Monday, December 01, 2008

An Answer

Photo taken in Fair Oaks
by Sam the Snake Man

—Mary Oliver

On winter's margin, see the small birds now
With half-forged memories come flocking home
To gardens famous for their charity.
The green globe's broken; vines like tangled veins
Hang at the entrance to the silent wood.

With half a loaf, I am the prince of crumbs;
By time snow's down, the birds amassed will sing
Like children for their sire to walk abroad!
But what I love, is the gray stubborn hawk
Who floats alone beyond the frozen vines;
And what I dream of are the patient deer
Who stand on legs like reeds and drink the wind;—

They are what saves the world: who choose to grow
Thin to a starting point beyond this squalor.


This week in NorCal poetry:

•••Tonight (Monday, 12/1), 8 PM: Copperfield’s Books Renowned Speakers presents a reading by Mary Oliver in Santa Rosa at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa. Tickets start at $15 at or call 707-546-3600 (noon-6 PM, Tues.-Sat). [Check first to see if they still have tickets.] You may not be able to get down there to hear her read, but yesterday and today we have posted her bons mots in the Kitchen...

•••Also tonight (Monday, 12/1), 7:30 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center presents James DenBoer and Elyssa White at HQ for the Arts, 25th & R Sts., Sacramento. Open mic to follow; see last Friday's post for bios, or see below for James DenBoer, who will also be reading at the SPC Fundraiser on Weds. night. Next Monday, Dec. 8, SPC will present David Iribarne, Gabrielle White and Shevonna Blackshire.

•••Tuesday (12/2), 9 PM and Thursday (12/4), 5 AM: Moore Time for Poetry TV Show presents the Musiq Soulchild (; concert brought to you by Conscious Vibes. (If the football game of the week is on, the show will run after the game ends). The Moore Time for Poetry TV series is on cablecast the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays @ 9:00pm on ch.17 Comcast; also SureWest and Strategic Frontier. Also, visit this website,, and click on the BIG "Watch Channel 17" button to watch our program! (This goes for friends in France, or family in Chicago.) Hosted by Terry Moore & 4-year-old daughter, Tyra Moore.

•••Weds. (12/3), 9 PM: Poetry Night at Bistro 33 proudly welcomes award-winning poet Susan Kelly-DeWitt at Bistro 33, 226 F St., Davis. The author of a full-length collection, The Fortunate Islands, and five chapbooks (most recently Cassiopeia Above the Banyan Tree from Rattlesnake Press), Susan Kelly-DeWitt is a recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, the Chicago Literary Award from Another Chicago Magazine, and the Bazzanella Award for short fiction. She has also received numerous Pushcart nominations, and her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies as well as in literary journals such as North American Review, Oxymoron, and Poet Lore. She is also a writer of essays, reviews, short stories, and creative non-fiction.

Poetry Night at Bistro 33, co-hosted by UC Davis faculty members, Andy Jones and Brad Henderson, occurs on the first and third Wednesdays of every month beginning at 9 PM with an open microphone at 10 PM. The event is free and open to the public. Info:

•••Weds. (12/3), 6-8 PM: Sacramento Poetry Center’s 30th Annual Fundraiser at the home of Burnett and Mimi Miller, 1224 40th St., Sacramento, featuring Pat Grizzell and the Junkyard Band, along with poets Mary Mackey and James DenBoer. RSVP is requested but not required (916-979-9706). Food and beverages will be served and there will be great raffles. Tickets are $25 per person (or $20 if you become a member or renew your membership the night of the event).

Pat Grizzell writes: I'm happy to send you this invitation to join Junkyard Burlesque's Brady McKay, Steve Bird and me for the Sacramento Poetry Center's Annual Fundraiser at the lovely Fab 40's home of Mimi and Burnett Miller. The generous couple have hosted the event for many years and will again open up their home with its truly amazing collection of art to those who would like to come and support the Center. As many of you know, the Center is near and dear to me, and I've played lots of blues in the Millers’ living room over the years. I haven't for a while, so this year I'm happy to be back and to be joined by my Junkyard bandmates. We'll do a set of what we do and join in the revelry.

Mary Mackey is a poet and novelist and professor emeritus of California State University, Sacramento. She has also served as Chair of PEN American Center, West. Her published works include four volumes of poetry, among them: Breaking The Fever, and The Dear Dance of Eros; a novella: Immersion; and eight novels, among those: McCarthy's List, The Kindness of Strangers, and recently The Notorious Mrs. Winston. John Korty directed the filming of her original screenplay, Silence, which starred the late Will Geer and which won several awards.

James DenBoer is the author of Stonework, Trying to Come Apart, Olson/DenBoer: A Letter; Lost in Blue Canyon; Black Dog: An Unfinished Segue Between Two Seasons; and Day Moon (the last two from Rattlesnake Press). He has received grants and awards from the International Poetry Forum, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Council on the Arts, and PEN Center, New York, among others. He is presently translating the Romance kharjas of Hebrew and Arabic muwashshahat.

•••Friday (12/5), 7 PM or 9:30 PM: Movies on a Big Screen presents Obscene: A Portrait of Barney Rosset and Grove Press, Or: How Barney Rosset Published Dirty Books for Fun and Profit. Local author, poet, CSUS professor and co-founder of Roan Press Brad Buchanan will be in attendance to speak and discuss issues in the film following the 7 PM screening only (there will be no speaker after the 9:30 PM screening). 600 4th St., W. Sacramento (corner of 4th & F in West Sacramento, just over the river from downtown). Digital projection on to a large screen. Admission: $5.00.

About the movie: Obscene recently screened at The Roxie in San Francisco, and it's a great look at Rosset and first amendment issues, particularly within the realm of publishing. Obscene is the definitive film biography of Barney Rosset, influential publisher of Grove Press and Evergreen Review. He acquired the then-fledgling Grove Press in 1951 and soon embarked on a tumultuous career of publishing and political engagement that continues to inspire today’s defenders of free expression. Not only was he the first American publisher of acclaimed authors Samuel Beckett, Kenzaburo Oe, Tom Stoppard, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X, but he also battled the government in the highest courts to overrule the obscenity ban on groundbreaking works of fiction such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch. Ultimately he won and altered the course of history, but not without first enduring lawsuits, death-threats, grenade attacks, government surveillance, and the occupation of his premises by enraged feminists. The same unyielding and reckless energy Rosset used to publish and distribute controversial works such as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, the Swedish film, I Am Curious (Yellow), and the provocative Evergreen Review also brought him perilously close to destruction.

Featuring music by Bob Dylan, The Doors, Warren Zevon, and Patti Smith, with never-before-seen footage, Obscene is directed by first-time filmmakers Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O’Connor. The cast includes Barney Rosset, with Amiri Baraka, Jim Carroll, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Al Goldstein, Erica Jong, Ray Manzarek, Michael McClure, John Rechy, Ed Sanders, John Sayles, Gore Vidal, John Waters, Lenny Bruce, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, and Malcolm X.

•••Sat. (12/6), 6:30-8 PM: Underground Books presents Terry Moore reading from his new book, Love Back & Forth. Underground Books, 2814 35th St. (off 35th and Broadway), Sacramento. Free admission. Info: or


—Mary Oliver

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.


—Mary Oliver

Passing by, he could be anybody:
A thief, a tradesman, a doctor
On his way to a worried house.
But when he stops at your gate,
Under the room where you lie half-asleep,
You know it is not just anyone—
It is the Night Traveler.

You lean your arms on the sill
And stare down. But all you can see
Are bits of wilderness attached to him—
Twigs, loam and leaves,
Vines and blossoms. Among these
You feel his eyes, and his hands
Lifting something in the air.

He has a gift for you, but it has no name.
It is windy and wooly.
He holds it in the moonlight, and it sings
Like a newborn beast,
Like a child at Christmas,
Like your own heart as it tumbles
In love's green bed.
You take it, and he is gone.

All night—and all your life, if you are willing—
It will nuzzle your face, cold-nosed,
Like a small white wolf;
It will curl in your palm
Like a hard blue stone;
It will liquify into a cold pool
Which, when you dive into it,
Will hold you like a mossy jaw:
A bath of light. An answer.


Today's LittleNip:

—Mary Oliver

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?



SnakeWatch: What's New from Rattlesnake Press:

Rattlesnake Review: Deadline for the current issue (#20) has passed (it was Nov. 15); that issue is currently rattling around in the SnakePit and will be released at The Book Collector reading on December 10, then mailed to contributors and subscribers in mid-December. Next deadline is February 15: 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!

New for November: Now available at The Book Collector, or from the authors, or through (or—heck—just write to me and I'll send 'em to you): a new rattlechap from Red Fox Underground Poet Wendy Patrice Williams (Some New Forgetting); a littlesnake broadside from South Lake Tahoe Poet Ray Hadley (Children's Games); our 2009 calendar from Katy Brown (Beyond the Hill: A Poet’s Calendar) as well as Conversations, Vol. 4 of B.L. Kennedy’s Rattlesnake Interview Series, featuring conversations with Luke Breit, Gail Rudd Entrekin, Traci Gourdine, Taylor Graham, Noel Kroeplin, Rob Lozano, Crawdad Nelson, Monika Rose, Will Staple, Mary Zeppa and nila northSun. And don't forget to pick up your copies of B.L. Kennedy's new SpiralChap of his poetry and art,
Luna's House of Words, as well as the anthology of poets, art and photos, La Luna: Poetry Unplugged from Luna's Cafe, edited by frank andrick.

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. Write to me and I'll send you one. Free!

Coming in December: Join us at The Book Collector on Wednesday, December 10, for the release of a new chapbook from Danyen Powell (Blue Sky Flies Out); a littlesnake broadside from Kevin Jones (Low-Rent Dojo), and a brand-new issue of Rattlesnake Review (#20)! That's at 7:30,
1008 24th St., Sacramento. Refreshments and a read-around will follow; bring your own poems or somebody else's.

Coming in January: The Snake will be snoozing during January; no releases or readings. But our October road trips inspired a new Rattlesnake publication, WTF, to be edited by frank andrick. This 30-page, chapbook-style quarterly journal will primarily showcase the talents of readers at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café. Deadline is Jan. 15 for a Feb. 19 premiere at Luna’s. 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 will be for adults only! so you must be over 18 years of age to submit.

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): 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.