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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A weekend of poetry in review

This weekend last was chock-full of poetry goodness. Saturday (4/22) saw the return from Southern California of poet/artist/publisher S.A. Griffin, who brought with him Ellyn Maybe, Scott Wannberg and Cleveland poet John Dorsey to read at The Book Collector. They were joined by Lob and Robert Roden (who hosted) -- two poets from So Cal that now call Sacramento home. This was a return for Griffin, co-editor of The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, who brought his New Word Order Tour here last April during National Poetry month.

So, yes. Outlaw poets. You wouldn't know by looking at some of them. John Dorsey is shy and soft spoken. Ellyn Maybe giggles. A lot. But it's all about what they do when they're in front of an audience. And it's there, facing out, behind the lecturn -- the poet's pulpit -- that poets like John, Scott and Ellyn unleash.

I was pleased to publish Ellyn Maybe's untitled poem in a Poems-For-All booklet, but what one sees there, in print, is nothing compared to it's live delivery.

Do you fear me cause I wear a purple friendship bracelet?
Do you fear having me as a friend?
Are you afraid to introduce me to your grandparents?
The only perfect thing about me is my perfect lack of confidence
does that freak you out?
I'm fat. How does that sit with you?
I wear political pins does that bother you?
I'm a bookworm. Does that depress you?
Are you terrified cause i've been bas mitzvahed
Are you scared cause i think spiders are sacred?
I'm left handed, ooooooooooooo No comment.
Do you worry about me cause i'm a virgin?
Cause i'm loud and sometimes embarrassing
are you wary of spending time with me?
I know where the feminist bookstores are in a whole bunch of states
Does that make you tremble?
People think i'm younger and older than i am
Does that reflect badly on you somehow?
I don't always comb my hair
can you hear it coming?
Is it my ugliness or beauty that frightens you the most?
Are you afraid of me cause i'm human?

Even the mood and banter of the So Cal scene was transported up for the occasion. One audience member, a lawyer who used to frequent the scene down south, has since moved to Sacramento and was present to playfully heckle. It was part of the phenomenon I first noticed when S.A., John and Scott were here last year: that desire to engage the audience, tap into its energy. Verbal back-and- forths encouraged and essential to the mood.

Jane Blue

Sunday (4/23) found Jane Blue in the same bookstore for a Sunday Afternoon Poems-For-All reading. Like Victoria Dalkey, who read last Thursday (4/20) as part of the Urban Voices Reading Series, I enjoyed how Jane folded art references into her work. When Victoria, wife of artist Fred Dalkey, was asked about this at her reading, she replied than rather than writing ephraksis poems (poems about a work of art) she was more inclined to "have the art come into the poem through the back door." So too with Jane.

There are different schools of thought on just how much exposition a reader should deliver between poems. Douglas Blazek, reading at HQ (3/11), for example, preferred to let his poems speak (mostly) for themselves. I rather like it when a poet sets up a poem; clueing us into special meanings or guest appearances of unique words, persons or historical references. Like ligaments between each poem, Jane Blue's narrative was as interesting as the poems to which it connected. The details behind her poem about the Ottoman Empire come to mind. Not the Ottoman Empire she explains. Rather, the poem is inspired by her husband Peter's reference to the Ottoman stacked with books in her workspace at home: "your Ottoman Empire." A rich, interesting story. A fine poem.

Billy Childish

I'm always curious about what kind of audience any particular poet is going to draw. Especially so with the Billy Childish reading this last Sunday (4/23) at Old Ironsides. I mean, "Old I" is a place I'm used to standing around to watch garage-band acts like The Losin' Streaks, standing, beer in hand (Guiness, please) pressed in close to the miniature stage with all the other folks. So there I was listening to poetry, beer in hand, and its packed. At least a hundred souls on hand. For a poetry reading. The kind of numbers I could only dream of at one of my readings at the bookstore (even if we could only fit in a third of them in the sardine-sized space I call a reading venue.) Interesting thing is, I didn't recognize anyone else from "the poetry scene" save for Lob. So where the hell were you? (If you were among us and I missed you, let me know.) This was an evening of Poetry and Blues. Childish is a poet, yes, but has a larger following as a musician and artist. (Perhaps it were these fans that filled the place?)

The Guardian wrote this about Childish: The truth is that Billy Childish, 44-year-old writer, painter and founding member of the Buff Medways isn't much bothered by what people think of him or his work. A singular individual, he has lived life, as he puts it, 'on the wrong end of the seesaw'.

He read from just one book, scraps of catalogue paper marking the pages he wanted to read. It was too dark to make out the title and by the time I made my way to the front when it was all over, all available copies had sold out. His poems have titles like you'd find in 17th and 18th century books; long titles that give up some of what's to happen (instead of being clever or cryptic.) He rolled a lozenge in his cheek between poems, wore a felt hat stylish perhaps three score years ago. His mustache was like a handlebar.

He read: The Billy Childish Poem ("Writer of poems to lick the thighs of the dead"); sang The Bitter Cup ("None speaks the truth like the drunk"); A sad donkey and a Fat Man smiling ("speaking as an artist of dubious merit"); Failure; Only Poets Piss in Sinks (Poets, Childish noted, "The only profession where you get applauded for unsanitary behavior"); I am a stranger hero of hunger ("I am Arturo Bandini/ I am Ishmael/Knocker off of tall hats."); Tai Chi; The man who never thought he'd be a father is a father; It is the Poets Job (which resonates much like Kenneth Patchen's The Artist's Duty as a manifesto of how the artist must engage the world); The Shed; Tattoo; The First Green Horse That God has ever made; We have War because we love War; Huddie's Poem (the "blood heavy towels" as they took his wife to intensive care leaving him alone with his newborn son. "I no longer love poisonous women, Huddie"); At Midnight I will say I love you; I speak to Lonely Artists.

Resident in all of his poems is a broken past; an abusive father, hard drinking, a fractured life-in-general all figure into the poems. Not as in poems tinged with regret but, instead, with a kind of sober (intended) matter-of-factness. Childish even finds occasion to laugh at his father's dysfunctional comings and goings. Gone sometimes months at a time, Childish noted, he always seemed to come back "Appearing like some ghost" at just some moment when Childish was doing something that could get him into trouble. When he and his young friends in a fledgling punk band began to practice "my generation;" the Patti Smith version of the song which begins: "I don't need your fuckin' shit..." his weeks-absent father suddenly returns home.

I had the honor of publishing and distributing a little Poems-For-All chaplette of Childish's poem authenticity over originality (PFA #595) thanks to Tim Foster who knows Childish's wife Julie (who is from California.)

- - -
Full disclosure: I am the owner of bookstore mentioned in this review.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

D.R. Wagner at Luna's

Poets & Writers Literary Roundtable returns to Sacramento

Poets & Writers will convene their Literary Roundtable on Thursday, May 11th from 10:30am to Noon at HQ: Headquarters for the Arts (1719 25th Street -- 25th & R).

The meeting provides a forum for dialogue and exchange of ideas between a diverse group of presenters, presses, and writers.

Previous P&W Roundtable gatherings have been an excellent opportunity to network, brainstorm and collaborate with others from around the region. Anyone with an interest in the literary arts is encouraged to attend. Those interested in doing so need to contact P & W program assistant Jamie Fitzgerald -- jfitzgerald@pw.org -- and RSVP by May 4th.


The Rain Ananael Despedida and JoAnn Purdy Memorial Event featured one of the most luscious spreads the Sacramento Poetry Center has seen in quite a while. The strawberries and wisteria and pink roses provided the effect of a veritable fertile crescent at HQ.

Rain Ananael, who was scheduled to read with David Purdy prior to the sad news of his wife JoAnn’s unexpected passing, kicked off the evening reading several pieces that David wished her to read, one which chronicled David and JoAnn’s relationship. She read a Benedictus and an occasional piece which she had penned in the last few days since the news of JoAnn’s passing.

Rain was followed by a cast of local poets whose affiliation and connection with David and JoAnn was palpable. The first to read was Josh McKinney, who read a poem by Ronald Johnson entitled “April 18,” the precise day on which JoAnn died. He then read from his book The Novice Mourner the final poem in that book entitled “Empire.”

Sue Thomas read “7/12 Return” written by David Purdy and two of her own poems “On Passing By” and “For Brother Abel Dead at 94.” Finally, she read the epigraph from an epistolary poem that David had recently written

Eric Jeffrey then read two poems “Glad we Met” and “The Great Lover” by Rupert Brooke.

Ann Michals (joined by her daughter Milla) went on to confess her “Filipino Problem” and read a piece entitled “Creation Myth” that was based on a Filipino creation myth. She then read another of her pieces “A Photograph of You and I in Black and White” and finished with Edna St, Vincent Millay’s “I shall Go Back Again to the Bleak Shone”

Ann Privateer read an original piece entitled “Without Warning”

Edythe Schwartz read “Beginner’s Mind” by Margaret Gibson and “Tesserae” by Barbara Guest, revealing her strong belief in the notion of discovering what one is able to accomplich by trying something for the first time.

Tim Kahl read an original piece entitled “The Chariot,” based on a theme of the negro spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

Maddy Walsh read Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” and in continuance with her everyman theme, read Joe E. Weil’s “Painting the Christmas Trees.”

Brad Buchanan read Australian poet Peter Porter’s “An Exequy” and an original piece of his own entitled “The Slowness of Light”

Bob Stanley read a poem from Gary Snyder’s Axe Handles, did his best Nat King Cole impression in singing “Nature Boy” and finally made a prediction with respect to Rain Ananael’s impending departure from the Sacramento area when he predicted that “Rain will return to Northern California.” All in attendance were heartily in agreement.

Featured in the photo above: Rain Ananael, stemming the tide of darkness that rushes toward her (large photo), (l to r, first row) Ann Michals with daughter Milla, Sue Thomas (l to r, second row) Josh McKinney, Ann Privateer (seen here hitchhiking to Delaware) (l to r, third row) Edythe Schwartz, Maddy Walsh, Brad Buchanan and Bob Stanley

Thursday, April 20, 2006

April 24—Commemorative Evening for JoAnn Purdy

Rain Ananael and David Purdy

Due to the unexpected passing of JoAnn Purdy, David Purdy's wife, the April 24th reading at the Sacramento Poetry Center that was to feature Rain Ananael and David Purdy will be held as a commemorative evening dedicated to the spirit of JoAnn Purdy. Anyone who knew JoAnn or knows David (who will not be in attendance) and would like to contribute to the evening's reading is welcome to come. Because of the special nature of this evening, the open mic will be postponed until the following week.

Joshua Clover Reading in Davis, CA

Joshua Clover gave his hometown reading in Davis last night. The room was packed full of listeners ready to hear Clover’s wit and sarcasm (tinged with sincerity), his intelligence and cultured sensibility (particularly of those things European). He started things off with a dedication to those who don’t write about their daily life. Then, a bit more sincerely, he dedicated his reading to his students at UC Davis who have been informing and shepherding his work for the past several years during the writing of his new book The Totality For Kids.

Somewhat surprisingly, Clover led off the evening reading from Brecht. He read “Parade of the Old New,” the first of Brecht’s “Five Visions” that were written in 1938. The piece projected its prescience during the line “I saw the old approaching, but it appeared as the new.” So this means Brecht was actually the first postmodernist?

The first piece that Clover read which he authored was Ceriserie which was described as a list poem. But this poem did not operate as a normal list of items seen and experienced in the real world. Clover’s list betrays his interest in the Francophile world and the world of cinema, literature and music. His list reflects what Diane Wakoski used to refer to as the archaeology of books and movies.

Clover then read “The Other Atelier” which Clover related grew out of his attempt to translate a poem from French into English and then back into French. The failed translation project (much too humble was Clover in his characterization of his attempt as a failure) surfaced, “The shift from modernism to world systems is stored in the new candy-colored currency”

Clover continued with another poem from “Totality” entitled “Chreia,” which grew out of Clover’s research into the surrealist project for two particular cruets in Paris to be filled with semen and menstrual blood. These were jusxtaposed against the twin towers of the World Trade Center so that images of “cops in kevlar” and the “expectation of terror” also swirled in the mix.

A short anarchist bonbon was offered next entitled “Proposal to Improve Museum Gift Shops in Paris” which included some mention of terrorist bombs being planted there.

“Two Poets are Reading Machiavelli When They Should Be Reading Clausewitz” was next followed by a poem written for Elliot Smith (who apparently has about 5 or 6 good songs which is better than most who only have 2 or 3 if they’re lucky . . . according to Clover). It is in this poem that Clover penned my favorite line of the evening, “We lie down in concepts and wake up in categories”

“Feral Floats the Form in Heaven and of Light” was the next one up, where “the famous and the dead have learned to fall between our eyes and their forms in heaven”

Clover then told of how growing up in Berkeley he remembered going to Sproul Plaza and vaguely having an impression as a very small child of the Free Speech movement in 1964. From this arose, “For the Little Soldier” which is surprisingly autobiographical at first, much more so than most of Clover’s readers might suspect. In this piece Clover also extends this truism: “You do not know a town until you know where the drunkards go to piss.”

One of my favorite parts of the evening was when Clover read from the index at the back of the book. The editors of “Totality” wanted to provide the reader with some idea of what was “borrowed” material, so Clover, enlisting the help of the inimitable Andrew Joron, wrote up an index for the book, which as far as I can tell is accurate. Clover boasted it is the only book of poems with an index. [Counterexamples are welcome.] Especially big laughs were had with “Bonaparte, Napoleon” and “Boone, Debbie.”

Jumping on the band wagon of writing in established forms, Clover revealed he had scratched out a sestina entitled Das Kissenbuch where the Tzu brothers (not really) Lao and Sun engage each other in a Kunst des Krieges.

The last poem of the evening was an as-of-yet-untitled one which Clover admitted he had put the finishing touches on that afternoon. He prefaced the poem by saying that most of his poems are about cities and money. In the poem he paraphrased William Carlos Williams when he said “No ideas but in money,” a wry shift on that regular motif.

Afterward, I was honored that Clover should dub me “Dude Man” (most likely from the lovely vintage thrift store Guatemalan belt I was wearing . . .what can I say? Only clothes from the 70’s fit me.) The crowd milled about and was deposited on the street where I overheard: “Yeah, Joshua is a good reader, but he doesn’t like to read” Don’t miss the next time. It might not come around all that much.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


A healthy number of people showed up on Monday to participate in Julia Connor's poet laureate Think Postcard project. Indigo Moor was Mr. Conviviality as he got everybody involved with scissors, magazines, pens, glue, and glitter. He assured everyone that their efforts would be acceptable whatever they did. Becca Costello from Sacramento News & Review showed up and took part while she grilled the participants (knowing that they might be on the record) with light-hearted conversation. The pressure to say something appropriate was excruciating. I'm afraid several participants may have failed in that regard.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

An Evening with Billy Childish | Sunday, April 23rd | 8pm |

Legendary DIY artist Billy Childish makes his first-ever Sacramento appearance! Best known as the 'godfather of garage rock', Childish defined the sound and attitude of the lo-fi movement with his bands the Milkshakes, thee Mighty Caesars and thee Headcoats. In addition to releasing over one hundred albums of music, Childish is also a prolific painter, printmaker, author and poet.

The subject of the recent documentary, Billy Childish is Dead, Childish has been a strong influence on artists as diverse as Kurt Cobain, the Mummies, the White Stripes and YoungBritshArtist Tracey Emin. A truly eccentric and original artist, Childish has never lost the defiant punk spirit that has marked his work for thirty years.

Billy Childish will perform two hours of his poetry and blues at Old Ironsides (10th & S, Sacramento) on April 23. Doors open at7pm, show starts at 8pm. $7. Advanced tickets available at The Book Collector, 1008 24th Street, Sacramento (No fee.)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

POETRY NOW for March Delayed until April

Circumstances beyond our control prevented us from getting the March issue of Poetry Now out on time. That issue will be released simultaneously with the April issue. Clearly, the March calendar information will be past its usefulness, but poetry (as we all know) has no Read-By date. We regret this lapse in consistency.