5th Cascadia Poetry Fest – Tacoma Oct 12-15

A few months ago I changed the header of this here website once again and added the phrase “Twenty Year Cascadia Bioregional Cultural Investigation.” I’ve blogged about it a few times here and here and here. Included in this effort is my interview project American Prophets, the MOOC Jared Leising and I have developed on Innovative Cascadia Poetry, my ongoing serial poem re-enacting Cascadia history, the latest chapter of which is Pig War & Other Songs of Cascadia and, perhaps most visibly, the Cascadia Poetry Festival.

This year the festival merges with the Tacoma Poetry Festival, which has had two iterations, the latest of which featured Brian Turner. I am grateful to Dale King, who has a vision for the town in which he works, that vision being the creation of a poetry festival that makes Tacoma a destination. I think we’ve gone a long way to combine our particular talents to create a festival that has been described by friends and associates as “a blockbuster.”  (CPF5 Press Release.)

Join us at CPF5 for a tribute to Tacoma native Richard Brautigan.

Among the participating poets are CAConrad, Patricia Smith, Sharon Thesen, Tod Marshall, Bruce Weigl, Lorna Dee Cervantes and Michael McClure, who is scheduled to read 5 days before his 85th birthday. There will be a tribute to Tacoma native Richard Brautigan and his daughter Ianthe Brautigan-Swensen will read, conduct a workshop and participate on a panel that will discuss the literary legacy of her Dad. There will be a panel on War Poetry/Veterans hosted by UW-Tacoma’s Abby Murray. Please look at the press release and consider being a part of this work, which will continue in 2018 in Tacoma, as we’re already making plans for CPF6. Gold Passes are only $25, will enable the first 30 purchasers to one free workshop (of the 5 that are being offered) and go on sale July 12. As the press release says:

A $25.00 Gold Pass provides access to all festival events EXCEPT for workshops, which must be booked separately. (Although there are discounts on some workshops, and some are even free if you buy your gold pass early.) Workshops will ONLY be open to Gold Pass holders. Tickets can be purchased beginning July 12, 2017 via Brown Paper Tickets: http://cpf5.bpt.me

If you want to help honor Richard Brautigan in his home town, Tacoma, by helping us fund and install a plaque on a home in which he lived, please contact me at Splabman (@) gmail (dot) com. Jayne DeHaan was instrumental last year in getting our Levertov plaque installed in Seward Park and we need someone to lead the cause in Tacoma. Thanks for your interest in this work.

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Charles Potts Interview

John Oliver Simon, former director of California Poets in the Schools and recipient of an NEA grant for translation, called Charles Potts “…the greatest poet born in Idaho since Ezra Pound…and one of the true faces of North American poetry.” (Read John Oliver Simon wrote about Charles Potts and the Temple in 2001.) Born in Idaho in 1943, Charles Potts is a retired real estate broker, poet, publisher and linguistic geographer. The publisher of the now defunct Temple magazine: “A postnational journal of spiritual elevation to create and maintain a state where the state has no jurisdiction” Charles has published numerous books of poetry, creative non-fiction including “How the South Won the Civil War: And Controls the Political Future of the United States” and the memoir of his nervous breakdown in Berkeley in 1968, “Valga Krusa” and had produced seven iterations of the Walla Walla Poetry Party. He breeds and raises Foundation Appaloosa horses in Walla Walla, Washington.

Your humble narrator traveled to Charles’ new home on Canberra in Walla Walla and on May 27, 2017, sat down to chat again. I think it’s the 3rd interview he’s conducted with Charles Potts.

In segment one we got right into his horse hobby, he now has 18 Appaloosas, how he had gone for 48 years without owning a horse and how he lost horses the first time. He also talked about how his new book “Coyote Highway” came out and read the title poem from it. He talked about his nature as a private person.

Coyote Highway
For Amalio Madueno

The baby coyote scampering across the road
In front of me and into the wheat fields
Eternal coyote grin of the hanging tongue
I imagined on his face
On her face
A coyote has two faces
(So too the road going both directions
And nowhere simultaneously)
Janus and dramatic
The happy and the sad
Bisexual and two sexual
Scampering sin embargo
Nevertheless there should have always been
An embargo on sin
We have coyotes to thank
For making it stick.

Nevertheless time has found my tongue
Hanging on a key signature
Making it stick on frozen steel.

A few days before the Blue Creek Fire
The coyote pup got ran over
Almost exactly where I’d seen it cross
A few days earlier
In the Janus-in-July crunch signifying both
The beginning and the end.

For the rest of the summer I’ve watched
The coyote’s tiny fur bearing body
Get impressed flatter and flattest
Into the pavement
Making it stick
Flatter than your father and mine
Both of them and all others
Becoming a coyote grease spot with hair
Over time by the over bearing weight of the wheels
Of a hundred fire trucks
Coming and going after
The Blue Creek fire
Driven relentlessly by over-dressed fire-proof
Department of Natural Resource men mostly
Pretending to be fighting fire snared
In a stronger force by orders of magnitude:
They were really fighting (and losing to) inertia.

Listen to Segment One and hear Charles Potts read the title poem, Coyote Highway, here – 12:35.

In segment Two he discussed the liability for the fire that devastated his property, about the poet for whom the poem Coyote Highway is dedicated, Amalio Madueño, whom Charles calls “the most under-appreciated poet in the U.S” about L.A. poet Suzanne Lummis and read the poem “The Coyote White Tail War.” Listen to Part Two – 12:37.

In the third segment Charles discussed the poem “Coyote Stretcher” and about how his Father was a trapper and read the poem. He also discussed and read the poem: “Shakespeare Was in Real Estate and I’m Buying the Farm.” He talked about his feeling that you can tell when horses are dreaming and that they are dreaming of running. He also responded to a question about a line in that poem: “The force that brings the human mind to attention” and his reticence to apply that to what fellow Walla Walla residents would call “God.” Listen to Part 3 – 11:15.

Waatnuwas and Charles Potts

In Part 4 Charles talked about his poem from the new book entitled “Midnight Equestrian” which seems to predict his heart attack, being focused on his legacy, as well as a poem entitled “The Naming of the Horses.” He talked about how he names horses, how each horse “deserves a name as exquisite as his or her soul…” In the poem “Hermiston Horse Sale” which he also reads, he discusses “holier than thou” Christian horse shoppers and his own take on “worship.” (See poem below.) He also talked about his interest in Chinese poetry, his late friend David Wong of New Mexico, got him into Du Fu and other ancient Chinese poets.  Listen to Part 4 – 11:33.

Charles with one of his horses and visitor Bhakti Watts. (The horse is on the left.)

In the 5th and final segment, Charles read the poems “Windy One Week Out” and “Palo Duro Sunrise.” He talked about the experience of burying a horse and about his feeling that the U.S. empire will be here for many decades based on an algorithm used to chart the declines of empires and his knowledge of how the Roman Empire was able to hang on for centuries and his knowledge of that history. Listen to Part 5 – 15:54.

The Hermiston Horse Sale

Standing in front of steel stud pens
A man and his son from Elkland, Missouri
Inquire about the bloodlines of my horses.

Preliminary to flashing me
His holier than thou card
The father says with grey beard earnestness,
“May I ask where you worship?”

Up to my knees
In horseshit and Christians I reply,
“Right here where I’m standing.”

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Profile of an Anarcho-Leftist, Poet/Librarian, Gentrifier, Greg Bem

Greg Bem

When you think of the kind of person gentrifying the Rainier Valley, a man who could be described as an Anarcho-Leftist, Poet/Librarian might not be tops on your list. Greg Bem is a Rainier Valley person you should know, a compelling performance poet, who has spent hundreds of hours tutoring at risk people, many of them people of color in places like the Rainier Valley and also Philadelphia. We caught up with him to talk about his background, life in the Othello neighborhood, his performance aesthetic and his recent coverage of Paul Allen’s attempt at creating a Northwest version of the South By Southwest music festival, Upstream. READ MORE IN THE SOUTH SEATTLE EMERALD

In the first segment Greg talks about his upbringing, his education in Creative Writing at Roger Williams and working at campus radio station WQRI as well as the music he played there and the antics in which he engaged. Click here to listen to Part 1 – 12:14.

In part two Greg discussed moving to Seattle and the decision to become a librarian. It was an extension of his work tutoring at-risk children in Philadelphia and provides a service he says is critical in this times, one that he needed himself growing up:

I had to have an anchor and if the anchors didn’t exist, if those locals didn’t exist to provide some context … in other words, if I had just been thrown into that space, I would have probably been terrified, afraid, hopeless, etc. And those feelings, of course, came up. But there was a camaraderie that existed there.

To relate it back to your question about libraries and librarianship, though, that kind of fueled what I found in libraries throughout my life, that feeling, that same kind of camaraderie, that stability and structure. I think that when we think of the benefit and value of libraries, even in an age where you have literally words spoken from friends of mine in the tech industry who say, “Why are there still libraries? Why do they exist?” Or “I can’t believe they still exist.” They’re off in their own little bubbles and they have that perspective, that’s the best answer, is that they provide structure and stability.

Click here to listen to Part 2: 13:28.

In the third segment, Greg discussed living in the Othello neighborhood, how he sees himself as a gentrifier, but loves the lack of “Western bars” in the neighborhood. he talked about his literary art, how recent work was inspired by “binge listening” to Albert Ayler

And Sun Ra:

You can see Greg’s performance in Bothell here:

Click here to listen to Part 3 of the interview: 10:55.

In the final segment Greg did an impromptu performance based on a carton of Silk Non-Dairy Creamer and his experience at the Upstream music festival, chronicled in his review which you can READ HERE. Click here to listen to part 4: 12:54.

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