Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tour Diary: Portland DAY FOUR mini Book Tour of the Pacific NorthWest

Finally posting recap 4 of 4 from my Northwest voyage.
I was fortunate enough to do 4 readings in 4 nights, but I needed to cram in a few of Portland's essential stops so Jessica and Jonathan Standifird from Blue Skirt Productions took me to places like Powell's Books and Voodoo Doughnuts:

We stopped by Andrew Gurevich's home/studio to record a podcast for his On The Block Radio show:

Then we headed over to The Corner Bar for the Salon Skid Row reading.
It's normally a sportsbar, but on Tuesday nights it converts to a weekly showcase of Portland's best writers. I walked in and all of the video monitors were playing one of my all time favorite films, Jean Cocteau's 1930 masterpiece Blood Of A Poet, so I knew I was in the right place.

Although this was my last reading of the trip, host Josh Lubin was the first person to give me a slot. I reached out to some local bookstores etc and heard some weak excuses like "we don't really have much luck with poetry readings." Apparently, Portland is predominantly a fiction and memoir town. So I'm still grateful that Josh was able to squeeze me into a lineup with this impressive trio of talented Portland writers:

Traditional Post-Salon Skid Row reading photo with Tommy Gaffney, Kathleen Lane, and Kevin Meyer

 I may have been spotted at an awesome late night food truck conspiracy also.

The next morning Jessica took me to see The Gorge before leaving town. Waterfalls or bust. 
This was the first day of my trip that included a bit of rain and it was as magnificent as I imagined.

Before hopping on a plane back to the desert, I even got to meet up 
and get a hug from my bad ass artist and welder sister Chela.

Loved getting to spend a few days with everyone in Portland and Auburn! 
Hope I get a chance to visit again soon.

In case you missed any of my earlier recaps, here are the first three days:

Tour Diary: Portland DAY ONE mini Book Tour of the Pacific NorthWest

Tour Diary: Portland DAY TWO mini Book Tour of the Pacific NorthWest

Tour Diary: Portland DAY THREE mini Book Tour of the Pacific NorthWest



Thursday, January 7, 2016

Jackalope ekphrastic poem in Sugar House Review

I'm excited to have my poem "Forensic Field Notes on the Jackalope" in the new issue of Sugar House Review.

The poem began about a year ago, when I participated in a big ekphrastic show/reading at Obliq Art Gallery in Phoenix.

Artists and Poets from all over the country were matched up and there was a kickoff performance on opening night.

Life imitates art imitating poets.
Posing with poet Jack Evans in front of the painting he wrote about.

I was matched with a painting by the amazing Southwest artist El Moises.
It was called Jackalope Vato and I loved everything about it, so I was proud to have my framed poem hang next to it at the exhibit.

Big thanks to Sugar House Review for allowing me
to give El Moises a little shout out in the pages of their newest issue.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

5th Annual White Elephant Contemporary Poetry Exchange

We recently had our 5th Annual White Elephant Contemporary Poetry Exchange.

In cooperation with the GCC Creative Writing Department, I select a handful of books to introduce and giveaway each December. People are welcome to bring any book they would like to share or exchange and there are opportunities to "steal" ones that catch your attention throughout the evening.

Hopefully, everybody walks away with a few new poets and/or books to watch out for and hopefully even order. Here are the books I selected this year:

Bunkong Tuon’s new book Gruel (from NYQBooks). These poems retrace Tuon’s escape from Pol Pot’s 1979 Cambodia to his mother’s death of starvation in a Thailand refugee camp to becoming a drop-out janitor in California whose life changed course after finding a Bukowski book in a public library. A captivating debut collection of mourning and redemption.


First Snow

~from this issue of Misfit Magazine

We huddled
behind the back door
of our sponsor’s house.
My uncle, the bravest
because he spoke a little English,
went out.

My grandmother, aunts,
and I watched him
through the kitchen window.

He bent down, reached for
the whiteness of this new world,
and put some in his mouth.

He looked back at us and smiled, 
“We can make snow cone with this!”

America, the miraculous, our savior,
you were the land of dreams then.

 Julianna Baggott's Lizzie Borden in Love
 A highly researched collection of poems written in the voices of historic women including Helen Keller, Katherine Hepburn, Marie Curie, and Camille Claudel. Poem titles like "Monica Lewinski Thinks of Bill Clinton While Standing Naked in Front of a Hotel Mirror" (which Ta-Nehisi Coates posted over at The Alantic) and "Mary Todd on Her Deathbed" give you an idea of what to expect.
“Julianna Baggott amazes with the scope of her imagination. Part biographer, part ventriloquist, part genius, she inhabits characters we thought we knew … Baggott’s talent is almost spooky. Lizzie Borden in Love is a dangerous and elegant collection from one of America’s finest young poets.”  – Beth Ann Fennelly

Lori Schappell, a Conjoined Twin, Addresses the Kmart Cashier Who Eyes Her with Too Much Sympathy

 ~from VQR online

You don’t know the forest
of two minds bound by weeds
grown from one to the other,
the synapses like bees
our honeyed brain.
When my sister sings,
the bones of my skull are her resonance.

Your mind is a yeast packet,
unbroken, unrisen. Today
how often will you think: Price Check
and each time the thought will stall
with lonesomeness.

Yet you think my sister is a bulky hat
stitched to my head.

You, untethered, drift through life.
And we pity

        you and the other self
you hide in your throat. 

Erin Belieu's Slant 6
"From poem to poem in the smart, savvy Slant Six, Belieu channels an updated American idiom, one of stubborn in-betweenhood. Like the plain-spoken poetry that plumbed the depths of American consciousness in the 20th century, Belieu trawls the shallows of today’s America and finds just as much caught in its oily reflections as in its murkier subcurrents. It’s '[b]etter,' she suggests, 'to forget perfection.'" —The Boston Globe

When At a Certain Party In NYC

~from 32 Poems

Wherever you’re from sucks,
and wherever you grew up sucks,
and everyone here lives in a converted
chocolate factory or deconsecrated church
without an ugly lamp or souvenir coffee cup
in sight, but only carefully edited objets like
the Lacanian soap dispenser in the kitchen
that looks like an industrial age dildo, and
when you rifle through the bathroom
cabinet looking for a spare tampon, you discover
that even their toothpaste is somehow more
desirable than yours. And later you go
with a world famous critic to eat a plate
of sushi prepared by a world famous chef from
Sweden and the roll is conceived to look like
“a strand of pearls around a white throat,” and is
so confusingly beautiful that it makes itself
impossible to eat. And your friend back home—
who says the pioneers who first settled
the great asphalt parking lot of our
middle, were not in fact heroic, but really
the chubby ones, who lacked the imagination
to go all the way to California—it could be that
she’s on to something. Because, admit it,
when you look at the people on these streets,
the razor-blade women with their strategic bones
and the men wearing Amish pants with
interesting zippers, it’s pretty clear that you
will never cut it anywhere that constitutes
a where, that even ordering a pint of tuna salad
in a deli is an illustrative exercise in self-doubt.
So when you see the dogs on the high-rise elevators
practically tweaking, panting all the way down
from the 19th floor to the 1st, dying to get on
with their long planned business of snuffling
garbage or peeing on something to which all day
they’ve been looking forward, what you want is
to be on the fastest Conestoga home, where the other
losers live and where the tasteless azaleas are,
as we speak, halfheartedly exploding.

I also included Asymmetries -a bilingual anthology of Peruvian Poetry from local publisher Cardboard House Press who I hope to bring to Glendale Community College for a visit in early 2016.

Contemporary Peruvian poetry, and particularly the period of the founders (José María Eguren, César Vallejo, César Moro, Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Martín Adán, Carlos Oquendo de Amat), is recognized canonically; later come various stages that the specialized critic has divided by generations: the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. However, our approach omits the category of “generation” and proposes, in a sequential manner, a reading of its fluxes, variables, and constants. From another perspective, Antonio Cornejo Polar prefers to call Peruvian literature a polysystem composed of literature “illustrated” in Spanish, the popular literature in Spanish, and indigenous literature (Cornejo Polar: 1989).
We have chosen the period of the 40s as a starting point to guide our timeframe. That is, we consider the post-vanguardist period the lapse that goes from the 40s onward. Moreover, not assuming the category of “generation” permits us to give more weight to the systems of Peruvian contemporary poetry: 1) the system of lyricism, language of irrational and surrealist images; 2) the system of poetry written in indigenous languages; 3) the colloquial system; 4) the system of concretism and post-concretism and 5) the Neo-Baroque system. (Excerpt from Lights over Peru.  Prologue by Paul Guillén. ASYMMETRIES. Anthology of Peruvian Poetry).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Goodreads Giveaway and a Hi-Def Video of a Recent Reading in Flagstaff

There's a day or two left to enter a giveaway for a copy of my book The Existentialist Cookbook over at Goodreads, by clicking on this link:

If you want to see the live action adaptation of some of those poems, here is a video from my reading at the Narrow Chimney Reading Series in Flagstaff:

Narrow Chimney is an award-winning series that takes place on Mondays during the Northern Arizona University school year at the Uptown Billiards Pubhouse. It's a great venue with one of the most appreciative and supportive audiences you will be fortunate enough to encounter. It's hosted organized by Jesse Sensibar in cooperation with N.A.U.'s mfa program and Thin Air Magazine. Definitely worth checking out, if you're ever in the Flagstaff area.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tour Diary: Portland DAY THREE mini Book Tour of the Pacific NorthWest

Monday was day 3 of my Pacific Northwest trip and I had big big plans.

I was scheduled to read at the monthly Northwest Renaissance/Striped Water Poets reading at Auburn Station Bistro (about 45 minutes outside of Seattle) thanks to the wonderful organizer and current City of Auburn Poet Laureate Marjorie Rommel. 

Since I had never visited Seattle, Sally K. Lehman (written about in my Day 2 blog post) generously offered to drive Jessica and me up in the morning so we could all have lunch in the Emerald City, then check out all of the stereotypical touristy stuff before my reading. I vowed to do it all. Throw some Pike's Place Halibut from the top of the Space Needle against the Gum Wall while listening to Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger. Nothing would be too touristy for me.

Unfortunately, we didn't take into account that the Seattle Seahawks were playing a rare Monday night football game that evening, so traffic was horrendous and the 3 hour drive took over 6 hours! I felt so guilty for dragging Sally and Jessica into this roadtrip gone wrong. Lucky for me, they are two of the kindest souls I have ever met so they never even complained once. We actually had a good time just telling stories and laughing the entire time as we inched past an Alpaca Farm and all of the other points of interest along the coagulated Interstate.

We finally made it into town with about 45 minutes to kill before hurrying to the Auburn reading, so we had a delicious bite from a local sandwich shop and popped into a Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room that was next door like a Willy Wonka factory for caffeine.

I had some kind of Black Pepper Butterscotch latte, so I was ready to perform. But first we detoured to see the Fremont Bridge Troll on the way out of town.

I had to climb up his shoulder to show scale, but keep in mind that he has a VW Bug car under his hand. Washington poet Kelli Russell Agodon tells me that the VW is a time capsule, so that makes it even cooler.

There was a Star Wars urban legend that these port loading cranes were George Lucas' inspiration for the AT-ATs in Empire Strikes Back:

Upon reaching the Auburn Station Bistro in the nick of time, we were informed that the bistro had gone out of business the day before!!! But the owners agreed to come open the doors for us to do that final reading. I know what it's like to lose several of my most beloved venues in Phoenix, so I completely understood what these regulars were feeling. It was sad but also an honor to read at this final event and try to send it out on a positive note.

A few people were dressed up since it was the Halloween month edition of the event,
so this happened upon entering the room:

There's a poem in my book called "Kentucky Freud Chicken" so I told my friend that it was like having someone cosplay my poetry.

The open mic was emceed by the multi-talented and charismatic Emilie Rommel Shimkus 

I was proud to co-feature with Philip H. Red Eagle:

After the reading, Cindy M. Hutchings and I proved that AZ Cardinals and Seahawks fans can call a truce and peacefully coexist in the name of poetry.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Behind The Poem(s) posted at Drunk In A Midnight Choir

I've got a new trio of poems posted over at Drunk In A Midnight Choir and they can be read IMMEDIATELY and FOR FREE just by clicking this magical link:

So I decided to give a little background for each one.

Emergency Quarters for Phonebooth or Arcade

 That picture is worth a thousand explanations.

The Love Song of J. Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee was the official pseudonym used by Hollywood directors who did not want their name attached to a movie they weren't proud to stand behind. Some of the films that ended up getting credited to the infamous Alan Smithee include Twilight Zone: The Movie (mostly because actors were killed during a helicopter stunt accident), The Shrimp on the Barbie, Hellraiser: Bloodline, etc. There are also music videos by artists like Sarah McLachlan, Puff Daddy, Jennifer Lopez, and Destiny's Child that are credited to the hardest non-working director in the biz.

The Streetlamp Clowns of Wasco

There was a "trending" story on Yahoo that caught my attention about a Californian city I'd never heard of (Wasco) getting overrun at nightfall by people dressed as clowns. Surely the stuff of nightmares, so I couldn't stop thinking about it. The next week I went to California to read at that year's Long Beach Poetry Festival. I googled the whereabouts of Wasco to see if it was close enough for me to visit in person, while I was over there. Fortunately, it was too far away to be worth the drive.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tour Diary: Portland DAY TWO mini Book Tour of the Pacific NorthWest

continuing with Tour Diary post 2 of 5:

So I underestimated HOW FREAKING COLD it gets during the night in Portland, but I adjusted my calculations when I woke up shivering at about 3am, because the window next to my bed was open. Brrrr.

Jonathan had to work Sunday, so we were stranded at the house until the reading later in the evening. But my friend Kelly came over and abducted us for brunch at the Arleta Library Bakery Cafe. She said you're really not experiencing Portland unless you're waiting in line. This was my initiation but the tasty food was worth the wait. She dropped us off back at the house so she could run some errands but vowed to see us again at my reading that night.

Fun fact: there's an enormous sprawling gated compound that covers an entire block near the house. Jessica hopes this won't be the site of some future Waco-like standoff.
Keep Portland paranoid:

Fun fact #2: It wasn't easy to get a reading in Portland. understandably, part of that was surely because it was a little bit of a late notice. Part of that was surely because I am not that big of a deal. But one bookstore declined my inquiry because "they don't have good luck with poetry readings." Boo.

So my point is that I was extremely grateful for two Portlanders who went out of their way to welcome me and arrange some readings while I was "in the neighborhood." The first was Josh Lubin, but I'll write more about that when I get to my Day 4 post.

This entire Sunday night reading was made possible by the kindness and support of writer Sally K. Lehman.

She found an awesome venue, invited some kick-ass writers, and basically made everything happen. All while she was in the final stages of preparing her own book for publication (which has been officially released now by Black Bomb Books so you can check it out by clicking right HERE).
Basically, I am eternally grateful for all of this:

Our reading took place at the American Legion Post 134:

Forget about those snobby bookstores...this was a perfect venue. It had a big stage, comfy couches, a cheap bar, but it's technically a private club so under-21 folks are equally welcome, and it's run by folks who are supportive of what we're doing and happy to have us there.

Sam Snoek-Brown opened the night with a hysterical piece and then hit us right in the heart by addressing the recent tragedy in Umpqua.

We were also lucky to have readings by Holly Goodman, Josh Lubin, Andrew Gurevich, Bakeem Lloyd, Mo Daviau, Jessica Standifird, and the musical stylings of Jonathan Oak.

I was ecstatic to see some old friends I've known for years and meet some new ones I hope to see again. 

We weren't as exhausted as Bakeem makes it appear, but we were pretty hungry
so we ended the night in the best way possible at Pine State Biscuits with shiitake mushroom gravy, fried green tomatoes and all the exclamation points in the world.

This was a brief reunion of the Rorschach Poetry Collective that put together some cool literary events back when these three lived in Arizona with me (including the monthly Free Association reading that still happens at Glendale Community College).