Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Fire/Several Ed Coletti Fire Poems/The Kindness of Poets/

 

(See "The Kindness of Poets" below)

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Serious Reflection
 
They don’t know what to say to me
to their fear of what I represent to them
since that which terrorizes them is
what I’d never contemplated before
it all happened to me.
 
Now having a future-become-
-their-own possible reality
they see through me
as they would a mirror
reflecting the little that
fire will leave to them.

 

 

 

We Lose Our Home and All Of Our Possessions



October 9, 2017. At 2:30 AM, following hours of screaming wind, a very agitated dog's concern, and power failure, we are awakened by pounding on our door by a first responder.  I personally am zonked on my sleeping meds.  I have no idea what's going on.  But I notice the flashing lights presumably from police cars and fire trucks and hear the incessant demand that we leave immediately, that the fire is aiming directly at us.  Fire?  I'd heard nothing about fire!


Somehow Joyce and I made it to the garage, rounded up Sam, the terrier, a very real part of our family, opened the garage door manually, didn't even think about Joyce's car, and then drove through smoke, embers and chaotic traffic to the Red Cross shelter at the Finley Center on the West Side of Santa Rosa.  We met neighbors and made new friends.  Most folks were calm and optimistic.  Ambulances began bringing in evacuees from several hospitals and care homes.


Whether denial or what, I was convinced that we soon would be going home.  Then people began receiving reports of fire obliterating homes on neighboring streets.  A neighbor's daughter told us that she thought her home might be gone, that her husband had received a call from their alarm company with a report that they had heard glass breaking. 

Knowing that we had one old Princess Phone that was not plugged into the electrical system, I called our land line hoping that I'd hear our out going message.  Instead, I heard that "This is a nonworking number." This was not a good sign.  Then, it was not until 9:30 in the morning that we were stunned by a neighbor's call telling us that the entire neighborhood had been consumed.  Within days thereafter, we knew that over 5,000 homes were gone! We became vagabonds staying a few days here, a few weeks there with friends and family in Marin, Oakland, and Santa Rosa.


Then came the medical issues.  I experienced headaches for a month before realizing that I'd suffered one or more brain bleeds and two subdural hematomas.  I was rushed by ambulance in the middle of the night to Kaiser's Neuro Unit where I underwent successful surgery to drain blood from between my skull and brain.  As if that weren't enough, I experienced a grand mal seizure and stopped driving.  I was cleared to drive 3 months later by my neurologist, but the DMV screwed up, and I was still without wheels until this past week.  Very very frustrating.  But I'm driving again, and this feels wonderful!  You truly don't realize the freedom driving affords until you've lost the privilege.


The most happy news is that we should be in our own newly purchased home by late May approximately 6-7 months after the fire which is miraculous in the housing market here in Sonoma County.  I won't bore you with details.  Feels like a century since October 9th!


Joyce has had to deal with the loss, the driving, and my medical setbacks.  While she's been great, it's been enormously stressful for her.

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Several Fire Poems




 

When Random Sharks Attack

 

When a frenzy of orange threshers

battle-sharpened yellow teeth ablaze

rushes to take your home

nothing can prepare you for the carnage

Denial an oh so temporary refuge

briefly houses your future plans and hopes

It too is overtaken by voracious marauders

I speak as one consumed

I dream of a huge red bear

I am empty sad feel worthless

I don’t know what to do be still or fight

Luck had saved me up 'til the present

I’m watching scores of rock doves swoop

these Oakland hills evade the stoop of circling

red tail hawks eye level with our refuge from

the fire oh that black senses-deadened early morning

blind eyed  rush without a single dorsal fin

to warn or woo while now and here in hills

across the Bay awake to strangeness:

curse of phantom pain we know but still

we want the easy comfort of our house

the sense of going home to what we know

to what we together purchased once we married

I seek a new thesaurus to explain things

Here in space where furniture doesn’t fit me

in and out of my body feeling freaky

If it’s true that attachment equaled suffering

I’ve been shoved on to the road of enlightenment

all too quickly here in a region known as Purgatory

atoning for my sin of routine comfort

 

We almost died

We did not die

We lost a house

And all possessions

Much more remains

In the rubble of our pain

The innocence of sharks

          very much maligned







Ashes Among the Remains




 


My father responded

Just throw them away

I did not nor did I cast them into

ocean or bay where we’d fished

flounder and fluke nor strew them

over the golf courses where he’d hit

multistage rockets rising from half an inch

then to a foot above fairways

to summarily explode

hundreds of  yards into the future

other worldly fireworks released

by his elegantly compact fury.

Instead I left them in their box

a golden shiny tin ossuary

next to my mother’s on the top shelf

of my bedroom closet

where I did not have to make decisions

and I incidentally could visit them daily

until our house burned down

in the California wildfires

October Ninth 2017

 

I don’t intend here to dwell upon

the nightmare that fire is                                     

I will not detail the feelings we had

as we evacuated in one of our cars

along with the family terrier and nothing else

though later we did contemplate

Dad’s and Mom’s remains further

consumed by 1500 degree flames

extending their years-earlier incineration

in an oven at the crematorium near Petaluma.

 

Were it not that my parents lived well into

their nineties I so sick depressed and barely 74

might feel prepared to let go of the tangible rim

to the bottomless jar of all that remains

to the what or the where or the not

 

 

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The Kindness of Poets
 

This is a group I strongly support. Without my asking, they were good to me when we needed help.

 

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Gerald Nicosia Poem for Jack Mueller/Lee Rossi On Money In Poetry/Exclamation Abuse/Poets in Journals/David Madgalene's Hoodoo Girl/Writers in Journals/Petaluma Poetry Walk/

Addition

Please note that I have added Gerald Nicosia's fine heartfelt poem here
 
Poem for Jack Mueller (1942-2017)  by Gerald Nicosia
 
What I remember most--your cigarettes and your bourbon
and the crazy gleam in your eye when you got a new idea
you were a fountain, a machine of ideas
had a hard time making them real
which you knew, but no one cared
We wanted too much that magic you
gave out as freely as the poems or the jokes
you'd recite for anyone anywhere who
took the time to listen to you
in that deep, resonant voice
that could have come out of a Kentucky coal mine
if coal miners had all the wisdom of the ages
at the tip of their tongue
You were one of a kind, "Don't include me
with all those Jacks!" you'd say
in your mock-angry voice--or maybe
it was real anger too
for sure it was real compassion you had
for almost all of us, for me I know
you truly worried about
how vulnerable I was to women and you
told me once, "Don't let Charmaine
make you her paunce!"
And who else but Jack Mueller
could say it in just that way?
You loved your daughter terribly
"There's nothing better in the world,"
you told me, "than reading
"the Sunday comics with her, the paper all
spread out and both of us
on  our knees, laughing
our heads off!"--you didn't believe in God
but if that wasn't a kind of praying
I don't know what is.
I dreamed of you four months before you died
I'd never dreamed of you before in 40 years
You were in some kind of danger,
a train was coming
I tried to reach you but couldn't get your number
I'm writing this poem because
it's the only way I have
of reaching you now.
 
 

 

Money In Poetry? 

Essay by Lee Rossi

 
Recently on Twitter I came across a statement by a well-known poet that sounded like a truism but that on further reflection seemed more and more problematic. What the poet said was that he was divided when it came to giving free poetry readings. On the one hand, he wanted to do it, but on the other hand considerations of self-care and financial security suggested he do otherwise. I’m sure my thoughts on the matter are colored by the fact that in 30 years of writing poetry I have earned something less than ten thousand dollars. Poems, reviews, readings, books—less than ten grand. Not that I’m complaining—that almost ten grand is, to borrow Ray Carver’s deathless term, gravy. 

Also, I never expected to make my way in the world by writing poetry. There was always a day job for that. I sympathize with those without a day job and those whose day job pays so miserably that they don’t have the time, energy or peace of mind to write. I was lucky enough to be able to pay myself to be a poet. 

It used to be thought that a performer, a singer or an actor, would enhance their value by refusing gigs that were beneath them. Once he was an A-lister, no B-movies for Clark Gable, no coffee-house sets or open mics for Madonna after “Borderline.” 

I wonder though if such a rule obtains with regard to poetry. People who wish otherwise complain about the fact that poetry is a gift economy. Why don’t poets get paid, they say, for all their contributions to the culture? It’s a good question, the answer to which involves an examination of our society’s “skewed,” “perverse,” “inhuman” priorities. I leave that to folks who are angrier than me at the current state of affairs. (Not that I’m not angry, just not angry enough.)

The fact is, if a poet wants to make a contribution to the culture, i.e. to all those other human beings who are living, working, and worrying alongside her, she could do a lot worse than participate in free poetry readings. At its leaves-of-grass roots, a poetry community is just a bunch of people who like it and try to write it. Some of them are good, some not so good. Some are getting better, some will stall out, trapped on some plateau hospitable to rants or limericks or self-exposure.

I think the best poets among us have an obligation to get back to their grass roots, the local poetry community which nourished them when they were baby poets. If you’re a transplant, I think you still owe something to the locals, encouragement certainly and the daring of your own example. Why put up barriers to what is potentially your best audience?

Of course, there are circumstances where I would agree with the Twitter poet. If someone in a foreign land wants to hear you read, somewhere farther say than a half-hour’s drive, then yes, that someone should at least pay for gas. Cross country, they should pay airfare, hotel, and something to eat. The fact is, people will not pay 75 or a 100 dollars per seat—what they’ll pay for a Grateful Dead tribute band—to hear even our best poets. Someone has to subsidize the reading—the NEA, P&W, the local university, the local arts council. Yet that money exists because at least some of our fellow citizens recognize that poets do indeed provide value to the culture, which like sunshine and rain are necessary but hard to price. So, my recommendation is: if there’s cash, grab it, otherwise remember where you got your start and do what you can to make sure it’s still a healthy place to grow.
  --Lee Rossi
 
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Performing Hoodoo Girl

from David Madgalene's Call Down The Angel.  At Occidental Center for the Arts a couple of months ago.  My grandson Justin Coletti is on guitar.  Watch the You Tube video here

 

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 Exclamation Points and Then Some

The Alarming rise of exclamation point abuse

I’m waging a lonely war against a rampant punctuation mark.
A year ago, the New York Times wrote forebodingly about the decline of the period, which now signifies a weighty intent if used while texting. But I am far more disturbed by the rise of the exclamation point. Everywhere I look, I’m bombarded by this tall, pointed signifier of overwhelming emotion.

Has this punctuation mark become ubiquitous because our discourse has risen to a fevered pitch? Or because we’ve co-opted a mark of astonishment or severity to instead convey solidarity, friendship or friendliness?

I took my concerns to two language scholars who both tried to persuade me to give up the fight.
Exclamation mark avoidance is just as much a fetish as its abuse, said Geoff Nunberg, a linguist who teaches at University of California-Berkeley. Overuse is particularly vexing to writers and journalists who have been trained to use them with restraint, he said. Perhaps that’s true, but I argued that those of us who use it sparingly are on the right side of language.
Relax, Nunberg practically exclaimed at me. It’s not that there’s a proliferation of exclamation points. It’s just that we see a lot more casual conversation in the form of texts and tweets. And people attempt to reproduce the rhythms and contours of natural speech in their conversational writing, he said.

That’s true, I agreed. But I suspect there’s more to it than that.

The president himself is a lover of the exclamation point, more likely to use multiple marks in a single tweet than anyone I know personally. Philip Cowell, of the BBC, writes that in 2016 alone the @realDonaldTrump posted 2,251 tweets using exclamation marks. He’s far more likely to end a tweet with a shriek than not.

“Overuse of any punctuation mark tells us something about ourselves, in the same way overuse of any object does. How you punctuate your sentences might have something to do with how you punctuate your life,” Cowell writes. Drawing attention to itself, the exclamation point is the selfie of grammar, he noted.

To Read More, Go Here Now


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Sonoma County Poets and Writers in Journals

On a monthly basis I publish the names of poets and writers who have had work published in literary journals during the previous month.  The posting is at Sonoma County Literary Update
Just go there and follow the directions for this category.  It will place you in touch with me, and I'll be pleased to include your information.  Essentially, I'll need your name, title of the publication, its URL, and the names of your poems or pieces.  I look forward to hearing from you.

2017 Petaluma Poetry Walk

And while we are looking at the SF Bay Area, I strongly recommend that you attend the 20-year old Petaluma Poetry Walk on Sunday September 17th from 11AM until 8PM at venues all over town.  The slate of poets and musicians is particularly strong this year.  Here's a brochure

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Ed Coletti and Katherine Hastings On Poets & Political Activity/Ed Coletti&Katherine Hastings Poems/Trump's Dog?/Resistance Anthology/On Lindsay's Book by Michael Rothenberg with James Spitzer/

                     (James Spitzer Woodblock Feb 2017 https://jimspitzerart.wordpress.com)

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**********************************************************************************



For the longest time, I referred to myself as a non-joiner.  I after all am a poet, a painter, one who speaks out through art.  However, in this age of Trump and the growth of fascism in America, I’ve had to reassess this stance and have begun joining organizations including the Sonoma County Democratic Club, Indivisible, and also others such as Swing Left and Sister Districts for efforts beyond my own geographical area.  Additionally, I have been making trips to Congressman Mike Thompson’s office and have attended his recent town hall on the ACA and healthcare in California.  I have learned quite a bit.  I even attended the Democratic Club’s recent fundraising Crab Feed along with 13 of my close friends.  Another group of 13 responded to our invitation and joined in a brain-storming "Huddle" at our house.

For those of  you poets who may feel that such involvement is not for you, I suggest that you, as have I, look into yourselves and ask “Is what I am doing by writing anti-Trump poems (but see below for a bit of humor) and speaking out among kindred poetic spirits doing enough?  Is it effective in reaching an extensive audience?  The title of this ten-plus year old blog may contain a clue.  While most readers may agree that there is very little money in poetry, we should realize that, beyond the purity and value of art for art’s sake, we may be having little impact upon the broader population which must be reached to effect social change.

I commend Bay Area poet Katherine Hastings (see below) for her material involvement in political organizations working to influence congress.  I use her as example here.  I am certain that many other poets are working through grass roots organizations and the Democratic Party to effect change.  We now realize that merely writing and grousing is not going to get the job done.

Overhauling the words of Milton, “They really do not serve who only stand and wait.”

- Ed Coletti 3-9-17 


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 ****************************************************************

And now for a humorous interlude...


Does Donald Trump Have a Dog

Sam on my lap I scratch his ear
            gaze into his sadly happy eyes
wonder just what I’ve done
                                                to deserve
him he who can also be
                    the loud barking nuisance
startling the hell out of me
                                      who in Vietnam
daily heard both loud
                       and more muffled blasts
constantly reminding me
                     mortality expends its time
as explosion or terrier barking.


So to the question of whether or not
          our self-centered president-elect
ever even pondered the company of
     a pup he would need to kibble-feed
I only can attempt to imagine
            the starved and wanting puppy
explosively reminding The Donald
                about food that one necessity
required and craved, sustenance and
                              attention withheld by
President-elect in Scotland playing
          golf texting Kelly Anne Conway,
"Is that greedy little mutt still around?
        Feed its ass and name it anything
except Ted or Jeb Ben Mike or Marco
                                                   all losers
And give my dog whatever
                                              you name it
the blue ribbon for terrificness
                                         such a winner!
Huge!”


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***********************************

Ed Coletti and Katherine Hastings On
Poets and Political Activity



  Since the election of a reality television host to the “highest office in the land,” surrounded by white supremacists and misogynists, a cacophony of conversations have been taking place almost everywhere I turn.  These conversations range from “How could this have happened?” to “What can we do?”  From “This is what I’m doing” to “This is what I’m not doing.”  Some people feel all we can do is wait; others feel this is an excellent time to show, through meaningful action, just how important combatting this administration is.  Marchers have marched, ghost lights have been lit, and poetry readings have been arranged around the theme of resistance.  It felt wonderful to participate in all of these actions and more with like-minded people.

            What am I doing personally?  I could say I’m staying focused on the issues at hand and doing at least one action every single day.  A handful of examples include (1) signing on to swingleft.org to try to influence the outcome of the 2018 elections, rendering the current administration powerless in two years, (2) joining other truly active organizations like Indivisible and the NAACP, (3) sending financial support to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, among others and (4) calling a meeting in my home with immigrants to go over in detail what their rights are if they are stopped by ICE or police, or if they show up at their front doors. Where I can, I educate.  “Yes,” I answered someone recently who asked if it’s a bad thing that the government wants federal protections to revert to state’s rights when it comes to LGBTQ people, “that’s a very bad thing.”  For instance, no one should have to worry about job transfers from one state to another because of who they love; we should all have the same rights.  “Civil rights are human rights.”

            This forum could be an excellent place to tout what I’m doing.  That is not my intention; I like to share ideas for action in case any of them appeal to others. The truth of the matter is, I’m finding activism a bit like grief itself.  One day I wake up accepting the reality of the mess and saying This is what I can do! and do it.  On another day I wake up so depressed (anger turned inwards) about the latest situation — yet another hard-working father ripped from his family, or another Jewish cemetery desecrated, or another environmental protection flushed down the coal toilet  — that I wonder if there is anything to be done that can possibly bring enough change fast enough.  Woe is me.

And then I remember it’s not about me, and do whatever the best action of the day seems to be, measured by its potential. 

I ask myself time and time again “What is the solution?”

I’ve learned to leave Facebook off for the most part. “Liking” someone’s outrage is an inaction.  I try not to judge people by what they’re doing or not doing.  (“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” — Eleanor Roosevelt)  I often fail.

I give myself a break now and then.  This is going to be a long, difficult fight that has been going on for some people in the country since the first Europeans landed, since the first slave ship arrived.  I don’t want to burn out before my work is done. 

                                                                                    Katherine Hastings
                                                                                    February 27, 2017

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**********************


Dear Ashraf Fayadh,

Outside my window men speak
in a tongue I do not completely
understand.  These are the men
who work the soil, the vineyards,
who pray to another god and the
god’s mother, who sing you are
never alone.  We are all orphans
searching for light, harmony lost
to the stark meaning of man-made
laws.  In our hearts, the poem of
Love is perfected, is the most holy
relic of Time.  Dear Ashraf Fayadh,
may you live happily among the
living, neither lashed nor beheaded,
on little islands of wonder, feeling
for all the gods what they are
incapable of feeling, each word,
each brush stroke, a golden bee
bathed in the breath of heaven.


    Katherine Hastings from her collection

from Spuyten Duyvil NYC, 2016


Note:  Ashraf Fayadh is a Palestinian poet and artist living in Saudi Arabia who as sentenced to death by beheading on a charge of apostasy, or renouncing Islam.  After the sentencing, his father died of a heart attack.  Due to public pressure (after this poem was written), the courts reduced his sentence from death to 8 years in prison and 800 lashes.  Efforts are ongoing to free him. 

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This is a huge anthology featuring many of America's greatest poets.  Press the link to see all of their names. 

http://www.spuytenduyvil.net/resist-much-obey-little.html

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__________________________________________________________________
 


 Lindsay's Book
Poem by Michael Rothenberg
Art by James Spitzer


International poet-force Michael Rothenberg (publisher of  Big Bridge www.bigbridge.org ) writes poignantly of his first great love and the searing loss of his lover to death in her young twenties.
The poem is set in Florida.  California painter Jim Spitzer, collaborates with Rothenberg and provides startlingly spare images which must be seen.  This beautiful little book packs a tender punch and must be read.  You can purchase Lindsay's Book by sending a check made out to Michael Rothenberg at PO Box 2724, Tallahassee, FL 42304. 

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