This is the year I go to California (a lot!)

photo by Rachel Eliza Griffths

photo by Rachel Eliza Griffths

This past week has been all about Resurrection, Renewal and Blessings.  A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poem is a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award.  The winner is Brian Shimoda.

And this past Thursday I was asked to join the faculty for the Summer Workshop at The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. https://communityofwriters.org/workshops/poetry-workshop/ I attended two conferences and created some wonderful work.  I so hope I will help other poets do when I am there.

So now I gear up for a day of teaching and then off again to California.

On Wednesday, I will join literally thousands of poets, writers, teachers, arts administrators, journalists (an occasional musician) and go Los Angeles for the 2016 AWP Conference.  It will be enthralling, overwhelming, occasionally delightful and full of stress.  All conventions are part professional networking, part party, part boredom–like why isn’t there downtown and where is the free coffee?  L.A. is always an odd place to be.  It is incredibly dense, but no one talks about that.  The traffic is non stop–people do talk about that.  It has wonderful bookstores, but you really have to search them out and places of powerful beauty and utterly awfulness.  And sometimes it is very warm, but every once in a while it is as chilly as the Bay Area far far to its North.

I have the great pleasure of reading with Fellows from the Black Earth Institute on March 31; I will be doing a book signing for A Lucent Fire on Friday April 1 between 2-3 at the White Pine Press table; signing The Best of Cutthroat on the same day at 1.  And on Saturday, Laura Hinton asked me to moderate the panel Out of L.A.: A Tribute to Jayne Cortez that will take place on Saturday, 3:15-4:30 with Aldon Nielsen, Jennifer Ryan, Pam Ward and of course Laura Hinton.  There are reunions for the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley; VCCA: and Vermont College.  And many readings that I may or may not make it too. These events are listed on my web sites: Readings & Events Page.

It will be slightly insane, useful, terrible, beautiful, slighty giddy and wearisome.  Oh writers, oh conferences, Oh California!

 

next to last day of winter

A couple of weeks ago I stood on a friend’s deck in Tiburon with the Pacific Ocean as background-hundreds of sea birds in the water.  The sky was as blue as a sky can be.  The air was warm, but not too warm.  All of the Bay Area seemed to be in bloom.  I’d never been in a California “Spring”–its lovely to look at; to smell; to touch.  I can see why people live there-the beauty is often overwhelming.  But the traffic, the density–it seemed almost too much.

I went there for a book tour–to read my poems from A Lucent Fire and engage with audiences and so I did from student and faculty at The University of Pacific, who were smart and curious and asked great questions to a reading with Clarence Major at the legendary Poetry Center at San Francisco State University.  I also got to read at Moe’s Books on Telegraph Ave the last bookstore standing on that storied street.

It was odd because the week before I went to MOMA and saw a documentary about Bob Kaufman, the brilliant and deeply troubled African American poet –he was a “beat”poet in the best sense.  But he was part of the bohemian world of North Beach in San Francisco.  Of course North Beach still exists but not as a haven for bohemians unless they are the ones who can afford Bohemian Grove.  The wealthification of urban centers is erasing culture in bits and pieces so that people with digital devices can make more of them and spend money made from making apps and stuff on other apps and stuff.  So boring really.

Thus I was grateful to spend Sunday morning at St. Gregory of Nyssa, an Anglican church in the mission where an old friend serves as one of the clergy.  She preached that day about getting through Lent and got me to be the lector. It was a strange and generous experience–there was step dancing and Quaker style comments and a great deal of singing which I loved.  The church has a hearty and close knit congregation and provides services and solace to the community which is at the edge of the Mission, but also where much property has appreciated over the past few years. I remember Adrienne Rich writing about “the interstices” and in many ways so much of life these days is in between (hope and despair); (financial ruin and getting by); (cynicism and anger).  It was good to be in a spiritual space with good people who believe and care and welcome.

So I thank Dr. Xiaojing Zhou, a fine scholar, educator, and translator who brought me to University of the Pacific and her colleagues.  Brenda Hillman and Bob Hass who were gracious enough to add me to a reading for Lunch Poems at UC Berkeley to Owen Moes, who has like one of the best bookstores on the planet; to Steve Dickinson, who really makes great things happen at The Poetry Center and to my good friend Sue who let me be a guest in her Oakland Hills bungalow.

Winter is officially over on the 21st, but there is a chill, the possibility of snow on Palm Sunday.  A reminder that the sun and earth may move in certain ways, but the temperature will do what it wants to do.  I welcome the soft chill, that final farewell to winter’s quiet.  And I welcome new possibilities and more natural beauty.  Flowers and trees and birds and bees and you know stuff like that.  Seasonal changes always throw me off my game and into another one–the mysteries, the interstices, the moments in between.

Dr, Xiaoing Zhou, U of Pacific

Dr, Xiaojing Zhou, U of Pacific

calla lillies do grow wild

calla lillies do grow wild

a strange tree in Oakland

a strange tree in Oakland

the Pacific Ocean as background

the Pacific Ocean as background