Friday, May 08, 2009

Too Hot To Touch

—Iven Lourie, Penn Valley

Up in the canyon, it seems always to be springtime. At the outset, where you park a car or truck, it's pure desert, tan shale and brown dirt that hurts your feet just to look at it. The only plants are scrawny mesquite bushes, a few prickly pears and stunted cholla cactus. Then you begin to climb, up the trail, across rock and dirt, through deepening ravines and along the streambed, which suddenly becomes water, running water that sparkles and dances across pebbles and silt. The rock walls of the canyon rise on either side, the scrub desert falls away behind, and you enter breathlessly a world of spring. As if Dorothy or some other legendary child had dropped a house on the Wicked Witch of the Southwest Deserts, the land blooms with wildflowers, cactus blooms, yellow and green fuzz on the hills, ocotillo branches spangled with tiny red flowers, huge lilies-of-the-valley they call century plants, agave, cottonwood trees by the water. Enter here a world of bird and chipmunk, hawk and fieldmouse, javelina (the desert pig), deer, coyote, seldom a human. Find here a curtain of sun shimmer and water mist. Slowly walk up the green trail and through this bridal veil of light and there find another desert, but an adamantine, jewelled desert of gemstone colors, ochre and carmine, burnt umber and turquoise cliffs, scarlet sun and lavender moon. Here the bear dances with the coyote, the owl harmonizes with the mourning dove, the sidewinder smiles at the kangaroo rat, and the gila monster in his slow style swaps jokes with a wild human child. You become green here and fast as water, cool and clear as mountain springwater, far-seeing and sharp-scenting. You become the person of the springtime, fire-child, canyon spirit forever.


Thanks, Iven! Iven Lourie has been writing and performing poetry since the '60's, when he lived in Chicago, upstate New York, and Philadelphia. He was a Poetry Editor at Chicago Review literary journal, and he has taught numerous writing workshops. After completing his MFA degree at U. of Arizona (1978), studying with poets Richard Shelton and Peter Wild, he moved to Northern California where he works as Senior Editor for Gateways Books, teaches composition at Sierra College, and continues to participate in local poetry readings and other events, like the Nevada County Poetry Series in Grass Valley and Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café in Sacramento. He has been married twice and has two daughters and one step-daughter. (Iven and Dick Lourie are perhaps the only two-poet brother act in the Directory of American Poets & Writers.)

Join us Weds., May 13 for a new rattlechap, Sinfonietta, from Tom Goff; Vol. 5 of Conversations, the Rattlesnake Interview Series by B.L. Kennedy; and the inauguration of a new series, Rattlesnake LittleBooks, with Shorts: Quatrains and Epigrams by Iven Lourie. That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM. Free!


This weekend in NorCal poetry:

•••Sat. (5/9), 6-8 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents The Photographs of Michael Kelly-DeWitt at HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St. Sacramento. Info: (916) 662-2196. Refreshments will be served. Michael Kelly-DeWitt is an artist and writer. Born in 1978 in Sacramento, California, Michael developed an interest in art and writing at an early age. The six-year-old Michael had enormous ambition: he threw paint onto canvases and routinely proclaimed that he was writing a novel. Fortunately, these works will never see the light of day. As he grew, Michael's interests and artistic abilities grew with him. He developed a keen interest in photography and the natural world, and in the digital manipulation of photographic imagery. Michael's writing also matured. He developed an array of thematic interests, though many of his stories focus on the intersection between human interaction and belief. He also ventured into the world of blogging, and his blog—The Random Arts Blog—is dedicated to the discussion of a variety of subjects related to the media.

Michael has been a number of things in his life so far: cook, clerk, student and teacher. He even once worked as a chauffeur—an interesting gig, but not one that he is aiming to repeat. Michael graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles, California.

•••Saturday (5/9), 2 PM: Open Mic will be held at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore on
Sunrise Boulevard in Citrus Heights. Margaret Bell of Citrus Heights Area Poets writes: There will be nothing else on the program except poetry readings and anything else poets choose to discuss. COME SHARE!

•••Sat. (5/9) 1:30-3:30 PM: A reading of Volume 6, Number 2, of the Central Valley poetry quarterly, Song of the San Joaquin, will be held in the downstairs theater of the McHenry Museum, 1402 “I” Street, Modesto. Poets will read their own poems. The reading is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. There will be an "open mike" following the presentation. The quarterly will be for sale and information on subscriptions and submissions will be available. Information can also be found by contacting Cleo Griffith at or (209) 577-5366 or PO Box 1161, Modesto, CA 95353-1161.

•••Sat. (5/9), 10 AM-5 PM: Stockton Arts and Multicultural Celebration at Weber Point, Stockton. Free community event featuring artistic, cultural and ethnic traditions in music, dance, theatre and visual art. Activities for all ages; food and beverages available. Volunteers needed: contact Dean Gorby at 209-933-7030 (x2304) or Robert Rojas, 209-430-5117. Info:

•••Monday (5/11), 7:30 PM: Brad Buchanan performs his “Brief History of British Poetry from John Milton to Dylan Thomas" and Farrah Field reads. Sacramento Poetry Center, HQ for the Arts, 1719 25th St., Sacramento. Brad Buchanan is the author of The Miracle Shirker (Poets Corner Press) and Swimming the Mirror (Roan Press). He teaches Modern British and American Literature and Creative Writing at California State University, Sacramento. His work has appeared in the U.S. in American Poets and Poetry, The Comstock Review, Confrontation, The Connecticut Poetry Review, Illuminations, Northeast, The Notre Dame Review, Peregrine, The Portland Review, RE: AL, The Seattle Review, The South Dakota Review, and Whetstone, for example. In Canada, where he is from, his work has appeared in such journals as The Antigonish Review, Canadian Literature, Contemporary Verse 2, The Dalhousie Review, Descant, Event, The Fiddlehead, Grain, The Wascana Review, and The Windsor Review. He is the founder and chief editor of Roan Press in Sacramento.

Farrah Field is the author of Rising (Four Way Books, 2009), winner of the The Larry Levis Prize. Her poems have appeared in many publications including Harp & Altar, Typo, Linebreak, The Cortland Review, 42Opus, the Mississippi Review, Margie, Chelsea, and others. She was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming and raised in Nebraska, Colorado, Louisiana, Arkansas, Sicily and Belgium. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Coming Up at SPC:

•••Saturday, May 16: Multicultural Children's Literary Arts Festival at Fremont Park
•••Monday, May 18: Kirk Parker, Cameron Parker, and Joseph Pratt



and we have no wedding present
from faraway places I thought
to write you two some lines
for a gift and memory at once

There is a certain sunlight
where we’ve been in Greece
that lights your whole insides
and clearcuts the good from what is false

I wanted to write to every friend
a letter about that world
but each time the words failed me
before that sea sky mountain village

So all I can say is this:

All wisdom fades in solitude
The light shines strong with sharing
face to face: our world is friends
and true lovers, outside this circle


—Iven Lourie


—Iven Lourie

How does the virus begin?
It is born in the matrix of the host
It thrives on neglect
In the distance, never corresponding to the map,
there is a targeted homeostasis

How does the virus survive?
The virus is relentless, irresistible, seductive
In sickness and in health it mutates to accommodate
to build its new world in the shell of the old

How does the virus prevail?
The virus is the weekend guest who never leaves
the stranger who marries into the family
The virus is the servant in the scullery
who survives the cataclysm to become heir apparent

(previously published in Sierra Journal)

Iven Lourie and Bassist Bill Douglass
at the Copper Top Lounge, Grass Valley


Today's LittleNip:

—Iven Lourie

On the telephone a friend tells me
that after reading lawbooks
a poem is blinding
a single word too hot to touch



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

Rattlesnake Review: The latest Snake (RR21) is now available (free) at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. Next deadline is May 15 for RR22: send 3-5 poems, smallish art pieces and/or photos (no bio, no cover letter, no simultaneous submissions or previously-published poems) to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. E-mail attachments are preferred, but be sure to include all contact info, including snail address. Meanwhile, the snakes of Medusa are always hungry; let us know if your submission is for the Review or for Medusa, or for either one, and please—only one submission per issue.

Also available (free): littlesnake broadside #46: Snake Secrets: Getting Your Poetry Published in Rattlesnake Press (and lots of other places, besides!): A compendium of ideas for brushing up on your submissions process so as to make editors everywhere more happy, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting your poetry published. Pick up a copy at The Book Collector or write to me and I'll send you one. Free!

WTF!: Join us on Thursday, May 21 at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento for the unveiling of the second issue of WTF, the free quarterly journal from Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe that is edited by frank andrick.
Next deadline, for issue #3, is July 15. Submission guidelines are the same as for the Snake, but send your poems, photos, smallish art or prose pieces (500 words or less) to (attachments preferred) or, if you’re snailing, to P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. And be forewarned: this publication is for adults only, so you must be over 18 years of age to submit. Copies of the first issue are at The Book Collector, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one.

ALSO COMING IN MAY: Join us Weds., May 13 for a new rattlechap, Sinfonietta, from Tom Goff; Vol. 5 of Conversations, the Rattlesnake Interview Series by B.L. Kennedy; and the inauguration of a new series, Rattlesnake LittleBooks, with Shorts: Quatrains and Epigrams by Iven Lourie. That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM. Free!

Medusa's Weekly Menu:

(Contributors are welcome to cook up something 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 SOWs; 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 (sometimes, or any other day!): 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 future issues of 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 ravenous poetic souls.

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


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.