Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Strife That Moves The Stars

In Memoriam Joseph Axup (1926-2008)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael

The lives of brass players run to three clear parts:
first is the fight to build an embouchure,
given young lips, teeth, lungs, tongue too unsure
for teamwork. These, far-flung as ill-aimed darts,
lack accuracy or punch. Next, strength and smarts
unite to outsmart what smarts our lips, inure
us to high notes, refine them sheer and pure;
such muscular pains equate to half the art.
Strong embouchures, most “golden chops,” alight
on sun-washed summits, alpine lines of Mahler,
Wagner—then: descending, slackening stages.
The last, most human fight’s to hold that height,
refresh the old brazen blaze, when slipped lip falters.
True mouthpiece-hummingbirds buzz at last for sages.


Thanks, Tom, for this beautiful memorial poem to a Sacramento music-fixture, Joseph Axup, who passed away last week after many, many years of serving our community as a professional musician and teacher. Tom Goff and I have a lot of friends in common from our days as musicians around here.

Speaking of Tom, Rattlesnake Press is proud to announce his addition to our little Snake-posse as Historian-in-Residence, beginning with a wonderful article he has written for us about California's first Poet Laureate, Ina Coolbrith, for Rattlesnake Review #18, due out in June. This is a doubly-appropriate time to talk about Ina, since May 15 is the deadline for nominating a new PL for California. See for details.

Coincidentally with all this, May 15 is also the deadline for Rattlesnake Review! Send 3-5 poems, art, photos, article queries, but no bios or cover, no simul-subs or previously-pubbed work to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726.

HandyStuff Quickie for the week:

One of my favorite books is The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach, ed. by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell (Harper-Collins, 1992). More than just prompts, this book is packed with full-blown exercises from "working" poets, everybody from Thomas Lux to Rita Dove to Ann Waldman to our own Sandra McPherson—pages and pages of suggested exercises to sharpen your quill. Check it out!


—Randall Jarrell

The moon rises. The red cubs rolling
In the ferns by the rotten oak
Stare over a marsh and a meadow
To the farm's white wisp of smoke.
A spark burns, high in heaven.
Deer thread the blossoming rows
Of the old orchard, rabbits
Hop by the well-curb. The cock crows
From the tree by the widow's walk;
Two stars in the trees to the west,
Are snared, and an owl's soft cry
Runs like a breath through the forest.
Here too, though death is hushed, though joy
Obscures, like night, their wars,
The beings of this world are swept
By the Strife that moves the stars.


Yesterday, Randall Jarrell would've been 96 years old. Today, Robert Browning would've been 116 years old. Tomorrow, Gary Synder will be 78 years old. I'm assuming you already heard about his wonderful award from Poetry?

And Taylor Graham sends us this response to yesterday's Seed of the Week, porches. She says, "Porches? Nobody lives on porches anymore..."

—Taylor Graham, Somerset

No porch, no welcome mat, no one
at home. The cracked skylight
lets in May
above the door. A mud-daub swallow nest
empty in the eaves.

Vacant house in a field that runs
with wind, manes of tawny
annual grasses. Through oak leaves
sun hovers
red as the shoulder of a hawk.

It pins us with its eye.


Today's LittleNip:

I looked out the window at dawn and saw a young apple tree translucent in brightness.

And when I looked out at dawn once again, an apple tree laden with fruit stood there.

Many years had probably gone by but I remember nothing of what happened in my sleep.

—Czeslaw Milosz




(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.......!



Coming May 14: Join us on Wednesday, May 14 for the release of Among Summer Pines by Quinton Duval; a littlesnake broadside, Before Naming, by Stephani Schaefer; and 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 and Phillip T. Nails. That's at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM.

Also in May: Deadline for Issue #18 of Rattlesnake Review is May 15. Free copies of Issue #17 are available at The Book Collector, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one.

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.