Saturday, September 29, 2007


Let Me Tell You A Story

If you happen to be in the Bay Area, please join us this Wednesday!

(I will update this blog after the event to let you know what it was like hanging with Dorothy.)

"Any time she says, Let me tell you a story, all she has to do is name the time and the place. I'll be there." --Boston Globe

Don't miss out on DOROTHY ALLISON
author of the classic Bastard Out of Carolina

Wednesday, October 3
The Martha Heasley Cox Lecture
TWO FREE EVENTS Open to the Public

at San Jose State University

3 p.m. A Conversation with Dorothy Allison.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Second Floor

7:30 p.m. Dorothy Allison Reading, Q&A and Book-signing.
San Jose State University's Music Concert Hall

Dorothy Allison's best-selling novel Bastard Out of Carolina (1992) was a finalist for the National Book Award and is considered a literary classic. The novel won the Ferro Grumley prize and an ALA Award, and was adapted into an award-winning movie by Anjelica Houston.

Allison is the recipient of the 2007 Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction, two Lambda Literary Awards, and the American Library Association Prize for Lesbian and Gay Writing.

The author of Cavedweller (a 1998 national bestseller), Allison has also written a story collection (Trash), a collection of poetry (The Women Who Hate Me) and two nonfiction books: Two or Three Things I Know For Sure and Skin: Talking About Sex, Class & Literature.

Born in Greenville, South Carolina, she now lives in Northern California and calls herself a working class story-teller and a happily born-again Californian.

For more information on Center for Literary Arts events,
please call (408) 924-4600 or visit our website at

Monday, September 24, 2007

All Literary, All the Time

Answer: Dorothy Allison.

Yes, she's coming to SJSU on Wednesday October 3 in two events. Click here for more details.

And this means I get to hang out with her! Way cool, huh? She's one of my heroes. She writes the brutal and beautiful truths. She's an out, out lesbian with no apologies. She's a prostheletizer for writing and literature.

* * * * *

Wow, what a weekend. The California Poets Festival. Robert Hass blew my mind with an epic poem called "I Am Your Waiter Tonight And My Name Is Dimitri." It's about war, life, why people kill one another... It's -- well, a mind-blower. The poem that follows it in the amazing collection Time and Materials, an amazing collection is called "Bush's War." Nuff said.

He also read "The World as Will and Representation" (from the same collection) about his father forcing his mother to take Anatabuse. It builds to a stunning last line that left the room agape.

His wife, the poet Brenda Hillman, was there too. Unfortunately, she didn't read--but she was wearing her Code Pink shirt, and we talked about the need for civil disobedience in these times. She has inspired me to join in on the pink brigade.

I introduced Wanda Coleman by quoting this statement she made to an interviewer who asked how she self-identifies: "As a Usually Het Interracially Married Los Angeles-based African American Womonist Matrilinear Working Class Poor Pink/White Collar College Drop-out Baby Boomer Earth Mother and Closet Smoker Unmolested-by-her-father, I am unable to separate these and, as time progresses, resent having to fit into every niggling PC hole some retard trendoid academic with a grant or hidden agenda barfs up."

And she lived up to this intro with her energized, edgy, surprising performance.

Another highlight was Ken Huffman, Poetry Out Loud competition winner. He recited Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California" in such a bittersweet way that I'll never experience that poem the same way again.

I was also grateful to expreience the poetry of Francisco Alarcon (who read most of his poems in Spanish and English), Ellen Bass (always a favorite), Victoria Chang, Jane Hirshfield and Diem Jones, accompanied by guitar.

California's got talent.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Guess Who

we're bringing to SJSU October 3?

I'll give you three hints here. Then I'll make the reveal in a few days.

1. Bastard.
2. Trash.
3. Southern.

* * *

I picked up Sam Hamill from his hotel and took him out with a few others for Japanese food. He enjoyed the sushi and sake, saying he rarely eats or drinks before a reading. He said he was a little buzzed, but I don't think that's what led him to call Bush a "slimy little fucker" at the reading--I think he would have done that anyway.

A few people got up and walked out.
A few people clapped.

He talked about how one editor had rejected a poem of his because he'd called Bush a "fascist." What is the definition of a fascist? asked Hamill. Our government listens into our conversations. It "disappears" people. It tortures people. And it bombs innocent civilians. If that's not facism, he said, what is?

In addition to reading political poetry, he read some gorgeous poems about nature. Images of the rainfall in the Northwest were especially beautiful. It seems that nature is his antidote to the poisons of humanity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Sam Hamill is Coming to San Jose

Ever heard of Poets Against War?

Ever heard of Copper Canyon Press?

Sam Hamill is the founder of both. And he's coming to San Jose next week through the organization I co-direct, the Center for Literary Arts (CLA).

Poets Against War, the largest poetry anthology every published, is hosted here. It began when Sam Hamill declined Laura Bush's invitation to the White House and instead called for poetry against war and for peace. Read more about that at the bottom of this page. To submit a poem, click here.

Sam has a new book out from Curbstone Press, Measured by Stone. Here's a poem from it:

To Gray on Our Anniversary

I've relished years of bliss with you
despite the nefarious Hells
this suffering world has put us through.

I know you're not fond of growing old,
and what pain's to come, only time will tell.
Still, you are my comfort in the cold

of Odyssean storm-tossed seas,
my bride, my muse, my Penelope.

Sam is also a prolific translator of poetry from all over the world, with a specific interest in Chinese poetry Here's an example:

Despair by Meng Chiao (751-814), trans. Sam Hamill

Despise poetry, and you’ll be named to office.
But to love poetry is like clinging to a mountain:

frozen, holding tight, facing death,
days of sorrow followed by sorrow.

The bourgeoisie are jealous of those
who love poetry: they flash teeth like knives.

All the old sages are long since dead,
but bureaucrats still gnaw their bones.

Now I’m frail, dying like a frond.
All my life I sought a noble calm,

a calm I could never achieve.
And the noisy rabble mocked me.

After Sam visits San Jose State, I'll write more about meeting him and the event itself.

If you happen to be in the Bay Area, come and see him at this free event. It takes place Wednesday September 12 (just one day short of 9-11) at 7:30 p.m. in San Jose State University's Engineering Auditorium, Room 189.

Peace out.