Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Cactus Wins and Other Feral Poetry Adventures

Ceramic art: Orion James Photo: Robyn Beattie
Surviving summer? I am blessed to live on the coast with just enough of a breeze to keep us comfortable, or no breeze at all when sitting at ER with my middle child. He survived an encounter with a cactus, but let’s just say the cactus won. Traveling at high speed on his mountain bike at a fork in the trail, he hesitated, swerved, and landed with cacti clinging to his forearm, chest, neck, stomach, and hip. He even managed a cactus earring.

In this age of perpetual documentation, we have photos and video footage of him removing his jewelry and stretching his earlobe out like taffy a couple inches before the cactus let go. It took three of us with tweezers to remove as many of the spines as we could. I ended up with a plethora of minuscule spines in my fingertips, fickle jumpers all too happy to defect to the country of me. My son is mercifully on the mend, healing all those welts after taking off the temporary cast they put on his arm to support his wrist (it was simply pressing--in the monstrous heat--the remaining spines further in, right?!).

And by mosquito-ringed lamplight after the day’s traumas have settled, I’ve been participating in the Write Like You're Alive Zoetic Press challenge to draft a poem a day during the month of July. I thought I could get back in the saddle in March during National Poetry Writing Month, but I got as far as one poem. Too much emotion too close to the surface. I feel blessed to be in a more even and happy place (it helps to have seven months between now and losing my mother). I’m proud to have written twenty-five new poems this month! Zoetic Press will be publishing an anthology soon, culling one poem from each one of us twenty-five poem finish-line-weary writers, and I’ll post a link when it is live.

Upcoming Poetry Reading

I’m reading this coming Saturday, August 4 at Bookshow in LA as part of Zoetic Press and Drunk Monkey’s Reading Extravaganza for a night of reading, rumination, snacks and wine from 6-8 p.m. I’d love to see you there!

Representing Zoetic Press:  Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, Laura Reece Hogan, Tania Pryputniewicz, and Wendy Zimmer.

Representing Drunk Monkeys: Kevin Ridgeway, Joe Iraggi, Mathieu Cailler, and Ashley Perez.

Bookshow is in Highland Park
5503 N Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90042

Here’s the link to full bios for the readers: Zoetic Press and Drunk Monkey's Reading Extravaganza.

America, We Call Your Name Anthology

I’m also thrilled to announce that the poem I wrote while teaching my Election Blues: The Gift of Agency in Poetry class, "An Iris for Hillary," is forthcoming along with approximately 125 poems in America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience published by Sixteen Rivers Press 2018 with foreword by Camille T. Dungy. The anthology is available for pre-order; for more information about pre-order options, visit Sixteen Rivers Press (official release date, September 4, 2018). I’ll be participating in events and will post once I have dates and times and can’t wait to read the work in this collection; you'll find an absolute trove of poetry luminaries. Here's a partial author name cloud until I have the book in hand to do my usual word-a-poem cloud for you! I tried to keep it to just one name per alphabet letter…I tried…

Elizabeth Alexander     Frank Bidart     Lucille Clifton     Natalie Diaz     Emily Dickinson     Chiyuma Elliott     Molly Fisk     Susan Griffin     Seamus Heaney     Yusef Komunyakaa     Ursula K. Le Guin     Ada Limon     Grace McNally     Pablo Neruda     Sharon Olds     Irma Penida     Adrienne Rich     Kay Ryan     Evie Shockley     Wislawa Szymborska     Susan Terris     Ocean Vuong     Charles Wright     Matthew Zapruder     and many more….

Here's a link to a post about the making of the cento, An Iris for Hillary: Poetry Meets Tarot Synchronicity: Crafting Centos and Leaning On Your Beloveds.

Heart Fig by Robyn Beattie
Next Poetry Class: SDWI

My next class poetry class runs on Saturday, August 11, 2018 from 10-12 noon at San Diego Writers, Ink, on the theme of Museums. We write a bit on the spot and then dive deep workshopping one another’s poems. I send you home with submission targets and a worksheet loaded with exercises to keep you busy until we meet the following month. 

Drop-ins welcome; bring a friend! What better way to get to know someone, friend or lover? Come on out, put our class on your map as your first ever poetry date. To sign up, more information here: Second Saturdays: Poetry Draft, Craft, Submit!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Stupid Californians: Road Side Adventures and Poetry Class

I’m newly back from this year’s Sea Ranch writing retreat which is always an exceptional bit of time away by the sea to write with a group of women I love. We write solo, then as a group, then take turns cooking and reading formally for one another each day.

The return trip home was marred by the van breaking down as we headed up the Grapevine, I5 before LA, in the anesthetizing 99-degree heat. I had just finished telling my daughter the story of another desert sojourn to La Posada Hotel without air conditioning (see below). We’d stopped twice to cool off in gas station mini marts, bought two cold gallons of water, dowsed ourselves, and tanked up on popsicles; our ETA for San Diego was a scant four hours away depending on traffic and I was determined to get home.

But just after we passed the town of Grapevine and headed into the pass, surrounded by campers, one lane over from the fast lane, semis creeping up in the slow lane, the van suddenly began to decelerate. I managed to cross three lanes of traffic before it completely died. Of course my phone was at three percent, but it managed to hold on long enough for me to reach Triple AAA after a failed attempt to reach my husband. I am eternally grateful for Triple AAA and didn’t even mind that it took three hours for the tow truck driver to appear, and that when he did, he was missing a tool he needed that had to be delivered by another driver.

Because truly, it could have been worse. Once we got underway, within three miles, we passed another van engulfed in flames, the family standing on the shoulder of the road, the fire truck barreling toward the scene. Here we were, safe, dead van in tow but definitely not on fire, cell phones happily charging in our driver’s air-conditioned cab.

Though…it could have been better too. We stopped for fuel at the Flying J truck stop where I snapped this beautiful 1968 Couture magazine, framed in the hallway on the way to the restrooms. But when we stepped out into the darkening parking lot, we could find no sign of our driver or his tow truck. We circled the Flying J and inspected the row of parked semis. Wouldn’t it be funny if he took off without us, said my daughter, who then, like the happy teenager she is, quickly made the best of our time, borrowing my phone (hers still in the tow truck) to take a video of a bedraggled gopher popping up out of a tiny strip of grass.

But as she bent over to video the tiny creature in her white tank top, tugging her red shorts down, I noticed a man on a bench in front of her taking a video of her. Where was our driver? Several trucks cruised past us, slowed, and catcalled. Mercifully, our driver rounded the bend and we clambered back into his cab. As we drove our allotted hundred miles of free towing towards my husband (who was driving his one hundred miles from San Diego to retrieve us) we enjoyed lively banter from our driver. Turns out he is a former police officer, ongoing preacher who co-teaches workshops to husbands on making marriage last while his wife teaches the accompanying workshop to the wives, and a tuner of pianos on the side.

Second Saturday: Poetry Draft, Craft Submit

I’d love to see you this Saturday at my ongoing poetry workshop at San Diego Writers, Ink. We meet from 10-12 noon. Our July theme is Visitors. By now this summer, I imagine you have either been a visitor or had a visitor! Come on out and free-write with us; we don’t even mind if your free-write comes out as prose or poetry. All level of writing welcome. This month’s worksheet includes a poem about young composer Bela Bartok and his passion for recording the songs of Transylvania... "think of him / arriving at your clot of low thatched roofs / with his walking stick.../ vest unbuttoned, tie loose / at the neck / young as a grown man can be." (An Answer for B. by Mandy Kahn, Glenn Gould's Chair, Eyewear Press 2017). 

Feel free to drop in, or to sign up ahead of time, visit:

Second Saturdays: Poetry Draft, Craft, Submit


The Meadow 2018, artwork by Wes Lee
Poetry News

Stupid Californians is out in print and available to read online in The Meadow, Literary and Arts Journal of Truckee Meadows Community College thanks to Poetry editor Lindsay Wilson and Associate Poetry editor Arian Katsimbras. Cover Art pictured here for this spring 2018 issue is by Wes Lee. "Stupid Californians" hails back to a 2014 road trip when we drove through the desert without air conditioning…here’s the full backdrop post: Tripping with the Girls at La Posada: Architects, Painters, and First Ladies. You can see (above) we haven’t learned our lesson about driving without air conditioning. Same vehicle…end of story.

The Meadow 2018, artwork by Wes Lee
Here’s a word cloud for the issue made up of one word from each poem:


    Springsteen     buck knife     raccoons      engagement ring     Polaroids     projectiles     pumpkin jade     skid marks     grave     key     bullet     villain     Grace     collarbone     thunderheads     cow     Atlanta     monotony     kindling     sine waves     rifle     hyacinth     defibrillator     corner     marriage     dandelions     I-95     antidepressant     clown     sirens     funeral     sandstorm     whiskey     therapy     nurse     brother     sagebrush     locomotive     Jack Kerouac     hamstring     twins     Frances     NASA     pinky     nightingales     reception     ICE     Mexico     samosa     Red Sea     circle     quill     effigy     winter     guitar     prairie     pupils     storm     warrior     planets     shadow     web     futures     goldenrod     beets     zoo     vernacular     donuts     dinner     holy statue     Okies     popsicles     coyotes     church     man     



Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Two Poems: The Marriage Counselor Channels King Solomon and City Boys

Photo by Robyn Beattie
The poems, “City Boys” and “The Marriage Counselor Channels King Solomon” are up today at Rockvale Review. Both poems riff on the past and are from a new manuscript I’m working on about love. Not just the upsides of love, but the heart work we do to stay married and the terrain we pass through over the course of the years. Where would we be without counselors? And humor? And the grace to try again? Rest assured my husband encourages me to write about him—any time I get a poetry rejection, he asks, “Was it about me?” and “Surely they would have taken it if it was about me…” 

Here’s a word cloud I created for the issue, one word per poem:


Creosote     scorpions     Ironworkers     shearers     Leon Spinks     ex-lover     toolbox     Folgers     furrows     ridgeline     wasp     compost     catfish     goslings     son     coqui     disappeared     ‘Yes’     canoe     moon     saliva     tailpipe     death     armadillo     letters     greengrocer     mermaid     future     compass               ancestors

My thanks goes to Rockvale Review Founding Editor Sandy Coomer (and her editorial team Nancy Posey, Roseann St. Aubin, Christine Fraser, and Laurie Kolp). Photographer Michelle Casady pairs photos with each poem. Following each pairing is a note by Michelle describing her process of choosing. Here’s the link where  you can either buy a print copy or access the links to the individual poems and photographs: Rockvale Review, Issue Two.

Related posts from Feral Mom about marriage:





Feral Wife: Two Chainsaws, the Ocean and an Untended Husband

Upcoming Classes, Online and In Person:

Writing Our Angels, my next online writing class, starts next Monday, May 7, 2018. 

Second Saturdays: Poetry Draft, Craft, Submit, walk-ins welcome. We meet at San Diego Writers, Ink. May's theme is Friendship. We meet next on Saturday, May 12 from 10-12 am.  If you can't make it in May, try us in June (Visitors), or July (Museums).

Monday, April 23, 2018

Writing Our Angels, Home and Abroad

Artwork by Tania Pryputniewicz
I could use an angel right now; how about you? I lost my mother in January and I’ve been two months blessed with caring for her with my siblings and four months grieving after her passing. As is always the case during times of intense sorrow, through the tears, many miracles, much beauty. Like this drawing of the angel I did last year for a friend of mine before I knew the cancer was returning, maybe in some kind of instinctive premonition that the ceiling of heaven was coming down a little closer than usual.

If you, like me, are feeling pulled heavenward lately and would like to explore your relationship to angels in writing, join me. I’m eager to get back to my teaching and my life as a writer. It’s just how I function, how I heal, and how I grow.  I’d love to work with you. 

Here’s what I put together for next month:

Writing Our Angels 

Have you ever wrestled with angels? Named an angel? Loved or raged in the absence or presence of an angel? Whether you believe in angels or not, you will find them throughout literature, from Blake’s time to our time in poems like, “Questions About Angels” by Billy Collins and “What the Angels Left” by Marie Howe and “For Each of You” by Audre Lorde and “The Angels" by Fanny Howe: I met them / in the Fields of Mourning.

What do angels give us? Are they to be revered in all their Hallmark glory? Or should we, as Linda Pastan writes in “Angels,” be weary of them? I am tired of their milky robes, / their star-infested sashes.

Whether you’ve had your own encounters with angels or have longed dreamed of meeting your guardian angel or have a question or complaint to lodge with a particular angel, come write with us as we examine our assumptions about angels and look at angel poems together. You’ll come away from our class with reveries and poems towards the creation of a personal Book of Angels. 

All levels of writing welcome; class structure includes weekly prompts and video calls in a loving and supportive virtual classroom environment. We start *note new start date to allow time for enrollment: beginning of this month on Monday, May 7 and run six weeks through Friday, June 15. Cost for the six-week session is $350. Please contact me for more information through the contact form on this website (use the link under my photo, which is accessed by clicking on my full name).


Snow in the morning garden!
My husband the Angel…

…gifted me a trip to Denmark when he heard I was losing my mother. In March, I flew to visit the beautiful host family I lived with as an exchange student when I was just eighteen years old. What a blessing to fall into the arms of my host sisters and host brother and my host mother and to fill in the narrative of the years apart. To sleep in the same house I slept in so many years ago, to wake to the kinship of loving voices, to peruse the home's artwork, to discover the Danish artist, Ovartaci. And to fall in love with of course, the colorful wings of his butterfly woman hanging in the hallway outside my bedroom and the pale blue floating figures and their equally pale blue mystical horses pulling the chariot of his "Tankens flugt" (Thought's flight). 


The Key to the Future
Thanks to poet Cindy Lynn Brown I joined the Odense Lyric 2018 Tech and Tekst poetry festival. I got the chance to hear several hours of Danish poetry and show three poetry movies. My Danish came back (enough) to introduce and read the corresponding poems from November Butterfly (in Danish). But this was largely thanks to Cindy's translations and my host sister Ulla Krogh Henriksen's coaching. Here's a sweet recording of Ulla reading Corridor for me:





The Little Mermaid
It snowed while I stayed with Ulla in Copenhagen; we had a beautiful day walking beside the waterway revisiting the Little Mermaid and discovering a fabulous scrap metal figure titled, “The Key to the Future.” He sits on a giant silver key overlooking the water in pensive pose, finger to forehead, reminiscent of Rodin’s Thinker. I loved fantasizing about the key to the future, what the door would look like, what massive lock might turn…what threshold we might cross, what angel meet there.


Hospice Angels at Tarot for Two

My tarot co-blogger and dear friend Mary Allen read cards for me several days before I lost my mother in early January. By January’s end, with Mary on the far end of the telephone in Iowa, I was able to write a bit about the long goodbye and the hospice nurse my mother loved so much:

Photo by Robyn Beattie
The day she decided to ask for end of life meds, she named the rose Gabriella after her hospice nurse and I cried with her as I pushed her in the wheelchair to the flower stand on the corner where we could buy Gabriella a “thank you” rose as red as the one we’d name after her and left alive in the garden.

Read the rest of The Hanged One here

Mary had travails of her own. She writes about the Two of Wands in relation to her month here:

My first thought about the two of wands is that in the Thoth deck it looks like bones—two bones crossing—even a tiny bit like the shadowy broken bones in the x-rays of my shoulder…I read online this morning that the two of wands is the card for partnerships, two people working together successfully, and that makes sense to me in terms of what’s been going on since I’ve had this broken, trying-to-heal shoulder.

Tania's Tarot Sketchbook
Read the rest of The Two of Wands here

Here's my companion post to Mary's; I am still circling grief, and writing here about the Ten of Swords and Four of Disks:

When Mary and I pulled cards in January just two weeks after my mother died, I pulled the Ten of Swords, “Ruin” with its image of ten sword handles ringing the periphery, points poised to pierce a central heart, the main and thickest sword breaking apart. I didn’t want that card for the month and tried a Mary tactic: I chose a second card. I’m grateful Mary has taught me it’s ok to do so.



Poetry News

This past weekend I made it out to read at the celebration for the Kowit prize, a poetry prize bestowed by the San Diego Entertainment and Arts Guild and given in honor of the late much-loved poet and writing teacher Steve Kowit. I am honored to be one of a group of honorable mention honorees. I dedicated the poem, “Moscow Road” to my mother. 

Can it really be the first poem I’ve ever written with the “f” word in it?  (I reference a phrase in one of the books my mother kept in the house when I was growing up, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.)  I lost my nerve a bit when I found out my husband couldn't accompany me to the reading, but God bless my teenage daughter. She shook her pony-tailed head at me and said, “Oh Mom, come on, just own it!” 

And so I did. Here’s a link to where you can submit your own poems (June 15-October 15) and order the San Diego Poetry Annual (or you can find a copy of it in the public and college libraries in San Diego ). This volume contains special sections: Poems from Juvenile Hall, Poems by Veterans, Native Poets, and the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize honorees.

I owe the following thank yous:


To the editors of San Pedro River Review and Blue Horse Press, Jeffrey and Tobi Alfier, for publishing "Silhouette" and "Strawberry Wine," in their Spring Music Themed Issue.

Founding editor of the Rockvale Review Sandy Coomer; "The Marriage Counselor Channels King Solomon" and "City Boys" are forthcoming in May.

Poetry editor Lindsay Wilson of The Meadow; "Stupid Californians" forthcoming this summer.

Editor in Chief Matthew Anderson of NILVX: A Book of Magic; "Tower" and "Fortune" linked haikus are forthcoming in Summer 2018 Tarot Series 2 issue.