Friday, August 27, 2010

At IONs Institute, writing workshop

 We're perched on the steep northern slope of Mt. Burdell overlooking the Petaluma Valley watershed, the afternoon wind unfurls its sails & we glide with hawk minds in Ellery Akers' Writing Intensive to write paeans to the land.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

California Poets in the Schools Science & Spirit Symposium, August 27-29, 2010

NOTE BENE: I've posted several of our CPITS symposiums on this page because traffic seems to direct to this page. The most current event is at the top of the page. Hopefully it isn't too confusing this way.

Write, Sing, and Move the Future 2013 at La Casa de Maria, Santa Barbara, August 23-25. Juan Felipe Hererra is poet-honoree.

California Poets in the Schools 2012
Passing the Gift Forward (click here to redirect to latest post)

The 2012 California Poets in the Schools 49th symposium: Passing the Gift Forward will be at IONS in Petaluma, CA, the weekend of September 14-16. Save your pennies and join us for poetry under the stars. (And in the woods. The oaks, oh the oaks.) 

Camille Dungy will be the featured poet and Writing Intensive workshop.
Check out  to download the September 2012 event brochure. If you;'e on Facebook, here's an evite to the Symposium.

California Poets in the Schools 2011
Writing Ourselves True

Check out my blog entry for the September 2011 California Poets in the Schools Symposium in Santa Barbara. Are you free? Come join us. 

CPITS' 47th annual poetry workshop & symposium is one of the most sublime and inexpensive writers' conferences in the nation. Poets, artists and teachers are welcome. Sign up for our heavenly action-packed weekend, "Writing Ourselves True," on 9/9-11, 2011 at the idyllic La Casa de Maria retreat, a former convent in the foothills of Santa Barbara (you can see Oprah's crib from the orchard). Oh, and the food's divine too. Visit​ents.htm or email to sign up.

California Poets in the Schools 2010
Science & Spirit Symposium
August 27-29, 201o

Summer has arrived months late and with a vengeance

Summer has finally arrived in all its torpor. Flannel sheets off. Summer sheets on. Again. Hopefully this time, they won't jinx what's left of summer. Would someone in SF please do a little fog dance? A 50° temperature swing from frigid to fire in one day is a bit much. Now, if I put the flannel sheets back on, will the fog roll in? I don't DO triple-digit heat well. Friends posted that it's 117° in Palm Springs, 110° in Orinda, 106° in Santa Cruz, St. Helena, 105° in Sonora, 99° in SF, so how could it be 97° in Oakland— I think my Mac is lying. My outdoor thermometer gauge is split. It's either 40° or 120° Can't shake it down to recalibrate. Even BART is having trouble in the heat! SF BART  Delay Update: because of the heat, trackside equipment is acting up and trains are operating in a slower "manual" mode. Beijing's 60-mile long traffic jam enters Day 11—drivers advance 1/2 mile a day. Why doesn't everybody just back up and turn around? The air smells of smoke and carrion. Smoke is rolling over Grizzly Peak and Oakland Hills—150 acres. Now there's a fire on Mt. Diablo. Not good, this global warming. Gonna be an orange moon rising tonight.

from a Facebook post

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stomping spiders

I stomped a fat black spider to smithereens as I was mopping the kitchen floor—but it was a tiny escaped champagne grape. Foolishly, I thought: Aha! So this is how wine was invented! Obviously I need to mop the floor more often. Or drink more/less wine. And wear spectacles. Sigh! Someone asks, isn't it bad luck to kill a spider? But I was killing grapes! Besides, spiders Loooooooove me! They always want to truss me up and eat me. Right tasty. Trust me, I've been bitten by black widows, woodbine, and brown recluse spiders—this one looked like a brown recluse so I stomped away like a logger at a hoedown.... my lower lip still flares up like a Zodiac raft—a decade later—from residual spider poison.

from a Facebook post

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Very Odd Thought

Very Odd Thought:
I'm not as interested in history that occurs within 25 generations of living memory.
That makes me a… medievalist? An ostrich?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The New Zamizdat

OK, I must admit that I'm mesmerized by the new Blogger stats tool—in a shiny packratty sort of way. I am endlessly fascinated that I can now view what pieces are being read—how many readers, and what countries. Positively mind-blowing.

First, writing is a lonely business. Audience is a whole other hemisphere. Then there's the old saw: Who do you write for? Who are your readers? The publish or perish paradigm took off its kid cloves and flexed its knuckles and whistled, "hey kid 'comere!" when blogging was invented. Shades of Marshall McLuhan's Global Village.

I come from the American school of Samizdat or, rather, Tamizdat tradition. No, tamizdat is not a typo—as one well-intending publisher tried to correct one of my posts.
Russian samizdat, from samo- (self) + izdatelstvo (publishing house), from izdat (to publish). Coined facetiously on the model of Gosizdat (State Publishing House). (from AWAD)
Soviet samizdat was a form of illegal self-publishing in a seriously limited edition format, using ten layers of carbon paper plus ten sheets of clean paper—and an upright manual typewriter replete with a print ribbon you had to re-ink by hand. Typing through that many layers of paper was a real bitch. Weak ring finger strength equaled blurred "e"s in final copies. And pity the poor sot who was gifted copy #10—it was a bitch to the tenth power to read.

This is the underground tradition in which Soviet poetry (and secret texts including copies of Bibles) were painstakenly reproduced—and distributed, underground. I met one of Osip Mandelstahm's samizdat publishers in Leningrad, held a fragile copy in my hands—knowing that people risked their lives preserving his poetry. Mandelstahm & Blok's chapbooks still reeked of rancid printer's ink decades later.

Then there was the Leningrad Rock Opera singer Valera (aka Valery / Valeriy) Stupachenko - Валерий Ступаченко (who I did not marry because he loved his dead wife and God more than me—who could compete with that?) Valera treasured his dog-eared carbon-paper Bible. Cherished possessions from a time when religious worship too was illegal.

(Valera of Singing Guitars - Поющие гитары, in 1969 made famous a Russian version of Neil Sedaka's 1959 B-side hit, One Way Ticket (to the Blues) Синий иней —one of the few English phrases Valera could say to me. Which was alarming in all its permutations. If you really want to digress, here's a list of vintage Russian rock music videos.)

Valeriy Stupachenko, Singing Guitars

Tamizdat is merely samizdat in technological clothing—with the addition of a duplicator, or mimeograph machine (pre-Xerox). Tamizdat editions were often destined to be smuggled out of the country of origin for possible publication abroad. The term later included desktop publishing and copy machines.

I was in the USSR during the time copy machines were introduced to the public. Kinko's in Moscow—no matter that the price was prohibitive for Americans (valuta, or hard currency was needed—and it was still illegal for Soviets to have/spend hard currency).

My Soviet friend, artist & writer, Oleg Atbashian, with whom I co-translated Soviet poetry into English, marveled at the publishing possibilities. He touched the copy machine lovingly, ran a tremulous finger along its sleek flank.

Little did Oleg know that within a year (1990), he'd be in San Francisco, frantically working with me round the clock in an old military complex-cum-art center, Fort Mason, pasting up a newspaper-style tamizdat journal, "Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost," (Mother Earth), in time for Herman Berlandt's annual National Poetry Week. From 1989 to 1991, we published many new Soviet poets including Yan Martsinkevitch, and Viktor Kulle.

Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost

(BTW, those photos of Oleg & Lawrence Ferlinghetti SPSG are my work—uncredited, naturally. How typical. And I was the first person to bring Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg's books to the Ukraine—I gave their books away at a poetry reading in Cherkassy—not knowing the Beat Poets were FORBIDDEN! But I digress…).

Desktop publishing was invented in San Francisco, or rather in Silicon Valley—with the advent of Apple's Macintosh computer in 1984. Small presses abounded in California—when the rest of the world ignored California writers, they took to the s/tamizdat concept and self-published literary newsletters and chapbooks on carbon paper, mimeograph and rizograph machines, hand-letter presses, linotype—you name it.

When the Mac came along, it revolutionized the small press publishing industry. No more carbon-paper filled in 'e's or weak-fingered typing style clues for Sam Spade to decode and pin the ransom note on the unlikely suspect in the secretarial pool. Typography took on a bold new style and publishing has never been the same since. But I'm getting a few decades ahead of myself.

I'd like to pay homage to California's revolutionary—in all senses of the word— small press tradition. Granary Books blog by Steve Clay & Rodney Phillips (1998) on the origins of small (but subversive) American tamizdat tradition that featured the disregarded poets from the NY school, Black Mountain, The Beats and the San Francisco Renaissance which spawned the new American poetry scene—is a must read.

The poets Clay and Phillips cite were my literary parents—in some cases, they were literally my babysitters—my mom got around. I've met/heard most of them read—with the exception of Spicer and Kerouac.

According to Granary Books, in "A Little History of the Mimeograph Revolution," the earliest mimeographed literary item was Yvor Winters's Gyroscope (a newsletter published for his classes at Stanford, 1929-30).

But the west coast American tamizdat literary tradition really took off with William Everson, while he was incarcerated in a CO camp in Oregon, who published poems in a newsletter, The Untide, which led to chapbooks including his X War Elegies, and Kenneth Patchen's An Astonished Eye Looks Out Of the Air —before moving his press to Berkeley.
William Everson ca 1992

In 1947, another mimeo rag, The Ark was published in San Francisco, featuring Everson, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan—which begat Duncan's Berkeley Miscelleny with Jack Spicer and Robin Blazer. Which led to the Gallery Six reading. And so on.

One could say that Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Publishers (founded in 1952, the year I was born) came out of California's version of the tamizdat tradition. City Lights published Philip Lamantia, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, Pauline Kael—and Larry—who, BTW, went by the name of Ferling in those days. City Lights was launched into the literary limelight in 1956 when Lawrence published Allen Ginsberg's controversial Howl and Other Poems. But again, I digress.

While I was at Sonoma State University in the late 1970s, we produced several tamizdat books and poetry readings. I silk-screened cover stencils and cranked out books and broadsides mimeograph machines….

Apparently digression is my middle name today. Guilt by associative memory and having access to Google at my fingertips. But first, let me wrestle my wayward thoughts back to those Blogger stats.

(Here's the apologia:) Because I no longer host myriad poetry readings, rarely read in public, nor profusely publish tamizdat editions—I feel cut off from the writing community. I continue to write, and teach poetry to kids under the auspices of California Poets in the Schools—but my relentless pursuit of the printed word has diminished. And so has my sense of audience.

And so I turned to blogging, I published new work, old work—work in many genres—so much so, that a reader complained of navigating the disorganized aspect of my blog. Which I can't help as the only organization I can claim is a random chronology.

Suffice to day, work from 2007-2008 is mostly old work—mostly previously published. Articles, poems—interspliced with new work in the form of memoir. I really only began this blog in August of 2008, so this is a two-year anniversary of sorts.

Lest you think I've reached the ultimate vanity of blogging on my blogger stats, let me say that because I only have 14 followers posted on my blog page—and I had to twists some arms to get that many followers, I find it endlessly fascinating to see that I do indeed have real readers—though few people actually leave comments.

Another blogger boggler is that my readership includes the former Soviet Union—the Russias including Ukraine. My revised 1992 article on artist, Igor Tischler, seems to be getting a fair bit of play at present—should I assume that the Russians are reading it?

As I write these words, six readers in the former USSR are reading my blog. It's not surprising to have a following in English-speaking countries: but when I refresh the Now button, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Latvia, Czech Republic,  South Korea, Vietnam, China, Iraq, Colombia, Brazil, and India appear. Where the hell is Burundi? Near Rwanda, it's vying for the dead bottomth position of the ten poorest countries in the world. Where's Bono? I have Tutsi & Hutu readers? How utterly exotic.

OK, so in India, English is a second language. But I've turned on the Hindi translator—just in case. All the rest, no can do. Here's hoping Google Translator won't make a dog's breakfast of Tutsi or Swahili.

I've learned that I have two dozen readers in Ireland—since they all seem to be uploading a photo of my great-grandparents, I'll assume they're my newfound Walsh cousins from Bantry. Valerie in UK and Kat in Canada are boosting my stats, I'm sure.

For some reason, Black Bart, the gentleman Po8 is on the radar. He was California's own Robin Hood of a poetic persuasion. I can understand why Hiking up Big Rock Ridge is garnering attention—California's assinine SB 624—to abolish California's state rock, serpentine—because it harbors asbestos (not)—is a hot news item.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why the post, Cat's Up is garnering any attention. It's so non-sational. One of the odd upshots of knowing one's readership—is what they're reading—which, in turn, has me madly revising old writing I would've never otherwise revisited Case in point with Cat's Up. What is it, is it the name that attracts? I tried Googling it—to no avail. What's the link?

What's most astounding figure to come out of the Blogger stats is that in the month it's been in operation, I've had an amazing amount of traffic to one blog entry in particular, The Irish Redhead Gene Myth. Which really should read as: The Viking Redhead Gene Myth because that's the really myth I'm debunking. If I change the name, will I lose those readers? Sigh.

Then the penny dropped—as I tabbed between Stats Overview, Posts, Traffic Sources, and Audience—I realized I have had more readers on my redheaded rant in one month than I probably ever had from all my poems in print.

Think I'll coin a new phrase. Google's Blogger is the New Zamizdat!