Saturday, October 29, 2011

Twittering on for Occupy Oakland

MC Hammer is following ME on Twitter? LOL! Occupy Oakland, Indeed.

I heard that (Fremont local) MC Hammer's been offering aid to #OccupyOakland folks. Verdad?  He's from East Oakland.

My Twitter handle is
@Mohurley but I gotta warn you I only check it quarterly.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Living Between Faultlines

(Here's an updated science blog on the Hayward Fault from KQED's Andrew Alden).

There's been news of lots of not-so-little earthquakes lately. Three mid-sized 'quakes (and a few mini shakes) on the Hayward Fault (San Andreas Fault's daughter-sister-cousin) in Berkeley—a fault that hasn't ruptured since 1868, and it has an eons-long distinguished track record of rupturing every 140 years. Not quite on the dot. But pretty close.

We're sort of overdue for another Big One on the Hayward Fault. Not that one can actually predict earthquakes. Not even the scientists. Earthquakes are notoriously wily. You'd have better luck at the Las Vegas gaming tables.

Living between two faultlines, I know lots of little earthquakes are always good. (No, not Tori Amos' album.) They're like little earthgasms. They relieve the stress of transcontinental strike-slip faults where the Pacific tectonic plate is crawling two inches a year north atop the subducting westward travelin' gung-ho! North American plate. It's a slow fender-bender love affair measured over eons of time—or in 140-year-increments, as in the Hayward Fault's case.

The latest Hayward Fault earthquakes are centered smack dab between the Greek Theater and the Cal Memorial Stadium which happens to be perched directly on top of the fault. Yep. In the GoogleEarth screenshot (below) you can see how the Hayward Fault literally strings "goal post to goal post." On the UC Berkeley campus you can trace the faultline by the displacement of city curbs and stadium walls. Piedmont, and Hayward too—if you know where to look.
 USGS GoogleEarth Virtual tour of the Hayward Fault. 

(NB: 2 more little 'quakes near Piedmont on Nov 5th—I guess it was feeling left out.—must be in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day! Piedmont-epicentered earthquakes are a regular occurrence—the Berkeley-epicentered ones are not. Check out the displacement on the firehouse steps nest time you're in Piedmont.)

A few months ago, there was a lot of activity on the Hayward Fault beneath the Oakland Zoo which drove the lions and elephants crazy. I don't know what was roaring louder, the earth or the lions (or the San Franciscans—who felt it too).

And before that, Fremont and Alum Rock (south of the Oakland Zoo) were rattling and rolling—so clearly the tectonic stress is translating north. But there's been no major movement on the Hayward Fault for 143 years, and significantly, north of Berkeley—171 years. So you can surmise we're getting a little squirrely about those 'quakes stacking up on the Hayward Fault these days. It's not a case of if, but when.

The trouble is, living between two major faultlines is that The Big One could strike from either fault—or worse—both at the same time!

We were just reminiscing where we all were when the last Big One (Loma Prieta) struck on the San Andreas Fault. The magnitude 6.9M or 7.1M 'quake (depending upon who you talk to) struck on October 17th at 5:04 PM—during rush hour and the historic Oakland A's vs the SF Giants World Series game in 1989. Bases were really loaded and down for the count.

I was in Forestville and, like the critters, I felt the 'quake coming long before it struck—I was being interviewed by Susan Schwartz for a feature article in the Press Democrat. In the middle of the interview, I was suddenly nauseous like I've never been before, and exceedingly tired with a horrible stomach ache. I put my head on the table and wanted to croak. It was as if I was suddenly dead drunk or hung over. Or both.

I, who was so thrilled to finally be interviewed for all my hard work (and awards) in the local and national poetry scene—long overdue—suddenly couldn't wait for Susan to leave. I practically pushed her out the door so I could lay down.

My bloated stomach hurt so much, I took off my jeans and flopped down on the bed. Some relief, but then I thought the cats were fighting in the basement—only I didn't have a basement. Or any cats. Then the mirror moved, the knotty pineboard wall groaned and rippled like a slinky, surely I was hallucinating. WTF? The squirrels were shaking the oak limbs so hard, it was raining acorns everywhere—including my thin roof like a drum staccato.

Then it hit me: 'Quake! Oops. Big one. I ran out into the driveway in my knickers & T-shirt and it was the longest 15 seconds of my life. It could be that in the hinterlands, the 'quake lasted a lot longer. But that 7.1M temblor was like trying to surf on a rolling barrel or stand on a bucking horse for 15 seconds. Your knees were trying to make contact with your jaw and everything else in between. The earth growled and there were myriad distant explosions—like small bombs or propane tanks blowing up.

We turned on the news and watched an image of fallen upper tier on the Bay Bridge—cars like little toys. People in them. No longer alive. Then we were cut off from all news for several hours. No TV or radio signal, no phone either. Complete isolation blackout—only the emergency broadcasting handshake noise. Only this wasn't a test. And there we were, safe in the hinterlands, imagining what it was like in the Bay Area.

We didn't yet know about the collapse of the Cypress Freeway in Oakland, or all the houses in the San Francisco Marina district on fire. Needless to say, my interview was bumped because of the earthquake. We got the news in increments.

San Andreas Fault, from the Carrizo Plain. Wikipedia Commons

I digress in all this in gory detail, because when the Hayward Fault goes, it doesn't take much imagination to surmise that it will be much, much worse than the Loma Prieta earthquake. All the East Bay freeways and hospitals, emergency rescue and water storage facilities are perilously close to, or directly atop of the faultline. Oakland Airport is built on manmade alluvium.

And we witnessed the how the Marina sand and mud shook and liquified into quicksand in San Francisco. All major Bay Area roads and freeways will be damaged and/or blocked, there will be no water to fight the fires—save Lake Merritt and the bay itself.

Image of the collapsed Cypress Viaduct.

The Loma Prieta epicenter was not even in San Francisco, it was much farther south, some 60 miles from San Francisco in the Santa Cruz mountains—northeast of Aptos. And we were another 60+ miles north of San Francisco. More than 120 miles from the epicenter, we were all resoundingly shaken. Whether the Loma Prieta 'quake was 6.9M or 7.1M—the force was stupendous.

Loma Prieta was the largest earthquake to strike the Bay Area since San Francisco's famous 1906 Great Earthquake. The epicenter for the April 18 San Francisco earthquake, estimated between a 7.9M to an 8.2M on the Richter Scale, was two miles offshore at Mussel Rock, near the Cliff House. The 1906 earthquake was felt from Oregon to LA to central Nevada. Santa Rosa (some view the Rogers Creek Fault as an extension of the Hayward Fault)—was completely flattened.

Towns close to the Loma Prieta epicenter also fared badly. The 'quake flattened downtown Santa Cruz—10 miles away. Ditto Watsonville and Hollister. Loma Prieta killed 63 people total, injured 3757 more, squashed a whole lot of cars, shook houses off their foundations and left some 12,000 either or homeless or with extensive damage to their abodes.

Oakland racked up the most deaths at 42, because of the collapse of the freeways. And we still haven't replaced the Bay Bridge 22 years later. Caltrans is still working on it. It should be ready in time for the next 'quake.

Some say the Hayward Fault will rupture in Berkeley—this is all a rather moot point—as the entire Bay Area will be the epicenter. To up the ante, the northern portion of the Hayward fault hasn't moved or ruptured since the 1700s. That makes it about 171 years overdue.
Check out KQED QUEST'S Geological Outings Around the Bay: Point Pinole and the Hayward fault by Andrew Alden. And the USGS GoogleEarth Virtual tour of the Hayward Fault is pretty cool.
GoogleEarth virtual tour of Hayward Fault. Hwy 580 & Hwy 13 north are on the faults.

Much of the East Bay infrastructure where most residents live and work is on the flatlands. Alluvium and liquefaction—not a good combination. Imagine large resonant vibration waves converging at conflicting oscillations that will damage whatever the 'quake doesn't directly shake down. The Bay Area will be like one vast tuning fork, or glockenspiel. Increasing the damage potential by a factor of ten doesn't even begin to cover it. 

Red is most susceptible to liquefaction, then orange, yellow... USGS map.
Screenshot from GoogleEarth USGS virtual tour of Hayward Fault

The East Bay is one vast sprawling metropolis that cradles major cities: Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, Fremont, and San Jose. Yep, Silicon Valley too—where the Hayward Fault merges with the Calaveras Fault. In fact, it may be one large sister-fault system. (Sugar skulls—calaveras—anyone? El Día de los Muertos is on the horizon of when, not if. And the Lawrence Livermore Lab is located where? Shades of Fukushima!)

The latest Hayward Fault 'quake (3.6M) woke me at 5:30 AM—it was like a horse getting up and shaking dust from its coat after a good roll in the hot sand. But there were no aftershocks. So far, so good. Cozy shaking. Nowhere near as strong as the earlier 4.0M. My Ansel Adams photo of the San Francisco Bay, sans bridges—is at a rakish angle, as are all the other frames on the wall. I get tired of straightening them.

And I haven't even mentioned those minute magnitudes of measurement we're so fond of quoting: a magnitude 5.0M earthquake is not just a little bigger than a 4.0M 'quake—it's ten times bigger! Geology teacher and blogger Garry Hayes @geotripper explains: "Recurrence intervals are very tricky, and magnitudes differ 10x amplitude of waves, but 30x the energy release." I understand the Richter Scale is a base-10 logarithmic measurement. OK. Think exponential. But the 32x energy thing? Surface waves and body wavesYiiii! Math/physics were never my strong suit. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that one.

Poetic justice that Charles Richter's Richter Scale inspiration was the language of measuring the magnitude scale used to describe the brightness of stars and celestial events themselves.

In his Geotripper blog, Garry advises: be "prepared at ALL times (extra water, food, radio, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit), especially in California and the Bay Area along the San Andreas and Hayward faults." I have EQ kits, stoves/heating coils and food in both cars too—plus a few bottles of vintage Russian River wine. Keys, cell, cash, wallet always always within reach. I even have a fashionista plan. Someone once said: "in case of an earthquake or disaster, grab all your dirty clothes—they're the ones you wear the most and will be most useful." (Knickers not included.)

I often check the 'quake map alerts on Twitter. Lately I've been watching the global 'quakes and there are many, many 'quakes that clock in at 4.0M or or so—daily. Nothing to worry about. Many tremors in Japan and Turkey. That's to be expected. Peru's been taking a bit of a shaking. Haiti's still experiencing large aftershocks as well.

Chile moved its coastline last year, growing the Andes with the big one at magnitude 8.8—the sixth largest earthquake to ever be recorded on a seismograph. Then, the released tectonic stress must also translate right up the coast. Eventually to our back door. Tremors were recorded from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Ica, Peru, 2400 km north. The epicenter was about 2 miles off the coast where the Nazca and the South American tectonic plates converge and collide and subduct—at about three inches a year.

Today: magnitude 6.9M earthquake strikes Ica in southern Peru. Right where the offshore fault comes closest to Peru. Ica, 300 miles south of Lima, is the part of Peru that juts out the most westward (like Pt. Arena in California) and it is closest to the offshore fault. Pisco (and the desert plains of Paracas as well as Nazca to the south) is no stranger to The Big Temblors: there was an 8.0 in 2007 that flattened the town.

The only reason why I seriously digress and focus on Peru's earthquakes (there are so many major cataclysms to choose from) is proximity. I've been there. And it crossed my mind that in a rather farfetched sense, they are a continuum of sister faults linked to our own infamous San Andreas Fault. I've traveled most the length of the San Andreas Fault—from Baja to Point Arena. I once snorkeled too far out off Cabo San Lucas, over the rift, and the shore dropped off so deep, that it was like looking back up into the evening sky replete with stars.

And in the skimpy midriff section of the San Andreas Fault, the Salton Sea-Laguna de Salida (I once swam there too before it dried up) Méxicali region has certainly had more than its fair share of  temblors. Last year's 7.2M Baja Easter 'quake was so significant—it shook eons of dust off the nearby mountains of La Rumorosa, Tecate, like a large dog (followed by 500+ aftershocks). No rumor, the San Andreas Fault is definitely in the commute lane in SoCal. Talk about road rage!

Any 'quake clocking in at over a magnitude of 4.0M, I take notice. I remember the Good Friday Alaska 9.2 earthquake of 1964. I was a child in West Marin and the wall up and bitchslapped me on the back of my head while I was sitting on the couch coloring. The couch then skittered across the floor like a nervous deer on pavement.

The offshore 1980 Gorda Basin 7.2M earthquake near Eureka, shook Sea View Ridge, near Cazadero, so hard, I was nearly tossed from the top bunkbed. Only the rail saved me from a fall. We could hear the surf crashing nearly 2000 feet below us. The 30-foot waves pummeling Salt Point cliffs were straight out of Hokusai. I saw the sea roil up those 30-50-foot cliffs—then spray another 30 feet over our heads on the bluffs. Nothing calm about the Pacific. 

In retrospect, it may have been the aftermath of a tsunami. And that was a 7.2M (or 7.3M)—with the epicenter far away, I might add. 

Plate boundary earthquakes are common along California's most seismically active earthquake region, because of the Mendocino Triple Junction. (which included the Pacific, Gorda, and North American Plates.)  In 1992 there was another 7.2M earthquake at Cape Mendocino, the Lost Coast, near Petrrolia. The Mendocino Triple Junction includes the Cascadia subduction zone, the San Andreas Fault, and the Mendocino Fracture Zone. And yes, a tsunami also followed that 'quake.

"Behind the Great Wave at Kanagawa" 1823-29 Hokusai, Wikipedia Commons.

I was in LA after the 6.6M  Northridge 'quake in 1994—it was like a war-zone. All the overpasses flattened. The ground shook like jelly for days and nights—5.0M aftershocks both woke us and rocked us to sleep.

And I can't even begin to process the damage of the Tōhoku 9.0M earthquake and tsunami— in size, scope, damage—and the damaged Fukushima reactors. Part of me is still stunned by the news. I was hiking in The Valley of Fire looking up at the thunderclouds, admiring striations of time in geologic scale, knowing there was radiation fallout being recorded in the Las Vegas desert. The geoglyphs took on a new level of meaning. Old and new. The Easter wind whistled through the sandstone like an ocariña dirge. But I digress.

Both the diminutive Caribbean (remember Haiti?) and the Cocos plates join the Pacific plate in Central America. The Cocos plate subducts beneath the Caribbean plate creating all those lovely volcanoes from México to Costa Rica. It gets complicated with the young offshore upstart, the Nazca platesubducting and squeezing into another torrid geologic love triangle with the Pacific plate.  The ring of fire.

The Nazca plate is the co-parent of several hoptspots including the equatorial Galápagos Islands. (Galápagos triple junction). I swam in a geologic rift that is splitting Santa Crúz island in twain. The landlocked channel was once open to the Pacific ocean via underwater fissures so myriad oceanic fish schooled in the brackish water. The only other time I've seen anything like that was when I swam in a Yucatan cenote at Xelhá, far from shore. (Fresh water floats on top of salt water so the sea entrance is often a deep fissure or cave.).

I spent a winter in Ica, Perú in the 1980s. It's a strange place. It never rains in the Atacama Desert or its northern sub-region, the Sechura Desert. Strange, dry landscape. Land of few rivers. I met people who had never experienced rain in their lifetime. (See my blog on Atacama Civilizations.)

And what of the anomaly of all those "waterworn" Andean boulders strewn across the floor of a desert of no rain? Now scientists say they've been joggled by earthquakes, rubbing shoulders with each other for millions of years. Rounding down those sharp edges to rounded shoulders.

It seems our continents are rubbing shoulders along the faultlines.

Metamorphic rocks, García River, Point Arena, westernmost point in California,
where the San Andreas Fault heads out to sea. 
The García riverbed is also the bed of the San Andreas Fault.
I expected to find quartz, jasper and blueshcist but not sandstone!
I didn't find any of the usual suspects—serpentine or granite—
very little by way of volcanic rock, but lots of soft gray mudstones
that I never learned the names of.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Finally the edited interview appeared in the CPITS newsletter, but no one sent me a link. Go figure. Here's the vertical response link:  

And you can also access it via the November Newsletter on the CPITS site:

CPITS Poet teacher, Maureen Hurley reading student poems at Watershed Festival, Oct 2011

MAUREEN HURLEY INTERVIEW (with Terri Glass) In November issue of CPITS enewsletter. (Unedited).

1) You became a CPITS poet teacher many years ago. Who were your mentors and what was the organization like at the time?

In 1978, I volunteered for an arts education conference at Sonoma State, The Child in Changing TImes. Sonoma County CPITS Area Coordinator, Michael Dow led a workshop circle on the main lawn and it was there I wrote my first poems. It was a matter of being at the right place at the right time. I did not actively seek out CPITS. Michael Dow tapped me for CPITS and in 1979, I began training with another Sonoma County poet, Lee Perron—who was my mentor for 20 years. 

In those days, Sonoma County CPITS—we called it SOCPITS—had only a few poets on board and it was a very small rural program. Poets collectively earned about $4000 a year, total. Can I even remember their names? Rocco Tripodi, Pam Raphael (Singer), Zara Altair, Andrea Granahan....

Carol Lee Sanchez was living in Petaluma. Will Staple moved away to Grass Valley. Gail King dropped out. Mike Tuggle and Susan Kennedy were still in West Marin, but they soon moved north. Duane BigEagle and Kathryn Harer came to Sonoma County later, under Zara' Altair's AC tenure. Only Pam Singer and myself are part of that original SOCPITS team. We both trained under Lee Perron. Pam dropped out of CPITS for a while, but bounced back. I don't think Susan Kennedy is still teaching CPITS. So, Pam, Duane, Will and I are still carrying the SOCPITS legacy forth.

I don't think Michael Dow was ever interested in expanding the SOCPITS program into what it is today—so Lee Perron sort of took over Michael's AC duties. Under Lee's tenure, SOCPITS annual revenue quadrupled in size—primarily through arts education funding—multi-artist grants from the National Endowment from the Arts (NEA) and the California Arts Council (CAC). Our "Art is the 4th R" program at Healdsburg School District was a pilot project of the NEA and helped to shape arts and education guidelines. I, and other CAC artists—including Louis Valdez and Juan Felipe Hererra—were selected by the NEA to develop the national evaluation process. So we were the guinea pigs for the arts.

My first real CPITS residency at Healdsburg, I taught calligraphy and poetry to RSP/ESL students—so I've always mixed my art forms. (I was the resident calligrapher at Sonoma State—I did all the signage for events). At our CAC grant in Windsor, I taught art classes, but I did lead some crossover poetry and art classes. 

What I learned from Lee was to dream big. In the 1980s, I was awarded six CAC individual Artist in Residency grants at Mark West School District—and I also was awarded a pilot CAC Artist in Libraries grant at Napa State Hospital. 

Napa was one strange experience. I wanted the ground to open up and just swallow me whole so I wouldn't have to teach—like during the first days of teaching CPITS. I was terrified. I trained longer than most poets (20 sessions) because I was very shy (don't laugh!) as I had no self-confidence. Art turned me ever inward: reflective, introspective. Poetry gave me a voice, a persona, a hat—my life's work—it gave my life meaning in the broader sense. It made me a citizen of the world.

The statewide CPITS program was still tied to San Francisco State. When I came aboard, Carol Lee Sanchez was Statewide Coordinator. We had a meeting at Gail Newman's house—she may have been the SF AC. Carol Lee taught us to draw upon our communities (think local, act global). As ACs, we are mutually independent and as an organization, we are inter-dependent upon each other—this is why the yearly symposiums are so important to this unique poetry tribe called CPITS.

I also worked with John Oliver Simon documenting his Poetry Across Frontiers project. Being in Mexico, seeing the CPITS lens from the other side, and working with the Mexican poets, was riveting. It launched my own poetic Sputnik into the USSR after John & I split. Which led to my training Soviet poets, and also training Dutch poets at Poetry International in Holland. 

I've taught PITS residencies to students in the Ukraine, to psychiatric workers in the Netherlands, and in Montana schools with Susie Terence and Daryl Chinn. So I've seen PITS in action from the ground up, as a field poet, as a master CPITS poet teacher, as an Area Coordinator, as a board member, and as an out of state—perhaps, out of mind—poet ambassador. 

Suffice to day, Carol Lee's dream model still holds. Sure, we've had challenges keeping the nation's oldest poetry in the schools program afloat, but we're approaching our big 5-0. What other independent arts organization can boast that? 

I know from the inside out that poetry really matters. It changes lives. So, it's ironic in that I hated poetry as a kid. But then, my grannie was always reciting poetry to me along with all the Irish ballads sprinkled with healthy doses of W.B. Yeats. How many kids had The Lake Isle of Inisfree or the Rime of the Ancient Mariner recited to them?. So, poetry was always in my bones. It just took a while to shine through.

2) You have been an Area Coordinator in Sonoma and now in Alameda. How long did you AC in Sonoma and what were your highlights of that experience? What is like to oversee Alameda?

Mark West USD was among the first Santa Rosa school districts to embrace CPITS. Significant in that Santa Rosa was a tough nut to crack. Without CPITS residencies in Sonoma County's largest city, SOCPITS was destined to stay rural—only in the outskirts.  

My decade-long CAC residency (and other funding) began as a tiny CPITS pilot residency. I got a call from Principal Ida Victorson—when I heard that Virginian accent, I realized my hippie clothes just wouldn't do. So I raided Goodwill, found an old silk dress, lopped it off into a blouse, got a pleated skirt and some faux-pearls on credit. I got the job. I had to push-start my VW Bug wearing heels and nylons, but I landed the contract. Talk about dress for success! 

The Mark West residency ran much longer than the CPITS contracts and the CAC residencies—we hosted a poetry and art exchange with the Soviet Union that eventually included many Sonoma County artists and poets—and it was funded right up to the Soviet Putscht in 1991.

I also became an AC circa the early 1980s. Zara sort of eased the AC mantle off onto my shoulders before I knew what was happening. I was able to use my success at Mark West to expand the program. We went from a tiny county program in the low $teens to $53k in 1988, and became one of the strongest and largest CPITS programs in the state. The expanded program suffered a setback during the recession in 1990, but it recovered with a little boost from the Sonoma County Community Foundation grants.

As Sonoma County AC, I invited many new poets into the program: Luis Kong (he resisted for years—and eventually became Statewide Coordinator), Arthur Dawson, Jonathan London (the children's author), Lynn Watson, Terry Ehret, Mimi Alpert, Jim Byrd—Jabez "Bill" Churchill (he resisted the longest but as we all know, resistance is futile); Lynn Marie deVincent, and Scott Reid finished training with Arthur Dawson. We had 20 working CPITS poets when I stepped down as AC after my car accident in 1997 and Arthur Dawson took the helm. 

By comparison, AC-ing Alameda County is like wrestling with a huge tentacled squid—much harder to pin to the ground. It's so large, and amorphous—and mostly urban. I'm afraid Gertrude Stein was right: There is no there there. It's so much harder to sell the program in an urban environment because there are no discrete communities to tap into. No real sense of tight-knit community—like in rural areas. I've still got my training wheels on. 

I've worked in Alameda off and on since the Poetry Across Frontier days—I wrote an Oakland Cultural Arts Council (OCAC) grant with Tobey Kaplan in 2004 that augmented CPITS matching money. I also received a OCAC artist in schools grant to teach art at Cleveland Elementary School in 2008-09 after two years of SPARK Arts funding from KQED dried up. Without outside grants, arts funding would be virtually non-existant in California. But even those resources are drying up. The Walter and Elise Haas Fund certainly revitalized Alameda, but now schools are far too broke to even attempt at matching the grant.

I think also, the protracted downward spiral of the economy has eroded all arts programming in a way that the Jarvis-Gann initiative (Prop 13) never envisioned. California is dead bottomth in the nation for per capita public arts spending for art and education. A sad accolade.

3) You have been active in Poetry Out Loud for the past few years.  Wasn't one of your students a runner up in the state competition for 2011?

I've had two POL state runners-up from Contra Costa County: Cheryl Evans from Deer Valley High School in Antioch (third place) in 2010, and Mark Reifenheiser from Diablo Valley High School in Concord (second place) in 2011. I took over from Tobey Kaplan for Cheryl's coaching. Neil O'Neill and Alison Luterman also contributed to Mark's successful POL experience. 

I also coordinated Alameda County POL as well. I was a latecomer to POL. I never expected to like POL—but it does dovetail into our CPITS work. I often tell my shy CPITS student poets how my POL students very nearly won the state finals—how performance is also an important part of poetry, and they tend to jump right up and give fantastic readings themselves. Cheryl is now taking Speech and Debate as well as Elocution in college. POL judge Brandon Cesmat featured Cheryl's own work on our CPITS blog. She made Al Young sit up and listen—I think we're going to hear more from Cheryl in the future. 

4) You are a visual artist and photographer. How does these other mediums feed your poetry and vice versa. Do you combine these art forms in your teaching?

I'm a visual learner and I tend to see metaphor as a visual experience. I'm a cross-over artist, my undergraduate degrees are in painting and drawing—with a minor in clay. I'm also dyslexic. So art allowed me to access language.The words come later. But not always. Sometimes metaphors just pop into my head. Now it's a synthesis. One art form informs the other—they're a continuum of personal metaphor from the visual to the aural realm.

People were always trying to peg me as either a poet or an artist—not both. Even with my CAC grants, I was asked to choose between mediums—or forfeit my grant—there were no multi arts discipline grants. Finally Philip Horn from the CAC came down to observe me at Mark West School. He said, "I get it now, you really do blend both art forms. But you need to make that clearer in your grants." I knew what I wanted to do, I just couldn't think of a way to write about it. After a bad car accident in 1980, I found out I was dyslexic—which answered a lot of questions. It's amazing I got those grants as I could barely write—other than poetry. I literally cut and pasted fragments together to string together sentences. I was mighty glad when Apple came along. With my Apple IIc, I could cut & paste on the screen. A revolution of thought.

While finishing my BA in Art at Sonoma State, I took an integrated Expressive Arts course—and earned the equivalent of a 2nd BA, but the program was disbanded. That experience of working with my peers, and having to go out into the community launched my poetry career—as a CPITS poet, as a poetry festival organizer and as a cultural worker. I studied with SSU's incomparable Red Thomas, Mac McCreary, and Elizabeth Herron in the School of Expressive Arts—a radical interdisciplinary experiment that was associated with the psychology department. Faculty functioned as artists in residence as did the students—we designed our own course of study; and I also studied poetry with David Bromige in the English Department—to keep things balanced. Or so I thought. LOL. But then David checked himself into the looney bin and there we were, a graduate class teaching ourselves and each other. I taught a seminar on Yeats. Pern in a gyre. We were spiraling out into the community.

Those experiences launched me into a photography job at an alternative West County newspaper, The Sonoma County Stump. Again, it was a question of right (or wrong) place at the right time. Soon I was writing stories—snipping and gluing fragments to make coherent sentences (pre word-processing days), but then, the paper folded. So Simone Wilson and I frogmarched each other down to the only other alternative paper called The Paper, and coerced them to take us in. 

I worked for The West Sonoma County Paper until 1996—before its last name change to The Bohemian. That's where I learned to write—on the job. One of my former Mark West students, whom I worked with from Kindergarten to 5th grade, Gabe Meline, is now the editor of The Bohemian.
I also co-chaired two poetry series: Public Poetry Center at Sonoma State, and The Russian River Writers' Guild—for 20 years. I documented hundreds of poets on film—including for the Napa Valley Poetry Conference (NVPC), and Poetry International. Perhaps the most outrageous event was when we decided to hold a NVPC in The Bahamas—with Nate Mackey, Bob Haas, and others. I taught the CPITS model to Bahamian poets.

It's a challenge to try and teach both art forms in one residency as there's so little time—poetry and art each demand their own. Often at the end of a residency, I'll schedule an extra session and teach kids contour line drawing to create illustrations for their poetry books. I also use a lot of visual metaphor props for writing prompts—writing from paintings, photographs—ekphrastic poetry.

Pocahontas—from Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz

5) Do you have a favorite anecdote about teaching poetry to young people?

You never know when something will resonate, or when you'll get closure. Teaching poetry is an alchemical process. You just hold your breath and wait. As W.B. Yeats scribed: Poetry is the music of what happens.

One time I got a call from Scott Meiser, a student I had in 5th grade at Mark West School. He wasn't into poetry—he was on the MBA track at college, and out of the blue, one night he sat down and inexplicably wrote a poem. He tracked me down and read the poem to me over the phone (he was in love for the first time), and then he said: "I finally got it, what you were trying to do.And I just wanted to thank you." Closure. He was 22.

Another time I was teaching a poetry unit to K-3rd grade students at The Higham Family School (Waldorf) in Santa Rosa. We met once a week in the fall, and we sat in a circle in a windowed garden room filled with sunlight and plants.

We were studying whales and the environment and we often let science inform our writing. I had one rather rascally 2nd grader named Trevor, who hated to write. He was a real rugrat—always squirming off in opposite directions. Trevor hadn’t written anything particularly spectacular during the 8-session residency; and it was our final day. Countdown.

I begin each class with typed student poems that we workshop the previous week's poems so that editing is an integral and ongoing process. Then we "freewrite" for five minutes, read a few freewrite poems—that generally reflect back on the previous week's lesson, and then move onto the day's poetry lesson.  

For some reason, during freewrite, something finally clicked—maybe it was the whales. Or the prism casting rainbows.Or time itself. I remember Trevor asking if he could continue his freewrite even though our five minutes were up. I said “Of course!” and continued on with my lesson, never dreaming he was hatching such a marvel. When Trevor was done writing, he wanted to share his poem. You could see he was about to explode with anticipation. 


This body is to ask
this question of the mind: 
Is the sun to shine on the day of my death?
Is the hole in the universe to stay as big? 
Tell me, tell me, where is the answer? 
Where is the answer to lie in today’s hands? 
This is the breath, to breathe this air.

—Trevor Yeats, 2nd Grade, Higham Family School, Santa Rosa
From THIS BODY IS TO ASK: Sonoma County Students and Artists in Residence Marsha Connell and Maureen Hurley (©1993)

And when Trevor read his poem, it transported us out of this world—we were all stunned into silence, it was that kind of good. When he read his poem, we completely forgot what we were doing, and it generated a lively discussion of the earth and the depletion of the ozone layer. 

What's amazing is that the poem didn’t come out of a specific lesson plan; it was an offshoot of several topics we’d been discussing. Students imagined themselves as animals, the earth, the moon, space—asking the Who Am I question—delving deeper into metaphor. The week before, we’d written poems in response to Chief Seattle’s letter to the earth and Thomas McGrath’s Letter to an Imaginary Friend. 

At the end of his poem, I told Trevor that there was a famous Irish poet, William Butler Yeats—who was his namesake. And that Trevor's poem reminded me of Yeats' poems. That's when Trevor told me that he was the great-grand-nephew of W.B. Yeats! I was flabbergasted. For a moment the ancestors breathed through Trevor and I was lucky enough to catch it combusting on paper. 

As Beat poet David Meltzer said: Poetry is a two-way mirror. The inside looking out. The outside looking in. You have to be ready to reassemble the pieces. This is what we do. That's why it's such important work.

Maureen Hurley

I think the poem was also featured in the 1992 CPITS statewide anthology. The title was the name of my Sonoma County student poetry and art book for the Soviet Union. You can still find copies of it on Amazon, Google, and online booksellers. What amazes me is how far and wide the poem (and book) has traveled. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Moscow Traffic

A friend posted this amazing photo of Konstantin Lakomov's on Facebook.
Ah yes, I remember it well. An American's first driving lesson in Moscow. My Ukrainian friends, writer-translator Oleg Atbashian and his cousin from Odessa were still drunk the next morning, and we had to be somewhere important at 9 AM.

They were madly popping little silver ball ginsing candies that were supposed to sober you up. Well, they didn't work. A stacatto of sugary little pellets like b-bs or cake decorations rolled across the backseat.

Since I was the only sober one in the crowd, The Cousins Karma-zov handed me the car keys to a seriously beat up rustbucket of a Chevy Nova with no shocks, bumper tied on with bailing wire. Rusted holes in the floor let wind, salt and slush in.

I was just wrapping my mind around a Nova in Moscow when...

Imagine the big Red Square circle, during rush hour: aiiii!!!!

The photo above lies— It shows lines on the road—it shows cars staying in orderly lines. It shows them patiently waiting for the babushka to cross the road.

Not when I was driving—the big roundabout was like driving like the freakin' Indianapolis 500 with bumpercars while avoiding road hazards—potholes the size of toilet bowls. 

No lines on the road—it was a free for all. I was weaving the traffic thread stomping the clutch, and grinding the gears, sliding my rear end with the best of them—just to survive.

Of course, I didn't know the driving rules—or what any of the road signs meant. I watched St Basil's onion domes and the Hippodrome whizz by me three times before I could spin out of the roundabout like so much splattered paint.

Plus, I had two howling Russian backseat drivers—Yevteshenko's favorite American idiom—backseat drivers shouting directions at me in Russian and in Ukrainian. A lotta good that did. My Russian vocabulary included nostrovia and chut-chut!

It was like a scene out of Monty Python' Ministry of Silly Walks on laughing gas. I was so shaken after driving the roundabout, I had to pull over and recover. Have a drink.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Day of the Flowers," 34th Mill Valley Film Festival

"Day of the Flowers" | 34th Mill Valley Film Festival
Photo by Maureen Hurley 
Eirene Houston, Cindy Maram and Jeromy Zajonc

Maureen Hurley  I really loved loved loved using your camera—its low light focus is astonishing—it/you took some amazing photos. What is it? A Canon? If you want to use any pix from my Picasa site, you're also welcome!

I was having such a hard time getting a focus "lock" with my idiot delight (automatic) camera! So great to meet you too. 

Dig In Magazine Great meeting you too! That was a fun night! Thanks so much, Maureen!!! Great photos Maureen! Thanks for sharing and taking such great photos at the "Day of the Flowers" after party!!! It is a Canon 60D! Love it! @diginmag

© Dig In Magazine
— with Eirene Houston, Maureen Hurley, Cindy Maram and Jeromy Zajonc at Mill Valley Film Festival.

Suddenly cameraless at the Mill Valley Film Fest (well, really at the Brick & Bottle) Can't remember who took the photo. Photo: Carly Ivan Garcia? Alex Call?