainy week. And of course someone had to go and spoil it all by stating how every outdoor cat was responsible for 500+ songbird deaths in North America. (To the tune of  3.6 million birds a day, or 1.3billion birds a year). A bird and a half a day per cat? Do the math. Who comes up with this stuff?

To wit, I replied—The cat bird kill thing is somewhat inflated....that would be something like a bird and a half per day per cat. I don’t think so. Besides, not all free roaming house cats kill birds. In fact, most pet cats are clumsy lummoxes. Easy targets like mice run in front of their noses and they hardly know what to do with them. They’re not the ferocious hunters they’re cracked up to be. Besides the males (he’s orange, therefore, has an 80% chance of being male) rarely, if ever, hunt.

But when it comes to birds, people’s free range pet moggies are unfairly bearing the brunt—convenient scapegoats for bird deaths. Instead look to climate change, bird habitat loss, exposure to chemicals, fertilizers, insecticides, and collisions with man-made objects—from cell towers airplane engines to to cars to windows. A billion birds a year die from colliding with windows. Human impact is the real threat" to songbirds.

We’ve also systematically killed off most of the wild birds’ natural predators—from kestrels and hawks to bobcats to coyotes and wolves— which was never factored in on the annual estimated bird population death counts. That said, I’m not for vast colonies of feral cats. They don’t belong here. They should be eradicated. But when someone’s pet moggie sitting outside on a car hood enjoying a spot of sunshine, being held responsible by proxy for massive bird deaths, is a bit over the top. Talk about killjoy.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

I have a Blogger stalker

Dear cerebellum, get a life
Quit stalking me.
If you don’t like my blog,
don’t read it.
So simple!
Move along now.
Nothiing to see here.

NATAL WATERSHED

NATAL WATERSHED

Like the returning salmon, I only feel at ease
when I return to my natal watershed.
The moment I cross the rise over the Tomales Bay watershed.
I let go of my tight breath, and sigh. I know I am home.
The farmlands rise up to greet me like old friends.
Without judgement, without frame, 
the convolutions of road, space and time 
take me back to a place when anything was possible—
even love.

1/31/19

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Fort Worden Centrum summer writing conference, 1979


Fort Worden Centrum Writers Conference, 1979—with thanks to Jim Heynen

Jim Heynen posted a Facebook photo of the Fort Worden Centrum summer writing conference, from 1979. It was before my time there but the stories from that conference were still circulating in 1980 when Sharon Doubiago, Leonard Cirino, Susan Abbott, Tobey Kaplan and I crashed the Writers Conference in 1980.

The photo evoked such memories. I wrote to Jim: Ah, Sam Hamill with his curly red mop (I have a photo of him from the 1980 conference), and Bob Hass as a longhair. Migod, Levertov, and Kumin. Robert Bly was born old? We were all reading Thomas McGrath’s Imaginary Letters during those years. A hero of mine. What a handsome man. Can’t believe Bly was a belligerent asshole to Tom (hahaha). Shocked! Simply shocked, I am. We heard about that embroglio when we attended in 1980. And something about the baseball story with Levertov.... I don’t remember any of the details.

Tree Swenson and Kathleene K West. I miss her. Ever the chameleon—she said she reinvented herself every ten years. She was kind to me, got me on the Montana Poets in the schools roster. We reconnected on Facebook right before her death....I had no idea she was in such anguish. She sold me her old cellphone for $15 but never cashed the check—its name was Gravity. I deleted her pictures of New Mexico, thanked her for the phone, then I heard the news.
Jim Heynen replied: Mo, I guess Bly was actually quite good in his workshops, but he tormented McGrath during McGrath's reading by yelling from the audience, "Read the Tomasito poems!  Read the Tomasito poems!"  McGrath finally addressed him firmly with, "Patience, Robert.  Patience."
At a social event, Bly insulted Levertov by telling her she was being too hard on people in her workshops.  She started weeping and came to me, exclaiming "What a horrible man!"  But Levertov had no tear ducts to shed the tears she was feeling--so her eyelids just bulged and got red.  Another tidbit: Bob Hass was reluctant to come and teach a workshop because, he said, "I don't know how to do it."  Then he did a great job.  One exercise was having participants do an exact imitation of a poem they liked--the same number of syllables per line, and accented and unaccented syllables exactly as the original.

I told Jim, thanks for the backstory. I was standing with Tess Gallagher and Ray Carver, as they, and others were recounting the stories, which became interwoven with ours...a mythos of sorts.

I only remember vague fragments of the infamous Levertov story of baseball players, drunken writers conference parties and the dropping of the f-bomb. And something about Kumin too that made the gossip train too. The stories that survived.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Where am I?

Someone posted a quote from The Prisoner.
I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own!
I am painfully reminded of all the cool places in Wales to visit, my ex partner’s sister dragged us to the fake village where The Prisoner was filmed. I was fit to be tied and asked W H Y with many question marks. We were there for six hours—it was truly a life sentence. The unanswerable questions arise. Questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for oneself. 

Be seeing you, Number Six.

Monday, January 21, 2019

iPad dictation fail

A case of iPad dictation fail!

My iamb having number.
I was in about an hour.

About the only useful thing I can say is at least it wasn’t in imbic pentameter.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

DELUGE

DELUGE

Last night’s storm pounded
like a desperate drunk at the door,
and left potholes the size of Shetland ponies.
The Laguna leapt its banks,
and kayaks decorate the new shoreline,
a vast inland sea, a river road
drowning the oaks,
leaving cattle stranded on new islands.
I saw ravens bathing in temporary lakes
in the horse pastures.
Trees and garbage bins bowed
to the untamed gods of wind and rain
while the earth shakes its mantle
like a wet dog at the fire.
They say last night Mary Oliver died.
Today is the anniversary of my former love,
John Oliver Simon’s death. Goodnight sweet prince,
The magic realm of a year and a day
is greeted by bales of hay sprouting green crewcuts,
and fields of young mustard is nodding
their golden mantles to the returning sun.

1/17/19

Sunday, January 6, 2019

RAIN HAIKU FOR LITTLE CHRISTMAS

RAIN HAIKU FOR LITTLE CHRISTMAS

It’s raining like mad.
atmospheric rivers
raging in the sky.

The rain pounds us down
to its level—a sea change—
salmon swimming home.

A rapid tattoo
beats a primal tympani
on roof and windows.

The old potbelly
groans like an arthritic dog—
last log on the fire.

The Epiphany
Three kings lost in the rainstorm.
A king cake of thought.

1/6/19



California Impressionism


Inspired by a desire to capture “impressions” of everyday life, avant-garde French artists, whose work was considered unacademic by the Salon, changed the face of art—from upholding the neoclassic ideal (think photo-realism) to focusing on the vagaries of weather and intimate life by using a bright palette, and quick, broad impressionistic brush strokes.

The French impressionist movement of 1874 was controversial because the subject matter was not Salon approved—no allegorical subject matter. It did not instruct. it was art for art’s sake, or rather, it found god in the sublime.

And instead of painting in isolated studios, they took it outside, to the fields, thanks to pioneer landscape painter, Papa Corot. Also, the invention of tube paint changed how painters painted—in plein aire.

By the turn of the century, however, Impressionism was widely embraced, with artists making pilgrimages to study with Paris’ finest painters.

The movement was embraced by California artists who also emulated 19th-century French landscapes for inspiration. Society of Six, William Keith. Maurice LeMue. Unlike east coast impressionism, California Impressionist works did not solely revolve around the vagaries of weather, or the grandeur of sublime landscapes (think Bierstadt) instead, they showcased the atmosphere and emotion of scenery—using lots of juxtaposed color swaths.

Impressionism and the California Impressionism school has certainly affected my own sense of art. We grew up with a WPA mural in the Lagunitas school office, which was later discovered to be a mural by Maurice LeMue. It became an unconscious reference when I began to photograph landscapes. So, I owe my vision, in part, to that school.



(Well, I found the article I was reading to be so clumsily written that I wound up rewriting it, so no quotes. So I guess this is now my writing. But there is art!) See the link here. From a Facebook post. Perhaps I will expand it into a full article in the future.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

POST NASALTUDES


I’m not liking this new year  at all.
I’ve been sneezing so hard it feels like
I’ve blasted myself backwards into yesteryear.
And all I want to do is to curl up
tighter than a tortured hedgehog
& sleep in until tomorrow,
and tomorrow and tomorrow.

1/19

Monday, December 31, 2018

End of year stats


I have fewer posts for 2018, than for previous years. But despite several major life-altering derailments, I managed to eke out some 60 poem entries (my goal is 52 posts a year)—a post a week) some poems are repetitions, or rather, revisions from April Poetry Month posts. I did very little by way of pulp fiction reading for my Amazon Reviews writing. The thrill is gone. No time or inclination to read, sadly.

My old boyfriend John Oliver Simon died in January, that left a deeper hole than expected. I also had to jump into the fray and manage his two California Arts Council grants, and there was little money to pay for my time as the majority of the funds were tied up in residencies. So I was poor as a churchmouse most of the year, with the CAC money tied up in knots. Then, the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, ended it—after 20 years. Just like that. I’m still reeling from that one.

So, I’ve been living rough on people’s couches. No fixed abode. Which also means no fixed job. No income. I’ve been living thin. I had to give away most of my possessions. I still need to rehome my books and art supplies. So, keeping up appearances has not been on the list. I wouldn’t wish that kind of year upon anyone. So, 2019 will be my year of massive change.

On the blog timeline front, I’ve managed to add a few old bits from those lean years. But it’s been slim pickings. I picked up a few posts in 1980, 1982; 1997, 1998, 1999; 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006. But I still  haven’t reached the magical formula of 52 posts a year on those lean years. I've come to the conclusion that I may never reach my goal.

However, I did manage to pick up a few odd post entries—mainly posters of readings—for those early years when I created the Russian River Writers’ Guild blog (a big scanning project—still not finished, but the bulk of it is done.) Most of the RRWG memorabilia was buried within this blog, so I’m pleased that the extended RRWG memorabilia is now a different entity. I also began scanning work for Herman Berlandt’s memorial blog as well, but it’s under construction (not posted).

If I ever am able to gather up my old  pottery and ceramics pieces from the 1970s, and take photos of them, that’s on the back burner to add to this blog. But it’s extremely difficult for me to return to Oakland to get the rest of my stuff—let alone, my mail. Besides, I have nowhere to put the rest of my stuff. My books, art supplies and plants, especially.

I don’t have it in me this year to do a deeper Bill Jamesian-detailed statistics spreadsheet on my writing progress. Perhaps another time when I’m better dressed, emotionally speaking.

see 2017 stats

For some reason, an unknown twat named Susan sent me a comment, not once, not twice, but thrice stating it’s my karma. Of course, I marked them as spam. She has no other posts, no other comments, not even a blog. Why would people even do such a hateful thing?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

On learning language equialencies


Equivalencies. My mind is a bit like like Swiss cheese, full of holes when it comes to languages. I took the equivalent of two years modern Irish at UC Berkeley one summer, nearly 20 years ago, but I bottomed out in July, as my learning button broke. My head no longer worked, and the thing is, I’m usually pretty good at picking up languages. Possibly the toughest course I ever took was modern Irish. Bar none.

Our Irish teachers, Joe Nugent and Breen Conchubhair were pushing us so hard that many of us lost the thread. I gave up somewhere around the cupula. The class was supposed to be the equivalent of one year of Irish crammed into an intensive summer course. They opted to give us the equivalent of second year Irish, too—and my head broke. I couldn’t absorb any more. I’ve never had that experience before.

I later took a year of Archaic/Old Irish in order to translate the medieval Irish epics (it was all bookwork), alas, I still can't read Irish—other than to recognize words and occasional phrases here and there. People from Ireland assure me that I still know more Irish than they do....

Sometimes foreign words arise unbidden, I’ve no idea where they come from. Or even what language. It’s all a mystery how we acquire language. I mean, it’s all nice and textbook and ordered in a classroom—but that’s not how we acquire language. You have to create memories. It’s messy. You know, like go down to the pub and raise a jar or two. Get stinking blind drunk. That’s when my Russian comes back. Chut-chut.

However, I can swear profusely (and rather inventively) in several living languages, and a few dead languages. When I combined the words sabaca/dog and pizdah/cunt in a spontaneous invective, let's just say I brought the Russian house down. I lived one summer in Switzerland, I didn’t pick up much Switzerdeutsch, but let me tell you, I could swear like a troll of the highest arcana with a mere handful of words.

I also studied a semester of medieval Welsh, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I was completely ADD as it was during the 9/11 crisis. We were all out to lunch—as it were. I remember that we held class outside on the DOE library steps at UC Berkeley because the building was shut down... So surreal.

Medieval Welsh is much easier to learn than Irish, no doubt. But there's not that much crossover with learning Irish. Brythonic vs. Goidelic. And of course all the extra "vowel" types and double consonants are maddening. But I can do a pretty good hll sound, as in Llewelyn.

Even Russian is easier to learn than Irish. I remember looking longingly into the other classrooms, that summer at UC Berkeley, where other students were learning easy languages like Spanish, Latin, and Russian, and it seemed like the students were all wearing PJs and comfortable slippers by comparison. I could understand what they were saying with little effort, just by standing in the doorways like a demented peeping Tom.

Learning Irish is hard, very hard. At least they don't conjugate prepositions in Russian. I mean—prepositions fergawdsakes. I get conjugating verbs and nouns.What kind of language needs that kind of precision that directional words need to identify who is speaking? And what direction is involved? Just never attempt to explain going up or down stairs in Irish. Just don’t.

I lived in the USSR for a while during 1989 to 1991, so I had to pick up Russian fast. Talk about total immersion. If I wanted anything I had to learn how to ask for it. Food. Beer. Necessities. Black market. Also, when I was traveling illegally to Leningrad, I had to watch my Ps and Qs. Everyone thought I was from Kazakhstan or somewhere exotic. I was labeled “ethnic. And I’m ethnically Irish, that’s as close as it gets.

Though I heard Ukrainian spoken often enough, I was living in Cherkassy, near Kiev for a while, I never picked it up. Like with Dutch, Ukrainian just didn’t stick. Ukrainian is sort of like Welsh with all those extra vowel-y things running amok and creating havoc with your eyes.

I lived in Amsterdam on and off during the early 1990s , and because everybody in the Netherlands either bi-, or tri-lingual, not counting several dialects. However, they all spoke to me in English. Whether language, or dialect, the Dutch seamlessly code-switch between linguas francas. It’s kind of fascinating, really watching the Dutch effortlessly slide through the indo-European continuum.

I regret to report that I was lazy, that I merely learned the usual sound bytes, but not the language. Hooey Dag, bedankt, dank u wel, and alstublieft. And place names. I can even say Scheveningen perfectly. I’d never be mistaken for a German spy.

Weirdly, I can mostly make out the meaning in Dutch, if it’s in print. Ditto that with Latin. Church Latin, that is. I never studied Latin. Just 15 years of church Latin. Ecum spiri tutu o. I barely studied Spanish either but at least I’m fluent in Spanish—unless I panic. Then it’s curtains.

You should've seen me in Portugal right after 9/11. I was waving my arms like helicopter blades trying to achieve liftoff as I spoke a a bastard Portuguese-Spanglish to the taxi drivers. Everyone thought I was Italian. The only Italian I picked up was when I was a child living among immigrant families. Random words. Food.

But in Portugal, it really was a matter of survival. We didn’t want anyone to know we were American for fear of reprocussion. So my cousin and aunt were schtum/mum while I was gibbering on like a polyglotted gibbon while waving my arms as if to take flight—to the taxi drivers who didn't know what to make of us. I was negotiating the equivalencies between languages to create a pidgin dialect of survival.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Wild Apples


An otherwise lovely story on apples in The Guardian that appeared last May, claimed that apples came from Kazakhistan. My immediate knee-jerk reaction was that the statement was wrong on so many levels.
The geographic origin of the apple can be traced to modern-day Kazakhstan but the Romans are the ones that popularized it the most. Gardens: why we need to protect Kazakhstan’s wild apples
I agree we need to protect Kazakhstani apples. But the sentence should have read: "modern apples." And the more I delved into that sentence, the more wrong it seemed. My second thought was: What were the Romans doing in Kazakhstan, anyway? Did I miss that history lesson? And what about the native apples of Asia? Merely hearsay?

Despite popular belief, wild apples were already in the British Isles long before the Romans arrived (they just brought bigger apples). Circa 98 AD, Roman historian Gaius Tacitus reported that the Briton Druid Ovates carried silver apple boughs with bronze, silver, or gold bells. And in Ireland, Otherworld apples also feature prominently in Echtrae Chonnlai which was recorded in the 8th or 9th c., but it's a much older tale. And in The Song of Wandering Aengus, Yeats made famous the lines lifted from Irish folklore, The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.

But the wild apple was native to the British Isles long before the Romans or Christianity reached its shores. In fact, there is evidence that wild apples grew wild in Ireland and Britain during the Neolithic era.

The word apple is embedded in many insular place-names that predate Roman occupation. Anglesey, the Isle of Apples, Avalon. Anglesey (Ynys Môn) was sometimes called Afallach, or rich in apples. Geoffrey of Monmouth called the island Insule Ponorum, or the island of the apples. In Immram Brain, a síd woman gives Bran a silver branch in white bloom—a cróeb dind abaill a hEmain, or ‘a branch from the apple-tree of Emain. Emain Macha was sometimes called Emain Ablach. –The Apple in Early Irish Narrative.

When I was in the Ukraine, I was struck by how similar the word apple яблоко yablacko in Russian is to the Irish (genitive) Ablach, clearly a shared Indo-European ancestry.
From Old Irish uball, ubull (Scottish Gaelic ubhal), from Proto-Celtic *abalom (compare Welsh afal), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ébōl (compare English apple, Lithuanian obuolỹs, Russian я́блоко (jábloko), Serbo-Croatian jȁbuka). —Wictionary
And the Celtic apple of the day would've been a quasi-domestic relative of the wild European crabapple Malus sylvestris, aka the small forest apple, not the ancestor of the modern apple, Malus sieversii (native to the mountains of Turkey and Kazakhstan).

The symbol of the apple wasn't necessarily a tradition borrowed from the Middle East. Greek references to apples predate the Roman cultivation, and the role of the apple is central to Bronze Age Celtic lore. Even Homer's Odyssey refers to apples. Then there's the apple tussle of Aphrodite, Athena and Hera to consider. You know, like, Who's the most beautiful goddess of all, and the sour apples of discord? Fairytale heroine Snow White chokes on an apple and falls asleep for a very long time.

The Greek word "μήλον" for apple or any kind of globular, or round fruit, and fat-bottom girls—is malon, or melon. Think generic. Sort of like asking for a Coke and getting orange soda. In Homeric times, "μήλον" also referred to sheep or goats. Pomaceous: anything-apple-shaped. Round. There must've been some seriously fat goats. Sappho likened a young bride to an ‘sweet apple’ (gluku’malon).

When does the word apple enter into the English translation of the Bible as THE depicted forbidden fruit? Bede? (late 7th c.) Aldred? (10th c.) John Wycliffe? (late 14th c.) King James? What was the Latin word: fructus, or malum? (The Irish monk-scribes would've been reading the Bible bits in Greek and Latin.)

There were certainly native European crab apples in the British Isles since the last Ice Age, but the problem is even thornier than that. Get this: apples, indigenous to cold northern climates, weren't even a Levant fruit. Too dry and too hot. (They're now carefully propagated in the Golan Heights.) The so-called "apple" of the Holy Land was most likely a quince. The apple would've been an unknown fruit in the Middle East during Biblical times. There goes the old Tree of Knowledge metaphor.

I also discovered that the word "apple" was used as a generic term for ALL globular (foreign) fruit and some vegetables (not berries or nuts), as late as the 17th century. Tomatoes were called love apples, cucumbers and potatoes, earth apples. Even oranges were referred to as apples. Because they were ROUND!

The two words for apple and evil in Latin are also a tongue-in-cheek pun: Eve ate a malum (apple—or something fat and round), and became mālum (evil). The Arabic for apple is tuffah, Hebrew is tappuach, from the Aramaic. But it was probably a borrowing, as the so-called apple of the Holy Land was most likely a quince. The apple would've been an unknown fruit in the Middle East during Biblical times.

Also, it's a western European concept to associate apples with the Tree of Knowledge. (When? Probably since the late Middle Ages. The apple is depicted in art during the Renaissance.) So, the much maligned apples were not necessarily considered to be the forbidden fruit during the 6th - 8th centuries. 


It's a muddled idea, at best. Or perhaps it's all muddled road apples.

The modern apple, Malus pumila, related to the wild forest apple, Malus silvestris, seems to have had a wide geographic distribution from the British Isles to China to Central Asia, and then some, and there are no less than four other malus species in North America. It's probably a circumpolar Ice Age relic plant species like vaccinium.

So, if apples came from Kazakhstan, how in the bleeding blue blazes did they arrive in North America before Columbus, or, say, Lief Erickson? And don't tell me Johnny Appleseed, hero of cider makers everywhere, planted them all. He did sow the Northwest Territories with apple trees. Since he used apple seeds, gawd only knows what wild varieties sprouted since apples don't seed true to form.

In fact, crab apples are also native to the entire Northern Hemisphere. (I had previously learned that apples were brought to the New World by colonists, and scholars still erroneously note European apples originally came by way of Kazakhstan, or China, along with the peach, which really messes with the myriad apple references embedded within Medieval Celtic mythology.) 
 
I am fascinated by the evolution of the apple. With the streamlining of marketable apples, we're down to a handful of tasteless eating apples with names like Fuji, Pink Lady, and Gala. Our Italian neighbor, Mary Bianchi, in Forest Knolls, had cooking apples (monstrous sour things), plus a variety of eating apples including striped winesaps, Gravensteins, and also bitter cider apples.
"Hard apple cider was hugely popular in early America, and cider vinegar was an essential home ingredient." According to Oregonian heirloom apple hunter, David Benscoter, “It is estimated that of the 17,000 named apple varieties originating in North America, only around 4,000 still exist today." —Apple detective finds five more apple varieties thought to be extinct...
According to most definitions, the main difference between a crab apple and an edible, domestic apple is the size of the fruit (and the sourness). But it's more complicated than that. Farmers and cider-makers traditionally waited for the bitter fruit laden with tannin to be kissed and sweetened by the first frost before harvest (similar to bletting).
The familiar edible apples did not grow in North America before the arrival of European settlers. Old World apple trees became established in the New World from the trees and seeds that Dutch and English emigrants brought from Europe. As legend has it, Johnny Appleseed profoundly influenced the spread of apples in North America by sowing them everywhere he traveled, but he was just one of many pioneers who planted apple seeds in the new territories. The original cultivated apple trees also became established naturally through seeds dispersed by birds and mammals. Old World Apples. [For more on Old World apple species, see also "Old-Time Apples," THE WORLD & I, October 1989, p. 388]
Before European apples were introduced to the New World, crab apples were native to North America. Although less familiar than commercial apples, these native American species still grow in the wild. 

In North America, there's Malus ioensis, or prairie crabapple (ioensis refers to Iowa). The most common variety, Malus ioensis var. ioensis, is native to the prairies of the upper Mississippi Valley. Another variety, Malus ioensis var. texana, or the Texas crabapple, is native to a tiny region of central Texas. There's even a Southern crabapple, Malus angustifolia. Then there's Malus fusca, native to western North America from Alaska, with a range from British Columbia, to northwestern California. Flowers are white or pale pink. 

According to a blogpost, Native American Apple, plant taxonomists may quibble over the number of apples native to North America, but most agree that there are four major species. The three eastern species are quite similar to each other. But the lone western species is a bird of a different feather. The western species shares similarities with wild apples native to China, while the three eastern species seem to have Middle East connections—thought to have split off early in the evolution of the genus Malus.
There are an estimated 25-47 different species of Malus worldwide. This number fluctuates greatly due to the ease in which species of Malus are able to hybridize with each other, making the process of differentiation between the species very difficult. Of this number, only four species are native to North America. These species are Malus fusca, Malus coronaria, Malus angustifolia and Malus ioensis. Crab Apple Trees Native to North America.
But worldwide, wild crab apples have become endangered, due to farmers preferring to grow commercial table apples to cider apples (cider crab apple varieties include Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill and Dabinett.)

In northern California, there was a wild crab apple tree in the gulch across the way from us where my grandmother used to gather the apples after the first frost. I loved eating them. I never considered it a native species. The diminutive apples were dense, with golden yellow pulp, sweet, but with a bitter astringent afterbite. It was probably a Pacific crab apple or Oregon crab apple. One fall, our new neighbor, in an attempt to tame the land, viciously hacked it down with a chainsaw, and we mourned its loss.

Now, decades later, after I learned that the old crab apple tree wasn't an escapee from some farmer's orchard by way of pooping birds, but a native species, I doubly mourn its loss.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Black Mountain after the fire (colored pencil drawing)




Feeling more than a little blue today, so I drew yet another view of Elephant, or Black Mountain....it kept me in the present tense. This view is from a hike I took with my cousin on Olema Ridge, to the old McIsaac Ranch, Point Reyes. We went to see the extent of the fire damage on Mt Barnabe, and this was behind my left shoulder—I actually gasped. It took me by surprise to see it so close, and from this angle. So sensual, so stark. From a photo I took in September—before the relationship shit began hitting the fan.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Folklore: Pinky Butler, when a load of hay passes you, make a wish, sympathetic magic


Folklore: When you pass a load of moving hay, make a wish.
Genre: superstition, sympathetic magic; plant husbandry: Appalachia, possibly British origins.
Bonus folklore: family history, a moniker, and a diamond ring
Informant: Donna Champion, female, 64
English/Spanish-speaking Guamanian-Chamorro, Guatemalan, Spanish, French/Norman Irish-American
ESL instructor, Sonoma County, CA
Dec. 9, 2018
Collected in Cotati, CA (in a car on Hwy 116)

I collected a new bit of folklore that arrived by way of Guam, of all places. It probably arrived by way of Texas, possibly originally from Kentucky, or even the British Isles, ca. 1910. The saying was a favorite of Donna Champion's grandfather, Chester Carl, aka "CC," or “Pinky” Butler, who passed it onto his Guamanian daughter, Clara Mae Butler.

Donna and I were driving down Highway 116, when an overladen hay truck was approaching us, coming the other way. She said, Quick! Make a wish. So I did. Then she told me the superstition that her mother, Pinky’s daughter, Clara Mae Butler Champion, who was born on Guam, taught her. Donna said, "Whenever we passed a hay truck, my mother would say: when you pass a load of moving hay, make a wish. It didn't have to be a truck." She also said, "You need to keep the wish to yourself."

I got a few bits of folklore for the price of one, from how the Coca-Cola franchise arrived on Guam, to how Pinky got his Guamanian moniker. Chester Carl, aka C.C. (b. In Sunset, TX, ca., 1884), was a redhead of Norman-Irish descent (by way of Illinois, and W. Virginia); his father, James Berry Butler, a newspaper editor from Illinois, took to drink after Chester’s mother, Melissa Belle Payne, a Baptist who hailed from Rockwell Texas, died in childbirth when he was eight years old).

Living with his three brothers at the relatives didn't pan out, and after Chester finished eighth grade, he ran away from his mother’s extended family. When he was 14, he went to seek his fortune out west. He arrived San Francisco, where he was employed to sell fruits vegetables in a pushcart on Nob Hill. His employer took him in and gave him room and board. When Chester was 18 (ca. 1902), he joined the Navy, and served aboard the USS Pensacola. That's how he wound up on Guam.

Chester "Pinky" Butler of the USS Pensacola, showing off his tats

A fair-freckled, blue-eyed redhead, Chester's fair complexion didn’t fare too well on Guam, he was always sunburned—hence the moniker "Pinky." With the help of his greengrocer savings, which he had converted into a diamond ring he kept hidden in his pillow, he used the ring as collateral, and with that, made a family fortune. Pinky was industrious, he brought a Coke franchise, and seltzer water machines to Guam, and sold American made goods to the Pacific islands. That enterprise became a thriving chain of businesses, Butler's Inc. 

That grubstake ring became an engagement ring for the 17-year-old Ignacia Bordallo, who was from the large Kotla Chamorro clan. They were married on the 8th of January, 1915, in Agat, Guam. They had six children. He was taken a prisoner of war Dec. 8, 1941, and held in Kobe, Japan for the duration of the war. His health was broken. He died on Valentine's Day, 1952, in Oakland, CA. Donna's eldest sister, Connie still has that diamond ring.

The first time my friend Donna remembered hearing the saying, When you pass a load of moving hay, make a wish, was in the early 1960s, was when she was a child. Donna learned it from her mother, Clara Mae (Pinky’s daughter), in Sebastopol, CA. 

What makes this bit of folklore interesting to me is that there were no hay trucks or haywains on Guam, and yet the saying survived three generations. Donna's brother Greg, born in 1952, didn't recall the hay saying, but he did add that his maternal great-great-grandfather, from Spain, raised cattle on Guam.

Apparently the second part of the hay-wish formula was that you couldn’t look back at the passing vehicle either, a condition which my friend said she never learned. I found another account online where you had to lick your thumbs, and snap your fingers/slap your thigh, too. (see my notes below.)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Elephant Mountain & fog, (colored pencil drawing)



Elephant Mountain in fog, colored pencil. Still learning the blending and layering process. Yes, I’m working in a series, I took lots of photos in September, and am using them as models as a backlog. so I’ll keep using them until I’ve figured it out. Electronically enhanced plein air painting—er, drawing. I prefer to paint, but I don’t have my art supplies. Quickie sketch below was done after the above drawing. I was explaining the concept of landscape layers and triangular shapes to a very young artist.



Wednesday, December 5, 2018

POEM ON THE PASSING OF JULIA VINOGRAD, STREET POET

Ah, Julia, named after a city of vines,
your knitted cap, a badge of the troubadour,
artist, wordsmith, I never knew you well,
but the street corners of Telegraph rose up
to greet you like feral cats weaving
invisible shackles with their thin bodies,
saying the poet is come.
The Bubblelady is come with her magic wand,
welcome words feeding the pigeons at dawn.
The fog weeps and mourns in tendrils
for the passing of the daughter of the street,
the poet-chronicler of alleyways and corners.
Yes, the street mourns for you,
it will miss the caresses of your jade eye
as you turned the suffering of those
sleeping in doorways into a cloak
of humanity and hope. Perhaps
someone will place a bronze star,
or a bench with a bigger-than-life sculpture
of you hawking your books to unsuspecting tourists
in front of Moe’s Books for you,
Poet Laureate of the streets.

The Russian River Writers' Guild blog launched


I launched a new blog of very old work, The Russian River Writers’ Guild poetry and prose reading series, of which I was part of from 1979 to the mid-1990s. It's where I first began my career as a poet, my teething ring, then my training bra, and later, my world stage. I've pulled blog posts and snippets from this blog and reposted them (revised and expanded snippets) there, as they were lost here, they were too hard to find, too spread out. The storyline was impossible to follow. Now, there's a partial timeline of the poets who've read for the series from 1976 to the late 1990s.

The new blog, with its flyers, and Obligatory Hug, replete with poems, serves as a timeline of that era. I will eventually add photos as well, but just adding the flyers alone has been a monumental task. I am indebted to Donna Champion, keeper of the RRWG archives. There are a few holes, but the flyers paint a complete picture of the series and the poets who read for us. And you, Dear Reader, should you have any memorabilia, we would be ever so grateful.

T'was the earliest of daze, the poets gaze....

What to do with all those old literary archives—why, scan them, of course. Welcome to our latest blog, the archives of the North Bay Area's longest running poetry series, the Russian River Writers' Guild, founded in 1972, or 73, depending upon your source. I will be cannibalizing posts from my blog, Literrata to fit this blog. So this project is very much in medias res... please bear with me while I massage all the bits and pieces together to make a timeline of sorts. If you were a reader, please reveal yourselves, share your stories, and memorabilia. Leave poems, and comments. So many (in)famous writers. So many crazy nights.This stuff needs to be documented, and I'm counting on you to remember, O collective hive mind. But first, a little backstory:
Since the early '70's, both famous and infamous poets across the nation have shared the podium with local poets at the Russian River Writers' Guild poetry and prose reading series. Literally, hundreds of poets—from nationally recognized names such as McArthur prize recipient Robert Hass; Robert Bly whose translations of Rilke were published by Calliopea Press; and 95-year-old Meridel LeSueur, a McCarthy era blacklisted writer rediscovered in the 70's by the women's movement—to the real unknowns who have just discovered the power of the written word.

Guild coordinators Lee Perron and Maureen Hurley said the heyday of the series (1979 to '82) was when novelist Margie Summerfield offered them a free space with a stage, lighting and sophisticated sound system at Garbo's Cabaret & Bar in Guernewood Park. Many customers who came in for a drink were startled at first, but soon took to poetry like ducks to water. The Paper: RUSSIAN RIVER WRITERS' GUILD POETRY AND PROSE SERIES; AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE (1/6/88)
The Sunday evening poetry series, called Poetry, for lack of a better handle, began in 1973, or 73, depending upon whom you talked to. The ad hoc poetry group met in people's homes, and cafes like West of the Laguna, Brothers, and Odd Fellows Junction.

One former co-founder, Andrei Codrescu, Rumanian poet, and poetry correspondent for NPR's weekly series, All Things Considered, dubbed his fellow poetry conspirator, Pat Nolan, a leader of the "California School of Writing" according to Nolan's wife, Gail King, who was also a coordinator. Other coordinators included Ellen Appel, Gordon Carrega, Gil Helmick, and Hunce Voelker.

The nameless poetry series, a showcase for the 1970s new school of writing, and local talent, featured writers including Pat Nolan, Gail King, Jeffrey Miller, Diane diPrima, Steve Petty, Richard Welin, Gerrye Payne, Marianne Ware, and Donna Champion.

Newcomer, Donna Champion, who had read for the series in 1976, was expertly reeled in by Marianne Ware who was after new blood when Andrei Codrescu fled to New Orleans. Donna coined the Guild's moniker when she needed a title for her community project at Sonoma State University in 1978. And the name, the Russian River Writers' Guild, shortened to RRWG, which stuck, apostrophe and all.

RRWG guild co-founder and "Jewish mother", Marianne Ware, greeted each reader with a big hug, which was dubbed by coordinator Jim Montrose as the "obligatory hug" which became the name of the Guild's monthly newsletter of upcoming poetic events, prose, and poetry of featured readers––circa 1980.Jim died in 1984, so there are several posts of the posthumous book we edited, Tracks in the Widest Orbit. We also submitted it as his MA thesis at Sonoma State University (he was in my MA class there), which was awarded in May of 1985.

Burnout was a constant problem as most of the former coordinators had either dropped out, or moved on. Over the years, many Sonoma County poets stepped up to help carry the mantle that Marianne Ware, and Donna Champion, who were the last ones of the original group left upholding the series in 1979. Maureen Hurley, Lee Perron, Jim Montrose, Joe Pahls, Mark Clagett, Craig Taylor, Bonnie Olsen, Claire Josephine, Glenn Ingersoll, Jim McCrary, David Bromige, Steve Tills, Jayne McPherson....(don’t take offense if we didn’t list you, we're adding names as we go.)

And all the poets who read for the series—reads like a veritable Who's Who in poetry: Pat Nolan, Gail King, Andrei Codrescu, Jonathan London, Doug Powell, Carolyn Kizer, Jane Hirshfield, David Bromige, Michael Oandaje, Robert Hass, Richard Tillinghast, Elizabeth Herron, Jerry Rosen, Gerry Haslam, Bob Kaufman, Gene Ruggles, Robert Bly, Dorianne Laux, Utah Phillips, Rosalee Sorrells, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Joanne Kyger, Ed Balchowsky, Ramon Sender Morningstar, Susan and Philip Suntree, Molly Fisk, Frances Mayes, Paul Mariah, May Sarton's sister, and Madame Blavatsky.... those were wild times.

This list is just the beginning—we'll be fluffing up the history and developing the timeline in the near future. And it will be a challenge to name all the venues that hosted the series up and down the Russian River, to Sebastopol, and Santa Rosa—we read in tree stumps, living rooms, pizza parlours, bars and niteclubs, cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, and senior centers—any place that would have us.

Venues: West of the Laguna?, Brothers, aka Odd Fellows Junction, Country Grounds, Garbo's Cabaret, Stumptown Annie's, Fife's Resort, several other venues before we moved off the river. Luther Burbank Activities Center, Copperfield's, and another small market venue in Sebastopol (plus one-off events at the Sebastopol Veteran's Hall, the Episcopal Church in Guerneville, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa, Sonoma State University), Aroma Roasters, Franklin Street Clubhouse, Higher Grounds, Mudd's, in Santa Rosa; Johnny Otis Niteclub in Sebastopol... (I need help here).

I gave 20 years of my life to promoting poets and producing poetry readings in Sonoma County. I was an open mike poet, was elevated to featured reader, then emcee, then booker, grantwriter, photographer, and eventually Executive Director. In other words, I was one of the the last ones standing. Like the phoenix, the series died, and was reborn again and again.... until it died for good in the mid-1990s. We're not even sure when poetry died in Sonoma County. But it did. We dissolved our 501c3 non-profit status in January of 2001. Long live the Russian River Writers' Guild. This is a swansong and requiem all in one.

You'd think we would've gotten lots of kudos and reciprocal readings, but, it was a largely thankless job. Unpaid, of course. There's no money in poetry, or herding cats. The biggest insult, was when an anthology was produced by the Russian River Women Writers, an offshoot of the guild, and my work wasn't included, out of spite because of a petty RRWG booking SNAFU where I calligraphed Margaret Ellingson's name smaller in order to fit it on the flyer (no typesetting in those days). When the guild made another collective anthology edited by Jayne McPherson, A Stone's Throw, the oversight was rectified, but by then, I was spun and done with the RRWG.

But these poets, whether good, bad, or indifferent—were my teachers and mentors. And for that, I am grateful.—Maureen Hurley 12/3/2018


Pat Nolan's Nuallain House Publishers blog here

I created a blog for Marianne Ware too.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

East of the Laguna, (colored pencil drawing)




Before/after Christo. But it’s really all about the sky. Learning as I go. Apparently you can blend wax pencils with a tortillon, a clear wax pencil, or paint thinner. I accidentally discovered that blendability here by layering colors. I’m using my old stabillo pencil to block out the hills and shadow. I love its waxiness—but it’s also water soluble. May make for instability later. Not happy with the foreground, it looks unfinished, so I may try using thinner and then layering it—if the paper will hold. This is why you’re supposed to use good paper....