Friday, July 03, 2009

Nature Loves Repetition

Photo by Stephani Schaefer, Los Molinos

—May Swenson

We wake to double blue:
an ocean without sail,
sky without a clue
of white.
Morning is a veil
sewn of only two
threads, one pale,
on bright.

We bathe as if in ink,
but peacock-eyed and clear;
a roof of periwink
goes steep
into a bell of air
vacant to the brink.
Far as we can peer
is deep

royal blue and shy
iris, queen and king
colors of low
and high.
Then dips
a sickle wing,
we hear a hinged cry:
taut as from a sling

a taunting gull.
And now across our gaze
a snowy hull
along its stays
break out to windpulls.

With creaking shears
the bright
gulls cut the veil
in two,
and many a clue
on scalloped sail
dots with white
our double blue.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

She could be your mother
but only for a shuttered afternoon

she could be lattice-work
framed for climbing moonflowers
their broad purple petals
alert in the dark
like her sky-wide eyes
shrewd with hurt
iced with brilliant intention

she could be a peacock
(the male perhaps)
spreading her tail
for a rainbow
or a warning:

there could be no gold
at the end of this journey—
but something close to it



the mouths wrapped around a microphone
the accompanying strings shrieked to the limit,
the ground-shaking low tones amplified beyond belief,
the means to provide listeners a group headache,
the same heartbeat whether you want it or not
the images of zombies moving at the same time,
the ‘in your face’ lyrics mostly unintelligible,
the puny tunes of some kind of arch-melody,
the ideal creation that many call the music of the people
the expressions of pain, subjugation in psycho-babble,
the need to find a quick get away.
the reason to return to flute sonatas I want to sing
In praise of rap music.

—Margaret Ellis Hill, Wilton


This weekend in NorCal poetry:

•••Sunday (7/5), 3 PM: Poetry Flash at Diesel, A Bookstore in Oakland presents Charles Entrekin and Mary Mackey. Charles Entrekin's new book is a novel, his first, Red Mountain. Alicia Ostriker says of the book, set in Birmingham, Alabama in 1965, "Reading this novel, you will feel it as if it were your own life, your own wounds, being lifted up from the well of memory." Entrekin was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. A resident of northern California for more than thirty years, he is also a poet and the author of several collections, including Casting for the Cutthroat. For two decades he was managing editor of Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press; currently he is managing editor of Hip Pocket Press. Charles will also be reading some new poems on the subject of dealing with lymphoma and chemotherapy.

Mary Mackey of Sacramento is a much-published and acclaimed novelist and poet. Her most recent novel, her eighth, is The Notorious Mrs. Winston, a love story set in the American Civil War; her forthcoming novel is The Widow's War. Her latest book of poetry is Breaking the Fever. She is also the author of several film scripts, including the award-winning feature Silence, and she is a former president of the West Coast branch of PEN.

Diesel, A Bookstore is located at 5433 College Avenue, Oakland, (510) 653-9965, Near Rockridge BART. Poetry Flash: (510) 525-5476.

•••Monday (7/6), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents Bob Stanley and John Allen Cann at HQ for the Arts at 1719 25th St., Sacramento. Bob Stanley has written poetry and volunteered in poetry organizations for over three decades. President of the Sacramento Poetry Center since 2006, Mr. Stanley also served on the board of Alameda Poets, and he has led workshops and readings all over Northern California. In 2008, Bob organized a gathering of poets laureate for the California Arts Council, and in 2009 he edited Sometimes in the Open, an anthology of poems by sixty-five laureates. His poems have won a number of awards, including the California Focus on Writers prize in 2006, and have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. Bob got his BA in English at UCLA (1974) and an MA in Creative Writing from Sacramento State (2005). A fourth generation Californian, he and his wife, Joyce, have raised their four children in Sacramento. After 28 years working in the automotive parts business, Bob now teaches Creative Writing and English at Sacramento State University, Sacramento City College, and UC Davis Extension. His first chapbook, Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger, was released by Rattlesnake Press in 2009. Bob has been selected to be the poet laureate of Sacramento for a two-year term, beginning in July 2009.

Poet, scholar and teacher John Allen Cann recently led two six-week classes at Room to Write, featuring "American poets born in the late 20’s", and is planning a sequel to these, "American Poets Born in the 30’s", for the fall. Mr. Cann recently told fairytales at the Crocker Art Museum in concert with the current Maxwell Parrish exhibition. He teaches English at Cosumnes River College and leads the long-running Kids&Words program at local schools. John Allen is currently preparing an interview he made with A.R. Ammons in the late seventies, and a tandem essay comparing Ammons with Robinson Jeffers.

Coming up at SPC:

July 13: Danny Romero and Neal Whitman
July 20: Hot Poetry in the Park with Poetry and Music by Litany — Miles Miniaci, Bob Wilson, and Chene Watson plus special guests. Fremont Park, Downtown Sac, between 15th and 16th and between P and Q, 7:30 PM
July 27: Shawn Pittard and LaVerne Frith


—May Swenson

I'm coming toward you
instep on the quivering wire
leaning aside
but never looking down
eyes unsmiling
immune to sleep
or hazard

I'm coming toward you

Always your pallid image leaps
behind the bars of distance
where merge sea and sky

Not setting with the sun
nor waning with the moon
your torso centaur-like
is prancing
upon my mind's rim

Fiercely taking aim
my body is a sharpened dart
of longing
coming toward you always


Today's LittleNip:

If you could recover one thing you've lost in your lifetime, what would you wish to find?



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

COMING FOR SUMMER: There will be no rattle-read in July, while the Snake enjoys a little summer hibernation. (Stay current on Sacramento poetry, though, by way of Medusa's Kitchen.) Then join us Weds., August 12 to celebrate Joyce Odam’s birthday month with two new books from her: Peripherals: Prose Poems by Joyce Odam (illustrated by Charlotte Vincent) and Rattlesnake LittleBook #2 (Noir Love). That’s at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30 PM. Free!

WTF!: The second issue of WTF, the free quarterly journal from Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe that is edited by frank andrick, is now available at The Book Collector or through, or send me two bux and I'll mail you one. 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 (clearly marked for WTF). And be forewarned: this publication is for adults only, so you must be over 18 years of age to submit. (More info at

RATTLESNAKE REVIEW: Issue #22 is now available (free) at The Book Collector, or send me four bux and I'll mail you one. Or you can order copies of current or past issues through Contributor and subscription copies will go into the mail this week. Deadline is August 15 for RR23: 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 add all contact info, including snail address. Meanwhile, the snakes of the on-going Medusa are always hungry; keep that poetry comin', rain or shine! Just let us know if your submission is for the Review or for Medusa, or for either one, and please—only one submission packet per issue of the quarterly Review. (More info at

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!

Medusa's Weekly Menu:

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

Monday: Weekly NorCal poetry calendar

Tuesday: 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.