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