Thursday, July 19, 2007

Where We Cannot Go

—Marie Riepenhoff-Talty, Longboat Key, FL

If only it were just some bottle rockets;
razzler-dazzler Roman candles, spinners
and jacks, maybe red, white and blue
or even a supersonic
pyrotechnic motherlode—

but real fire is burning
our forests;

real rockets are killing
our young and theirs.


Marie Riepenhoff-Talty writes: "I have attached a poem based on a line from Emily Dickenson's letters: Vinnie came soft as a moccasin 'Don’t be afraid, Emily, it’s only the fourth of July.' (From Letters; early July 1879, Louise and Frances Norcross.)"

Yesterday was the last day of our fire poems contest; many thanks to Marie and David (see below) and Michele (coming up tomorrow) and everyone else who sent poems about the many faces of fire. Watch for more give-aways in the coming weeks!


Poets from the Valley and beyond were saddened yesterday to find out that Poet and Publisher Ben Hiatt has passed away. Ben was one of the pioneers of the mimeograph revolution. Here is the bio that appeared on the back of his last chapbook, Rooting For The Rooster, which appeared in 2005 from Rattlesnake Press:

Ben L. Hiatt was born in Northern California and raised in Eastern Oregon. He began publishing his original poetry in 1958 at the age of 16. He has now published poetry in six different decades, including somewhere around 30 books and chapbooks of poetry and one collection of stories and essays, The View From Mt. Aukum. He has received several literary awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Cash Award in 1970 as one of “America’s Most Promising Younger Poets”. In 1972, he was listed in Who’s Who in America.

During the early and mid-‘60’s, Ben Hiatt was an integral part of the “Mimeo Revolution” in small press publishing. In the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s he was a pioneer in what was to later become known as “Typewriter Offset” publishing. He was also an influential editor/publisher who published several literary magazines, including The Grande Ronde Review, Seared Eye, Nimbus Basin, Sacramento Poetry Express, The Mt. Aukum Review, The Hangtown Fry, and The Mountain Trader, a general-interest regional monthly magazine.

Over the years, Ben has designed, printed and bound scores of books by other poets and writers under several imprints, including Grande Ronde Press, Island City Press, The Sacramento Poetry Exchange, and Mt. Aukum Press.

Ben Hiatt also worked with California Poets in the Schools for fifteen years, teaching poetry writing to students in all grades from kindergarten to high school.


Many of our rattlechappers and other Snake pals who are now "names" in the small press were published in their early years by Ben, who had a good eye for talent and a fierce dedication to small-press publishing. He came into my life when the Snake was new and green; he asked me all the right questions at just the right time, pushed me to do better, and conferred the final compliment on me by allowing me to publish his last book. Thank you, Ben, for forging a path for us small-press fanatics. Now rest.


Today in NorCal Poetry:

•••Thursday (7/19), 8pm: Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Care, 1414 16th St., Sacramento. An evening with Bob Stanley, students and friends. Poet, Poetry Host, event promoter, educator and past editor of Poetry Now, Bob Stanley has put together a feature evening mini-hosting a collection of his students and some drop-by poetic visits by literary friends—curated a talking one-night-only exhibition of spoken word, you might say. The night begins with the famed Luna’s Open Mic and ends with another open mic following the feature presentation. Hosted by frank andrick. Info: Art Luna at (916-441-3931) or frank andrick at 209-727-5179 (

Miss Information:

On Monday, Medusa listed Unheimlich Theater's A Beaudelaire Evening as happening at The Book Collector this Saturday, July 21. It's been moved to NEXT Saturday, July 28. See last (or next) Monday's post for details.


—David Humphreys, Stockton

No, its oriental lovely
creature of haze at summer's end
never even crossed my mind.
I was in a book of poems
turning pages of revelation
on the day my children went back to school
like pink flamingos rising together
stretching out long necks and legs
returning to the sky of learning,
this in a town with its park
named Victory and museum
of bricks and plaster.
I found the poem in the oak trees
of wondering what to do.
The title came in the smoke
of forest fires burning
out of control in the foothills,
found like a second thought
flipping through hot, windy pages.

(First appeared in Manzanita)

—David Humphreys, Stockton

Tunneling in the farmer's barn
full hay bails stacked high,
long and deep, flashlights
leaning into the darkness
on hands and knees, elbows
and shoulders bumping into
the shadows of memories not
quite seeing over the dash board,
bridge across gurgling creeks
and streams through rolling hills,
while grandmother Mimi's
long-earred goat carried the toddler
and Danny's chocolate covered
cherries filled the rich kitchen up
the steps from the rust red barn,
Mimi loving to garden, arms wrapped
around her world that knew all the
scientific names, genus, species,
phylum, family. That's what you'd
like to remember before you see
all the secrets your mother told
you about Daniel and Muriel,
how he would visit the local blue
establishment where he was well
known and on very good terms,
and how she had a long relation-
ship with a young soldier just dis-
charged from the army that Daniel
had met and brought home one sad
and lonely day. You've wondered
why it's taken you so long to get this
far with this but now you see it like
a buried bone brought to the
surface that it was the secrets
that were covered up by the
wet blanket of what was sup-
posed to be about grandparents
and you've often wondered
why your mother told you about
them right in the middle of her
betrayal of your father as if
spreading the guilt would balm
the transgression of her leaving
with his best friend who later
became your stepfather. You still
find it hard to believe that it never
really changed your love for her
except for the place in your heart
where you cannot go and even
though you've never been able to
really trust anyone since that time.
So, here you are thinking that this
was supposed to be about growing
up in the country with haystacks,
pumpkins, Indian corn, scarecrows
and tractors and it is always there
underlying everything you do, even
in the city, especially in the city,
nest of filthy vermin, steam rising
from manhole covers with the smell
of cigars and diesel in asphalt concrete,
glass as sharp as frozen water.

(First appeared in Poetry Now)


Medusa encourages poets of all ilk and ages to send their POETRY, PHOTOS and ART, as well as announcements of Northern California poetry events to (or snail ‘em to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726) for posting on this daily Snake blog. Rights remain with the poets. Previously-published poems are okay for Medusa’s Kitchen, as long as you own the rights. (Please cite publication.)

SnakeWatch: Up-to-the-minute Snake news:

Journals (free publications): Rattlesnake Review14 is now available at The Book Collector; contributors and subscribers should have received theirs by now. If you're none of those, and can't get down to The Book Collector, send two bux (for postage) to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726 and I'll mail you a copy. If you want more than one, please send $2 for the first one and $1 for copies after that. Next deadline, for RR15, is August 15. VYPER6 (for youth 13-19) is in The Book Collector; next deadline is Nov. 1. Snakelets10 (for kids 0-12) is also at The Book Collector; next deadline is Oct. 1.

Books/broadsides: June's releases include Tom Miner's chapbook, North of Everything; David Humphreys' littlesnake broadside, Cominciare Adagio; and #3 in B.L. Kennedy's Rattlesnake Interview Series, this one featuring Jane Blue.

ZZZZZZZ: Shh! The Snake is sleeping! There will be no Snake readings/releases in July or August. Then we return with a bang on September 12, presenting Susan Kelly-DeWitt's new chapbook, Cassiopeia Above the Banyan Tree. See the online journal, Mudlark, for a hefty sample of poems from her book; that’s Also coming in the Fall: new issues of the Review, Snakelets and VYPER [see the above deadlines], plus more littlesnake broadsides from NorCal poets near and far, and a continuation of B.L. Kennedy's Rattlesnake Interview Series—including an anthology of interviews to be released for Sacramento Poetry Month (October).