Sunday, December 31, 2017

MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2017

Dear Ones,

Thank you for stopping by and reading my ebook reviews. I am primarily interested in women's fiction and the well-crafted murder mystery genre. I delve into historical fiction, and cozy mysteries, sometimes even alpha make action adventure series, but I am no fan of chick-lit Regency bodice rippers, nor am I a fan of sugary cupcake who-dun-its, though I will read them if there's nothing else to read.

I am also not a horror fan (though I occasionally read Willow Rose, despite her awful writing style), nor am I a big sci-fi fan (having read the best of the genre when I was young). But I like an occasional time-travel story, such as Sara Woodbury's After Cilmeri Series series. She does her medieval Welsh homework. And yes, I read all the Outlander series when they came out.

Freebooksy, BookBub, and The eReader Cafe are my main sources of free books. OHFB is another good source. So I rarely need to buy books ( I download 2-5 books a day; most books languish unread), but when I discover an author I like, I tend to buy everything they've ever written. Otherwise, I tend to review the first book in a series—which should be strong, and well written, but is often flabby and full of conundrums—as it's often the author's first book. 

So, I also try to read the sequels as well, or download the boxed sets, when they become available—to give the author another chance. Such is the case with Wayne Stinnett. I really hated his first book, and was willing to write him off, but when I read the first three books boxed in a set, the story flowed, his writing (syntax and sentence structure) improved, there were fewer typos. He hit his stride, and had found his voice as a writer by book three, so I reversed my initial decision.

I began writing Amazon Reviews in 2013 after reading a Kindle ebook that was so awful, I was distraught. My cousin suggested, rather than screeching about it, that I write an Amazon Review. And so I did. I'm into it well over a hundred reviews, total. My goal is a minimum of 25 reviews per year. I don't always make it. I am woefully behind this year...

Unfortunately many Amazon book reviews are nothing more than a popularity contest. "I liked it/didn't like it" is not a review—it's an empty response that has little, or no merit. It takes me considerable time and thought to write (and rewrite, AND rewrite) reviews. I don't take the process lightly.

And authors, I do note those pesky typos in my reviews. Too many typos, or sloppy writing garners a minus star in an otherwise perfect five-star review for a well-crafted story with solid characters. Hey, free copy editing here! 

If there's a typo in the author's bio, or story synopsis, I won't even bother downloading it. What's the point? It is my hope, that after reading my reviews, that the authors will improve their craft, correct their typos, and upload revised books so that we all benefit. 

My ad-hoc book reviews generally begin with an internal argument I have going with the author as I'm reading. Slovenly writing, and too many typos throw me out of the story. Then, I begin to flag those typos with the Kindle notes feature. That often becomes the basis of my review. But I certainly don't review only books laden with typos. With a select few books (I read far more books than I write reviews of), some inner dialogue develops, and I begin writing. I never know what book, or when.

It's almost impossible to Google search my individual reviews on Amazon (why I began reposting them here). But I found that I could add Customer reviews, MoHurley's review of (and add book title), I can access some of my reviews. If you go to the author's review page, there is now a search window to find customer reviews. I'm MoHurley. But it doesn't seem to work.

Please click on the popularity meter button at the bottom of my reviews: was the review helpful (or not). Unfortunately, negative reviews also garner negative points. My Amazon rating plunges. So LIKE some of my reviews. Amazon's all about Like. And if you leave me comments too, I will respond. Ta!

My older reviews are buried deep within my Amazon public reviews. I'm up to 12 pages' worth. So I include the direct links whenever possible here as well. Go to Amazon, MoHurley's Amazon Reviews click on the comments section under my review and that will take you to the review where you can like it. Or not.

On Blogger, I move my collected year's worth of Amazon reviews to December 31, each year. An end-of-year housekeeping event. Here they are listed by year.

I sometimes repost condensed versions of my reviews on GoodReads, but I don't think anyone actually ever reads them. I've only garnered three Likes in two years.

MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2016
MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2015
My Amazon Book Reviews 2014
My Amazon Book Reviews 2013

Mo's Amazon Book Reviews 2017 (in progress)

End of year writing stats

So I washed my hair at noon
making ready for the New Year,
I wasn't expecting it to be freezing all day.
Only to say, Stay cold, Pony Boy.
Of my 137 entries for 2017, at least 60 to 90 are poems (some posts have multiple poems), a few are prose poems, a few are themed haiku. I try & tag all my poems. I'm not always successful. Standard poems have BLOCK CAPITALS for titles.

animal poem (45-was 29) WOW
CPITS (261-was 196) WOW
ekphrastic poetry (78-was 52) WOW
found poem (17-was 14)
haiku (55-was 39) WOW
poem (1104-was 928) WOW
Poem a Day (34-was 29) OK
poems (52-was 50)
prose poem (82-was 73) OK
writing prompts (7) stet

The California firestorms very nearly derailed me, and we lost Brian's dad, Monte Kervin: see THE MAN WHO LOVED FALCONS. My cousins and aunt in Santa Rosa lost everything in the Tubbs fire. I also lost a first cousin, James Santos, and two 2nd cousins. A year of death personified.

Our Bay Area Generations Poetry Reading: Maureen Hurley & John Oliver Simon at the Bellevue Club (a Julia Morgan residence) was pretty awesome. In September, we drove to Lone Pine for a CPITS conference and poetry reading, and finally laid to rest all the old ghosts. And now I'm preparing for the next big transition, as John's cancer is back, and wrapping itself around his aorta...

So many atrocities and grave insults in 2017, I grew numb. Wordless. PTST. Daily atrocities. If it wasn't hurricanes, it was firestorms. Mass shootings. Unkindnesses. What a fucking bitch of a year. I won't even mention our so-called government, other than it is YET ANOTHER CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. Is there no light at the end of the tunnel? 2017 went up in smoke: the year that the golden state of California burned, and then it was doubly-burned again by the federal government. Cognitive dissonance won't resolve this.

I can't seem to make myself write more on Herman Berlandt's Memorial, Bolinas. Fodder for later. On the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was a lot of work—necessary research. It needs focus. It began when a former Facebook friend insisted that almost everyone was illiterate in the 1800s. I proved my point, and she unfriended me for my efforts.

And my Spanish words from the Arabic also yielded a surprise poem, as did Stopping to Sniff the Poison Oak Flowers. See MAD HONEY. Translating "Chun" from the Irish: a triad of sorts yielded a translation nugget. All, good brain food.

I did write several indepth memoir stories, and one blog entry, Mill Valley's Unknown Museum. has garnered 2079 views, 1918 of them within the past month, thanks to Facebook. A new top 5 contender, kicking my Black Bart piece off the Top 5 list.

I enjoyed writing Defiant Fruitcakes. It took me to some unexpected places. I was happy with my article, Ghost town, Rhyolite, Nevada (photos). And Lemon Meringue Marengue is a madcap cooking adventure. All are marketable stories. Maybe someday. My Summer of Love, etc. piece was picked up by the Press Democrat. I got nice press coverage there.

I really fell down in the Amazon review department. I just wasn't motivated. Only five reviews, I didn't even remotely meet my quota as I strive for 25 reviews a year. I read lots of books, most of them were not memorable.

However, I also added many (about 250) new blog posts from the 1980s and 90s. Especially from 1987 to 1989—mostly lengthy travel journals. Interesting to meet myself on the road (Latin America). I fleshed out 5 years. Still to do: Amsterdam and the USSR. 1994-95, I also managed to double the amount of entries on several years. Huge inroads.

I still have *14 years where I don't have 50+ posts. I may never be able to add more posts from 1997-2006. But 1990-93, I just need to transcribe more work. 1980 and 1982 may not have more work forthcoming. I didn't date early poems so I've a lot of orphans. But I still have boxes of papers and memorabilia from the early years to process, and scan.

My Facebook words aggregate 2017

Dear Facebook, stop blocking me

Dear Facebook:

Nearly every time I post a link anywhere on Facebook these days, it is marked as spam. Your newest spambot algorithm sucks. Usually it is a link to one of my own blog posts that sets it off, and now even a friend's very benign YouTube link was marked as spam.

There is absolutely nothing spammy about any of the content of what I post, and my comments generally enhance, support, or illustrate a point on a given thread. Your Facebook algorithm is absolutely senseless. And yet, you let real spam through all the time. What gives?

Or do you have a grudge against writers who post links to their own poetry? Thinking it's faux news? I know it is difficult getting the news from poetry, but really? When someone else posts one on my blog pieces, say, my story on Mickey McGowan's Unknown Museum, you don't mark that as spam. But when I make comments on that thread, it's suddenly spam?  So, I take it that this is personal?

It's bad enough that you continue to block me whenever I correct my typos on my own comments and threads. I'm a terrible typist, and often need to revise my comments because I'm dyslexic. Sometimes you even tell me it isn't possible to open or edit my own update posts.

You are not keeping Facebook safe by blocking me when I revise my own comments on my own page. I have contacted you to complain over 100 times—this year alone. Talk about falling on deaf ears. I've been saving up a few of my comments for a blog post as I've gotten rather creative with them. Be forewarned.

But blocking my blog links makes me absolutely cranky because there's no rationale for your actions. And yes, I do contact you when a comment is marked as spam, and I tell you that it's not spam, but still, you delete it anyway—along with my notes. A lot of good that does.

When I came aboard the social media platform, I had some rules. That I would write and post relevant content, in themed threads, that I would interact with my larger writing and art community in a meaningful manner, that I would use my Facebook comments as warmer-uppers, jumping off places to write blog posts—whether news, memoir, or poems. So, I tend to save the more interesting comments, and recycle them. Sometimes I get lucky and get some decent writing from it.

But this censoring has gone too far. And yes, I know I'm ranting at bots. No hoo-mans involved. But I will continue to rant and complain for all I'm worth—because I can.

I treasure my Facebook community—all 885 of my "friends" and my 185 followers, I would hate to lose that very rich matrix, but sometimes I just want to delete my account. I grit my teeth and step back. And remember why I signed up for this. There is no way I could've reconnected with so many folks from my myriad walks of life, sans Facebook. You included. I treasure you all.

SOME FACEBOOK COMMENTS I KEPT (I've probably contacted FB about 100 times this year alone. I didn't get the idea to start saving my comments until later. These are but a few (one quarter) of the comments I saved from 2017). Out with the old.....
Maureen Hurley Dec 31, 2017 Dear FB, I just wrote a note to Jesse Colin Young: "A long way from Inverness. Remember your blue VW bus? You used to give me rides home from school, when I was hitching. The Zettls lived on my road in FK, so it was always a great ride score, as I only had to walk a half mile home. You were part of my matrix. Thank you for that.

(Sigh) Facebook nanny removed my blog post on hitching in Marin with a paragraph about you. I don't understand why FB assumes that writing one's own memoir could be construed as spam."

Hitching in Marin during late 60s, early 70s
October 11, 2010 (I wrote out dot where every dot was. Pain in the arse.)

And also today Dec 31, 2017, on another thread, who knew the NPR article and link on bread was spam? FB Spambot strikes again. Here is the offending post.
"Friendship Bread — also known as Amish Friendship Bread — is the chain letter of baking. A simple starter of flour, sugar, milk, water and yeast is mixed together and then developed for 10 days at room temperature. The person who makes the starter, similar to a sweet version of a sourdough starter, keeps some to bake up a loaf of bread or other baked items, then they divide the rest to pass on to friends. If a little of the starter is kept, it can become the basis of a new batch of starter.

Well, FB nanny removed the link from NPR, claiming it was spam.
Here is the offensive title:
The Friendship Bread Project: Can Baking Promote Unity In A Divided World?

My friend was mystified as to why it was marked as spam. Máirtín Taidhg Jack said: Thank you Maureen Hurley. FB marked your comment as spam so I was a little disappointed that there was no full frontal nudity when I eventually got to see it.

Maureen Hurley Well the bread really is naked. So I guess that might be construed as full frontal nudity. FB spamnannybot really has it out for me... All those yeast beasties breeding. The naked and the bread.

Here's another nonsensical FB block I get early and often. I'm using the edit feature too fast. Should I type S L O W E R ? You secretly prefer typos?
"Facebook Blocks
To help keep Facebook safe, we sometimes block certain content and actions. If you think we’ve made a mistake, please let us know. While we aren’t able to review individual reports, the feedback you provide will help us improve the ways we keep Facebook safe.
Please explain why you think this was an error
Thanks for taking the time to submit a report.
Learn more about what happens when you’re blocked or if your content was removed."

Maureen Hurley  12/10/17 Why are you blocking me? I am adding titles to the links on a thread I posted on my own page, since you've changed the format how links display, they often have no title.

You began blocking me this morning. SO more than 12 hours later, I thought I'd finish my task, and fix the rest of the titles, and yet you're still blocking me. It's Christmas cartoons fergawdsakes. It's really stupid for you to block such a benign series of posts.

It seems like you pick on me a lot, and I'm not abusing Facebook, nor am I doing anything wrong. This problem has been going on for months now. And all I'm trying to do is be a responsible poster. Add titles to links, or descriptions. Fix typos, revise poorly crafted posts. No reason to punish me for it.

Maureen Hurley 10/15 Clearly this comment on my own post on my own page is a threat to Facebook safety:

" “Olly olly oxen free” is a mutation of something like "All ye out come in free." (Meaning, back four centuries ago when we have the first known games of hide-and-seek) that anyone still hiding (out) can come back without getting tagged (free)."


Maureen Hurley 10/15 Would someone at Facebook turn off the spambots? Every time I correct or revise a comment ON MY OWN POST, ON MY OWN PAGE, I am blocked. Every single time I make a correction or clarify a comment, I get this window. I complain. What good does it do to contact you, Facebook. You don't listen.

What does it mean, I'm posting too fast? So I might revise a single comment 2=3 times before I get it right. I'm also dyslexic. How is revising my own comment on my own post on my own page, going too fast?

I get that you don't want me to post often, and it's clear that you sure don't want me to edit or revise my own previously posted comments. Revising the same comment to get it right is not posting too often. It's the SAME COMMENT. It's not a numbers game. I probably am mot posting too often, BTW, I also revise my comments on other people's posts. I hate typos.

If I am too quick in my editing, your bot grays out my post and blocks it so I can't repost it with corrections. It's a flawed algorithm. Clearly somehow thinks I'm abusing the system by revising a previously posted comment. Did I mention that I'm dyslexic? Yeah. How is this hurting you Facebook, for us to be literate.

Clearly nothing I post could be construed as spam or hateful. So it's clearly not my content, unless you think posting information about the devastating fires is wrong? Ergo, it must be my actions. Revising one's own comments on ones own post on one's own page is somehow construed as harmful to Facebook. Huh?

Your blocking system is utterly stupid, ridiculous, and useless. You are not even remotely "keeping Facebook safe" by doing this. You do know that, don't you? Fix it.

Maureen Hurley 10/15 Just STOP blocking me just because I've corrected an old comment that I posted two days ago. That's not going too fast. I correcting a typo on a comment that is a couple of days old. I revised and clarified a point. I'm a writer. That's what writers do. We revise. Early and often. I'm also dyslexic. And a terrible typist. So I revise my comments.

Your block system is utterly stupid, ridiculous, and useless. Just makes me angry. You are not even remotely "keeping Facebook safe" by doing this.

Maureen Hurley 10/14 See what you continue to block every time I try and correct a typo? Is this really necessary? JUST STOP.

"They had to evacuate 400 people from an Oakmont rest home, all at once, with no evacuation plan, and chaos ensued. Some are at Essie Allen HS, others are in Sacramento. So, yes, it's probably real."

Maureen Hurley 10/14 This is a freaking fire evacuation notice, Blocking me as I alert people is just plain stupid FB.

Maureen Hurley 10/10 Lemme see, you're blocking me because I'm trying to find out if there's a fire in Forestville, where my cabin is, and you deem that worthy enough to BLOCK me? Shame on you and the bot you rode in on.

Maureen Hurley 10/10 Is it my fault that FB spazmodically leaps all over when we write. You want I should post this typo?

o longer synonm, full blown metaphor.ony

Yes, FB, that's what you chapped my hide on, as I was trying to fix TYPOS!! How is this even remotely construed as "going too fast." Just stop. Draconian. And guess what, it won't stop spammer...if that's what you think I am. BTW, I;ve been saving my comments to you, should make for a juicy blogpost, how you thwart and harass the average Facebooker over nonsensical BS....

Maureen Hurley 6/19 It's my photo, my post, my freaking wall, an obituary of a friend, and you choose to BLOCK me? What kind of jerk action is that?

Maureen Hurley 3/28 Stop blocking me because I revise my own comments on my own page. It's harmless. The content you objected to:

"Might be easier to use liquid glass to draw/paint the knotwork, yellow on a blue glass field would work.Just a thought."

How is this even remotely construed as harmful? I make lots of typos, and tend to revise my comments several times over as I have dyslexia.

Serious mistake indeed. I really hate this extremely stupid algorithm. ANd for some reason, it zeroes in on me if I make any changes on my comments. Like most writers, I am a bit OCD with language, and want to get it just right. Please just STOP. This is the second incident on the same comment today. Serious mistake on your part. Do you even read these comments? Be forewarned: I am saving them all up and plan to write a massive blogpost using some of these complaints as examples.

It would behoove you to fix the glitch. Otherwise you will continue to hear from me early and often on a large scale format. I'm a whole lot more than just a little tired of this inconvenience. I'm thoroughly sick of it. And it's stupid. Stupid. Stupid. It does not make Facebook any safer. What do you think you're protecting readers against? Correct language usage and spelling/punctuation, not to mention, typos? How very noble of you to promulgate illiteracy.

Maureen Hurley 3/19 Hey, that was my first post of the day, so how could I be going too fast? And how is this comment to Brenda HIllman a risk?

"That's my homleland! I grew up there. My family came from Ireland to settle in the SGV, and called our place Coomb ab Or, hill of gold. And Butler is also a Norman Irish name...."

How is that even remotely considered as spam, or a danger to the Facebook community. Why the fk do you keep blocking me at every turn whenever I correct or amend a comment? I make typos, have dyslexia, and think in incomplete sentences. About they only way that you're making Facebooks safer, is by encouraging typos.

Your algorithm is so very WRONG! I write to you several times a day. I really am annoyed by all this, it's been going on for days, weeks. It's clear that you don't actually read these notes or you'd deal with it. Last spate of communication I had with you, when I got a real comment back, you said it would take some time to fix the faulty algorithm. That was November. Hello? Did you even deal with it, or am I being subjected to some kind of permanent Facebook Hell here? Time for me to write a blog since my complaints are clearly falling on deaf ears.

Understand that I only complain about one time out of twenty. This is the tip of the iceberg. Please stop blocking me every time I edit a comment.

Maureen Hurley 3/18 You're doing it again. On my own posts, on my own timeline. STOP blocking me every time I correct a typo. You are not making Facebook, nor the English language any safer by preventing me from fixing my own typos on my own posts.

Maureen Hurley 3/17 I am so FN sick of this algorithm. Please kill it. It is deeply flawed. THis has been going on all day long. This is my 5th letter of complaints to you today as well.

BTW, I have been away from my computer for over 7 hours, and only just not had a chance to post a few comments, so I can't possibly be going too fast and abusing thee system...and yes, I made another typo. Silly me, I tried to fix it and AGAIN you've blocked me. Just STOP. I and cussing a blue streat at you...not eh te typo. That's something I do early and often, make many typos, and your algorithm is downright PUNITIVE. And yes, I am metaphorically shouting at you. STOP STOP STOP!

Maureen Hurley 3/17 How could I possibly be going too fast, I've managed to do an entire load of laundry (50 minutes) and am almost through my second load since I've last posted on FB. So posting comments once every hour or two is going too fast? Fix your fecking algorithm. I am SOOOOOOOOO very tired of this block, happens every time I try and correct a post, any post, no matter how old it is...

Maureen Hurley 3/17 Just stop blocking me. I can't even answer a post to wish my cousin a Happy St. Patrick's Day?

Apparently the offensive word was "too."

what I wrote: HSPD to you too Tina!

As to going too fast, I managed to clean the kitchen cabinets, make some oatmeal mush, and eat it since my last you. I'm not going too fast. Try another excuse, like a bad algorithm.

Did you miss the part where I'I told you that I can't edit my's maddening algorithm. I'm a terrible typist, and partial thinker, not to mention dyslexic.

Maureen Hurley 2/11 I'm having a lot of trouble with Facebook, and sometimes can't even go in and fix the typos. For example, I can type 4 to 5 words, and nothing happens, then the type comes chasing after me like a little train (of thought). And gawdess help me if there's a typo. The cursor has a mind of its own. Then Facebook sanctions me with a time out for posting too fast.

Maureen Hurley 2/7 Clearly, correcting a self-typo is now perceived as spamming, or as toy say, going too fast, no matter that 40 minutes had elapsed between my typing a comment on my own thread, on my own page, and fixing the typo. I'm sure you would like to know the typo as well. OK, so it was mammon. I guess it should've been asshat.

Maureen Hurley 1/29 STOP! I have the right to correct, edit, amend my posts withougt you arbitrarily deciding that I'm going too fast or that I'm a spammer. I'm a terrible typist, and I have dyslexia, so I make a lot of mistakes. It takes me upon average, about three tries for each comment to get everything corrected

Maureen Hurley 1/28 perhaps I haven't made myself clear....

Latest FB censor nanny trigger:
(You can see this is an innocuous post, right? SO why censor me?)

Maureen Hurley Yep, triggered. This post was copied and repasted.

For some reason, FB picked my calling card. (I'm attempting to add onto this post...let's see ...) One thing that seems to trigger it is the speed in which I go back in and revise.

(Two minutes between original posting and correction, revision is construed as spam????)

Maureen Hurley HEY! I have the right to correct, edit, amend my posts withougt you arbitrarily deciding thst I'm a spammer, As you can see, I'm a terrible typist, and I have dyslexia, so I make a lot of mistakes. It takes me upon average, about three tries for each comment to get everything corrected.

So fsr, today, you have blocked me about 20 times. Almost all those blocks were my own comments and posts on my own page. How can I be spamming myself? Mostly innocuous statements, BTW.

QUIT BLOCKING ME!!! Just stop.

"It looks like you were misusing this feature by going too fast. You’ve been blocked from using it."

What is significant, is not that I make typos, etc., but that you, Facebook are being a censor nanny, and your algorithms are broke, if they continue to construe my correcting of my typos on a comment as a form of spam.

BTW, I can't help it if I think fast. It's in my nature. As is complaining, and fighting with algorithms. Getting the last word in.

Is anyone else being blocked by Facebook censors?

Zima, Russian winter, trading sides

When I was doing a big poetry and art exchange with the former USSR, we collected poetry from the people (vs State-sanctioned poetry), and translated it. We remarked upon the fact that so many poems were filled with images of snow and winter (zima), for the winter of their discontent was still upon the Soviets in 1990, then the putscht brought a thaw of sorts. Then the NEA Jesse Helms-Mapplethorpe art scandal. My Soviet friends laughed and said, this is how it begins, and they said that the US and the USSR were trading places. What strange times we live in, trading sides like that. We are reliving the winter of our discontent, brought on by the Republicans, who were once so rabidly anti soviet, they blackmailed a whole generation of artists, and executed the Rosenbergs for treason—for conspiring with the enemy. Pogo was right. We have seen the enemy, and it is us.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


The conch sounds
calling the distant sailors home.
The waves curl and beckon.
The sailors chant. 
The gulls dive and weave 
the air into nets.
The fish rise, 
they rise up 
and gather in the clouds.
Something holy and profound—
the clouds part.
I tell John Godbeams 
pierce the sky's heart,
in Gregorian time
while roses bloom midwinter.
Milagros de Guadalupe!
A madrigal for the millennium
an open mind of music.
Insects practice percussive 
dance steps. The scent 
of roses in an empty room.

Winter Solstice
Last time 


Bird voices find the wind
speaking in tongues.
The trees shake off the night,
stretches a little closer to the sky.
The clouds shed their tears,
the memory of water,
a rainstick takes us deeper
into the cathedral of sound.
Peace comes dropping slow.

Winter Solstice
Last time

Friday, December 8, 2017


—for Sara Menefee

our iPhones
seeking shoals
of lost words
to compose small poems
catch unschooled fish
leading us astray.


She gathers
purse seine nets
on the city streets
where the homeless
tell her stories
small poems
flashing a silver
of hope
in the gutters
of despair.


Because there weren't enough altos in the choir
my high school music teacher, Mr. Parker,
shipped me off to the meager alto section
where I sang Handel's Messiah in monotone riffs 
like a scald crow, or a ploughman at the fields.
Never the white dove soaring in the vaulted sky.
Decades later, after an accident, a punctured lung 
left me breathless, my therapy was to join a choir, 
where I discovered that all this time that
I was a soprano. I felt cheated at both ends: 
I was given no melody line when I was young,
singing a supportive third below the gilded flock 
who preened their swansong feathers, 
& screeched high notes because they could.
Mr. Parker's nose was as red as that fictional reindeer,
as he spiked his coffee with endless libations.
And now, with no way to reach the upper arpeggios,
I stagger between the two parts, a switch hitter
baying out all the song lines.
No wonder I was always trying to braid 
the alto and soprano lines together all at once, 
splitting the difference between the sour notes. 
No wonder I still can't sing to save my life.


No alto, I sang
the Messiah in flat notes
no melody line

to soar in the vault
of the soprano songbirds
preening their voices.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

At the Babi Yar: eating the dead

I have stood at the palisade of the Bibi Yar. The Babi Yar was "the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust." I mis-heard it as Bibi Yar, as there wasn't much available information about it in 1989. 

So much of what I learned was in the oral tradition from the Ukrainians themselves. During the height of Glasnost, they began to speak of the dark secrets of the land. I wonder if it's Ukrainian vs Russian sp.? Baba as in babushka. Babii, plural. The grandmothers' ravine. Yar, A Turkish word. A multi-cultural name. 

 It wasn't just  a mass grave of Jews. Armenians. Tsigani/gypsies. Ukrainian dissenters, students, poets, musicians. Any Nazi dissenter, and later, Stalinist dissenters as well. 

My friends spoke of the massive bonfire funeral pyres that reached to the Ukrainian sky because there were too many bones to hide. Stalin was sweeping it under the rug, so to speak. That summer, Ukraine's golden wheat fields were a carpet of shame. Bone ash fertilized the crops—the Ukrainians were eating their dead for decades to come. 

But the dead were speaking through the mouths of the living—a vast hunger for truth. And so they began to raise the Ukrainian flags for the first time in nearly a century. A vast blue sky over golden fields nourished with bones.

I remember standing at the rim and weeping. It was so visceral. So real. The wind in the trees whispering. Yet there were only a handful of us, there was no memorial. No visual markers to tell us how to feel, like at other holocaust memorials. Just the deep sorrow of the ravine. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017


If I sneeze any harder,
I will be residing in the next county.
Or offshore, say, near the Farallones.
Maybe pee my pants in the process,
I seem to be leaking at all ends.
I'm like a crawdad shooting backwards
out of danger. I scoot into a corner, 
or prop my back for a tuck and roll.
We're not talking petite parakeet sneezes
women seem to manage in public.
But bull-roaring tonsil severing sneezes
that would threaten any crown or filling.
I've heard of people breaking ribs
or rupturing a disk. Seems extreme 
just to get a bowl of chicken soup.  
But a jumbo-sized glass of wine
seems to have quelled my sneezing fits. 
Offers me some form of respite.
Sure, I could take some Sudafed 
to dry up the dripping faucet, 
but then I can't sleep at all. 
Besides, wine's much more fun. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Dancing on the Brink

Last day of the year, 2015: the Farallones, 20 miles  from Point Reyes

On the last day of the year, the Farallones, 20 miles out from Point Reyes, seemed so close, I could almost touch them. A pumpkin sky and ominous black islands. A last gasp from a dying camera; its swan song.

Farallón means "pillar" or "sea cliff," they were once known as "Devil's Teeth Islands," for the treacherous shoals. Part of the Sierras, a block of rifted granitic continental crust thrusted up. A place where I though the dead dwelled. I had no idea that the islands were the abode of spirits, called "Islands of the Dead" by the Ohlones.

The Farallones are home to 400 species of birds, many of them rare, or endangered. I once saw a tufted puffin wing his way off Point Reyes. A small clownish football of a bird winging home with a beakfull of fish.

Vizcaíno's friar, Antonio de la Ascencion, called the islands los Farallónes, the place of cliffs. Probably why San Francisco Bay was never discovered by Vizcaíno, or Drake, who called them the Islands of Saint James. A place of treacherous shoals. A place of many shipwrecks. Not to mention the thick summer fog.

The American whalers, and Russian explorers built sealing stations there, manned by Alaskan Kodiak Islanders, until there were no more northern fur seals left. Whether Northern, or Guadalupe fur seals, we will never know. One of the largest seabird colonies in the U.S. Then the Gold Rush—millions of seabird eggs (500,000 a month) collected, led to the San Francisco Egg Wars.

When I was a child I loved the mournful sob of the bouys when the thick fog rolled in at night. Classmate Ingrid's great-grandparents, the Cains, were lighthouse keepers on the Farallones. The other lighthouse keeper's wife, Wilhelmina Beeman delivered Ingrid's grandmother, Farallon—a child named after the sea cliffs. They moved to the mainland before the 1906 quake, and lost everything. Only a photo of her grandmother in a basket on the porch, in a book, was what survived.

Then the island was Rum Row during the Prohibition. Then we turned our backs on the islands. The shoals were a nuclear waste dump during the 1940s to the 1970s; 50,000 radioactive drums, and 44,000 shipyard containers were scuttled, and are still rusting away—we still don't know what is in them. But it can't be good. Stories of massive sponges growing in the littoral zones.

Yes, and here we are, still dancing on the brink of the world. Words from the lost Ohlone language:
uxar-at kai pire.
On the cliff, on the edge,
on the brink of the world,
we are dancing.
Day of the Dead, All Soul's Day, The beginning and the end of the Celtic year. My grandmother, brother and mother all died right before Samhain. So, Samhain, All Souls' Day, and El Dia de los Muertos is a three-fold sorrow. Thinking of my mother who wanted her ashes scattered off the Golden Gate, to drift to the Farallones. Maybe I should give her back to the sea.

Fitting image for El Día de los Muertos.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

SFSU survey may have got more than an earful from me

A SFSU alumni survey may have gotten more than an earful from me, I wrote lengthy diatribes, so I saved my responses (below). (Say how ya really feel, Hurley...)

Name one person who made a positive impact: Advisor and mentor, English/ Creative Writing teacher, Prof. Dan Langton, who went out of his way to assure that I was able to transcend the process of being a returning student; he helped to keep things relevant, and offered community credit for work I was already doing; he was not a bureaucratic hoop jumper as so many teachers I encountered at SFSU have been.

Because I needed a correlative, I chose playwriting. Brighid Mullins was a fantastic Creative Writing/theater teacher, I learned a lot from her, especially a deeper appreciation of Aristotle. A good bridge. Roy Conboy too was the real deal. Relevant. A shoutout to Joe McBride who ran all the weekend cinema classes, He was fantastic. Loved the historical overview of film noir.

I found the late Justin Chinn to be an abysmal Creative Writing/theater teacher, if you could call him that—he was fine for the newbies, but not for someone with a lot of writing experience. He skated on his thin persona, and did not teach; my only B grade, out of 56 units of A grades, I might add, because I pushed for more in-depth material. But it turned me off to playwriting.

I might add that I had a profoundly disturbing experience when I first attended SFSU during the mid 1970s, I found the Art Department, and facilities to be sub-par, and I dropped out of school after a year, and finished my BA at Sonoma State.

The only bright moment was taking a class from Prof. McGrath in anthropology, which led me to a lifelong pursuit of Celtic Studies.

SFSU has made dramatic inroads since those early years, but it is still not top notch, at least in my experience.

What am grateful for: That I got my MA, but I never completed my MFA because I ran into too much obfuscation and run-arounds, and downright contradictions, from the respective deans of Humanities, and the Graduate Admissions powers that be, when I tried to file for my MFA. I was literally on the homestretch, I had completed ALL the coursework, it was merely a matter of filing papers, and turning in my thesis. But I couldn't get the paperwork completed and signed off. Tired of wrangling with bureaucrats, I left SFSU in disgust. This is one reason why I cannot wholeheartedly recommend SFSU.

I was simultaneously enrolled at UC Berkeley's Celtic Studies program, while pursuing a MA and MFA in Creative Writing, so working with SFSU English Prof. (Peter?) Flynn, whose office door was always open, allowed me to create a bridge for my ongoing learning, which wasn't offered at SFSU. It meant I was able to also pursue my scholarly interest with some of the great scholars at UC Berkeley including Prof. Alan Dundes, and Professors Dan Melia and Robert Tracy.

I find your Education Department to be the most appalling I have ever encountered. So much so that I gave up on the idea of obtaining a credential. I would not recommend them. Period.

Also, my partner, who got his credential at SFSU, got a similar monkeyhouse runaround when he tried to complete his MA in Education. Because I was witness to his Education classes, teachers and assignments, sometimes sitting in on classes, I can safely say, your Education Department is/ was awful. There is too much nepotism and concern which leads to a closed shop mentality. Probably only one decent professor in the department who had integrity, was Flores. The rest had their jobs, it was all about them keeping their jobs, not about the students' welfare, or a meaningful education. SFSU cranks out sub-par teachers who are incredibly ill-equipped to succeed in the real world. Pedagogy is not the teaching of pedagogy for pedagogy's sake. But there you have it. Mirrors reflecting mirrors ad infinitum.

I have worked in California schools as an artist in residence since 1979, so I have worked with an astonishingly wide range of teachers.  The ones from SFSU are always the sub-par ones; they are C students.

You do need to hire more stellar and inspiring teachers within the Education Department, not teachers whose sole interest seems to hanging onto their jobs until retirement. I have never seen such nepotism and cronyism in my life. Perhaps by now it's improved as that was more than ten years ago and some of those teachers have moved on (one would hope). But I kind of doubt it. It's a self-perpetuating cycle.

Advice to future SFSU candidates, given that both my experiences at SFSU were not stellar, I would choose my words carefully, and remain non-committal, rather than say what I really felt, as I do know SFSU has been a great experience for many students.

Other comments: I think I've thoroughly covered the winter of my discontent pretty thoroughly in the above comments. Sadly, I'm still angry at SFSU, and its bureaucratic and often draconic policies after all these years. It was not a good experience.

Sunday, October 29, 2017


    —with thanks to Sean Folsom for posting the painting
A woman playing a viola, Gerrit Van Honthorst

A young gambist gamboling about 
with her viola da gamba, not a viola á' amare,
caught firmly between her plush thighs. 
Titillating how that fine-drawn bowstring 
is playing more than one drawn out note
as she frets the long neck of her instrument
in the key of C.  She rubs her bow 
across the basso string, and plays underhand 
in the German style.

In a primeval dance between flame and air 

the only candle in the tavern wavers, divine light
threatens to gutter, but flares up before the finale.
The gamblers lean in as she reaches the crescendo.
Who cares what she's playing? She plays them well
with taut bow strings thrumming a primal tune
drawn on chiaroscuro and lace-nippled light.
She's about to have an epic wardrobe fail.

She's wearing the same dress in The Matchmaker.
Clearly she's hot. Perhaps she's having hot flashes.
By contrast, the Man with a Viola da Gamba
is sensibly dressed in a teal silk tunic and lined cape.
They're playing the same scroll-headed instrument.
In Musical Group on a Balcony, her chemise slips
off her shoulders in hopes that the wind will pick up,
under her skirt, a glimpse of a gartered red stocking.
Isn't that her nippled visage in Granida and Daifilo?
Is the painter's wife cavorting with shepherds too?

Dutch painter Gerrit van Honthorst was nicknamed
Gherardo delle notti, as he was in love with the night.
Gherardo Hollandese was a master of nocturnal light.
It all must be true as Rubens painted our Gerrit
as the one honest man Diogenes sought by lamplight.

I am reminded that gamba is Italian for leg, or thigh. 
As in: She had a pair of great gams. 
Also the word for ham comes from gamba. 
We can't see her gams, as she hams it up,
but she has some mighty fine yams.
Caravaggio would have been proud 

of this most opulent display of her finest fruits
escaping the fragile loom of her corselet.
And there you have the entire gambit.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Last time I saw Steve Tristano, and Scott Huntsman

Last time I saw Steve Tristano was at the old Forest Knolls train depot (now a bus stop) in the 1970s, it was their hang-out. Scott Huntsman, Johnny Kaufman, Mike Frank and Steve were the four muscateers. Thicker than thieves. I learned that Mike had died a while back, but I didn't know about the heart attack. At the age of 42, that seems harsh. What does one know about life at 42? I know Scott Weaver died about the same time. I assume it was drugs. It was his flat horizon line. Neal, and David Weaver, long gone. An with their passing, something of our youth died too. Only Kent survived. I was surprised that Johnny Kaufman made it into the 1980s and beyond...another classmate I thought was long gone—drugs required their mordida.

What I remember about Scott Huntsman, was that despite his silver tooth, he smiled a lot. (How did he lose his tooth?) He was steadfast and kind (though there were a lot of bullies at Lagunitas School in the 1950s). He was very self-conscious, sometimes awkward within his body, he never knew how we envied his thick mane of long black hair. Probably the only thing that saved him was the hippie movement, he could move into becoming who he was, without reserve, without judgement. He became one of the cool ones. Generous with his time. I lost track of him after high school. (As I did with most of my classmates).

When the Gundlach-Bundschu winery burned down during the fires, Phil Bundschu's name came up. I remember a poetry reading we did there sitting on hay bales, on a bluff, overlooking the vineyards, reading to the westering sun, in late fall, and incongruously, Phil, crippled by polio, was there, all golden, on his winged motorcycle. A blast from the past.

Last time I saw Johnny Kaufman, he was sitting on the ground in front of the old bus stop in—I guess he was still strung out. Like Jimmy Bohman. Morphos never let go her grip. But Steve Tristano, I was just writing a music review of his father, Lennie Tristano's album on the indie music site, AmieStreet. Steve's half-bro, Guy, saw it and we corresponded for a while. He sent me a photo of Steve. He said Steve got clean, moved to Oregon, still played a little guitar. I was so glad to hear of it. I always liked Steve, the boogie woogie man of my childhood. But then, I heard he died in 2015. I never got a chance to say hello in there. How's it goin'? Didn't see much of them at Drake High School. but then, we were all playing hooky one way or another. And now, I heard Scott Huntsman has joined the heavenly bus stop choir. All aboard!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Viva Che! O'Hara & Fitzpatrick!

The iconic Viva Che! image by my Facebook friend, Dublin artist Jim Fitzpatrick, is now commemorated as an Irish postal stamp, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the death of the revolutionary leader, Che Guevarra. Jim never received a dime for his print
, one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. And now it's a €1 stamp! Can't lick that.

Jim Fitzpatrick is best known for his detailed illustrations inspired by the Irish Celtic tradition. Jim produced most of the album artwork for Irish rock group, Thin Lizzy, and Sinéad O'Connor. His most recent work includes commemorative portraits of Ireland's 1916 revolutionary heroes. However, his singlemost famous piece is the 1968 iconic two-tone portrait of Che Guevara, based on a photo by Alberto Korda.
A note on the Che poster, from Jim Fitzpatrick's website:
In 1967 I was outraged by the manner of Che Guevara's execution while a prisoner of war in Bolivia and it led me to create this now world-famous image.
I have now also made this image available for free download so that it can be used by everyone -including those who cannot afford my prints or canvas of El Che: the unemployed, the oppressed, the victims of banker-imposed austerity here in Ireland, the EU and elsewhere, those who fight against the legal/political elite and the corrupt banker cartels who think they rule us -and those who rage against injustice.
This image is yours. Use it!  No resale or commercial usage please -it has been exploited enough. Please remember I do NOT ever license this image for commercial usage. Misuse this image or resell any reproductions thereof and you will be liable for a fine of $10,000 per item sold or for any violation of my copyright of this image.
Time to RECLAIM CHE! Free usage for leftist causes under Creative Commons Licence. No fee for leftist/socialist political usage.—JIM FITZPATRICK. ARTIST. IRELAND.
Jim Fitzpatrick holding up the controversial Che postage stamps.

BTW,  the postage stamp is taking some heat:
That the Viva Che! postal stamp is very much a celebration of one of the most important pieces of twentieth century Irish art, Jim Fitzpatrick’s Viva Che!, seems to have passed many commentators by.
In an Irish context, Guevara is very much associated with Fitzpatrick’s iconic artwork and the words of his father, who proclaimed following his son's death that “the first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels.” They were powerful words, even finding their way to the painted gable wall of a Derry house in time."  from  A Dubliner encounters Che Guevara in Havana, 1959.
The postal service described Guevara, killed by CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers in Bolivia in 1967, as “the quintessential left-wing revolutionary.”
It said demand for the stamp has rivaled that of its two previously most popular releases, commemorating the sinking of the Titanic and Ireland’s 1916 Rising against British rule.
But it was quickly reminded that Guevara remains for many symbol of the violent abuses of Cuba’s communist government, with one Irish senator describing Guevara as “a barbaric interrogator, jailer and executioner of hundreds of supposed ‘class enemies’.”
Cuban-American radio host Ninoska Perez Castellon joined the fray urging listeners to write to the postal service to ask for the stamp to be scrapped. Irish postage stamp homage to Che Guevara stokes criticism
Controversial or not, said Fitzpatrick, "The stamp sold out in less than a week. I'm so proud to have had this happen at all but the response has blown me away! Amazing! They say An Post are going to reprint them as the demand was 'unprecedented'." It's also selling like hotcakes on eBay.


When I wore a Ché shirt, my grandmother pointed out to me that Guevara's paternal grandmother,  Anna Isabel Lynch from Galway, was related to the Lynches of San Francisco. How did she even know that? But then, her Irish diaspora knowledge was vast. Especially the Irish revolutionaries. Her husband was an Irish revolutionary too.

Ernesto (Che) was named after his father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, who famously said when Che was executed,  "… my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels."

From the knee I learned a radically different version of history than what was taught in our Anglocentric school I learned that the founder of the Chilean Navy was Bernardo O'Higgins. One of Ireland's famous Wild Geese, Daniel Florence O'Leary became Simón Bolívar's right hand man. Some 2,500 Irish volunteers joined Bolivar. Then there are the San Patricios of Mexico. And, I learned of the Argentinian rebel, Che's Irish roots, of course.

My grannie told me this in the late 60s, early 70s. Long before the internet. Of course, I didn't believe her at the time. She said it so matter of fact, it was old information. She must've known the Lynches. In 1919  San Francisco was a small town, and all the Irish knew each other.

My grandmother was also a big fan of both the Maureens, Maureen O'Sullivan and Maureen O'Hara. My mother was named after Maureen O'Sullivan, not O'Hara, but then, my grandmother's mother was a Sullivan. The name Maureen was a new addition to the family tradition that recycles a handful of names every generation—which creates massive family tree chaos.

Everyone thinks I'm named after Maureen O'Hara (who was really a Fitzsimmons). I don't mind. I always wanted to look like her. But my red hair of childhood turned dark as I aged,  and my brown eyes only have green flecks. Bits of Ireland trapped in them, my grannie said.


Maureen O'Hara met Che Guevara while on location in Cuba. In Our Man in Havana, O'Hara was sent to Havana to investigate British secret agent (Alec Guinness). A bit more on Che in O'Hara's own words:
'When we arrived in Havana on April 15, 1959, Cuba was a country experiencing revolutionary change. Only four months before, Fidel Castro and his supporters had toppled Fulgencio Batista… Che Guevara was often at the Capri Hotel. Che would talk about Ireland and all the guerrilla warfare that had taken place there. He knew every battle in Ireland and all of its history. And I finally asked, “Che, you know so much about Ireland and talk constantly about it. How do you know so much?” He said, “Well, my grandmother’s name was Lynch and I learned everything I know about Ireland at her knee.” He was Che Guevara Lynch! That famous cap he wore was an Irish rebel’s cap. I spent a great deal of time with Che Guevara while I was in Havana. Today he is a symbol for freedom fighters wherever they are in the world and I think he is a good one.' from  A Dubliner encounters Che Guevara in Havana, 1959.
Ché/Shay Guevara as in Seamus O' Meara? Alliterative food for thought. 


I found out after I wrote this piece that Maureen O'Hara died on this day, 2015. And another favorite firebrand, Tom Hayden, on Oct 23, 2016. May the roads rise up....

So long, Tom Hayden

Monday, October 23, 2017


Round barn, red as the setting sun,
doubly vibrant against the fresh green
of spring grass where countless horses
once grazed, tearing away the past 
with each mouthful, their hunger 
is now the fodder of sorrow
for what the eye is missing.

If I tilt my head just so, I can still hear 
the ghost horses whinnying from the stalls 
of that venerable redwood barn 
now returned to silica and ash.


Will Chubb's photo of the iconic Red Barn

Perhaps the one thing I will mourn the loss of most is the Fountaingrove Red Barn. A photographer is offering prints of it free.

Will Chubb Photography wrote: "Many of you are requesting a print of our beloved Red Barn. Just email me at, or @WillChubbPhotography, and I will send in the order to Costco, free of charge, just let me know what size you want. It will be printed on photo paper. All you have to do is go to Costco and pick it up. If you want a metal or canvas print, I'll let you pay for it."

Sunday, October 22, 2017



Some blamed the hot Santanas
while others cursed the Diablo winds.
howling at 75 miles per hour.
Whatever you call it, a maelstrom
devoured Santa Rosa de Lima's namesake.
The city blanketed in a layer of ash
so a friend left red roses on all the cop cars.
What else was there to do in a time of fire?
We became the light in a darkened land.

Forthcoming in Molly Fisk’s Fire and Water poetry anthology 2020

Friday, October 20, 2017

Facebook Rant

For all you naysayers who can't fathom the enormity of the Tubbs fire, and are making senseless remarks about people not saving their animals, you are pissing those off who actually witnessed the devastation.

In case you're impoverished in imagination, here is a description of the fire. Imagine embers the size of golf balls falling from the sky, dropped from the next county over (12 miles away). Imagine a tornado of fire touching down, lifting cars up, and tossing them around like toys. Imagine walls of orange fire that sucked all the oxygen out of the air. Imagine everything reduced to ashes in minutes.

This firestorm was so powerful it generated 157 MPH winds, flames several stories tall, traveling faster than people could run, than cars could drive. It was estimated by one of the fire scientists that the fire was traveling at 258 feet per second. Animals were incinerated in their tracks, in mid-run. 

All this happened in the middle of the night, with no warning, no official evacuation notice, and most people, who were fast asleep, had five minutes to evacuate. The Tubbs Fire is ranked as the singlemost destructive wildfire in California history.

You have no idea what it was like. No one had advance warning, no evacuation notices were issued. At midnight, the fire was still in the next county over. Twelve miles away. People had no leisurely warning of smoke. Nada. This is nothing like what anyone has ever experienced before.

Note that the terrain is extremely mountainous, there are few roads (except through the canyons—where several deaths occurred because people couldn't outrun the fire). The fire began in Napa, the next county over. It climbed several ridges and came down the other side of the mountain range into Santa Rosa, while roaring through Porter Creek. Meanwhile a vanguard of sparks and embers driven by fierce winds lit the way. The Tubbs fire moved at astonishing speed, growing exponentially larger by the minute.

I wasn't there either, but I was following the Napa Atlas fire via Mike Thompson on Facebook. At 1AM, the Tubbs/Calistoga fire hit Santa Rosa, I warned Mike Thompson that no one was reporting alerts for Sonoma Co. All hell was breaking loose, when I started posting what info I could find on his wall. Mike jumped into the fray and we posted fire and sheriff notices until dawn.

Evacuations began at 1:30AM. By 2AM the fire winds were hurricane force. By 4:30AM, entire neighborhoods disappeared. Fire tornadoes whipping faster than 100mph, super-heated roaring winds combusting everything in their path, including hurling cars over.

The fire traveled so fast, it leapt the freeway, and my cousin and aunt escaped with only the clothes on their backs, another friend wasn't so lucky. He never even made it out of bed. Cadaver dogs found his bones where his bed would've stood. You naysayers weren't there. You haven't a clue.

There should be a special kind of hell for people like you, carping on others' misfortunes. YOU WEREN"T THERE. 

Think before you post. We are all grieving and we don't need your wanky BS hypotheses, what you'd do. You weren't there. You don't know what you'd do.

Hindsight is 20/20. So bend over and kiss your own heinies goodbye before you unthinkingly post your blanket condemnations. You weren't there. You weren't there. You weren't there. You don't know what you're talking about.