Richard Buckner

Many thanks to Richard Buckner for putting on a fantastic Bakersfield Living Room show on February 17.  He is one of the greats in terms of mastering and maintaining a tone, and I can’t decide if his lyrics are poems or short stories: they work as both.  I found myself tearing up when he played “Ariel Ramirez.”  My god, that’s a beautiful song.  I also appreciate his use of interrogative questioning in his newer albums, especially Our Blood, as on the song “Collusion”: “Do you understand, crossing all of those lines and crawling back, slipping from your skin?  You couldn’t keep it in?” I am blessed to have been able to hear him perform these songs.




On the day after the inauguration, millions of Americans (myself included) took to the streets to affirm a common belief in decency, respect, and human rights. For me, this occasion was both deeply inspiring and horrifyingly depressing. Thus, my poem.


How free I feel
huddling the margin
my cardboard sign
asking for change
passing cars honking
or jabbing middle fingers
in my general direction

how free I feel
pressing send
after having composed
an indignant missive
after having calibrated
a tethered screed
apropos the occasion

how free I feel
reading coverage
of my brothers and sisters
castigated and clipped
for possessing the nerve
to demand participation
in how their boundaries are drawn

how free I feel
in hearing how we should go
back to before’s
seen not heard
back to before’s
shadow crowd
we could tell were free

Central Coast Writers Conference

I’ll be giving two presentations at the 32 Annual Central Coast Writers Conference September 29-October 1st.  My first presentation will will engage participants with a lecture and discussion of how the choice of persona and perspective can help shape a poem’s tone and content, and the second will present strategies intended to help poets use rhyme and sound to deepen –rather than distract from—a work’s lyrical complexity. I’m looking forward to working with poets from the central coast region, so this should be fun.

Poetry Postcard Fest

Who doesn’t like getting poems in the mail?

I participated in Paul Nelson’s Poetry Postcard Fest this year, and it has been both inspiring and refreshing.  When I signed up, I joined a list of thirty other poets, most from the United States, but one from Canada and one from Australia.  I had to buy, make, or find thirty postcards and write impromptu epistle poems to each person.  I purchased a set of Pantone color chip postcards made by Chronicle Books and used each color as the inspiration for a different poem/recipient.  Each poem was an exercise in stream-of-consciousness; I had a rough starting point (with the color) and specific restrictions (in the size of the postcard), and while it took me a few postcards to get in the groove, I eventually settled on a coherent style, which you can see in the images below.  Each recipient found two poems, one on the front and back, which was double the fun for me.  I recommend all poets partake in this fest; it’s great for exercising the poetic muscles, and it’s been a joy to see what people have come up with via their own combinations of postcard and poetry.