Tuesday, December 31, 1991


(a brief telephone conversation from the other side of the world)

Stricken by the binary division of male and female,
last night I burned translucent amber. Sacrifice.
In the air above our heads, an aurora borealis
alive with blue light, the rosiated sky timeless, & of no age.
Solar winds entered our crowns, our last chakra,
we tumbled like leaves across the autumn bed.
Our morning eyelids bathed in red corpuscles
dancing between membrane and cornea.
Reflections on stone, clearer than blood.
The time we didn't have, thick sacramental wine.

Someone said the art of compromise,
not conflict—is the basis of civilization.
Somewhere inside all of this, another story is waiting.
We come into this world innocent
only to be toughened by life's school—
What separates us from ourselves and from each other?
It makes me think this trouble goes deeper than culture.
Someone said, it's the men who suffer most of all—
We wonder why there's so much trouble in the world;
we can't even build a bridge to meet half-way.
We keep diminishing love,
as if love and pain were stillborn Siamese twins.
Guilty beasts rising up from within the self,
we felt bound to each other, and to time;
we became our own worst enemies.

I burned the precious resin more ancient than Man,
because to find a love that endures is rarer still.
In the fire surrounded by fire, on dawn's watered cusp,
your voice is distorted by phone lines—Sunspots.
Satellites, precocious star sounds, the cackle of deep space.
The path of the corona extends to the limits
of the solar system as solar wind.
Each ring of the bell, a matin of the heart,
a prayer wheel and flag for all our tresspasses.
As in the fairy tales, we'll mourn
the obligatory year and a day.
But I can't answer those bells yet—your voice,
as if from the dead, still argues from within.

1991  date? Who is it to? Oleg? Bruce?
rev. 5/92

House On Via Gombito: Writing by North American Women Abroad

House On Via Gombito: Writing by North American Women Abroad
by Madelon Sprengnether (Author) , C.W. Truesdale (Editor)

Amazon 2nd ed. listing, has my name, but no link
I had NO idea that it even went into a 2nd edition in 1997, and a 3rd printing!
Well, I guess have a first edition, then.

My story Night Train to Moscow: Waging Peace, was picked up by Black Dog & Leventhal (Workman) in 2001. Writing the Rails: Train Adventures By the World's Best-Loved Writers  by Edward C. Goodman (Author). Alas, it was remaindered right after it came out, right before 9/11. I never did get to do an author reading at Barnes & Noble. I will publish more info on this in 2001 entry. 

Night Train to Moscow: Waging Peace / Maureen Hurley p. 179
I do not have an electronic facsimile of my story. Only way to get it is to scan pages, but I've no OCR software. I may scan pages direct.  —MH, 2014

House On Via Gombito: Writing by North American Women Abroad

From Publishers Weekly:
The nearly 50 short pieces of travel writing that comprise this volume display such a wealth of perspectives and explore such a variety of locales that the book is a splendid adventure in its own right. In "Ramont Hall" Rhiannon Paine looks back to 1973 when, at the age of 25, armed with a broken umbrella, a "dilapidating Mini" and youthful enthusiasm, she set out to see England. Helen Degen Cohen, who, as an eight-year-old Jewish girl narrowly escaped being deported to a concentration camp, describes her "Return to Warsaw" to visit the Catholic woman who hid her during World War II. Patricia Hampl's "Italian Two-Part Invention" savors the romance of a damp Venetian winter; a visit to a monastery during one sunny Umbrian spring triggers a memory of the author's childhood. Melissa Sanders-Self's fictional "Nameless Things" follows the daily grind of a young American woman who serves drinks in a Tokyo club that caters to Japanese businessmen. Catherine Stearns's "Icarus in Africa" is a series of letters from a feisty woman who signs herself "Ma" and who, at 60, starts out to teach at a rural school in Zambia. Sprengnether wrote Rivers, Stories, Houses, Dreamsone title and Truesdale is publisher of New Rivers.

Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Madeline Sprengnether

Friday, October 4, 1991

STELLA MARIS freewrite


It's 5 am, Venus and Jupiter in conjunction with Jupiter,
someone says the star of Bethlehem
on the eastern horizon, new crescent moon
in the old moon's arms star of the sea.
I remember  sleepwalking to the front door
awakening to find a configuration like this
celestial bodies, the planets are aligning themselves
venus in the moon's halo appears to be holding the new moon
and holding the old moon in her arms
Venus Stella Maris I awoke naming the planet by its Latin name
where did that come from? I was baptized at the Star of the Sea
church. Some say it's really 1993 years since the birth of Christ
some priest or another got it all wrong way back when
the millennium is approaching at lightning speed
how many time since the year zero, or 3 ad
have Venus and Jupiter crossed paths
of course, everything's relative
it's what we see from here, this place.
that we designate as the most auspicious of signs
above me, Orion's belt suddenly i remember
a pictograph I'd seen somewhere
was it New Mexico, Hawaii
the small man dancing on the horizon
I recognized Orion. The names of stars
arabic and greek interpretations
thousands of years after the naming
what were the Hawaiian names
or the Indian names for the constellations?
The Pleiades directly overhead
the Celtic new year. The night sky takes on a significance
in my subconscious
I am recognizing a passage of time
our creators were more finely aattuned
to the movements of the stars
now we're lucky if we can even see them;
 the lights of the cities
a common denomonator for the madness
that sits within the absence of ritual
biological clock finely attuned to the measurements of seasons
the equinox another rare celestial event full moon equinox
and hunter's moon in one Paleolithic beginnings
haang from that orange orb
is it merely pollution that makes it orange?
I remember the August eclipse moon over Kiev
not knowing it was an eclipse
I watched the moon bleed in to the evening sky, 1989
In less than a week I'll be  traveling to Kiev again,
my 3rd trip to the USSR in as many years
this morning I'm off to Montana
listening to Tracy Chapman singing Mountains of Pain.

October 4/1991

Uh-oh a lot of ascii at the bottom—never a good sign

Thursday, October 3, 1991

Making Things: Artist Raymond Barnhart 10/5/91

 Assemblages by Sebastopol Artist Raymond Barnhart

THE SUM OF ITS PARTS— Barnhart outside his Sebastopol work space with one of his "relief constructions,"
Consummation. "I want to please the work. I want it to please itself."

We asked the captain what course of action to take toward a beast so large, terrifying, and unpredictable. He hesitated to answer, and then said judiciously: "I think I shall praise it."   —Robert Hass, Praise


I recalled the twist on reality and an unexpected visit from poet Bob Hass' poem, Praise while viewing Sebastopol artist Raymond Barnhardt's latest exhibit, "Recent Constructions" at the California Museum of Art in Santa Rosa, California.

Because everyone's response to my queries about Raymond Barnhart and his work was the inevitable raised eyebrow, followed by an incredulous: "You mean you don't KNOW about Raymond Barnhart's illustrious career?" I gulped, and found that the best recourse was to praise it. Taking the beast by the horns—by asking Barnhart niggling details about his second career as an assemblage artist (painting was his first career) seemed sacreligiously inane and so unintelligent. Excuse me, your slip is showing...

And so, at a recent artist's lecture at the California Museum of Art (CMA), when the venerable artist himself was introduced by museum director Duane Jones as "Someone who needs no introduction," I thought, aww feck, the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was right: "You can only ask questions and die." Luckily, the lecture was a quorum of questions ranging from "How do you name your art?" to "What kind of power tools do you use?" The questions were all answered by Barnhart, age 88, with such thoughtfulness, verve and wit, I was in love with love itself.

Artists know firsthand that one of the challenges in art and poetry is to create something that is profound, but with a sense of humor. One who can accomplish both—without lessening the impact of the statement—is a Master. Barnhart's elegant, formal masterful assemblages are intentionally playful, they delight the eye, they make you want to laugh. 

Conceptual artists make us look at ordinary things in a new way, they redefine our limited perameters of "definition." It comes down to rearranging concrete nouns into metaphor—Plato's nemesis. The metaphor of Picasso's bicycle seat and handlebars as a bull's skull. Man Ray's steam iron with nails, and Christo's running fence—all share that spirited kinship to challenge the senses and reality. How we see the world.

In his youth, Raymond Barnhart worked as a riverboat deck-hand, carpenter, fruitpacker, and window designer before becoming an artist. A painter during the first half of his life, Barnhart received his MFA from Ohio State University, and he was an instructor at the University of Kentucky for 32 years before leaving and moving to California in 1958. 

While teaching a design and wood sculpture class in Mill Valley, and from his contacts with the Bauhaus novement, Barnhart found his true medium: assemblage. His assemblage work is classical in the sense of composition, aesthetics, and design. From the Conceptualists, he incorporated the use of found objects. And he made a just marriage of it.

But whereas Conceptualists diverged, exploring man's alienation in society, Barnhart's work is full of hope and compassion: it reflects the linear sentiments of art, beauty, balance, harmony; it transmorgifies limitation as set in stone by various art movements: it remains unswerving in its devotion to the aesthetics of art.

Wind-blasted, sun-bleached, and burnt materials juxtaposed against man-made rusted and tarnished discards become the poetry of deserted places. Fellow Sonoma County artist John Kessel said, "Raymond Barnhart assembles diverse, objects to create visual poems that evoke either man's place in nature—or man in contemplation before nature. Some pieces tell a story, and all are poems which convey an impact. This is an art of redemption and reconciliation."

Raymond Barnhart's contemplative "Homage to Albers," a tribute to former teacher and Bauhaus master Josef Albers, is essentially a 3-D painting made of found materials. So many relief constructions, or constructed reliefs that double as sculptures, are also subtle and painterly—the wrong color value or texture would destroy the harmony. 

The piece entitled "Yesterdays," for instance, is made of mullein leaves and weathered boards accented with traces of vermillion and rust. "Straight Guy'" has a cerulean blue backdrop for the book, embellished with old Mexican coins—Quetzocoatl's centavos and cobwebs (intentional or otherwise). 

Many of the relief-constructions are formal in composition, and all have stories behind them: "Playtime," an elegant moment from another era, is captured with that one lost glove and fragments of a mirror set against a pale peach and tender green backdrop, while "Op-Art?," evolved from a run-in with a wood-munching gopher absconding with dried fruit in a prune tray—the ultimate recycler's revenge.

"Sort of an Altar" is in keeping with pre-Christian animistic Native, and Latin American traditions. Barnhart spent considerable time in the Southwest and Mexico studying new materials, including vinyl resins under José Guiterréz. 

Other pieces evoke a Japanese aesthetic. Simplicity and clean lines—an oxymoron when one considers the human detritus from which these constructions arise, phoenix-like, from our discards. 

In the Japanese sense of the tradition, Barnhart is Sonoma County's "living national treasure," an honorary title the Japanese bestow upon their finest artists. As it tums out, in 1962 and I963, Barnhart took a sabbatical in Kyoto, to observe traditional culture. His assemblage, "Memorial" is in the contemplative spirit of a Japanese Zen garden and is "quintessentually Raymond," as one art patron committed at the exhibit.

When someone asked. "How does the spirit enter the work?" both Barnhart's wife, Genevieve, a jeweler-sculptor, and CMA Director Duane Jones interjected in unison: "Because it's there!" A variation of the famous Adele Davis quote banged around in my head: "Your art is what you meet." 

Perhaps a more hard-hitting audience question was "Why is this art?" Barnhart sanguinely commented: "You're no beffer than what you are—you do the best you can. I make what I want—the best I can. Some people call it fine art. I don't have the ego to call it that, I just make things." At a previous an show, when an observer snarled, "What's this supposed to be?" Barnhart replied, "It already is what it is!"

Barnhart attributes his interest in recycling found objects both to his youthful visits to the city dump and to his job at a large department store where, like Andy Warhol, he got his start in the arts by arranging window designs... for women's corsets and brazierres. "I'd see something interesting." An under-statement. Apparently his bosses who kept abreast of his provocative displays, agreed: two year later he was appointed head of the entire display department.

According to Barnhart, bringing a relief-construction into the world for public display is usually a process of elimination rather than of adding to the composition. And he arranges things by degrees—the way a mechanic fine-tunes the points on a car: if the dwell-gap isn't just right, the end result is a car that won't run and you're on foot far from home some dark and rainy night. CMA Curator Duane Jones commented, "When one of Barnhart's assemblages undergoes subtle rearrangement, it might take months before it is completed."

"The piece and I become a team," Barnhart explained, "We grow together. I start off with a plan, but wonderful things happen along the way. I want to please the work. I want it to please itself, and I want people to respond to it. I'm not the great artist who makes things difficult to understand—children like my work." High praise, indeed.

When an art patron asked if he plains an assemblage in advance. Barnhart replied, "No, that would be like meeting three people you've never met before and already you've figured out how to manage them."

Barnhart commented that one of the first pieces to sell at the CMA exhibit, "Crisis" featuring Japanese dolls, is "an absurd sort of piece, it doesn't make any kind of sense. It's a kind of insanity that I had to follow." He compared his own artwork to how some people react to stress. "It's absurd; a pun." As is his purple mouse and throne, "Her Highness."

One piece with a conundrum of a title, "Emanon," is merely "no name" spelled backwards. Barnhart said, "I ask the pieces, what is it you're really standing for? I limit my definitions to a deliberate vagueness, because if I'm specific, I'm narrowing it down. You are not limited by your own presuppositions. I name my pieces purely for identification purposes. If you don't like them, why then, make up your own name."

Barnhart considers himself to be a third-rate carpenter with a proclivity for the hand saw. He said, "I'd rather do it by hand; it's in keeping with the material I use. I'm pretty conscietious about using authentic wood." He elaborates that nothing can mimic the natural aging process of the elememts—which gives his works their characteristic patina. 

Though owing to the fragile nature of his material, Barnhart doesn't imagine his art will outlast an art consumer's grandchildren. Barnhart says, "I use lots of nails. And glue is a serious proposition. It's embarrassing to have you piece come apart."

Barnhart reflects, the process of finding a home for the artwork is is often painful. "I hate to see some of them go, or to put prices on them." He dislikes working through a regular dealer and insead prefers that potential buyers come directy to the source, so he holds an annual open house and studio (this year's Open Studio is Sept. 28 through Oct. 6). 

Barnhart's prices are downright bargains—far below that of lesser artists' work-because he wants to make his art affordable to artists. One artist friend paid installments at $10 month for three years. "It should be on the wall for someone to appreciate." At any given time, he has over 150 pieces floating around his studio and home. At a dozen pieces a year, he's not a prolific artist, but then, he says, he doesn't do it for the money.

Bamhart migrated to Sebastopol in 1969 with "all the cumbersome impedimenta of an assemblagíste." He described his hand-built home, work areas and studio located in the hills west of Sebastopol, "like having an enormous library.' He peered over his glasses and said to me: "You're a poet; it's like your having a dictionary or a thesaurus." 

His "library" of reference material from which he draws upon to make the assemblages that are slowly born into this material world——is extensive. Sometimes it takes years to get each piece jiust right. Thirty years' worth of material slowly continues to evolve, or devolve, as the case may be, patiently awaiting the resurrection into art. 

Barnhart says he sorts things according to shape and substance: rebar, stones, bones, feathers, 2x4s, weathered barn-siding, etc. He says constructing assemblage is not like painting—from a few tubes, we can mix millions of colors. "I start to work on a piece. it tells me it wants something—then I have to go out and find it—without knowing exactly what it is." And so the hunt and peck system begins.

Barnhart's assemblages continue to appeal to the senses and delight the eye, because he is a master of composition and serene harmony. I am struck by how much "sense" his assemblages make—found objects, each with a particular history. The equation of this-is-to-this as that-is-to-that. Some found objects incorporated into the art have been knocking around Barnhart's studio since 1957. Other bits and pieces, are flotsam that people have give him. Finding a home for wayward objects requires persistence, patience—and a reverence for what they were in past lives. In Raymond's art, the whole is always greater than its parts.

"Recent Constructions" by Raymond Barnhart is on exhibit at the California Museum of Art at the Luther Bubank Center through Nov. 3. Also on view are assemblages by Santa Rosa artist Charles Churchill. Museum hours are 11 AM to 4 PM, Wednesday through Sunday. For more informaition call 527-0297.


Thursday, September 26, 1991


In the film, Dr. Zhivago , at the funeral, Zhivago's brother says of the throngs of mourners filing past Zhivago's casket, those who love poetry love poets, and nobody loves poetry like the Russians.

But he could just as easily described the very real funeral scene of Anna Akhmatova—considered to be the high priestess of Russian poetry, and one of the great poets of the 20th century—in the documentary film, The Personal File of Anna Akhmatova , by Leningrad filmmaker Semyon Aranovich. 

In Zhivago , Anna's friend, Boris Pasternak captured a fragment of the darkness that must have descended upon Russia, as the material for the Iron Curtain was mined from the very psyche of her artists and intellectuals. The capital of culture, (and once the political capital of the USSR) St. Petersburg (Leningrad), with her mosaic of 101 islands wrested from the marsh, is said to be built on a foundation of human bones. 

In this dense, heavy, dark film, Aranovich effectively captures some of the real-life horror artists suffered while under the reign of Stalin. Akhmatova speaks, "The naked man on the naked earth. What a dangerous thing art is."

Russia has made great contributions to literary tradition: Tolstoy, Pushkin, Blok, Mandelstam, Solzhenitsyn, and of course, Akhmatova. 

Ironically, it was during my first visit to the USSR, in August of 1989, that Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's work was allowed to be published for the first time, during that same epic month, Andrei Sakharov died, and the film, The Personal File of Anna Akhmatova, was broadcast on television. Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and Akhmatova were finally repatriated and reinstated—and filmmaker Aranovich as well. 

One of Stalin's first work camps bore this slogan, 'With an iron hand we shall lead humankind to happiness." On the green walls of Leningrad's Literature Club, I read a list: many of the world's greatest artists lived there, and during the Period of Stagnation, smuggled their work abroad.

Joseph Brodsky, who, as a young poet was befriended by Akhmatova, before he was forced to leave the Soviet Union for America, said "it depletes you by making you think of it all the time, and so you struggle with it, losing all your potential." 

In the film, one month before his own defection to the west, Solzhenitsyn tells Akhmatova "That's just what I thought— you are not silent, but write what cannot be published." 

And during the 1991 August putscht , I watched the film, only to hear the voice of Akhmatova utter, "August is always a frightening month for me. . . how many poems I did not write. . . I know beginnings and endings too. I did, probably, everything that could be done."

Born near Odessa in 1889, during the last days of the reign of the tsar, the spirited Anna Andrevna lived in the outskirts of St. Petersburg, in Tsarskoye Selo. At the age of seven, she knew her destiny, and changed her surname to Akhmatova, after the last prince of the Golden Horde. 

"When Papa found out about my poems he told me, Don't bring shame on my name. 'I can do without your name, I told him.' Only a crazy girl would choose a Tatar surname for a Russian pen-name!" she retorted.

She narrates: "The human soul is made in a strange way. Poems, even the greatest poems, never make the author happy." Though she suffered the full sting of Stalin's purges, Akhmatova's life itself was an act of courage: in 1946 she was silenced, expelled from the Writers' Union, and only partially rehabilitated after her death in 1966. 

"A writer with a frightened soul isn't qualified to be a writer," wrote her friend, Misha Zoschenko—who was banned at the same time. 

In 1912, her first book, Evening was published, and her son, Lev was born. "You are my son and my terror, . . .And I can no longer tell man from beast." she wrote. The second time her son was imprisoned for the crime of bearing his father's name—poet and counter-revolutionary Nikolai Gumilyov, executed in by the Bolsheviks in 1921—she suffered a heart attack that nearly killed her. 

No one is forgotten; nothing is forgotten— Akhmatova wrote of censorship, "I remember how the gods turned people / into things, not killing their consciousness." 

Akhmatova later committed nothing to paper: the poems, including her famous "Requiem" survived because friends memorized sections for her. 

"Requiem" is a chronicle of her wait in line outside the prison walls to see her son. An old woman asked," Can you describe this?" Akhmatova said, "Yes, I can." 

In Stalin's times, for many, the defiant act of poetry was the only way to stay conscious and sane. For this reason of bearing witness, the poet must never forget—for Akhmatova, to do so, was to commit a mortal sin. 

Later in the film, Anna says, "Solzhenitsyn gives us back our native languages and loves Russia with Blok called a "deadly insulted love." She refused to leave the Soviet Union, becoming "a forceful voice against oppression." Two years before her death, she was reinstated into the Writers' Union, Solzhenitsyn fled to the West to publish freely. 

Aranovich, who filmed archival footage of Akhmatova's funeral in  1966, risked arrest and was unable to show these images until now, under glasnost .

The story of the film itself, reads like the chronicle of Akhmatova's life: Aranovich was silenced when his footage of Akhmatova's funeral was confiscated by the KGB, the director demoted, and the footage remained missing for five years. 

According to the American translator of the script, poet Maryna Albert of Odessa Productions in Seattle, "Aranovich was told by someone to ask about the footage at the archives at Lenfilm Studios. He went with a bottle of vodka, and talked to the head archivist. They drank the bottle and Aranovich got another. Finally, the archivist says, 'I know what you're here for, your film, but you're not going to get it.' 

For almost 20 years they could not get ahold of the footage. Ironically, the only time it was shown was when the KGB wanted to know who was present at Akhmatova's funeral." 

Maryna Albert's own involvement in the film came about when she was in Russia in 1989, when she met a young musician who had just finished working on a film of Akhmatova. She saw the film, loved it, and met the director, Aranovich. 

In turn, she read him a poem she'd written at Akhmatova's graveside, translated by her friend, Leningrad writer and guitar -maker Yuri Dmitrievski. Aranovich liked the poem, and offered her the job of co-translating the Russian text of the film into English with Yuri. 

(Excellent translations of most of the poems and text of Anna Akhmatova are by Yuri Dmitrievski and Maryna Albert; three poems by Judith Hemschemeyer, from the recently released Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova , Zephyr Press 1990; two poems by Stanley Kunitz/Max Hayward from Poems of Akhmatova , Little, Brown & Company 1973.) 

The completion and subsequent airing of this important documentary film represents the banishment of repression not only for Aranovich. 

Yuri Dmitrievski who described Social Realism as "a monster nobody has actually seen with the naked eye," said "If you weren't killed, survival was agonizingly hard for anyone banished from the obedient herd. Consequently, there's scorn among Communists for anyone who is independent and, worst of all, creative."

Russian criticism of the film was that Aranovich objectified Akhmatova too much, placed her on a pedestal. She was more human, down to earth. Albert said the film, geared for Russian audiences, assumes those viewing the film are intimate with Russian history and literature. Not enough is explained for American audiences. 

"I tried to bring some clarity to the film, which is not always chronological." She was confronted with the added dilemma that the film had no separate sound track. Albert was able to make an American adaptation (2 and a half years in the making) funded by the Washington State Humanities Council, with only seven editorial cuts.

The 63-minute black and white film successfully weaves photographs and footage, often using pastiches, collage, overlays, and repetitive loops to achieve a visual poetic effect. Haunting, discordant music serves to enhance the nightmarish quality of some of the images—Stalin wiping his mustache over and over, or the wind riffling the pages of books.

The cult of Stalin juxtaposed against rows of animal skins, scored with Dmitrievski's percussive rendition of "Moscow Nights" and "Katushka" raises the hackles on one's neck. This is a dense film noir, requiring several viewings. Sometimes the subtitles go by so fast, there isn't adequate time to absorb them, and some of the text for the complete poems is almost too small to read. 

However, it's a film well worth seeing—especially as we in the west struggle to understand what Russia has already experienced, and what lies ahead.

Part of a growing Renaissance on the life of Akhmatova, the archival film will make its Bay WArea debut at the Mill Valley Film Festival in November, and it will be aired again in December at the Poetry Film Festival in San Francisco. 

An American companion film on Akhmatova—using much of Aranovich's original footage—"Fear and the Muse" will also air in November on KQED. And there is rumor of other documentary films on Akhmatova on the way.

Distributed by Oakland-based, non-profit national film distributor, The Video Project, The Personal File of Anna Akhmatova, is now part of their Glasnost Film Festival video series, the original 22 films which toured the US for over a year, have expanded to 33 titles. 

The Festival was brought to North American audiences in 1989 by the Citizen Exchange Council and the American-Soviet Film Initiative (Moscow).

The Video Project (originally the Educational Film & Video Project) was co-founded by Oscar nomination, I n the Nuclear Shadow: What Can the Children Tell Us? 1983, and Academy Award ( Women—For America, For the World , 1986) winning documentary filmmakers Vivienne Verdon-Roe and Ian Thiermann in 1983 to produce and distribute affordable alternative films and videos on issues crucial to our future on the planet. 

Verdon-Roe first saw the Soviet films at the Los Angeles premier of the Glasnost Film Festival. "I was quite unprepared for the emotional impact of these films. They are a vivid reflection of the changes sweeping the Soviet Union, a transformation that is now changing our world so dramatically. . . a society that is taking moral inventory of itself, trying to heal itself."

Over 150 films ranging from environmental to critical social issues such as the arms race, and Latin America—hard-hitting films rarely seen on television—are available for individual, or group rental or purchase at 5332 College Avenue, Suite 101, Oakland, CA 94618, or call (415)655-9050. Thiermann encourages grassroots groups to use the films to raise funds for their own efforts. Le Video in San Francisco and Video Droid in Mill Valley do stock some of their tapes as well.

I don't have a tear sheet for this, not edited version.

Wednesday, September 25, 1991



When my weekly horoscope said I'd fall in love with a stranger,
perhaps a Gemini, I laughed, thinking how easily I'd outfoxed my fate, 
and escaped Eros' sting. Besides, it was during the Russian coup,
I was living a cloistered life; I'd sworn off men—especially Soviets,
having put the last one (a Cancer) on a plane back to his wife.
Chocolate is a lot easier on the psyche and tastebuds.
Minerva cautioned the entire centarian tribe of archers,
Unlucky in love, are you the problem or the key to the solution?
Sagge, be careful what you ask for. I don't believe in starcasts,
but I forgot the gods are practical jokers. 
A chance meeting with a stranger on a pier,
minutes before my forecast was rendered null and void,
I fell in love with a Gemini man from an overthrown country 
half-way around the world, without even a language in common. 
I forgot to specify I wanted a sensitive, rich, agnostic American. 
Instead, I got a piously orthodox aging Russian singer.
Always in hot water, I know I'm trouble, I wonder what he asked for,
& how many other Sagges were parboiled that week?
Blame fate or the stars the ship was stranded a week in port.
It began innocently enough—the night I drove him back to the ship
at 70 mph, my unexplicable tears, the swimming freeway.
Alarmed, he wondered if we'd get there in one piece.
I stood on the pier shivering in a summer dress
& bundled against the fog, dismally in love with a stranger
about to set sail. The gods take no prisoners, we couldn't board ship—
US customs had shut it down. Trouble, all right.
He pointed to the dictionary, are you free?
Was he was referring to political ideological freedom
just after the coup—it seemed a natural enough question.
Panicking, I assumed he wanted to defect. 
Six others jumped ship in Seattle and nearly drowned.
He shook his head, No. I thought, O god, 
it's the larger question: do I have ties, am I single? 
But he just wanted to go shopping before returning home.
Relieved, I said yes to all three counts.
We spent the week exploring backroads and beaches,
singing under the stars, before his ship left for Vladivostok.
My girlfriends sighed, how romantic! It's certainly a challenge. 
At least he's not married like the last one.
While I was busy fanning the blaze with a frying pan,  
my ship came in all right. And sailed without me.
I wonder where fate will take me this time:
To St. Petersburg as a Russian wife peeling spotty potatoes?
Or will he come here, dependent as a babe; 
both of us broke and hating each other,
living like caged rats in my shoebox of a cabin?
I've never seen the fall come in like this before: thunder & rain 
after a day hot enough to cook eggs in plein-air.
Last night's full equinox moon pushed on the sky
like an impatient child in the birth canal,
with bags packed, nowhere in particular to go.                 

rev. 5/92

Wednesday, September 18, 1991



Sleeping until noon & needing an excuse,
she blamed it on the java she scored—
20 pounds of dark French roast
vibrating in her fridge—
keeping her hardwired all night long.

rev. 8/92

89 to 92

Tuesday, September 17, 1991



In the Grand Canyon, the rivers eat time.
The muddy Colorado, a hungry red snake devours natal rock.
Like an old man seeking the fountain of youth,
it eats ever deeper to a time when the earth was young.
Soon it will devour itself like Oruboros,
because it eats through to the heart of the metaphor—
not vertical history, but timeless geology.
Lava sensibilities hidden in the depths
give no clue to the passion set in stone; time itself is fluid—
cracks in the earth, fissures in the soul
of alluvium and rusted sandstone.
Defiance Plateau. How big, and utterly defiant
the land must've seemed to those crossing by wagon.
Now the land becomes less distinct,
an amalgam—like the people who settled America.

Mirages are to the desert as waves are to the ocean.
Ghost cities laid out like Nazca lines,
geometric knotwork of someone's failed dreams.
We try so hard to leave our mark,
sometimes without even knowing it.

Flying over Acoma, the oldest inhabited city in the U.S.
I think of Coronado searching for the seven fabled cities of Cibola,
who found only the empty cities of the Anasazi, the Old Ones,
could not see the wealth of earthen walls glowing at sunset.

9/91 & 9/93  
Santa Fe, NM



Dendritic memory of dry riverbeds,
the pale alluvium, most recent in memory,
points accusingly toward sinkholes below sea level.
Recognizable from the air: Cedar Breaks,
Vermilion Cliffs, Rainbow Plateau, Monument Valley.
Lines across the earth in resonating patterns,
what do they mean? Power lines visible from space?
The varied skin of the mother,
the mysterious deeper names for the earth.
A finger lake with fractalline shores—
and irrigated circles, green coinage for the corn mothers.
Nothing grows in the pocket canyons
except turquoise reservoirs, truly jewels of the desert.
Remnants of oceans, polyps and coral, a garden
bloomed in the blood of our mother, the sea,
the first goddess to emerge
and give up her bounty.

9/91 & 9/93
Santa Fe, NM

Monday, September 16, 1991

Face to Face Art Auction 9/16/91

Using art to help celebrate life

COMPASSION—A work by wood sculptor Bruce Johnson to be auctioned at Face to Face's annual Art For Life benefit Sept. 21 at The Friedman Center.


In 1988, stained-glass artist Laurence Evangelinos contacted Face to Face Sonoma County AIDS Network, the local agency dedicated to providing care and support for people with AIDS and ARC. "It is time to do something. I want to help," the Occidental artist told Face to Face Development Director Rick Dean. "The only thing I have to give is my art."

But she had an idea that she wasn't alone in the artist community, and Art For Life, one of the most successful art auction fundraisers in California, was born.

Over the last four years, the Sonoma County artists have responded in force to the Face to Face request for donations. Last year's auction exceeded projections of $25,000 and raised $37,000. This year more than 200 works of art valued at over $100,000 have been donated to the auction which will be held September 21 at The Friedman Center in Santa Rosa. One piece alone, donated by Timber Cove sculptor Bruce Johnson, is valued at $8000.

Among the contributors, visual artist and SRJC art instructor Marsha Connell of Santa Rosa sees the project as a natural endeavor for the community. "AIDS and the artist community overlap—and there are fewer resources available to us. We need to help our own community."

Guerneville printmaker Inge Laskowski says, "I feel it's a really important event for artists who can give something other than money. It's a gift of ourselves to contribute to the cause. The community takes an interest in that art, and with that interest, donates money to Face to Face. I can see the direct results of the benefit auction right here in my own community."

One complaint often made by artists about benefit auctions—that sponsors think little of asking artists for a donation as if somehow creating fine art was less of a livelihood than, say, plumbing—is curiously absent when discussing Art For Life.

A practical issue Connell raises is that "though a piece of art may be worth thousands of dollars, the artist is not allowed to take a tax credit for the charitable donation of a piece. The IRS allows artists to deduct only the cost of the materials." Since most artists have already deducted materials in their yearly tax returns, they usually receive no tax-break whatsoever. "However, if a business person or a gallery owner donates a piece of art, they can claim full value," explained Connell.

So when artists give their art for charitable causes, they usually receive no compensation. True philanthropy.

Though artists contributing to Art For Life are entitled to receive up to 2O percent of the sale price for their donated piece (which helps to recoup materials costs), framing a watercolor can run upwards of $400, a considerable out-of-pocket cost for the artist to absorb—most artists who donate work to the auction do not claim their 20 percent. According to Dean, less than a quarter of the artists ask for the payment.

Of course, artists also donate their work because ita lso gives them exposure. According to ceramicist Jeff Zigulis, "This auction is one of the premier art events in the Bay Area."

Zigulis, who is on the board of directors for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, feels it's a feather in his cap to be asked to be involved in the auction. "Face to Face is a timely issue, it helps local people in the community. The ir auction is head and shoulders above the rest. It's number one."

Forestville wood sculptor Michael Costantini began as a volunteer at the first auction four years ago and helped organize the system with "flow-function logistics." Costantini explains, "The art auction is a very labor-intensive way for an organization to make money. The amount of energy expended for the return of profit is considered to be on the low end of the totem pole. And the auction is so successful, it's one of the biggest money-makers for Face to Face." The other major fundraiser, the Human Race, is held in May. Monthly pledge programs and state and county grants, make up the bulk of the organization's annual budget.

Costantini, who works primarily on commissioned pieces privately negotiated through Gump's, sees the donation of his art as a promotional venue as well as a philanthropic gesture. He says it's like having a new instant client.

"The auction gives exposure to worthwhile artists, and because it's invitational, it has prestige," says Laskowski. "It's important that all of us think about AIDS-most of us can't help out on a day-to-day basis. The auction is an outrageous success. A real social event, a who's who of the [local] art world."

After the art auction Dean will fly to Vancouver, B.C., to take the model to other AIDS agencies. One reason he thinks the auction is so successful is the extraordinary number of artists, restaurants, and wineries in Sonoma County. Several chefs, caterers, and wineries also contribute services and products to the event. "Sonoma," Dean says, "is a mecca."

Face to Face began as a grass-roots movement in 1984 with community members taking care of friends by providing home care, emotional support, and hospice services. Development Director Dean began at Face To Face four years ago as a volunteer. He had quit his job at retail sales, decided to volunteer, and loved working for the organization. When he began, the budget was $100,000. Today it exceeds $600,000 and requires a professional staff of 16 full- and half-time nurses, social workers, therapists, and educators. The volunteer base has swelled to 150.

The extra services are, unfortunately, tied to increased need. Recent statistics from the Sonoma County Public Health Department show 552 known AIDS cases since 1982,389 deaths, and an estimated 3,000 HIV-positive people. Seventy-eight new cases were reported during the first half of the year alone.

But county statistics don't accurately reflect the numbers of AIDS cases in the county, Dean says, because many people are diagnosed in San Francisco and other Bay Area communities, and then relocate to Sonoma County. "We have done miracles to still be in existence. We're one of the few agencies that does not have a waiting Iist. And the patients are not just men—women, children and whole families are on the roster," explains Dean.

"We now serve 400 patients a year, the highest caseload ever," notes Dean. "It's been a steady climb from just 35 people from four years ago."

Evangelinos continues to donate to the auction, this year a fused-glass sculpture. "Donating art has both political and social rarnifications—if you don't act on what you believe needs to be changed, or helped, you are guilty of leaving the status quo intact, she says. "Just standing on the sidelines isn't enough."

Works to be auctioned at Art for Life can be previewed in over a dozen community showcases, including the Quicksilver Mine Co. in Guerneville, Q Gallery and Sawyer's in Santa Rosa, Copperfield's in Sebastopol, and Hand Goods in Occidental. The auction itself will be held at the Friedman Center, 4676 Mayette Avenue, Santa Rosa, on Sept. 21. A silent auction will begin at 3.30 p.m. and a live auction will follow at 5. Tickets ($10) are available at the door. For more information, call Face to Face at 887-1581.

The West Sonoma County Paper, 9/16/91

Friday, September 6, 1991



The first sign of winter begins as a small vegetable mold on the leaves,
jagged five-veined hearts pointing away from the nest in radial asymmetry.
Fractal curve of young leaves guard embryonic clusters
caught too late in the season and yellow-orange squash blossoms
curl their five arms around the fruiting body to keep it warm.
From the velvet throat, the stamen, like a finger,
or brain coral, rises up from a phallic stock. Floral love.
Pale green veins end with small claws at the tip and base of each flower
like two hands—one holding up the sky,
the other holding up the sun, as if in victory.
The base root swelling through the boundaries of star
shaped fruit until it becomes a crenulated sundog on the horizon.

Beneath the leaf canopy, an acrid odor of beetles
or formalin gives way to the sweet sap of mute inverted bells.
Yellow fruit. Pure cadmium pigment from the tube, so intense
it pushes back the green air with small vibrations of light.
In the heat of summer you can almost hear them growing,
taut-skinned summer squash, ripening to bursting point,
scattering small blind eyes in the soil, waiting for the signal
to unzip the genetic ladder. Vegetable love.
This extravagance of life too soon ends.
The kitchen knife reveals their hidden star charts,
the marrow and vein of space. Tracks of seeds—
stars streaking in the direction of dawn.

I remember my grandmother picking the unpollinated flowers,
looking inside each one, saying, they'd never bear fruit.
I never knew how she could tell — sexing each squash blossom,
dredging them into egg and flour and frying them in butter
until they were dinosaur tracks of the sun
feeding me in late summer. Nutty sweetness
and the promise of something more.

And you, unseasonable bitter fruit, tough-skinned vessel,
why so yellow? A love token of the sun's fickle attention?
Undone by your own surgery, you try to cleave your broken halves,
heal the breach with your veneous dealings
but you can't fix the imperfect symmetry of your heart
severed from its circular discourse by the steel blade.
There is little comfort in remembering the corpse of our love,
or in knowing that you're a beetle-browed Sisyphus
condemned to dragging your sterile sex from woman to woman
like a victory torch in a perpetual race where
no one gets to be on top of the dung heap.

rev. 9/91

1992 First Leaves