Albuquerque: Feb 5-7, 2019

Feb 5th, 2019

We drove away from the Comfort Inn in Clovis past the Golden West Flour Co building as we watched heavy military aircraft come in for landings. The Cannon Air Force Base is 7 miles SW of Clovis.  It’s under the jurisdiction of Air Force Special Operations Command. The population of the base is around 2,000. More herds of pretty cattle lolled in the pastures, Angus and Herford. The day a greyish mauve cast. Then there were rams with curving horns and sheep. Highway 84 West runs along side the railroad track where long freight trains passed us going in the opposite direction.  A dead coyote hung off a wire fence, fur ruffling in the wind, shot and left as a warning to other coyotes no doubt.

What is it about New Mexico. We just crossed the border from Texas and the skies opened like a fan unrolled all around us. Suddenly it was all sparkling blue with swirls and white puffs of clouds. A Georgia O’Keeffe painting.

Driving, we noted abandoned farmsteads and a regular old ghost town. Then appaloosa and buckskin in a high pasture.

Arrived in Albuquerque at the Mother Road (route 66) Hostel. We were early and no one at the front desk, all locked up. We found a cool coffee shop nearby to wait, tho just as we sat down to enjoy our scone and tea we saw they were closing at 3:30 and it was 3:25! They let us linger a little, then we drove back to the hostel and took a walk till they opened.  The Mother Road is a bright yellow, older building with many rooms and a very accommodating atmosphere. The staff is extremely helpful and friendly and the security is top notch.

I emailed Margaret Randall, wonderful writer and activist living in Albuquerque http://www.margaretrandall.org, and we made plans to meet for dinner tomorrow with her and her spouse, Barbara Byers, a terrific artist. http://www.barbarabyers-books.net (MO)

 (MO)

February 5/6, 2019
Woke up in Clovis NM, tired,
sleeping rough in a bed
body in a vata state, gotta calm
down, clear lungs, take turns,
driving, car climbing upward,
lived under this same blue sky
umbrella years before,
the sloping planet earth,
eat tempeh sandwiches
& drive into Albuquerque’s
mother road hostel, two
rooms pro-soundly possible
in the hostel, dinner
at Annapurna, communal
breakfast with a guy
from Ireland en route to Mexico
another guy profoundly
in the know, political
history & all, cold and rainy,
small yoga class, slow-ga,
just what I need, the women
advise chlorophyll for
altitude sickness, coupled
with lung overuse, windy,
clear and cold, unpack
our coats, radiator cold,
missing a bullet, visit Margaret
Randall and Barbara Byers,
talking  art, writing, two lives
having lived/living art, Cuba,
Roma,paintings and asemic
writing, home to Central Ave/
Hwy 66, still breathless
Maureen carries my bag.
(BH)

*

February 6, 2019
We met Margaret Randall and Barbara Byers at the Orchid Thai Restaurant on Central Avenue.  We meant to take some photos with Margaret and Barbara at their house where we gathered after dinner, but we got lost in conversation and forgot.

(BH: As I was sitting quietly there, a bit breathless, I noticed how beautiful Margaret was as she reclined on the couch talking to us about all her trips and adventures. I wish I had taken a snap.)

Barbara took us into her studio and showed us her art book projects, as well as some of her recent asemic work and paintings.  Margaret gave us a copy of her recent collected poems.

(MO)

Feb 7, 2019
Compared to our last reading in Austin at Malvern Books, the bookstore reading in Albuquerque was a bit disappointing in terms of turnout. The weather was unseasonably cold and apparently affected the attendance.  We were very happy, however, to read for the small group that included Barbara Byers, Mark Mills  (a friend of Elinor Nauen’s), a few of BH’s on-line students, Sherry Wright and her husband David (of San Francisco) and Dara Elerath, a very talented young poet and graphic designer. Margaret Randall sent her regards; she wasn’t well enough to attend. After the reading we went to the Flying Star Cafe with Barbara Byers and Dara.  Here’s a link to one of Dara’s poems: https://aprweb.org/authors/dara-elerath

 

Albuquerque to Truth or Consequences to Tucson: Feb 9-12

Saturday, Feb 9, 2019

After dragging our stuff down the stairs and out to the front porch of the funky hostel, I went back upstairs and photographed the scene outside the window of my room.  I was happy to start heading south; sloping downwards, the altitude pressure let up on my lungs.   Hurray for strength.

 


(BH)

 

Driving the 150 miles toward Truth or Consequences, my mind drifts back to driving I25 to I10 several times in the past, once photographing as much of the sky, rocks, mountains, mounds of dry brown dirt, as I could (at the same time steering). My plan was to string it together and put it into a long foldout book, writing a poem along the top and bottom. Many of the photos are still in my archive, but the plan never came to fruition.  New York City demands took over.  Now I shoot a few new photos, and later dig up one from 2005. What I discover: my regular camera was much better than I phone8 and yes there has been a change in the shape of the earth.    (BH)

 


(2019)  BH

(2005) BH

 

Adios Albuquerque. We headed out to Truth or Consequence, NM.  Peaceful, wide open desert, then mountains came into view.  We pulled into T or C and had a bite at the Passion Pie Café. Too early to check in at The Rocket Inn, we strolled around and visited the Geronimo Springs Museum. A very interesting First Nations fellow, Herald, greeted us at the desk.  The museum was a lot bigger than it appeared from the front. There were several rooms full of photos, well-labeled archeological native pottery, and materials from the old West, saddles, long rifles, chaps and frayed, but charming, pioneer dresses. I was especially intrigued by a chronological lifeline and photos of an Irish immigrant, who became a well- respected and upstanding member of this community, settling here some generations ago and whose sons and daughters have continued living in the area. His name was Sullivan, which is my grandmother’s name and her parents immigrated to America at about the same time and from the same county in Ireland, County Cork.  I found myself thinking that possibly we might be related. (MO)

 

(BH)

 

Waiting to check in to the Rocket Inn, after visiting the museum, we drove around Elephant Butte.  The Rio Grande is almost a trickle with a big towering dam but nothing to dam up, and a small body of water with a few houseboats in between gigantic barren rocks. The highway swerved around the upper edges of the rocks and we both agreed as we followed the curves, the whole scene was spooky. (BH)

*

In Truth or Consequence we arrived at the Rocket Inn.  It seemed the nicest spot so far of the motels and hotels we’ve stayed at. The owner, Val, (who we wish now we’d taken a photo of —such a striking, cool looking woman) had bought the inn in rundown condition about 25 years ago and had completely renovated it by herself. She literally did much of the physical construction updating. Our stay there was a treat. (MO)

What a relief after the hostel: the Rocket Inn was clean, warm and pleasant.  And we did not have to lug our things up to the second floor. We decided that all we wanted to do was stay in the motel and rest.  (BH)

 

 

Feb 10, 2019

Driving out the next morning across the desert to Tucson, we chatted about how lucky we were to have children despite it taking time from our writing. And how much our children mean to us.  Then we mused on marvelous flat desert with scattered bushes & low stubby grasses.

Rain storm between Hatch & Deming. Fierce sky, but mostly wind and light rain. (MO)

 


(BH)

 

As we drove along the two lane highway between Hatch and Lordsberg, to our left there was a brown storm, probably a sand storm coming and on all other sides dark grey clouds. I hit the gas peddle going faster.  Could we beat it? Some drops fell as we cut across the desert. Whew. Not today.

 

(Selfie)

 

When we pull into Tucson, we call Charles Alexander & Cynthia Miller and arrange to meet for dinner at Delhi Palace on Broadway.  What a pleasant surprise to sit down with old friends for dinner.  A very warm welcome. (BH)

*

We pulled into Tucson and the first real warm weather of the tour. Barbara had lived here a few years ago and so knew her way around. We drove up N. 4th Ave, which was lined with happening restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores new and used, and lots of quarky shops. Of course, we had to go into the used bookstore first and then Antigone Books, buying a book in both!  Then went up the street to Café Passe, an old haunt of Barbara’s.  We hung out till our casita was available. Later we had dinner with Charles Alexander and his wife at the New Delhi Palace. Cynthia is a painter (Cynthia Miller) and art teacher.  She has shown her work in NYC and other cities and is deeply involved in the art scene here in Tucson.  (MO)


MO, BH, Cynthia Miller, Charles Alexander

(MO)

Feb 11, 2019

Drove around town. Settled in. Barbara found Yoga studio for her practice.

Emailed David and Laura Wilk, who would soon be in town for a winter stay. Will be so fun to see them as usually they are far away on the east coast. (MO)

As I drive around town showing Maureen this and that, slowly the map of the city started re-surfacing in my brain. I lived in Tucson from 2006 to 2010.  Now people have moved, grown old, some died, and some are still here.   I say over and over to Maureen: I really love this place, the land, the plants, the houses, the people.  Very strong life long friendships began in my stay in Tucson.  When I lived here, I served on the boards of POG and Chax Press; there was also a tight community of poet friends, including Frank Parker, Charles Alexander, Cynthia Miller, Tenney Nathanson, Sue Carnahan, Dawn Pendergast, Paul Klinger, Bonnie Jean Michalski, Jake Levine, Tony Luebberman, Laynie Brown, Rodney Phillips, Chris Sawyer, Lisa Anderson Cooper, Lisa Bowden, and others.  We curated poetry readings (bringing in poets from around the country) and held reading groups (studying such poets as Barbara Guest, Charles Olson and Robert Duncan).  I also remember sitting zen with Tenney Nathanson every Sunday.  (BH)

 


Casa Libre on N. 4th Ave, home of many poetry readings and events
and once a place where retreating poets could find a space to stay. (Photo by MO)

*

In a yoga class this morning at Yoga Oasis, the teacher was playing Krishna Das music and she talked about how lucky she was to have met him and how he was once nominated for a Grammy.  I sit quietly smiling to myself, remembering years back singing Kirtan and going on retreats with Krishna Das every week in small groups in NYC at  Jivamukti; this was years before he became famous. My very close yoga pals Lisa Schrempp and Kate Donovan were there, too, and then they both moved to Tucson. When I tell Maureen about it and call up one of his albums on my computer, Pilgrim Heart; we both start singing, smiling and laughing, especially when I show her how we used to dance around the Jiva studio: Hare ram, hare ram ram ram, hare hare /hare krishna, hare krishna krishna krishna, hare hare/ and so on. Now to sing with KD would require going to an auditorium with a crowd of people.  But here we are in our little casita singing together.  (BH)

Feb 12, 2019

Had lovely breakfast at Charles and Cynthia’s home.  Barbara went to yoga and Cynthia and I sat outside on the brick border soaking up the sunshine.  Two humming birds flitted about in the olive tree outside their front door. We were so close to them, but they seemed completely unafraid of us.  Cynthia said her mother had befriended the hummingbirds for years. Even taking one that had fallen to the ground in bad weather into the house in a tiny soft box, then as the little one came to, putting it outside and free. It seemed like the hummingbirds had grown to trust her mother so much, and now her, that they perched without fear on the branches near us. (MO)

 

We read on Saturday. See poster below and let others in Tucson area know.  Thanks.  🙂

Tucson: Feb 14-17, 2019

Feb 14, 2019

In Tucson for a few days before we read, so a nice break in our galloping road trip.  We catch up on arrangements for readings ahead, business back home, and laundry. David and Laura Wilk are here on a little respite from east coast winter and to visit Laura’s sister and her husband who live here.  We drive up a little into the hills in Tucson where they have rented an older, but beautiful place.  Just off a main road we turn onto desert gravel and huge Saguaro cactus all around. Suddenly right in front of us a bobcat leisurely strolls across the road then pauses while we stop the car and stare and shout “That’s a bobcat!” Hardly acknowledging us, the bobcat effortlessly hops up on the adobe wall surrounding a neighboring house. He or she is over and gone before we can get our cameras out.  When we pull into David and Laura’s for lunch we are all agog and babbling about seeing the bobcat.  We have a sushi lunch out on their southwest tiled patio. So nice to eat outside even though the chalky sky is threatening rain.  They are such fun to talk to and we chatter on about politics, mothers, folks we know, and our kids.  (MO)

*

On Thursday we went to have lunch with Maureen’s friends David and Laura Wilk in the foothills. Before pulling into their drive, I saw a flash of an animal in the road. We pulled up and sat still.  At first I thought it was a coyote, but then Maureen explained it was a bobcat.  After watching the big cat climb over the wall into a neighbor’s yard, we looked over our shoulders as we walked toward the house. Sitting in the yard, we ate sushi, took selfies and talked about our lives, the political world, and the lives of poets and friends. I had a long talk with Laura about our mothers and the book I am writing about my mother. We both have had losses in the mother area and we compared stories. Laura had a great idea: Jeff Bezos should buy Fox News.  I was very happy to meet both David and Laura; both are excited about life, the sky, and the sharp points on the Catalina mountains reaching over the roof of their house.  (BH)

David and I are both from Minnesota and I tell him about my idea for the 10 acres of farm homestead my uncle left me there.  In honor of my uncle it would be called “The Bud Phalen Potato Project.”  David gives me lots of ideas for contacts. My project is to plant potatoes on the 10 acres (which has amazing rich black Minnesota soil earth) and then donate them to a food pantry or homeless kitchen in the vicinity.  He mentions that there are a number of young people wanting to farm, but don’t have the money to start and that through the American Farmland Trust I might find out more about them.  He also tells me about a Minnesota Food Coop in Minneapolis and a book to find by a food activist titled Sweet CornTurn Here.  Now I’m all excited about my potato project again!

Earlier, remembering Laura’s gorgeous fabric art and paintings, I ask about her work.  Then we digress and she describes a resent revelation she had in Manhattan at the Natural History Museum that changed her way of thinking about things.  This leads to a great story that occurred a little after that about an astounding, mind-expanding encounter with a psychic séance that has yet to play out.

Back at our casita that night the rain comes down in beneficial torrents.   (MO)

Friday, Feb 15, 2018

This is a photo that Katrina Mangin took of the flowing Rillito River today on her cell phone.  Usually it is a completely dry river bed where people hike.   This other photo shows how the river in its everyday state (BH):

After a yoga class this morning, I went over to Karuna on the corner of Grant and Campbell to wait for Harriette and Zay Hartigan. All three of us look more weathered than we did eight years ago. And 43 years ago Harriette was a hip, long-legged, long-haired photographer. She snapped the home birth of my daughter and a few years later my son. (While we are chatting, my phone rings. It is Michah saying hello to everyone.) Zay was just a little boy back then, along with his other two brothers, John and Geordie.  Now Zay is a tall cowboy, looking after a ranch, his mother, the woman who owns the ranch and his daughter.  He grew up in a household of mostly boys; now he is surrounded by women.  (When I say that, he smiles and taps the table.) For many years after Linnee’s birth, Harriette lived the life of a midwife photographer. Now she is an 80-year-old cowgirl living on a ranch outside of Patagonia.    (BH)


Photo by Harriette. Reflection in Karuna window.

Zay by BH

On Friday night we met David and Laura and Laura’s sister, Katrina Mangin, and Charles A. at Zemam’s Ethiopian restaurant on Speedway.  We devoured authentic cuisine and had a rollicking good time.  I tried to use the spongy Injera flatbread to scoop of the meal, but had to resort to a plain old American fork for some of it. I’m sure there is an elegant technique and I have been meaning to learn it.  (MO)

*

Zemam’s on Speedway Blvd. used to be an old local all-around restaurant, the Garland, but now it is a delicious Ethiopian restaurant.  The five us moved around the table chatting with each other, all of us excited talkers with a lot to talk about.   When sitting beside Katrina she described the ecology classes she teaches at U of A. Then she told me the story about her husband, Richard Thompson, and how when he was a young grad student, he believed there was a dinosaur in Arizona and he set out to find one.   He scraped and dusted one bone after another and followed the trail—one day he looked up and low and behold he saw the outline of a huge dinosaur in the rock wall.   He contacted the local Desert Museum and now Sonorasaurus is in the Desert Museum.  It is called Sonorasaurus thompsoni after him.  See wikipedia  (BH) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonorasaurus

Charles & David (BH)

Barbara, Katrina, Charles, Cavid, Maureen, Laura

Feb 16, 2019

Now it’s Saturday morning and the children are playing in the backyard outside the casita window. Their energy rises in shrieks, hoots, and lyrical hollering. Tonight we read for POG at the Steinfeld Warehouse here in Tucson on the other side of the rail tracks. (MO)

Steinfeld Bldg by BH

Because I have such a connection with Tucson, it was the perfect place for Maureen and I to take a longer stop. Funny how Tucson has become this spot where so many old friends from Detroit came at one point or another to live. In the morning I met up with Anne Hernandez Urban, the first babysitter for my daughter, and then a life long friend. In 1983 she helped me load up my car and then drove to NYC with me, returning to Detroit to help Allen take care of the children until I found a place for us to live. Then she moved to Tucson and helped her husband raise his youngest son. She’s spent her life working for public health for women and as a librarian for young children.   (BH)


Barb & Anne

At night Maureen and I drove over to the Steinfeld Warehouse for our POG reading.  Charles & Cynthia used to have their studio in that building. I remember when I first arrived in Tucson climbing up the back stairs to this rickety warehouse full of artists for a meeting of a Charles Olson reading group. The audience at our reading was mostly poets and many old friends, including Steve Salmoni, Lisa Cooper Anderson and her husband, Tom; I was especially happy to give a big hug to a dear friend, Tenney Nathanson; and surprise surprise Cynthia Hogue, Mary Rose Larkin and Joan Larkin have moved to Tucson and were in the audience and Charles Borkhuis and his wife Kathy were passing through town, and there, too.  Also old friends originally from Detroit, Yvonne Reinke and Gary Gibson. Yvonne and Gary took my apartment when I moved from Detroit to NYC in 1983.   They still have some record with my name scribbled on the covers. I was especially thankful for Cynthia Miller’s h introduction; she quoted from Jon Curley’s recent review of my new novel.   Then while I was reading passages from the novel that took place in Tucson, that great Tucson train horn blasted its sound through the space.   (BH)  https://www.joncurley.com/blog/sketching-ecstasy-elegy-and-selves-just-like-that

 See POG blog for a photo of the beautiful broadside Charles made for the reading and for a link to an audio of the reading.  Also see David Wilk’s blog, Writer’s Cast: the Voice of Writing  for a review of the reading and another recording.


Photo of Q & A by David Wilk

The audience at POG was exciting to read to.  An eclectic crowd so engaged in language and so fun and easy going in their pertinent questions at the Q&A after we read.  Kelsi Vanada, a former student at Naropa University in Boulder, who now lives here in Tucson, came to hear us.  Loved seeing her again and getting to catch up and learn where she is in this expanding world now. And Joan Larkin, wonderful poet and friend from forever, is now in Tucson and came.  It was so great to see her again. She and Bob Hershon, of Hanging loose Press, coming from Brooklyn, NY, will be reading right here in about a week. Wish we had more time to stay and hear them.  David (Wilk) came and recorded us (as did POG) on an impressive, tiny, high tech device. Surprised and elated to see Charles Borkhuis, who travels around a bit and fortuitously for us, happened to be in Tucson.  Big shout out to Charles Alexander for an inspired introduction to my reading and to Cynthia (Miller) who gave a beautiful, welcome home introduction and praise for Barbara.  Cynthia also did a fantastic job of setting up a delicious buffet of poetry-reading-style tidbits and drinks.  My favorite was the hot apple cider.  And of course a little wine.  And special thanks to Young POG members and volunteers, Cameron especially (who is now on the POG board).  Not knowing many folks in Tucson, I so enjoyed meeting the many dedicated poets and writers, spouses and friends that came.  Some of us gathered at the Red Garter Saloon after and in the glow of ruby lights the night played on. (MO)

(MO)

David, Maureen, Cynthia, Charles, Lisa, Tom and Tenney (BH)

 


BH: almost the entire audience in two shots, glued together in photoshop,

*

Mean while as we travel here on earth: One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission has ended after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.  My son, Kyran, and his wife, my daughter-in-law, Nicole, work for NASA at the Jet Propulsion lab in Pasadena.  They have both worked on the Mar’s rovers and landers, including Curiosity and Opportunity.  Nicole is part of the team for the next rover, Mars 2020, and Kyran is on project with Insight, the latest lander.  Having such family involvement has heightened my interest in science and space exploration.  I felt pretty close to Opportunity as a picture of that little rover has been on my fridge for years.  Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars — Perseverance Valley.  So I felt as tho someone I knew was gone when I read that Opportunity stopped communicating with Earth after a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018 and since then JPL engineers tried more than a thousand commands to restore contact but to no avail.  (MO)

*

Here’s the broadside that Charles Alexander made for our reading:

*

After we arrived in a friend’s place in Phoenix, we received this email-poem from David Wilk.

I wrote this for you both, thinking about last night’s fun reading:

Maureen and Barbara come to town and then depart, but not before the train passes by with a greeting, calling out their names

Just about now
the moon is exploding –
happy to see us
as we cross the desert?
first a bobcat calls your name
then a glass of water, we drive
across the Catalinas
and on into California
children are calling
come back, they say
we need your music
to start the day
Bye for now
David

Phoenix Stop Over: Feb 17-19

Feb 17-19

Maureen and I spent two nights in Phoenix with my close friend, Lisa Schrempp.  Lisa is a super maha ashtanga yoga teacher and an Ayurvedic herbalist, cook and massage therapist.   We have been friends for 25 years, practicing yoga, cooking and talking together in NYC, Tucson and Mysore India and even though we now live on opposite sides of the country, we have our cell phones. I have learned so much over the years from Lisa, in her classes, in the kitchen, on the massage table, talking under the moon, all our conversations about how to live a yogic life while we are spinning around inside our souped-up minds and techno-crazy worlds. On our last morning in Phoenix, I woke up with a sore shoulder, so Lisa smoothed, pressed and re-invigorated all the energy lines in my back, shoulders and hands with maha-narayana oil. Om Shanti! Shoulder released. Then I taught her a new core-practice I had learned from Harkness folks in NYC. I love Lisa and her pal, Bella-dog. (BH) See her website:
https://lisaschrempp.com

En route from Tucson to San Diego we stopped over in Phoenix to visit Barbara’s longtime friend Lisa Schrempp.  Lisa teaches Ayurveda and yoga.  She and Barbara have known each other for years through yoga classes and travels in India.  Her place was big and roomy with life size folks colorfully painted on the chairs around her table.  She was the perfect host, making us unique dinners from her Ayurveda cookbook.  I was intrigued and picked up a few pointers from her: black seeds, turmeric in scrambled eggs, tumis, and that mushrooms are good for the immune system and the lungs. She brewed us homemade healing teas and created exotic deserts.  The two nights we were there I joined her and her Doberman Pincher, Bella, for their nightly walk. We headed out both nights under a moon coming to full, a grand super moon expected in a night or two.  Both eves the sky was crisp and clear and hosts of stars binged in the dark desert heavens over us.  We strode along for a few blocks through her neighborhood then came to a green belt area with a little lake and a lighted, wild, double water fountain spraying, glistening high and away.  Unleashed, Bella took off like a rocket and shot far out of sight into the dark until all we could see was a tiny silhouette of her perked ears and sleek shape sprinting the water’s edge.  I so enjoyed meeting Lisa and our chats as we trekked into the brisk, invigorating desert airs. (MO)

Photos by BH

California 78 to US 8 to San Diego: Feb 20

Today we left our hotel room at Quality Inn in Blythe, California, just over the border from Arizona, and quickly we were on the  two-lane Highway 78, heading toward San Diego.  We thought we had 300 miles to travel and were relieved to discover it was only 215 miles.  Zoom. Highway 78 was an ever-transforming panorama of different vistas, from green farmland to desert to plains of white sand with beach folks arriving in campers and plowing through the terrain in their various vehicles.  As we went along, I figured out a way to mount my cell and take photos as I was driving, shifting and drinking water. Maureen must have pushed her brake foot into the floor more than a few times as I played with the camera on the dashboard, but she never screamed.  Finally I goofed up enough that it was clear I had to stop driving and turn over the wheel.   On US 8, it was desert again until the mountains started, miles and miles of rock-pile mountains.   Finally we started moving downward back to sea level and San Diego.  Our ears were popping. In North Park, we unlocked the door to a  lovely little three room house.  By now, we are used to unpacking and repacking and unpacking and settling into a new environment.   This house is about twice as big as my studio in Brooklyn, about 600 sq feet. At home for three nights and two readings at DG Wills Bookstore and at UC at San Marcos. Then off we go to LA. (BH)

(BH)

(MO)

We travel from Blythe CA to San Diego on I 10 west, then take 78 west, the most scenic road we’ve traveled so far.  We drive up & down the short hills and dips, yellow desert flowers fill the sides of the highway. Still desert, but greener with bushes and scrub trees that seem to be getting water from somewhere, a really beautiful landscape. A hawk lifts off over us.  A range of crumpled looking mountains encircle us. And the scene keeps changing. A huge quarry has plateaued and terraced several mountains to our right. Then just after leaving Glamis and before Brawley we see pure white peaks ahead of us. Highway 78 goes right through the Imperial Sand Dunes. So vast!  Incredible stretches of dunes, a tawny, smooth, lumbering velvet that surrounds us as we drive snapping photos.  We seem to be engulfed in their giant mounds forever, then abruptly their wonder ends and we are back in sage and rambling desert.   Now we begin to see more small farms where the farmers drive simple, older style John Deere tractors not the behemoth rigs of the giant co-op farms in the Midwest.  A canal of blue water flows between the field edge and the road.  Then a cattle lot with what appears to be hundreds of Holsteins grouped in smaller numbers in separate pens.  A grim, dismal sight to see them shut up in small pens with the wide land around them teasing freedom.  Then irrigated crops, small farms with goats and a large herd of sheep. On I 8 west up into the mountains and a light drizzle and down into San Diego where traffic multiplies and roars. We find our casita in a charming cottage type neighborhood and park our car on the acute angle driveway hoping it won’t roll away. (MO)

 


Zoom in to witness life for these cows (BH)

 

Brawley (BH)

 

Poison glimmering in the sun (BH)

 

The magnitude of these mountains is impossible to represent with a cell camera while whizzing past. (BH)


Our home for three nights.

 

San Marcos & La Jolla Readings: Feb 21 and 22, 2019

Feb 21, 2018

I love this little house in San Diego.  A long living room/kitchen, the size of my studio, then along side it another strip of two bedrooms with a bath in between.   High ceilings.  That is the house.  A small house but big enough for someone like me to live in.  And the neighborhood is mellow.  Small southwestern houses with California pastel shades.  (BH)

*

I called my mom to wish her happy birthday.  She’s 96 today! Back in Denver my son and my brother are planning a birthday party. My brother is baking the cake. (MO)


(MO)

*

It was cold in San Diego today and it seemed to never stop raining.  We took out our winter coats and put the address of Pizza Nova, San Marcos into our GPS. The gps voice directed us from one freeway to another.  It was hailing, then pouring rain, then a freeway with nine lanes, three HOV and six right beside it, all the cars going 80 mi per hour with a 65 max.  The gps instructions were not that clear and a bit delayed with three lane ramps, each lane heading somewhere else.  Out of fear, we got off the freeway and disobeyed our instructions taking regular streets until we were near the campus and at the restaurant where we were to meet Mark Wallace and his student poet-writers, Beth Phung, Lineth Velasco, Laura Jefchak, Nicole Barnes and Mike Thomas. We chatted for an hour or so and then followed the students, driving to the campus. On campus, we were greeted by a big lecture hall full of students for the first reading this year of “The Community and World Series.”  Over the years Mark has brought many poets to San Marcos.  He introduced both of us, talking about the commonalities in our writing: (BH)

It’s not often that I introduce two people with one introduction, but I’m going to try, so that my own comments don’t take much time away from these two writers who I am very pleased to be able to welcome to Cal State San Marcos. When I think about what their work has in common, I find a lot. Maybe foremost is openness to experience, the idea that to be a writer is to engage oneself in the whole range of experiences that are involved in being human. Both Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen write work that is very attuned to actual moments of living, that shows readers the value of noticing, of responding, of interacting. Both of them do those things through writing that is also clear about what it means to struggle, to not be able to take safety or possibility or love or trust or anything for granted, to know that a person has to always be working towardsa thing to make it so. They are both brave writers, willing to tell the truth about people and experience and the worlds of politics and culture on a planet that is now itself at risk from what people, all of us, are doing with it and to it. To me personally, what’s perhaps most important when I read their work is that the world seems a bigger place, both in its wonders and in its dangers, and I feel drawn outside of the small, well-defended boundaries of myself and into a recognition that living is a kind of grand strangeness. Please welcome Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen. (Mark Wallace)


(BH)

After our reading, students gathered around us asking questions.  I had read some passages from Just Like That, as well as poetry.   In the beginning of the novel, the narrator tells a story about her Italian boyfriend when she was eighteen years old; his name is Vinny.  A student asked me afterwards if I was Italian.  “No, but I grew up in an Italian-American community and I did have an Italian boyfriend when I was young.”  Smile.  He then announced that he could relate to the story and his name was Vinny.  We both laughed.

I first came to know Mark when he was a grad student in the Buffalo Poetics Program.  He and Kristen Prevellet were editing Leave Books and they published a sequence of my poems, The Passion of Signs.Then as years passed, we criss-crossed the country, meeting at readings in NYC, Tucson and Washington DC  (he taught at George Washington University before moving to California). I remember a memorable visit to Tucson in 2009 when I took Mark and K Lorraine Graham to the Desert Museum (see photo below).   Besides having written many books of poetry and fiction, Mark also reviews and writes about poetics.  Check out a description of his work on The Pip Project.
http://pippoetry.blogspot.com/2011/08/mark-wallace.html

Mark as a cactus in 2009 in Tucson (BH)

Mark gave us each a copy of The End of America: Book Three.   Across the Margin,  published an an excerpt from Book 11 . The editor writes;

Mark Wallace’s revelatory poetry trenchantly captures what it feels like to be an awake self dealing with the crumbling infrastructure of country and culture. The often mind-numbing contradictions of our current American moment disjunctively flow into the soaring half-truths of how we attempt to make sense of them, the poet knowing full well that “A word does not/ create freedom.
https://acrossthemargin.com/markwallace/

When we left San Marcos, the freeways were even more challenging in the dark, with the rain, and so many cars, going so fast on all those lanes.  Up ahead we could see them snaking toward us and then away.  (BH)

*

Here in SD we drove on a six-lane freeway in mega traffic through heavy rain and then small iced water hail to San Marcos.  We met Professor Mark Wallace and 5 of his students at Pizza Nova before our reading. It was fun and inspiring to hear what the students are doing and thinking here.  One of Mark’s students, Beth Phung, gave me some new pointers on how to navigate Instagram.  The students formed a caravan out of the parking lot at Pizza Nova to lead us to a hard to find lot on the campus for the reading.  The chilling rain continued.  Cold does seem to be our sidekick as we travel.

We read to a full gathering of students both from Mark’s class and from a number of the creative writing classes at California State U., San Marcos.  Mark gave an interesting intro that talked about the similarities of our writing content.  We had to nod our heads re his thoughts on that. Afterward we had an informal Q&A with students just coming up to each of us directly with queries on our works and our writing processes.  They were all such earnest people and a joy to discuss poetics with. Laura Jefchak was there, a student and reporter for the university newspaper, doing an article on us for the Cougar Chronicle. (MO)

Photo by Lineth Velasco

February 22, 2019.    

We drove to La Jolla to read at D.G. Wills Bookstore.  Tucked in on an active street amid restaurants and shops, Dennis Wills’ bookstore is a one of a kind treasure house of a multitude of volumes.  I immediately wanted to be living down the block so I could come there everyday and linger over the titles and various art objects placed about.  From books on magic to a poetry section that makes ones heart flutter, the shelves go at every angle to profit every bit of space in what is not that many square feet. Dennis had our books ordered and out for sale and talked about the microphone that had been used by a host of poets and writers over the many years of readings at the store.  When I read I thought of that sacredness as my words flowed out into it.  We read to an intimate gathering that included two young women students who had driven all the way from San Marcos State U. as they had not been able to come to our reading there last night.  My dear friends Rayna Bailey and Mike Leboffe came, and Jerome Rothenberg and his wife, Diane, and Diane’s sister, who is visiting from New Jersey. We met Steve Simpson, who has been deep in the poetry community over many years and had great stories of time spent with folks we both knew. Steve is a collector of printed broadsides and broadsides of poems written out by the poet’s own hand (often only 1 or 2 copies of these made).  Definitely contact him if you’d be interested in a broadside from now to dating back to the early Beats.  Dennis told me that the parents of Colorado’s new governor, Jared Polis, live in La Jolla and he has been long time, good friends with them.  They come to the bookstore often.  Another small world moment, since I live in Denver now where Jared Polis has just been elected our governor.  After we read, we took some Q&A and signed books and pamphlets. Then we joined the Rothenbergs at an elaborate fish restaurant, El Pescador, over a block and up the street a couple more.  I mention that one of the best things about our road tour is visiting and connecting up with the folks in the various poetry communities we read at.  Jerome elaborates wisely that, yes, there is an extended poetry network that exists and that we are all members. Like being members of an invisible organization, we can all find each other wherever we go. (MO)

Dennis Wills


Photos by BH

At 5:00 we packed up our books and set the GPS for DG Wills Bookstore in La Jolla.  Only 15 miles but again swerving around on the free-wide-lane freeways. I always thought of California as more laid back than NYC, but to tell you the truth, NYC seems like old world and California, well, she is flying off the globe. The bookstore was packed with old and new books in the windows and angling here and there nooks and crannies with shelves of books.  The books are side-by-side to all kinds of heavy antique tools and old manual typewriters. I told the owner Dennis Wills a story about how my children’s father collected similar things; once when the city was rebuilding the Brooklyn Bridge, he scarfed up several giant and bolts pieces from the old bridge. They are now sitting in my son’s apartment. Dennis has been hosting writers in his bookstore for years; he has a very warm and welcoming, laid back presence. He explained to us that we were speaking into the same mike as Maureen Dowd, Michael McClure, Francoise Gilot,Gore Vidal, Gary Snyder, andAllen Ginsberg.   See some of the past readers at http://www.dgwillsbooks.com  Then home on the highway of highways ripping over the hills back to North Park where we looked over photos, put together some text, packed up to head to LA in the morning, and put our bodies to rest. (BH)



2 Photos by Steve Simpson


Venice & Beyond Baroque: Feb 22 and 23, 2019

Feb 23, 2019

We arrived in Venice, California, in early afternoon at the Breeze Suites right on the beach.  We unpacked the car and Barbara went to park it in a nearby lot.  As I lugged our bags into our room I could see out the almost floor to ceiling windows facing the ocean a mardi gras style parade coming up the boardwalk.  People in all manner of wild costume came carrying a huge banner that proclaimed I Love Venice.  Singing and chanting with drinks in some hands, walking and riding decorated bikes and scooters, they were a jubilant welcome.  I love the ocean especially the Pacific so I had to pause even after they passed and looked out on the light sand and the two white sailboats out on the blue water. The elevation here is 10 feet and having the Pacific a short stroll from the door made me utterly happy.

Almost immediately we went down to the street to meet Harryette Mullen, terrific poet and writer who lives in L.A., who was picking us up for a late lunch.  She drove us to a busy, happening restaurant, Café Gratitude, where we had a lot of fun mixed with serious talking and eating. (MO)

*

We left San Diego in the morning of the 23rdand stopped in a Cafe to write. We were a bit concerned that we might get to the Venice Breeze Suites too early to check in and there is no parking there.  So we stalled.   Then we drove to LA.  It was Saturday so the highways were not too jammed.  We made one wrong turn, but still made it there at 1:15, quickly unloaded our things and went down stairs, stashed the car in a public lot, and watched Venice beach folks dancing, singing and trotting down the boardwalk. At 2 pm Harryette Mullen picked us up for lunch and we went to Cafe Gratitude, a vegan restaurant, arranged because of my diet preferences.  Thank you Harryette and Maureen. (BH)

Photo by MO

Then at night Maureen and I decided to attend a reading at Beyond Baroque.  Brenda Hillman was scheduled to read with two others. I admire Brenda’s writing and was easily coaxed out of my burrowing-into-nighttime idea. We took a cab and it was worth it. Brenda read from her new book, Extra Hidden Life.  I was moved by her poems dedicated to C.D. Wright.  I’m now reading a few of her poems every night before bed. Probably I’ll include some of these in the class I am teaching at the Poet’s House in April on Dedications, Portraits & Elegies.  Harryette was at the reading and she drove us home.  Enroute we cut down the alleys to the hotel, and I noticed lots of people sleeping outside in tents or in corners.  Harryette told us a story about an advocate for the homeless in LA, Andy Bales, who was working with the homeless and picked up a terrible skid-row disease; his foot and part of his leg had to be amputated.  According to Harryette, he continues to work with the homeless and his experience has lead to some positive changes in the way LA is dealing with the homeless. (BH)

Brenda Hillman signing books.  Harryette Mullen (MO)

That evening we went to Beyond Baroque to hear Brenda Hillman, Sara Mumolo, & Vanessa Angelica Villareal read their work. Sara is the author of Mortar from Omnidawn and Vanessa is the author of the poetry collection Beast Meridian. Brenda read from her latest book Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days.  Their words and energy filled the theater like space.  I felt lucky to be in the audience.  This was my intro to Sara and Vanessa’s work, but I have been a long time fan of Brenda Hillman’s and it was especially meaningful to get to meet her in person and say hello. (MO)

February 24, 2019

Venice Beach Boardwalk Photos (MO)

After yoga we asked the desk clerk for breakfast place suggestions and he highly praised the Fig Tree Café just a ways up the boardwalk. The sun was shining and we began to warm up from the chilly weather that has accompanied us on our travels.  As we ate, I had a dish called the Lulu also recommended by the desk clerk, a singer named Dale serenaded the boardwalk and our table with covers from Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Walt Disney, U2, and the Beach Boys.  He and his guitar appeared to have been at their gig a long time.  We wished the best for him and donated.  More people, bikes, scooters and skateboards joined walkers and joggers on the paved beach path and boardwalk, as we headed back to prepare for our reading. (MO)

*

In the morning we walked the beach.  Even though it was not swimming weather, there were crowds of people out celebrating sunshine and sand.  In the afternoon we went over to Beyond Baroque to read.  Unfortunately, we did not realize that we had scheduled our reading on the same day with the Oscar’s and this is LA—even poets stay home and tune into the Oscar’s.  So it was a small audience, but a very special audience. In the dark as I was reading, I could sense a few people slipping in and settling down in the theater seats.  It was wonderful to read for Harryette Mullen, Dale Herd, Bill Mohr and the others who were there.   We went out to eat later with Dale and Harryette. Of course, I love Harryette’s writing; the book of interviews I did with her, Looking up Harryette Mullen (coupled with her poems in Sleeping with the Dictionary), has probably inspired a lot of young poets to experiment with language.   I’m also an admirer of Dale Herd’s stories. We have been in correspondence for quite some time, and I include his stories in every class I teach on tiny fictions.   Check out his new collection: Empty Pockets: New and Selected Stories (Coffee House). Overall it was a poetically inspiring two days in LA. (BH)

*

We left our car in the parking lot and took a cab to Beyond Baroque. Richard Modiano instructed us on the finely tuned pickup of the microphone, and the director at BB, Quentin Ring, introduced us to a small but engaging audience.  After the reading we had a great time talking to Dale Herd, astoundingly wonderful short story writer, his latest book is Empty Pockets from Coffee House and Bill Mohr, who David Wilk had told about our reading.  We hung out in the fine little bookstore there with Harryette, Quentin, Dale, Bill and Emmitt, who manages the bookstore.  Then we went out for a bite with Harryette and Dale.  I was so delighted to see Dale who I’d met years ago at the Poetry Project at St Mark’s and have been a fan ever since.  It was very special to have him in the audience. (MO)

Quentin Ring introducing (BH)

(BH)

I’m inside the dark; Maureen forgot to set the flash (BH 🙂

Thanks to Quentin Ring, Richard Modiano and Emmett Conklin for setting up the reading and selling the books.

Bill Mohr with Maureen (BH)

Harryette, Barbara, Dale, Maureen.  Photo by Quentin Ring

Back in the apartment, my shoulder was hurting a lot, some pinched nerve.  The woman at the desk found a massage center in Venice still open and they made an appointment for me.  I took a cab and a young Chinese woman worked on my shoulder for an hour.  She told me that a bad spirit had woven itself into my neck under my skull and she had never seen anything like it before. She huffed and pressed into the accupuncture points and released the spirit. Then she carefully undid every knot in my shoulder girdle.  For some reason on this trip, I lost my sense of alignment—maybe from not walking enough, driving so much and talking so much (usually I’m alone); she was incredibly helpful.   I was concerned about her at the end though because she was tense about her next client, a man and it was kind of late by then, 9 pm. I asked her why she was working so late and she said, “I need the money.” (BH)

February 25, 2019

We woke up, had breakfast, I did my yoga practice.  Then we started driving out of LA, on 101 north to Paso Robles where we were stopping for the night.  The mountains and the Pacific were awesome. (BH)

(MO)

 

I woke up early and looked out on the boardwalk. Last night a masterful drumming session went on till about 10 p.m. continuing the ambiance of the unique, but sometimes less than glamorous, life styles here on the beach.  Now it’s Monday morning quiet and a slightly pale light flutters over the scene. A young woman on a skateboard, a cup of coffee in her hand, glides up the paved beach path that weaves along the boardwalk. Some joggers, a fellow with a backpack, sipping coffee as he steers his bike by a couple of old timers sitting on the benches.  The old timers bent forward, look tired and worn, probably having spent the night in a makeshift nearby.  We packed up our little traveling caravan and headed out on 101 north to Paso Robles, the first leg of our drive to our San Francisco. 101 follows along the ocean through green, lush hills.  It’s truly a gorgeous drive.  When we wanted to switch drivers and needed to stretch our legs, we took a side road down to the beach areas and got out to stretch our legs.  When we looked down over the cliff edge we saw a campground of RV’s.  They could have been camping or living in that perfect spot.  We wondered if one could just pull in there and park for free. It almost looked like it.   As we drove further we saw a long line of RV’s parked right alongside the road.  One after another, with spaces to park their cars and all.



Ynez Mountian Tunnel (Photos by BH)

 

San Francisco & Diane di Prima: Feb 26-27, 2019

Feb 26, 2019

As we pulled out of the La Quinta Inn heading to Paso Robles, we passed a small pen with life size metal replicas of two giraffes looking so inquisitively at the highway that it was hard to believe they weren’t real.  101 North continued through rolling green with hills and hills of grapevines in dormant winter stage.  This is wine country. Soon after we arrived La Quinta had wine tastings yesterday at round marble tables in an elegant section of their lobby.  While we drove along we talked a bit about short stories and Barbara told me the plots of several of the stories she assigns to the students in her classes.  Hawthorne, Carver, Neale Hurston, Melville, Faulkner, it makes me want to take her class.  In Salinas we saw a sign on an art center or music studio that said Roaring Mice.  We think we can find Chai and Latte here as Salinas is home to Hartnell College and those are the brews of student life. As we got closer to our air b&b in Berkeley the traffic began to magnify.  Soon we were bumper-to-bumper, stopping and starting, and the rains began to pour.  Cars and trucks turning in other lanes sprayed us with water.  Barbara navigated while I drove.  At last we arrived and unpacked as quickly as possible in the rain.  Our new temporary quarters were roomy and we found a home baked lemon pound cake in the fridge with a sweet note from the owners. A little wet and cold, it was tea time.

I called my mom. My brother, who had been with her for a week, was going home to Santa Rosa in the morning and her caretaker had returned.  He lives not too far from where we will be staying for our reading in Sebastopol and they both voiced concern as major flooding was going on in that area with all the rains.  Some places and a town had already been evacuated. I emailed our hosts, Pat and Gail Nolan, to see if they were threatened by the rising Russian River.  We hoped they hadn’t been evacuated.

Our quarters were probably a former storefront and right on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.  Lots of traffic, which was amplified by the rains, made roaring swishes in the night.  The hot water was heated by a flash water heater, that went on loudly when we used hot water.  But all the noises were friendly and we liked this place.  (MO)

*

We arrived at our rental in Berkeley, a two bedroom small duplex that is perfect.  A refrigerator, stove, and a big dining room table where Maureen and I set up with our computers to write.  So far on this trip, between driving, blogging, reading at events, and going to the laundromat,  I have read, responded to and critiqued over 75 poems or short-short fictions by on-line students. Sort of moody lately. Missing being home.  Every so often Maureen and I look over at each other and say:  I can’t believe it.  We actually did this.  Here we are already near the end of our trip. (BH)

*

Pat Nolan reported from the flood zone along the Russian River:  Hi Maureen. We are doing fine and not among the evacuees. And we still have power! We will be high and dry through it all.  The river is expected to crest at 46.1 feet (that .1 makes a difference).  If you saw the sat pic of the storm, it’s like a fire hose aimed directly at Sonoma County.  Anyway, tomorrow’s precipitation will determine if the predicted crest holds.  At 46 feet I might get a little water (inches) in my studio downstairs.  Unlike floods back east this one will be gone by Friday morning.  The roads should be passable by then as well.  I will update you tomorrow once I have a better idea on how all this’ll shake out.  (MO)

Feb 27, 2019

This morning I called Diane diPrima to make sure she was still up for a visit.  She had a cold and wanted to make sure that we were not worried about catching it.  I reassured her that we were ok.  When I asked if she wanted anything, she said, no, she wanted many things but it wasn’t feasible at this time.  We put the address of the Jewish Home for the Aged into our GPS and set out for San Francisco over the Bay Bridge.   About 13 miles and it took an hour, most of the time spent in a traffic jam on I80 waiting to go over the bridge. (BH)

 


Photos by MO

I had not seen Diane since October 2010 when I introduced her at the Living theater and when she was also reading at CUNY and at The Bowery Poetry Club.  See a photo I took of her at the Bowery with David Henderson.  And another fuzzy photo Dumisani Kambi-Shamba took of Diane and me at the Living Theater.   Ten years later Diane is no longer on oxygen, but she is suffering from a number of problems, most recently trouble with her knee.  Aging is difficult, I think, already feeling it in my own skeleton. (“All i can say about old age is Oy!” Norma Cole writes in a recent email.) Even so, Diane is very light in spirit, still working on her projects and meeting with students.  Sheppard comes every evening for several hours and they work together; they have been together for over 40 years. Diane has a new book coming soon from City Lights, writing never before published from the 60s, Spring and Autumn Annals: A Celebration of the Seasons for Freddie. (BH)

Photos by BH

We drove to San Francisco to visit Diane Di Prima at the Jewish Home for the Aged on Silver Avenue.  Luckily we left early as traffic was backed up getting across the Bay Bridge. Still sprinkling rain but sun peaking in and out occasionally. (MO)

It was an honor and privilege to spend some time with Diane. Her room had stacks of books, orchids on the windowsil, and prayer flags over a shrine to her Tibetan Buddhist teacher.  Facing her bed a bulletin board had cut out pics, photos, and a cover shot of her upcoming title, Spring & Autumn Annals from City Lights.  The image is a snapshot of her hanging clothes on a New York City rooftop around 1963.  I have a long time attachment to clothes hanging on a line.  There is something so human and beautiful in clothes-pinned laundry drying in the open sun and air.  Clean many colored fabrics, a wash fluttering and blowing in the breeze.  Diane’s writing, raising children, making revolutionary change, getting things done, a leader of women, are all there in that cover shot.  As she said when we were leaving to continue our poets on the road readings, “Onward, onward to the sun!”  Her remarkable spirit was everywhere in the room as we talked. (MO)

Photos by BH

Back in Berkeley we got a second flood report from Pat: Hi Maureen, spent most of the morning clearing out my studio accompanied with exclamations of “That’s where I put that!” and “why did I keep that?”  Anyway watching the creek back up into our back yard slowly (a kind of water torture) but surely.  With two more feet to go, the carpet in my studio will get wet but that’s about all….So we visit with the neighbors in their rain gear and waders and talk of floods from years past.

Outside our on-the-street door, cars were still swishing through rainy streets.

Then a further update from Pat:  Some sporadic showers overnight but sunshine tomorrow.  River expected to crest at 45.5 around 11PM.  Unfortunately the carpet did get wet, but as I predicted about 3 inches.  We’ll rip that out in the weeks to come.  I like the idea of tile so maybe we’ll go with that.  The neighborhood is flooded in but the road out will be passable by mid day.  Right around the time you’re talking to Steve’s class. (MO)

Photo by MO

Wouldn’t it be great if aged care facilities could offer learning from the ancient ayurvedic herbalists?  Diane has many friends and her own knowledge of herbs and she is lucky for that.  In South India, many Indians take an oil bath once a week to keep flexible (applying oil to every part of the body).  There is also an herbal oil that helps with pain (and joint lubrication), mahanarayana; I order a small bottle from Banyan and send it to Diane.  Maybe it will help with her knee.  And I promise myself to start this routine again, every week when I am back in Brooklyn. (BH)

Below is the poem that Diane gave me once for a collection of prose poems I was using for my grad courses, and her process note.  Soon this poem will be included in a book Spuyten Duyvil is publishing, Prompt Book: Experiments for Writing Poetry and Fiction.  (BH)

Wisteria Light
by Diane diPrima

In the early days of eternity when none of us was naked as yet, and a good thing too, I opted to plaster the back stairs. Not that the stairs wanted to be plastered, but I was certain that was the only way the billiard table would fit. Workmen dropped hammers here & there. You were vacuuming, by god, though the plaster wasn’t dry, as if you were going to get an A for neatness. There were two slots in this greeting card, a kind of microchip it was, with Franz Kline wiring, not that we thought then that black & white would be a problem even for the moon. Our returning to the same haven as uncertain as coming out each time in a different one. No one distinguished between the blessed & the unblessed, no immortals had immigrated here for some time. I wanted to order wisteria, something to mitigate the light in those canyons. When you wisely pointed out it wouldn’t grow there, I thought to murder you with the pail with which you were mopping the windows. I clearly saw brick walls, the red mellowing to yellow, or brown shingle shadowed with the ancient vines. I wanted none of those we had invited, whoever they were. Or the flat light they loved. I saw that clearly. Return to the present was an unhappy business, saturated as it was with murdered swallows. I Vesperi Siciliani slid into one slot, and I was afraid Pagliacci would find the other. And there we would be, like the king who drives his chariot around & around in that tiny courtyard, circles of paving stones without even a pear tree. Stuck as a crow on a telephone pole, once you’ve seen it, the pole is never again empty, there’s always a crow, black in your mind’s eye in front of the white sky before sunrise.

 

San Francisco State University & Moe’s Bookstore: Feb 28, 2019

Feb 28, 2019 – Reading at San Francisco State University

In the morning, we headed to San Francisco over the Bay Bridge and met Steve Dickison at Rosso’s Cafe across from the Humanities Building at San Francisco State University.


(MO)

Steve Dickison (BH)

Then he took us to the poetry center where we looked at the vast library and signed many of our books for Steve and the center.  We then moved on to Steve’s classroom for the reading. We were especially happy when Norma Cole and Susan Gevirtz came to the class to hear us read.

Steve introducing (MO)

Norma Cole, Susan Gevirtz, Steve Dickison (BH)

The students had already read and discussed the poems in our pamphlet.  We both read from the pamphlet.  Maureen also read from Erosion’s Pulland Edges of Water; and Barbara read from her novel, Just Like That, and from A Day Like Today.  Then we answered questions from the students. Some of their questions were about Maureen’s titles, why we use space and punctuation the way we do, where we get our ideas from, how to get published and how one includes political ideas in poems. Afterwards, we signed books; then we sat outside at Russo’s and ate sandwiches before heading back to Berkeley.

(BH)

(MO)

Reading at Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley

That night after a brief rest, we drove over to Moe’s Bookstore on Telegraph Avenue.  Joyce Jenkins and Richard Silberg from Poetry Flash arrived with boxes of our books that they put on display.   Richard introduced us with a lively take on our poems in Poets on the Roadpamphlet.  We were especially happy to read for Steve Emerson and his wife Gayle, Alan Bermheimer and Ted Pearson, among others.

Richard Silberg Introducing


Alan Bernheimer (BH)


Alan Bernheimer’s head shots

 
Ted Pearson and Maureen (BH)


MO & Joyce Jenkins (BH)


BH & Joyce (MO)

Joyce reminded me that she lived in Detroit in the 70s.  As we talked, we discovered that we were both in fact living in the Cass Corridor a few doors away from each other and we had hung out in the same clubs, Alvin’s and Cobb’s Corner Bar.  We surely must have known some of the same people and passed each other on the street. We might have sat across from each other on Sundays in the cafe in the Art Institute, reading The Times and drinking coffee. (BH)

*

So enjoyed talking to poet friends I hadn’t seen in a while.  A nice surprise was meeting Steve Emerson’s wife Gayle, who like myself grew up on a farm out on the mid west prairies.  She’s from North Dakota and I’m from Minnesota.  We had such similar memories of mothers and grandmothers tending and depending on big gardens and canning produce to make it through the winter.  We talked about living far out of town in those remote places and being closely knit with family.  Our growing-up lives seemed like mirrors of each other.  (MO)

*

 

Sebastopol & Driving to Mojave: Mar 2 to 5

March 1-2, 2019

Friday morning after we packed up we met Gloria Frym for brunch in Berkeley.  Great to see her again! She couldn’t come to our reading at Moe’s the night before because it was her birthday and friends were taking her out.  The restaurant she was taking us to, Bette’s Ocean View, no longer had an ocean view as over the years many buildings rose up between it and the sea.  But it was certainly popular, too popular, with a half hour wait, so we went around the corner to another cafe for our brunch. We chatted various and then a lot about teaching creative writing in today’s economy.  Gloria gave us each a copy of her book, The True Patriot, from Spuyten Duyvil and we gave her copies of our books and our Poets on the Road pamphlet.  Then hugs and we were off.  There was an email from Pat Nolan and Gail King, our hosts, that roads might be blocked because of the rain and Floods.  (MO)

Pat and Gail decided to meet us at a place outside the flooded area.  Pat and I have been friends since I first met him years ago when he came to read in NYC at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project.  I have a treasured collection of his woodblock prints and hand made books he has sent me over the years.  And of his collections of the Renga writings he, Keith Abbott, Michael Sowl and I have collaborated on over the years.  The last time I visited Pat and Gail, my mother and I had driven down from my bother’s place near Santa Rosa.  We had a magical time, walking by the then peaceful, Russian River and sitting in the sunshine chatting.  It was a visit my mother often talks about remembering them both so fondly.  My longtime dear friend, Sandy Berrigan, came down from her place in Albion for our reading in Sebastopol and was staying with Nancy Packard, a longtime friend of hers nearby. So Nancy’s became our rendevouz point. Sandy is a poet and writer of Rengas, a Japanese collaborative form, with one in progress starring herself, Pat, Elinor Nauen, and myself.  Nancy’s house was full of music and musical instruments.  We thoroughly enjoyed meeting her. (MO)

See Pat’s blog at: https://thenewblackbartpoetrysociety.wordpress.com/2019/02/10/new-to-the-societys-shelves/  and  nuallainhousepublishers@gmail.com

*

Pat and Gail live in a little enclave in Monte Rio, a village alongside the Russian River, a river that recently overflowed, damaging and destroying lots of houses. Twenty years ago their house was devastated by a flood and afterwards they had the house lifted up 8 feet above the ground.    This time, their basement was flooded and they only lost some furniture and a carpet. Many of the people in the community were much harder hit.  Mud covered the roads and big piles of ruined furniture littered the sides of the roads. We stayed with Gail and Pat for 3 nights.   Three days and nights full of talking about poetry and poets. Sandy Berrigan joined us on Saturday. We ate walnuts from the tree outside their window, played a  renku poetry game Pat and a friend had invented, ate tamales and lentil soup, looked at Pat’s wood block art and magazines and books he had published over the years. We all gifted each other with copies of our books. It was very comfortable staying with Pat and Gail, almost as if I had known them my whole life. (BH)


Walnut tree out kitchen window (BH)


Flood Photos (MO)


Gail, Pat, Sandy, Barb   Photo by MO

Besides being a prolific writer, editor and publisher, Pat was also a dispatcher for the fire department.  Gail is a substitute teacher and a school bus driver.  She feeds a tribe of feral cats who camp out under their cars, in baskets on their porch and under the house.  When I opened the door to go outside, they scattered. Whoosh! Two somewhat more domestic cats live inside.   They have a beautiful walnut tree on their property outside and the houses in their enclave are surrounded by tall redwood pines.  Gail told me that they are young trees; I was in awe of these trees towering along the curving two-lane highway.  The ground was mucky and the flooding was just receding; otherwise we would have visited some of the much bigger trees.  Gail showed me how many of the trees have grown out of old stumps.  (BH)

March 3, 2019

Our reading was on Sunday afternoon at the Iota Press Space, North Bay Letterpress Arts in Sebastopol. Pat and Eric Johnson had sent out many announcements and there was a large crowd at the reading.  Maureen’s brother, Pat, and his wife Laura were there; Carol Clavonne  (editor of Posit, a journal of literature and art) brought some of her friends from Santa Rosa. One woman who had gone to Bard came to the reading with a stack of my books she had collected over the years. There were many artists present; some who work and show at the letter press studio.  Maureen and I were both pleased that our last reading on-the-road, was such an upper. (We are reading in Denver, but that’s Maureen’s home town).   The crowd was exceptionally warm and welcoming and they asked deep questions about our writing.   We are grateful to Pat Nolan and Eric Johnson for all the pre-work they did to make this event a success, especially since we arrived right after the flood. (BH)

Here’s a website for the letter press:  https://www.northbayletterpressarts.org

*

I was delighted that my brother, Pat, and my sister-in-law, Laura, were able to make it to the reading. I rarely get an opportunity to read with them in the audience.  It meant a lot to me to have them there.  Eric gets a big “hats off” for his fabulous presses and letterpress type on display and running such a terrific place.  Many who came to the reading were artists taking letterpress classes and printing beautiful pieces several that were on display.  He also created two stunning little broadsides of a poem each by us.  (MO)


Pat Owen, Maureen’s brother is holding our books. (MO)

 


(BH)

 


Pat Nolan introducing (BH)


(MO by BH)


(BH by MO)


Bill Vartnaw, Gwynn O’Gara, Nancy Packard (BH)


Gail & Sandy (BH)

 


Eric Johnson describing his print shop (BH)


(BH)

I was very happy to finally spend time with Sandy Berrigan.  We had written each other in the past and exchanged books, but I had never met her before. We talked about our shared histories with Pat, all three of us growing up in Detroit.  Her uncle had owned Sam’s clothing store downtown and her mother owned a children’s clothing store in the Fisher building at a time when few women worked outside the home. Pat lived in Detroit from the age of 13 to 17; his father was a tool and die worker who relocated them from Pat’s birth place in Montreal to find work.  Sandy, Pat and Gail, so good to be with them for these few days—and Nancy, too—I hope our paths cross again (outside of social media and the US post). (BH)

*

After the reading a group of us trooped over to a nearby restaurant that was a hold over from the days of Foster Freeze soft ice cream.  The place had actually been a Foster Freeze stand back in the day. I remember as a kid growing up in Monrovia/Duarte that getting a Foster Freeze was a big treat.  Nancy offered to buy me a glass of wine to celebrate our last “on-the-road” reading, but I asked for a cone of Foster Freeze instead. It was just as delicious as I remembered it.  (MO)

*

After the reading a group of us sat around a long wooden table munching on tacos and talking about our lives and projects—Pat and Gail, Jizel Albright, Sandy, Nancy, Barb and Maureen.   Then at home, Pat gave us special paper to copy two of our poems in long hand for Bill  Hawley, a collector and a wine-maker who traded bottles of wine for our poems.  Thanks Bill, we’ll think of you when we’re home in New York and Denver, drinking your special vintage.

https://www.eventa.us/events/sebastopol-ca/poetry-reading-barbara-henning-and-maureen-owen

 

Addendum: Blog Post by Pat Nolan about our trip and reading in Sebastapol.  Pat Nolan’s Into The Heart Of Wetness | The New Black Bart Poetry Society

Mar 4-5, 2019

We set out driving south, adding an extra day to our trip, but thereby avoiding snowy passes on I80.  We planned to drive 400 miles a day for 4 days. As we drove along, the hills were a bright lawn green color.  Stunning, sloping hills that almost seemed manicured.  So green from the rain with black cattle and sheep grazing. Maureen said she had never seen them so green before.  Then on I-5 there was one blooming almond orchard after another and orange orchards, the trees heavy hanging down loaded with fruit.  A sign I saw along the road: “Farmers Use Water To Grow Our Food.”


(BH)

Finally the last 70 miles on Mar 4th, we were on C54 heading to Mojave.  It was dark before we got to our motel and the gps told us that we had arrived while we were still on the highway between two dark brown towering mountains with nothing else for miles around. Hum.  Maureen called the hotel and they told us which exit to take. Must remember that some addresses should have “Business” in front of their addresses.  Business Highway 54.

Then in the hotel room, we started cooking tofu, zucchini, kale and buckwheat noodles. It’s a tight squeeze cooking on a bathroom counter.  With my elbow, I knocked the bottle of olive oil and it splattered all over the floor.  Dang. How can you make a stir fry without olive oil. Maureen talked the clerk into giving us a handful of butter packs.  (BH)

*


(BH)

The next morning when we first left our hotel and started driving through the desert toward the mountains, a vast hillside of the wind turbines appeared spinning wildly in the wind. They created a pattern against the mountain, like a network of giant pinwheels.  Finally just before arriving in Flagstaff, we stopped and washed our car back window so we could see better.  As we got into the mountains by Flagstaff, suddenly our sunny afternoon turned into winter with snow on the mountains.  Two more days until Denver and the temperature there today is 24 degrees.


(MO)


(MO)

 


(BH)