Practicing “Whale Fall”

A short film is being produced about the Whale Fall” reading in February 2017 at Poetry Flash. In the meantime, here’s a link to some footage from the practice session. I like it because of the informality and the experimenting with zooming in close.



Rivendell Residency

I leave for a residency at beautiful Rivendell Writers Colony ( next week. Fall in the Smokies! After years in the lovely but seasonless tropics, to think of October in the woods!

I wanted a residency in the mountains. My father’s people came from the Blue Ridge, and we grew up camping in the Sierras and the Coast Ranges. For years in Los Angeles, I hiked the chaparral of the Santa Monica mountains. Later I fell in love with the deciduous forests of the Appalachian foothills in western New York. Here’s our little woods in Colden, along Cazenovia Creek:

Recently I have come to know and love the otherworldly landscapes of 14,000-foot Mauna Kea, and the red-gold canyons of the desert southwest.

But to be in a deciduous forest in fall! – the time of falling to earth, falling away, the great wheel falling toward darkness. Of leaf-fall, and its revelation of what lies behind, that has been hidden by soft greenery.

Thinking of leaf colors, I remember the orange and gold canyon walls of Ghost Ranch, once Georgia O’Keefe’s ranch in New Mexico, where AROHO (A Room of Her Own Foundation) held their summer writing retreats:

And I remember looking up at the brilliant sandstone cliffs on a Colorado River rafting adventure with Page Lambert and other women writers.

How similar the colors of rock and leaf! As if intensity announces the dropping away of all disguise. What greenery, fancywork will I shed during this residency?

If you rub your hand across bright sandstone or hold a bright leaf in your hand, they will turn to dust of transformation in your palm. Every day I am aware of how translucent my own body, falling, hung from veins, transforming.

Whale Fall, Fishy Wishes, and Minotaurs at Poetry Flash

“Whale Fall,” “Reversing the Spell on Mauna Kea,” and “Minotaur,” three poems I read in the Poetry Flash reading series last February, have just been published in the Poetry Flash Literary Review. My thanks to Poetry Flash editor Joyce Jenkins for including me among poets I admire so much! And thanks to both Joyce Jenkins and Richard Silberg for curating one of the West Coast’s best, warmest and liveliest reading series.

Thank you, Cynthia Albers!

Sometimes, magically, one of those perfect readers you imagine when you write something is actually out there in the audience when you read.

It happened last February at Poetry Flash at Moe’s Books in Berkeley. Cynthia Albers was in the audience that night, and later wrote a wonderful blog post about my work.

But I had hand surgery when I got back from Berkeley, and wasn’t able to post for three months. So until now I haven’t had a chance to share Cynthia’s great visual and performing arts site, and say THANK YOU! for the beautiful post.

Day One FAIL


Last month was National Poetry Writing Month – NaPoWriMo. I decided to commit myself to writing and posting a poem every day for 30 days. I joined a NaPoWriMo Facebook group of a dozen or so poets whose work I admire, and warned my family and friends that I would not be fit to live with for the next month.

Ordinarily, writing poems comes last, after other commitments are fulfilled. Which is why writing retreats are so important to me – when I’m far away from home and can’t take care of other things even if I wanted to, I’m free to focus on writing.

But I want to be able to write at home, too. And I thought that committing to NaPoWriMo – making it my priority to spend whatever time it took to generate a new poem and work on it, at least enough so that I could bring myself to post it for others to see – every day for a month – might be the boot camp reorientation practice I needed.

I don’t work quickly: it takes me a very long time to discover where a poem is trying to go, and how to open space for it to breathe. So would I be able to let other things go during NaPoWriMo and make writing poems my job?

The answer is that it was hard and I struggled with old habits every day. Every evening I felt that I had accomplished nothing during the day, because I had made writing a poem my priority, and that ended up taking so much time and energy that I did very little else.

But it was great discipline. And it gave me the excuse I needed to ignore the inner ringmaster and do what is, in truth, far more important to me.

So NaPoWriMo was a start. I’m trying to keep it up, keep going – if not a poem each day, a poem or two a week? Maybe?

About half the poems I wrote in April are worth continuing to work on. There’s energy there, something calls me, some mystery. The rest are not interesting, which is fine. Writing to prompts was good exercise.

Here, however, is the poem I wrote the very first morning of NaPoWriMo, after an uncomfortable and mostly sleepless night. It’s called

Day One FAIL

In the middle of the night sometimes
it’s like a party upstairs and me
just wanting to go to sleep.

They start with the bad jokes.
Like last night it was, “Don’t call us ‘Dead,’
call us ‘Otherly Living.’”

Oh, they cracked up
at that one. Of course
I was wide awake by then.

“No, dammit!” I grabbed the notebook
back.“This is my notebook!
for poems!”

Oh, go on, write it down, you loser!
“Otherly Living! Hahaha!
It’s a great line!”

So here it is. Be my guests.

First day of poetry writing month,
everything hurts, no sleep, and this
is what I’ve got? “Otherly living?”

It’s fine for them to be up
all night, but I’m still running this old
rattletrap, baling wire and duct tape,

due for a change if you know
what I mean, anyway it needs sleep.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m game for an all-

night adventure once in a while,
but for godsakes, guys, let’s make it
something I can write home about.