Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Keeping the Snake Alive

—Shinkichi Takahashi

A quiet, a very quiet place
With camellias in bloom.

Their redness faded, nothing
Else remained. The image

Itself vanished—it might
Have been the white magnolias.

A gray cat squats there,
Pale blue earth between its paws.


—Shinkichi Takahashi

Stretched in the genial sun
The mountain snake
Tickled its length along the rock.

The wind rustled the sunshine,
But the snake,
Fully uncoiled, was calm.

Fifth thousand years ago!
Later the same sun
Blazed across the pyramids,

Now it warms my chest.
But below, through
Shattered rock, the snake

Thrusts up its snout, fangs
Flicking at my thoughts
Strewn about the rocks like violets.

It's you, faces cut like triangles,
Have kept the snake alive!
The pavement's greened with leaves.


Calendar addition for Friday:

•••Friday (1/18), 7:30 PM: The Writers of the New Sun/Escritores del Nuevo Sol presents a book signing and reading by Luke Breit and Patrick Grizzell at La Raza Galeria Posada, 1022 – 22nd St. Sacramento. $5 or as you can afford. Luke Breit is a widely published poet and author of the satirical novel, The Tumultuous Times of Jesus in the 21st Century. His collections of poetry include, among others, Messages, Words The Air Speaks and Unintended Lessons. He is a former president of the Sacramento Poetry Center's Board of Directors, and a longtime literary community activist. He has also taught poetry workshops through Poets In The Schools and the Arts In Corrections prison program. See more at myspace.com/lukewriter/ and www.lukebreit.com/

Note: Luke is also the featured interview subject on public radio’s INSIGHT, Wednesday, January 16, 2 pm, discussing his novel. Since the contemporary satire depicts Jesus returning as a political consultant, it is very, very timely. This is on KXJZ; 90.9 FM, Host Jeffrey Callison.

Patrick Grizzell's collections of poems include Dark Music, Chicken Months and, with painter Jimi Suzuki, a chapbook of sumi paintings and poetry entitled Minotaure Into Night. He also has a new collection in manuscript entitled Writing In Place. He is a founding member and former Executive Director of the Sacramento Poetry Center, and has worn many and varied arts hats over the years. He is also a songwriter and musician and performs regularly with his band, Junkyard Burlesque. See more at myspace.com/patrickgrizzell and myspace.com/junkyardburlesque

Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol/Writers of the New Sun is a literary community, established in 1993, primarily to foster and honor the literary arts of the cultures & traditions of Chicano, Native American and Spanish-language communities. The group has published an anthology, Voces del Nuevo Sol/Voices of the New Sun. Members write in English, Spanish, or both. Regular writing meeting is 11 AM on the 1st Saturday of each month. Info: 916- 456-5323. The public is welcome to all activities. Website: www.escritoresdelnuevosol.com/

Cache Creek workshops return!

THE BIG QUESTIONS, a workshop for writers, philosophers, & all creative artists will be held at Cache Creek Nature Preserve on Thursdays from 10 AM-noon, February 7 until March 27 (8 weeks). Free to the general public by registration (see below). Join Cache Creek Writer-in-Residence Rae Gouirand for a genuinely interrogative workshop designed for those interested in asking questions, questioning their answers, and reconsidering the role of uncertainty in creative practice. Developing a creative practice of any kind means joining a conversation about 'the big questions' surrounding one's experience and one's art. In this workshop, we'll examine writings (and possibly other materials) that embody the interrogative spirit and stretch our means for responding to the questions they raise. What does it mean to leave a question in place? What does one choose by refusing to answer a question, or changing a question? What does one choose by asking at all? What can a question become? The goal of this workshop is to awaken new and vital sites in our creative work. All interested community members are welcome, regardless of whether or not they think of themselves as 'writers.' Participants are challenged to open up new work (which can take the shape of writing, visual art, meditative work…) in response to our group conversations. Approximately half of each class session is devoted to independent work (via hikes, birdwatching, sense work, on-site writing, etc.) at the Preserve site. We proceed not as a critique-oriented workshop but as a generative community.

The Writer-in-Residence program at Cache Creek Nature Preserve provides an unparalleled opportunity to learn from the local landscape and to experience the connection between the natural world and creative practice. Our outdoor classroom and gathering spirit make this workshop series a unique opportunity for those who would like to grow their creative lives from the support of both human and natural community. The Preserve is located in rural Yolo County, five miles northwest of Woodland, California. The 130-acres of outdoor classroom are augmented by indoor offices and an antique barn. The surrounding habitats include riparian forest, wetlands, willow thickets, open water, heritage oak woodlands, and grasslands bordered on one side by Cache Creek. Participants should dress for the weather and wear shoes comfortable for walking outdoors. In the event of heavy rain, the portion of class devoted to group conversation is held in the Preserve office. Carpools from Davis and Sacramento can be arranged at the first meeting.

To register, email Rae directly at rgouirand@gmail.com with your name, email address, and phone number. Space is limited. Confirmed participants will receive directions to the Preserve by email in the week preceding the start of class.


—Shinkichi Takahashi

Breastdown fluttering in the breeze,
The sparrow's full of air holes.
Let the winds of winter blow,
Let them crack a wing, two,
The sparrow doesn't care.

The air streams through him, free, easy,
Scattering feathers, bending legs.
He hops calmly, from branch to empty branch
In an absolutely spaceless world.

I'd catch, skewer, broil you,
But my every shot misses: you're impossible.
All at once there's the sound
Of breaking glass, and houses begin
To crumple. Rising quickly,
An atomic submarine nudges past your belly.


—Shinkichi Takahashi

"The instant he boarded the plane
Toad was in London"—wrong.

Toad's unaware of distance,
between his belly and man's,
between himself, the crushing wheel.

"Shrinking utterly, he's nowhere"—right.

London, Tokyo flattened by webbed feet
all at once. In the marsh—no distance, sound—
a scaly back is overgrown with moonflowers.

(Today's poetry was translated from the Japanese by Lucien Stryk, with the assistance of Takashi Ikemoto.)


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 kathykieth@hotmail.com (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.) Medusa cannot vouch for the moral fiber of other publications, contests, etc. that she lists, however, so submit to them at your own risk. 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 (rattlesnakepress.com).

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

Rattlesnake Review: The latest issue of Rattlesnake Review (Sweet 16) is available for free at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, or send $2 to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726 and I'll mail you one. Next deadline (for Issue #17, due out in mid-March) is February 15—sooner than you think!

Coming in February: The Snake is still in winter hibernation for January: no readings, no books, no broadsides. Then, on February 13, Rattlesnake Press will roar to life again with a new SnakeRings SpiralChap from Don and Elsie Feliz (To Berlin With Love), plus a new littlesnake broadside from Carlena Wike (Going the Distance), as well as Volume Two of Conversations, B.L. Kennedy's Rattlesnake Interview Series. Come help us launch all of this on Weds., Feb. 13 at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM.