Monday, November 22, 2010

The Shape of the Future Snake

—Louise Bogan

I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,
Facing a sheer sky.
Everything moved,—a bell hung ready to strike,
Sun and reflection wheeled by.

When the bare eyes were before me
And the hissing hair,
Held up at a window, seen through a door,
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead
Formed in the air.

This is a dead scene forever now.
Nothing will ever stir.
The end will never brighten it more than this,
Nor the rain blur.

The water will always fall, and will not fall,
And the tipped bell make no sound.
The grass will always be growing for hay
Deep on the ground.

And I shall stand here like a shadow
Under the great balanced day,
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,
And does not drift away.


Thanks to D.R. Wagner for the Medusa pic (taken on one of her bad hair days). Unlike in the pic, my world doesn't turn to stone; change is a given, and the yellow dust in my mind has finally cleared a bit this month. The Ophidian is so beautiful, thanks to Richard Hansen; the release party Nov. 10 reminded me that this community is very unique, and that Rattlesnake Press could probably never have happened anywhere else. The Sacramento area (and environs) is so rich with fine poets who love and support each other! These poetic fields are ripe for “picking” by any small publishing operation that wants to stay local. And I see many more poets around here who need to be added to the pantheon of bards lined up on the Snake rack at The Book Collector.

I also realized that Rattlesnake Press has developed, in spite of me, into a well-oiled machine. I don’t take particular credit for this; sometimes ideas evolve in a rhythm of their own. Frank Andrick has put out eight issues now of WTF, even weathering the Great Computer Melt-Down of 2010, and has added a “staff” member to help him (welcome, Rachel Leibrock!); Richard did a wonderful job on The Ophidian (and of course The Book Collector remains a welcoming, cozy home for the Snake); Medusa has a steady, daily in-flow of poetry, pix and announcements (local and otherwise) with over 300 “hits” a day of viewers checking in. These Snake Departments have toodled along just fine for the past year, and look promising for the future.

Some of my musings, you’ll recall, had to do with online vs. paper publishing, and I've come to think that decision depends on the publication. I think The Ophidian works better without being printed out; there is no replacement for art that appears on computer with that fine lighting behind it. On the other hand, WTF seems to need hard copies to hand out/pass around at Luna’s (though we probably will start making it available online), too. These are, of course, free publications, so online is fine.

On the other hand, I don’t think there is any replacement for the print chapbook or broadside. These need to have a physical form for handing out or selling—for snuggling up with on a snowy day, or for mailing to friends as the love letters they’re intended to be. Or for poets to sell or hand out at readings as tokens of their work. So I’ve started up the Rattlechaps department again, and we’ll be publishing chapbooks (including LittleBooks and SkinnyBooks) and free broadsides this spring, along with the monthly reading series (second Wednesdays; save the dates). Caveat: no SpiralChaps or other print publications using photographs (except WTF) until Sam and I replace our laser printer, maybe next summer; for now I’ll be limping along with inkjets. And, as always, our chapbooks are published by invitation only; no unsolicited manuscripts, please.

Right now, the biggest question mark remains Rattlesnake Review. It had simply become too expensive to publish in the form it had evolved to, but where to go from here remains a question in my mind. Online only? Or I could run a few copies and sell them... but what about contributors? If you run any hard copies, shouldn’t contributors get them? With 60 or more having to be mailed out, ouch! I dunno… that’s food for another day’s thought. I do know that the Shape of the Future Snake will be leaner and meaner—I’ll be a real cheapskate!—and that we’ll take full advantage of online opportunities, partly to save money, but also to spread the word about NorCal poets even farther and wider than was previously possible.

So right now I’m happy with the way things have settled in my mind, and I hope you’ll keep hanging in there with us: staying in touch with your community through the daily Medusa; coming to the reading series; and above all sending us your work! The Snake is, after all, your publication. So Carpe viperidae—seize the Snake (poetry with fangs!).


—Amy Lowell, 1919


When I looked into your eyes,
I saw a garden
With peopnies, and tinkling pagodas,
And round-arched bridges
Over still lakes.
A woman sat beside the water
In a rain-blue silken garment.
She reached through the water
To pluck the crimson peonies
Beneath the surface,
But as she grasped the stems,
They jarred and broke into white-green ripples;
And as she drew out her hand,
The water drops dripping from it
Stained her rain-blue dress like tears.

Falling Snow

The snow whispers about me,
And my wooden clogs
Leave holes behind me in the snow.
But no one will pass this way
Seeking my footsteps,
And when the temple bell rings again
They will be covered and gone.


In the cloud-gray mornings
I heard the herons flying;
And when I came into my garden,
My silken outer garment
Trailed over withered leaves.
A dried leaf crumbles at a touch,
But I have seen many Autumns
With herons blowing like smoke
Across the sky.


—Mari Evans, 1970

Where have you gone

with your confident
walk with
your crooked smile

why did you leave
when you took your
and departed

are you aware that
with you
went the sun
all light
and what few stars
there were?

where have you gone
with your confident
walk your
crooked smile the
rent money
in one pocket and
my heart
in another . . .


Today's LittleNip: 

—Mari Evans

If there be sorrow
let it be
for things undone . . .
to these add one:
Love withheld . . .
    . . . restrained



From an old Duncan yoyo book 
found by Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks—
Click/pic to enlarge.
(Practice—there will be a test.)