Poets & Writers: Focus on California
September 30, 2004
Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.
--Alfred Whitney Griswold
We hope you're celebrating the final days of Banned Books Week by reading one of the past decade's most challenged authors; for example, Toni Morrison, Judy Blume, Luis Rodriguez, John Steinbeck, or Madonna--or better yet, by campaigning for intellectual freedom. (For more, visit http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bannedbooksweek.htm.) We're not ones to withhold information, so read on for grant opportunities, interviews, and more.
Link of the Month
Q&A with Blake More
Visit Poets & Writers' Web site.
This month we interviewed Blake More of Third Thursday Poetry Series in Point
Arena. Her captivating answers didn't all fit in the e-newsletter format, so
the full interview is included below (be sure to click on the link to her car,
listed at the bottom of the page!). It should be especially interesting to literary
presenters--and a great example of what you'll find in this month's e-newsletter.
1) When/how did you become involved with the Third Thursday reading series?
I became involved with the Third Thursday Poetry Series before it took
on its current incarnation under the auspices of Coast Community Library
and Cityart Gallery. When I moved to Point Arena in 1997, I discovered
that the longstanding, monthly poetry readings started by Fionna Perkins
and Janet DeBar had been placed in indefinite hiatus. I had lived in SF
and was active in North Beach, so I missed hanging out and reading with
poets. Generally, only poets have time to listen to poetry. I knew there
were poets around, but they weren't gathering near me. I craved
something local so I could stop driving all the time. I guess I was
vocal about it, cause when my friend opened a café downtown, she asked
if I'd do a monthly poetry series. I was glad to, especially since
brought everyone out of their woodshedding, including Fionna and Janet.
In 1999, I went to Cuba for a few months, and Fionna, Janet, and Andrea
Penn took over the series and made it official. A few years ago, Janet,
who was responsible for the P&W paperwork, burned out, and asked me to
take over. It was an easy decision. Today, like then, there are three of
us: I generally find the poets, handle the paperwork, and do the
newspaper PR; Fionna coordinates the matching funds and serves as
library liaison; and Joost Romeu creates and distributes the posters and
runs the reading. We don't have titles, we just do our jobs.
2) What challenges do you face as a literary presenter in Point Arena?
Hmmm. Challenges. None really, but I can name a few hurdles. The first
is our glorious Dramamine road and the sheer time it takes to get here.
Most poets who read for us do so out of curiosity, adventure and poetic
altruism. Not to say the money doesn't factor, but with the price of
fuel, food (tourist prices!) and hotel, featured poets are usually in
the red by the time they leave us. We try to make up for this by
offering to house our features with a local poet. But not all of us have
homes that meet city standards. So this is another hurdle. I, for one,
prefer to live close to nature, what I call a funky earthy ruggedness,
which means compost toilet, outdoor walkways between dwellings, dirt
road, sometimes dry wells, wood heat, and so on. A few people love it,
and they visit me often. I certainly do my best to make my guests
comfortable, but my idea of comfort is rather skewed by contemporary
A third hurdle is the snail pace of public transportation to the coast.
A few car-free North Beachers have come up and read for us. It is an
ordeal. They have to leave the city around 12 or 1pm, transfer a few
times, and then catch the one and only bus to the coast, which pulls
into Point Arena at 7pm, just as the reading starts. So, they literally
get off the bus and walk into the open mic at Cityarts. Sometimes they
come a day early, but that means we have to house them for two days,
which is back to hurdle two.
3) The readings in the series include both a featured reader and an open
mic, right? What are the dynamics of this like?
Honestly, I think our series is as much about open mic as it is about
the featured reader. Our community loves to read, to share, to listen,
and Third Thursday is our one and only place to do that. We are
surrounded by a changing array of art and a roomful of supportive,
mostly honest, ears, and, thanks to P&W, we get this new voice coming in
every month, keeping our series fresh and energized. So readings and
post-readings can become very lively. But basically, every person in the
room is an equal, though we do sometimes get a little starry eyed with
certain readers. Michael Warr's reading with us was like that. He
transformed the room with his reading, and everybody walk out a little
more enlightened. Thomas Centolella's was like that too.
However, I personally feel, and, believe me, others disagree, that we
should limit the open mic to two poems each. Out of fairness to the
poet. I know from my experience as a featured reader, it is a drag to
wait through an hour of open mic, even if it is world class, only to
know that by the time you get your 45 minutes at the podium, the
audience is already saturated. We get into debates over this, but we are
a democracy and my opinion hasn't caught on.
4) If you could invite any writer in the world to read in your series,
whom would you ask?
If time period and mortality didn't matter, I'd say Jalal Al-Din Rumi
without a doubt; if it did, Robert Hass would be a fun choice. His
active sensibilities work up here. As do Mary Oliver's. But gosh, that
is a tough question, cause already, another dozen poets have come to
mind. Can I invite them all?
5) You turned a 1978 Mercedes into an amazing work of art--what inspired
you? What kind of comments have you gotten when driving it?
Life inspires me. I feel we vote with our dollar, in that the way we
spend our money is really the only political act that gets our point
across. Two springs ago, I went on a cross country film adventure with
14 San Francisco performance artists in a 1946 Gilig Bus. I was
performing a spoken word/puppetry piece I call "My Bush Hurts", and in
it I made a reference to biodiesel, calling it "French fry stink" which
tied into the freedom fries thing that was so funny at the time. Anyway,
by the end of the tour, I felt like a hypocrite. We'd driven thousands
of miles, used more than our allotted share of fuel, and did what?
Support the guns prowling in the bushes? My addition to motion made me a
fossil fuel junkie. But I must move around, it is in my marrow, like
dinosaur blood. So, as soon as I got back from the trip, I started
looking for an old Mercedes. I already knew a number of folks using
biodiesel, which is a non-toxic, totally biodegradable, carbon neutral
fuel and the only alternative fuel to pass both tier I and tier II of
CARB, so it was easy for me to get information. And a Mendocino company
called Yokayo offers free delivery in 100 gallon increments in Mendocino
Once I found the car, incorporating the art and poetry part happened
naturally, if obsession is natural. My previous car, a 1969 Karmen Ghia
named Zezzie the Girl became a poetry artcar in 1996. With Eartha Karr,
I took my methods for creating Zezzie and refined them. The journey from
pencil to paper to paint to metal, to fabric and fur to leather was a
marvel to me. Where Zezzie embodies the neo-hippie VW look (but no peace
signs, no hearts, no rainbows), Eartha exudes sensuality, a renaissance
palette of rich golds, coppers, turquoise, browns, purples, and orange,
her lettering is ornate, her images evoke different chapters of my life.
I dolled her up inside too. I am truly proud of the way she turned out.
What a decadent ride. I love parading the highway.
In SF, the public response thrills me. People leave notes, flowers, odd
trinkets. Sometimes I even find folks copying my poems into their
notebooks. Eartha was on exhibit at the Towe Auto Museum in Sacramento
last spring, and her presence there sparked a brief and passionate web
debate among Mercedes buffs. The majority loved my audacity, but the
vocal minority thought I was nuts. I like that it made people feel
something. Sure, I like the attention, but I turn it around to empower
those who give it to me. When I drive Eartha, I am a path pointing
toward a world where art and poetry are encouraged and
celebrated---sustainably and on the outside. Besides, putting poetry on
a car is a simple way to publish.
ps...here's the link to Eartha: http://www.snakelyone.com/EARTHA/done.htm
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