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, February 27, 2007


Julia Levine and Kate Northrop played poetry tag in front of a healthy group of intrepid souls who braved the elements to attend their reading. The two had been planning on reading poems they selected for the other to hear/read. They each did two sets. The first set was initiated with poems written by poets other than Northrop and Levine that they had sent to each other, a kind of mixed tape effect (which Kate acknowledged in a lament-filled voice that no one makes anymore). Each one’s second set was populated by their own work that they had done recently and hoped would register with the other and the audience.

In Kate’s first set she read a piece by Edna St. Vincent Millay, then thought that maybe she shouldn’t have picked such a powerhouse poet because her own work might not stand up next to Millay’s. There were several poems in this set that could be described as heartfelt yet depressing. Then after apologizing to the audience for picking so many depressing poems, she proceeded unabashedly to read some of her own (self-labeled) “depressing” poems. One of these was about A neighbor she had in Czechoslovakia whom she did not know but whose presence was reassuring nonetheless. The piece was titled “The Neighbor”[Listen to the .mp3 at this link]. She also read a poem about an experience she had deep sea diving entitled “Dive.”

Julia then read several poems by other poets. One of these was a long, sad, affecting poem by a man named John Robinson. She also read poems by Thomas Centolella and Jorie Graham’s “San Sepolcro” (which by her own admission she wasn’t sure why she read).

It became clear as the reading went on that both poets chose poems that they felt some sort of kinship with, yet their affinity to each piece remained unarticulated. It was almost as if each poem was chosen to penetrate the other’s psyche, the way one might spontaneously ask a penetrating question of a friend that you are getting to know.

Kate read pieces from the second set, including the title piece from her new book (which did not arrive as had been expected due to a distribution snafu) entitled “Things Are Disappearing Here”. She explained that instead of words like “mist” and “rain” that recurred in her first book, the word she found she was most fond of in the writing of this book was “there.” It was also during this set that she introduced the audience to a new word: metaxis. Northrop described this word as an instance when a thing exists between two states but it is in neither of them. It became clear as the night wore on that the thing that existed between Northrop and Levine, that lived in both of them simultaneously, was their friendship and mutual respect for each other’s craft.

In Julia Levine’s second set she read several pieces. One was inspired by the sonic memorial to 9/11 which catalogs the sounds of last calls made to loved ones made by those on the planes that went down that day.

Driving West on 37, Listening to the Sonic Memorial

Why stop ever, days of rain
lifting rust from winter’s sedge,

a taste of unfinished ruin
shuttled and looming

in the storm of swallows
giving back the massive river,

the voice on my radio
unsealing the beyond,

binding it back again.
Jules, this is David. I am on a plane

that’s been taken hostage,
and it doesn’t look good,

a flock of swallows flying now
across the marsh, folding the silver edges

over and over, the great barriers
dissolving up that high

where David whispers, Jules,
I want you to know. I loved you absolutely.

Finally, I think, the smallness
of believing in one body

is all that ever can be undone.
How I hear David’s voice

and want him to live; want Jules
to beg him please, come back,

but of course she isn’t home,
the tiny tape on her counter

turning round his ghost,
a strange whir unloosed and soaring.

As if the promise to return
was an instinct in us, too,

a magnetic field poured
and snowing, the way David does now,

my own face changing shape
to think of how he is hurled into it--

like fledglings pushed from cliffs,
like the ones at the tower’s edge

feeling the floor begin to crumble--
how finally, at the edge of all we know,

they are taking someone’s hand,
they are throwing two bodies

against one sky, one wing......

Another piece was an homage to a particular favorite spot out in Tomales Bay where one climbs to this place of refuge hidden from the shore and is rendered philosophically replenished.

Tomales Bay

We lie down on the dock
and listen to wind fingering the masts,

a kind of chiming you say
that always makes you sad.

A gull slips through the bay,
lifting white and impossible into the sky.

And there, just beyond the cove,
a man and his two small boys

shout wildy, clapping at each mackerel
they drag up over their rowboat's stern.

The water’s surface keeps breaking.
The sky keeps changing colors.

And behind it, behind beauty?

Perhaps we were not meant
to understand everything.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter
how far away the disturbance
travels to reach us,

or how hard the slam and thrust
buried in these waves.

Our bodies are sleeved in light.

And our souls,
they make this trip alone.

At the end of the evening Julia and Kate jumped on a plane and flew to the AWP conference together. There’s no doubt that they’ll be sitting together, which is really nice when one realizes that too many literary relationships are marked with poison.

Oh, and, by the way, thanks, Kate, for teaching us in Sacramento a new word.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Steve Williams and Brad Buchanan @ The Book Collector

Steve Williams will be reading from his new rattlechap entitled "Skin Stretched Around the Hollow" on March 14 at 7:30 PM at The Book Collector.

Also reading will be Brad Buchanan, who will read from his broadside entitled "Ultrasound," a collection of poems dedicated to his infant daughter Nora.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Couples Reading—Goff and Staklis, Erik & Terryl, Mantecon and Mantecon, and Frith and Frith

The pre-Valentine’s couples reading event started at about the same time the rain began pelting the tin roof at the SPC in a way that reminded one of a hail of machine gun bullets and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

The evening started off with the host Indigo Moor reading a poem by e.e. cummings and then exiting into the rain after a little while. Bob Stanley then took over the hosting duties.

The first couple up, starting off the reading, was Tom Goff and Nora Staklis. Nora read a poem she wrote when she was 12, a love haiku. She said she met Tom when she was his student at American River College. She noticed this guy skulking around, and that turned out to be Tom. Tom read a piece entitled “Folsom Lake Sonnet,” a piece that ventured into the cosmos, and a piece based on Thomas Hardy.

Tom Goff and Nora Staklis

Next up was Erik and Terryl (in her signature black Converse). She apologized for doing her poems for the million and first time (but that she hasn’t written very many poems lately) . . . hopefully not due to health problems. After the first poem one of the members of the audience became agitated that she couldn’t hear Terryl over the didgeridoo. The volume was turned up on the mic, but after the second poem the audience member continued to complain. now I may not know too much, but I know enough not to heckle the didgeridoo player. Dat dere is a mighty big stick! Alone, henpecked by a woman that wasn’t even his wife, Erik politely sat down for the last piece that Terryl did by herself.

Terryl and Erik

Christina and Art Mantecon then took their place before the reading stand. Christina read a fairly long piece that was quite revealing about domestic goings-on at the Mantecon house. Some mention was made of a three-bad dog walk and an errant step out of the bed onto some cat vomit. Art read two poems inspired by the Beats in their rhythmic delivery and in their flurry of images and invocations of things seen (known as “eyeball kicks” to Ginsberg and the gang). The first poem was written at a time before he met Christina when he didn’t think he was going to meet anyone else to share his life with. The second poem was a tour de force poem written during a trip to Montreal, full of the ambience of city life,eyes turned admiringly to a beloved, French phrases and a trip to a bookstore. C’est magnifique!

Art Mantecon & Christina Mantecon

At last the first family of Sacramento Poetry came to the fore—Carol and Laverne Frith. Carol was in a formal mood for the evening and read several stately sonnets, one that celebrated (is that the right word?) the disparities in love. Laverne read his elegant crafted poems (without a speck of cereal in them)! They celebrated local landmarks that have served for his and Carol’s long commitment to each other. They just recently passed the 25-year mark. Let’s hope the disparities for the next 25 years are not too great for them to overcome.

Carol and Laverne Frith

. . . And as the last few members trickled out into the night, somebody was still complaining about that damn didgeridoo player.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Theresa McCourt and Judy Halebsky—Black Dress, White Boots

Theresa McCourt

Judy Halebsky

A packed house at SPC brought forth a semblance of heat to the friendly confines of the poetry center. It was February so no one expected much heat, but there was plenty to spare. Even the Japanese mouth organ that accompanied Judy Halebsky at the end of the evening made it to a suitably warm temperature which rendered it playable.

The featured readers for the evening were Judy Halebsky and Theresa McCourt. But Indigo Moor led off the evening with a forceful and heartfelt version of Yusef Kommunyakaa’s “Blue Light Lounge Sutra” where the speaker invokes the devil “to use your head for a drum.” Then Indigo suggested that Judy Halebsky would be someone, if a battle over poetry were raging, you would want to go into battle with. She would be the one carrying the axe.

Judy Halebsky led off the evening in her signature white boots (which I have an inexplicable fetish for—yet surprisingly no other women’s footwear does this for me). She began the evening reading “Prognosis” wherein she made a record of her trespasses and admitted she was not good enough to look you in the eye. The speaker’s ambivalence finally came to rest in the last line where the speaker said, “when it’s not too dark, it’s too bright to see at all.”

In “Butter Melts in Summer” some girls are sunbathing and remarking how their toes were more beautiful than the beach. The speaker notes she should have left right then. At the end the one of the women who is sunbathing starts to yell and accuse the speaker of eating her lunch.

In “How To Find A Man Up To the Task” (which is from Halebsky’s manuscript entitled “Japanese for Daydreamers”) the speaker is on the prowl for a man. She knows that in Japanese there are words that means “too smart for success” and “too beautiful for words.” At the end the speaker comes across a man holding up a sign: quality sperm, bargain prices. Everything available.

In “Red Hollow” Halebsky began to mine her family for material. Her father declares Marx a prophet, and at the end of the poem the speaker is throwing her old dresses off the roof.

“Pigs In a Blanket” was dedicated to LaVerne Frith whom Judy invoked as a pancake-eating fiend and as a poet with an eye for the bingo caller. In the poem appears in front of a stack of blueberry pancakes. To which the speaker responds she has taken out loans to buy red sandals.

In “Radio Poem” there is a good bit of bantering back and forth between two speakers who are arguing about music and aesthetics, and at the end of the poem they end up seemingly on the verge of making a little music of their own.

In “The Big School” the speaker playfully chastises her father for using big words, suggesting this is some sort of compensation for failing kindergarten. Tortuous, cloyed, and pedantic are given their alternative meanings. And finally, the speaker arrives at understanding something about the state of ennui.

In “Sears and Roebuck House” Judy described a family house of hers that was primarily prefabricated and straight out of the Sears Catalog. In the poem Judy remarks that there is a safety pin through your heart to keep it together. The house in question comes equipped with a doorbell that plays Pachelbel’s Canon. But the song plays for so long and so loudly when the door is answered. The speaker’s grandfather sabotages the tape presumably by cutting it.

In “Thin Icy Storm” the term “kamikaze” is invoked but a corrective is issued for that term’s definition. It does not mean suicide. It literally means “divine wind,” and the speaker equates this to “what is missing” and then further she claims what is worse than kamikaze is being a parent to someone who is equally wounded.

Judy Halebsky ended with “Down the Mountain,” the last poem she wrote while attending the Squaw Valley conference. The speaker starts out, “Take me as though nothing is left” and ends with “whatever I came with I spent.”

Theresa McCourt came to the forefront wearing a little black dress that put her in a enviable position. Judy, who in an earlier poem had confessed a weakness for red sandals, seemed especially envious. For all those who might be similarly inclined to wear black to an SPC event, Theresa revealed to me that she found the dress at Mary’s Thrift Store on Northgate. Fourteen bucks! Sorry, Judy. She said that she’s lending it to me first.

The first poem of hers was called “Getting Started” and it was about improving oneself but having doubts about whether that was happening. The poem is about relearning, about recovering an even heart beat. At the end the speaker recalls the grocery list of self doubts she has had

Getting Started

Gimpy, ragged,
from stillness to motion,
relearning after so many repeated efforts,
that breath will even out,
that heart, after the initial flurry,
will recover an even beat,
that hips and knees
will be anointed
a certain distance from the house.

After one or two miles,
the Achilles will even shed
its shadowy film of scarring,
grown anew
from one night of stiffening sleep.

Since first stepping onto the road,
twenty-four years ago,
I’ve listened to so many of my grumblings,
a variety of complaints—
all of them reciting
what can’t be done,
what I could be doing instead,
what I’m not capable of.

“Along the Canal” is a poem that is set in McCourt’s hometown of Manchester, England amid is industrial despair. The poem begins depicting a stagnant location. Murky water rivers into a meadowy plain. The speaker dreams her first animal, a wolf. At the end of the poem the speaker returns to her focus on the environment. She is in a new meadow thirty years later. Birds reappear and then suddenly they disappear, splintering the air into black ash.

“Passing” was followed by “Notes in the Margin” which was culled from the notes written in the margin of a William Stafford poem ["People Who Went By in Winter"]. In it the “words (that) arrive(d) today” (the notes from the margin that address the common mistakes of subsequent generations in families) end up questioning the speaker as to whisch belongs to the notes in the margin.

In “The Funeral,” a three part poem about her mother’s funeral, McCourt starts out in part one standing in a narrow lane, A shepherd whistles for a collie and her brother tosses a cigarette. In the second part the speaker appears at the scene of the burial and in the third part dialog after the funeral is included. The speaker remembers the priest after the ceremony as the one who piloted her mother's honesty through her despair.

“Winter Run” was dedicated to Theresa McCourt’s longtime running partner, Mona. The speaker in the poem sees several deer and notes how the run she was doing was something she complained about in her 20s. In that way, the poem was about the acceptance of difficulty.

“Vanishing Point” was a look at tragedy. the speaker is set inside a framed picture, a quiet still setting, that of the tragic scene that continues to announce itself. For the speaker the scene seems so removed that it hardly even registers anymore. The speaker addresses the tragic subject as distant, forgotten.

“Folding Laundry” was about diminishing oneself in the role of the parent. The counter to the speaker’s diminishment is the white magnolia blossom opening. At the end, the speaker notes how she goes to full, to half, to quarter the same way her laundry is folded.

In “Winter Planting” a poem (obliquely) about the positive side of parenting.

Winter Planting

By light from the kitchen, this sapling,
quiet in a circle of freshly turned mud:

Naked, except for two tags, a yellow, a white—
one bearing its name; the other, the ways to care for it.

Reddish nubs barely raise its silver bark,
but from it stretch two invisible lines—

one to the apple, the other to the myrtle,
forming a triangle in the garden’s vertical aspect.

Though years behind these two older trees,
it is a presence, loaded with latent fruit.

The apple and the myrtle seem to stand in as parents for the sapling whose presence portends a fruitful future.

“Pain” is addressed to the body nagged by pain, and the poem swells into an examination of a person deliberating over those tiresome, yet essential-to-the-process, difficulties. In this case it is mostly a tendon that is let loose a little. As the speaker addresses the body's frailties, she raises her eyes to egrets, deer and advises the body, because of its tendency to wear out “Attempt nothing without first consulting me.”


It doesn’t matter which way I apply it. Take one of my more banal approaches: I locked your left Achilles, refusing you those tight turns on the track, when all you sought was speed. So far, I haven't completely tied you up. Here and there, I let your tendon loose a little, unwind a bit, for those more leisurely paces that take you out (slowly, mind) on the soft shoulder of the trail, beside the river, early mornings, so you can see, with the speed I allow, mist rising from the river, in the swirl of currents, the view from the bridge; so that you raise your eyes, stop to watch the geese flying south, the white egret swallow the frog, count the seven deer motionless in the blanched grass—or notice your own incessant commentary. I can stop you any time—because I want you always to remember your weaknesses, take account of them. Do nothing, attempt nothing, without first consulting me.

In “Bearded Iris” the speaker begins, “To you, I gave the leftover places." Razor edges and gnarled rhizomes are invoked, and the bearded iris stands in for someone who is given a second chance. At the end the purple sepals of the iris arch over where the the speaker and the one spoken to begins, signifying a rebirth of friendship despite the prior difficulties.

At the end of the evening Judy Halebsky returned with two of her friends to collaborate on a reading punctuated by handmade Japanese flute and Japanese mouth organ. The text Judy read remained unnamed as far as I could tell but it did include a long catalog of “queen of the _______” phrases. The three complemented each other and were able to improvise around the sound and the silence to deliver an interesting convergence of text and sound.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mary Mackey on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac

Garrison Keillor is going to read "Chicken Killing" on "The Writer's Almanac" Feb 15th and "My Methodist Grandmother Says" on "The Writer's Almanac" Feb 16th. The poems, which are both from Mary Mackey's new collection, "Breaking the Fever," are also going to be available on the American Public Radio website and in podcast. In the Bay Area the show will be playing at 9 a.m. on KALW (91.7 FM). If you like, you can hear them as early as Monday, Feb. 13, by checking out their website at Writer's Almanac web site. You can also get the schedule for other parts of the country since different stations play The Writer's Almanac at different times.

February Literary Events for Sacramento

1 Thursday
Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s
TBA. 8pm. Luna’s Café. 1414 16th
Street. Hosted by Mario Ellis Hill. Open
mic before/after. Free. Info: 441-3931 or

3 Saturday
Escritores del Nuevo Sol
Writing workshop and potluck.
11am. La Raza Galeria Posada,
1024 22nd St. Info: Graciela Ramirez,
456-5323 or joannpen@comcast.net.

4 Sunday
Jan Haag. 6pm. Unitarian Uni-
versalist Society of Sacramento. 2425
Sierra Blvd. 2 blocks north of Fair Oaks
Blvd, between Howe and Fulton. Co-
Host Tom Goff will also offer a brief
presentation on the writings of
Michelangelo. A professor in the
Journalism and English departments
at Sacramento City College, Haag is a
prolific news reporter, copy editor and
essayist. She advises on student pub-
lications, especially Susurrus, the
award-winning SCC literary journal. She
turned to poetry, and publishing of
Companion Spirit (by LAMP Press),
after the loss of her husband, and with
her subsequent involvement in the
Sutter Writers Program.Info: Tom Goff,
(916) 481-3312. www.uuss.org. Free.
Open mic follows.

5 Monday
Sacramento Poetry Center
Theresa McCourt and Judy
Halebsky. 7:30pm. HQ. 1719 25th.

6 Tuesday
Sacramento Poetry Center
Poetry Workshop. 7:30pm. Hart
Senior Center, 27th & J. Facilitated by
Danyen Powell. Bring 15 - 20 copies of
your one-page poem. Info: Danyen,
(530) 756-6228

Moore time for Poetry
Terry Moore. Access Television
Show. 9pm. Co-host Tyra Moore.
Access Sacramento, Channel 17.

8 Thursday
TBA. 8pm. Luna’s Café. 1414 16th
Street. Hosted by Geoffrey Neill.
Open mic before/after. Free. Info: 441-
3931 or www.lunascafe.com.

Vibe Sessions
8-11pm. Cobbler Inn. 3520 Stockton
Blvd (next to Colonial Theater.)
Hosted by Flo Real. All ages. $5.
Open Mic.

10 Saturday
Patricity’s “In Spirit & Truth Series.”
3 to 5pm. 61 Yuence Smoked BBQ &
Grill. 9657 Folsom Blvd (off Bradshaw.)
Features plus Open Mic. Free. Info:

11 Sunday
Poetry Reading for Peace
Jose Montoya and Julia Connor.
5pm. The Book Collector. 1008 24th
Street. Hosted by James Lee Jobe.
Open mic Follows. Free. Info:

12 Monday
Sacramento Poetry Center
Board of Directors meeting.
5:45pm. HQ. 1719 25th St. All are
welcome to attend.
Sacramento Poetry Center
Couples: Valentine’s Day
reading. 7:30pm. HQ. 1719 25th.
Hosted by Indigo Moor. An evening
of Poetry Lovers. Hear readings by
notable poetic couples: Nora
Staklis & Tom Goff; Christina &
Art Mantecon; Erik & Terryl;
Laverne & Carol Frith and more!
Come and read with (or to) your poetic

13 Tuesday
Sacramento Poetry Center
Poetry Workshop. 7:30pm. Hart
Senior Center, 27th & J. Facilitated by
Danyen Powell. Bring 15 - 20 copies of
your one-page poem. Info: Danyen,
(530) 756-6228

Bistro 33 Poetry Series
8:30 pm. Bistro 33 in Historic Davis
City Hall. 226 F Street (3rd & F),
Davis. Open Mic after.

14 Wednesday
Rattlesnake Press Reading
Brigit Truex. . . . . 7:30pm. The Book
Collector. 1008 24th Street. Hosted
by Kathy Kieth. Celebrating the
release of the Placerville poet’s
latest chapbook, A Counterpane
Without. And a littlesnake broadside
from Wendy Williams. Read-around
follows; bring your own poems or
somebody else’s. Info:

Radio show
Dr. Andy’s Poetry &Technology
Hour. 5pm. Host: Andy Jones. KDVS—
90.3 FM or subscribe to podcast at

Poetry in Davis
Emily Norwood, Gabrielle Myers,
and Crystal Anderson. 8pm. Café
Roma. 3rd & University. Presented by
the UC-Davis Creative Writing

15 Thursday
Vibe Sessions
8-11pm. Cobbler Inn. 3520 Stockton
Blvd (next to Colonial Theater.)
Hosted by Flo Real. All ages. $5.
Open Mic.

Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s
TBA. 8pm. Luna’s Café. 1414 16th
Street. Hosted by Frank Andrick. Open
mic before/after. Free. Info: 441-3931 or

17 Saturday
Underground Poetry Series
7-9pm. Underground Books. 2814
35th St. (35th and Broadway.) Hosted
by La-Rue. $3. Open mic.

Black History Month event
7-9:30pm. The Guild Theater. 35th &
Broadway. Poets, dancers, vocalists,
the BME tour and more.
19 Monday

Sacramento Poetry Center
No reading. 7:30pm. HQ. 1719 25th.

20 Tuesday
Sacramento Poetry Center
Poetry Workshop. 7:30pm. Hart
Senior Center, 27th & J. Facilitated by
Danyen Powell. Bring 15 - 20 copies of
your one-page poem. Info: Danyen,
(530) 756-6228

Adaptation and the Importance of
Script and Story
Capital Film Arts Alliance presents
author and screenwriter Mary
Mackey. 7pm. HQ for the Arts. 25th
& R. Mackey has sold feature-length
screenplays and is the author of nu-
merous documentary filmscripts, five
books of poetry, and eleven novels.

Moore time for Poetry
Terry Moore. Access Television
Show. 9pm. Co-host Tyra Moore.
Access Sacramento, Channel 17.

22 Thursday
Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s
Chris Olander and Bill Carr. 8pm.
Luna’s Café. 1414 16th Street. Hosted
by BL Kennedy. Open mic before/
after. Free. Info: 441-3931 or

Creative Writing in Davis
Fiction writer Noy Holland. 7:30pm.
126 Voorhies Hall, 1st & A Streets,
Davis. Presented by the UC-Davis
Creative Writing program.

24 Saturday
“The Show” Poetry Series
9 pm. Wo’se Community Center (Off
35th and Broadway.) 2863 35th Street.
$5. Info: T.Mo at (916) 455-POET.

26 Monday
Sacramento Poetry Center
Julia Levine and Kate Northrop.
7:30pm. HQ. 1719 25th.

27 Tuesday
Sacramento Poetry Center
Poetry Workshop. 7:30pm. Hart
Senior Center, 27th & J. Facilitated by
Danyen Powell. Bring 15 - 20 copies of
your one-page poem. Info: Danyen,
(530) 756-6228

28 Wednesday
Radio show
Dr. Andy’s Poetry &Technology
Hour. 5pm. Host: Andy Jones. KDVS—
90.3 FM or subscribe to podcast at