Licking the sun, or hot lava, or something

Now here’s a fine sounding event… which I’ll just repost even though I’m white and not in Brooklyn. Just to wave my pompoms a little bit in the general direction, and spread the word.

Tongues Afire: Creative Writing Workshop for Queer Women, Trans Women and
Gender Non Conforming Women of Color*
October 5, 2006 – December 14, 2006
Workshop Facilitator: R. Erica Doyle

What: Creative Writing Workshops

When: Thursdays, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Where: Audre Lorde Project, 85 South Oxford Street; Brooklyn, NY 11217**

How much: FREE
How to Apply: Send an email with your contact information to to register for the workshop.
Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Registration Deadline: Monday, October 2, 2006

Virtual Poetry Slam

This contest looks pretty cool. Citizens for Global Solutions is holding a virtual poetry slam video contest. Video yourself and upload it to their blog. They ask for a focus on the environment. I’m not sure what the other guidelines are.

Cash! First place – $500; second place – $250; third place – $100
Top entries will be posted on our website blog on a rolling basis as we receive them. So, hurry and send in your video. The contest deadline is October 15th.

It’s a good idea. I wonder how much poetry performance is on YouTube already? Let’s take a look, with a search on “poetry” with the highest ranked video at the top.

Out of My Mind and into Yours

Hey, I’ll be reading and talking on J.P. Dancing Bear‘s poetry radio show, Out of Our Minds, at 8pm this Wednesday on KKUP, 91.5 FM in Cupertino.

J.P. is a poet, translator, editor, and publisher and he’s hosted this radio show for quite a while! He does a lot for Bay Area poetry communities. I don’t know his poetry very well, but I ‘see’ him all the time on the WOMPO Women’s Poetry mailing list.

For the show, I’ll read some poems and probably a few translations. It sounds like fun! Now, which things to read? Some of my stuff is good out loud… the giant robot poem and “moon veil your mirror”. I notice people tend to like stuff with repetition that has a central idea. However, most everything I write isn’t like that, and I love to hear poetry that goes all over the map! My stuff in the last couple of years tends to be very long, complicated, and baroque, which I know doesn’t mean a nice listening experience… but I might throw something long in the mix. It’s what I like to hear (& write).

Wish me luck in getting over this cold and sore throat before Wednesday! If not, then I’ll pretend I’m always husky and sultry on the air.

Main Gallery, RWC

A couple of interesting events coming up in Redwood City:

– Unbound: new paintings and mixed media on the nature of history, memory, and the experience of reading, by Barbara Kirst & David M. Baltzer – July 5th – Aug. 6th –

I missed the reception but will make sure to catch the exhibit next week.

– The Poetic Image – All-Gallery Anniversary Show Aug 9 – Sept. 10, reception Aug. 13 4-7pm. My homies the Not Yet Dead Poets Society will be there! Poetry readings 4-6pm, Open Mike 6-7pm.

the instability of audience

This bit about Langston Hughes recuperating from illness and under bad financial pressure in Carmel made me laugh on many levels:

Perhaps the best poem is “Big Sur,” the most modest in size: “Great lonely hills,/ Great mountains, / Mighty touchstones of song.” He appears to have gauged his audience in Carmel — genteel, overwhelmingly white, synthetically rustic — and, like a threadbare professional wooing a monied clientele, elastically adjusted his standards. Perhaps the best that might be said about such work is that it reflects the peculiar pressures facing him as a democratic black poet seeking, paradoxically, the widest audience. In dividing his poems into groups and sending them in various directions, he showed himself aware of the instability of his audience. Rather than lapse into silence, Hughes had committed himself to adapting his voice so that its message might be heard everywhere.

– I like “mighty touchstones of song” but it also makes me snicker.

– “synthetically rustic” is so exactly right! That describes about 75% of the white upper class poets I know (including myself). I remember being about 19 and waking up to the fact that most of my daily experience did not involve “Nature” and that I had to wrench my mind out of looking around me with a poet’s eye that was narrowed to a tunnel vision which made most of the world fall off the map. I see other poets overcorrect this by writing about cigarette butts in the gutter on purpose for a good long while before they figure out how to mix it up and control their own gaze.

– power dynamics, money, Hughes’ intense idealism and social consciousness in tension with needing to make a living. The bio’s author has a point here. And yet, there he was, a poet, sick as can be, depressed from sulfa drugs, hanging out for months in Big Sur. Duh he’s going to write some mild and quiet nature poetry. It seems a little unfair to expect anything else out of him – maybe a few poems about gonorrhea and mortality.

– Dividing your “self” as a writer and having different writerly personalities in different circumstances or for different audiences. The bio is trying to get out of the binary trap of either defending Hughes or hissing, “Sellout!” I like the phrasing of this sentence and the idea that it’s not about markets, it’s about audience instability. If you write one kind of book, for a definite demographic and you know who you’re writing for, or to. If you write a lot of different things — not as stabs in the dark to see what catches on and makes you a living, but because that’s how you think and what you want to do — then your identity as a writer depends on reflections from so many different sources, an unstable mirror, a fluid mirror. Rampersand is correct in describing this as a problem that in many cases functions to silence authors like Hughes, “Rather than lapse into silence….” In other words, not hitting a stable, large audience is not failure, and yet think of the pressure on Hughes to focus or shut up.

I’m thinking of last year when, after the BlogHer conference, I split up my blogging into different areas. That has allowed me to push my thoughts further and reach different people. I thought of it as an attempt to impose structure and discipline and be aware of who I was writing to/for. That has only partially worked and I keep mixing things up. I got my computers in my poetry blog and my restaurant reviews in my mommyblog, and then the core “Me” blog which feels like the most unstable and uncertain, and which I don’t want to treat as a dumping ground for everything else. Possibly I took the wrong approach, and should instead have been doing better tagging and categorizing on my main blog?

People complain to me they can’t keep up with what I’m writing. I’m hugely flattered that anyone would care to try. The problem for me is that I can’t keep up with it myself. Instead of feeling organized, I sometimes feel over-fragmented. And yet I found that separating out into different blogs made me *write different stuff*, and I’m cool with that – it was interesting to explore. Did it make my writing better or worse? I don’t know! (And I don’t mean “sloppier or more or less conventionally literary – I think I mean “interesting as a blog”.)

Perhaps I should have kept everything together. But then it crosses my mind, “No, what I *should* do is separate the computers from the poetry so that poets don’t have to read about Bloggercon…” Then I dismiss that thought! No way! The whole point is to mix up some ideas and get other people a little bit jolted out of their boxes. That is where I really identify with Hughes, a very cool border-crosser and introducer. It’s beautiful how he had his feet in different worlds and didn’t make himself choose one place to speak from.

Accusations of selling out, inauthenticity, not working hard enough, imperfection, incomplete vision, Hughes faced all that and found it very hard. It’s not like I don’t have criticisms of his translations of Mistral or his positioning of her, but I would never ignore the wonderfully hard work and Hughes’ intent of introducing a great Latin American poet to English speakers. When his critics called him lazy and said he should have tried harder on the translations, or gotten help, or left out Mistral’s most important poems, and that he didn’t know enough about her work or Latin American poetry in general or translation in general and so should not have attempted the project, he responded by saying that his effort was meant to get other people interested – and that more and better and more comprehensive translations of Mistral were his goal! In other words, you have to start somewhere. “So fine a poet as she was deserves many translations.”

It’s inherently fucking evil to insist that before you are permitted to speak, you have to know everything and be an expert. It assumes that it’s possible to know everything about a subject, claiming objectivity for a privileged few, and it silences the majority of the human race.

two little poems, translated two ways

I’m recovering from minor surgery and don’t have a lot of blog juice in me, so here’s a couple of poem translations I did a while back. The poems are from, I think, around 1950, and are by David Rosenmann-Taub, from his book “Cortejo y Epinicio”. The translations are mine.

I love his early poems, and their air of inward-looking fractal secret codedness, the complexity and richness – and I agree with something I remember reading about his work – that each poem is like a game of chess.


(Viscisitud…) Seduciré la tinta.
Cangiilones, colmaos.


(Vissicitude…) I’ll vamp Ink itself.
Chamberpots, crap slopping over the top.

– or –

(Vissicitude…) I’ll vamp Ink itself.
Garbagepails, full to spilling.


– líneas –
y puños.
¿Qué más?
Los panoramas.

Hierarchy (two ways)

– lines –
and fists.
What else?


Neural nets
and grabbing.
What else?
Seeing everything.
This, too?

Flora & Fauna & poems, oh my

Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

I help to organize the Art21 series of poetry readings in Palo Alto, and am going to miss tonight’s reading. But I had to drop by in the afternoon to drop off the amp and microphone, and so got to meet Becca Goldman, the artist whose work is up in the gallery right now. I really enjoyed her graceful paintings… and it was nice to meet another sort of punky GenX-y person (she has a tattoo inside her ear) who is seriously into beauty in this complicated but gentle way. I sometimes write about punk rock lesbians smoking crack in the gutter while smashing guitars, and sometimes about lilies and egrets bending gracefully in the moonlight, so I’m down with the multiple facial piercings next to bunny rabbits and camellias.

I also love her for watching M. for a minute while I ran back to the car for the amplifier! She showed him a book about elephants who paint – he was charmed – and I tried to make him have an Educational Experience by pointing out that Becca was an Artist and look at all her paints and palette and stuff… “She is an Artist, just like your Auntie.” M. acted nonchalant. I think he does not like to be observed in the act of learning something – he likes to know everything already when you tell him, but that’s difficult when you’re only 6 years old.

Tonight’s reading features Sharon Olson and Murray Silverstein – both with books from Sixteen Rivers Press. I haven’t yet read Sharon’s book, “The Long Night of Flying,” but I’ve heard her read for years at Waverley Writers, at Jeff Grinnell’s Tuesday nights at the cafe on California Avenue, at the old San Jose Arts League, and at Art21. So I’m extra sorry not to get to hear her read a lot of her work all at once – it’s good!

translation, Lit and Lunch

This sounds great. I’ll be going! The Center for Art in Translation sponsors a lot of great events in SF, but I hardly ever get a chance to go to them.

We hope you’ll join us on April 11 and the second Tuesday of each month
12:30 to 1:30 pm (doors open at 12:00)
111 Minna Gallery
Minna Street at 2nd Street (two blocks south of Market)
Downtown San Francisco

Spring 2006 Schedule

April 11: Writers from Europe and Latin America
Pulitzer Prize-winner and translator Galway Kinnell
Galway Kinnell has won almost every honor that can be bestowed on an
American poet, from the Pulitzer Prize to the National Book Award. He is
renowned for spellbinding readings. Kinnell has translated some of the
greatest modern poets, including Lorca, Neruda, and Rilke.

Reading this Friday at Art21 – Esther Kamkar and Julia Simone Alter

I don’t remember Julia’s poetry, but I heartily recommend Esther Kamkar’s work to anyone in the Bay Area. She’s one of my favorite poets on the SF Peninsula, really amazing. It’s like watching someone carefully bleed themselves and make wine out of the blood, or something. She has this particular intensity and delicacy, especially in describing the darker sides of human relationships, and is never boring. I think she writes at times in Persian as well as in English.

From JC Watson, the MC for this month:

Hello to all my dears who are drenched by rain and darkness!

Friday night, March 10th, 06, brings some RELIEF!

will read their work at Art 21 Gallery, corner of Hamilton and Alma,
in Palo Alto at 7:30 p.m..

I promise Enthrallment for all.

MZ JC Watson will emcee and provide good food and drink.
(No Shrimp Chips here!)

So, get under that umbrella and light up your soul!

Parking is easily had in the garage, just a stone’s
throw north of the Gallery.

JC Watson’s own poetry is excellent, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before. She’s well worth hearing. The Art 21 open mike is friendly and welcoming; it’s usually around 10-12 people reading a couple of poems each. Quality varies, but sincerity and variety abounds!

Waverley report, January reading

I’m behind in my notes on readings that I go to. Here’s some notes from the January meeting of Waverley Writers, a large, friendly open mike that happens in a Quaker church. The MC, Jean Chacona, introduces people in groups of three.

Willy – “remember standing… wearing sheepskin vest, wanting nothing…” Streetcorner poem. “Before there was a before.” A bit of messing with rhyme and meter. I think for a moment of the Tom Lehrer song, “The Folk Song Army.”

Ron Lang – “Middle East Politics”

Ella Rae Locke – as always, her odd use of language stands out. She will always use a 50 cent word where you’d expect sparseness of a nickel one. It’s jarring, I’m not sure it works, it struck me at first as if she took every noun and adjective, looked them up in the thesaurus, and replaced them with the longest most multi-syllabic word; and yet it charms me as part of her attempt at baroque style. “mouth to mouth resuscitation, loaded beyond recognition, and accrue malignant momentum, evolutionary editing as involuntary as wet clothes, consenting mandatory neutralizing meaningless significants awareness nuisances lay their libellousness immunity testimony reality….” That is not a direct quote but as I listened I was jotting down the Big Words. I like the effect, in fact, the more it grates on me.


Muriel – “Short Stories”. “She is afraid of him. He was afraid of her. He likes his own friends more.”

Anita Holz – “Paper making”. Competently descriptive prose paragraphs. I wonder why it’s a poem. In fact, it’s not. Would be fine as a short magazine article or memoir about an experience.

Steven Riddle – “Notes of the bird.” “My lost ghost tracks me… The egret stalks; beauty eats beauty.”


Tom Digby – Quality vs. Quality. Dammit, I can’t read my notes and I’ve forgotten the poem. Does this say “wheelmaker”?

Dude whose name I forgot. This poem was so long and simple in concept that I began to write down bits of it. “I was a bad boy. They didn’t beat the others, only me. The cycle must end. Let it end with me. No abuse from me for my boys. So I left them. I was bad. I was not a bad man. I am a good man. I have done good things. I have done bad things. Fear into strength. Pain into enlightenment. ” Okay, it was heartfelt and sincere. But it made me think of the children’s book, “Pickles the Fire Cat”. “Pickles was not a good cat. Pickles was not a bad cat. He was good and bad. He was a mixed-up cat.” I recognize the value of such therapy poems. This one was very sweet and very clear. Just not my cup of tea.

Christine Holland – “so lightly out, brief candles… Fatima at 16… he murdered her to clean their name.” Christine has been reading more political poems lately. Much more raw and painful than what she was reading a year ago.

Brucey Slama – “Merlot merlot/ low to the ground/ coy as a boy/ joy for all/ tall not small.” and an ice cream poem. “Flavors with nuts/Best, I assert/ Don’t like sorbet or sherbert.” Okay. Let’s move on.

Peter Chow – Guy who wrote that one really good, long, 100-poem, with the line I liked about bones and snow. This poem is one he wrote when he mom (recently) died, and it’s a burial poem, an acrostic on “gratitude”. He read a second poem about her in the morgue. “a quilt with eight swans over us / Plato says the swan sings… /the Sanskrit for swan/ you have a good heart, mama…”

Greg Kimura – Oh, now here’s a poet. Huzzah! “The thousand and first kiss; or, how men love”. So excellent and such a relief, I did not take any notes. I’d like to hear him feature somewhere.


David Cummings – “The last of the leaves”. Hearing David’s poems is one of the main reasons to go to Waverley. always excellent.

John Hutton – “July 4 1998”. “You are celery and I am tomato/ and somehow we embrace/as your mother / cruises by on a Harley…” Excellent! Everyone liked it, too. Hutton’s nerdy quirkiness worked well, here.

Aline S. – “in the hospital, 45 breaths per minute from the respirator/ to keep your organs pink and healthy/ later I counted/ the people at your funeral…. your urn… we can measure that too, you get smaller all the time/day by day by measured day.” Good! Very quintessentially Waverleyish.
Rob Parry announce a meeting of Bay Area Book Arts.
(Announcement deleted at poet’s request)
Someone recommends we take a look at the paintings in Books, Inc. in Mountain View.


Steve Arntson – “Helicopter dust”. Another main reason to come to Waverley. One of the best poets in the Bay Area, but almost no one seems to know it.

Me – two poems, “queen of swords” which is just 2 lines, and “this is the first morning”, a hard poem for me to read. It’s like it’s in the voice of me 15 years ago. “where is the surface of my body? organ sonorous,/ when in the wave-cold blast i shrink from touch/ the present mixes with the past and I tune out…”

Bruce Jewett – “I never get screwed by car salesman/ I never play video poker/ But I bought a war, once.” So good! Another poem on paper-making; “paper a paper-maker just made…. long after I forget my own name…” I dig Bruce’s work and his aesthetic.


(Deleted at poet’s request)

Kit bliss Jones – “girlfriend” “Life is uncertainty, so eat dessert first.” Rhyming poem.

Len Anderson – Flamenco poem. “The deeper his grief/ the … consolation… / he too was… by the turning of the earth…” Damn. I can’t read my notes, but it was a very good poem. I always enjoy Len’s poems, usually explorations of a form, and he also has a keen pen for style. I love his marvellous parody of Howl – the silicon valley version, “Beep”.
“I am always grateful for the repetition of notes; /it tells me the music will go on / after I leave the room.” Aw yeah! Tell it, Len!

Judith Bishop – Ants. “I spray hot water over the crawling dishes… ” Ants on the dishes. Suburban goddess of destruction.
Then a long story. Solstice – Native american ceremony – spirals – recovery from alcoholism. This, also, very quintessentially Waverleyish. But must it be a poem? Why not foray into memoir or “spoken word”? There’s some necessary fermentation missing, a bit frustrating to hear because it’s so close, and Judith is a good writer.

Jayne Kos – Temple… stairs… I’m sorry to Jayne but at this point I spaced out and lost the thread of attention.

Jean Chacona – “Infiltration” – love – entrails – black box – a lock, but also leaks – knowing there is no cure. Another good poem from Jean. Also, I admired her black, grey, and pink argyle sweater…

Mary Petroski – what trick of light/makes today/ different from other days?

Nelly Capra – “Job Interview in Alameda”. Scene. wait and pray. breezes. butterfly. birds. truck. workers. sun. write and wait. Oct. 31. No clouds. Here is a diary entry or blog post…

Esther Kamkar – I’m a huge fan of her work. Esther, main reason #3 to come to Waverley and if you come and she’s not there it’s a disappointment. “Simple Words”. 1. Bones A baker bakes bread/ A shoemaker makes shoes….”

Robert Parry – “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

Carol Hankemeyer – “Red” “Red is…..” etc.

JC Watson – Excellent as always. Reason #4 to come to Waverley. I always scribble like mad when she reads. “Art is made in Death’s kitchen… the war is made up. The leaves fell again this year. ..” “Where is the tunnel? You may choose / darkness, / It’s a good friend. Doesn’t make promises, doesn’t lick at your heart…”

At some point I began thinking hard about modernismo. The private aesthetic appreciation, and retreat into self and perception. Trying to make the moment glorious. Encapsulating a moment and its depth. How many connections can it handle?

me the moment has to have infinit
e connections and is a nexus of possibility. You can’t wrap it up too neatly.