Thursday, December 04, 2008


Art Beck (aka Dennis Dybeck)


—Art Beck, San Francisco

What a waste of a vacation.
The local doctors can’t find anything
and you’re still plagued
by that vague pain that never seems to decide

quite where it wants to hurt you. Depression
is the best they can agree on. You hoped
you might distract yourself with mineral
baths and nature—what better place to be in?

But these tucked away Heartland towns—
no one to give you grief, long strolls
in the fragrant, sullen countryside—aren’t for everyone.

When the dog, in his excitement, tears his nose
up in the thorns, you can be sure he’s not
smelling the roses.


Thanks to Art Beck for some poems today, plus the photo taken on his recent birthday. Once upon a time, Dennis Dybeck (aka Art Beck) spent a couple of years in Sac and fell in love with our raucous poetry community, so he still sneaks back here from SF from time to time. To learn more about him and see more of his poetry, go to Medusa's archives at the right, click on June, 2007 and scroll down to June 28. Or check out his interview in Conversations, Vol. 1 of B.L. Kennedy's Rattlesnake Interview Series. (Wow—Conversations #4 is already on the stands! How time flies...)

For those of you who missed it, the Sacramento Poetry Center's 30th Annual Fundraiser was action-packed last night, and the Millers' home was bulging at the rafters! Congrats to SPC for a fun event, and to NorCal's poetry community for showing up.

Speaking of SPC, check the Sacramento Poetry Center blog (link to the right of this column) for a live reading by Josh Fernandez, whose littlesnake broadside, In the End, It’s a Worthless Machine, will be released by Rattlesnake Press on February 14, 2009.

Coupla quickies:

•••The online edition of Poets & Writers magazine has 42 upcoming contest deadlines listed! To subscribe, go to It's free!

•••Deadline is December 15 for the next issue of Song of the San Joaquin, a quarterly publication of the poets of the San Joaquin chapter of the California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc. that accepts submissions of poetry having to do with life in the San Joaquin Valley of California. This area is defined geographically as the region from Fresno to Stockton, and from the foothills on the west to those on the east. E-mail submissions are preferred. Please put all identification on each separate poem including mailing address. If unable to e-mail, send typed manuscripts to: Editor, Song of the San Joaquin, PO Box 1161, Modesto, CA 95353-1161. Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) for return of unused poems and/or notification of acceptance. Be sure your return envelopes have the right amount of postage. Notification time may range from three weeks to three months. Send up to three poems per issue, name and contact information on each poem. Poem length is limited to 40 lines. Please send a three to five line bio. For more information, e-mail or call (209) 543-1776. For samples of poetry from previous issues: To send for a copy or to subscribe: a single issue is $5.00, the annual subscription $18. Send to address above. Make checks out to Song of the San Joaquin.

B.L.'s Drive-Bys: A Micro-Review from B.L. Kennedy:

Stories by Stephen King
367 pp, hardcover, $28.00

Kind of late for Halloween—well, late is better than never, for there is always time for a new collection of work from that Master story-teller, Stephen King. The thirteen stories compiled in this collection range from classic pre-fame Stephen King (that will have you reading with the lights on) to the just plain disgustingly, misplaced, maybe-it-never-should-have-seen-print tale. Either way, this is the Master in top working form; King has always been tuned in as to what the public wants, and that is a very successful formula that most writers of any genre cannot seem to tap into. Anyway, despite its shortcomings, I highly recommend Just After Sunset to all hardcore King fans and to all of you readers who are simply looking for a good scary story.

—B.L. Kennedy, Sacramento, Reviewer-in-Residence


And here's a poem from Tom Goff in response to our Seed of the Week: Oh, Those Appetites:

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Most days, some people glut one
precious animal, two, five, or seven little critters,

with all the food they think they can
safely give: backyard scrub jay, here

is your handful of peanuts, all still
in the shell. Little cat, eat your dinner,

flavor of liver. Tiny dog, chew your kibbles,
spiked with a real meat kick, a gravy chaser.

Sweet words, as further-heaped eats go to our
sweets: the palaver, the nonsense that sprouts

amid the fuss and bother. All this erasure
of our own appetites, our desires,

in a firestorm of caring, the beloved fuss for
the petted. And after the meal’s been fetched,

tossed sticklike to faithful Rover and Spunky,
do we feel the thinner, or the more

chunky, for our largesse? At our, or their,
expense do these replete puppy bellies

bloom in girth? Through so many tender
vittles, has control been asserted,

or assented to? Who here is the owner?
And who just rolled over?


—Art Beck

Even worms want to live
so badly they’ll crawl
through dirt for the privilege.
And you, treacherously,
slip them on the hook,
just to kill another boring afternoon.


—Art Beck

Virgin Mother of my childhood, take charge
of my huge dog, Bruno. Comfort him
in his confusion, scratch behind his ear
and stroke his nervous back. Tell him not to be foolish

enough to try to attack the three-headed, snarling
hound they say keeps watch over the dead.
Remind him he’s toothless, shaky and venerable,
and that, lately, he’s had more than enough

fights he can’t win. Guide him, instead,
to someplace peaceful, a riverside park where people
play ball and barbecue—if that kind of place
exists under the rich green earth he loved so much.

He was a dog made for happiness and nature
smiled like a beehive when he was born.
Black and brown, son of a tame wolf and half-labrador,
his markings were perfectly balanced, identical

on each side. A terror to Dobermans and German shepherds,
raccoon stalker, and clever guardian, angry and controlled—
he grew, from a pup in the palms of my hands, to a hundred
and twenty pounds, and lived for seventeen years.

Strong as a mule, he pulled me up steep hills,
and then—set free—would range right and left,
panting ahead in the trees. Disappearing
and returning, crashing through the underbrush,

he taught me the sweetness of roaming the deep woods
in the company of a large, fierce, animal.
Blessed Mother, take care of him. Despite his uncertain legs,
he came to you in good spirits and with proper respect,

with his brave tail wagging as he licked the hand
of the pretty, curly headed veterinarian who prepared
his needle. He collapsed, out of an arid old age,
onto the tiled floor as if it were a cold, deep creek

at the secret heart of a grassy meadow, trickling up
to soothe his parched belly. Dear Lady,
let this faithless prayer (and the five dollar bill I’ve stuffed
in the poor box) atone for his death at my hands, and

for the City’s common pit of dead animals
I had him thrown in when I refused
to pay for his burial. Ask him to forgive
my unforgivable disloyalty and return to my dreams,

the way he so often came when he was alive, sleek,
young and powerful as he was that long ago
Fourth of July, leaping to catch lit firecrackers
in his teeth, shaking his head and laughing at the explosions.


Today's LittleNip:

Truth, for a dog, is a full belly; for a man it's an empty one.

—Stephen Dobyns



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 PM,
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, but anyone is welcome to submit. Deadline is Jan. 15 for a Feb. 19 premiere at Luna’s. Submission guidelines are the same as for the Snake, but send three poems (each one page or less in length), 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.