Thursday, January 28, 2010

A note to Andrei Codrescu on Life of Crime

I sent Andrei Codrescu a jpg of the just released Life of Crime.
Have you seen the book yet? At long last....

He said, It' a wonderful book! What scurrilous characters! What grand times! Fine pics, too, made me nostalgic (a bit). Oh, Ron, we love you! We were such boys! And now they write books about us we didn't even preorder! I'm enjoying Andrew Epstein's BEAUTIFUL ENEMIES -- I met him in Florida, read the intro on the plane. Terrific.
O yes, when you were such boys! I grew up on some of those tales—er—should I say tails? Marianne Ware's young daughter Laurie (now my landlady!) couldn't get your name right, and called you Andrei Undressyou which had something to do with you ravaging some young willowy sweet young thang (a poet-ess, no less?) over the top of of the McPhail's propane tank....OMG, I miss those days!
He said: A propane tank? Boy, were we limber!
I continued: Somebody on Facebook found my name—and wanted to know if I was the one doing standup at West of the Laguna, Sebastopol ca 1980. Er, I thought it was poetry (sigh). But then Alastair Johnston says he treats all his poetry readings like standup comedy. There's comedy in that.

Worth it all just to see Ron Silliman snort & fart over "Life of Crime." Ah, yes, those were the days. Maybe we should sic some Jeffrey Miller poems on Ron—or maybe a copy of Huntsie's treatise on Brooklyn Bridge...

I see my photo of Hunce Voelcker made its way to Exquisite Corpse—thx for giving me photo credit BTW. Must've been Pat Nolan that sent it to you. Weirdly, I can still hear Hunce's laugh in my mind's ear—after all these years...

If you want more geezer pix, I'll be posting them in my Poet Archives album—and if you want pix of someone in particular who haunted The River ca 1980-1996, I might have a negative or two somewheres. Sorry, none of you...


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Facebook for the dead

Sodden Thought: Facebook asked that I suggest new friends for Norton Buffalo. Somehow I don't think I need to make "friend " suggestions for him. RIP. Ride on. For a minute there, I thought maybe there was a Facebook in heaven that I don't know about. One time I dreamed there was a special phone for the dead so I called my grandmother. It was so real that when I awoke, I was disoriented. And disappointed. It's some deep metaphor though!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Out of the Blue

Out of the blue, a reknown composer Allaudin Mathieu of Cold Mountain Music, from Sonoma County called and asked if I was the one who wrote "I, Poet," and then he quoted a line from it, saying he wanted to use it in a book he's writing on music!

Founder of the Sufi Choir, musical director for The Committee Theater, and Chicago's Second City Theater, instructor at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Mills College, Allaudin was also the arranger for Big Bands including Stan Kenton, and Duke Ellington orchestras—in those days he was better known as Bill Mathieu. Allaudin is his spiritual name.

The mystic improvisational composer is author of four books and some 20 CDs and casette tape. Pete Seeger said, "Mathieu has found the words to tell the power of music."

I was of course, stunned, as the piece in question was a decade old (talk about words coming back to haunt you!), but I was even more stunned when he didn't remember who I was. Or meeting me upon several occasions. He had long since lost the connecting threads across the passage of time—which made the phone call all the more amazing as he had to call two people to find my number. Third time's a charm.

Allaudin thought the line was merely from an article he'd saved from 1991. But the real backstory is probably more like this: I was nervous meeting him and I brought something of myself by way of gift to deflect the awkwardness of the moment of first meeting.

That particular moment was an interview for a poem I was about to write. I was collaborating on a project with a brilliant student of Allaudin's, composer-pianist Kirk Whipple of the Unconservatory (formerly of Sonoma County; now located in Miami, with a branch—Cranberry Coast Concert Series, in Onset, MA).

Kirk Whipple was honoring his music teachers and friends with a series of nocturnes entitled Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos. My job was to listen to Kirk's notes and musical ideas—to freewrite, and then transform it all into drafts. My final job was to meet the subjects and then shape the final poem. I don't normally write poems this way, by interviewing strangers. So it was all a learning curve into the realm of music.

Allaudin's piece was called "Uncle Al's Cloudscape." ( You can listen to a fragment of music.) Sometime in 1991 or 1992—I think it was late winter, or spring, Allaudin and I hiked up the hill of his back garden located in the outskirts of Sebastopol and he recounted the day when he saw in the sky a cloud in the shape of a clef note. Pause. Take a breath. Caesura. He took it as a profound sign from the universe. And paid heed.

We were quickly off task: our conversation meandered like a circuitous brook in a vast meadow of possibility. It was an afternoon indelibly etched into my mind. So of course, I was shocked that he didn't remember me.

But he did remember me. He just didn't equate that particular me with the me who wrote "I, Poet" so many years ago. Or this present me he was talking to last night on the phone. He thought we were all unrelated strangers but I had the unfair advantage of memory. And I wondered if there were many lost moments like that where memory and experience are unequally shared among acquaintances.

But the story gets stranger still. Out of the blue, an old college friend, Kathie had just mailed me a "care package' of odds and ends she'd collected over the years. Blame it on the Blue moon.

When Kathie purges her house, she mails the goodies to her friends. In my care package was a xeroxed copy of "I, Poet" folded in amongst trinkets, poetry books and cassette tapes. I was shocked to see the article after all these years. I did not read it, but tucked it away, in the "to do" pile as I'm trying to get much of my work online.

This blog is one vehicle for my old work. Though I am pretty discouraged that the only comments I get these days are spam. Who knew spambots read poetry!( I wish Blogger had a "Captcha' for comments. As the spambots find my open comment links, I have to shut them down. Soon no real people will be able to comment on my work—half the reason why I'm blogging in the first place. But that's fodder for another blog.)

It was as if that article was waiting to be rediscovered and when I ignored "I, Poet", then the article sent in the heavy artillery. You will read this again. You will own your words. My own words coming back to haunt—or bite me. Clearly, it was a sign from the universe. I haven't written a poem in ages. Mea maxima culpea.

Allaudin wanted provenance for the book he's writing, he wanted the original "I, Poet" article to footnote it, so I hunted it down, scanned, and sent it to him.

I glanced at the line Allaudin wanted to quote: "A poem is like a stone thrown into the pool of our collective unconsciousness. A small splash—concentric ripples spreading out into the conscious dimensions of the larger pool of humanity—can affect change." —Maureen Hurley, from "I, Poet," page 23, The West Sonoma County Paper, June 20 - July 3, 1991.

That exercise gave me the idea to scan in the actual page as a jpg and post it in my blog. I've been bogged down trying to scan bad copies of my articles—reduced to 6 point type. It makes for a lot of slog work.

Is it really worth the effort and time to create these online archives? Who is reading them? Who cares? Besides, I have so few surviving tear sheets, they're rare as hen's teeth. Most of my memorabilia from those days is in storage, but many boxes were destroyed when the shed roof leaked one particularly stormy winter. Unlike Kathie, though we're both childless, I never purged because the published writing is my progeny.

In the beginning, I meticulously saved everything that appeared in print: my doodles, my photos, and my articles. I catalogued the journey of a career in writing. I learned by doing, and working for The Sonoma County Stump with Joe Leary, and then the West Sonoma County Paper with Nick Valentine was a good training ground. Make that a good university of accidental exposure. Right place, right time. And teachers willing to nurture a budding writer.

Allaudin was delighted but not surprised by the homing pigeon aspect of our connections. Chalked it up to age. The universe works in mysterious ways. Out of the blue, indeed.

I still haven't read "I, Poet" but I've been carefully eyeing it along the edges, cleaning up the margins with Photoshop and I've posted the scan on this site. Maybe it was the last blue moon that triggered this landslide from the past. Instructions from the universe. Have you done your homework?

Soon I will transcribe the piece, but it is readable as is if you double click on it full size. And on the archival front, it also gave me the idea to post the few tear sheets I've scanned in situ along with the transcription as jpgs. I like that.

Maybe I'll write a poem and call it "Out of the Blue."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dread virus blues

Still slogging out that dread virus—great excuse to hang out in PJs on a Sunday afternoon. Just realized this effin eedjit virus has had me in its danse macabre grip for a fortnight. Neil's got it worse. I should knock on wood. It’s been 2 weeks! I'm just about over it—some coughing jags, but Neil's much worse. I wonder if it's the same recurring bug. Are you ever over it? I'm still trying to wipe visions of nekkid sumo wrestlers up close & personal from the retinas of my eyes!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thunder on the right

Thunder on the right, the gods must be playing 9-pins, or they're angrily like bad furniture movers. feng shueying the sky again. Neil said he played 10-pin bowling in Scotland—I've never heard of it. One and two and three... The sky flickers like a jimmied lightbulb running scared between crashing cymbals. Da hail, she come down, da hail, she come down so hard, she bounce right back up window height! Da hail, she come down so hard she bounce up and down and then she push back like a Scottish sheep! More thunder on the right, myriad car alarms howling like frenzied electronic wolves. I went outside to take photos of the hail, but it melted fast. Funny to see a hail frapuccino frothy cap atop those spurious gutter creeks on MacArthur Blvd.

rev 1/18

Recent Publications

Whereas it's true I'm a less than prolific blogger, that I endlessly rewrite my blogs until I'm right sick of them (Octopus blog was rewritten over the course of a month),

& that I didn't write a thing while I was in Hawaii bad—(but I did take 5000 photos—which serve as a remarkable memory aid),

& that I also didn't write a New Year's resolution, (but I'm a finicky bahumbuggerer affected by a lack of winter light),

nor did I write a blog on Haiti—tho I twittered endlessly, so much so that Tweetmeme picked up my tweets—as did CREDO, and many NGOs.

I now have more followers on Twitter than I have for this blog—unless you count the spammers—about the only mail I receive these days for this blog are from loyal spammers—it's gotten so bad, I've had to turn comments off under several blogs—something I am loath to do as I get little enough feedback as it is. Now my Literata comments are filed under Spam in my Gmail account. Is there no way to put a captcha under Blog Comments? I searched the Google Blog database, to no avail.

Then it dawned on me that I also haven't written about my latest publications either.

Though I must admit, with all the atrocities of Haiti, there's room for little else in my psyche. It's like what Meryl Streep said at the Golden Globes. How can I go out there? Put on a happy face, shove some money over to an NGO and go on...the show must go on. Yes.

So here's a bit of show and tell (I haven't been a total slaggard...).

1) My Beat poet pix* are featured in the just released "Life of Crime" the complete collection of newsletters from the Black Bart Poetry Society—for those who think poetry is a crime, about SF's Poetry Wars featuring NPR's Andrei Codrescu, Tom Clark, Dave Benedetti; and of course the editors themselves: Pat Nolan, Steve LaVoie, and Alastair Johnston... (Poltroon Press 2010) *Bob Kaufman, Joanne Kyger, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, etc. In Moe's and independent Berkeley bookstores now, trade copies at Small Press Distribution.

Hmm, Jack Crimmons gave me a headzup: "Life of Crime" made Ron Silliman rather cranky this morning! Alastair was pleased, said it'll stir up sales! The Poetry Wars do go on.... Andrei Codrescu dropped me a note: It's a wonderful book! What scurrilous characters! What grand times! Fine pics, too, made me nostalgic (a bit).

2) What the World Hears: California Poets in the Schools Statewide Anthology—45th Anniversary edition (with a foreword by Gary Soto). I've got a poem and two student poems in it.

4) Changing Perceptions: California Poets in the Schools Conference Anthology, Kim Shuck, ed. (2008) just arrived in the mail nearly a year and a half late with no © or publisher imprint. I'm rather disappointed in the haphazardness of the whole thing and the two-year wait, well, that's anti-climatic. There were many blank pages at the end that could've been used to cover the gobbelygook. Even if my CPITS anthologies, with the pages designed by kids, are funky, I take pride in what I do and always include the © and the credits... Many valid excuses were given but why didn't Kim give a shout out for help? We would've gladly helped, had we known.

For the record, Blogger has "updated" the blog editor and it's now much worse than back in the day when we had to enter our own HTML codes. What You See Is NOT What You Get.
It's an utter and counterintuitive nightmare to format—and getting photos to align up is another cashmar in perseverance. I hate it and would happily go back to the last version—if only I could figure out how. Gratuitous white spaces and line breaks not only drive me crazy, it makes me psychotically irate. Who designed it, and for whom? Inmates

Saturday, January 16, 2010


My scream is the scream of surprise
like a birthday I expected to unacknowledge
a day like any other.
at an early age I learned not to anticipate
not to expect anyone to remember
I was always stood up by the turkey.
Mostly it was a scream of sorrow
a scream of loneliness dressed in alizarine and woad
drowning like like the swallows trapped in the blue china bowl.
It was the scream of the lone oak on the hillside
when the sky dresses it in blue and salmon sunsets
and another event chased it to the horizon
and darkness descends in a shroud of stars
and day and night blur in the passing of time
the oak's centuries, like a gaggle of geese
clacking overhead, a vee formation of victory
Surprise, surprise. This IS your life. Today.
This moment. And every day is a new birth
chasing another alphabet across the page.

from Emmanuel Williams' CPITS workshop 1/16/2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

TSA asks travelers to strip down for national security

Travelers to get naked in public! When my underwire bra was deemed a potential threat to national security, I asked if they wanted it then and there. And when Neil went through a Las Vegas TSA plexi screening booth in a kilt—OMG! Let's just say when we tried to remove said offending items (belt buckles, sporran) in order to get thru screening in a timely manner (& catch our plane), we were threatened with arrest, Neil lost his kilt (luckily he had knickers on) & oh the rubberneckers! Humiliation, thy name is traveler. Politicians may want airport full body scanners ASAP, but they haven't yet been certified on oh-so-many levels.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Kicking off the New Year in PJs

We kick off each year at Lisa Bullwinkel’s—a real New Year's Day pajama party. You're fined $10 if you come in street clothes & at our age, naked is not an option on oh-so-many levels. We all can't handle it! We eat leftovers, play scrabble imbibe, sing, play pinball, etc. The PJ parade down Telegraph is my favorite part. Tim Voeltz takes a family photo. It's funny watching people freak out when Sinead & I stumble into Peets for a cuppa. We went to another later party too still dressed in PJs. Um, there's an elephant in the room—and no one said a thing! Ha ha! It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world...  Wait, my mom was actually in that film with Lloyd Bridges. Plus she was naturally mad, so she didn't have to act! Made my life hell, though. Se la vie.

Pix here.