Celebrating over 30 years as an arts organization.

The Center hosts readings, workshops, lectures, and publishes a variety of poetry publications. SPC is located in the R25 Arts Complex located on the corner of R & 25th Streets in midtown Sacramento.

Sacramento Poetry Center memberships support a variety of local poetry programs, publications, readings, and events. Members receive a free subscription to Tule Review and Poetry Now. Please send your check for $30 or more to SPC, 1719 25th St., Sacramento, CA 95816. Fixed incomes are $15.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Top Left: Moira Magneson [This poet may appear larger in real life]
Bottom Left: Kate Wells [What a beautiful top!]
Top Right: Brigit Truex [So far, no evidence of fox tail]
Bottom Right: (first row, l to r) Taylor Graham, Moira Magneson, Irene Lipshin, Brigit Truex (second row, l to r) Kate Wells, Wendy Williams

The Red Fox Underground is a poetry collective that meets in the foothills every Sunday at 8 AM (now that's devotion to the poetry gods, folks). At one time they met indoors, but they have been gradually pushed outdoors by library authorities and frequently find themselves meeting along the American River (see photo above). These women are dedicated to their craft, and their poems reflect seasoned and intelligent outlooks on life. It is their kind of prolonged wisdom out of which movements are born.

Kate Wells started the evening off with poems that were inspired by nature. She read "White Thunder Muscle," "The Rising" (referring to Katrina and the river rising by her own house), "The Hand On Your Cheek," "Jack" (during which she demonstrated how to pick an animal up by its scrotum and made many of the male members of the audience wince), and "What We Say."

Moira Magneson read "The Whole Truth" which referenced Blake and used the words of Ari Fleischer (former press secretary during the Bush Administration's first term), a vilanelle entitled "Verily, Mr. President," "Apparition to the New Poem," and "True Grit" in which she spoke of a time when she and a friend were driving the remains of her father in the back seat of the car and insisted to the CHP officer that they be allowed to use the carpool lane.

Brigit Truex read "Herself" in which she meditated on herself as it might become a tree, "Katrina," "Lascaux," "Issue" a poem about the abuses of sharks in collecting materials for shark fin soup, and "In Her Name."

Wendy Williams read "Not Yet Prey" in which she meditated on two hawks flying overhead, then declared herself as survivor by announcing the words that form the title at the end. Then Wendy gave herself permission to read some edgy pieces. She read "Why are Girls?"which lamented the many abuses of women. "What Have You Earned, Mr. Williams" was a touching rendering of her father in several vignettes that illustrated his hardscrabble approach to life as a printer. She also read "The Sleep of Spiders" and finished with "Verbatim."

Taylor Graham started off reading "Why the Reading Didn't Work Out" which described an attempted poetry reading that fell prey to the distraction of a nearby TV whose neon glow lured the attention of several members of the sparse audience. In this way Taylor hinted at the distraction of a spontaneous snare set that had interrupted Wendy's segment. Then she read "Divining the Dog" and "Death, The Linguist"

Irene Rounded off the evening by reading poems inspired by her recent world travel as well as her life in the foothills. Her poem "Friends and Strangers" referenced a piece of language on the Air Force's website that spoke of how one might be warranted in ferreting out suspicious strangers who might be traipsing through your neighborhood. "Cleaning the Feet With Gasoline" was about a family ritual. Then she read "Prayer at Santorini," "Choice" where Lipshin provokes hre readers with the thought that "we rip ourselves in half in order to keep it. And finally, the reading ended with "Eve and Adam" again ripping the epigraph from a National Geographic magazine article that spoke of how all the world's people could be traced back to a single woman, mitochondrial Eve.

The spirit was lively and jovial despite the rain and its accompaniment, which again blew down on the tin roof and provided an orchestral arrangement for the poems during the evening.


Kate Wells lives in the Sierra Foothills, teaching high school English, home-schooling her two kids and running a kayak school with her husband. She is a member of the Red Fox Underground Poetry Workshop and has published poems in Common Ground Review, Poetry Motel and Rattlesnake Review.


His hands reach
at jagged angles
awkward bones
rake & jangle
up to perfect
long, brown hair.
It must be
relief to
twine jerking claws
in shining silk.

Her patience speaks years
of living with a broken brother.

Kate Wells

* * *

Wendy Patrice Williams is a member of Red Fox Poets Underground of the Sierra foothills and teaches English at the College of Alameda in Alameda, California. Her poems appear in The Acorn, Little Town, USA, Rattlesnake Review, Song of the San Joaquin Quarterly, PDQ and the El Dorado Peace and Justice Community Newsletter. Her short stories are published in 13th Moon, Shore Stories: An Anthology of the Jersey Shore, and the anthology Whatever It Takes: Women on Women's Sport. She is currently working on a book of creative nonfiction, The Autobiography of a Sea Creature.

a distant orbit

each day
the elderly gentleman
in blue jeans
and khaki jacket
emerges from
"The Odyssey,"
his RV,
to set up his gray
satellite dish

he spreads the legs first
then places the sacred wafer
on the tripod--
that concave plate
he grasps with careful hands
and turns ever so gently
toward a distant

uncurling the wires, he hands
the cord
to his wife
through the RV window
she plugs it in
juicing up their universe

oh, what the turn of a knob can do

now he is back outside
jiggling connections
behind the dish
"I got one channel, hon,
but I can't get the other,"
he yells as she

gestures toward the TV screen
then rests one
warm, assuring hand
on top

waiting with faith
for the world
to turn

Wendy Patrice Williams

* * *

(Irene Lipshin is a member of the Red Fox Underground Poetry Workshop in the Sierra Nevada foothills). Last year she (Irene) spent eight weeks traveling outside of the U.S. and reconfirmed her belief that we share the human story of loss and gain, personal, political and global, throughout the world. Her work has appeared in Rattlesnake Review including a broadside, "Territorio Nuevo" and an upcoming chapbook; in Poetica, Chaparral Updraft, in the anthologies We Beg to Differ, by the Sacramento Poets Against the War, 2003 and Outcry: American Voices of Conscience, Post 9/11 and on the Poets Against the War and Voices in Wartime websites, as well as other publications.


Moving to a new house,
its old hinges stuck
from years of closing
out the world,
we loosen the locks,
release the shutters.

Sunlight filters
through wide slats,
I read between
light opens darkness,
heat vanquishes the chill
of gathering tempests,
banishing the dark
backward of time.

Irene Lipshin

Taylor Graham lives in El Dorado South County and trains her dogs for search and rescue. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Ekphrasis, Poetry Now, PDQ, Rattlesnake Review, Tiger's Eye and elsewhere. She's included in the anthology California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present, and her collection, The Downstairs Dance Floor, is winner of this year's Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize.

Poem (first appeared in Rattlesnake Review):


A pomp-and-circumstantial hesitation-
glide across the cinder-
block foundation we were digging
right-angle linear
into hillside;

scarlet/black/ermine rings
moving without seeming
in sequent curves, until
without a royal glance behind,
it disappeared.

In its place, nails and framing, sub-
floor, roof and plumbing.
Now we live among robins, juncos,
neighborly birds;

but the red and yellow tanager,
the evening grosbeak
are less common;

and the pileated woodpecker
with its imperial crimson crest
has moved on
to the kingdom
of exile,

for all the seeds we scatter
like beggars for birds –
for all we wish the skinny shiver
of serpent-rings
and tricolor robes,

for all we wish
their grace.

Taylor Graham

* * *

Brigit Truex is of Native American (Cree / Abenaki), French Canadian and Irish heritage. Born and raised in Washington DC, she started writing when she lived in LA (inspired by Santa Barbara Writers Conference). After a few years living on Maryland's Eastern Shore, she returned to California, moving to the Sierra foothills, where Red Fox Underground got started (celebrating our third anniversary this spring)! Publications include Rattlesnake Review, Manzanita, Folio, PDQ, Poetry Now as well as anthologies Sacramento: 100 Poems, Nantucket, and Small Town USA. She has three chapbooks, Satuit Seasons, Of A Feather, and Leaf By Leaf. When not writing, she can mostly be found dancing Northern Traditional at various powwows.

Sample poem, "City Hawk," is from the "Sacramento" anthology, published by the Sac. Poet Laureate Program

City Hawk

The bulldozer peels back a layer,
like the child in his yard,
potent with imagination.

He is no child.
He knows better,
but he has car payments,
mouths to feed, another
on the way.

He has dropped his seed.

In the dark recesses, it is nested
among a network, a web
that will quicken
with movement.

He eases on the throttle,
advances on a treeless landscape.
The sere earth falls away,
an arid surf that breaks
below an indifferent steel wave.

He will not see the hawk,
its earth-brown back to him.
It has adapted.
Facing the highway,
on the mock-tree light pole,
it watches the cars below with disdain,
prey beneath it.
Instead, it memorizes the land,
the scope of it, holding in
its baleful eye, half-hooded,
all that was.

It has no cry for lost.
It has no cry
for lost.

Brigit Truex

* * *

Moira Magneson lives in Placerville and teaches English composition at Sacramento City College. Most recently her work has appeared in Runes, Hanging Loose, Flint Hills Review, and Rattlesnake Review.

The following poem first appeared in the anthology BINDWEED.


When it was bad we took your truck and bourbon
drove north Oregon hardly speaking at all
cut the Siskyous to the Umpqua River
followed a dusty road to its end
Martin Angel’s land there a hot springs
he had told us about years ago he had said
if you’re in love go there

We stripped and stepped into the scald
of that pool as we sat buoyed
in the water sweating I thought
we might have bloomed your face
ruddy as if scraped
I thought I saw the meanness of years
lift from us the way a bat rises
softly from a flower or a wound

By dusk your breath was warm with bourbon
you went to start the truck and I walked
a trail to the Umpqua I almost dove
but stopped I smelled rot across the water

a deer netted in the rocks the purple
dunnage of guts drifting out its side

The truck horn sounded

the legs were just enough in the water
so that the current caught its hooves causing
it to kick now and again
a sort of peculiar palsied trot

I had to leave.

Moira Magneson

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hi Ho! at HQ for the Arts

The PFA (Poems-For-All) Exhibition and Readings:

Richard Hansen's amazing collection of business card size promotions are decorating the HQ Space this month. Calling it his home, he is not far from the poetic reality of that claim. Richard Hansen has served on the Sacramento Poetry Center Board of Directors, and was instrumental in securing HQ as the new space for the Center. His "poems-for-all" poetry books are his genius contribution and dedication to the poets and poetry in the community. Colorful stories slung in artistic covers, are what these mini-books are, containing the poetry of poets past and current. Tonight, was one of the many readings this month celebrating the series, and the reader list included: ANNIE MENEBROKER. CRAWDAD NELSON. S.V. TAYLOR. DO GENTRY. RACHEL HANSEN. RHONY BHOPLA. KIMBERLY WHITE. SUSAN KELLY-DeWITT. Kimberly managed again, to amuse us with a political piece, requiring audience partipation (Hi Ho!) Rachel, the proprietor of the famed mid-town bookstore The Book Collector, where the reading series normally takes place, introduced her published set with moving compliments for her husband, and definitely outdid Richard's introduction of her (he apparently has read her diaries, or atleast the parts that she allowed.) She read "Atheist" which followed her visit to India, and mirrored stereotypes of physical beauty, while making the listener appreciate the open space of atheistic thought. Nelson, the final reader of the night, reminded us of Kenneth Patchen's persistent presence, and the strength of love shared between Patchen and his lover, Miriam. Crawdad's emotional voice filled us and the room, encapsulating the evening in ode.

I was personally thrilled that Menebroker read her poem "Love": bottlecaps were mentioned twice, once by her and then in a poem about an amazing multi-tasking lover, "Erogenius" by Bhopla; Menebroker's image of microscopic infinite love, was captured in her line where she is able to fill a bottlecap with love. Bhopla, happened to treat us with the same physical motif, when she likened her lover's "tasty nipples" to those of "bottlecaps."

Last year, when a co-worker's mother passed away, I reached into my bag for "something" and found this same PFA by Menebroker. Naturally it was meant for the grieving woman, who took the little folded book with curious, and grateful eyes. I'd like to believe that the poem, or just the sentiment of receiving the poem, elicited a warmth and contemplation of what might be, the eternal life of "love." Menebroker's words, hopefully helped dry some tears.

Next PFA Celebration:
HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th Street, Sacramento,CA 95816
The grand finale of a month long exhibition of the poetry and art featured in the Poems-For-All Series. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Musical peformance by J. GREENBERG- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
With readings of poems by: WILLIAM WANTLING. D.A. LEVY. JACK MICHELINE.
And songs by: JOE HILL

CLICK for series blog POEMS-FOR-ALL.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

!X Redux (Thirteen Ways . . . or at Least Two . . . of Looking at !X)

Sometimes there is so much energy in the room that one can barely sit still. Sometimes a room is so cold that you have to keep moving to stay warm. Both of these factors combined to make for an evening of high energy at Sacramento Poetry Center as members of !X were front and center.

Blending hip-hop and theatrical sensibilities, !X provided their take on love and faith and politics. Many of the writer/performers performed monologues that verged on lyric poems or was it lyric poems that verged on monologues? The blurring of lines between these two approaches came through quite evidently, and it seemed to be what the evening was about.

The group met just before the show began in the corner of the room and got mentally prepared for the event by ringleader Angela-Dee Alforque (whose theater classes at Sacramento city College provided the impetus for !X) who more than once served as the cork in the bottle. Then, like a huddle at a football game, they broke with their game faces on. D. Ü. C. was joined by two others (Julius Giles and Michael White?) to welcome the audience. They intoned “Is Sac City at the Theater? as a refrain as their beat was punctuated by tongue clicks. Even a little musical phrase of tongue clicks was performed. Then D. Ü. C. insistently said, “Let’s start the show.”

And they were off. The next piece by Marques Davison (Sho’Nuff) was the group’s ars poetica, proclaiming beat and rhyme as the rock solid center of their project. At the end Davison reminded the audience, “Remember one thing: the soul of a rhyme lies in you.”

“As I See the World” ventured into political discourse about the current condition of America’s errant foreign policy in Iraq. Resin8 and Tony Garcia-Moreno criticized the Bush administration and declared that they “can’t bring the fallen back.” They equated Bush to Tony Montana, Al Pacino’s character in Scarface. They exclaimed “George Bush is the puppet and the devil is the puppeteer.”

“How Does One Fall in Love?” by LaToya Daniels began with a gospel wail and fell into a monologue about falling in love. The object of her affection was addressed at the end of the poem as she asked, “Are we through?”

Rosita Buada exposed her rapture in “I Know You,” where she affectionately tells her lover how “she loves the laughter, (even though he’s) hiding behind the tough-as-nails veneer.”

“I Am Not My Hair” was an identity statement of sorts for Michael White who regarded his former locks as “vanity shit, my hair-braider quit,” and he ended the piece by revealing the insight, “I don’t need my hair to tell you who I am. I can do that.”

Julius Giles related a monologue about playing peek-a-boo at a restaurant with a young child only to be startled by the child flashing a condom at him under the table. [During open mic, Giles also related a funny but rather raunchy vignette of a homeless man masturbating on the light rail.]

Lola Coy and Travis Stockinger in “I Can’t Stand You” was primarily a female monologue about why her lover is emotionally unavailable. The male answers with periodic retorts. He is told, “I love you, but I can’t stand you.”

In the one socially conscious piece that was not a rant against the Bush administration [“Chance”], Tony Garcia-Moreno, Marques B. Davison, and Travis Stockinger did a character piece where a mentally challenged young man approaches a potential employer for a job only to be told that he need not concern himself without skills. Conversely, he is then offered a job in the second scene by a more progressive employer.

“Is it Possible?” featured Ariel Garcia Moreno [who amazingly seemed to be able to prance around the cement floors in her bare feet all night] and Chu.K the Ugly Duck where during some intimate dance-like poses discussed the possibility of true love.

Elika Bernard (Legato) performed a piece accredited to Kirk Franklin, gospel singer, that broke down into three parts with a refrain from the Tears For Fears song “Shout.” The first part relayed the details of a tough inner city life story. The second section told of growing up in church and making mistakes. The third section came back to pleas to Jesus and the admonition to “treat mama right.” The chorus of !X pounded a beat on a table for Elika to stay in rhythm.

“Hip Hop: Alive & Kickin’” by Resin8 and Tony Garcia-Moreno was an exhibition of an undying pledge to the beat-box. “[Hip-hop is] What I live. What I breathe,” they announced.

“Conspiracy Reality” by Mark Gonzales, a spoken word performance artist from the Bay Area, was performed by Kiswani and D. Ü. C., and the piece carried the main message that “the world is more than a little hungry for justice” as it compared the US to a pimp and the Security Council as its trick.

The energy was contagious. The open mic list was quite long after members were urged to feel inspired by !Xs performance. [David Clyde’s performance was particularly strong] Sacramento was the recipient of a great rush of enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can never be overlooked. One aspect of the evening’s performance that announced itself was the lack of range of subject matter. The writers/performers seemed to be restricted to subjects of love and political tirade with a little sexual banter thrown in for good measure. These are subjects that everyone can relate to, but after a while they seem a little too easy. I was surprised that none of the pieces discussed the meaning/origin of the tongue click that the group took their name from. One might counter that the subject matter being easy to grasp for an audience is the whole point of keepin’ it real. The simplicity of the rhyme and narrative are what draws. Perhaps. But for the adventurous performing soul, any subject matter is fair game and potentially attractive. A performer shouldn’t give up on an audience because the subject matter is difficult.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

*!X* Performs

This week, Monday, at the Sacramento Poetry Center, Bob Stanley hosted performance poetry by the Sacramento City College group !X. The ensemble has been creating and preparing for their performances for over 6 months, and had a chance to showcase their work at the weekly venue. Hailed in Sacramento Bee's Sunday Ticket as "one of 7 things to do this week" Ticket, the enthusiam and quality of performance excelled as a tribute to the alive and endearing talents of our college student performers in Sacramento. From dance and melodies, to political satire, the group enlivened and inspired a long tally of open mic readers afterwards. The devoted "open-mic-ers" were led by SPC Board Member,Tim Kahl, who read "The Century of Travel" from the February cover of SPC's monthly publication Poetry Now. As I sat listening to his lines (modestly interpreted as a statement about fuel) the line about his car fual dial "the needle comes to rest on E,.." I remember thinking "I hate it when that happens!." Following Tim was a grand list of poets, and a poem by Rhony Bhopla, also published in Poetry Now. Finally, the evening ended with a spontaneous unedited piece by Bob Stanley, who shined in his ability to capture the essence of the space and moment in a last poem of compliments to the evening show. I'm looking forward to the next Monday night at the SPC. Special thanks to the leader of !X, Angela-Dee Alforque, artistic dance and performance artist, and teacher.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Julia Connor is Sacramento’s current poet laureate, and she read a wide swath of her poetry at American River College for a group of mostly students. A trail of candy leading to the venue produced few attendees. Most attended for “extra credit” points. Overheard before the reading even started: “I’m not even sure what a poet laureate is supposed to look like.”

Julia Connor ranged from her early work to pieces that were still in progress, that were, in the poet’s words, “close, but no cigar.” Connor’s work often is fortified by her interest in refracted interiors or as she put it, her work merges place with memory. The places she writes in echo inside her to produce a sound which seems to emanate from more than one source.

Early on her work grew out of her domestic situation. “Song for the Wood-Framed House” was her first published piece in a magazine called Quercus (the name of an oak tree), and old publication of none other than the Sacramento Poetry Center. This is a long piece that progresses from scene to scene. In it the speaker initially speaks of four wooden shelves that arrive from Florida which prod the speaker to enter into a dialog with the house. A storm arrives. Her daughter and son are introduced, the son intoning, “there is something that is not clear,” a sentiment that the listener/reader sympatthizes with as Connor’s domestic scenes deepen in complexity. The son plays French horn. The daughter is speaking. The daughter’s shouting is in dialog with the son’s french horn. The speaker continues to remain thoroughly suspended in the moment. The moment is in flux. The poem’s main concern is to remain in the present, to examine it and be held still by its emergent forms. Finally, in the last line, the speaker asserts, “we are strung, small beads of wonder in the fire.”

Connor then went on to discuss what it is like to get lost in a poem, how the poem takes over the poet’s mind and directs it to different places, often without signal or warning. For this process of imagining, Connor used the wonderfully apt metaphor of this process being like “riding a bike without wheels.”

“One February Evening on the 6 ‘o Clock News” begins with the speaker’s comparison of voles versus rats. The speaker then reveals that she is pregnant and that the rat in the family (formerly thought of as male) is also pregnant. Competition between the two ensues. However, when the rat gives birth, it starts to eat its young (presumably due to the mother’s immaturity and trauma in its own infancy). As the baby rats die, the speaker gets sucked into this drama so that all the other animals die as well. The fish in the aquarium die. The last image in the poem is the arrival of the child on the same day as the death of the last fish in the tank, suggesting some preternatural soul exchange.

To introduce her next poem, Connor described the act of “scrying” a photograph which Connor describes as “seeing into things.” By this she means looking very intently at objects until that object’s internal qualities come alive. This is akin to what Bly preaches in his comments about “the object poem.” One meditates on an object like it is a crystal with the hope and confidence that the unforeseen qualities of that object come to the surface. “Photograph in the Landscape of my Mother” features the speaker transmogrified into gull. The speaker focuses on its/her mother until the gull dredges up the mother in “wave after wave.”

After reading the previous works from the distant past, Connor then turned to new works. She described “Joe’s Poem” as a new poem that was nearly finished but still had some tinkering to undergo. She discussed how the poem had grown out of an 8-lime fragment she had written and read for a particular occasion. Afterwards, though, she was dissatisfied with this cursory treatment, and she set out to develop the poem in a more-fully-fleshed-out form. Joe is openly revealed as the speaker’s father, and the begininng of the poem describes in detail a father-daughter fishing incident and the bond that grew there in that setting. The speaker addresses the importance of a father for a daughter through example. finally, the last scene reveals the father at the daughter’s communion where blood (wine) appears on the father’s shirt. It is “blood that ruins and writes.”

“Tommy Dollard” is about a girlhood crush and the instant at which the speaker realizes that moment in the relationship which inscribes her otherness.

“The Visiting Room” begins to encroach on Connor’s later adult life, away from the family and the home. It is in this later incarnation where Connor’s speaker has an encounter with a prisoner. the poem is informed by her days as visiting poet/teacher in the prisons where creative writing was used as a tool to resocialize and rehumanize the prisoners. [Connor points that currently such a program has been discontinued. does this mean that the life of the prisoner is unable to be tethered again to the frame of the human?] The speaker in the poem relates the life story of an inmate who recollects how he unknowingly shoots his kid sister. The inmate reflects that this one formative experience shapes his past as burglar and man who never felt quite right in the shoes of the human. The inmate describes how the presence of his sister is washed away from him so that he can forget about her and not be reminded of her presence, but the inmate can’t. The last image in the poem is of the prisoner being led away while a siren sounds on the TV.

The last piece that Connor read which dealt with her life experience was a section from “Canto for the Birds,” a book-length poem that grew out of a trip that Connor and her husband took while they went visiting Arizona. They stopped at every bird sanctuary in The Valley as they headed south, each one and its associated species of birds serving as anchors in the poem. Again, in this poem prisoners surface. But here the drama of their life stories is not featured. Instead, Connor chooses to use them as foil for her reflection, how she has earned grace from them and her experience with them. The speaker muses that the prisoners have eased her into the grace of old age where the speaker can risk being ridiculous.

The last two pieces were read in honor of Women’s History Month. The first piece challenged the audience with its take on the ancient practice of Chinese foot binding. The other sought a spirit of camaraderie with downtrodden females around the world.

Connor’s poems carve out the familiar, where Connor seeks to affirm her place in the world, but she also pushes her craft out into the world as it remains moored by the labyrinths of memory.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Fairy Tale Town March 4, 2006—A Celebration of Dr. Seuss

One never knows what one can find in Mr. McGregor’s Garden. The Sacramento Poetry Center set up on the broad tables found there, hoping to find a few little bunnies squeezing in under the fence so that they could be thoroughly punished with words. The task, again, for errant children was to build their poetry necklaces. Children literally string words together and then wear them around their necks in astounding acts of self-branding. Anything for Dr. Seuss.

A view of the table where the pile of words grows thinner, Keely Dorran attending to the whims of the Seussians. Thing 1 and Thing 2 also pictured (with their backs to the camera).

Words by the pound. Seth Dorran’s candidate for world’s longest poetry necklace.

Victor Schnickelfritz makes a rare appearance as “the scruffy daisy” or is it “the shady sunflower” ?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Introducing... Blood on the Page

Monday, March 6th at SPC: the room was filled with the words of survivors, and those that reveal their true life physical and emotional pain in the form of literary artistic expression. Blood on the Page is a cathartic and very surprising uplifting collaboration of writing, by people who have gone through difficulties that most of us will be lucky not to ever experience. This anthology called Blood on the Page, Collected Writings of Sutterwriters, will be available Saturday, March 11th, 5:30 p.m. at the Sutter Cancer Center - Buhler Building - 2800 L. Street, 1st floor (free parking.) Join us for the experience, and learn about how these writers have enabled themselves, by literary expression, to share and deal with some of their life's intimate difficulties.

The reading on March 6th was the first collaborative reading and warm-up for the powerful words that have been printed and now will voice thoughts on the anguish and the ability to continue to deal or overcome illness. The project was chaired by Ellen Yamshon and edited by Chip Spann and Jan Haag, foreward by Naomi Shihab Nye, photographs by Bill Archbold. To hear them read again and to purchase Blood on the Page, mark your calendar for March 11th for the release date and celebration of this inspiring collaborative.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Online Feedback?

Anybody want to start on online feedback group for poetry writing?
It's so tough to get out and share work.
If we had a system of posting and sharing new work, we could get and give feedback -
(hopefully not too much) and revise, revise, revise.
(Or just ignore)


What better way to kick off the Sacramento Poetry Center's blog than with Sacramento's first poet laureate. The dean of Sacramento letters, Dennis Schmitz read at the Art Foundry on February 25. He read from primarily two sources: his book Singing, which was approaching its 20th anniversary of publication and many new, unpublished pieces. As he read, the shrine of roosters behind him appeared to be ready to join in and crow with delight, ready to spread their mayhem just as the typical Schmitz line scatters its idiosyncratic details and diction with a sonic quirkiness that makes ordinarily well-behaved consonants begin to behave as though they were having too good of a time.

When Dennis Schmitz reads, one must be prepared to open up a time capsule. This was certainly the case when he read from “Skinning the Cat” which documents the game he used to play as a boy during the World War II years. A group of people would assemble in the living room and wait for the mysterious items that were being prepared in the kitchen. The “cat skinner” would prepare items like a warm grape or cantaloupe innards that would be ushered out to the waiting group where they would have to guess which parts of the cat they were handling. [Too bad the darkness would prevent a reality TV camera from entering upon the scene.] The poem is told from the perspective of a young boy who enters the room carrying the vessel full of faux cat parts.

“Country Deaths” is a poem that deals with the despair of farmers in Schmitz’s boyhood Iowa. One particularly grim passage lists the ways that people had either killed themselves or thought of killing themselves in order to escape that despair.

Informed by the same period of time in his life, “A Man and a Woman” speaks of a couple traveling down the road with the woman flying in the air as she hangs off the vehicle. Finally, she transmogrifies into a metal contraption. This piece seemed to go nicely with the metal sculpture of a woman that was suspended from the ceiling with wire, flying above Schmitz as he read.

“Finding the Way,” The History of Armor,” and “Apostle to the Birds” from Singing were followed by “Coma,” a poem about a man whose unconscious state heals the world’s war wounds and prevents further atrocities, blanketing the world in a similar peace. The man lies in his hospital bed and receives a phone call from Eisenhower, but fortunately for the world, he is unable to take the call.

The second half of the reading featured new unpublished pieces. “Elms” dealt with a trip for the speaker back to the old hometown to visit a brother. During the trip the speaker witnesses the removal of the elms due to Dutch elm disease and reflects on their passing as things that have served beyond their purpose. This piece seemed to be the one that hit home emotionally for many of those in attendance as one of those gasps of sympathy that often appear at poetry readings as signs of approval lifted above the crowd like a helium balloon.

Schmitz had recently visited the Seattle area and he read two poems about the ferries. The one “Bainbridge Island Ferry” spoke of the ferry as kind of a giant vessel that contained humanity in its modernity. Then the speaker focused on one of its marginal members, a man who passes out “prayer cards,” and meditates on the man’s place on the juggernaut of a ferry moving forward.

“Port Townsend, Lawrence Street” featured two deer that came into view down to the middle of town from the library. The speaker muses that the deer were perhaps done with their studying.

“Bait” told of a fishing trip in reverse chronological order with Schmitz’s old friend Tom Crawford. The first part of the poem tells of their arrival at the pond to find it is not what they thought it would be, littered as it is with building materials for the next set of condos to go in. The second part of the poem talks about the speaker and his friend getting lost in the car on the way, and the poem concludes with the two early morning travelers out on the road full of hope where the speaker offers in the last line, “how perfect the fish become as we talk bait.”

Two shorter pieces were next. The one, “Eye Bush,” was, as the title surreal suggests, about a bush full of eyes that had grown to witness the world’s spectacles and failures.
The other, my personal favorite of the night, was about a well-known woman and her dancing chicken on Halsted Street in Chicago. The dancing chicken is a genius, the speaker reveals, and is tempted to join in with the chicken except for the fact that its droppings are scattered all over the sidewalk and he is afraid to get them all over his shoes, a wry commentary on contemporary life.

“Animism” produced the loudest guffaw all night when Schmitz described Dick Cheney as an animal “with four paws up, nut in mouth.” Cheney escaped the poem without much further damage, but the speaker’s “animism” commented on Cheney as a natural phenomenon where a soul seemed poised to invade an inanimate object.

“Heckfire” was the finale and it spoke of Schmitz’s opposition to the death penalty. Schmitz protests the executions in California every time they take place, and this informed the poem. The speaker mentions a blind and crippled prisoner readied for execution, almost certainly a reference to Clarence Allen, a frail, diabetic old man of 76 when he was put to death by the State of California in January of 2006.