Pushcart Prize Nomination

I just received the news that my poem, “Recipe for the Broken,” first published in The Long-Islander and subsequently re-published as a limited edition broadside in The Broadsider Vol. 2, Series 12, has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses XXXVI. I am proud to have this poem put forward in such good company, alongside poets Suzanne Frost, Diane di Prima, William Taylor Jr., Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, and Peg Quinn. Hats off to one and all — and here’s hoping the Pushcart editor likes these poems as well!

Reading at the Old Mission Santa Barbara

The Mission in 1876

I had a wonderful time reading poems alongside Barry Spacks and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer this afternoon as part of the Mission Poetry Series. The series is a collaborative labor of love between Sr. Susan Blomstad, osf and Paul Fericano, who provide gorgeous free broadsides, homemade snacks, and a magnificently serene setting to unite poets and poetry-lovers in “Clare‘s Place,” the library nestled in the heart of the Mission.

Rosemerry is a force to reckon with, effortlessly interspersing a cappella folk songs with dramatic poems spoken from memory. Barry was the first poet laureate of the city of Santa Barbara and is a much-loved teacher. He is avuncular and charming, savoring poems that dance between whimsy and pathos, encouraging us all to look forward to our seventies. (“It was a good decade for me,” he twinkled.) I was filled to overflowing with admiration for them both.
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Paul Fericano at Artists’ Union Gallery

I had the pleasure of hearing Paul Fericano read poems new and old at the Artists’ Union Gallery last night. Paul’s is a distinct turn of mind — able to sweep up humor, irony, and deep feeling in a winning trifecta. Paul takes the materials of popular culture — from Elizabeth Taylor to The Three Stooges — and makes of them something transcendent. It is precisely in the moment I am laughing in a Paul Fericano poem that my guard is down. It is then when Paul slips in a modicum of pathos, reminding me of how complex it is to be human, how, as Virginia Woolf puts it in Mrs. Dalloway, “dangerous it is to live even just one day.” These are poems that read like the messages in a bottle that might be written by the last sane man on Earth, when everyone else has gone mad.

I leave you with a poem that is fast becoming one of Paul’s most popular — read in Ojai at an event I was sadly unable to attend. I am grateful to whomever filmed it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpu6S5njAYQ]<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpu6S5njAYQ">Watch the video</a>

Poetry and Generosity

This is an open note of thanks to Paul Fericano. I had a great time reading at the Broken Word series at Farmer and the Cook last night, and listening to Danielle Camacho, P.Lyn Middleton, Quin Mallory, Paul Fericano, Crystal Salas, Steve Sprinkel, and Johnny Fonteyn weave words into the warm summer night. Afterward, I got to talking with Paul, and he showed me one of the gorgeous, limited-edition offset-print broadsides he creates. On remarking how much I liked it, he gave it to me. And then another. In fact, a whole set.

Strangely enough, this is not the first time I have gone to a poetry reading and come home with a gift. It seems to me that the best kinds of writing communities have, at their heart, a spirit of generosity. This was certainly my experience in the MFA program, where my advisers gave so much more than what was asked of them by the university. And so, with so much talk about “greatness” in poetry, I would like to propose a new definition — that poets not be measured so much by what the Paris Review says about their twelfth collection — but by how poetry inspires them to keep giving back. The product of great poets is great poems. But, so often in my experience, the by-product is generosity.