Chortle

I’m sitting in Gaylord’s dispersed and dis-integrated and it’s 911 and all I can think of is the huge swarm of migrating bees that I saw a couple years ago making its way past this very café down Piedmont Avenue amidst afternoon traffic, filling the street and wavering in breeze, pouring like tide over busses and cars, alarming pedestrians but benign, self-contained, exposed, and utterly humble, making its cautious, breathless way toward a safe and sheltered, carefully chosen home.

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IMMINENT  ::  I’ve got two readings coming up fast in the State of New York, one in Brooklyn and one in Woodstock.  Hray!  Tell your friends!  I’ll featuring with the awesome Jane Ormerod at the Brownstone Poets Series on Saturday, October 4, in a cool old diner right near the entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Then a week later I’m with Teresa M. Costa upstate at the Woodstock Poetry Society‘s monthly read, right in the center of downtown Woodstock, where amidst shops and nosh you can still find folks who haven’t gone home from the concert.  Both will be a great way to relax on a sweet autumn afternoon, so if yer in the environs, come on down and enjoy.  At both events I’ll be reading excerpts from my recently completed wordmash/genderqueer/occupyish fairy tale, and you ain’t heard nothing quite like it.  Deets on the Events page, of courses.

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So much stricture and release, in so many ways, countless, as if universe were chortling in a decillion directions and manners at once.  The throat opens, then closes in fear or need or compulsion.  Weather drifts, then gathers, bursts, and scatters.  Stars pulse and don’t deny it.  And the emotions we live, ludicrous, unimagined, commanding, pulse our days every bit as much as the solar blare.  Grieving, bathing, breakfast, passing out, the nature of everything shoved in a shuck, a blad full of pores, a delicate bubble that suddenly laughs out loud and remains, drifting on, as if to show that things do pass through, and the tensile sphere, the flesh, the vast are here for that avail.

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UPCOMING  ::  Also getting ready for the 2014 great weather for MEDIA West Coast reading tour, featuring release parties for this year’s stunning anthology, I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand.  Had a blast at it the last couple of years, and this year I’ll be participating in events in Berkeley, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, during the first couple weeks of November.  The festivities actually start in Los Angeles on Oct 28, with readings at Stories Books & Café and Beyond Baroque, so all you Angels come on down and check it out.  Then up to the Bay Area, where I’ll host the release party at Berkeley’s Art House Gallery as the November feature for Poetry Unbound, and Jane Ormerod will do the honors at the Beat Museum in SF later that week.  Then up to our favorite green scene in Portland for a swing and a sing by the brand new Rialto Poolroom Bar, and a capper in Seattle at the fab Vermillion Art Gallery on the 11th.  Can’t wait to get started!  You can find the deets for each read by clicking on the venue, those for the full tour on my Events page, and complete deets for all great weather events on their meticulously updated calendar.

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In the face, the zygomaticus major and minor anchor at the cheekbones and stretch down towards the jaw to pull the facial expression upward; on top of this, the zygomaticus major also pulls the upper lip upward and outward.

The sound is produced by the lungs and the larynx. When we’re breathing normally, air from the lungs passes freely through the completely open vocal cords in the larynx. When they close, air cannot pass; however when they’re partially open, they generate some form of sound. Laughter is the result when we exhale while the vocal cords close, with the respiratory muscles periodically activating to produce the characteristic rhythmic sound.

- from “The Anatomy of Laughter” by Robert Jones (howitworksdaily.com)

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REFLECTION  ::  IN DEFENSE OF SPARRING

On August 23, 2008, a remarkable event took place in the basement of a bar in Chinatown, San Francisco.  It was called Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts, and was an epic celebration of Beat and poetry energy in a space that had once been an opium parlour frequented by said -niks.  With over 50 poets in 5 ½ hours of unmitigated spree (in which I was honored to participate), rather than being exhausting and exhaustive – at least for most – the Spar became a magnetic coil that amped many in the local scene for months, and went on to become a massive and respected series, with over 50 shows in the first six years.

Why, you might ask, do such extensive readings tend to create energy, rather than use it up?  They are certainly not orchestrated toward one effect or another.  Organized tirelessly by Northern California poet Daniel Yaryan (with occasional guests hosts and organizers), these events are often long and complex, sometimes chaotic, of course sprinkled with erratic and unexpected performances and participants.  But it’s not the form that energizes, it’s Yaryan’s sheer contagious energy, enthusiasm, and love, love, love for the medium.  And it’s that, more than anything, that has instilled the Spars with a sense of community, and even more, a sense of broader community, as he brings writers together from different circles, different disciplines, different regions, all for the purpose of joy.  Which is a risky business, if you ask me, given that poets are notorious for their egos, and their needs, and their neuroses; but somehow this sense of bonding has allowed most of those afflicted the comfort level to set all that aside, to leave their baggage at the door and jump into this wild poetry barndance that Yaryan calls Sparring.  And it’s one of the best things that’s happened to California poetry in decades.

At least that’s mostly been the case, because there are no idylls really, no unblemished Elysium even for poets.  At any given Spar there might be a reader or two lugging a couple of handbags or an old trunk or two into the arena.  And no worries!  We get it – it could be any one of us – and the garden flowers on.  But every so often, inevitably, even in this growing comradeship, the egos still manage to clump, and clot, and have their sway, and the wrong kind of chaos ensues.  And it doesn’t take that many, surprisingly, with a little shove here, and a little snub there, a complaint, a demand, or a blatant blargh of entitlement.  And that’s what went down at the recent Spar, one of the biggest ever, last month in Santa Cruz, Daniel’s home town.  Rather than becoming a mighty Yelp, which it damn well could have, it became a series of squabbles and skirmishes, generally around the edges of the read (which was, for the most part, excellent if brief), but hey, we were all in a sculpture garden, and there really weren’t any edges.  Sure, there were a lot of people and logistics to manage.  Sure, Dan could have used some extra help (wish I’d have realized, but was tired from the drive).  And sure, conditions weren’t optimal, with failing light, and dropping temps, and the distractions of the monthly art walk (which the Spar was part of).  But the truth is, none of the bullshit needed to happen, if poets would have all been there just to be there (as many were), rather than being there to be seen there.  But it did happen, and the event dissipated and was blown apart by breeze, while many honorable and creative folks, folks I was proud to be reading with and to be getting to know, some of whom came hundreds of miles at own expense to end up sharing one poem, stood around scratching their heads and wondering what happened.

WTF, POETS!  WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT?  GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER AND STEP UP TO THE PLATE, WHY DON’T YOU!  THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU, IT’S ABOUT POETRY AND SKY AND THE CONTINUANCE OF SPIRIT AND VISION.  HELL, NOT EVEN YOUR OWN WORK IS ABOUT YOU, AND IF YOU THINK IT IS, THEN MAYBE YOU SHOULD GO TAKE A DEEP BREATH ELSEWHERE.  THIS IS COMMUNITY, MOTHERFUCKERS.  STEP UP TO IT OR STEP OUT.  STEP INTO THE DANCE OR INTO THE OTHER ROOM.  THIS IS A MESSAGE TO LET YOU KNOW:  YOUR BULLSHIT IS BULLSHIT, AND IT DOES STINK, AND YOU COULD BE ANY ONE OF US AT ANY TIME, BUT WE, WE ARE DETERMINED TO MOVE FORWARD, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, IN THE TRUE FINE LIFE OF THE WORD.

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And I laugh, laugh like hell, laugh to tears, because that’s all there’s left to do, because everything’s condensed into this one huge push, and my body knows, I know, that I’m pulled toward the sun, and the surge comes on, and the face lifts, and the chemistry lifts, and the whole damn plasma shoots through the top of my skull, spewing into space, into air, all over you, and the chair, and everything around.  Sorry about the mess.  And when it’s finally done, and I sit breathing slow, gasping a little, water streaming down my face, I’m better because it’s finally cracked, the seal is cracked, and I’m no longer trapped in apparent flesh, pounding at the gibbous walls, but loosed, transversant, leaking, streaming out, and glad to live again in the glorious outside, as the outside lives in me.

Sincerely,
Richard

photo by Robert Fischer

photo by Robert Fischer

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