Thursday, July 28, 2011

Remembering Nick Valentine & Phil Osborn at The Paper

Where to begin? I find myself wandering incoherent as a cloud, woolgathering attempting to trick myself into writing this obit in medias res with a mea culpea to you, Dear Reader, and to two newspapermen I once knew, as well as to the end of an era. 
What I really want to say to my blog is: Not today, Dear, I have a headache. Gutting closets, tearing the house apart and whatnot has left me stiff and the raging headache is a byproduct of—or rather, a result of old car injuries acting up. To begin my morning with tea and advil. And bad news. Ugh. If i don't just start writing—warts and all—it'll never happen. The self-imposed dreadline.
Today the bad news just kept on coming: an old friend, photographer and writer, Simone Wilson, emailed me that our mentor and newspaper legend of The Paper (now the North Bay Bohemian), editor Nick Valentine died on June 25, in Brisbane, Australia (1941-2011).

And hard on the heels of that sad news, Simone told me that Phil Osborne (1938-2011) the photographer who trained me in the darkroom arts, also died in July 15, in Cloverdale, CA.

Perhaps it's not so strange that these two men died within weeks of each other. For over a decade, Nick & Phil were the backbone and ribs of an alternative weekly tabloid newspaper owned by Elizabeth Poole that we worked for during the 1980s and 1990s. What I learned about photography and writing—I owe to these two great mentors who taught and encouraged me, and allowed me to develop my own style. Godspeed.

Editor Nick Valentine 1941-2011 ©1991 Jesse Valentine

Nick Valentine was founding editor of The PaperWest Sonoma County's Independent Voice (1979—1993). The Paper was where I learned my varied and sullen craft: writing and photography.  Jazz pianist Bob Lucas was The Paper's first publisher, he paid the bills. Shortly thereafter, Bob sold it to Elizabeth Poole whose family owned a string of newspapers back east. So you could say Elizabeth was born into the newspaper business.
One story has it that Guerneville resident Stan Buck was credited with generically naming it The Paper—the place where people got their local news. But the other story has it that when Elizabeth Poole came to work with Nick as an intern from Sonoma State, an Abbot and Costello Who's on first conversation followed. And the paper became The Paper.
During that time, The Paper evolved from a mimeographed flyer to a tabloid. Nick was editor-in-chief for ten years, focusing on local news, with in-depth political and environmental coverage pertinent to West county. Nick had a finely-honed sense of justice and strong working class ethics—he kept a sharp lookout for the rights of the little guy. Perhaps his short stint with The Russian River News—then owned by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, sharpened his political awareness. 
"Poole bought the financially struggling Paper that year and kept it alive with her family’s money through the 1980s, when at its peak it was printing 15,000 copies a week. After Poole sold it in 1990 The Paper evolved into The Independent and moved to Santa Rosa where it became the Northbay Bohemian." —Frank Robertson, Sonoma West Times & News. 7/27/2011.
The financially strapped Paper offices bounced up and down the Russian River: Monte Rio, Guernewood Park, Guerneville, Forestville. When The Paper morphed into The West Sonoma County Paper, it made a break with the River and moved to the tiny hamlet of Freestone. Then it moved to urban Santa Rosa, it tried to grow up and lose its hippie duds, and then it became the The Sonoma County Independent ca. 1993 (publishers Boland-Carroll Inc.).

The Paper, 1989
Ironically, one of my writing students from Mark West School, Gabe Meline, is now the editor of the North Bay Bohemian. I must've taught him something, it's improved greatly under his tenure. Here is a link to a 25-year retrospective of The Paper from the Bohemian's rather flat lens.Then, The Paper was rebranded The North Bay Bohemian  when it was purchased by Metro Newspapers (Rosemary Olson, publisher). By the time it became the Bohemian (when was that 1996?), and Greg Cahill was editor, the paper no longer had any West County roots to speak of, and I was unceremoniously kicked to the curb. 


Nick Valentine died in Brisbane, Australia, at the age of 69 from pneumonia—complications of a lung disease. Most likely emphysema. To my way of thinking, Nick died too young. A bearded bear of a man, Nick never did take very good care of himself. Svelte dark Virginia Slims cigarettes and Coca-Cola were his mainstay.

Nick was one caf-fiend Coke-swigging smoking chimney of an editor during Wednesday-night-cum-Thursday morning production drop deadline. When the Coke ran out, Nick switched to leftover coffee sludge, spiked with condensed milk and sugar, and kept on working. I think he only missed the printer's deadline once.
Brother Toby of the Starcross community in Annapolis challenged the notion that AIDS was solely a "gay" disease by offering shelter to AIDS infected orphans. His story shepherded AIDS into mainstream consciousness.

Putting the paper to bed in the wee hours meant that we—the paste up crew, and the darkroom tech (me)—pulled many all-nighters working against time itself in the ramshackle offices above the store. Many's the time I drove home to Forestville along River Road in my VW Bug, with dawn nudging the reluctant stars out of the sky. A few times I delivered the flats to the Healdsburg printer at daybreak.


Phil Osborn was staff photographer and writer for The Paper from 1979 to 1990. Phil wasn't much better than Nick at taking care of himself. Except his cigarettes were more generic with a longer ash. The diabetes didn't help matters any and he loved sipping a cool one.

I was the Tuesday-Wednesday night relief shift in the darkroom. Safe to say that Phil taught me all I know about photography and running the reprographic PMT camera—the size of my VW Bug—to half-screen photos and ad art. The large format Agfa copy camera had a huge inverted bellows about 4 feet across attached to a lens that focused on a white easel. To enlarge images, I dialed in size, focus and exposure to make negative films up to a foot wide. Then I developed the film, like a print, as well.
This was all before the days of computer desktop publishing—Mac (and laser printers) were still a glimmer in both the Steves eyes. We were using Compugraphic photo-typesetting machines the size of large refrigerators. No screen. You blindly typed your text in, and got a "cold-type" film negative transfer. The printer in Sebastopol, O'Dell, was still using linotype—or "hot-lead type." No WYSIWYG until 1985. when Mac arrived on the publishing scene. Of course, Nick was in the vanguard. So you could say, I also learned to use a Mac (actually it was an Apple IIc) because of The Paper.
Gravel-voiced Phil, born in Lake City, Iowa, was a fine arts photographer who studied with Ansel Adams, so I was well schooled in the darkroom arts. There was a specific way to develop film—the shake and and inverted half roll to ensure the developing chemicals were evenly distributed.  How to rub a print in the chemical bath with the hands to bring up the contrast in a blown out section with friction. In retrospect I shudder, we didn't use gloves, but at least the darkroom was well ventilated.

A member of the San Francisco Folk Music Club, Phil was also a fine musician and a former potter so we held several threads in common. I used to go over to visit Phil in his old Airstream trailer that was hunkered down in the redwood duff at Ring Canyon Campground in Guerneville and listen to him play bluegrass—on a banjo, a fiddle, a mandolin or his Martin. Phil was a master musician and square dance caller—I even went to one of his dances. He was also a talented stringed instrument repairman for Bay Area old-timey folk musicians. He talked me through the process of fixing my Martin when the tuning heads broke and cracked the top. 

And like Nick, Phil was widely read and knowledgeable in many fields, so conversations with him were also educational. After a stint in the Navy, Phil went to San Francisco State and got a BA in sociology. He got married in 1961, raised a family and and became a photographer and writer. He is survived by daughters Shannon and Kelly. In the early 1970s, Phil got divorced, moved to the country, and worked as a potter—where he met Bauhaus artist Marguerite Wildenhain of Pond Farm in Guerneville—who Bob Arneson dubbed the "grande-dame of potters."


We were a peculiar, if convoluted tribe of fledgling reporters and Nick was our vision, our guide, and Phil, our eyes. I worked with reporter Simone Wilson, in a dyslexic moment, I coined the phrase "Real to Reel," which became the title of our movie column. I also covered the arts as well as being an on-call photographer. Janet Zagoria directed production layout, with Zoe Griffith-Jones who was also an editor and investigative reporter along with Ron Sonenshine and Andrea Granahan. 

There was Nick's wife, Suzanne who ran the office; The Boss: Elizabeth Poole who eventually married Nick in 1991 (it's a long, convoluted story). There was Liesel Hoffman, the incredible copy editor, and many stringers, Roger Karraker, John di Salvio, Tom Roth—who became the editor for a while before he turned to politics...and many more writers whose names I can no longer recall.
Wilson, recalled working in The Paper’s cramped improvised office in Monte Rio above Bartlett’s store. “It was a great group of people. It was also kind of a zoo,” said Wilson, recalling weekly deadlines when Valentine would stockpile Coca-Cola and cigarettes to fuel late-hour production ordeals.
“Nick was a wonderful and very talented man. He knew exactly how he wanted The Paper to look,” said Wilson. “He was an artist who was able to turn typography into art, and he was a brilliant cartoonist.” —Frank Robertson, Sonoma West Times & News. 7/27/2011.
Simone and I came to The Paper from a rival alternative newspaper, Joe Leary's Sonoma County Stump—which was truly alternative. Sort of a laid-back North Bay granola version of the Berkeley Barb. I don't know how the publisher Bliss Buys or carpenter-cum-editor Joe Leary managed to charm us into staying on for two years—unpaid. The Stump office was located in the apartment above the Forestville Cantina so at least we ate well on paste-up night. 

When The Stump went under in 1981 or 82, I was listed as a photographer and entertainment editor (I had the middle truck spread for an occasional poetry insert—sweet), and Simone was an ace cub reporter. We banged out stories on cloth ribbon typewriters—and later, Selectrics, and we pasted our columns directly into the newspaper layout flats—warts and all. We had no idea what we were doing but it seemed to be the right thing to be doing at the time.

When The Stump finally went under for good (it seems newspapers are like drowning sailors, they come up for air several times before they finally drown for good), we dressed ourselves up in our straightest schmatas, marched ourselves down to The Paper, situated above Bartlett's Store in Monte Rio, and convinced publisher Elizabeth, and Nick that they needed to hire us. Don't know why they believed us—they really didn't want to hire us, but we were bitten by the newspaper bug. Perhaps they saw our raw potential. And I do mean raw.

Besides, Phil had his hands full developing all the reporters' B&W film and he needed a hand—someone to take over the late-breaking stories on the nite-owl shift. I learned to roll and develop film, to print half tones, and create ad art on a big PMT camera. I became the queen of pushing Tri-X to its grainy limits.
Oddly, the Sonoma County Stump, then dubbed the Russian River Stump, had its origins in Monte Rio in 1972 to 1973, so, on some level, with a change of cast, we were right back where we started.
After a debilitating car accident in the 1970s that preempted long hours standing as a short order cook at Jenner's River Landing, Nick Valentine applied for rehab training, and studied journalism at Santa Rosa Junior College with Cathy Mitchell, co-owner with husband Dave, of Marin County’s Pulitzer-prize winning Point Reyes Light. So that was our guidepost.
Our beat was cutting edge news—even in a rural setting. Not like the Press Democrat owned broadsheet, the Russian River News that held up the status quo of middle-of-the-road journalism so dear to the dark hearts of local politicians, contractors, realtors, chambers of commerce and of course, the Board of Supervisors.
We covered local politics and corruption, the Santa Rosa sewer wars, the annual Bohemian encampment—one year Simone and I posed as hookers to get a story (women aren't allowed in the Grove so the Bohos ferried across the river to party at Northwoods Lodge owned by Manu Khomeini—a relative of the Ayatollah), we were chasing a scoop on the breaking savings & loan scandal; there were a lot of "allegedly reported" phrases from our unnamed source on German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's speech. We covered  offshore oil drilling attempts, the plight of the fishermen, and the Vietnam vets suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, and PTSS
Guerneville, the gay "boomtown" was covered in Newsweek, and overnight, the Russian River went from a seasonal summer resort, to a year-round hot gay destination and a burgeoning community of artists, dreamers, drop-outs and activists. 
We covered the AIDS epidemic when no one else would touch it. Who remembers AIDS chronicler, Randy Shilts, or Brownie Marie's Cazadero arrest (my story), or the pivotal role that the Starcross monastery played in saving AIDS babies? 
The drumroll included: SSUs math professor and free speech activist Mario Savio—yes, THAT Mario, Carl Jensen's Project Censored, carpenter-activist Lenny Weinstein. We covered the field reports of Earth First! eco-activist Judi Bari, who was framed by the FBI for a pipe bomb explosion that crippled her in her own car in 1990, anti-nuclear activist Mary Moore, and political activist Mark Pearlman who was slain in Mexico. And we covered the local celebs: gay activist Leonard Matlovitch, chess master and bridge champ Peter Pender of Fife's Resort, Raymond Burr, Charles & Jean Shulz.
Wisconsin native, Waukesha born William Nicholas Valentine, who went to college on an ice hockey scholarship, had ambitions of being a painter. He was a brilliant cartoonist and graphic designer, as well as a fine editor who would go out on a limb for you—and help you saw off the branch, if needs be. He taught us to take risks, to investigate further, to follow our hunches.
I remember when the late Ron Sonenshine (another one who died too young) won a journalism award for investigative reporting when he blew the whistle on Guerneville contractors cutting corners on sewage facilities. 
One time when Ron went away on vacation, I was assigned to cover his quiet coastal beat when the Bodega Harbor illegal dredging scandal broke—there I was, the dyslexic darkroom girl, writing a Page One story. Sometimes after an all-nighter, we'd drive out to Goat Rock to watch the sun rise.
From 1987 to 1994 Ron was a stringer for The San Francisco Chronicle to cover Sonoma County politics. Ron's extensive reportage on Polly Klass' kidnap and murder case in 1993 put him in the limelight. He quit the Chronicle and worked for the Presidio Trust until his death at age 56, of a heart attack while running in 2005. Another good one I never got a chance to say goodbye to.

Valentine left The Paper in 1988 to work for the artbook/calenar/card publishing house, Pomegranate Publications in Petaluma. Still carried by the likes of Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, one of the popular Pomegranate postcard artbooks he designed, Women Who Dared (1991) honored 32 extraordinary women including Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, Mother Jones, Harriet Tubman. I used to go visit Nick at Pomegranate and always came away with boxes of remaindered calendars and artbooks to use as teaching aids for my CAC artist in residency program at Mark West School.

Poster of WC Handy (Hooks Bros. Studios photo ca. 1930's) designed by Nick Valentine, ca 1988 Pomegranate Publications, Petaluma, CA. Nick had a strong sense of style that was retro Art Deco, yet had a cutting edge modern flair about it.


When the Paper was sold again in 1989-90, Andrea Granahan started her own coastal newspaper, Nick moved to Australia with Elizabeth. Only Simone & I stuck it out with the new owners, Jim Carroll and KQED's John Boland in Forestville, Freestone, and Santa Rosa—who dubbed it the West County Paper (the end of 1989-1991) and changed it to a semi-monthly format.
FROM THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: Imprint varies: Guerneville, Calif., June 8, 1979 - Nov. 18, 1981, July 19-25, 1984 - Dec. 23-30, 1986; Monte Rio, Calif., Nov. 25, 1981-July 12-18, 1984; Forestville, Calif., Dec. 31, 1986-Jan. 6, 1987-Oct. 5-11, 1989; Freestone, Calif., Oct. 12-18, 1989-Dec. 17-31, 1992; Santa Rosa, Calif., Jan. 1-20, 1993-Dec. 16-31, 1993.
It was the beginning of the end of an era for independently owned alternative newspapers that covered the real news indepth instead of being codded mouthpieces for developers and chambers of commerce. We were middle sister of the Northbay trinity of feisty independent newspapers that refused to shy away from controversy: The Point Reyes Light, The Paper, and The Anderson Valley Advertiser.

Now, big newspaper conglomerates have swallowed up just about all the small alternative newspapers in America. Perhaps with the exception of Scots-born Irish journalist Alexander Cockburn's (well, Bruce Anderson is the editor/owner—but Cockburn's articles put the AVA on the indie news map) Anderson Valley Advertiser—which is quite possibly America's last independent newspaper. (Alexander Cockburn writes weekly columns for The Nation ("Beat the Devil"), the Los Angeles Times and The First Post.)


When Jim Carroll and John Boland sold the paper to Metro Newspapers (who morphed it into a sister tabloid of The Pacific Sun), the name changed again to The North Bay Bohemian—and by that time few of the original crew were still working for it and others coveted our jobs. So I just let it go. Besides, I was running off to the USSR and Amsterdam for long stretches of time so my stand-in replaced me. Don't even remember who it was.

By then, the zest had gone out of the alternative newspaper biz as struggling independent newspapers began fold or to conform in order to survive the times. It was no longer fun. The pulse was weak.

All of this stuff happened before the internet had taken off. I can't help but wonder that if the internet had been then what it is now, if we could have saved The Paper. Or independent publishing. Lord knows, we were always barely surviving one crisis after another with IOU paychecks stacking up like old newspapers.

Here's a a lovely letter from the SoNoMore Atomics activist Mary Moore to The Bohemian, 2/4/09:
Loved the "Field Trippin'" article by John Moss (Jan. 21), and it made me so nostalgic that I just had to write you about the many incarnations of the Bohemian that I've observed over the years.
Your birth was in Monte Rio around 1979 as The Paper and I still have many articles saved from that time. With Nick Valentine as editor and Tom and Elizabeth as publishers, this brave little weekly with beautiful graphics and extraordinary layout (before computers) became must reading for all us counterculture types. It replaced Bliss Buy's previous paper, the Sonoma County Stump as the activist publication, and was one of the reasons that we were so successful in 1980, the first year that we protested at Bohemian Grove. It took us through the early 1980s protests at Rancho Seco, Diablo Canyon and the Livermore labs as well as covering all our doings here at home.
The only problem was that it lost money in droves as it leaned much more to covering the resistance than advertising for the establishment. I won't go into why Tom and Elizabeth gave it up and left for Australia, but it's a great story. Then you moved to Freestone and later Forestville under new management, and somewhere along the line you became the Sonoma County Independent. You were still doing a good job of covering the community, but unfortunately, in order to survive, your focus started leaning more toward economic reality and the radical edge began to tarnish. When you moved into Santa Rosa and became county-oriented as opposed to West County–oriented, a lot of us old timers were a bit miffed. When you changed to the North Bay Bohemian, I really got pissed.
I gave up on you for a while and then, lo and behold, Gretchen Giles took over and slowly you have been pulling it back from the abyss. You still have way too much advertising, but in my head I do understand.
I appreciate Peter Byrne, P. Joseph Potocki and John Sakowicz's reports; they bring back that edge I have so missed. And John Moss' acid trip was just what I needed to put it all in perspective. So thanks for that, and let us never forget our roots. 
Mary Moore, Occidental

Simone and I always meant to go and visit Nick in his double-wide at the end of a dirt road on the hill when he returned to Sonoma County after he and Elizabeth split up in 1999. But then I heard he'd returned to Australia where his daughter Sarah is living. No chance to chronicle the past or collect the oral histories that made our lives so rich and varied growing up into real artists on the Russian River during the 1980s and 1990s—truly we all lived a retro-Bohemian existence and Nick was a central figure, if not the reigning newspaper king of that world.

The Russian River News, the only other game in town, was the rival newspaper. We'd give each other stink eye at events. It was at best, hostile comraderie. But the times they do change and we discovered, perhaps too late that we were all comrades in arms after all. Let us never forget our roots.

From Simone Wilson whose emails inspired me to write this blog:

I just talked to Andrea Granahan this morning and learned that Nick Valentine has died in Australia. He'd been living there lately, probably with his younger daughter Sara. Not sure what he died of, possibly cancer that was discovered too late.
It got me thinking of all the madness of working at The Paper. Through it all, I was always very fond of Nick. He was a sweet man (grumpy but sweet!), and a brilliant cartoonist. And he gave us our start in film reviewing!
I remember him on production nights once a week, laying in a good supply of cigarettes and six-packs of coca-cola, which he would consume all during the evening. That was a balanced diet for Nick: a cigarette in one hand and a can of coke in the other.
Hope you're doing fine. Keep in touch. I'll let you know if/when I hear about a memorial.
Luv and hugs,
I opened the Press Demo this morning to read that our friend Phil Osborn has also died. He was living up in Cloverdale in a health care facility. I visited him there three or four years ago when he was recovering from surgery (related to diabetes) but thought he had gotten better and gone home. Apparently not, as he was still living there.
Phil continued to live in his trailer at the Ring Canyon Campground, on Armstrong Woods Rd. near Sweetwater Springs Rd., for many years. Then it was sold (I think it was shut down because of sewage problems!) and he had to move. I guess he had been living at the Cloverdale health care place for years, so whatever he had is either in storage or with his daughter Kelly.
Why he ended up in Cloverdale I don't know. When I visited him he seemed a bit disoriented ( he had just had surgery), so I didn't get a clear picture of what was going on with him. But I think he enjoyed the visit. Andrea Granahan visited him too; it was she who told me where he was.
I don't think Phil took very good care of himself (likewise Nick, alas). I know Phil had problems with diabetes for years, and that can't have helped.
I'll let you know when I hear anything about a memorial for Nick and/or Phil. I know Janet Zagoria wants to have one, and she's waiting for Elizabeth to get back from Florida to arrange it.
Whoever is in charge of the universe is doing a very poor job.
Take care of yourself, okay?
Much luv,

(used with Simone's kind permission)


The North Bay Bohemian's obit about Nick Valentine.

Frank Robertson's Russian River News—oops I mean Sonoma West Times & News obit. (dead link)

Press Democrat  correspondent for Bodega Bay Andrea Granahan's great obit.   (dead link) "Memorial plans are still in the works, but people have started calling old staffers and family members offering to bring carefully saved copies of The Paper to share with others."

Hell, Nick was so controversial, he even made the Australia & New Zealand Coca-Cola news bot: The Paper's founder Nick Valentine dies in Australia 27 Jul 2011 23:26 GMT... 1980s, died on June 25 in Brisbane, Australia. He was 69. The cause of death ... recalling weekly deadlines when Valentine would stockpile Coca-Cola and cigarettes to fuel late-hour production ordeals.

Phil Osborn's obit in The Santa Rosa Press Democrat.  (dead link)  Potter, photographer, father and master musician Phil Osborn died July 15 at the Cloverdale Healthcare Center from congenital heart disease. He was 73.

Philip Edward Osborn The Healdsburg Tribune July 27, 2011—Philip Edward Osborn died on July 15, 2011 at age 73 in Cloverdale, California after a long illness. The cause of death was heart failure
Phil Osborn's Iowa Daily Times Herald obit stated: In lieu of a memorial service, the family will hold a musical celebration of his life at a later date.

Phil Osborn's mentioned in the San Francisco Folk Music Club newsletter.

According to the Library of Congress, the Sonoma County Library in Santa Rosa is the only library that has all the hard copies of The Paper. 1979:6:8-1993:12:16/31; and later issues on microfilm: 1990:2:1/7-1993:12:16/31

For a sampling of pieces I've written for The Paper, click on The Western Sonoma Paper link on the right column in this blog.

Nota Bene: I can't believe that this entire post disappeared when I saved it, a huge Blogger saving/publishing FUBAR—and I've lost some formatting and corrections but, luckily I just happened to have another version of the page open on my browser. Some corrections and addendum were lost.

Unfortunately, when you use Blogger, you have to SAVE and publish early and often in the midst of writing—and even so, while making corrections, it will sometimes crash. I'm a dyslexic writer which means I get it down on cyber "paper" any way I can, then I endlessly revise. And revise. And revise. Unfortunately that also means that typos and mistakes also get published as there is no interim revision status. And the more times you "publish" a blog piece, the more convoluted the embedded HTML gets, and weird typography, huge blank spaces and misalignment are then the norm. It's almost impossible to clean up a piece afterwards.

My Redhead Irish gene piece is a case in point. I'm afraid to revise it as it now "hangs' whenever I do try & save changes, and it's completely disappeared from Blogger more than once. But luckily, I had a version of it in TextEdit.

I once wrote a long convoluted piece on the Medieval world and didn't want to continuously publish it until I got it right because I didn't want the embedded HTML to get corrupted. Well, suffice to say, it hung while publishing and I lost everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING. A day's work gone. And there is no Save As Draft option in Blogger until you've already published it once —with warts and all.

OK, so I saved what I could. But perhaps after more than 12 hours of writing, it's time to put this piece to bed. Argh!

NB2 OK, I've restored what corrections I can remember—I'm sure there are still some warts and inaccurate dates. I fixed what I could. I've you've suggestions or corrections, please don't hesitate to contact me. Leave a note. Thank you for your patience.

NB3 Uh-oh, it's "hanging" again—endlessly spinning circle. Not good. Forgive the peculiar type font siz changes. I've selected all, and changed the font, and size to normal. But apparently it doesn't want to be normal. So we have woogie-sized fonts and itty-bitty fonts. I guess I'm lucky the entire post doesn't seize up on me.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

California Poets in the Schools 47th Symposium in Santa Barbara 9/9-11, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: We have several "commuter" spaces available—attend the entire conference for only $200/150 for Sat only) and sleep off campus. All the single rooms are gone—but there's usually two beds per room. You could also risk it and show up—there will probably be space available somewhere. If not, then Motel 6 is your BFF. We are also negotiating for more rooms at Casa de Maria. Meanwhile, if you know a poet who is attending, you can always ask if you can share a room.

There are a few slots open for Steve Kowit's fabulous writing workshop on Friday afternoon as well. Call or email Tina ASAP to reserve a slot. or 415-221-4201.


Are you going to The Ballgame? Giants vs. Phillies? It's a very SPECIAL event for CPITS. The SF Giants will hand SF CPITS Area Coordinator Susie Terence and 12 Jr. Giants a big check for $10,000 to bring poetry workshops into the classrooms. Be there. Take pix, and post them on Facebook. Go Giants! Go Susie! Take me out to the ballgame...


CPITS' 47th annual poetry workshop & symposium, "Writing Ourselves True," 9/9-11, 2011 @ Santa Barbara's La Casa de Maria retreat and conference center.

CPITS' 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 action-packed weekend, "Writing Ourselves True," on 9/9-11, 2001 at the idyllic La Casa de Maria retreat, a former convent in Santa Barbara. Oh, and the food's divine too. 
Double click to enlarge

Visit​ents.htm or email to sign up.

Over 15 workshops offered at the CPITS' annual poetry workshop & symposium, "Writing Ourselves True," 9/9-11 @ Santa Barbara's La Casa de Maria: Friday workshop with Steve Kowit, featured reading by Perie Longo.

Perie Longo

                                 for Zane 

…is full of grace, but much more, son
of my son, made of love and earth’s fruit,
high surf, long trails toward wide vision
this grandmother dare brag, snuggling him
first time in the holy air, he light as light,
delivered floating in his liquid orb.
His mother knew a blessing, yes,
from  the start. Nothing could stop
him slipping through heaven's cracks
bent on life, though angels tried to
hold him back. What could he want
from the world with all its strife despite
the splurge of nature, tender parents,
two sisters who would care for him,
coo to see him smile, share kisses,
blankets, books, the “real” rabbit,
their princess wings if he missed
where he came from. Long before dawn
I woke in a pool of moonlight on my pillow
and thought truly, a sign from above,
if only I could call down my husband
to shout the grand news. When sun rose
I opened the door for the paper and
there over the mountains a rare dusting
of snow as glistening crown.

Perie Longo, poet- teacher
Santa Barbara

Perie will be reading with Steve Kowit on September 9 at our symposium at Casa De Maria!

Sat/Sun workshops by Blake More, Shadab Zeest Hashmi, Joan Gelfand, Seretta Martin, Melinda Palacio, Karen Lewis, Phyllis Meshaulam, minerva, Claudia Poquoc, Gwynn O'Gara, Daryl Chin, Fernando Castro, Tobey Kaplan, Nan Busse, Jill Moses & Shelley Savren. Come for a day or the entire weekend!
CPITS 47TH SYMPOSIUM - Writing Ourselves True
Friday, September 9 - Sunday, September 11

La Casa de Maria Retreat Center, Santa Barbara
CPITS 47th Symposium will take place Friday, September 9th through Sunday, September 11th, 2011, at La Casa de Maria Retreat Center in Santa Barbara. Located in the Montecito foothills, La Casa de Maria is a local treasure, ranked by U.S. News and World Report 2006 as "one of the best U.S. retreats."

In addition to charming accommodations, the center provides miles of walking and hiking trails and a swimming pool. Save the date and check back for more details.

Schedule: Friday, September 9 (pre-symposium)
Writing Intensive with Steve Kowit. Includes a fabulous lunch at La Casa de
Maria at noon, followed by the writing intensive with Steve Kowit from 1 to 5pm.
Steve Kowit
Steve Kowit, our featured workshop intensive leader for our CPITS symposium 
will be at Casa De Maria on Friday, September 9.


Terri  Glass: When did you discover the love of poetry and who were some of your mentors?
Steve Kowit: I've been a writer since I was a kid. My first "novel," (illustrated in crayon) was about a slave rebellion. I was probably in the 4th or 5th grade. I had a schoolteacher in 10th grade, George Bailin, who was a serious poet, and so I started writing poetry because I liked him a lot and wanted him to like me. As soon as I started I was hooked. I've never stopped. Then I discovered Hart Crane and fell madly in love with his work. I didn't understand a word of it, but what sumptuous language, what marvelously ecstatic music and phrasing! I even gave a copy ofThe Bridge to a girl I had a crush on; that was also, probably, in the 10th grade. Then I wanted to write like the avant-garde, the Beats and Black Mountain people and New York School poets who were starting to make their reputations in the early 60s. The poets who published in Yugen. But one day I had an epiphany: Other than Ginsberg's work, I didn't really love their poetry. I was already in love with Dylan Thomas and Crane and Whitman, but because Whitman was a century in the past, and because of the vast range and power of his work, it was hard to use him as a model. And then I discovered Jeffers. Of course scores and scores of poets among my contemporaries have influenced me, people like Mary Oliver, Kim Addonizio, Dorianne Laux, Ron Koertge and Ted Kooser. Far too many to name.
Terri:  To what do your attribute the success of your handbook for writing poetry, In the Palm of Your Hand? Why is it the best selling book of its kind on Amazon?
Steve:  I wrote it relatively unselfconsciously, in my real voice, out of my real passions and after years of classroom experience teaching poetry to talented adults. But also, I think, I wanted to make sure that it was reader friendly at every level, that it didn't sound technical or esoteric or about some sort of specialized knowledge. And I knew that a lot of the model poems were wonderful models of contemporary poetry that might disabuse people of the notion that poems are always incomprehensible and off putting. 
Terri:  Do you have anything special lined for the workshop intensive for our poet teachers at Casa De Maria on September 9?
Steve: I want participants to write drafts of at least three new poems, hopefully four, to look at the craft behind a few marvelous model poems, to see what makes them work as moving human communications and acts of memorable linguistic music. I want participants to dig into their emotional memories, things they've always wanted to write about, but haven't yet managed to. Have participants use language acts (questions, exclamatory one-word sentences, broken-off sentences, etc.) and other formal elements that they don't commonly use, work with tone and voice, with assonance and off-rhyme in ways that might push them further in one or another direction. Ultimately, I'd love people to end up with four first (or second) drafts that are hot, that they are excited to keep working on, that they know are going to turn into real keepers. That's what I'd want in a workshop: to produce real work, even though the poems might still be at a rough first-draft stage. But I want it all to be fun; no matter how many tears people shed at the memories or material out of which they're working, the workshop has to be fun and relaxed and full of laughs and with lots of room for lots of points of view (since most or all participants are poet teachers, they all know as well as I do, that there's no "right" way to write a poem, no "correct" process!). Ultimately it should be exhilarating, make people want to get home and write poems! An essay of mine in the current Writer's Chronicle is called "A Poet's Anti-Rule Book" and takes a skeptical view of rules for poets. The trick is to improve on the blank page... which isn't easy to do!
Terri: I look forward to seeing some hot drafts and breaking the rules with you Steve. Sounds like tons of fun!
The Blue Dress (YouTube link)
When I grab big Eddie, the gopher drops from his teeth
& bolts for the closet, vanishing
into a clutter of shoes & valises & vacuum
attachments, & endless boxes of miscellaneous rubbish.
Grumbling & cursing, carton by carton,
I lug everything out:
that mountain of hopeless detritus ― until,
with no place to hide, he breaks
for the other side of the room & I have him at last,
trapped in a corner, tiny & trembling.
I lower the plastic freezer bowl over his head &
Boom! ―
slam the thing down.
"Got him!" I yell out,
slipping a folder under the edge for a lid.
But when I open the front door, it's teeming,
a rain so fierce it drives me back into the house,
& before I can wriggle into my sneakers,
Mary, impatient, has grabbed the contraption
out of my hands & run off into the yard with it, barefoot.
She's wearing that blue house dress.
I know just where she's headed: that big
mossy boulder down by the oleanders
across from the shed,
& I know what she'll do when she gets there ― hunker
down, slip off the folder,
let the thing slide to the ground
while she speaks to him softly, whispers
encouraging, comforting things.
Only after the gopher takes a few tentative steps,
dazed, not comprehending how he got back
to his own world, then tries to run off,
will she know how he's fared: if he's wounded,
or stunned, or okay ― depraved ravisher
of our gladiolus & roses, but neighbor & kin nonetheless.
Big Eddie meows at my feet while I stand
by the window over the sink, watching
her run back thru the rain,
full of good news. Triumphant. Laughing. Wind
lashing the trees. It’s hard to fathom
how gorgeous she looks, running like that
through the storm: that blue  
sheath of a dress aglow in the smoky haze―
that luminous blue dress pasted by rain to her hips.
I stand at the window grinning, amazed
at my own undeserved luck―
at a life that I still, when I think of it, hardly believe.

Steve Kowit, San Diego

Friday–Sunday, September 9-11
Check in time at La Casa de Maria begins at 4 pm on Friday. The symposium begins with a 6pm dinner on Friday, followed by an 8pm reading by our writing intensive teacher and feautured reader Steve Kowit and our honoree Perie Longo.

Saturday begins at 8am with breakfast, and workshops will run all day from 9am to 5pm. A general meeting will be held after lunch on Saturday from 1 to 2pm. Saturday evening will include an open poet reading and celebration at 7:30pm.

Sunday workshops will begin at 9:30am and the symposium will end by noon. There will be time throughout the weekend for swimming and relaxation.

Meal Request: If you have any special dietary needs or meal requests, or if you are vegetarian or vegan please inform the CPITS office so they can order meals appropriately from La Casa de Maria.
Download Conference Materials:​s/events.htm
mail registration to:
California Poets in the Schools
1333 Balboa Street Ste. 3
San Francisco
, CA 94118
California Poets in the Schools
Follow CPITS on Twitter @Calpoets