Eject Monterey; Insert Blanc

Tuesday, July 28, 2015: The Return from CSU Monterey Bay; Insert Blanc’s KICKSTARTER campaign

I arrived home in mid-morning from two weeks at CSU Monterey Bay. The students were outstanding; their extraordinary group reading last Friday afternoon was fortunately recorded by Rod Bradley, as well as the staff at the theater who work with the CSU Summer Arts program, and I believe that the latter recording will eventually be posted on their web site. I posted a thank you to all the guest artists on my Facebook page, but I don’t think I can say it often enough. Ellen Bass, Marilyn Nelson, Juan Felipe Herrera, Douglas Kearney and Cecilia Woloch provided the 20 students who attended this class with a once-in-a-lifetime crash course in writing poetry. I only caught fragments of various presentations and readings, but my samplings confirmed what the students who committed themselves to this gathering repeatedly said with fervor: how did I get so lucky as to trust my hunches and go to a gathering that had no reputation other than what the poets individually brought.

Putting the class together and bringing it to fruition was a 15 month project, and I have to confess that it’s unlikely I’ll do it again, at least at the Monterey Bay site. I’m eligible to be the course coordinator again in 2017, but I’ll be turning 70 that year, and I have too many projects that still remain only half-finished; I need to give whatever time I have left to those projects. There is a possibility that I might put together a class with Cecilia Woloch that would take place in Paris, but only something on an international scale would tempt me to make the kind of effort that a summer arts course requires. It was more than worth doing, but I am truly exhausted. Nor am I the only one who found herself or himself pushed to the limits. While doing laundry late Friday night for the first time in two weeks, I began talking with one of the other course coordinators, who was getting her clothes out of the dryer. “I hit a wall yesterday,” she said. “I don’t think I could have gone one more day.” She was half my age, so I hardly feel abashed at admitting how tired I feel.

Both Cecilia Woloch and I had the good fortune to read short sets of poems on an evening of poetry with Marilyn Nelson, who knocked the crowd out with her masterpiece, “A Wreath for Emmett Till.” Cecilia and I were sitting in the wings of the stage as Marilyn read, and we could feel a palpable surge of renewed grief and sorrow for the tragedy of that young man’s murder. The fact that a slogan such as “Black Lives Matter” is still necessary to keep in emphatic circulation unlined Marilyn Nelson’s reading. The next night, Juan Felipe Herrera followed up with an equally stirring reading, and he read an imperative poem that addressed the recent slaughter in South Carolina. Ellen Bass and Douglas Kearney also gave readings to the students.

On a personal level, I felt fortunate to be able to share with the students the arrival of my book, Pruebas Ocultas, from Mexico. I went to my mailbox at the Department of English at CSULB and found a small package of copies of my book the day before I left for Monterey. It was a pleasure to read from the book to the students in the classroom, and to make that moment my first occasion of sharing my work in translation. Once again, I wish to thank Robin Myers and Jose Rico for believing in my poems and bringing me to Mexico in May, 2014, so that Bonobos Editores could learn of my writing.

During my all-out involvement in “The Poet’s Metamorphosis,” I didn’t have time to post on my blog, and one notice came to my attention during the past two weeks that I regret not having the time to post earlier. Insert Blanc Press is holding a Kickstarter campaign, and I would encourage everyone who cares about poetry outside of the academic provinces to contribute to their fund. Matthew Timmons sent me a link. Please join me in affirming a project that is every bit as important as Lee Hickman’s Temblor magazine in keeping the volcano of imagination active. Let the magma flow in turbulent skeins. Let the distant glow come closer, and then brighten, fade, and brighten again.

Insert Blanc’s kickstarter short link: http://kck.st/1LEKwtz