Monday, May 24, 2010

It's All Just a Marx Brothers' Movie, Anyhow...

Paul Fericano

—Paul Fericano, Millbrae

As the familiar strains of Tosca repeat themselves tonight,
take a bicarbonate of soda and skip the first act entirely.
If you can’t skip, try prancing.

All in all, we feel certain you’lll be thrilled and delighted
by Puccini’s music, which should come as surprise
since we’re actually presenting Verdi’s La traviata instead.

Of course, for the second act we hope to revive Rossini
if we can sober him up and find out what he did with Mussorgsky.
We tried to locate Handel but all we found was a brass doorknocker.

And if Rossini can’t play we’ve got Donizetti ondeck to pinch hit,
although it isn’t likely he’ll get on base
with Tinkers, Evers and Chance roaming the orchestra pit.

Nevertheless, we feel we’ve got a strong lineup
with Stravinsky on the mound, Offenbach and Bizet in the outfield
and Wagner batting cleanup and doing the dishes.

In fact, we’ve got a good chance to win the pennant this year
if we can just stay away from the third act. Naturally, it would have been
a different opera season altogether if we could have signed DiMaggio.

(From “Heavy Bear,” February, 2010)


Thanks, Paul! Paul Fericano was born in San Franciso in 1951 and is a part-time resident of both San Francisco and Santa Barbara. He is a poet, writer, satirist and co-founder in 1980 of the first parody news syndicate, Yossarian Universal News Service ( His work has appeared in numerous publications and media outlets, including The New York Quarterly, Poetry Now, Abbey, The Realist, Free Lunch, The Wormwood Review, Vagabond, Mother Jones, Punch, Krokodil (Moscow) and National Public Radio and Saturday Night Live. He is the author of several poetry books and chapbooks, among them: Beneath the Smoke Rings, Driving to Reno with Freud, It’s Not Enough of Elvis, and Commercial Break. He is also the co-author (with Elio Ligi) of the political satire, The One Minute President.

In 1977 he founded the mock literary movement known as Stoogism which Allen Ginsberg duly noted was “the only movement with a punchline.” The following year his poem, "The Three Stooges at a Hollywood Party" (from his book, Loading the Revolver with Real Bullets, Second Coming Press) provoked outrage in the California senate when politicans argued that the poem libeled actors John Wayne, Stuart Whitman and Glen Campbell. The book was eventually used as a reason to deny Jane Fonda's appointment to the California Arts Council.

In 1982, as a commentary on the absurdity of competitive literary awards, he perpetrated a successful hoax on the literary community, specifically Poets & Writers, Inc. of New York, when he awarded the fictitious “Howitzer Prize” to his own poem, "Sinatra, Sinatra". Before exposing the hoax himself, nearly 300 writers and publishers would request applications for the 1983 prize from the bogus Howitzer Prize Committee in Sausalito, California. He was eventually (and quietly) blacklisted by several prominent poetry organizations, prompting the late Charles Bukowski to call the Howitzer Prize episode “truly ass boggling.”

Recent work has been rejected by The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Atlantic Monthly, Prairie Schooner, and The Journal of the American Medical Association. His poem "A Direct Correlation Between the War on Terror and the Proliferation of Penis Enlargement Spam" is scheduled for rejection this fall by Poetry. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize 56 consecutive times, tying Joe DiMaggio's record. One more nomination will help secure a lucrative endorsement with Heinz 57. He is a frequent reader, appearing at various venues throughout the state of California.

He is currently the editor of The Broadsider: An Annual Magazine of Rescued Poems (, formatted in individual, limited edition, numbered and signed broadsides, featuring over 50 poets to date. Some of the poets in the series include Ann Menebroker, Gerald Locklin, Wanda Coleman, Dan Gerber, leah angstman, Angelica Jochim, Ted Kooser, Penelope Rosemont, Edward Field, Laurel Speer, Joyce Odam, Ron Koertge, Ligi, Perie Longo, Ellen Bass, Robert Bly, Patricia Schneider, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Billy Collins, Klipschutz, A.D. Winans, Robert Peake, Peg Quinn, Joyce La Mers and B. L. Kennedy. About The Broadsider, Paul says: I’ve always had my favorite poems, bookmarked from hundreds of little magazines and small press books in my collections. These are poems from poets I’ve loved and followed for years and corresponded with, and also from a few I’ve lost track of. The idea behind The Broadsider, then, was to do something special with these poems and I found the limited edition broadside was a nice way to honor the poems and the poets. It’s also been a great way to reconnect with poets, both familiar and not-so, and for them to connect with others. I’ve also discovered newer, younger poets that are deserving of some extra attention and it’s been interesting going online and exploring webzines and blogs. One poet in Volume 1 told me that she was treating her broadside like a “trading card,” writing to other poets in the series and asking to swap one of hers for theirs. It’s this kind of fun and playfulness with poetry that I like and encourage. At the end of the year I assemble each volume of The Broadsider into a limited number of sealed issues and offer all the signed broadsides for sale in one package. It adds a little more value and helps finance the next volume.


—Paul Fericano

Sure, I listen to opera.
I watch opera all the time on TV.
She’s got a magazine, too.
But I don’t read so good.

(From “Heavy Bear,” 2010)


A new series of booklets has mysteriously appeared at The Book Collector…

Next time you’re in The Book Collector, be sure to pick up your free copies of the new CrftWrk series, which is “intended to offer a forum for local poets to express their ideas on poetry and poetics”. The series claims no publisher—and #1, Sacramanifesto, was written anonymously, in fact—but its presenters “hope you will take a personal tone, will get mad, will argue, will fight, will do whatever it takes to stir up Sacramento poetry, in order to make it more interesting, more new, more exciting, more… more whatever it needs to be less predictable, less boring, less in-a-rut. Submit your screeds, counter-manifestos, arguments, rants, calm rational argument: whatever you have to say that will help save Sacramento poetry from its present doldrums—we’ve got plenty of poets here, what we need are better (or worse) poems. All CrftWrk publications will be anonymous, unless the authors choose otherwise.”

So far, publications include #1: Sacramanifesto, Or, Why I Don’t Go to Sacramento Poetry Readings Much Anymore; and #2: A Plea for Vision and a New Romanticism in Poetry by Julia Connor. There is no indication of who to submit your writings to, but I’m sure Richard Hansen has the ear of the Mysterious Beings who are behind it all. Check it out!

This week in NorCal poetry:

•••Mon. (5/24), 7:30pm: Sacramento Poetry Center presents Christopher Buckley and C.E. Chaffin at R25, 1719 25th St. (at 25th and R), Sacramento. [See the b-bd at the right for more.]

•••Weds. (5/26), 6-7pm: Upstairs Poetry Reading at The Upstairs Art Gallery, 420 Main St (2nd floor), Placerville. It's a poetry open-mike read-around, so bring your own poems or those of a favorite poet to share, or just come to listen. No charge.

•••Weds. (5/26), 7-9pm: International Poetic Affair. Free. Open Mic. Social/Business Networking. Hosted by Brock KaLiM. At the Majestic Lounge, 2355 Arden Way, Sacramento.

•••Thurs. (5/27), 8pm: Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento. Featured readers with open mic before and after.

•••Thurs. (5/27), 11:30am-1pm: California Lawyers for the Arts presents How to Self-Publish Your Book at The Avid Reader at the Tower, 1600 Broadway, Sacramento. Please register online at or call (916) 442-6210. Admission: $5 student/senior members, $10 members of CLA, $20 other. (1.5 MCLE credits $40) Learn how to self-publish your book in the age of Kindles, iPads, Nooks and Sony eReaders. This workshop explains the self-publishing timeline from idea to finished book. Whether you plan on printing, binding and distributing a physical book or publishing an eBook , this presentation shows you how to avoid the many legal and business pitfalls of do-it-yourself book publishing. Presented by Bob Pimm, a literary attorney, and C.L.A.'s Chief Learning Officer and Director of Legal Services. Hosted by The Avid Reader ( This program is made possible in part by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission Cultural Arts Award, The County of Sacramento, our sponsors and members of California Lawyers for the Arts. The opinions expressed in any of our events and programs shall not be construed to represent the opinions and policies of California Lawyers for the Arts. California Lawyers for the Arts is a non-profit service organization that provides lawyer referrals, dispute resolution services, educational programs, publications and resource library to artists of all disciplines and arts organizations. New members welcome.

•••Sat. (5/29), 7-9pm: Neo-Soul vocalist Kevin Sandbloom from L.A. and The Saint from Stockton (2010 King of the Mic & ILL List Spoken Word Champ) will be featured at The Show at New Dimension (formerly known as the Wo'se Community Center), 2863 35th St. (off 35th and Broadway, across from the parking lot). For vendor or event info, call T. Mo at (916) 208-POET. The Show is every last Saturday of the month. $5.

(For a more complete listing of NorCal poetry events and workshops, go to


—Paul Fericano

not really

it’s just your strong
American memory
of all things Charlton Heston
commanding a reverent hush
in your Hollywood dream

one nation under God
indivisible like the Red Sea

(From “Commercial Break", Poor Souls Press, 1982)



for surviving the Hollywood
under your nails
all those Eddie Fisher records
skipping in your head
the Richard Burton years
echoing in your best screams
the uncorked bottles
the pills by the nightstand
the excessive weight
the plastic surgery
the heavy makeup
the chicken bone in your throat
thank you for not dying
for not being destroyed
by those two Oscars
a comedian’s joke
your husband’s campaign lies
and for telling the world
that Lawrence Harvey
was your dearest friend
when nobody else could stand him

thank you for making distinctions
for not committing suicide
when everyone was writing poems
to a dead Marilyn Monroe

—Paul Fericano

(From “Commercial Break”, Poor Souls Press, 1982)



found a bible in every drawer
several in the closet
two in the bathroom
and one under his pillow

when he saw the crucifix
nailed to the ceiling
he just assumed that
someone knew he was coming

—Paul Fericano

(From “Commercial Break”, Poor Souls Press, 1982)


—Paul Fericano

Like right speech, it should be practiced with restraint,
usually, when you don’t have anything helpful to say,
about children, opera, or anything else for that matter.
And besides, no one asked for your opinion, anyway.

(From “Heavy Bear,” February, 2010)


Today's LittleNip:

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.

—Groucho Marx, on S.J. Perelman's first book