The AWP Book Report

AWP Trip

A significant percentage of the people who stopped at Brooks Roddan’s table were writers who knew of my work, either as an editor, poet, or teacher. I confess that I did not recognize Martin Mitchell, who is now a MFA student at George Mason University, as a former student. “Professor Mohr,” he said. “And the blood-smell begins to fulminate.” Ah! One of my favorite lines by Charles Bukowski (“The Souls of Dead Animals”). Now there’s a student who knows how to warm the cockles of an old professor’s heart.

One of the first arrivals I talked to was Harold Abramowiz, whose writing is representative of the best efforts of post-Language poets to push the avant-garde in provocatively encompassing directions. I regret that I don’t precisely remember his companion’s name, whose very presence seemed to betoken an equally engaged poetics. Other poets knew me as editor: Maw Shein Win and Tim Donnelly, for instance, who are pictured above with me; Maw is holding a copy of CROSS-STROKES, an anthology for which I also did the cover design.

Two people who were completely unexpected included Bill Tremblay and Irene Smith Landsman. I had never met either of them before, but at least I knew of Tremblay enough to inform him immediately of my recognition of his work. The most unexpected person was a woman who identified herself by saying that she was the daughter of Frances Dean Smith (aka “FrancEye”). The only daughter I had ever met was Marina Bukowski, who was the only child of Charles Bukowski. Decades ago, I had heard that FrancEye had been married before she moved to Los Angeles, but I never expected to meet any of her other children. At some point, with that person’s permission, I may share details of our conversation.

Other drop-by visitors included Tanya Ho Kong, who promised to send me a reminder of tonight’s event at the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles:

Friday, April 5th, 2019
@ 6:30 PM @ Korean Cultural Center
5505 Wilshire BLvd ( free parking! Amazing Korean appetizers (yes!)
Bilingual (Korean/English) POETRY Reading with:
Mark Irwin, Suzanne Lummis, Lisa Segal, Kelly Grace Thomas, Conney D. Williams, Hack Hee Kang, Jun C. Kim,
Quentin Ring & Tanya Ko Hong

I went to only one reading connected with AWP, in large part because I was staying with the family of wife’s niece, Laura, in Milwaukee, which is at the far reaches of Portland’s very efficient light-rail system. Laura’s spouse, Dave, very graciously gave me lifts in his car to and from the rail station, but I could hardly ask him to do that late in the evening, so I headed back to the home base fairly early. I did catch short readings by Kit Robinson and Jennifer Bartlett at Passages Bookstore on Thursday night, and felt fortunate that they led off the long list of readers and that I was able to meet David Abel, the power of the store, before the reading started. Kit was in as fine a form as ever: along with Rae Armantrout and Ron Silliman, he is one of a handful of truly superb poets of the Baby Boom generation. Jennifer Bartlett read a poem entitled “All Things Are Illuminated by Water,” which was no sooner finished than I wanted to hear it again and again.

Here is a list of some of the books I acquired in my brief tour of the AWP Book Fair:


here the sun’s for real: selected poems — Jose Eugenio Sanchez (translated by Anna Rosenwong) — (Bloomington, Indiana: Autumn Hill, 2018)

How to Write an Earthquake (Comment Ecrire et Quoi Ecrire): Sixteen Haitian Writers Respond (Autumn Hill, 2011)

Whiteness of Bone — Gloria Mindock (Glenview, IL: Glass Lyre Press, 2016)

Rainstorm over the Alphabet: Poems 1990-2000 — Bill Tremblay (Lynx House Press, 2001)

An Indigo Scent After the Rain — James Grabill (Lynx House Press, 2003)

Pet Sounds — Stephanie Young (New York: Nightboat Books, 2019)

What I Knew — Eleni Sikelianos — (New York: Nightboat Books, 2019)

Crosslight for Youngbird – Asiya Wadud (New York, Nightboat Books, 2018)

Thought Balloon — Kit Robinson (New York: Roof Books, 2019)

Leaves of Class — Kit Robinson (Tucson: Chex, 2017)

Lucifer: A Hagiography — Philip Memmer (Sandpoint, Idaho: Lost Horse Press, 2009)

Mouth & Fruit — Chryss Lost (Santa Barbara: Gunpowder Press, 2014)

Instead of Sadness — Catherine Abbey Hodges (Santa Barbara: Gunpowder Press, 2015)

Float — David Abel (Tucson: Chex, 2012)

The Paul Bunyan Ballroom – Bud Backen (Allston, MA: Nixes Mate, 2017)

Contraband of Hoopoe — Ewa Chrusciel (Richmond, CA: Omnidawn, 2014)

Of Annunciations — Ewa Chrusciel (Oakland, CA: Omnidawn, 2017)


Old Rendering Plant — Wolfgang Hilbig (San Francisco, Two Lines Press, 2017)

The Devil’s Water — Richard Wirick (El Segundo, CA: Ekstasis Editions America, 2018)


Robert Frost in Russia — F.D. Reeve (Brookline, MA: Zephyr, 2001)

“Metaphors Be With You”: AWP and Beyond Baroque

April 3, 2019

The AWP in Portland did not get off to a good start. The line for book fair exhibitors to get their admission badges so that they could set up their tables moved very slowly on Wednesday afternoon. As I trudged forward to a handful of computer stations, I thought about a message a few months from the AWP that announced the appointment of a new book fair director, who would be “mentored” by another person. That was reassuring, without a doubt. When you’re on an airplane, the statement you most want to hear is that the pilot is going to be mentored by someone in the air traffic control tower at your destination.

I worked the IF SF Publishing table at the rim of the main rectangle of tables and booths, though “booth” is a bit of a stretch to describe an exhibition space with only a back curtain and two extra folding tables to reinforce one’s visibility. Most of those in attendance were searching for potential publishers, and the saturation level of both writers and publishers generated a literary consciousness similar to a mud flow generated by a heavy rain storm after fire season. People oozed down the aisles, rarely pausing to read a book. I don’t believe that a single person picked up a single book published by Brooks Roddan and read a single paragraph. Maybe the social noise squelched their ability to absorb anything that wasn’t already pre-digested through familiarity.

The only thing that managed to snag people’s attention to our table was not a book, but a T-shirt produced by Beyond Baroque that appropriates the late Peter Schneider’s bot mot: “Metaphors be with you.” Several times I heard people walking by suddenly exclaim, “Oh, I’ve got to get this for (name of friend or relative),” and they would slide to the embankment of the mud flow. I sold a half-dozen T-shirts, and raised $120 for Beyond Baroque. This success was largely due to a decision made on the second day to drape the t-shirts over the front of the table, instead of having them hang half-hidden on a hip-high horizontal pole behind our table.

Occasionally I walked around the book fair, and noticed that the exhibits in the center aisles seemed to have attendees pausing long enough to buy some books, so the book fair was hardly a complete fiasco for everyone. It would be interesting to know exactly how much money was taken in by all the presses at the Book Fair, and to compare that figure with the total cost of attending the book fair. I have my doubts that many of the exhibitors actually make a profit for all their efforts given that one must take into account the cost of producing the books as well as shipping them.

My most recent publisher, What Books, had a well-stocked table at the center section of the Book Fair, which I gather from one of may companion tables, the Author’s Alliance, is only bestowed on those who have attended five or more AWP conventions. I am grateful for the assiduity of What Books, since my book was on display throughout the convention and even managed to sell several copies. They also had a lovely broadside, with a color imprint of work by the artist Gronk atop the poem, “The Restoration.”

Perhaps one major problem with the “book fair” is that it is actually a hybrid. An extraordinary number of the tables dedicate themselves to MFA programs at various colleges. They are essentially recruiting stations for an upcoming niche market, and they are the ones who benefit the most from the presence of the independent (aka “small”) presses among which they are seeded. The AWP convention in Portland was only the second one I have ever attended, and I was fairly busy at the first one (in Los Angeles) because the MFA program had decided to get a table in hopes of boosting our visibility in a saturated system. It was only during this second exposure to what I have long regarded with suspicion that I realized how the MFA programs exploit the cultural capital of the independent presses without giving much in return. “Join our MFA program and gain access to publication,” is the implicit premise of this annual enterprise, which erases any distinction between those publishers operating without institutional support and those based in the same academic domains as the MFA programs themselves.

Beyond Baroque’s artistic director, Quentin Ring, attended the convention, but the decision not to have a table there was one I concurred with. Beyond Baroque has lasted more than a half-century because it has stood for a poetics willing to take risks not approved within the academy. There’s no point to pretending otherwise, and anyone who would need AWP to become aware of Beyond Baroque is not someone who would particularly benefit from its programming and workshops.

On the last day, I closed up shop fairly early and walked the aisles. In my next post, I will mention and briefly discuss some of the books I found.

In the meantime, I have a busy second half of the week: on Thursday night, the Loft in San Pedro has a group show at its upstairs gallery that will include work by Linda and me; and I will give a brief reading at the Malibu Public Library on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. This reading is the make-up event for the postponed reading in mid-winter.

Robin Myers: Poet in Mexico City

Tuesday morning, March 26

I am heading up to Portland today for the AWP conference with more than the usual mixed emotions. Many of the poets I most care about will not be there, though I noticed that Alicia Ostriker and Marilyn Nelson are scheduled to be part of panels. Rae Armantrout will also be part of at least one reading, and I hope to catch that event. Passages Bookstore seems to the one off-site gathering nexus that will be most deserving of my attendance.

For those I happen to talk to at AWP and who glance at my blog out of curiosity, I would call your attention to the work of Robin Myers, a poet and translator who lives in Mexico City. Her books will be difficult to get, since they are all published in other countries, such as Argentina and Spain, but if you have a friend there who would be willing to purchase and mail them to you, you would know that you have a valiant and authentic friend. She is one of the very best of the “younger” poets whose work demonstrates why the key question remains: “Is the poem you are reading worth the effort of translating into another language?”

Amalgama / Conflations — (Mexico City, Mexico: Antilope, 2016)
lo demás — (Buenos Aires: Zindo and Gafuri, 2016); and
Tener (Having) — (Buenos Aires: Audisea, 2017)

“Lyric Poetry Is Dead”: The Flourishing Obituary of Ezequiel Zaidenwerg

Friday, March 22, 2019

(translated by Robin Myers; drawing by Carmen Amengual)
Cardboard House Press /

THERE ARE GODS HERE TOO: Readings of Heraclitus — Michael Kincaid
The Buffalo Commons Press, 2008
(P.O. Box 525, Dickinson, North Dakota 58602-0525

Kenneth Rexroth’s “Thou Salt Not Kill: A Memorial to Dylan Thomas” is not cited as often as it should be. It certainly does not appear in many anthologies, despite its precedence to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” as a major, mid-century jeremiad. I have no idea of whether the Argentinian poet Ezequiel Zaidenwerg is familiar with Rexroth’s scathing indictment of American culture, but those who find themselves entranced with Zaidenwerg’s book-length poem should dig up Rexroth’s rant and note the insidious violence attributed to Thomas’s death. If lyric poetry is dead, it is a corpse with the aura of the continuous present tense, at least in the palimpsestual shroud in which Zaidenwerg has wrapped it; its death still seems painfully recent. If such were not the case, the appropriation and adaptation of twentieth century texts (Eva Peron’s autopsy; Che Guevera’s corpse) would not shimmer in these poems as if propelled by some inward, still palpitating vision. Zaidenwerg has descried a dystopia epic, and the bruises, amputations, beheadings, assassinations, and massacres of civilized history are all too visible, however. “Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse” is not the advice to be found on lyric poetry’s tomb.

On the whole, the “death” of lyric poetry, in this fourteen part, book-length poem, reminds of Abel Gance’s cinematic call-to-arms, “Now is the time for the resurrection of all myths in light.” Orpheus, Odysseus, and the Sybil at Cumae, as well as Lot in the Book of Genesis, all contribute to an extended eulogy of narratives, each meant to remind us — the few who find ourselves willing to show up for a public memorial — of how resilient these archetypes remain, even if the form of imaginative conveyance has become a negligible art.

Zaidenwerg’s title, which gets repeated as the opening gambit of many sections, is most certainly not meant to stir up any lingering traces of nostalgia. The irony, of course, is primarily operating in the translator’s domain, for it is translation that operates with a Janus mask. Zaidenwerg’s book, and Myers’s translation deserve to be the focus of the following question: Is a translator a writer inherently committed to a conservative avant-garde?

Given the absence of any significant presence of avant-garde writers at the upcoming AWP convention, I don’t expect to have many conversations in Portland that take on this question by first quoting from Michael Kincaid’s THERE ARE GODS HERE TOO: Readings of Heraclitus (Buffalo Commons Press, 2008). This book should be on the shelf of every poet who wants to produce a body of work worthy someday of being translated. Kincaid, who is a very fine poet himself — perhaps the best “unknown” poet in the United States, exemplifies the positive response to my question in taking on this pre-Socratic poet as an avant-garde visionary of paradoxes’ mutability:

“What is cold warms, warmth cools, moisture dries, the parched moistens.

“Fire lives the death of air; air lives the death of fire. Water lives the death of earth, earth that of water.

“But it is death for spirits to become water, and death for water to become earth. But water is born of earth, and spirit of water.”

(page 37)

Footnote: As is the case all too often with something first read 50 years ago, Gance’s proclamation turned out to be a lengthier statement. It can be found at the start of an essay by Martin M. Winkler:

“The Hidden” — A film inspired by Lee Hickman’s poem

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Back in 1980, I published Leland Hickman’s first collection of poems, “TIRESIAS I:9:B Great Slave Lake Suite.” He read several of the poems in that book, in 1984, at Beyond Baroque, on an evening that included Barrett Watten. A recording of a portion of one of those poems, “The Hidden,” was recently used by Pedro Paulo Araujo and other filmmakers to generate an animated film, which is now available for viewing on-line. The film was first screened at Beyond Baroque as part of its 50th anniversary celebration.

Hickman went on to edit ten issue of TEMBLOR magazine, one of the most noteworthy literary projects of that period. His Collected Poems were eventually published by Stephen Motika’s Nightboat Books and Paul Vangelisti’s Otis Books/Seismicity Editions. Hickman’s archives are at the ANP Collection at the University of California, San Diego.

Here is the link to “The Hidden”:

W.S. Merwin (1927-2019)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The word of W.S. Merwin’s death, at age 91, spread rapidly Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, at least among poets and artists, especially those over the age of 50. While there may be a significant number of young poets who admire Merwin’s poetry, I am not sure there are many under the age of 30 who have read more than one of his books all the way through. That may well change in another decade or two, for I suspect that Merwin’s poetry will gain many new adherents as the anthology wars of the past century firm up the boundaries of their domains within the canon, and let the current anthology wars map out new entanglements.

I mention Merwin’s presence in anthologies in part because there are far too many assumptions about the “anthology wars” between 1957 and 1977. If Merwin had an enormous influence on young poets in the 1970s, it was in part because his poetry reflected a radical shift in poetics in the years between the publication of the first edition of “New Poets of England and America” and “Naked Poetry.” In the latter anthology, Merwin somehow managed to encompass a meditative state of consciousness, ecology, and the fragility of life itself, with a vulnerable lyricism. He subdued any tendency towards sentimentality, and yet his thoughts brimmed with effusively wistful yearning.

Only a few of the poets who were in the first edition of “Naked Poetry” are still alive. Robert Bly and Gary Snyder are probably the most prominent of the survivors. Perhaps, in fact, the only two survivors. (Kenneth Patchen, Theodore Roethke, Weldon Kees, and Sylvia Plath were already dead. Berryman and Lowell would both be dead before not much more than another half-dozen years. Then an interlude before Ginsberg, Creeley, Levertov, Kinnell and Levine passed. And now Merwin, the other poet in addition to Levine to become national poet laureate.

Both Levine and Merwin were superb readers, and rather than comment on Merwin’s poetry as a way of observing his passing, I have decided to share my memories of two readings. The first time I saw Merwin read was at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center at UCLA, a structure that no longer exists. The reading series that took place there has, in fact, moved to the Hammer Museum, and been renamed in honor of Doris Curran, the long-time advocate of the original project. After a glowing introduction, Merwin stood behind the lectern and said to the assembled crowd. “I don’t have any of my books with me. Does anyone have copies?”

Within a half-minute, a hefty retinue of paperback and hardcover volumes had made their way to rest in front of him, and he proceeded to pick his way through them with the same familiarity that a rock star might churn through a set list of his or her most famous songs. Kate Braverman and I had both found ourselves sitting next to each other at the reading, and afterwards we had a bit of a laugh. No matter how famous someone might be, should they really show up without bringing any of their books?

I had come prepared to walk away with renewed admiration for his work. I had first read “The Lice” when I was a student at UCLA, and have a distinct memory of sitting in the library with that volume; and Merwin was a significant part of the first conversation I had with a clerk named William (“Koki”) Iwamoto at Papa Bach Bookstore in the late summer of 1971. Koki showed me several of his poems, which reflected Merwin’s influence, though they had at their core a voice distinct enough to push away any presumption of mere imitation. It was mainly because of Koki that I became the first poetry editor of BACHY magazine, and without his recommendation and the start it gave me, probably none of the work I have done on behalf of Los Angeles poets would have come to pass.

It was one particular poem by Merwin, however, that irritated both Kate and me. It was his quartet about the “chambers of the heart,” and its numerical predictability left both of us mimicking in a mutual sarcastic whisper the obvious opening of the final segment. “In the fourth chamber of the heart” …. We almost laughed at ourselves for our insolence. The restless impetuosity of our youthful logic had frighteningly little patience.

In the late 1990s, or thereabouts, I remember another UCLA sponsored reading that featured Merwin. He read with majestic aplomb. It was one of those pure hours of solemn, ecstatic adoration of poetry that one remembers and reabsorbs as often as possible.

The anniversary of his death is now known, and I hope it is properly honored.

The Drought Is Dead — Long Live the Drought!

Friday, March 15, 2019

California: Drought or Deluge

Like theater’s insignia of tragic and comic masks, California has two seasons: a dry season and a wet season, though one should only bet the rent money on the former annually flexing its atmospheric muscles. In this decade, an extended drought that caused weather reporters to fulminate about a “ridiculously resilient high pressure ridge” not only led to a massive die-off of trees in the mountain ranges, but subsequently generated perfect storm conditions for apocalyptic-scale firestorms in both Northern and Southern California.

Although 2017 finally dispelled the hypnotic hold drought had on California, at this time last year it was not at all certain that California could stop fretting about the renewal of drought. Well over half the state was categorized as ranging from “abnormally dry” to “extreme drought” in March, 2018, an assessment that seemed to hint at the drought’s potential return.

In mid-March, 2019, however, the reservoirs are once again brimming, and given the depth of the snowpack, Governor Newsom at least has one less thing to be concerned about during the first half of his term. However, I am curious as to why the article in the Los Angeles Times did not mention the groundwater levels, and whether they will completely recover after all the snow melts. The groundwater wells were drastically overdrawn during the course of the drought, and it seems a bit disingenuous to pretend that all is well when we have yet to receive a groundwater report from CASGEM (California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring).

The reality of perpetual drought is that California cannot let itself get lackadaisical. Every storm that whirls off the Pacific Ocean has as the title of its manifest: “The Drought Is Dead — Long Live the Drought!” The current reserves of water make it all too easy to forget that a mere month and a half ago, a sudden cessation of any rain storms would have left us with enough water to get through the year with careful rationing, but hardly enough to reverse the depletion of the groundwells. In point of fact, compare the levels of California’s reservoirs two years ago, on February 1, 2017, with the levels on the same date, 2019. Even after all the rain in January (, the reservoir system as a whole was still not at the same level as the following on Feb. 1, 2017:

FEBRUARY 1, 2017
(First figure, percentage of capacity; second, percentage of historical average)
Trinity — 60& and 84&
Shasta — 77 and 114
Oroville — 80 an 121
Folsom — 53 and 60
New Melones — 42 and 72
Don Pedro — 88 and 128
McClure — 73 and 151
San Luis Reveroir — 84 and 106
Millerton — 66 and 103
Pine Flat — 62 and 131
Lake Perris — 38 and 47
Castaic — 81 and 98

Beginning at the end of January, however, the weather became more chilly in Los Angeles than it had been for over 80 years. Not since the consecutive winters of 1937 and 1937 had Los Angeles gone through a spell of almost six consecutive weeks during which the temperature did not get as high as 70 degrees. Of course this “winter” temperature would be regarded as utterly laughable elsewhere, but the rain storms required more than umbrellas, but also jackets and scarves when one left for work at dawn, the temperature in the mid-40s.

To provide a sense of the rate at which water levels in the state’s reservoirs have increased, I include some comparative readings. In some instances, I would note how a reservoir increased the amount of its capacity by one percent in a single day. This happened at Lake Shasta, Don Pedro, Pine Flat, and Millerton on Feb. 1 – Feb. 2; Folsom increased two percent in that single day. At midnight, on Feb., 16, the same leap occurred: the water levels of Lake Shasta, Oroville, Don Pedro, Pine Flat, and New Melones had ALL increased one percent in a single day.

RESERVOIR LEVELS — Midnight Jan. 31 (leading into Feb. 1, 2019)
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity Lake — 65% full — 92% historical level
— Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 68 and 93%
Lake Shasta — 64% full — 95% historical level —
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 72 and 102%
Lake Oroville — 40% — 61%
Feb. 15th 50 (fifty) and 74 percent
Folsom Lake — 53% — 103% —
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 67 and 124%
NEW MELONES — 78^ — 131%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT. 82 and 136 percent
Don Pedro — 74% — 108&
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT. 81 and 116%
Lake McClure — 60% — 125%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 71 and 141
San Luis Reservoir — 86% — 109%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 92 and 112
Millerton — 61% — 96%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 71 and 109
Pine Flat Reservoir — 38% — 82%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT 50 and 99%
Lake Perris — 87% — 108%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT — 87 and 106
Castaic Lake — 75% – 90%
Feb. 15th MIDNIGHT — 80 and 94

MIDNIGHT – February 22 (Saturday) (First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity 68 and 93
Shasta — 76 percent capacity and 106 percent historical — in three weeks Shasta gained 12 percent of total capacity.
Oroville is now at 55 percent and 79%
New Melones — up to 83 and 137 percent
Don Pedro — 74 and 108 — WHOA! NEXT DAY!
AT MIDNIGHT, Feb. 23, DON PEDRO JUMPED TO 83 percent and 117 percent (historical average)
Folsom — 63 and 115
McClure 68 and 134
San Luis — 95 and 113
Milleron 72 and 110
Pine Flat — 55 and 106
Lake Perris — 87 and 106
Castaic — 81 and 94

(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity — 71 and 96$
Shasta — 87 and 119
Oroville 62 and 89 percent
Folson — 61 and 110 (NOTE: REDUCED)
New Melones 84 and 137
San Luis Reveroir — 97 and 114 (GLUTTED)
Millerton — 70 and 107 — REDUCED)
Don Pedro — 82 and 115
Lake McClure — 64 and 123
Pine Flat — 57 and 108
Lake Perris — 87 and 105
Castaic — 80 and 92

Midnight, March 5
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity — 72 and 97
Lake Shasta — 87 and 117
Lake Oroville — 67 and 94
Folsom — 63 and 111
New Melones 85 and 138
San Luis Reservoir — 98 and 114
Millerton — 74 and 112
Don Pedro — 83 and 116
lLake McClure — 65 and 125
Pine Flat — 62 and 116
Lake Peris — 87 and 104
Castaic Lake — 79 and 91

MIDNIGHT, March 7, 2019 — Four reservoirs went up significantly — an average of SEVEN percent in the past week; the majority of the other ones rose about two percent.)
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity Lake — 73 and 97
Lake Shasta — 89 and 119
Lake Oroville — 70 and 99
Folsom — 66 and 115 (FOLSOM WENT UP FIVE PERCENT)
New Melones Lake — 85 and 139
Don Pedro — 84 and 118
San Luis Reservoir (SF) — 99 and 115
Millerton — 77 and 115 (MILLERTON WENT UP SEVEN PERCENT)
Lake McClure — 67 and 127
Pine Flat – 65 and 121 (EIGHT PERCENT)
Lake Perris — 87 and 104
Castaic Lake — 80 and 91

March 9, 2019
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity — 74 and 98
Shasta — 89 and 117 (Shasta dropped to 88 on March 10)
Oroville —- 72 and 101 (Oroville went up to 73 on March 10)
New Melones —86 and 139
Folsom — 67 and 116
Don Pedro — 85 and 118
McClure — 68 and 129
Pine flat 66 and 122
San Luis — 99 and 114
Lake Perris — 87 and 104
Castaic — 81 and 93

Wednesday, March 13 — Oroville at 74 percent and 102 historical average

March 14, 2019 (Midnight)
(First figure, capacity; second, percentage of historical average)

Trinity — 75 and 98
Shasta — 86 and 111
Lake Oroville — 75 and 103
Folsom — 65 and 108
New Melones Lake — 85 and 137
Don Pedro — 84 and 117
Lake McClure — 69 and 130
San Luis — 99 and 113
Millerton — 83 and 122
Pine Flat — 65 and 119
Lake Perris — 87 and 103
Castaic Lake — 82 and 93

“Cold War”: Not Cold Enough

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

COLD WAR received an impressive number of favorable reviews, including one from Ron Silliman, who described it as “a wonderful flic, the greatest Jerzy Koziński tale Truffaut ever filmed.” But which Koziński tale, and which Truffaut film? Koziński’s THE PAINTED BIRD is hardly acknowledged as an exemplary instance of original story-telling; as for Truffaut, I watched JULES AND JIM for about the seventh time in my life a few months ago, and would be happy to see it again in the near future. If I watch COLD WAR again, it will be because someone has paid me.

COLD WAR is a version of Romeo and Juliet, with a post-World War II division of Europe serving as the Montague and Capulet households. The problem with COLD WAR’s story is that it fails to take into account what happens to the performance troupe when its music director defects. COLD WAR makes it appear that that decision only has personal consequences, and that no one in the troupe would be held accountable or questioned. Anyone familiar with the reprehensible predations of Stalinist social control would know that life would have become quite miserable for those who in any way were associated with the defector; yet the story acts as if nothing changed for the troupe. I find this completely implausible.

The story becomes even more problematic when the obsessed lover goes to Yugoslavia, a trip I once again found difficult to believe. Why would anyone with an ounce of common sense risk exposing their well-being to the always already vengeance of a Communist dictatorship? Yes, I get the answer. “That’s how strong my love is….” Romeo risks his life, too, to see his Juliet. It’s an old story, but it does not age well in this updating.

I will concede that the final ten minutes of the film, in which the lovers — like R&J — choose death as the seal on their marriage vows, are a quietly lyrical absorption in which our consciousness as viewers mingles with the subdued, effusive lusciousness of stark imagery. The acting, cinematography, and mise-en-scene come together seamlessly under the guidance of Pawel Pawlikowski. The final two minutes, in particular, in which the lovers walk off-screen in order to see “how the river looks on the other side,” are as permeating in the memory as any conclusion I have ever seen. It’s not enough, however, to redeem the gaps in the story leading up to it. I gather it is inspired by the relationship of Pawlikoski’s parents. An account that hewed as closely as possible to their only child’s memories might well have joined “Freeze, Die, Come to Life” (Vitali Kanevsky, 1989) as a classic of the Cold War period.

For those wishing to read about the backstory:

Christopher Buckley’s “Cloud Memoir” — Thirty Years of Longer Poems

Saturday, March 9, 2019

“CLOUD MEMOIR: Selected Longer Poems 1987-20176” — Christopher Buckley
(Nacogdoches, TX: SFA Press; 2018)

Of the several hundred (probably more than a thousand, in fact) poems Christopher Buckley has written in the past half-century. I was fortunate enough to publish some of his early work in my magazine, MOMENTUM, back in the mid-1970s. Even then, my hunch was that his poetic maturation would be much like Philip Levine’s, in that Buckley was not going to achieve distinction as a young poet, but would methodically assemble a body of work featuring some of the most memorable poems of his generation. “Memorable,” however is not recuperative category, but one always already in the future tense; it is unlikely that Buckley’s full measure of accomplishment as a poet will be appreciated until his “Collected Poems” arrives on library shelves, an event that is all but certain to be forestalled by the current tsunami of ambitious young poets, too many of whom seem determined not to acknowledge anyone born between 1946 and 1960.

In contrast, Buckley has long labored to affirm the poets who guided and mentored him. In Buckley’s preface to this volume, he recollects how someone tried to deflate his expectations: “Don’t get any big ideas, kid.” It wasn’t bad advice, as such, since it’s all too easy to pretend that talent suffices to endure the contingencies of a poet’s “career.” One sees the debacles of such outcomes in the books of all too many poets: Philip Schultz, for instance, whose poems are predictably featured in anthologies of academic poets, but whose work lags far, far behind the most accomplished work of Christopher Buckley. That Schultz is an East Coast poet, and Buckley on this side of the country, is not just coincidence. Schultz could only have succeeded to the degree he has on the East Coast.

Given the disparities in the remuneration of close reading, as played out in anthologies, let’s be blunt: two of the poems in CLOUD MEMOIR that should be “automatic locks” in any anthology of contemporary poets are “October Visiting” and “Via Dolorosa: Santa Barbara, California.” I read both of these poems, on separate occasions, after opening the book at random to the pages they were on. Both poems were instances of not being able to stop reading until three pages later, nor could I find the energy to move on and read another poem, after finishing both of them. I realize it is unfashionable these days to begin commentary by admiring technique, unless you are trying to promote formalist poetics, but Buckley’s handling of enjambment is far beyond the happenstance of most working poets. In fact, Buckley is far more lyrical than Levine, especially contrasted with his final years of work. Buckley would probably demur if I were to say this in conversation with him. Nevertheless, when it comes to blending images of plants and the daily machinations of weather in a rhythm worthy of Shapiro’s definition, Buckley is the superior poet.

For those unfamiliar with Shapiro’s definition, I will reiterate: “Rhythm is the total sound of the line’s movement.” The total sound of the entire poem, of all the lines in unison, requires that the poet be attentive to the intermingling of vowels and consonants. This vigilance might be mistaken for the emotional contribution the poets makes to the lyrical impetus of the poem, but it is equally an intellectual operation. Just as the image, in Pound’s terms, must be “an intellectual and emotional complex,” rhythm must call upon a thoughtful encapsulation of the sounds being summoned from our shared vocabularies for things and ideas. In Buckley’s case, I would urge future commentators on his poetry to pay close attention to how images of walking contribute to the groundswell of images. If Buckley is able to reconcile fearlessness and vulnerability in the turbulent restraint that envelopes his poems and lures us into their secret solace as if there were always meant to be our abode as readers, it is in large part because he takes the time to let words walk, too. In the hastiness of post-modernity, such walking is most welcome. In his own way, Buckley has exemplified what it means to “learn by going where one has to go.”

The explicit existential stance in Roethke’s field guide to his psychic landscape, as well as the actual riparian one, differs in one major way from Buckley’s: Roethke is typical of too many “modern” poets in that this planet is still for all intents and purposes the center of the universe. Buckley’s poems defy this putative assumption, which lingers like an enveloping hallucination in an enormous amount of contemporary poetry. In providing personal memories of his childhood and adolescence in Santa Barbara, he is far from celebrating himself in a narcissistic manner, but rather offering us a reminder of the scale of each of our journeys within the unfathomable dimensions of this universe. It is this particular argument, and the skill with with he conducts its orchestra of images, in the recapitulation phase of his “longer” poems that distinguishes Buckley’s writing from the self-regarding, earth-bound poses of all too much contemporary poetry. These longer poems by Buckley never push themselves on the reader as didactic, and yet there is much to learn from them. The classroom you deserved to inhabit while getting educated has plenty of seats in this book. Take one.

Should you have any ability to help your local library add to its two or three shelves of contemporary poetry, here is the address you should give the librarian:
Stephen F. Austin State University Press
P.O. Box 13007 SFA Station
Nacogdoches, Texas 75962
Distributed by Texas A&M Consortium\
ISBN: 9781622882120

Other books of poetry by Christopher Buckley include:

WHITE SHIRT, University of Tampa Press, 2011
MODERN HISTORY: Prose Poems 1987-2007, Tupelo Press, 2008
FLYING BACKBONE: The Georgia O’Keeffe Poems, Blue Light Press, Fairfield, IA, 2008
AND THE SEA, The Sheep Meadow Press, New York, NY, 2006
SKY, The Sheep Meadow Press, Riverdale, NY, 2004
Closer to Home: Poems of Santa Barbara: 1975-1995, Fountain Mountain Press, Orcutt , CA, 2003
Camino Cielo, Orchises Press, Alexandria, VA, 1997
A Short History of Light, Painted Hills Press, Davis, CA 1994
Dark Matter, Copper Beech Press of Brown University, Providence, R.I. 1993
Blue Autumn, Copper Beech Press of Brown University, Providence, R.I., 1990
Blossoms & Bones: On the Life and Work of Georgia O’Keeffe, Vanderbilt Univ. Press, 1988
Dust Light, Leaves, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, TN 1986
Other Lives, Ithaca House, Ithaca, N.Y. 1985
Blue Hooks In Weather, Moving Parts Press, Santa Cruz, CA 1983
Last Rites, Ithaca House, Ithaca, N.Y. 1980

Sneak Preview – June 1-2 Long Beach Studio Tour

Monday, March 4, 2019

Linda Fry and I will be part of the 9th Biennial Long Beach Mid-City Studio Tour on June 1st and 2nd. Some of the other featured artists include Michael Stearns, Sue Ann Robinson, Slater Barron, Craig Stone, Nate Jones, John Sanders, Carol Roemer, Ho Chan, Sandy Abrams, and Connie DK Lane.

Linda and I will have our work at the Artists Co-Op (1330 Gladys Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90804).
The other nine participating artists at the Artists Coop are Katie Stubblefield, Karen McCreary, Angie Fegley, Greg Sabin, Linda Fry, Bill Mohr, Sandy Smith, Sarah Soward, Juan M. Gomez, Eliza Solorzano, and Linda Sue Price.

JUNE 1-2, 2019 | 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily

You can find representative work of all the artists participating in the tour at:

Icons of the paintings of the artists are the portal to each selection of individual work.


“Penetralia” — Bill Mohr (2018)

I primarily devoted myself to poetry and criticism during the past half-century, and am best known as a poet as well as an independent press publisher, editor, and literary historian. At the age of 70, however, I began to concentrate with the same kind of intensity on painting. In doing so, I proffered a variation on the title of a well-known poem by Frank O’Hara. It should be emphasized that I have not abandoned poetry, but only expanded its amplitude. The patterns that I currently seek to compress share an emotional and intellectual source with my poetry, and I hope to assemble a sequence of paintings that will give succor to whatever words might survive from all my visionary efforts and effects.

“The rational mind constantly wants to be in charge. The other parts want to fly. My painting is the encounter between the mind’s necessity for control and its yearning to fly, to be free from our ever-confining skull.” – Ed Moses

Black Horse Still Life

“Black Horse Still Life” — Linda Fry

My paintings often begin by combining images that refer to a world in which there is an unknown potential for abundance with an internal landscape of dreams, meditative states, and the comforts of home life. I develop these compositions by first assembling a collage or set of drawings. The paintings’ images reveal themselves in unexpected contexts.

I work with oil paints, watercolors, and various drawing mediums.

I received an AS Degree at Moorpark College, and a BFA in Drawing and Painting at CSULB.

My work has been shown at:
DA Gallery, Pomona
Vacant Storefront @ Gallery Expo, Long Beach
Vision Gallery, Los Angeles
Hellada Gallery, Long Beach
Artist Co-Op Gallery, Long Beach Open Studio Tour