Saturday, September 26, 2009


Photo by Stephani Schaefer

—Stephani Schaefer, Los Molinos

I like to think
this old chair
wasn't dumped here in the woods
to save a fee
but rather someone housebound
a long while
(browsing books the way
the walking walk through woods)
passed on
and a good friend
carried the reading chair out here
and scattered ashes
where he knew his friend should be.


—William Bronk

Early autumn. Watching the light run out.
As though by the sea. An estuary. The light
runs like a tide running. Swiftly. Flat.
How the flat light rushes to be gone,
sucked by the gravitation of the low sun.
The wash of light coming and going, the year,
the many weathers that return, travel in flat
circles. There were long centuries
before the earth was round. The earth-flats
are there, still, to be seen, as one sees,
still, of the weather, it is there, and runs in flat
circles, whereas we—no! What
have earth or the weather, in the end, to do
with us, who, in a world of our own, despite
them, or even unaware, live for a time all
bulks and prominences, wide and high!


John Amen from North Carolina appears in Modesto on Oct. 9:

•••Friday (10/9): John Amen of North Carolina will present a workshop and a reading. He founded and continues to edit The Pedestal Magazine ( These events will take place at the Horizon Room, Homewood Village Mobile Home Park, 2000 Mable Ave., Modesto, (209) 522-1412.

The workshop is limited to 20 participants. The cost is $20 and includes a copy of his new collection, At the Threshold of Alchemy [see Medusa’s Thursday, Sept. 24 post for a review by B.L. Kennedy]. For a registration form, call Cleo Griffith at 209-543-1776 or write to her at

READING, 7:30-8 PM: This is a free event.

SOCIAL TIME, 8-8:30, followed by an open mike session as time permits. Light refreshments will be served and Mr. Amen’s book will be available for purchase and signing.

John Amen
is the author of two collections of poetry: Christening the Dancer (Uccelli Press 2003) and More of Me Disappears (Cross-Cultural Communications 2005), and has released two folk/folk rock CDs: All I’ll Never Need (Cool Midget 2004) and Ridiculous Empire (2008). His third poetry collection, At the Threshold of Alchemy, will be released by Presa in 2009. He is also an artist, working primarily with acrylics on canvas. Further information is available on his website: Amen travels widely, giving readings, doing musical performances, and conducting workshops.


—Thom Gunn

One by one they appear in

the darkness: a few friends, and

a few with historical

names. How late they start to shine!

but before they fade they stand

perfectly embodied, all

the past lapping them like a

clock of chaos. They were men

who, I thought, lived only to

renew the wasteful force they

spent with each hot convulsion.

They remind me, distant now.

True, they are not at rest yet,

but now that they are indeed

apart, winnowed from failures,

they withdraw to an orbit

and turn with disinterested

hard energy, like the stars.


About his poem, Thom Gunn wrote: One reason I like this poem is that I wrote it with such ease; it's one of the few I've ever finished in two or three days. The title, part of a line in Anthony and Cleopatra, was once pointed out by a friend as an attractive title for a poem, and I kept it in mind, carrying it over from notebook to notebook for several years. I started writing the poem, finally, almost by chance, and once I had written the first line and a half, I knew exactly what I wanted it to be, in scope, in tone, in suggestiveness. With almost all my other poems I am aware of the missed chances, the space between the conception and its embodiment, but with this I am for once aware of them only as different names for the same thing.

(as quoted in Poet's Choice, ed. by Paul Engle and Joseph Langland, Time-Life Books, Inc., 1962)

Tom Goff wrote an article about Thom Gunn (another Tom, another TG) which appears in the latest Rattlesnake Review. Tom sends us the following poem, with the comment that this is an invocation to the Muse of Revision, the one who wants the essay or poem "fixed" after it's writ...

—Tom Goff, Carmichael


Wrote: Michelangelo might’ve embarrassed
his loving friend Tommaso dei Cavalieri
with affectionate protestations in a poem.
My words: “Cavalieri (who was probably ‘straight’)”

—but who the hell can know who’s really “straight,”
or even what “straight” means to us crookeds?
Remember the ministrations of Queer Theory:

the sexual act can/cannot (can it?) prove
sexual truth trammeled here well within the shades,
the county-line lurkings of sexual self-definition,
fantasy body doubles, play of psyche and counter-psyche:
none of these definitive, not even if Tommaso
took Michelangelo ten thousand times to bed…


Wrote: “Lyric poetry is often a battle of opposites:
disclosure, which tends toward biography or
autobiography…” Query: should I not
have added: “or the snail-slime trailings
of gossip, tattle, innuendo (decay the air has hung
once Wallace Stevens’ blackbird has whistled)?”


Then wrote: “versus discretion, which tends
towards the general or universal…”

And what about silence?


Denigrated Thom Gunn’s early piece
“Carnal Knowledge”; hated the singsong
“I know you know I know.” Blah blah blah?
No: Bible. Oh but how Adam-knew-his-wife-
and-Cain-was-born, the knowing/sexing
carnal disgust, grit in the monotone keening of gears:

I know you know I know: isn’t it
the drumbeat of the mattress at sea,
the lullaby of bedspring and angry rust?


Today's LittleNips, about the Art of Revision:

To write simply is as difficult as to be good. —W. Somerset Maugham

What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish. —Thomas Wolfe

The wastepaper basket is the writer's best friend. —Isaac B. Singer



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:


Rattlesnake Press is proud to announce the release of a new chapbook by
Susan Finkleman
(Mirror, Mirror: Poems Of The Mother-Daughter Relationship, illustrated by Joseph Finkleman),
plus a new HandyStuff blank journal from Katy Brown (A Capital Idea),
and a littlesnake broadside from Marie Reynolds (Late Harvest). All are now available at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento.


RR23 is now available at The Book Collector, and contributor and subscription copies will go into the mail in the next two weeks.
You may also order a copy through

Deadline is November 15 for RR24: 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 (include snail address) and I'll send you one. Free!


On Wednesday, Oct. 7, Rattlesnake Press will release
a new chapbook from Brad Buchanan (The War Groom)
and a new Rattlesnake LittleBook from
William S. Gainer: Joining the Demented.
That's 7:30 PM at The Book Collector.

WTF!!: The third 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 send me two bux and I'll mail you one.

Deadline for Issue #4 will be Oct. 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

Then gear up the flivver for a ROAD TRIP on Monday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 PM
as we all travel over to HQ for the Arts, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento
for Rattlesnake Press's release of the new SPC anthology,
Keepers of the Flame: The First 30 Years of the Sacramento Poetry Center.
Editor-in-Chief Mary Zeppa and her helpers have put together
many, many documents and photos
from SPC's history, and the resulting anthology (and SPC's 30th anniversary!)
will be celebrated that night. Be there!


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.