Newspaper Column

ON WORDS:

MARC HOFSTADTER AT MOE’S
As appeared in the Berkeley Times on November 5, 2015:

“Sensuous, a touch of sadness,” said host Richard Silberg of the reader on Hiroshima’s 70th anniversary. “We forgot, for the occasion, to set off a small nuclear device.”

History was highlighted.

Marc Hofstadter read personal poems so calmly, did he think life’s of little account? His new title, Memories I’ve Forgotten, echoed that possibility:

Mary and I, naked, three years old,
in the 96th Street penthouse garden,
a hose sluicing chilled water in,
droplets beading on our brows,
limbs cold, laughter filling our mouths
with a fullness I seek now,
sixty-odd years later,
in a coffeehouse in San Francisco,
where a small courtyard fountain
gurgles, gurgles.

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LANGUAGE POETS AT ART HOUSE GALLERY
As appeared in the Berkeley Times on August 13, 2015:

First time in a decade? Language poet founder Ron Silliman and Laura Moriarty read alongside devotee Brian Ang, who projected lines in a pure monotone. With great conviction!

Taken own postmodernist discriminating unless insisted extreme
Claimed lead perfect statistics relinquishing both climatic framework festivals tell

Seven women among thirty men, half elders, all but one white, listened in respectful silence. No fidgeting! This was serious stuff.

Pigeonholing nature’s concocted alphabet assassin moderns arrested body
Envied found parental [real] energies throne average probe sole released

You understand this? You’re kidding! Words like a strong wind peel off layers of the psyche and expose the core. The mind dances, searching for a pattern — where there is none. The dance is intriguing. Watching one’s own instinctual process is revelatory.
 
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“POETRY SLAM” AT THE STARRY PLOUGH
As appeared in the Berkeley Times on June 25, 2015:

“The more energy you give the poets, the more they give back to you!”

The Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Avenue, looked decorated by the Irish Republican Army: flags, posters of griffins, Che Guevara, Guiness ale, and in faux Celtic script, “No revolutionary movement is complete without its poets.”

A workshop led by Jaz Sufi started the evening. “If you write, you have already won.” One participant wrote his poem on the spot!

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JANE HIRSHFIELD AT MRS. DALLOWAY’S
As appeared in the Berkeley Times on May 21, 2015:

“We wander the roof of hell, choosing blossoms.” — Issa

No way does this bookstore resemble hell! Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2950 College Avenue. is clean, attractive, with elegant script along the wall: “Mrs. Dalloway decided to pick her own flowers.”

These one-liners from Jane Hirshfield, like the quote from Issa, suggest how poetry awakens our lives.

“Beauty unbuckles pain’s armoring.”

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“POETRY FLASH” AT MOE’S
As appeared in the Berkeley Times on April 23, 2015:

O little corporation alone in the
Manger, who will keep the nipping wolves at bay?
You can hear, at night, the unions howl, the taxmen
Circling in the woods…

Pure sarcasm! The atmosphere downstairs at Moe’s Books is hushed, almost reverential, but these lines are biting. Poet David Shaddock speaks in an understated but crisp, clear style.

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“SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL” AT NICK’S LOUNGE
As appeared in the Berkeley Times on March 19, 2015:

Your first time at Nick’s, 3218 Adeline Street near Alcatraz? Surely the wrong place, noisy, thirty-something, high-energy party atmosphere. Two shelves of bottles behind a thirty-foot bar, a long saw blade on the wall, guys in denim jostling about the OK Corral.

“Not a bar,” says the woman on an adjacent stool. “It’s a lounge.”

The fifty-plus people, including a few Blacks, are utterly quiet when the reading starts. Three minutes for each poet, on the theme of “Bad Romance.”

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“POETRY EXPRESS” ON MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., DAY
As appeared in the Berkeley Times on February 19, 2015:

“Someone tries to do good in America, they will only get so far, before they are stopped.” The poet, Brett Peter, quotes a dockworker who expressed his point by moving a callused finger halfway around a rusted barrelhead. And then stopping.

We’ve stepped into Poetry Express, a weekly Monday evening poetry series, at Giant Hamburgers, 1800 University Avenue. Shoulder-high gray fabric wainscoting, bland abstracts on the walls, and plate glass windows overlooking a parking lot. It’s corporate America, an elder version, with twenty or so gray-haired poets in steel chairs with red plastic seats. The youngest might be fifty-five years old.

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