Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Irish Redhead post on Celtic Woman Forum

Ha! My Irish Redhead blog post is quoted at length on Celtic Woman Forum

Only caveat is that I rewrote and revised that blog for months after‚ so this is an early permutation.

Quote from: Gail on June 06, 2009, 10:51PM

The "redhead" of Ireland originally came from the assimilation of the Norwegians into ancient Eire (sorry, Ireland) - according to Irish history, Eric the Red had flaming red hair and so did his son, Leif Ericson.

History and scientific genetic studies show otherwise. In fact it may have been the reverse.
It's been proved that the red hair gene Melanocortin 1R was present in Ireland even before the Celts.
The Celts arrived in Ireland around 700 BC, the Gaels around 100 BC.
The Vikings invaded almost 1500 years after the Celts, in 795 AD.
They were defeated by Brian Ború in 999 AD and again in 1014 AD.
Dr Jonathan Rees, Edinburgh University Professor, discovered the recessive gene Melanocortin 1 while conducting studies on redheads.

Here is a quote from a piece about redheads:
"So far, I've found no evidence that Dr. Rees, or any geneticist, equated Irish red hair with the introduction of roving Viking or Finnish genes. If anything, it was probably a stray bit of Irish (or Scottish) DNA in the Viking gene pool that introduced redheadedness to Scandinavia (but not Sweden) as the Dublin Vikings routinely took Irish wives, and some went back to Norway.

Early medieval literature reveals that most Vikings were blond (or dark), but not red-haired. The few redheads among them were singled out with names such as Eric the Red, or Rurik, as they were not typical of their Nordic Race.

Several genetic studies reveal that the highest per capita red-haired genetic marker was in Ireland. Period. Not Scandinavia. I've yet to find a study stating that 40-46% of all  Scandanavians or Finns carry the recessive marker. Genetic DNA tests also suggest that red-hair genes were common among the first Britons."

The ancient Greek ethno-historians, especially Dio Cassius, noted in their observations that there were an awful lot of really big blond/flaxen and redheaded Celt warriors with grey eyes. He described the Iceni warrior Queen Boudicca as being “tall and terrifying . . . a great mass of red hair fell over her shoulders” to her hips.

According to the Roman historian Livy, Roman general Manlius Vulso called the Celts of Asia Minor a fierce nation: "Their tall bodies, their flowing red hair, gigantic shields and long swords, together with their howling as they go into battle, their shouts and leapings and the fearful din of arms as they batter their shields according to some kind of ancestral custom—all these things are designed to terrify!"

The Celts certainly got around; they also settled en masse in Macedonia and Thrace. Philip of Macedonia had a large Thracian Celtic armies. Alexander the Great commented upon the  Celtic warrior's bravery.
Also, thousands of Celtic mercenaries were employed by the Egyptian Ptolemies, in 283-246 BC and 186 BC, and they attempted to overthrow Ptolemy II. By the way -  Cleopatra (a Ptolemy) was a redhead.

Red is the rarest hair color in the world: less than 4% of world's population has naturally red hair. Scotland and Ireland have an unusually high incidence of redheadedness. Irish people carry the highest ratio of red-haired gene (and its variations) in the world.
Those of Celtic Origin in Ireland share a cultural and musical tradition with Celts in Brittany and the Celt-Iberians of Gallicia in Northern Spain, where the redhead gene is much in evidence.

Sunday, June 28, 2009



It was eerily amazing to see
a huge Iranian rally in Vancouver
students lining both sides of W Georgia St
all the way from Stanley Park to the top of the hill,
to Burrard, the heart of Vancouver's financial district.
Everyone in black, holding green balloons,
clapping and flashing peace signs.
Drivers honking in unison and in solidarity.


Blast from the Soviet Past

Kirk Whipple & Marilyn Morales  wrote:
Hola, guess what we got an email from Sasha Karpenko. He has two kids from 2 different mothers. He wanted to know if we know anything from Fred Ptucha and John Masura.We have not spoken to them since 1997. Are you in contact with either one? We started the concerts this weekend. We had two great shows. Today is the third one. Besitos MM
Maureen Hurley No, I've been SO out of touch! we're in Seattle, just returned from a week in the San Juans, Victoria & Vancouver, BC. Home again in CA, but NON is off to Scotia on Wed. to see his mum. We'll catch up later.

Thursday, June 25, 2009



Within hearing distance of Victoria Harbour,
we sit and savor the long white nights;
but we're really south of Friday Harbor, San Juan Island,
So why does twilight seem so much longer
across the border?


Monday, June 22, 2009



Orcas on the Straits,
we sang them in on the Solstice.
Kyaked into English Camp
& hiked Young Mountain (awk, I'm not so young)
for a panorama of the San Juans;
the Olympics so clear, so close,
you could touch them with a spoon.
They rose up like orcas breathing to the sky.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Tell Me—A Rant

Tell me why I shouldn't have gotten upset when Neil came home late—45 minutes before the party began (3 pm) to "help clean up" when he originally said he'd be back after he took the family to mass at 11 am (ETA 12:30) and didn't let me know he fell off the ozone and lost a few hours in the interum...and I'd started cleaning at 10 am, the house was a sty.

Tell me why I shouldn't be upset his young nephew had poor aim; he hosed the toilet cover, seat and floor; or that his sister had gotten sick on the rug last week and the house smelled like a zoo. Who was expected to clean up the blow chunks in the tub and on the floor? I had to resort to bleaching the kitchen and bathroom (including shower) in order to rid the place of its odor. Then WASH the stuff as plastic bags couldn't contain the odors. Why should I be concerned that I got stuck with the brunt of it? Then could never catch up in order to cook, let alone change out of my shorts or take a shower, for example.

Tell me why I shouldn't be upset when he insisted the first guest (a ditzy woman I can't stand on a good day) wasn't to arrive until four, the rest at five, when I distinctly overheard him tell her in a tedious 1 and 1/2 hour egoflaming-gabbthon, to arrive at three. The rest, at four. No matter that I actually heard him say three and four, but apparently I needed it on tape in orter to prove it: when I corrected him, he blatently denied it. I said, Right, if she comes at three I'll fuckin' kill you! He said no way; she's coming by Bart and by bus from the City...FLW Don't worry: she'll be late.

Tell me why I shouldn't be upset when she arrived extra-early, smearing her posh English accent all over the house at a pitch, that even the deaf could hear her innermost thoughts. Luckily she was dim as a nightlight, but she was the other side of useless in the kitchen (one wonders how she managed to make it to mid-life crisis, let alone, ride a bus across town on her own) but she was useful enough to monopoloze all his time while he was still trying to call guests and clean up (read: shove papers into bags; slam (kick) bulging closet doors tight.) Then drooled all over him like a demented boxer. She did look a bit like Robert Mitchum's daughter sans the cauliflower ears.

Tell me why I shouldn't be upset that I had to ransack the laundry for a change of clothes because I didn't dare open my closet door in the living room with all the guests sitting there so cozily...the door, spring-loaded for action with the gravitational weight of clothes just waiting to jump from and uneasy confinement onto an unsuspecting guest or floor. Me looking like Shirley Valentine wearing her tea in her lap.

Tell me why I shouldn't have gotten upset at last night's party because Neil's other sister insisted on dragging out all the shabby (and fragile) glassware (that I won't even use) out of the cupboard to concoct midori champagne cocktails handing them out to the kids as well, no matter that I had clear plastic glasses for the occasion...and it WAS a paper plate party after all. Telling me: It's MY brother's HOUSE! I'll do whatever I please. And so she did. Apparently my living here for 2 years has no validity whatsoever.

Apparently none of these examples are valid complaints.

To chill out, I went down to the lake to visit the ducks until darkness fell on my foot and broke it. By that time most of the guests had gone home... I was MIA at my own party. A cast of one. And nobody noticed.

What I should've said: Warning. I am a writer. Everything you say or do will be dutifully recorded and possibly used against you in a court of words. But I was so flabbergasted, I was at a loss for words.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

VARIATION ON YEATS "Love is like a Lion's Tooth:"

VARIATION ON YEATS "Love is like a Lion's Tooth"

Love arrived like thunder before a storm,
all pompous and out of breath.
It tingled with ozone and the odor of first rain.
It stung the eye with a splash of red roses
splayed against an neon blue wall.
It itched like wild strawberries on the tongue.
It planted butterflies deep in the stomach
like when a mangy dog licks your lips.
There was no howling of wolves
or wolfish howls, wolf whistles,
or an aural fixation of harp stings.
No angel bands dancing on pinheads
needed to apply for the job.
The position was already filled.
Love sharpened its claws and gnashed its fangs,
drew its customary pint of blood until the sky
was filled with such longing and an urge for
a rousing game of Tic-tac-toe with the moon.
The outcome was inevitable.
All those Xes and Os led them astray.

It was also a very long time ago.


This was a prompt for a poem on the five senses for Donna

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Last days teaching

Tho I be sick (thanks to kinder kids for sharing those bugs), my 2nd Grade poetry finale at Beach ES was a brill sendoff. We designed symbols from our lives and dreams in our hands, and wrote poems: Inside my hands... they became extraordinary illustrations for their poetry anthology. We sent them into the cusp of summer with their hands full of poems. And now I have to glaze tiles with Cleveland ES kids the rest of the day...deadlines....ah, the restorative power of thick, blacker than gall Irish tea! Up & at 'em!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009



I think we think in metaphor first without realizing it
and then we work our way back toward simile
so people don't think we're nuts!

This AM I looked at my recently shorn basil
(who recently committed their leaves to pestocide)
and thought of "sheep." Sheep-shorn basil.

Then I corrected myself: basil, like shorn sheep.

Either that, or it was the catnip to blame.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sheep Sheer metaphor

Aristotle wrote: The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. Plato didn't trust metaphor because it wasn't measurable.

This morning I looked at my recently shorn pathetic basil (that had involuntarily offered up all their leaves to a pestocide binge on my part) and I immediately thought of sheep.

I said aloud, poor sheep-shorn basil. An involuntary metaphor!

Then I corrected myself: and said, The basil looks like it was shorn by sheep.

Perhaps my involuntary metaphor was due to a profound lack of morning tea in my system that induced such a thought. Either that, or it was the catnip.

The point is, I saw the metaphor first in my mind's eye, then I backed off, and turned it into a simile, which is weaker, albeit safer.  Metaphor makes me look crazy, simile is a logical rationalization process.

I think that we think in metaphor first without realizing it, and then work our way back toward the logic of simile so that people don't think that we're completely nuts! Crazy talk.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Reading went well

Tweet: Maureen Hurley & @cechaffin to read at Poetry & Pizza, Jun 5 @7:30 PM. $5 door to benefit: CA Poets in the Schools. Escape from NY Pizza, 333 Bush St,, SF. Pizza: all you can eat. Poetry: priceless! Glenn Ingersoll, host.
Sorry I missed your show, just too tired & getting around is a problem for me, I have no good excuse and I wanted to hear you and meet you!; I'm shocked that you mentioned Herman Berlandt. I knew him many years ago, isn't he very, very old? Still in Bolinas?

I said: No worries. Reading went very well....it's a great space & the owner is a poet. Check out: Escape from NY Pizza. 333 Bush; readings are the 1st Fri of the month, beginning again in Sept. 

Some Canadians even filmed us, thinking I was going to do a Celtic thing, and I'd made a reading around Ca Poets in the Schools, as that was what we raised $ for at the door. So I sang Siuil a Run in Irish to placate them. Migod, I haven't read in CA in 10 years! Reading in grad school doesn't count.

From a Facebook post.
added 6/17

Neither CE Chaffin nor Joie Cook are with us. Chaffin came through with his suicide threat and Joie's failing health got the best of her. Not sure about Herman Berlandt. When I visited him on the Mesa, he barely remembered me. Very depressing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

David Bromige 1933-2009

I learned of David’ Bromige's passing on Facebook. And on the cusp of Walt Whitman’s birthday, at that. David was instrumental in my becoming a poet. I remember well that fateful day, in 1979, auditioning for him over the phone (I was a housecleaner-nanny in Belvedere). I wanted to take his poetry class, and upon the urging of friends, I sent in a manuscript, never expecting that I would be accepted into the poetry class, or that it would become my life’s work.

He once quipped that I came charging into the Sonoma State University creative writing program with a full head of steam. No matter that I had absolutely no backgrounds in literature, and had to start at absolute zero with language. I had no inkling what a noun or a verb was, let alone, a modifier. When it came to my unorthodox uses of language, syntax, and punctuation, he was a patient man. What I appreciate most about having been his student is that he allowed me find my own voice and style.

And I ran with it to become editor of Sonoma Mandala Literary Review (now called Zaum), Open Hand and a coordinator for countless poetry events at SSU and in the community: Ear to the Ground, Russian River Writers’ Guild, etc., for 20 plus years.

It was through coordinating poetry readings and events at many Sonoma County venues, from SSU to Inn of the Beginning, West of the Laguna, Cotati Cabaret, Garbo's, Leonard Matlovitch's Stumptown Annie's, Higher Grounds, Copperfield's Books, and the Johnny Otis Niteclub—was where I apprenticed my varied and sullen craft.

At those readings I met the contemporary poets who became my extemporaneous teachers: Andrei Codrescu, Charles Bukowski, Thom Gunn, Charles Bernstein, Anselm Hollo, Allan Ginsberg, Carolyn Forché, Sandra McPherson, Galway Kinnell, Sharon Doubiago, Robert Hass, Eugene Ruggles. Bobby Kaufman, Diane di Prima (I put on a reading for her when "Loba" came out), to name a few.

Wisely, David did not attempt to shape and mold me into a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet. Fractured syntax and the exact placing of the eroded coastline of the word on the page was not my cuppa tea,

I was a narrative poet with a story to tell. He handed me readings lists: the poetry of Yeats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert, Herrick, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, T. S. Elliott, H. D., and Chaucer—to name a few.

I later came to appreciate much of what David introduced me to, but I was a stubborn, if recalcitrant student, at best. Not much of a follower, more mulish than brilliant, and certainly not much given to idle hero worship. We had our moments.

I remember one time he called me into his office, I thought, uh-oh, it was going to be bad news, Surely I’d failed a class, but he reached into his filing cabinet and pulled out some beer, cracked it open, and we went over my writing portfolio.

I knew David suffered from childhood diabetes, and having a beer on the sly, was a real no-no. I sat through the tutorial, watching him like a hawk, terrified that he might slip into a diabetic coma. And then what would I do? Campus was closed for the weekend, no 911. Phones couldn't dial out off campus. It was an in-house system. (Pre cell phone days may be hard for the current generations to imagine, but watch '70s-'80s cops & robbers reruns, and you'll see a fair amount of film spent on people hunting down phone booths.)

I loved being an accidental TA as well, when David was in Oakcrest, the local looney bin, and I learned far more from the process of having to teach my peers, cold turkey, all at once, than if I’d been just a sedentary student in our Poetics Senior Seminar. Clifford Schwartz (who was auditing the class), Jim Montrose and I carried on with the class as if the professor had just stepped out for some air. The English Department wisely let us carry on with no one at the helm.

One time we were all in the Sonoma Mandala office, I was typing up poems for the latest issue and I had a momentary starstruck dyslexic faux pas of a moment when I blurted out: "Would you trust a poet in your mouth?" David was quick to quip back, "Hey ya, that's great!" recognizing the metaphor embedded within the Spoonerism. I was so utterly embarrassed, that to this day, I've no idea of what I was really trying to say. But David taught me to value those slip of tongues as random acts of poetry.

Instead of being nitpicky, David had a kindly way of pointing out typos and other glaring printed glitches. In the days before computers and spellcheck, we used an old IBM Selectric. He'd say, "I wonder who...typed 'it's' instead of 'its';" or "'there' when they meant 'they're'?" Or, "Hey, that's interesting. What do you think that comma's doing there? Or "Why do you think someone spelled it 'in memorium' instead of 'in memoriam'."

That was me, on all counts. I feigned innocence on the "it's/its" typo (and never repeated that mistake again, but the"memorium" was a calligraphic scribal error, I was distracted and it was a little harder to pass off as it was my own handwriting, not the IBM Selectric to blame.

Besides, I'd already run off the flyers for Boschka Layton's memorial service, so I spent the afternoon turning that "u" into an "a" on some 500 flyers. Because of David, I learned to pay closer attention to the grammar and structure of language, as well as to punctuation.

Another time, I happened to be in Vancouver, B.C, visiting a poet friend, Fred Herskovitch, who mentioned that a British poet was in town. Imagine my surprise when we trundled off from the depths of the Capilano Gorge to hear David read in a stuffy, hot and overcrowded bookstore loft, in Old Town, Vancouver. (It was a rare, humid sunny solstice evening). Somehow hearing his work out of context of the insular Sonoma County poetry circles put a new emphasis on his words. Or rather, to my listening skills. I was able to hear him in a fresh "voice.

Perhaps that weird Canada connection was the beginning of our friendship, and the beginning of my transition from that of student to peer. Like all good poets, we all went out for beer. Margaret Atwood was there (this was before Handmaiden's Tale and her subsequent rise to fame), David's son, Christopher, and I forget who else, was squeezed into our booth. But we talked into the wee hours as poets do.

(I am still processing what David meant to me as our early relationship was sometimes a firestorm of wills. Sometimes he could be so damned English! And me, well, so Irish. So as I process and remember, perhaps this blog will expand at a later date. Ironically, David lived in Ireland for a time—sent there to recover from TB—and had fond memories of his extended stay among the Irish. So our angst may have been merely a pedestrian garden variety of professor/student, rather than that of political boundaries.)

I have not even mentioned David's illustrious career as a poet (see the Wiki entry below), he contained a multitude of writing styles, but by far, one of my favorite, delightfully earthy and humorous poems of his is from:

Tiny Courts in a World without Scales

Mañana from Heaven

I just want a couple acres
in beautiful country
where I can put two-three Chevys
up on cinder blocks
and abandon a stack
of automobile tires

Last time I saw David was in Sebastopol, ca. 2001, right before he had his stroke. We bumped into each other coming from the market, and so we popped around the corner into a wine bar and we sipped a lovely tall glasses of cabernet mid-afternoon. Sinfully delicious. The circle completed—from student/professor to comfortable old friends. Like the whisper of worn corduroy. That day, tranquil, indelible as stone, will remain with me forever.

May the road rise lightly at your back, David.
May it rise like your words on the wind.
Here's to you, lad, I raise my class on high.

P.S. Hey David, look, I got "memoriam" right this time.

YANC residency

Rolling thunder from the north...rain in June? I's gonna be a long day, It's off to my Young Artist of Northern California residency at the Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City for our final art class, silk painting session with 1st graders. Then I get to hang an art show for three classes, transform the classrooms and corridors into gallery space, and meet the parents. Gonna be a very long day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009



The Ethiopians on the balcony
woke me from a sound sleep,
calling home to Africa
and shouting into the distance of the night.
I really wish they'd use a better cell connection
or talk indoors, I'm beginning to recognize
words in Tigrinya.

Remind me to tell the story of the woman
who sacrificed chickens every Sunday at dawn.
Wish I had recorded her chanting to the sun.
Then it was crooning chickens on the balcony
in downtown Oakland—until a rooster got into the mix.



The Ethiopian on the balcony is calling home again.
He shout the entire distance to Addis Ababa on his mobile.
What is it about 3 AM calls anyway, is the satellite closer?
I'm beginning to pick up Amharic sound bites.
Then he cranks up an Arabic version of the Macareña
heavy on the ululation and drumbeks.
Which makes him shout even louder.
I'm thinking of a bagpipe revenge at 3 AM.
Anyone loan me some warpipes?



The Ethiopians on the balcony are drumming (indoors)
and the call & response 
sounds like the Lakota Sioux "Budwieser" chant.

I wanted to record the woman who sang to the east 
on Sunday mornings, with crooning chickens 
raised to the sun—before the fateful dispatch. 
Added a new twist to the Chicken Every Sunday idea. 
I couldn't see her, only her shadow playing against the wall. 
The photograph I will never take.

And then one night I was awakened 
by a bunch of Africans (on the balcony) 
singing Ladysmith, albeit drunkenly. 
I stood in the moonlight at 3 AM, mesmerized. 
It never happened again. 
The Africans, they come and go 
on the apartment balconies like the seasons, 
making their way in this northern land.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Maureen Hurley and C.E. Chaffin to read at Poetry & Pizza series, SF

Maureen Hurley
Storyteller, Celtic scholar, artist & poet, Maureen Hurley grew up in West Marin in Northern CA. Hurley holds an MA and a MFA in Creative Writing (poetry/ playwriting) from San Francisco State University, as well as a BA in Art Studio and Expressive Arts from Sonoma State University. As a graduate exchange student at UC Berkeley's Celtic Studies Department, she has studied anthropology, folklore and literature.

Working with California Poets-in-the-Schools and arts councils Maureen brings art and poetry to libraries, schools, prisons, retirement homes and hospitals. Besides magazine and web publication (check out her myspace page!), Maureen frequently performs her work, getting as far afield as Rotterdam’s Poetry International Festival and the Cherkassy Library in the Ukraine.

C.E. Chaffin
A native Californian (now living in Mendocino County) C.E. Chaffin graduated from UCLA in 1976, winning the top honor award in English, The Edward Niles Hooker Award, though, he says, he was not an English major. Later he taught Family Medicine at UCI and was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Having retired from medical practice, Chaffin edited and published the literary ezine, The Melic Review. These days he keeps a blog, and teaches an online poetry course.

Spring '09 saw the publication of Unexpected Light (Diminuendo Press). Of the book’s poems poet & editor Seth Abramson says, “Here are words in service of integrity, poems in service of necessary revelations, and a poet in service of attention at its most elemental and unsettling."

Gate to benefit: California Poets in the Schools www.cpits.org

California Poets in the Schools is the largest writers-in-schools program in the nation. The program's primary focus is to encourage students to write, using their imagination, life experience, and special perceptions to create poetry. Poetry classes foster creativity, intuition and intellectual curiosity through the creative writing process.

Local Area Poet Coordinators administer the program, with a policy to place poets in schools in their own communities, often in their own immediate neighborhoods. Whether the school and community reflect an urban multicultural/bilingual population, a suburban environment or a rural farming area, CPITS has poets available who are of that community and familiar with its mores and values.

Poetry & Pizza is hosted by poet Glenn Ingersoll.
Glenn is a former student of Maureen Hurley And Zara Altair's.
Pizza is all-you-can-eat, poetry is priceless.

Escape from New York Pizza
333 Bush St (at Montgomery)
nearest BART is Montgomery Stn
nearest parking garage Sutter Stockton

$5 requested donation

links to maps:

Maureen Hurley & @cechaffin to read at Poetry & Pizza, Jun 5 @7:30 PM. $5 door to benefit: CA Poets in the Schools. Escape from NY Pizza, 333 Bush St,, SF. Pizza: all you can eat. Poetry: priceless! Glenn Ingersoll, host.