Monday, May 19, 2008

Raven Wants to Know What's In It For Him...

—Allegra Silberstein, Davis

As long as there are ravens at the Tower of London
England will survive… so goes the legend.
At the end of WWII only one remained.

Some say raven placed the sun in the sky,
stole light from the old man up there
easy as stealing fish from your line.

Half bird, half clown, raven stirs up trouble.
Nothing and no one escapes his attention.
Companion of wolves and bears:

when they have made their kill
raven needs only patience
for the rich reward of flesh torn open.

Where death is, something is in it for ravens.
The sound of a gun is a summons for them to come.
It matters not to ravens

what corpse the slaughter brings—
rabbit or deer or human,
it’s the same for them as any kill.

Do ravens hover over Wall Street and Washington?
Our guns and munitions sound the summons.
Where death is, something is in it for ravens.


This week in NorCal poetry:

•••Tonight (Monday, 5/19), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents Q. R. Hand and Bill Vartnaw at H. Q. For the Arts, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento. Open mic after. Q. R. Hand, Jr. moved to the SF Bay Area from NYC about thirty years ago. Originally published in 1968 classic, Black Fire, an anthology of African American Writing, edited by Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) and Larry Neal, which has recently been reproduced by Black Classics Press, he is the author of three poetry books: i speak to the poet in man (jukebox press) how sweet it is (Zeitgeist Press) and the soon to be published, whose really blues, new & selected poems (Taurean Horn Press). He is also an original member of the Wordwind Chorus, a Bay Area quartet that has performed poetry with jazz for over twenty years. Martha Cinader Mims on the website About: Poetry wrote: “In many ways the story of his life is an aspect of the legend of his generation, his personal approach to poetry inextricable from his focus on the civil rights movement and social service.”

Bill Vartnaw was born and raised in Petaluma, graduated from UC Davis, 1971. He moved to San Francisco is 1973 and became a regular at the Coffee Gallery & Minnie's Can-Do open readings. Was an original member of the Bay Area Poets Coalition in 1974 and helped create its first Summer Solstice Festival. He established Taurean Horn Press following the festival in 1974. To date, Taurean Horn Press has published fourteen books, including his own In Concern: for Angels (1984). In the seventies, THP also published 13 issues of OR magazine from various Bay Area Open Readings, six Mini-Taur series, a series of “poemphlets” written and designed by individual poets & 2 issues from Folsom Prison Poetry Workshop. He received an M.A. in Poetics from New College of California, SF in 1991. His work has appeared in various literary magazines over the last 35 years and in the “poemphlet,” If You Should Die a Fool, You Will Be No Less Wiser For It (1975). Suburbs of My Childhood is scheduled to be published in 2008 by Beatitude Press in Berkeley.

•••Wednesday (5/21), 9 PM: Bistro 33 Poetry Series in Davis presents Random Abiladeze (pronounced “Abilities”), a 22-year-old Hip-Hop Artist and Spoken Work Poet from Sacramento. Random won the 2008 Battle of The Bay Poetry Slam at Stanford University, he was voted Youth Speaks Male Poet of the Month for October 2007, he has won several rap competitions on radio stations 102.5 (KSFM) and 103.5 (KBMB), and he is a two-time champion of the Got Spit! Poetry Slam, hosted by the Sacramento chapter of Hip Hop Congress. Random has shared the stage with many great poets and performers, including Nas, Tech N9Ne, Mistah F.A.B., Pigeon John, Little Brother, Planet Asia, Taalam Acey, Butterscotch, Luckyiam and Amir Sulaiman. Random’s 2008 album, Brutally Honest, was recently well-reviewed in The California Aggie and Sacramento News & Review, which opined that “Brutally Honest is a sonically complete album with a message that’s serious, playful and totally aware of its surroundings. Random Abiladeze has just taken Sacramento hip-hop to the next plateau.” An open mic follows the featured performer.

•••Thursday (5/21), 8 PM: Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe presents Terryl Wheat and Sandy Thomas. 1414 16th St., Sacramento. Open mic before and after.


—William S. Gainer

Reading the guy who won the Pulitzer:
the poems kept getting
longer and fatter.
I closed the pages
before the words fell out,
crashing to the table—
causing an alphabet wreck,
needing an alphabet tow truck
to untangle the alphabet mess.


—William S. Gainer

It is his place,
his job,
his justification
for living,
to choke off
going up
and everything
coming down.
He is the guardian
of the hourglass—
the guy in the middle...


—William S. Gainer, Grass Valley

It’s that time of year,
the crows are up there
doing their sky dance;
he’s high,
she’s low,
he cuts left,
she cuts right.
You can almost
hear him
trying to bust a move—

“That a new shade of black?
It looks sharp
on you, baby.”

And her,
“I didn’t ask you
to touch me.”

But he’s smooth,
“Come on over to my tree,
I got some shiny
a little gold spring,
someone’s lost earring,
a chrome button
and a Coors bottle cap.”

She’s weakening,
“Oh yeah,
well maybe,
but you keep that thing
in your feathers.
I’m not that
kind of crow.”


Thanks, Allegra! Watch for more of rattlechappers Allegra Silberstein and Bill Gainer in Snake 18, due out in mid-June. And if you'd like free copies of their littlesnake broadsides, let me know and I'll send them to you.

By the way, how are your birding skills? Is that a raven or a crow in today's photo?


Today's LittleNip: Food for Thought on a Monday:

Goatsucker: An evil and ill-omened bird, noctural and therefore allied to the powers of darkness; said to drain milk from cows and goats. Goatsuckers can embody the souls of people unable to rest on account of crimes committed while in human form; their cries are said to be the wailings of the ghosts expiating their sins.

Dictionary of Symbolic and Mythological Animals, ed. by J.C. Cooper




(Contributors are welcome to cook something up for any and all of these!)

Monday: Weekly NorCal poetry calendar

Seed of the Week: Tuesday is Medusa's day to post poetry triggers such as quotes, forms, photos, memories, jokes—whatever might tickle somebody's muse. Pick up the gauntlet and send in your poetic results; and don't be shy about sending in your own triggers, too! All poems will be posted and a few of them will go into Medusa's Corner of each Rattlesnake Review. Send your work to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline for SOW; respond today, tomorrow, or whenever the muse arrives. (Print 'em out, maybe, save 'em for a dry spell?) When you send us work, though, just let us know which "seed" it was that inspired you.

Wednesday: HandyStuff Quickies: Resources for the poet, including whatever helps ease the pain of writing and/or publishing. Favorite journals to read and/or submit to; books, etc., about writing; organizational tools—you know—HandyStuff! Tell us about your favorite tools.

Thursday: B.L.'s Drive-Bys: Micro-reviews by our irreverent Reviewer-in-Residence, B.L. Kennedy.
Send books, CDs, DVDs, etc. to him for possible review (either as a Drive-By or in Rattlesnake Review) at P.O. Box 160664, Sacramento, CA 95816.

Friday: NorCal weekend poetry calendar

Daily (except Sunday): LittleNips: SnakeFood for the Poetic Soul: Daily munchables for poetic thought, including short paragraphs, quotes, wonky words, silliness, little-known poetry/poet facts, and other inspiration—yet another way to feed our ever-hungry poetic souls.

And poetry! Every day, poetry from writers near and far! The Snakes of Medusa are always hungry.......!



New for May: Rattlesnake Press is proud to announce the release of Among Summer Pines by Quinton Duval and a littlesnake broadside, Before Naming, by Stephani Schaefer. Both of these are now available at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, and will soon be available at

Coming June 11: Two Moons in June: Join us at The Book Collector for the premiere of Day Moon, a new chapbook by James DenBoer, and Mindfully Moon, a littlesnake broadside by Carol Louise Moon, as well as
Volume Three of Conversations, our third book of interviews by B.L. Kennedy, featuring Art Beck, Olivia Costellano, Quinton Duval, William S. Gainer, Mario Ellis Hill, Kathryn Hohlwein, James Jee Jobe, Andy Jones, Rebecca Morrison, Viola Weinberg and Phillip T. Nails. All this PLUS a brand-new edition of Rattlesnake Review! That's at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM, June 11.

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.) 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 ( And be sure to sign up for Snakebytes, our monthly e-newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on all our ophidian chicanery.