The Cinnamon of the Veins

Why can’t we speak of falling leaves?  You can have your economics and your ironies, but can you live without the fall?  What art belies the oak?  How many acorns need to drop on your head before the crumbling leaves become your heart?  You may speak of preciousness, of the done and overdone, of parsing the new for a vamping vie, but this is the eternal fugue, my friend, an eddy, a year, and you can no more shun the river than you can not fear.  Rather to fret the flow and disavow the peril of the plunge is to live in a small plastic box.  Some do prosper there, coddling feet and ramifying brow.  But even that cube will be covered by crumbling leaves, next fall, or the next, to fortify the feral fugue again.

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ANNOUNCE  ::  It’s great weather for a READING TOUR, and that just what’s in the forecast for November, when I’ll be touring the West Coast with poets from the new great weather for MEDIA anthology, It’s Animal but Merciful.  We’ll be doing a run of action-packed performance-oriented readings from November 6 through the 17th in L.A., Santa Cruz, Berkeley, San Francisco, Portland, and Vancouver, WA.  You can find details about this rollicking anthology of new poetry and prose right at the top of the Anthologies & Journals page, and deets about the readings on the Events page.  This will be an awesome series of reads, so tell your friends!  And if you live in one of those towns, come on by and lend us an ear.  (We promise to give it back, mostly intact.)

LOOK  ::  Two new publications listed on the Anthologies & Journals page — great weather for MEDIA has published the text of “Mud Song” in their new anthology It’s Animal but Merciful, and five recent collaborations that I did with West Coast madpoet Jack Foley have been included in the Fall 2012 edition of Tower Journal, which features an extensive Webfestschrift dedicated to his life and work.  Check ’em out!

LOOK  ::  Have dropped my oldish tribute poem “November” (along with a few other dainties) into the Fresh Words this month.  After all, it is November, and we all know what that means.

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And clouds roll in and I am glad, for autumn rain smells like the start of everything.  And darksome days are time for all the dust to settle, sweet sweet the air and safe to open chest to amity.  When trees drink clouds and dry ground soaks and we can sense effulgence down the road, how can we not enjoy the dropping of all things and the sleek sweep of pungent breeze?  I’d like to lie down in the street and shine.

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ANNOUNCE  ::  Terrific NYC painter/illustrator Drew Morrison has a very interesting show going up this month at D-Structure on the Lower Haight.  Drew has concocted a series of four four-panel paintings (yes that’s 16 in all) showing scenes of of natural evolution, phenomenal disasters, human lunacies, and miraculous visions that have made the Earth what it is now.  The excellent thing is that all of the panels can be rearranged with those from other scenes, creating genuinely strange elemental beings brought together into the most bizarre parades imaginable.  Confused?  You can check out a cool animation of the paintings with their parts randomly exchanged, put together by web developer Kevin Hutton, on Drew’s website.  The series and show are called “Entrippy”, which will be running at D-Structure (520 Haight Street at Fillmore) from November 2 through December 5, with an opening on Friday, November 2 from 8-11 pm.  Don’t miss these unusual and unique pieces, and do say Hallo if you stop by the opening.

REFLECT  ::  Had a superfun evening of standing-in-front-of-people-and-saying-things on October 9th in SF with Robert Glück, Lonely Christopher, Rose Tully, and Zachary Darr Tuck at The Squat on Lower Haight.  Yes, it really is a squat, and yes, it’s used only for readings.  Close call with the Fire Marshal this time, and everyone had to sneak quiet as mice up into the secret, secret space.  Once there, we had an explosion of glee with a fine blend of poetry and prose ranging from superserious to supersexy to superbothatonce – honestly, a really nice mix, and a joy to hear everyone.  Read an excerpt from the no-longer-short story that I’m working on, “Hotel of Seven Graves” (more on that below), and to my relief the audience leant enthusiastic approval.  Whew!  Also thanks to the delirious Janey Smith for superhosting – rock on Janester!

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Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve woken from a deep sleep to a sudden CRASH in my brain. Each one had a different sound, each one was very loud, each one seemed as if it were a few feet away, as if they were coming from just inside the front door of my apartment, about six feet from my bed, and each occurred entirely in my head. The first one sounded like a great tree splintering, perhaps struck by lightning, perhaps in a sharp freak wind, very close, quick, and violent. The second was more of a booming crash, as if a very heavy object – a refrigerator? an adult body? – were dropped just inside the front door.  Both were accompanied by a crackling sound and a bright flash of light, and a deep disorientation. Each time with the same result: I bolt upright in bed, heart pounding, and can swear I smell splintered wood, the fresh scent of lumber just cut, or perhaps the ozone of electric air, acrid and penetrating. Coming to my senses (so to speak), the only thought that makes sense is that some force, illogical and unnatural, has bashed in my apartment door,  or that I’m about to be subject to an aggressive home invasion. Yet I hear no further sound, and don’t seem to sense an unwelcome presence. Just the shocking noise, then nothing. But I’m shot through with fear nonetheless, and jump shaking from my bed with that agility one knows in the dark of one’s own room. I grab the knotted old walking stick I keep leaning by the bedroom door, which opens to the small hallway and the front door a few feet away, grasp the knob and fling it forward with a gasp to see — nothing, nothing in the dark, or rather in the tiny blinking light of my router, ever-alert in the hall. Instantly I notice that both locks on the door are secure, of course they are, and obviously no one has entered my space, but I can’t rest until I make a cursory inspection. In truth this happens every so often, and though I have no idea what causes it, and my doctor merely shrugged when I asked, each time I go through the ritual of walking through the apartment, sensing and breathing in the space. I think that it’s less a matter of assuring my safety, and more just an excuse to walk off the shock. In fact I always pause for a minute or two in the dark of my back room, perched between my desk and the daybed with all their familiar clutter, and peer over the cafe curtains from the vantage of the fourth floor at the peaceful late night neighborhood — the rooftops sleeping quietly, the still tall trees, a streetlight blinking in the distance, the fog hanging on the Bay. That seems the key to let the little terror pass, and thereupon I make my way to bed and drift right back to sleep.

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REFLECT  ::  Took off a weekend in October for a writing retreat and had a marvelous and productive time.  This was one of a long-running series of workshops and retreats designed and led by Oakland poet and activist Clive Matson, entitled “Let the Crazy Child Write!”  Clive is a top-notch and experienced workshop director, and boy did that Child (and several other personas) get some writing done.  (Just look up and down this page for a few of the results.)  The weekend retreat (which was excellently priced, by the way, check out Clive’s website for details) was held on a ranch in Lake County, CA owned by the same folks who purvey the Harbin Hot Springs a few miles away.  Ten of us hung out in the secluded and gorgeous hills west of wine country, scribbling like mad, and ran in to Harbin in the eves for a soak and a sauna.  Even got myself to jump steaming into an ice cold bath – more than once!  (Sorry no pics of that – they don’t allow cameras as the facility is clothing optional.)  Met a great group of folks brimming with talent and wordjoy, and got a lot of work done on my story-in-progress, “Hotel of Seven Graves” (more on that below and on the Fresh Words page).  Definitely on my list to do again sometime when I need a good dig-in and hunker-down.  Let the crazy Clive thrive!

REVIEW  ::  Speaking of crazy children, went to see the new production of SophoclesElektra at ACT in San Francisco, and was treated to a dose of ancient angst.  Was really looking forward to it, actually, as I haven’t seen any of the good old Greeks produced in ages, even though this might not qualify as the fullest or most complex of the classical plays.  I ended up with mixed feelings about the production, which brought new heft to the word “histrionic”.  Yes, I’ve read the play several times, and am quite aware that it focuses on the titular character’s suffering, hope, confusion, and fear, but for whatever reasons ACT core actress René Augesen played the part with virtually one-note hysteria that muted most every other aspect of the piece.  After ninety minutes with no emotional peaks (there was nowhere to peak) and practically no calmer moments for barely a breath, I found myself (as I think did much of the audience) troubled and more than a bit drained.  Whatever happened to catharsis?  Even Olympia Dukakis, whom I always love to watch, seemed a somewhat squelched as the heartfelt Chorus.  I wonder if this was perhaps because her character was entirely drawn in to and focused on Elektra’s pain, painted so extreme, since the other characters, all somewhat removed from it by attitude or circumstance, managed to hold their own and even shine — especially Allegra Rose Edwards as Chrysothemis and Caroline Lagerfelt as Clytemnestra.  Yet amidst all that, I have to say that the famous recognition scene between Elektra and Orestes (played by Nick Steen) actually blew me away.  I don’t know how they did it, but as they two actors entered the scene, the air fell still and began to crackle, no kidding, and by the time they reached its culmination, as well-known and expected as it was, you could feel the audience surge, and both I and my companion Susan (thanks for taking me!) had tears streaming.  Overall I was glad that I went, and despite the problematic central performance, this scene, along with the awesome set and costume design, and stunning sounds by cellist Theresa Wong, made the whole thing worthwhile.

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Just because the days are good doesn’t mean we should forget the fist smack in the face and brow clubbed with the butt of the palm.  These are the ways of men who are not yet men, and they run freely on the land.  Who else are not yet human?  All of us.  Don’t kid yourself – there’s rarely been a more vain and lethal misconception.  Rather sit in the grass, lie in the leaves and say, what makes me the same as dirt?  Then put some in your mouth to make sure.

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REVIEW  ::  Attended the first ever East Bay Nerd Night at the Stork Club in North Oakland on October 28, specifically to see a presentation on the life of Charles Darwin by friend and mega-nerd Alex Lee.  How interesting can Darwin be over drinks on a Sunday night toward the start of the 21st Century?  VERY, it turns out.  Alex, a docent at the California Academy of Science, gave a lively talk entitled “Infidels, Mailmen, and Barnacles,” in which he covered the history of evolutionary theory before Darwin, and Darwin’s work after the famous voyage of the Beagle (which was, after all, only four years out of his seventy-three year life) — both topics rarely presented, at least for laymen.  Alex handled the material with wit and panache, and even a few big laughs.  Also on the bill were Vivienne Pustell, an Oakland high school teacher, who gave an entertaining talk about the history of crime in Oakland, called “Glamour and Crime in the Five and Dime”, and Memo Garcia (whom I missed), who apparently did a fascinating if technical presentation entitled “Controlling the Sun with Nanocrystals: Clearly Smarter Smart Windows” (wow).  All the presentations were accompanied by brilliant and amusing projections designed by the speakers themselves.  This first presentation of Nerd Nite in the East Bay was hosted by Ian Davis and Rick Karnesky, and was part of the broader Bay Area Science Festival.  Bravo Nerds!

REFLECT / ANNOUNCE  ::  End of the Hotel / Beginning of the Hotel  ::  Was late to Nerd Night as I rushed over from a great if bittersweet event, the last installation of the Poetry Hotel, monthly potluck poetry salon that’s been hosted by SF poet and trueheart Clara Hsu for the past seven years.  The Hotel has been a mainstay for a large assortment of Bay Area poets, giving them a space to cavort and socialize, to try out new work, and to cook like angels.  A rock solid group of fabulous humans attended to cavort just a bit more and bid the Hotel a fond farewell (and perhaps to beg Clara to start it up again sometime soon).  Role call for the final Hotel: Clara Hsu, Don Brennan, Aura Steward, Dan Brady, Jack and Adelle Foley, Carlos Ramirez, Stephanie Manning, Mary Rudge, Tom Holmberg, Janet Gordon, Laurie Winestock, Cesar Love, Don Altadena, Carol Altadena, Dave Holt, Anna Boothe, Fern Filner, Gloria Ince, and (ahem) moi.  The event, along with Clara’s boundless generosity and lovely space, will be sorely missed by many.

Oddly enough, I bid adieu to the Poetry Hotel just as I give greeting to another, the Heritage Hotel, central figure in the story I started in late September that’s been taking over my life, “Hotel of Seven Graves”.  I’ve decided to include an excerpt from the beginning, really just the first several pages, on the Fresh Words page this month.  If you like what you read and want to see more, send me an email and let me know!

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And so we drift and minerals abound.  What have we found amidst the molten spray?  A gate perhaps, a key, or just another day?  A certain urge to float is in the bones, a sleek return to nitrogen and glee.  What spree we have is tempered by the nerves, seared and shackled by the burning sky.  We live for nectar and a furtive eye that touches us beyond the skin.  And where we drift determines how the next song will begin, steeped again in minerals and urge.  We love to surge.

Happy November.

Sincerely,
Richard

Happy Birthday to Me

 

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