Monday, December 31, 2018

End of year stats

I have fewer posts for 2018, than for previous years. But despite several major life-altering derailments, I managed to eke out some 60 poem entries (my goal is 52 posts a year)—a post a week) some poems are repetitions, or rather, revisions from April Poetry Month posts. I did very little by way of pulp fiction reading for my Amazon Reviews writing. The thrill is gone. No time or inclination to read, sadly.

My old boyfriend John Oliver Simon died in January, that left a deeper hole than expected. I also had to jump into the fray and manage his two California Arts Council grants, and there was little money to pay for my time as the majority of the funds were tied up in residencies. So I was poor as a churchmouse most of the year, with the CAC money tied up in knots. Then, the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, ended it—after 20 years. Just like that. I’m still reeling from that one.

So, I’ve been living rough on people’s couches. No fixed abode. Which also means no fixed job. No income. I’ve been living thin. I had to give away most of my possessions. I still need to rehome my books and art supplies. So, keeping up appearances has not been on the list. I wouldn’t wish that kind of year upon anyone. So, 2019 will be my year of massive change.

On the blog timeline front, I’ve managed to add a few old bits from those lean years. But it’s been slim pickings. I picked up a few posts in 1980, 1982; 1997, 1998, 1999; 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006. But I still  haven’t reached the magical formula of 52 posts a year on those lean years. I've come to the conclusion that I may never reach my goal.

However, I did manage to pick up a few odd post entries—mainly posters of readings—for those early years when I created the Russian River Writers’ Guild blog (a big scanning project—still not finished, but the bulk of it is done.) Most of the RRWG memorabilia was buried within this blog, so I’m pleased that the extended RRWG memorabilia is now a different entity. I also began scanning work for Herman Berlandt’s memorial blog as well, but it’s under construction (not posted).

If I ever am able to gather up my old  pottery and ceramics pieces from the 1970s, and take photos of them, that’s on the back burner to add to this blog. But it’s extremely difficult for me to return to Oakland to get the rest of my stuff—let alone, my mail. Besides, I have nowhere to put the rest of my stuff. My books, art supplies and plants, especially.

I don’t have it in me this year to do a deeper Bill Jamesian-detailed statistics spreadsheet on my writing progress. Perhaps another time when I’m better dressed, emotionally speaking.

see 2017 stats

For some reason, an unknown twat named Susan sent me a comment, not once, not twice, but thrice stating it’s my karma. Of course, I marked them as spam. She has no other posts, no other comments, not even a blog. Why would people even do such a hateful thing?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

On learning language equialencies

Equivalencies. My mind is a bit like like Swiss cheese, full of holes when it comes to languages. I took the equivalent of two years modern Irish at UC Berkeley one summer, nearly 20 years ago, but I bottomed out in July, as my learning button broke. My head no longer worked, and the thing is, I’m usually pretty good at picking up languages. Possibly the toughest course I ever took was modern Irish. Bar none.

Our Irish teachers, Joe Nugent and Breen Conchubhair were pushing us so hard that many of us lost the thread. I gave up somewhere around the cupula. The class was supposed to be the equivalent of one year of Irish crammed into an intensive summer course. They opted to give us the equivalent of second year Irish, too—and my head broke. I couldn’t absorb any more. I’ve never had that experience before.

I later took a year of Archaic/Old Irish in order to translate the medieval Irish epics (it was all bookwork), alas, I still can't read Irish—other than to recognize words and occasional phrases here and there. People from Ireland assure me that I still know more Irish than they do....

Sometimes foreign words arise unbidden, I’ve no idea where they come from. Or even what language. It’s all a mystery how we acquire language. I mean, it’s all nice and textbook and ordered in a classroom—but that’s not how we acquire language. You have to create memories. It’s messy. You know, like go down to the pub and raise a jar or two. Get stinking blind drunk. That’s when my Russian comes back. Chut-chut.

However, I can swear profusely (and rather inventively) in several living languages, and a few dead languages. When I combined the words sabaca/dog and pizdah/cunt in a spontaneous invective, let's just say I brought the Russian house down. I lived one summer in Switzerland, I didn’t pick up much Switzerdeutsch, but let me tell you, I could swear like a troll of the highest arcana with a mere handful of words.

I also studied a semester of medieval Welsh, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I was completely ADD as it was during the 9/11 crisis. We were all out to lunch—as it were. I remember that we held class outside on the DOE library steps at UC Berkeley because the building was shut down... So surreal.

Medieval Welsh is much easier to learn than Irish, no doubt. But there's not that much crossover with learning Irish. Brythonic vs. Goidelic. And of course all the extra "vowel" types and double consonants are maddening. But I can do a pretty good hll sound, as in Llewelyn.

Even Russian is easier to learn than Irish. I remember looking longingly into the other classrooms, that summer at UC Berkeley, where other students were learning easy languages like Spanish, Latin, and Russian, and it seemed like the students were all wearing PJs and comfortable slippers by comparison. I could understand what they were saying with little effort, just by standing in the doorways like a demented peeping Tom.

Learning Irish is hard, very hard. At least they don't conjugate prepositions in Russian. I mean—prepositions fergawdsakes. I get conjugating verbs and nouns.What kind of language needs that kind of precision that directional words need to identify who is speaking? And what direction is involved? Just never attempt to explain going up or down stairs in Irish. Just don’t.

I lived in the USSR for a while during 1989 to 1991, so I had to pick up Russian fast. Talk about total immersion. If I wanted anything I had to learn how to ask for it. Food. Beer. Necessities. Black market. Also, when I was traveling illegally to Leningrad, I had to watch my Ps and Qs. Everyone thought I was from Kazakhstan or somewhere exotic. I was labeled “ethnic. And I’m ethnically Irish, that’s as close as it gets.

Though I heard Ukrainian spoken often enough, I was living in Cherkassy, near Kiev for a while, I never picked it up. Like with Dutch, Ukrainian just didn’t stick. Ukrainian is sort of like Welsh with all those extra vowel-y things running amok and creating havoc with your eyes.

I lived in Amsterdam on and off during the early 1990s , and because everybody in the Netherlands either bi-, or tri-lingual, not counting several dialects. However, they all spoke to me in English. Whether language, or dialect, the Dutch seamlessly code-switch between linguas francas. It’s kind of fascinating, really watching the Dutch effortlessly slide through the indo-European continuum.

I regret to report that I was lazy, that I merely learned the usual sound bytes, but not the language. Hooey Dag, bedankt, dank u wel, and alstublieft. And place names. I can even say Scheveningen perfectly. I’d never be mistaken for a German spy.

Weirdly, I can mostly make out the meaning in Dutch, if it’s in print. Ditto that with Latin. Church Latin, that is. I never studied Latin. Just 15 years of church Latin. Ecum spiri tutu o. I barely studied Spanish either but at least I’m fluent in Spanish—unless I panic. Then it’s curtains.

You should've seen me in Portugal right after 9/11. I was waving my arms like helicopter blades trying to achieve liftoff as I spoke a a bastard Portuguese-Spanglish to the taxi drivers. Everyone thought I was Italian. The only Italian I picked up was when I was a child living among immigrant families. Random words. Food.

But in Portugal, it really was a matter of survival. We didn’t want anyone to know we were American for fear of reprocussion. So my cousin and aunt were schtum/mum while I was gibbering on like a polyglotted gibbon while waving my arms as if to take flight—to the taxi drivers who didn't know what to make of us. I was negotiating the equivalencies between languages to create a pidgin dialect of survival.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Wild Apples

An otherwise lovely story on apples in The Guardian that appeared last May, claimed that apples came from Kazakhistan. My immediate knee-jerk reaction was that the statement was wrong on so many levels.
The geographic origin of the apple can be traced to modern-day Kazakhstan but the Romans are the ones that popularized it the most. Gardens: why we need to protect Kazakhstan’s wild apples
I agree we need to protect Kazakhstani apples. But the sentence should have read: "modern apples." And the more I delved into that sentence, the more wrong it seemed. My second thought was: What were the Romans doing in Kazakhstan, anyway? Did I miss that history lesson? And what about the native apples of Asia? Merely hearsay?

Despite popular belief, wild apples were already in the British Isles long before the Romans arrived (they just brought bigger apples). Circa 98 AD, Roman historian Gaius Tacitus reported that the Briton Druid Ovates carried silver apple boughs with bronze, silver, or gold bells. And in Ireland, Otherworld apples also feature prominently in Echtrae Chonnlai which was recorded in the 8th or 9th c., but it's a much older tale. And in The Song of Wandering Aengus, Yeats made famous the lines lifted from Irish folklore, The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.

But the wild apple was native to the British Isles long before the Romans or Christianity reached its shores. In fact, there is evidence that wild apples grew wild in Ireland and Britain during the Neolithic era.

The word apple is embedded in many insular place-names that predate Roman occupation. Anglesey, the Isle of Apples, Avalon. Anglesey (Ynys Môn) was sometimes called Afallach, or rich in apples. Geoffrey of Monmouth called the island Insule Ponorum, or the island of the apples. In Immram Brain, a síd woman gives Bran a silver branch in white bloom—a cróeb dind abaill a hEmain, or ‘a branch from the apple-tree of Emain. Emain Macha was sometimes called Emain Ablach. –The Apple in Early Irish Narrative.

When I was in the Ukraine, I was struck by how similar the word apple яблоко yablacko in Russian is to the Irish (genitive) Ablach, clearly a shared Indo-European ancestry.
From Old Irish uball, ubull (Scottish Gaelic ubhal), from Proto-Celtic *abalom (compare Welsh afal), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ébōl (compare English apple, Lithuanian obuolỹs, Russian я́блоко (jábloko), Serbo-Croatian jȁbuka). —Wictionary
And the Celtic apple of the day would've been a quasi-domestic relative of the wild European crabapple Malus sylvestris, aka the small forest apple, not the ancestor of the modern apple, Malus sieversii (native to the mountains of Turkey and Kazakhstan).

The symbol of the apple wasn't necessarily a tradition borrowed from the Middle East. Greek references to apples predate the Roman cultivation, and the role of the apple is central to Bronze Age Celtic lore. Even Homer's Odyssey refers to apples. Then there's the apple tussle of Aphrodite, Athena and Hera to consider. You know, like, Who's the most beautiful goddess of all, and the sour apples of discord? Fairytale heroine Snow White chokes on an apple and falls asleep for a very long time.

The Greek word "μήλον" for apple or any kind of globular, or round fruit, and fat-bottom girls—is malon, or melon. Think generic. Sort of like asking for a Coke and getting orange soda. In Homeric times, "μήλον" also referred to sheep or goats. Pomaceous: anything-apple-shaped. Round. There must've been some seriously fat goats. Sappho likened a young bride to an ‘sweet apple’ (gluku’malon).

When does the word apple enter into the English translation of the Bible as THE depicted forbidden fruit? Bede? (late 7th c.) Aldred? (10th c.) John Wycliffe? (late 14th c.) King James? What was the Latin word: fructus, or malum? (The Irish monk-scribes would've been reading the Bible bits in Greek and Latin.)

There were certainly native European crab apples in the British Isles since the last Ice Age, but the problem is even thornier than that. Get this: apples, indigenous to cold northern climates, weren't even a Levant fruit. Too dry and too hot. (They're now carefully propagated in the Golan Heights.) The so-called "apple" of the Holy Land was most likely a quince. The apple would've been an unknown fruit in the Middle East during Biblical times. There goes the old Tree of Knowledge metaphor.

I also discovered that the word "apple" was used as a generic term for ALL globular (foreign) fruit and some vegetables (not berries or nuts), as late as the 17th century. Tomatoes were called love apples, cucumbers and potatoes, earth apples. Even oranges were referred to as apples. Because they were ROUND!

The two words for apple and evil in Latin are also a tongue-in-cheek pun: Eve ate a malum (apple—or something fat and round), and became mālum (evil). The Arabic for apple is tuffah, Hebrew is tappuach, from the Aramaic. But it was probably a borrowing, as the so-called apple of the Holy Land was most likely a quince. The apple would've been an unknown fruit in the Middle East during Biblical times.

Also, it's a western European concept to associate apples with the Tree of Knowledge. (When? Probably since the late Middle Ages. The apple is depicted in art during the Renaissance.) So, the much maligned apples were not necessarily considered to be the forbidden fruit during the 6th - 8th centuries. 

It's a muddled idea, at best. Or perhaps it's all muddled road apples.

The modern apple, Malus pumila, related to the wild forest apple, Malus silvestris, seems to have had a wide geographic distribution from the British Isles to China to Central Asia, and then some, and there are no less than four other malus species in North America. It's probably a circumpolar Ice Age relic plant species like vaccinium.

So, if apples came from Kazakhstan, how in the bleeding blue blazes did they arrive in North America before Columbus, or, say, Lief Erickson? And don't tell me Johnny Appleseed, hero of cider makers everywhere, planted them all. He did sow the Northwest Territories with apple trees. Since he used apple seeds, gawd only knows what wild varieties sprouted since apples don't seed true to form.

In fact, crab apples are also native to the entire Northern Hemisphere. (I had previously learned that apples were brought to the New World by colonists, and scholars still erroneously note European apples originally came by way of Kazakhstan, or China, along with the peach, which really messes with the myriad apple references embedded within Medieval Celtic mythology.) 
I am fascinated by the evolution of the apple. With the streamlining of marketable apples, we're down to a handful of tasteless eating apples with names like Fuji, Pink Lady, and Gala. Our Italian neighbor, Mary Bianchi, in Forest Knolls, had cooking apples (monstrous sour things), plus a variety of eating apples including striped winesaps, Gravensteins, and also bitter cider apples.
"Hard apple cider was hugely popular in early America, and cider vinegar was an essential home ingredient." According to Oregonian heirloom apple hunter, David Benscoter, “It is estimated that of the 17,000 named apple varieties originating in North America, only around 4,000 still exist today." —Apple detective finds five more apple varieties thought to be extinct...
According to most definitions, the main difference between a crab apple and an edible, domestic apple is the size of the fruit (and the sourness). But it's more complicated than that. Farmers and cider-makers traditionally waited for the bitter fruit laden with tannin to be kissed and sweetened by the first frost before harvest (similar to bletting).
The familiar edible apples did not grow in North America before the arrival of European settlers. Old World apple trees became established in the New World from the trees and seeds that Dutch and English emigrants brought from Europe. As legend has it, Johnny Appleseed profoundly influenced the spread of apples in North America by sowing them everywhere he traveled, but he was just one of many pioneers who planted apple seeds in the new territories. The original cultivated apple trees also became established naturally through seeds dispersed by birds and mammals. Old World Apples. [For more on Old World apple species, see also "Old-Time Apples," THE WORLD & I, October 1989, p. 388]
Before European apples were introduced to the New World, crab apples were native to North America. Although less familiar than commercial apples, these native American species still grow in the wild. 

In North America, there's Malus ioensis, or prairie crabapple (ioensis refers to Iowa). The most common variety, Malus ioensis var. ioensis, is native to the prairies of the upper Mississippi Valley. Another variety, Malus ioensis var. texana, or the Texas crabapple, is native to a tiny region of central Texas. There's even a Southern crabapple, Malus angustifolia. Then there's Malus fusca, native to western North America from Alaska, with a range from British Columbia, to northwestern California. Flowers are white or pale pink. 

According to a blogpost, Native American Apple, plant taxonomists may quibble over the number of apples native to North America, but most agree that there are four major species. The three eastern species are quite similar to each other. But the lone western species is a bird of a different feather. The western species shares similarities with wild apples native to China, while the three eastern species seem to have Middle East connections—thought to have split off early in the evolution of the genus Malus.
There are an estimated 25-47 different species of Malus worldwide. This number fluctuates greatly due to the ease in which species of Malus are able to hybridize with each other, making the process of differentiation between the species very difficult. Of this number, only four species are native to North America. These species are Malus fusca, Malus coronaria, Malus angustifolia and Malus ioensis. Crab Apple Trees Native to North America.
But worldwide, wild crab apples have become endangered, due to farmers preferring to grow commercial table apples to cider apples (cider crab apple varieties include Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, Yarlington Mill and Dabinett.)

In northern California, there was a wild crab apple tree in the gulch across the way from us where my grandmother used to gather the apples after the first frost. I loved eating them. I never considered it a native species. The diminutive apples were dense, with golden yellow pulp, sweet, but with a bitter astringent afterbite. It was probably a Pacific crab apple or Oregon crab apple. One fall, our new neighbor, in an attempt to tame the land, viciously hacked it down with a chainsaw, and we mourned its loss.

Now, decades later, after I learned that the old crab apple tree wasn't an escapee from some farmer's orchard by way of pooping birds, but a native species, I doubly mourn its loss.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

My first depersonalized NYE assault email from Andrei Codrescu, redux

My first depersonalized NYE Assault Email from Andrei Codrescu. It’s becoming a thing. Last assault was in 2010. Better every little once and a while, than never. At least we’re still above dirt line.

Happy New Year 2019!

Some of you may be dead. If so, I beg your forgiveness. Everyone else, thank you for your patience. I am now indulging in a 21st century depersonalized assault on everyone I know. I resurrected some old mailing lists and made them One.

My dear friends, and most of you are, not in the Facebook meaning of it, but in the sense that we once actually touched. I'm unaccountably giddy. They are legalizing pot twenty years after I quit smoking it. Thanks a lot! 

The other day I read poems in public at the Russian Samovar in midtown Manhattan, and there was the silence poets dream of. That night I had a dream that I was in a crowd waiting for an airplane to fly somewhere to vote. A mountain lion was walking around. I asked it: "Hey, what are you doing here?" The cat just shrugged and moved on. If you are in that crowd, the plane will come. Don't fear the lion. It was just walking around twirling a magnificent tail. 

Likewise, I invite you to stroll through the my website. Come and pre-order my new collection of poems NO TIME LIKE NOW here. Indeed. My undying affection goes to all, including my dear dead friends.`1`


PS: Don't pretend that you're dead if you're not. There are consequences. But, if you're not, here is a present for youLagnappe - listen to the the Valley of Christmas audio play here

Naturally I wrote back. Exquisite corpses and all that.

Dear Andrei,

Well, I ain’t dead yet but thanks for asking.
Your missive came just as I was putting the finishing touches, or rather it touchés on an old project on my bucket list: make a blog for the Russian River Writers’ Guild, which was a bit nameless when you were involved. But you do get considerable mention.
Any sundry flyers or memories you might add would be most welcome....still to do, get Gail King and Pat Nolan’s backstories.... I came aboard ca. 1978...
I take it you’ve left FhaceBook?

Merry Mishmash to you.
And may you win the rhyming contest with the Mari Lwyd.

Black Mountain after the fire (colored pencil drawing)

Feeling more than a little blue today, so I drew yet another view of Elephant, or Black kept me in the present tense. This view is from a hike I took with my cousin on Olema Ridge, to the old McIsaac Ranch, Point Reyes. We went to see the extent of the fire damage on Mt Barnabe, and this was behind my left shoulder—I actually gasped. It took me by surprise to see it so close, and from this angle. So sensual, so stark. From a photo I took in September—before the relationship shit began hitting the fan.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Folklore: Pinky Butler, when a load of hay passes you, make a wish, sympathetic magic

Folklore: When you pass a load of moving hay, make a wish.
Genre: superstition, sympathetic magic; plant husbandry: Appalachia, possibly British origins.
Bonus folklore: family history, a moniker, and a diamond ring
Informant: Donna Champion, female, 64
English/Spanish-speaking Guamanian-Chamorro, Guatemalan, Spanish, French/Norman Irish-American
ESL instructor, Sonoma County, CA
Dec. 9, 2018
Collected in Cotati, CA (in a car on Hwy 116)

I collected a new bit of folklore that arrived by way of Guam, of all places. It probably arrived by way of Texas, possibly originally from Kentucky, or even the British Isles, ca. 1910. The saying was a favorite of Donna Champion's grandfather, Chester Carl, aka "CC," or “Pinky” Butler, who passed it onto his Guamanian daughter, Clara Mae Butler.

Donna and I were driving down Highway 116, when an overladen hay truck was approaching us, coming the other way. She said, Quick! Make a wish. So I did. Then she told me the superstition that her mother, Pinky’s daughter, Clara Mae Butler Champion, who was born on Guam, taught her. Donna said, "Whenever we passed a hay truck, my mother would say: when you pass a load of moving hay, make a wish. It didn't have to be a truck." She also said, "You need to keep the wish to yourself."

I got a few bits of folklore for the price of one, from how the Coca-Cola franchise arrived on Guam, to how Pinky got his Guamanian moniker. Chester Carl, aka C.C. (b. In Sunset, TX, ca., 1884), was a redhead of Norman-Irish descent (by way of Illinois, and W. Virginia); his father, James Berry Butler, a newspaper editor from Illinois, took to drink after Chester’s mother, Melissa Belle Payne, a Baptist who hailed from Rockwell Texas, died in childbirth when he was eight years old).

Living with his three brothers at the relatives didn't pan out, and after Chester finished eighth grade, he ran away from his mother’s extended family. When he was 14, he went to seek his fortune out west. He arrived San Francisco, where he was employed to sell fruits vegetables in a pushcart on Nob Hill. His employer took him in and gave him room and board. When Chester was 18 (ca. 1902), he joined the Navy, and served aboard the USS Pensacola. That's how he wound up on Guam.

Chester "Pinky" Butler of the USS Pensacola, showing off his tats

A fair-freckled, blue-eyed redhead, Chester's fair complexion didn’t fare too well on Guam, he was always sunburned—hence the moniker "Pinky." With the help of his greengrocer savings, which he had converted into a diamond ring he kept hidden in his pillow, he used the ring as collateral, and with that, made a family fortune. Pinky was industrious, he brought a Coke franchise, and seltzer water machines to Guam, and sold American made goods to the Pacific islands. That enterprise became a thriving chain of businesses, Butler's Inc. 

That grubstake ring became an engagement ring for the 17-year-old Ignacia Bordallo, who was from the large Kotla Chamorro clan. They were married on the 8th of January, 1915, in Agat, Guam. They had six children. He was taken a prisoner of war Dec. 8, 1941, and held in Kobe, Japan for the duration of the war. His health was broken. He died on Valentine's Day, 1952, in Oakland, CA. Donna's eldest sister, Connie still has that diamond ring.

The first time my friend Donna remembered hearing the saying, When you pass a load of moving hay, make a wish, was in the early 1960s, was when she was a child. Donna learned it from her mother, Clara Mae (Pinky’s daughter), in Sebastopol, CA. 

What makes this bit of folklore interesting to me is that there were no hay trucks or haywains on Guam, and yet the saying survived three generations. Donna's brother Greg, born in 1952, didn't recall the hay saying, but he did add that his maternal great-great-grandfather, from Spain, raised cattle on Guam.

Apparently the second part of the hay-wish formula was that you couldn’t look back at the passing vehicle either, a condition which my friend said she never learned. I found another account online where you had to lick your thumbs, and snap your fingers/slap your thigh, too. (see my notes below.)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Elephant Mountain & fog, (colored pencil drawing)

Elephant Mountain in fog, colored pencil. Still learning the blending and layering process. Yes, I’m working in a series, I took lots of photos in September, and am using them as models as a backlog. so I’ll keep using them until I’ve figured it out. Electronically enhanced plein air painting—er, drawing. I prefer to paint, but I don’t have my art supplies. Quickie sketch below was done after the above drawing. I was explaining the concept of landscape layers and triangular shapes to a very young artist.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018



Ah, Julia, named after a city of vines,
your knitted cap, a badge of the troubadour,
artist, wordsmith, I never knew you well,
but the street corners of Telegraph rose up
to greet you like feral cats weaving
invisible shackles with their thin bodies,
saying the poet is come. The poet is come.
The Bubblelady is come with her magic wand,
welcome words feeding the pigeons at dawn.
The fog weeps and mourns in tendrils
for the passing of the daughter of the street,
the poet-chronicler of alleyways and corners.
Yes, the street mourns for you,
it will miss the caresses of your jade eye
as you turned the suffering of those
sleeping in doorways into a cloak
of humanity and hope. Perhaps
someone will place a bronze star
or a bench with a bigger-than-life sculpture
of you hawking your books to unsuspecting tourists
in front of Moe’s Books for you,
Poet Laureate of the streets.


Published in Our Lady of the Avenue, Tribute Poems to Julia Vinorad, Zeitgeist Press

Mounties in the hot tub?

I took a colossal spill down the front steps while carrying a big box of books. I did a cat flip and landed on my back, so my lower back is sore, and I needed a soak. I typed: May I use the hot tub for a few Mounties? My landlady’s daughter was perplexed. I said, Er, um, make that—A few minutes?  She replied: You might want to keep your Mounties! No neighsaying, but, hay, that’s the last straw—the hot tub seems pretty crowded. Lie on your back and think of.... Oh, Canada! Hold your horses, I hear whinnying & hooves at the door. Maple leaves falling from the sky. 

LOL, ya gotta love oughtocorrect. 

The Russian River Writers' Guild blog launched

I launched a new blog of very old work, The Russian River Writers’ Guild poetry and prose reading series, of which I was part of from 1979 to the mid-1990s. It's where I first began my career as a poet, my teething ring, then my training bra, and later, my world stage. I've pulled blog posts and snippets from this blog and reposted them (revised and expanded snippets) there, as they were lost here, they were too hard to find, too spread out. The storyline was impossible to follow. Now, there's a partial timeline of the poets who've read for the series from 1976 to the late 1990s.

The new blog, with its flyers, and Obligatory Hug, replete with poems, serves as a timeline of that era. I will eventually add photos as well, but just adding the flyers alone has been a monumental task. I am indebted to Donna Champion, keeper of the RRWG archives. There are a few holes, but the flyers paint a complete picture of the series and the poets who read for us. And you, Dear Reader, should you have any memorabilia, we would be ever so grateful.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

East of the Laguna, (colored pencil drawing)

Before/after Christo. But it’s really all about the sky. Learning as I go. Apparently you can blend wax pencils with a tortillon, a clear wax pencil, or paint thinner. I accidentally discovered that blendability here by layering colors. I’m using my old stabillo pencil to block out the hills and shadow. I love its waxiness—but it’s also water soluble. May make for instability later. Not happy with the foreground, it looks unfinished, so I may try using thinner and then layering it—if the paper will hold. This is why you’re supposed to use good paper....

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Spectrum 15 Mise en Scene, Kublai Khan does LA publication credit

Kublai Khan does LA publication credit

Oak, Laguna de Santa Rosa, (colored pencil drawing)


Same walk, same place. A combo of two photos! Seeking composition and color on an otherwise dreecht and dreary day. I didn’t investigate the other side of the tree, so I don’t know if it bent over, or if it lost its top long ago. Not sure if I like this one, and I tweaked my back making it, sitting too long in one place, so I’m not sure if I’m up for another....waiting for Advil to do its magic.

Alaska quake

Wow, 250 + quakes in 24 hours in Alaska, crazy morning—more than a dozen were 4.5 M or more... I felt a jolt around 9:30 am yesterday morning in West County, and I thought it was a passing truck, but there were no cars on the road. Then, yesterday afternoon I heard the news from a friend who has family in Palmer, Alaska. Miraculously, it seem there’s been only structural damage. But all the roads are completely destroyed. Like a toddler’s temper tantrum aimed at a jigsaw puzzle. 

But we also felt the big 1964 Alaska quake too. And the aftershocks were fierce in west Marin. I was perched on the couch back and my head was slammed against the wall behind it. And the sound was like a gunshot. My first quake left quite a lasting impression on the back of my head.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Laguna de Santa Rosa, (colored pencil drawing)

My first real outing using colored wax pencils. Learning as I go. Not having the right paper may prove a challenge. It’s all about that bend in the road leading you ever on. Following the shores of the old laguna bed—reduced to that line of trees in the distance. Soon, winter floods will restore some of the memory of that ancient lakebed. 

I need a dry place to store a closet’s worth of art supplies—mostly for teaching—plus a few boxes of books would be grand. I miss not having my art supplies nearby—even if I rarely use them.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Elephant Mountain, 4 views (tempera paintings)

Elephant Mountain & fog, (tempera on cardboard)

While waiting to present a poetry workshop, I chanced upon an arts workshop at the Jewish elder home and I painted the morning away. Five visions of Black Mountain. This is the only way I know how to heal after tragedy. Art has always been my first language. Tempera, or cheap gouache on cardboard. Yes, cardboard. I'd run out of painting surfaces, this was supposed to be my painting palette.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A note on Medieval spices

The early Medieval era, when the Irish epics were first recorded, wasn’t quite the gastronomic desert we imagine it today. Sorrel sauce, and sour verjuice was used to flavor meats, as were rose hips, sloe plums, bitter cherries, crabapples, pears, huckleberries, bilberries, bog berries (a type of cranberry), and juniper berries; coriander seeds were used, as well as caraway, fennel, and mustard seeds; lots of pot herbs were used, such as young tart pine needles, heather, woodruff, and many types of mint—also mushrooms, garlic and onions. Rose petals were a popular dessert flavoring too.

Caraway seeds and greens were used, both as a spice and a pot herb. Any Roman potherb or spice that was introduced and easily grown in Britain would also have been readily available. Main spices used during the British Middle Ages were introduced during the Crusades, but some were introduced to Britain by the Romans. Roman cooks traditionally used aromatic herbs (dill, coriander, cumin, chervil, laurel, carrot, parsnip, lovage, rue, anise, mint, mustard, oregano, savory, myrtle...). I would imagine rosemary was also used as well as geranium and carnation, or pinks. Spices included pepper, silphium or laser, saffron, turmeric, cardamom, ginger and nard. Cinnamon was considered a medicine. I imagine clove was also a medicine, as was sugar!

I once hosted a medieval Celtic feast for my final project at UC Berkeley, using traditional ingredients. Toasting the oats for shortbread produced a strong vanillan flavor, as would using fresh pine needles, etc. We discovered that leached ashes were also used as leavening agent, when eggs weren’t available. Kind of a primitive baking soda, or powder. (See pearl ash, or potash—there's a reason why it's called potash!)

The medieval Irish roasted their oatmeal, and then flattened the hard grains in a saddle quern (think rolled oats) before making their famous griddle cakes. Roasting the oatmeal imparted a strong vanillan flavor. Just because we think of vanilla as a modern flavor, it doesn’t mean the compound itself didn’t exist in other foodstuffs. Epic hero Cú Chullain roasted his oatmeal on an iron griddle for his oatcakes before going into battle. Medieval Britons primarily used rose water, etc., and later saffron, as a custard flavoring.

In Germany and Scandinavia, during the end of the Middle Ages, powdered deer antler was also used as a leavening agent (ammonium carbonate) for hard cookies such as Springerle, Liebkuchen, and Hartshorn. (Leavening could also be made by distilling hair or decomposed urine.) Apparently the ammonia odor as they were cooking was memorable. Cookies as strong medicine....

Contrary to popular belief, Essex was not the original place where saffron was cultivated. Greece, maybe. It comes from the Middle East, especially Iran. Saffron is a Persian word. Saffron was the costliest of all medieval spices, more costly than sugar. The English word "saffron" probably stems from the 12th-century Old French term safran, from the Latin—safranum, from the Arabic za'farān, from the Persian word zarparan meaning "flower with golden petals".

Saffron as a color is also mentioned in medieval Ireland as a dyestuff, but other plants were also used to achieve that color dye, including gorse and brassica. The color itself, regardless of its plant origin, was called saffron, which is a well-attested classical reference. It doesn’t refer to the edible crocus sativus, as the edible crocus is not native to Britain. And it sounds like crocus wasn’t introduced until ca. 1560, when the bulb first appeared in the Netherlands. It didn’t become a common garden plant in Northern Europe until ca. the 1620s.

Speaking of medicine, you can get a fair indication of spices used during the Middle Ages by looking at the medicinal cures from the Middle Ages...Rosa Goidelica. (now I can't find a reference to it....I know it exists as I once spent an afternoon reading it in the Rare Books basement of the Doe Library at UC Berkeley). One of my favorite recipes for a toothache, eat a cinnamon-infused chicken—but it must also be eaten at the crossroads. Apparently saffron rice was another medicinal favorite. Wherever  did they get the rice from? That sort of dates it, timewise, along with noodles—to the age of Marco Polo.

Any spice popular in Rome would’ve made its way into the cooking pots of Britain. The Greeks and Romans were aware of cardamon (a member of the ginger family) and used it as a perfume, and it was well known in Egypt and the Middle East. The Indian spice could’ve been reintroduced by way of the Vikings several centuries after the Romans pulled out of Britain.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Poems for Armistice Day

John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Sunday is Veteran's Day, called Armistice, or Remembrance Day in the U.K. This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, which was called "The War to End All Wars". It didn't take. Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian doctor serving on the Western Front, wrote In Flanders Fields after the Second Battle of Ypres, in 1915, for a close friend who died in battle. He wrote the poem, graveside, after conducting his friend's burial service. McCrae caught pneumonia in January, 1918, and died two weeks later. His poem, In Flanders Fields has become a leit-motif of the War, and is recited each year at Remembrance Day ceremonies around the world.

Siegfried Sassoon's poem, Suicide in the Trenches, was composed in response to his witnessing the atrocities of WWI, on the Western Front, and Sassoon, a much decorated soldier, became a focal point for dissent when he made a lone protest against the continuation of the war in his Soldier's Declaration of 1917. Instead of idealizing war, he was the first poet who spoke of the atrocities he had witnessed first hand at the Front, in vivid detail—which landed him in a military psychiatric hospital where he met fellow soldier and poet Wilfred Owen, who ironically was killed in 1918, one week before Armistice.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

Moving a hundred years forward to time present, a poem of UK poet laureate (2009-2019) Carol Ann Duffy, The Wound in Time, caught my attention. Even though few surviving  members of WWI are still with us, and ditto that for WWII, we are all still wounded by war. Her second poem as Poet Laureate, Last Post, was commissioned by the BBC to mark the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, the last two British soldiers to fight in World War I, is worth a look.
Last Post makes explicit references to Wilfred Owen's poem from the First World War Dulce et Decorum Est. It imagines what would happen if time ran backwards and those killed in the war came back to life; their lives would still be full of possibilities and filled with "love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food."  Wiki
Last Post opens with Wilfred Owens' first two lines:
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning....
Itself, which is a line borrowed from the Roman poet HoraceDulce et decorum est pro patria mori ("It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country"). Memory, remembrance, in memoriam, these notions have fed a self-fueled war machine since Classical times.

Duffy is a Scottish poet/playwright of Irish parentage, who was born in the Gorbals, Glasgow's version of Hell's Kitchen, wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
When she was 16, she met Adrian Henri, one of the Liverpool poets, and decided she wanted to be with him; she then lived with him until 1982. "He gave me confidence," she said, "he was great. It was all poetry, very heady, and he was never faithful. He thought poets had a duty to be unfaithful." Wiki
I guess Adrian was successful, as he seemed to put Carol Ann off men for good, but I can attest that he was a charismatic pied piper, having met him at Poetry International in Rotterdam in the mid 1990s. Adrian and I shared a common bond in that we both worked in the schools teaching kids poetry. I gave him an armful of student anthologies. Perhaps some of Adrian's work rubbed off. In 2011 Duffy spearheaded a poetry competition for school children, dubbed Anthologise.

Many assume that, Scottish-Australian poet-songwriter Eric Bogle's No Man's Land is a reference to the Battle of the Somme, which celebrated its centenary in 2016, but Eric, a great storyteller who immigrated to Australia, penned this song in response to sectarian violence in Ireland. I first met Eric in Sebastopol for the Celtic Festival, ca 2000. At the time, he said that he wrote it during the Vietnam War, but it wasn't even about WWI. Bogle gave the fictitious dead soldier an Irish name to counter the anti-Irish sentiment in Britain during the 1970s. In an Irish News interview, in 2106, Eric said:
"I’ve often said that there never was one actual soldier called Willie McBride that I wrote about. I didn’t sit by the grave of a Willie McBride to write the song, that would be bulls**t. But I wanted to remind people that a lot of Irish lads had died fighting for king and country during WWI as well because when I wrote it in 1975, the IRA bombing campaign on the UK mainland was in full swing and there was a lot of anti-Irish feeling about and I just thought, ‘Well, here’s a wee subtle dig at the haters. “It was so subtle that most people missed it, of course,” he laughs, “but I don’t like to harangue or shove a point down people’s throats in my songs."

Eric often follows No Man's Land up with And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, (1971) a reference to Gallipoli, and the futility of war. In 2015, Eric played a concert at the site of the slaughter at Gallipoli, something he had previously refused to do because “the thought of singing for all those ghosts has always intimidated me.”

Poem on the centenary of Armistice Day 2018
Carol Ann Duffy (1955-)

It is the wound in Time. The century’s tides,
chanting their bitter psalms, cannot heal it.
Not the war to end all wars; death’s birthing place;
the earth nursing its ticking metal eggs, hatching
new carnage. But how could you know, brave
as belief as you boarded the boats, singing?
The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air.
Poetry gargling its own blood. We sense it was love
you gave your world for; the town squares silent,
awaiting their cenotaphs. What happened next?
War. And after that? War. And now? War. War.
History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.

aka The Green Fields of France, or Young Willie McBride
Eric Bogle (1944-)

Well how do you do young Willie McBride?
do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside
and rest for a while 'neath the warm summer sun
I've been walkin' all day and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
when you joined the great fallen of 1916.
Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Willie McBride was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drum slowly,
did they play the fife lowly,
did they sound the death march
as they lowered you down
did the band play the last post and chorus,
did the pipes play the "Flowers of the Forest"

And the beautiful wife or the sweetheart for life
in some faithful heart are you forever enshrined
and although you died back in 1916
in that faithful heart are you forever nineteen?
Or are you a stranger without even a name
enshrined forever behind a glass pane
in an ould photograph torn tattered and stained,
fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Now the sun shines down on the green fields of France
a warm summer wind makes the red poppies dance
The trenches have vanished all under the plows,
there's no gas, no barbed wire, there's no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it's still No Man's Land,
the countless white crosses stand mute in the sand
for man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
to a whole generation that was butchered and damned.

Now Willie McBride I can't help wonder why
Do those who lie here do they know why they died
Did they really believe when they answered the call
did they really believe that this war would end wars
Forever this song of suffering and shame
the killing, the dying, was all done in vain
for young Willie McBride it's all happened again,
and again, and again, and again and again.