Monday, September 10, 2007

The Pearl is the Poem

Susan Kelly-DeWitt
Photo by Mike Kelly-DeWitt

—Susan Kelly-DeWitt, Sacramento


Two gargantuan women appear
in the sky—one a swimmer,
the other a diver. (Or are they
the same woman split in two,

twinned?) Vapor women,
aspirin white, adrift in a heaven
of bandages… The diver dips

lower, drops like a plumb
through the shifting currents
toward the river. The swimmer

pushes something enormous before her
like a giant mole with a boulder.
I name her Ms. Sisyphus,

watch her scissor her mountain
of twilight with big cloud feet.


Once when we were poor (my father
serving time in an actual state) our weekly
treat was to buy hamburgers and eat
them in the parking lot on Kalakaua
Boulevard, behind a drive-in theater
where, fenced out, we watched the movie
without sound. Every Saturday Elizabeth Taylor,
Deborah Kerr or Betty Davis floated
like rare butterflies across the screen.

We gazed like Plato’s shades
at the silent shadow-beings made
entirely of projected light.

This was our version
of plenty.


The diver rifts in midair;
one tulle fist rips. Ms. Sisyphus’
gigantic shoulder muscles puff
up like crinolines, pucker
then twitch. Her arms pull
apart, loose stitch by loose stitch.

She twists to look at me as she
unwinds: Her skull’s unlaced.


Thanks, Susan! "Ms. Sisyphus" is from Susan Kelly-DeWitt's new rattlechap, Cassiopeia Above the Banyan Tree, which will be released at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, this Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 PM. Also released that night will be a littlesnake broadside, Blush, from Sacramento Poet Dawn DiBartolo, plus #4 in the new Rattlesnake Interview Series by B.L. Kennedy, this one featuring frank andrick, and a brand-new issue of Rattlesnake Review (#15)! Refreshments and a read-around will follow; bring your own poems or somebody else's. More info:

Susan Kelly-DeWitt is the author of seven previous chapbooks and a full-length collection, The Fortunate Islands (forthcoming from Marick Press). Her work has been featured on Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily and has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She currently teaches for Sacramento City College and for the University of California, Davis Extension.

See the online journal, Mudlark, for a hefty sample of poems from Susan's book; that’s And read more about Susan at her nifty new website, Click on "Chapbooks" for a sneak preview of Cassiopeia's cover.

Yes, that's right; I can now say (with 90% confidence, depending on the wiles of the printer) that Issue #15 of the Snake will be coming out this week. The Plan is to start mailing tomorrow to contributors and subscribers, and if you're either (or neither) of those and you're at the reading Wednesday, you'll get yours then. Anyway, that's The Plan...

Also this week:

•••Tonight (Monday, 9/10), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center will feature Sacramento Poet Laverne Frith at HQ, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento. Laverne Frith has been co-editor of Ekphrasis for ten years, with chapbooks from Talent House and White Heron Press, and a chapbook, Drinking The Light, recently released from Finishing Line Press, plus a Pushcart Prize nomination. Laverne was runner-up for the 2004, 2005, & 2006 Louisiana Literature Prize In Poetry. His poetry has been accepted or appeared in Poetry New York, Christian Science Monitor, Sundog, Comstock, Montserrat, California Quarterly, Song of the San Joaquin, Dalhousie, Perihelion, Architrave, Maryland Poetry Review, Sonoma Mandala, New Laurel Review, Permafrost, Main Street Rag, New Zoo Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Kimera, etc. He has won honors and awards in a number of poetry competitions. Open mic to follow.

•••Also tonight (Monday, 9/10), 6:30 PM: Manzanita poets get-together in San Andreas: bring work to share, if you like. Meet at the Arts Council gallery office in San Andreas. Refreshments available. News about Glenn Wasson's book coming out at the end of October!

The Manzanita folks will also be going to the California Poets Festival on Saturday, September 22, 10 AM to 4:30 PM. This year’s featured poets include Robert Hass, Francisco X. Alarcón, Ellen Bass, Victoria Chang, Wanda Coleman, Jane Hirshfield, Diem Jones, and the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society of San José. This all-day outdoor festival will will also include a small press fair and a food fair. It will be held at History Park San José, 1650 Senter Road, San José. Open to the public and free of charge. Co-sponsored by Poetry Santa Cruz and Poetry Center San

Monika Rose writes: If you would like to carpool from Calaveras County, please e-mail me soon, and we'll try to organize it. Manzanita staff members have to be in San Jose by 8:30, so it's an early rising for us and strong coffee and tea with crumpets to go. We will have volumes of Manzanita available if you'd like more copies (Volumes 4 and 5 will be discounted at 10.00 each for the fair).

•••Thursday (9/13), 8 PM: Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento. Featured readers, with open mic before and after.

•••Friday (9/14), 7:30 PM: Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol presents their Annual all-Spanish poetry reading, featuring the work of the controversial Spanish poet, Rafael Alberti, and the students of the Sac State Foreign Languages Dept. Emcee is Dr. Fausto Avendaño. Contributing to the evening will be Graciela Ramirez, Jim Michael, and musician/composer Alfredo González. Open mic to follow. Cost: $5 or as you can afford. La Raza Galeria Posada, 1024 22nd St., Midtown Sacramento. Info: Graciela Ramirez (916-456-5323) or website:

•••Sat. (9/15), 10 AM-5 PM: The Eighth Annual Sonoma County Book Festival will take place in Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa, with more than seventy booths showcasing independent booksellers and publishers. Sonoma County presents the oldest and largest general interest book festival in Northern California. Admission is free and includes readings, panels and activities for all ages. Throughout the day, poets including Kay Ryan, California Poet Laureate Al Young and Francisco X. Alarcón will read on the main stage of Old Courthouse Square. At noon, Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, will introduce The Big Read Sonoma County and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, followed by the young winners of the bilingual essay contest reading from their “Which Book Would You Save?” essays. In addition to this full day of poetry, the Festival also offers a Teen Poetry Slam at 1:00 p.m. at the Target Young People’s Tent. The Target Young People’s Tent will host events all day, with readings, a “Let’s Talk about Writing” panel and a Fantasy Hour. The spacious white tent offers young people the chance to sit or sprawl on the grass on the Square’s east side and the chance to win free books. The Art Bus will once again join the Book Festival to help celebrate creativity and the literary arts. This fully-equipped mobile art studio will park close to the tent. A unique element to the Festival’s kick-off of The Big Read Sonoma County will be a group of modern day troubadours walking around reciting passages from their most cherished books. Maxine Hong Kingston will introduce Veterans of War; Veterans of Peace, the winner of the 2007 Northern California Book Reviewers Special Award in Publishing. For a full list of authors, panels, times and locations visit

•••Sunday (9/16), 7 PM: Another book release party for Sun Shadow Mountain, this one to be held at Java Aroma, 1825 Pacific Avenue, Stockton. The book, Sun Shadow Mountain, contains an astounding banquet of poetry, prose, photography and artwork taken from 38 poets from California and abroad. Visit


Hilda Doolittle in the '30's


The white violet
is scented on its stalk,
the sea-violet
fragile as agate,
lies fronting all the wind
among the torn shells
on the sand-bank.
The greater blue violets
flutter on the hill,
but who would change for these
who would change for these
one root of the white sort?
your grasp is frail
on the edge of the sand-hill,
but you catch the light—
frost, a star edges with its fire.

(from Sea Garden, 1916)


Today, Hilda Doolittle would've been 121 years old.

And finally, Katy Brown has been watching Medusa's pearl fixation over the last two days, so she sent us this one of her own:

ars poetica
—katy brown, davis

all that work
night after night
in icy, sandy beds —

sealing off glass-sharp intrusions
between soft, pulsing interiors
and inadequate armor —

all those layers and layers
of gleaming lies
to cover the jagged little secrets

not even a remorseful
ocean can dislodge the
imperfections of the past

after all, the pearl
always becomes the poem
of the oyster


Thanks, K.B.! Check out the new Snake for Katy's column on the ekphrastic side of poetry.


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.) For more info about the Snake Empire, including guidelines for submitting to or obtaining our publications, click on the link to the right of this column: Rattlesnake Press (