Bill Mohr’s “set list” for Natsoulas Gallery Reading (in Davis, CA)

When Dr. Andy Jones asked me to read a poem toward the end of our conversation for his radio show this past Wednesday afternoon, I had not yet picked one out of my book from the What Book Collective. By chance, the book opened to “Portrait in McVicker’s Garden”; afterwards, I realized that I would enjoy linking up my reading on Thursday with my conversation with Andy by starting the public reading with that poem. The set-list fell together quite easily then, since I knew that the obvious segue was to read a poem that inspired one of my wife’s paintings, “In the Ocean of Nothingness.” (Question of the day: Whereas everyone knows the term for a poem that is based on a piece of visual art, what is the word for visual art based on a poem?) The third poem I chose was also a logical choice: one that I had written two days earlier called “Poem for a Painter,” which is an ekphrastic poem about a painting for which I gave Linda the suggestion of embedding it in a grid.

The rest of the set list:
“Art of Poetry”
“The Restoration”
“How to Play Ping-Pong with a Mirror”
“Pancho’s Tacos”
“How to Quit Writing Poetry”
“Big Band, Slow Dance”
“A Vision”
“Why the Heart Never Develops Cancer”

What would have been one of a half-dozen other alternative sets, you might ask?

“Death’s Real Job”
“Eye Chart for an Orbiting Space Station”
“Dream Drain”
“Manifesto 1984
“Terrorism: the View from Century City”
“The Ghoul Convention:
“Rules for Building a Labyrinth”
“Real Days Off”
“Renaming the Bridge”
“Tomato Skins”
“The Bulldozer”
“The Timing Chains”
“The Scanvengers of Paradox”
“Bittersweet Kaleidoscope”
“The Trolley Problem”
“The Headwaters of Nirvana”

Someday I’d like to do a reading that featured only poems written between 1970 and 1977. Each of the above lists includes one or two poems from that period. Are there enough poems from my earliest years that could hold their own as equivalents of my more recent work? While I have enough work from my long poem in progress, “REMIGES,” to enable me to give two completely separate readings just from that portion of my total writing, it’s the question of the earliest writing that I want to test out at some point in the next two years.


Launched in 2011, the Poetry Night Reading Series in Davis is held on the first and third Thursday of every month at the John Natsoulas Gallery (521 First Street, Davis CA). Recent readers have included Richard Loranger, DR Wagner, Dave Boles, and California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick. The series is hosted by Dr. Andy Jones, the poet laureate emeritus of Davis.

Other past readers include the late Francisco X. Alarcón, Joshua Clover, Sandra Gilbert, Brad Henderson, Pamela Houston, Clarence Major, Sandra McPherson, and Alan Williamson, as well as many regional and traveling poets, including Molly Peacock, Jane Hirshfield, Dana Gioia, and James Ragan.

Future readers will include Joe Wenderoth, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Julia Connor,

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