Ron Starbuck on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Ron Starbuck by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Ron Starbuck

StarbuckRon Starbuck is an Episcopalian, a Poet and Writer, and author of There Is Something About Being An Episcopalian, When Angels Are Born, and Wheels Turning Inward, three rich collections of poetry, following a poet’s mythic and spiritual journey that crosses easily onto the paths of many contemplative traditions.

He has been deeply engaged in an Interfaith-Buddhist-Christian dialogue for many years, and holds a lifelong interest in literature, poetry, Christian mysticism, comparative religion, theology, and various forms of contemplative practice. As the Publisher-CEO of Saint Julian Press we works

He has been a contributing writer for Parabola Magazine. And has had poems and essays published in Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature, an interview and poem in The Criterion, The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, ONE from MillerWords, and Pirene’s Fountain. A collection of essays, poems, short stories, and audio recordings are available on the Saint Julian Press, Inc., website under Interconnections.

Starbuck is also the Publisher-CEO of Saint Julian Press, Inc., a new literary press. Saint Julian Press as a literary and educational organization embraces a vision to create a local and worldwide community, by engaging in an artistic dialogue that promotes world peace, cultural conversations, and an interfaith awareness, appreciation, and acceptance. In our mission as a new creative imprint we hope to identify, encourage, nurture, and share transformative literature and art of both past and living masters.

While giving emerging artists, poets, and writers a place they may come home to and share their work; celebrating the enduring mystery within creation that calls us into relationship with one another. Forming an independent press to work with emerging and established writers and poets, and tendering new introductions to the world at large in the framework of an interfaith and cross cultural literary dialogue has been a long–time dream. Saint Julian Press has just released its fifteenth book of poetry, seven of those books have been published this year, in 2016.

__________

Voices

Like the poet, Rilke, with each breath taken, I have heard
and half heard the angels calling out from the depths;

—let them speak, as the whisperings of holy messengers,

in the unfathomable nighttime before dawn, upon the air,
in a quickening of flesh.

These are the forgotten memories we may all one day
recall, more often than not, subtle and obscure,

—traveling on countless pathways of neural light,

crossing our thoughts with distant remembrances that arise
out of the silence of the saints. These are the voices I
heard once before,

—in a church north of Pienza, when we travelled in Italy,

where lighting a candle and bowing her head, Joanne
offered with a sad smile and a small hope, prayers for close
a friend, who was ill at the time,

—struggling in life, and in death, as we all do.

In every church and chapel, we entered that journey,
she repeated the ritual, and in each one, I heard, the
same order of murmuring voices.

Not that I could understand their musings, far from it,
since they spoke only in hushed tones, in the ineffable and
intangible—tongues of angels and heaven.

Willis Barnstone on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Willis Barnstone by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Willis Barnstone

 

Willis Barnstone, born in 1927 in Lewiston, Maine, and educated at Bowdoin College, the Sorbonne, School of Oriental Studies of the University of London, Columbia and Yale (PhD), taught in Greece at the end of the civil war (1949-51), was in Haiti in 1960 during the deadly rule of Papa Doc and in Buenos Aires during the Dirty War (1975-1976). He was in China during the Cultural Revolution in 1972 invited by Chou Enlai. A Fulbright Professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University (1984–1985). Former O’Connor Professor of Greek at Colgate University (1973), he is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Spanish at Indiana University. He lives in Oakland, California.

A Guggenheim fellow, he has received the NEA, NEH, ACLS, W.H. Auden Award of NY Council on the Arts, Midland Authors Award, four Book of the Month selections, four Pulitzer nominations, six awards from Poetry Society of America, including the Emily Dickinson Award. In 2015 he received the Fred Cody Life Achievement Award in 2015. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Harper’s, New York Review of Books, Paris Review, Poetry, New Yorker, and Times Literary Supplement.

Some poetry books are A Day in the Country (Harper), Life Watch (BOA), Mexico in My Heart: Moonbook & Sunbook (Tupelo Books), New and Selected Poems (Carcanet), Stickball on 88th Street (Red Hen Press), Café de l’Aube à Paris / Dawn Café in Paris (Sheep Meadow Press); translations include Poetics of Translation (Yale), ABC of Translation: Poems & Drawings (Black Widow), Ancient Greek Lyrics (Indiana), Restored New Testament (Norton), The Gnostic Bible (Shambhala), The Other Bible (Harper); memoir books are Sunday Morning in Fascist Spain (Southern Illinois), We Jews and Blacks (with Yusef Komunyakaa), and With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires (Illinois). Borges has written, “Four of the best things in America are Walt Whitman’s Leaves, Herman Melville’s Whale, the sonnets of Willis Barnstone’s Secret Reader, and my daily Corn Flakes—the rough poetry of morning.” Harold Bloom describes his version of the New Testament as “a superb act of restoration.”

__________

Borges Defines Happiness During the Dirty War

One evening after reading Kipling to
Borges in Buenos Aires, I took him
slowly downstairs (he had dirt on his shoe
which I wiped off) and out along a dim
back street to the Saint James Cafe. The war,
the dirty one, was noisy. Gun shots, a bomb
in nearby flats, a midnight visitor
pounding a door, the city’s catacomb
of terror operating fine. The mess
and drama thrilled me, though the country-bled.
We sat under our gothic mirror and
began to eat and gossip. Borges said,
smiling, ‘Reading Kipling is happiness’,
and blood shivered in his transparent hand.

__________

An Island

By white walls and scent of orange leaves,
Come, I’ll tell you. I know nothing.
By this sea of salt and dolphins
I see but fish in a dome of sun.

In stars that nail me to a door,
There are women with burning hair,
And on the quay at night I feel
But hurricanes and rigid dawn.

On cobblestones at day I watch
Some crazy seabirds fall and drown,
And as the bodies sink in sand
I know I pay my birth with death.

I only see some plains of grass
And sky-sleep in the crossing storks,
I know nothing and see but fire
In the volcano of a cat’s eye.

Ilyse Kusnetz on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Ilyse Kusnetz by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Ilyse Kusnetz

Poet and journalist Ilyse Kusnetz is the author of Small Hours, winner of the 2014 T.S. Eliot prize from Truman State University Press, and The Gravity of Falling (2006). She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University and her Ph.D. in Feminist and Postcolonial British Literature from the University of Edinburgh. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Guernica Daily, the Cincinnati Review, Crazyhorse, Stone Canoe, Rattle, and other journals and anthologies. She has published numerous reviews and essays about contemporary American and Scottish poetry, both in the United States and abroad; she has served as a guest editor at Poetry International and the Atlanta Review for feature sections on Scottish poetry.

She is currently at work on a new poetry manuscript—Angel Bones. She teaches at Valencia College and lives in Orlando with her husband, the poet and memoirist Brian Turner.

__________

HARBINGER

Just another day           in hyper-capitalist society—
in my Facebook feed,           news of rabbits and
chickens tortured on meat farms,           but I’m still not
vegan and I’m waiting           to die myself
from cancer I may have gotten           from soil or ground water
contaminated by nuclear weapons,           and no amount
of posting uplifting stories           is going to fix that.
And lord, let them cease           trying to control women’s
bodies, people’s genders,           people’s desires,
let them stop hating people           because of their color
and ethnicities. I want to shake           the bigots and racists
till their teeth come loose           and they lose their bite,
till their tongues           swell up in their mouths
and they’re stricken mute.           I want to save
all the slaughtered animals,           save the seas and their
inhabitants—whales, birds,           the tiniest bivalve—
from choking on plastic.           I want to purify the air
of sulfur and carbon dioxide,           scrape the lead
from plumbing pipes,           god I need to do something
besides dying, besides           thinking about death
and the neo-fascist           politicians who lead
a nation of people           unable to think critically
after 40 years’ systemic           dismantling
of the education system           by the rich
so their lackeys           can make it
illegal to prosecute           corporations for poisoning
the air, earth, water—and Jesus,           isn’t it
a kind of           mental illness
annihilating what you need           to stay alive
for the accumulation of           blind profit—
and in the process killing           and killing and
murdering me,           along with the people and animals
I can’t save but want to,           with all my goddamn
fucking heart, but instead           I’m waiting to die,
trying to find some           last meaning in all of this.
A warning, perhaps.           You’re next.

—First published in Rattle, 2016

Mario Feninger on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Mario Feninger by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Mario Feninger

BORN IN CAIRO, EGYPT in 1923, Mario Feninger received his early music training from his mother, Teresa de Rogatis, a noted pianist, guitarist, composer and teacher. He made his debut at the Salle Gaveau, whereupon the Figaro declared him “a remarkable artist… an important musical personality (with) a very beautiful, powerful tone.” From Paris, Mario proceeded to London’s Wigmore Hall, where the Daily Telegraph proclaimed him to have “found the essential poetry in Chopin.”

Mario made his GRAND NAPLES DEBUT at the Sala del Conservotorio San Pietro a Majella, performing the Busoni Konzertstruck, Op. 31a with the A. Scarlatti Orchestra. The Italian press lauded Mario’s “brilliant virtuosity,” celebrating him as “a complex artist searching for his soul and animated by a great ideal.”

PERFORMING his extensive repertoire in the great halls of Europe, North Africa, North and Central America and the Middle East, Mario established a distinguished international reputation as a soloist and recitalist.

“A powerhouse virtuoso in the grand manner.”
~ New York Times

“Urgent style, comprehensive technique and command of tone and color, won repeated cheers and standing ovations.”
~ Los Angeles Times

“Feninger belongs to a distinctive part of European pianistic literature.”
~ Il Giornale De Bergamo – Oggi, Italy

Performs as guest artist with:

• Centre Culturel de Valprivas
• The Castle in Baja (Naples)
• Summer Musical Festival at Sorrento, Italy
• International Festival at Echternach, Luxembourg
• Liszt Festival at Angers, France
• American Liszt Society in San Francisco
• Mozart & Company in Beverly Hills

The first American performance of Busoni’s Concerto, Op. 17 for piano and strings

Performed an entire program of Busoni in Empoli, Italy (Busoni’s native city)

Busoni program performed at Schoenberg Institute

Performed at Busoni Festival in New York

MARIO FENINGER currently resides in Los Angeles, California where, in addition to his performance schedule, he conducts master classes and continues his research into piano technique. www.mariofeninger.com

__________

CAN WE CREATE ARTISTS?

THE VARIOUS musical seasons, with all the marvelous artists we have the opportunity to hear, give rise to some thoughts that I would like to share.

IT IS more and more self-evident that, as the civilization of leisure is brought into existence, we shall need more and more great artists.

THERE ARE three communication lines from the performer to the public: Technique, Expression, and Presence.  A performer with any one of three lines “well in” is a good performer; a performer with any two of these lines in will be an arresting performer; and a performer with the three lines in could be called a genius.

WHY IS the public thrilled by technique?  Why do thundering octaves, pearly scales, fleeting arpeggios, etc., leave them agape?  Why is it that technique by itself is sufficient to create an impact?  The answer I found is that technique represents the mastery over and control of those parts of the physical universe involved in the performance; and those parts are the instrument and the body of the performer!  Technique also presumes certainty.  It is a science in that it has very precise laws that work every time.  This is true of a juggler, a car racer or a pianist.

AS REGARDS expression, Busoni gave a very exhaustive and impressive description of it as poetry, imagination, elegance, sense of style, of form, or colors, feeling for distance, for volumes, etc.  In other words, anything dealing with the mind, the mental machinery and the emotions would pertain to expression.

THE THIRD line, presence, would be the being himself, his ability to command attention, to hold together, spellbound, three or four thousand people, all stranger, and infuse them with a unanimity of feelings and reactions.  This is the least visible ability, but one that makes the difference between Busoni, Horowitz, etc., and most pianists.

IT MAY APPEAR that I am an optimist. How many times have I heard that without “talent” or “gifts,” there is nothing in the way of greatness.  However, I say that anybody with interest and persistence should be given the chance of reaching the heights he has perceived or the goals he has formulated.  In fact, it is my experience that although “gifts” may help at the start, often the so-called “gifted pupil” is fixated in his gifts, and cannot change and/or beyond them.  Of course, there are no gifts that cannot be expanded or improved upon.

TECHNIQUE, expression, and presence have each their own separate technology, but it is impossible in a short article to describe in detail each one.  One thing is certain, though:  when one has applied a new true datum, the piece that was once difficult has now improved, at least in some respect.  It is definitely not the number of hours of practice that will create audible technique, but intelligent practice in the right direction.  No amount of drudgery will ever produce a lovely tone, but know-how will!

ARTISTS ARE, after all, creators of universes and it is indisputable that any training insight, revelation, etc., into the world of personal magic associated with a grounding in the natural technique would create artists.  We must not forget what Schoenberg said: “The laws of the man of genius are the laws of future humanity.”

Ami Kaye on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Ami Kaye by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Ami Kaye

Ami Kaye is the author of What Hands Can Hold. Her poems, reviews and articles are forthcoming or have appeared in various journals and anthologies including Comstock Review, Amore: Love Poems, Naugatuck River Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Eyewear, Kentucky Review, Iodine, Tiferet, East on Central, First Literary Review- East, Cartier Street Review, Peony Moon , Diode, and The Dance of the Peacock among others. Ami edited Sunrise from Blue Thunder in response to the Japan 2011 disasters and is co-editing Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace, as well as Collateral Damage, a benefit anthology for disadvantaged children. Ami is the editor of Pirene’s Fountain and the Aeolian Harp Series, and the publisher and founding editor of Glass Lyre Press.

Glass Lyre Press is an independent publisher with a catalog of technically accomplished and stylistically distinct literary work. Glass Lyre seeks diverse writers with a dynamic aesthetic and the ability to emotionally and intellectually engage a wide audience of readers. Glass Lyre’s vision is to connect the world through language and art, and expand the scope of poetry and short fiction for the general reader through exceptionally well-written books which evoke emotion, provide insight, and resonate with the human spirit.

__________

Shadow Nocturne

You were a skein of nerve, blood from my marrow,
sliver of bone, a silver weave of luminous cloth,

fire that spread through electric nerves.
Your little core palpated in its fine mesh,

its tremolo of strings could not hold you.
You shrugged off my body and slipped seamlessly,

knife-edge moon in the water, final glide from the womb,
before dissolving into a blossom on the snow.

Against the light I thought I saw your tiny fist,
too quickly pulled back before I could grab you.

Skin-tight storms ripped a trail of fireflies from the sky
but I remember only the ripe weight of grief, an ocean,

with you curled underwater as if you could breathe
at all from pinched blue nostrils.

Fallen sparrow, tiny creature I could hold in my palm,
I thought I could reach out and kiss your delicate eyelashes

but they were air-brushed with disappearing ink
on a fluttering moth that vanished into the remnant of night.

—First published in Kentucky Review, 2015

Kelly Thomas on Poets Cafe

The following interview about Kelly Thomas by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Kelly Thomas

Is there a person nationwide who doesn’t know the fate of Kelly Thomas? Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas’s father remains an outspoken advocate for the homeless community. Four years after Fullerton police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were acquitted of brutally beating his son Kelly Thomas to death near the Fullerton bus station in 2011, he continues to be an advocate for justice, not only for his son, but for all those affected by homelessness in his local community and nationwide. We spent an hour with Ron talking about the early days of Kelly Thomas, the need for social reform, the use of excessive force from both sides of the fence (Ron is an ex-sheriff) and much more. We were joined by homeless advocate, fine artist and poet Leigh White, as well as poet and reading series host, Steve Ramirez.

__________

To My Son

A second trial has just begun
It’s been over 4 years since I lost you my son
On that hot July night with such fright in your eyes
Those six murdering thugs beat you, until you were no longer alive
As citizens watched the horror unfold
All of them learning something—that none of us were told
The fact that those who took an oath to protect and serve
Could kill a man so brutally without any reserve
I often look back on all of the years—
We did so many things together,
And soon come my tears
So many times we played our guitars
Both of us knowing we wouldn’t go far
And when we laughed so hard it hurt inside
Realizing that neither one of us could sing—
Not knowing what July 5th, 2011 would bring
I spend every day seeking justice for you
My redheaded son with eyes of blue
I give you this promise, as your dad that is true
I will not rest a day until justice comes through
You cried out my name 31 times—
And within moments you were no longer alive
I will forever miss you, my heart always sad
Those 31 times you cried out—
Crying out for me—
Your dad

The only poem every written by Ron Thomas, father of Kelly.

Brian Turner on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Brian Turner by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Brian Turner

Brian Turner’s latest book, My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir (W.W. Norton & Co. US 2014; Jonathan Cape/Random House UK 2014) has been called “Achingly, disturbingly, shockingly beautiful” by Nick Flynn and “a humane, heartbreaking, and expertly crafted work of literature” by Tim O’Brien. A Dutch edition was published in 2015 and an Italian edition is forthcoming in 2017. His two collections of poetry: Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005; Bloodaxe Books, 2007) and Phantom Noise (Alice James Books 2010; Bloodaxe Books 2010) have also been published in Sweden by Oppenheim forlag and Poland by Galeria Literacka. His poems have also been published and translated into Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish.

His poetry and essays have been published in the New York Times, National Geographic, Poetry Daily, Virginia Quarterly Review, Georgia Review, and other journals. Turner was featured in the documentary film Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a USA Hillcrest Fellowship in Literature, an NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, a US-Japan Friendship Commission Fellowship, the Poets’ Prize, and a Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. Phantom Noise was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize in England in 2011. His work has appeared on National Public Radio, the BBC, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Here and Now, and on Weekend America, among others.

Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division (1999-2000). As well as an infantryman, Brian has worked as a machinist, a locksmith’s assistant, a convenience store clerk, a pickler, a maker of circuit boards, a dishwasher, an EFL teacher in South Korea, a low voltage electrician, a wide variety of day labor jobs, and as a radio DJ.

Another of his ongoing passions is music; Turner was the bass guitarist for Fresno-based bands The Dead Guys, Chrome Grandma & the Shakes, and The Dead Quimbys. His recent musical collaborations and compositions include a concept album to complement an ongoing book-length poetry project.

Composer Shawn Crouch set Turner’s poetry to music, which was recorded by Chanticleer as “Gardens of Paradise” on their album Best of Chanticleer (Warner Classics, 2010). Other composers who have taken up Turner’s work and woven it into their own pieces include Jake Runestad and Rob Deemer—with performances by Vocal Essence, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Manitoba Singers, and at Carnegie Hall (November 2016) with the Park Avenue Symphony Orchestra and Choir.

Turner co-edited The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders (McSweeney’s, 2013) for The Poetry Foundation. He serves as a contributing editor at The Normal School, and he curates an ongoing series for Guernica Daily called “The Kiss.” He also founded and directs the MFA in creative writing program at SNC Tahoe, which emphasizes writing in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and writing for children and young adults.

Brian is married to poet Ilyse Kusnetz. They live in Orlando, Florida.

For more about Brian Turner: www.brianturner.org.

__________

Intro to My Life as a Foreign Country

I am a drone aircraft plying the darkness above my body, flying over my wife as she sleeps beside me, over the curvature of the earth, over the glens of Antrim and the Dalmatian coastline, the shells of Dubrovnik and Brčko and Mosul arcing in the air beside me, projectiles filled with poems and death and love.

I am 32,000 feet over the Atlantic seaboard. The fields, the orchards, the woodlands below press together the way countries on maps do, coursing waterways, paved roads and dirt tracks and furrows cutting through. Countries touching countries. Bosnia and Vietnam and Iraq and Northern Ireland and Korea and Russia pressed together in the geography below. Cumulus scattered above them, their shapes authored by sunlight on the ground beneath. The Battle of Guadalcanal emerges from the shadows where my grandfather lives. Now Bougainville. Guam. Iwo Jima.

Highway 1—Iraq’s Highway of Death—stretches through desert on one side and California’s San Joaquin Valley on the other. The eucalyptus trees of my childhood line the sides of the highway. In places I can see the scorch marks on the asphalt where transport trucks were left to burn. My dead Uncle Paul steals oranges in the night groves there, just as he did when I was eight years old, while fresh dark earth covers the newly dead on the other side of the highway. Owls perch on their gravestones calling out for water.

Each night I do this, monitoring heat signatures in the landscape, switching from white-hot to black-hot lenses as I bank and turn, gathering circuit by circuit the necessary intelligence, all that I have done, all that we have done, compressed into the demarcations in the map below.

Ken Waldman on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Ken Waldman by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Ken Waldman

Ken Waldman has drawn on his 30 years in Alaska to produce poems, stories, and fiddle tunes that combine into a performance uniquely his.

A former college professor with an MFA in Creative Writing (University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1988), Waldman has had published six full-length poetry collections, a memoir, a children’s book, and has released nine CDs that mix old-time Appalachian-style string-band music with original poetry. Since 1995 he’s toured full-time, performing at some of the nation’s leading universities, festivals, arts centers, and clubs.

Three of his poetry collections are set in Alaska. His first, Nome Poems, details white and Native issues in rural Alaska and went through two printings with Albuquerque’s West End Press before Waldman reprinted it himself. His second, To Live on This Earth, was released by the same publisher and has poems set throughout Alaska; many focus on the natural world there. His third, The Secret Visitor’s Guide, was published by Wings Press of San Antonio, and revisits both Alaska settings, and includes work set outside Alaska, plus a sequence of political poems inspired by the September 11, 2001 attacks. Waldman has three other full-length poetry collections by respected and known publishers: And Shadow Remained (Pavement Saw Press), Conditions and Cures (Steel Toe Books), and As the World Burns (Ridgeway Press). His memoir, Are You Famous? (Catalyst Book Press), chronicles Waldman’s adventures on tour throughout the United States. His self-published children’s book, D is for Dog Team (Nomadic Press) is a sequence of Alaska-set acrostic poems for young readers that was almost immmediately picked up for distribution by University of Alaska Press.

Waldman has had over 400 poems and stories in journals and anthologies, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Puerto del Sol, and Quarterly West. He is currently shopping four additional full-length poetry collections, a novel, a story collection, a sequel to his memoir, and a hybrid work that is both memoir and a guide to writing—and also includes a full poetry collection of poems about writing and writers.

Among Waldman’s CDs are two for children, Fiddling Poets on Parade (2005) and D is for Dog Team (2009), which goes with the children’s book of the same title. On all CDs, Waldman is joined by ace accompanists. He’s also composed and recorded over one hundred original tunes.

Though he still performs solo on occasion, Waldman teams with other musicians when he headlines such venues as Cal Poly Arts, Lakewood Cultural Center in Colorado, The Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., or else for concert series and festivals. He’ll also bring a troupe of musicians for performing arts series shows.

He is also a popular visiting artist in classrooms. Using both his fiddle and a repertoire of proven writing exercises, he has led workshops in over 225 schools in 34 states nationwide, and has been a guest writer at over 100 colleges and universities, including University of Tennessee, Knox College, and San Diego State University.

His recent essay about making a living as a touring artist was in the September/October 2015 issue of Poets & Writers magazine, and can be seen here.

For more about Ken Waldman: www.kenwaldman.com.

__________

Village Fiddle

I toted my junker, side seam already cracked,
an old cheap box of wood that would take
the steep banks of small planes aiming
for runways, the bumps and jostles of sleds
hooked to snowmachines, the ice, the wind,
nights in the villages. Higher education
missionary, I made rounds to students’ homes
(where I visited, but never fit), to liaisons’
offices (where the state-issued equipment
sometimes worked), to the local high schools
and elementaries (where I volunteered service)—
fiddle closer to my heart than the backpack
full of books. Indeed, closer to my heart
than the frozen broken truth: a bloody pump
buried in utter darkness. Quick to unsnap
the case, I scratched tunes where no one had,
played real-life old-time music to Eskimos
and the odd whites in that weathered land.
The Pied Fiddler, I might have been, gently
placing the beat-up instrument in others’ hands,
giving up the bow. Good for smiles and laughs.
Random questions and comments. A third-grader:
It must be like having a dog making noise—
you must never get lonely. A high-schooler:
Is it hard to learn? One of my college students:
Why are you out here? Where is your family?

Richard Gilbert on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Richard Gilbert by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Richard Gilbert

Education. While at Naropa University (Boulder, Colorado) studied and hung out with beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Gary Snyder, and others; became a Tibetan Buddhist meditator. Performed in and produced conceptual art multidisciplinary presentations as poet, videographer, and electric guitarist. Undergraduate thesis on Japanese classical haiku, BA in Poetics and Expressive Arts, 1982. Completed Tibetan Buddhist seminary training in 1984, and returned to Naropa for an MA in Contemplative Psychology, graduated 1986. Worked as a clinical adult outpatient psychotherapist at Boulder Community Mental Health Center. In 1990, completed a Ph.D. at The Union Institute & University, in Poetics and Depth Psychology, studying Archetypal Psychology with James Hillman. Moved to Kumamoto, Japan, in 1997,  teaching at university and publishing academic articles on Japanese and English-language haiku, while designing EFL educational software. Received tenure as an Associate Professor of British and American Literature, Faculty of Letters, Kumamoto University in 2002.

Activities. Co-judge of the Kusamakura International Haiku Competition, Kumamoto, Japan (2003-present). Founder and Director of the Kon Nichi Haiku Translation Group, Kumamoto University (2002-present). Founding Associate Member of The Haiku Foundation (thehaikufoundation.org). In March 2008, publication of Poems of Consciousness: Contemporary Japanese & English-language Haiku in Cross-cultural Perspective (Red Moon Press, 2008, 306 pp.) was awarded the HSA 2009 Mildred Kanterman Award for Haiku Criticism and Theory. In mixed media publication, the gendaihaiku.com website presents subtitled video interviews with notable gendaihaiku (modern Japanese haiku) poets, biographical information and haiku translations. In 2011, publication of Ikimonofûei: Poetic Composition on Living Things (a talk by Kaneko Tohta, with commentary and essays. Gilbert, et al, Red Moon Press, 92 pp.), and The Future of Haiku, an Interview with Kaneko Tohta (with commentary and essays. Gilbert, et al, Red Moon Press, 138 pp.). In 2012, publication of Selected Haiku of Kaneko Tohta, Part 1, 1937-1960 (with commentary, essays and chronology. Gilbert, et al, Red Moon Press, 256 pp.), and Selected Haiku of Kaneko Tohta, Part 2, 1961-2012 (with commentary, chronology and encyclopedic glossary. Gilbert, et al, Red Moon Press, 250 pp.). The two 2012 Selected Haiku of Kaneko Tohta volumes were awarded The Haiku Foundation 2012 Touchstone Distinguished Book Award. In August 2013, publication of The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A New Theory of English-language Haiku (R. Gilbert, Red Moon Press, 132 pp.): A revised and expanded update of the decade-old essay, which first appeared (in North America) in Modern Haiku Journal 35:2 (2004). The book contains 275 haiku by 185 authors, and several new sections, including a comparative discussion of strong and weak styles of disjunction in excellent haiku, and a presentation of seven newly coined “strong reader-resistance” disjunctive categories. (Full bio. available: http://thehaikufoundation.org/poet-details/?IDclient=159)

__________

15 Haiku

 

1.

 

as an and you and you and you alone in the sea

 

Haiku in English, Kacian et al, New York: Norton, 2013, p.240

 

2.

 

a drowning man
pulled into violet worlds
grasping hydrangea

 

Haiku in English, Kacian et al, New York: Norton, 2013, p.240

 

3.

 

something of a scar
of ocean left
rolling cigarettes

is/let Haiku Journal,  2015 (March 11)

 

4.

 

it must be how
violence in the world
crocus

is/let Haiku Journal,  2015 (Feb 8)

 

5.

 

semite war
unharmed olives — the desert
tastes your skin

is/let Haiku Journal,  2014 (Dec 30) 

 

6.

 

unchangeability—
i leave the earth
that way

 

Moongarlic, Issue 3, 2014, p.73

 

7.

 

be mine –
alive for one
more war

is/let Haiku Journal, 2014, Dec. 30

 

 

 

8.

 

moon resins —

sex and god and teeth

and fingernails

Moongarlic, Issue 3, 2014

 

 

9.

 

mass

solitude
what’s left
of the party
denial

 

Moongarlic issue 3, 2014

 

10.

 

licking the cleft sweet aspirin after rain

 

Roadrunner Haiku Journal 13:2 (2013)

 

11.

 

what became deeper of you i let in

 

Roadrunner Haiku Journal 12:3 (2012)

 

 

12.

 

moon cradled you recall the voice of another I might be the distance

 

Roadrunner Haiku Journal 11:2 (2012)

 

 

13.

 

When you dream the inside
smoke between cypress trees

Roadrunner Haiku Journal 10:1 (2010)

 

14.

 

Stay with me
with the light out
and water glass

 

Roadrunner Haiku Journal 10:1 (2010)

 

15.

 

hungover — ignoble
Jerusalem —  cactus
pissing   —   the cats

 

Roadrunner Haiku Journal 8:2 (2008)

Fereidun Shokatfard on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Fereidun Shokatfard by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


[download audio]

Biographical Information—Fereidun Shokatfard

Fereidun Shokatfard is a native of Iran. He is an artist, educator and accomplished businessman. His love for poetry of Rumi and Hafiz was inspired by the teachings of his maternal grandfather, who often gathered the children and played the tar – an ancient Persian string instrument and recited poems from Rumi and Hafiz. Fereidun’s love for nature and the outdoors led him to study agriculture. He graduated from Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany with a Ph.D. in Agro Economics. During his graduate studies, he also studied Art at the Pedagogic Institute in Giessen. Fereidun taught at Pahlavi University in Shiraz, Iran.

Dr. Shokatfard is an author of three books: Colors of Paradise, a collection of his art work and poetry; Colors of Love and Peace, a which brings together artwork of the students of 186th St. Elementary School in the LA Unified School District; and Colors of Joy and Happiness, an instructional art book. The Dalai Lama graciously wrote a foreword for the latter two books. These collections are part of the permanent patient library in local and national children’s hospitals.

In 2012 Fereidun created Heartful Children’s Foundation to help children with cancer through art. He agrees with the medical community that “children need more than medicine to get well” and conducts art shows to highlight the work of patients and share what is going on inside these facilities. Some former patients are familiar faces when he conducts workshops for children at his home.

__________

 

No more room

Somewhere at the edge of the emptiness
Layers of images coming to focus in my mind
Finding myself in the children’s cemetery
Graves of little angels as far as eyes could see
Fear no more heart, if you don’t hear the laughter
of Lily, Patrick and Paul
Where are Kylie, Jasmine and Laura
They all faded away
The killer, the cancer took them away one by one
The four year old Lily who looked like a porcelain doll
with her dark brown eyes, radiating life was a promise
If you overlooked her bald head and the tube in her nose
and just saw the pretty tiara on her head
and the fluffy petty coat bouncing when she came to the playroom,
with such an enthusiasm
You could hear her shouting in silence,
I will make it
she didn’t
O heart that led me to Laura’s bedside
to tell her that I brought the book of her art work
while my wife and her mom, who could not speak
a word of English were hugging and sobbing
I knew that the end was near
but I had to tell her what was in my heart
Te amo Laura, I love you
She opened her eyes slightly, smiled and softly replayed, me too
and went to a deep sleep
I need to take my mind off the cemetery
I have half an hour to rush to the hospital
to do art with those kids
They are waiting for me
And this time I am convinced
They all going to make it
Because we are going to love them a bit more
I told the Drs and nurses do your very best
I just passed the cemetery
There was a big sign in front of the gate that read
No more room

Austin Straus on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Austin Straus by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


[download audio]

Biographical Information—Austin Straus

Austin Straus was born in June 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. He has lived in Southern California since 1978. His poems and illustrations have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Alcatraz 3, The Maverick Poets, Men of Our Time, New Letters, Plainsong, Stand Up Poetry, and This Sporting Life, among many others. He is an accomplished painter, printmaker, and book artist with work in several private collections, including The Ruth & Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry. His one-of-kind books combine poetry and graphics and are in many art collections throughout California and elsewhere. He frequently, informally, exhibits prints, drawings and paintings in conjunction with readings. As the host of Pacific Radio’s The Poetry Connexion, he directed the show on KPFK from October 1981 through June of 1996 with co-host Wanda Coleman. Drunk with Light, a book of poems, was published by Red Hen Press in 2002. Intensifications, his second book from Red Hen appeared in 2010. The Love Project, A Marriage Made in Poetry, poems written by himself and his wife of 32 years, Wanda Coleman, also from Red Hen, was published in 2014, after Coleman’s death. He continues his life-long exploration of visual poetry with paintings, collages and unique books.

__________

Pictures of You

The thing is to paint as if no other
painter ever existed.
—Cezanne

1.

You break no Kodaks, so camera
friendly, the lens loves you.

Painting is another story…you are
variegated, light and dark browns
tinged with ochres, reds, oranges, siennas,
umbers, maroons and salmons, all blended,
everything but green and blue!  What you wear
changes your skin tone, and where you sit
and how you hold yourself, look up, down,
sideways and your expression, sad, meditative,
thoughtful, worried, calm, delighted,
and is it sunny or shady or rainy, and
what’s the atmosphere, the barometric pressure,
humidity…the very air and light change you,
my brown/black, Indian red, multi-colored,
multi-brained, multi-sensed multiple, my
million women in one, my elusive, changeable,
unpindownable, ever unpredictable, highly
unpaintable you.

2.

No one ever saw an apple before
or that mountain

and I never saw you, try now
to see you as if no one
has ever seen you, see you new,
from every possible angle and
nuance, real and surreal, flat,
round and cubed, collaged and
montaged, in shadow and light, color
or black and white, etched, sketched
and painted, in delicate pencil,
charcoal and pastels, or hard, linear,
contoured, barely seen or superreal,
totally, to all your levels, with all
the depths, complexity, truth and care
you have always deserved…

 

The Love Project, A Marriage Made in Poetry
(Red Hen Press, 2014)

Mary Kay Rummel on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Mary Kay Rummel by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


[download audio]

Biographical Information—Mary Kay Rummel

Mary Kay Rummel is the first Poet Laureate of Ventura County, California. The Lifeline Trembles, her seventh book of poetry, won the 2014 Blue Light Book Prize and was recently published by Blue Light Press of San Francisco. That press also published her previous book, What’s Left Is The Singing. Her first poetry book, This Body She’s Entered (1989) was a Minnesota Voices Award winner at New Rivers Press. Her poems recently won prizes poetry contests sponsored by Irish-American Crossroads of San Francisco and by Ventura County Writers’ Club and the Great River Shakespeare Festival sonnet competition. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, most recently in Nimrod, Pirene’s Fountain, Askew, Persimmon Tree, Miramar. Recent anthology publications include Creativity and Constraint (Wising Up Press), Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior (Holy Cow! Press), A Bird Black As The Sun (Green Poet Press); Meditations on Divine Names (Moonrise Press); Woman in Metaphor (inspired by the paintings of Stephen Linsteadt) and River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century by Blue Light Press. Often performing poetry with musicians, Mary Kay has read in many venues in the US and London. She is professor emerita from the University of Minnesota, Duluth  and she teaches at California State University, Channel Islands, dividing her time between Minneapolis and Ventura, CA.

__________

Palimpsest  

If by truth you mean hands
shaping the vertebrae of stars

If by hands you mean oak branches
scratching the moon’s face

If by branches you mean that sickle moon
lying on its side as if asking

If by moon you mean pillow, expectant
as we, fingers laced, walk dim streets

If by pillow you mean feather words
the breath of fasting lovers

If by words you mean answers
where the moon tilts on its side,
like a burning blade

If by answer you mean bruised trees
clouds, lights of a far-off city, or the way
your finger slides into my closed fist

trembling the lifeline, the way
your palms resurrect my breasts.