Sunday, July 24, 2016

Telepoem Booth Vandalized but Art Prevails

Poets have a natural affinity for phone booths.
Like poems, phone booths create private experiences
out of public surroundings. They both have the ability
to connect with people in faraway places.
Their perceived value is pocket change.

Earlier this year, I was excited to be involved with a wonderful project called the Telepoem Booth.
I recorded a few poems with David Crummey after Mesa's District 4 reading series for the brainchild of Elizabeth Hellstern, who found and purchased an old phone booth and had it re-purposed with the help of her partner, artist Owen William Fritts, as a poetry monument which housed recordings of over 200 poems from nearly 100 poets, including a variety of unpublished students and established writers. Hellstern even got the blessing of Allen Ginsberg's estate to use his recording of Howl.

The Telepoem Booth looks beautiful and inside is a "directory" listing all the poets with a corresponding phone number for each poem that you can dial up to listen (on a rotary phone!!).

Here's a link to the local NPR affiliate that aired an interview and story about it:

For several months, the beloved booth was located on the street in Flagstaff outside of Macy's Coffeehouse where pedestrians could dial up random poems at any hour of the day. But it was recently vandalized and forced to be taken down.

Fortunately, Hellstern and Fritts were able to restore it and find a new location, so it can re-open this weekend (visit it at Old Town Shops at 120 N. Leroux in Flagstaff, Arizona). If you would like to help donate to their generous labor of love, there is a Gofundme site setup for any amount of charitable contributions to help maintain the booth and to transform a second booth:

Every quarter helps.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fathful as the Ground Launch Party

Although there have been a decent number of sales
for my new Five Oaks Press chapbook Faithful as the Ground 
over on Amazon (

I did have a launch event at {9} The Gallery to make things semi-official.

It looked a little something like this:

I had to publicly implicate cover artist Richard Bledsoe.

It was great to see lots of friends who are often too busy to run into, anymore.

I was also grateful to have one of my favorite poets David Chorlton read a few poems and to have a live jazz from the triple talented Mike Pfister Trio.

until future readings,

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Currently Reading: new Scott Woods book Urban Contemporary History Month

I was already a big Scott Woods fan, but his new book Urban Contemporary History Month (from Brick Cave Media) is some next level ish.

Starting at the beginning, the table of contents is the obligatory ice cream social mixer where poems politely curtsey and introduce themselves. But Woods' titles breakdance all over this list of page numbers like an Electric Boogaloo on refrigerator cardboard.
Of course I am eager to find out what poems are attached to titles like:

A Reverse Chronology of Sagging Pants
Jesus Wept, Then Sulked A Lot
Prisoner #74234 Speaks On Your Commute
Neil deGrasse Tyson's Love Note, Third Grade
Black House Party, circa 1979

Reading this collection of poems is the equivalency level of 3 or 4 semesters of racial studies courses, but Woods packs each page with more heart, poignancy, and laughter than you thought possible from the syllabus. Some poems give you a Google Earth Satellite Hybrid view of the inner city libraries and forgotten neighborhoods that are the real soundtrack to Woods' poems about NWA on the big screen, Big Bang on the Boombox, and Buddy Guy in the Gospels.
Like this passage from "The Livingston Avenue Suite"

Streets littered like trash tornados hit them.
The houses have as many clapboards as people.
They eventually replace the sidewalks
but never the buildings, like Jesus is holding
everyone's lease until He gets back.

Shoes on a wire make the clouds
behind them look like they're running.

One of the undercurrents of genius in this collection is the running Choose-Your-Own-Adventure at the end of each poem. This creates an staggering number of parallel setlists to explore and adds new context to each poem that you re-read, when faced with choices like:

If you thought those were fireworks, turn to page 20
If you knew they were gunshots, turn to page 27

If you're still arguing that Pluto is a planet, turn to page 79
If you knew Gravity was ridiculous, turn to page 60

In case you're still wondering if you should add this book to your Amazon cart, I found a couple of sample poems online to give you an idea of what to expect.

These Aren't The Thugs You're Looking For
(first published at Freezeray Poetry)

Stormtroopers stop your hovercraft,
want to know where you’re going,
what do you have in the trunk.

Broken lightsabres, you say,
desert laundry.  Figrin D’an forgot
his gasan drum sticks at the cantina again.

Let’s see some ID, they ask.
You wave your hand, steel your gaze, stating,
you don’t need to see any ID.

They insist. You wave again.
They knock on your bubble window,
walk around your hovercraft.

You wave your hand again.
Didn’t realize they were looking
for any of your kind they could find.

A gash of light, charred dissent,
the desert wind wiping away your chalk outline
​like a Jedi mind trick.

If you keep your mouth closed, turn to page 21
If you know your rights, turn to page 68

Urban Legends
(first published in Radius)

If you flash your headlights at a dark car in passing,
it is a gang initiation and they will kill you.

Gangsta rap crawls into your ears while you sleep
and puts black people in your dreams.

The 13th floor of every office building can only be cleaned
by a black janitor with very good luck.

A chicken head once found a deep fried politician
in a bag of crack.

The sewers of New York City are teeming with extras
from The Warriors who got lost on their way to the set.

If you do not pass this poem on to five friends,
you will still have read more than any three congressmen.

Swimming in less than an hour after you eat cheese grits
will cause you to sink to the bottom and drown, but with a smile.

Over a dozen black morning radio show cruise ships
have gone missing in the Bermuda Triangle.

If you lock a hundred monkeys in a room with typewriters,
a hundred monkeys will type Lil Wayne lyrics.

If you stand in front of a mirror and chant the word
“Obama” three times, Ben Carson will appear.

If you are Scully, turn to page 86
If you believe, turn to page 65

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Blurbs Without Words and My New Chapbook Published by Five Oaks Press

Proud to have my new chapbook Faithful as the Ground published by Five Oaks Press!

I'll get a box of copies soon, but it's already available on Amazon:

I couldn't be more in love with the cover art by Phoenix artist Richard Bledsoe.
Richard and Michele Bledsoe were were part of a collective that used to run a gallery where we would host monthly Caffeine Corridor Poetry Series readings and this painting (titled Among The Fortunate) was always one of my favorites of his. So I was thrilled to be able to use it for this chapbook, all these years later.

In the spirit of show-dont-tell, the back cover features this unconventional blurb without words:

The idea for this type of blurb first occurred when reading an article about Steven Pinker —
"This world-renowned Harvard linguist makes a convincing case for emoji"

Then it became obvious that the one and only person who could possibly pull this off was the inimitable Charles Jensen. It's an intriguing work of art in its own right and I love everything about it. Charles is the best.

Special thanks to Five Oaks Press editor Lynn Marie Houston for making sure everything turned out so perfectly.

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).