Margin Shift

I’m delighted to be doing another Zoom-Because-of-Shelter-in-Place reading, this time for  Margin Shift, Thursday June 18 at 7pm. As its name implies, Margin Shift is the most diverse reading series in Seattle, but also the one that features the most challenging work as well and in that way owes a debt to the old Subtext Reading Series which had a wonderful 15 year run. Along with Red Sky Poetry Theater and the Bumbershoot Literary Series with the late Judith Roche curating for 20 years, Subtext was a jewel in the Seattle literary scene of the late 20th and early 21st century. Margin Shift is in this lineage. Below is the call on Facebook, with all the information you need to tune in via computer Thursday night. While I do not know all the readers, I am a big fan of Carletta Carrington Wilson and Lorna Dee Cervantes and honored to read with them. Thank you Deborah Woodard and Matt Trease for inviting me and for all your efforts to make this series what it is.

Events like this, best witnessed live, remind me of the old days when we had to sit in front of the TV or radio at a certain time. (Remember the King Biscuit Flower Hour?!?) It feels like an EVENT. This one promises to be an event and I hope to see you Thursday night.

It seems as though a millennium has elapsed since last month. The world is bursting at the seams, and the old excuses for inequality and brutality are falling apart on an almost hourly basis at times.. MarginShift has and still stands with the struggle for black lives, which includes indigenous lives, locally and around the world, against the Evil Empire of slave patrols, military imperialism, fascism and global capital. We feel that poetry is central to that resistance, because it allows us to imagine a world with no police, no armies, no white supremacists. Thursday night, enjoy the work of five fantastic writers as they read from their own living spaces spread out around the ancestral homeland of the Duwamish, Muckleshoot, and other Coast Salish tribes here in Seattle, as well as the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Cowlitz bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla and many other Tribes who made their homes along the Columbia River in the Portland Area, and the Lanape in the New York City Area.

We’ll stream directly to the Facebook pages of Margin Shift, and our regular, in-person hosts Common Area Maintenance

We’ll begin at 7pm PDT on the dot. While you watch, be sure to like, comment, and donate to the tip jar via PayPal/Venmo. All donations will be split among our readers and with Common Area Maintenance to help ensure that spaces like CAM remain after the crisis is averted.

Venmo for Margin Shift: @Matthew-Trease

Paypal for Margin Shift:

We also encourage those of you who can to match those donations to help support black lives in Seattle

the Black Lives Matter Seattle Bail Fund:
and the Black Joy Experience:

Also support L.E.M.S Bookstore/Estelita’s Library (a black owned bookstore and cultural center in Columbia City) at their website:
Or when you buy books, order them here:
A portion of the sales go to L.E.M.S.

Let’s build this new world together!

Check out this month’s lineup:

Carletta Carrington Wilson is a literary and visual artist. She states, “I connect threads of thought to lines of descent by exploring a body as a body of text, a text infused with cotton’s print and imprint. Lines lock a life onto a page and breathe into it a body’s breadth. My poems are footprint and handprint, imprint and impression of lives that have been denied their story in the Great Age of Print and Sale.

Most, recently, published are works included in:

Take a Stand: Art Against Hate

Also, dictionarium of a daughter and typeface of the erased in The African American Review:

A fifth generation Californian of Mexican and Native American (Chumash) heritage, Lorna Dee Cervantes was born in San Francisco, and raised in San Jose. The recipient of numerous awards, she is the former Director of Creative Writing at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Her books include Emplumada (1981), which won an American Book Award; From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger (Arte Público Press, 1991); Drive: The First Quartet (2006); Ciento: 100 100-word love poesm(2011); and Sueno: New Poems (2013). In 1976, she founded MANGO Publications, which was the first to publish many notable Chicano writers, including Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Alberto Rios. She is also co-editor of Red Dirt, a cross-cultural poetry journal, and her work has been included in many anthologies including Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (eds. Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan, 1994), No More Masks! An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Women Poets (ed. Florence Howe, 1993), and After Aztlan: Latino Poets of the Nineties (ed. Ray González).

Buy Lorna’s books at:

Founder of SPLAB and the Cascadia Poetry Festival, Paul E. Nelson was a professional broadcaster from 1980 to 2006, and researched, hosted and produced over 450 original public affairs radio programs and over 150 additional interviews since then. On-air host, news anchor, and public affairs coordinator in Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore and other towns, he’s a poet who has given presentations or readings in Brussels, London, China, and other places while being very active since 1994 in the Puget Sound literary community. Published books include: American Prophets (Interviews, Seattle Poetics LAB, 2018) American Sentences (Apprentice House, 2015), A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, Nov. 2009, shortlisted for the Stranger Genius Award in 2010), Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies, published in English and Portuguese by Lumme Editions of Brazil in 2013 and Organic Poetry (VDM, Verlag, Germany, October 2008). His 2015 interview with José Kozer was published in 2016 as Tiovivo Tres Amigos. He is also co-editor of four anthologies: Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia, Samthology: A Tribute to Sam Hamill (Seattle Poetics LAB, 2019), Make it True meets Medusario (Pleasure Boat Studio, 2019) and 56 Days of August: Poetry Postcards. He writes an American Sentence every day and lives with his partner Bhakti Watts and youngest daughter Ella Roque in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood in the Cedar River watershed in the Cascadia bioregion.

Buy A Time Before Slaughter: Featuring Pig War and Other Songs of Cascadia at:

Carlos Sirah is a native of the Mississippi Delta. He is a writer, performer, and cultural worker, and U.S. military veteran, who opposes U.S. militarism, in all its permutations, both at home and abroad. Sirah creates formal structures rooted in Black expressions of possibility, taking the shape of concert, lyric prose, procession, as well as screen and stageplays. Sirah’s interdisciplinary practice thinks with multiple aesthetic traditions: Black Arts Movement, Theatrical Jazz, Free Jazz, Blues, and Black Spiritual practices. Sirah is a member of the Remember2019 collective and the emerging Veterans Art Movement. Sirah holds an MFA in Writing for Performance from Brown University. His debut work, The High Alive: An Epic Hoodoo Diptych is published by The 3rd Thing Press.

Buy a copy of The High Alive at:

Julia Wohlstetter is a poet born in Seattle, WA. She is the creator and co-host of Poetry Practice Space at The Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, OR, and curates the reading series “5 by 5” at Cardinal Club. Author of the chapbooks “Please and Please” and “Forever Machine” (2017) her poetry has appeared in Reality Beach, Metatron-Omega, Bodega Magazine and 1001 journal. This fall, she will begin her MFA in poetry at The Iowa Writers Workshop.
Find her work on instagram: @j_pomes

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The Poetry Foundation

Dispatches from the Poetry Wars was a great little, shit-stirring website that reminded us that poetry wars are ongoing and critical, if they lead to dialog. Community happens only when there is real dialog and I feel like Dispatches was a community. Still is, in many ways, though they have stopped posting new material as of last month.

One effort they DID make was to attempt to hold The Poetry Foundation accountable. The huge and lavishly-funded (can I write “hugely-endowed?) operation is responsible for the legendary Poetry Magazine, founded in 1912, and a huge downtown Chicago headquarters built with a huge donation from a pharmaceutical heiress. (Did I uss the word “huge” enough in that sentence?)

In response to the shelter-in-place guidelines created to slow the novel Coronavirus, Dispatches called out what they felt was an insufficient response from The Poetry Foundation, and urged readers to sign a petition designed to garner more support for poets in need, along with poetry (& other independent) bookstores and small poetry organizations. You can see their post here: and get some sense of it with this:


Yesterday, Dispatches sent out this email:

The NYT has published an article today on the open letter to the PoFo by former Fellows and Contributors. 1,800 people have signed it so far, amazingly enough… it is a good sign, indeed, that there’s a sudden and righteous contempt aimed at this corrupt institution. We were the first to say it and quite some time ago, so we certainly agree with the call of the letter: Boycott the Poetry Foundation.

The NYT article ends with a link to the Chicago Tribune article about the original speCt books petition (now itself approaching 2,500 signatories), in which Dispatches is mentioned, with quotes from Mike Boughn.

It’s well worth reading to get some sense of the corporate culture that runs The Poetry Foundation. (Contrast that with SPLAB’s 2017 “Statement of Openness and Inclusivity” which holds up well at this time.)

Culture was at the core of an essay I wrote while doing grad work on my own line of poetry inquiry. Go back to 2006 and an essay I saw about The Poetry Foundation by Steve Evans entitled Free Market Verse.  I remember being vaulted into a response which I hammered out in a couple of hours. Of course on some level it had been incubating a long time, but my essay was entitled:

Changing a Culture
(A Look at Cultural Modernism and Free Market Verse)

Here is a key section from that essay, alluding to some of the key players at The Poetry Foundation in 2006:

…for [Dana] Gioia, [John] Barr, [Ted] Kooser, et al., the modernist paradigm has been successful. They have learned and perfected the ability to succeed financially in a modernist world. It is the only thing they know and everything they choose to read reinforces it. It’s interesting to see how the Poetry Foundation, after getting the Lilly dollars, changed its name from the Modern Poetry Association, and yet it is Modernist Culture that Barr represents and seeks to perpetuate. A culture that, according to Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson, has a stand-pat stance toward reality (Ray, Anderson 82). We’re basically on the right track, these cultural modernists believe. We just need to spend more money, or work harder and free-market capitalism will triumph.

Let’s examine this same stance toward wellness. A modernist medical perspective may have an unofficial motto of “find the bad part and kill it.” Look at how modern medicine deals with cancer. It attempts to use early detection to find the cancerous cells, isolate them, and kill them off with drugs, surgery or radiation. It’s not subtle and there are cells and organs that suffer collateral damage through chemotherapy and side effects of very powerful medicines. This kind of medicine is heroic and does not value the refined consciousness of kinesthetic intelligence, nor the early warning system of a more holistic approach like acupuncture, which detects Qi blockages long before a disease state manifests. Of course The Lilly Foundation was created by this Drugs, Surgery and Radiation mentality, so it was good for them. After all doesn’t EVERYONE want to be rich?

Dana Gioia shows his true colors when he seeks to recreate competitive “recitation bees,” so that it is not the imagination that is valued, but the ability to Sit, Git and Spit, or take in facts and information and regurgitate them, not unlike a mother bird feeds chicks.

I’d probably write the essay a little more clarity 14 years later and glad TPF is getting some rightly-deserved heat, but let’s just say that my little essay from 2006 holds up pretty well and I am glad my graduate advisor Frank Trocco gave me good feedback after I wrote it. That gesture helped ease the rest of my grad work giving me some confidence and momentum. Thanks Frank.

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The Undercommons Remembers Michael McClure

The Undercommons is a literary salon that was founded a few months ago, happened in person once a month a few times and has moved to Zoom for the time-being. We’ve studied Denise Levertov and The Objectivists, among others and had a chance on Memorial Day to honor the memory of Michael McClure. We were blessed to have Michael’s partner for 34 years, Amy, join us and read unpublished work from Michael’s Mule Kick Blues as well as a poem Diane di Prima wrote for Michael the night he died. Other friends and fans of Michael chimed in from as far as Victoria, BC and Morocco. Matt Trease and Saundra Fleming are two of the other folks involved in running the Undercommons and Matt handles the announcements. Ping us if you’d like more information on the monthly literary discussion, but meanwhile, enjoy:

My talk’s outline:

The Undercommons on Michael McClure
May 25, 2020 Memorial Day via Zoom

Michael McClure (October 20, 1932 – May 4, 2020) was an American poet, playwright, songwriter, and novelist. After moving to San Francisco as a young man, he found fame as one of the 5 poets (including Allen Ginsberg) who read at the famous San Francisco Six Gallery reading in 1955, which was rendered in barely fictionalized terms in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. He soon became a key member of the Beat Generation and is immortalized as “Pat McLear” in Kerouac’s Big Sur.

He attended the Municipal University of Wichita (1951–1953), the University of Arizona (1953-1954) & San Francisco State College (B.A., 1955)[1][2] His first book of poetry, Passage, was published in 1956 by small press publisher Jonathan Williams.[3]… Stan Brakhage, friend of McClure, stated in the Chicago Review that:

“McClure always, and more and more as he grows older, gives his reader access to the verbal impulses of his whole body’s thought (as distinct from simply and only brain-think, as it is with most who write). He invents a form for the cellular messages of his, a form which will feel as if it were organic on the page; and he sticks with it across his life …” (Wikipedia)

How I met Michael…

Touching the Edge (back cover)

Read two Dharma Devotions.

Playwright: The Beard, Josephine the Mouse Singer. (JtMS is a treatise on Projective Verse.)

Ghost Tantras

Meat Science Essays (See also an essay on McClure’s use of Reason as pertains to Latihan Kejiwaan)

Dolphin Skull (see essay Inside Dolphin Skull )

Projective Verse: The Spiritual Legacy of the Beat Generation

(as a pdf)



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