Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2015

March 1, 2015

Dear Literary Folk,

thunder stormI loved Saturday afternoon’s thunder, blue-black storm-clouds, and cold, drenching rain that poured down here and there with much drama. Somehow, west Petaluma seemed to miss the downpour, but the strange turn in the weather reminded me to ask you all to share your California drought/ climate change thoughts with us here at the Literary Update. Whether it’s a photo, a poem, a short essay, a rant, a prayer—let’s keep the drought-inspired work coming!

Remembering Phil Levine
Phil LevineMuch beloved American poet Phil Levine passed away on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at age 87. He was among the country’s most decorated poets, winning the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Ruth Lilly Poetry Award, among many others. He taught at Princeton, Columbia, and Cal. State Fresno, and in 2011, he was appointed United But perhaps his greatest legacy is the impact he has had on a generation of writers, and not just those enrolled in university creative writing programs. He took the time to write back to poets who sent him their work, to answer the phone and chat, and though it got him into trouble with his colleagues at time, to welcome the occasional student too broke to pay tuition as an auditor in his classes. There hasn’t been another American man of letters who had a greater gift for expressing “the hard work we do to make sense of our lives,” in the words of Librarian of Congress James Billington. Levine was a native of Detroit; his parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, and this working-class upbringing found its way into his work though his subjects, themes, and plain-spoken.

Everyone I know who ever met Levine has a story to tell of his kindness and decency. Ask around, and you’ll hear some of these. My own story dates from April 2001 at the AWP Conference in Palm Springs, where Levine was being honored. The morning after the formal gathering, I spotted Levine behind me in the breakfast line at the hotel. He looked a bit rumpled, with a baseball cap pulled down low over his face, more like the average furnace repairman than the poet of the accolades. No one else in line recognized him and clearly he wanted to enjoy his breakfast incognito. The hostess was taking names from the podium at the head of the line. When she called out to Levine, he looked a little sheepish and mumbled something under his breath. “What?” she shouted over the din. I realized the awkwardness of the moment, slipped quickly to the front of the line, and whispered his name in the hostess’s ear. She nodded, still clueless about who he was. As I turned to rejoin the line, Levine caught my eye and winked. In remembrance of Levine, I have included his iconic 1968 poem “They Feed They Lion” as our selection for the month of March. Its rhythms are strange and powerful; as Levine once said, ‘Rhythm is deep and it touches us in ways that we don’t understand. We know that language used rhythmically has some kind of power to delight, to upset, to exalt, and it was that kind of rhythmic language that first excited me.”

Sonoma County’s Recently Published Authors
Congratulations to this month’s recently published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at https://socolitupdate.com/sonoma-county-in-print. Thanks to Ed Coletti who keeps this page of the Literary Update current with your notices of work you’ve had accepted for publication in literary journals and magazines. Two local writers were published recently in Petaluma-based, Wordrunner eChapbooks’ themed anthology, Strange Encounters.

A Few Upcoming Events
Our calendar for March and April is brimming with events. Please do take a look at what’s happening in our literary community this month. There are a few I’m including in this post, but this is just a taste to whet your appetite.

Today, March 1, from 5-7pm, the Geri DiGiorno and the Redwood Cafe in Cotati will host poets Michael Rothenberg, (100,000 Poets for Change) Terri Carrion, and Patti Trimble. Join them for words on Politics and Other Things, music by bassist Steve Shain, and local beer on tap. 8240 Old Redwood Highway, Cotati.

Next Saturday, March 7, at 2:30 PM, The Sitting Room in Cotati presents “Opening to Poetry,” featuring Iris Dunkle, Rebecca Foust and Terry Ehret whose reading will lauch the Spring 2015 exhibit dedicated to the Sitting Room Poetry Collection at 2025 Curtis Drive in Penngrove, just off Petaluma Hill Road.

Changing Harm to HarmonyOn Sunday, the Ides of March (March 15 for those of you not inclined to soothsaying predictions on Roman dates), the Petaluma Arts Center presents a reading from Changing Harm to Harmony: Bullies and Bystanders Project. This is one of the most important topics any poetry anthology has embraced—one you may want to bring your family to hear. Poet, editor, and Marin County Poet Laureate Joe Zaccardi has assembled a brilliant cast of writers whose work helps us all find a way toward “restorative justice.”Readers include David Beckman, Rose Black Ed Coletti, Lucy Lang Day,Francesca Dezza Parada, Juliet Emerson-Colvin, ‘Lyn Follett, Helen Heal, Jodi Hottel, Janet Jennings, Dave Seter and Patti Trimble. Petaluma poet Donna Emerson, PAC’s Val Richman, and Joe Zaccardi co-host this evening of poetry, stories, and letters from 6-8 PM at the Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma.

Poem for March
“I would say that the best poem I ever wrote came easily, came rather quickly: “They Feed They Lion.” It’s about a reaction to the riots and the sort of urban rebellion of the ’60s in Detroit. And it tries to reach into the depths of what causes things like this.”
—Philip Levine

Click on LISTEN to hear Phil Levine read the poem and talk about how he came to write it.

They Feed They Lion
By Philip Levine

Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
They Lion grow.

Out of the gray hills
Of industrial barns, out of rain, out of bus ride,
West Virginia to Kiss My Ass, out of buried aunties,
Mothers hardening like pounded stumps, out of stumps,
Out of the bones’ need to sharpen and the muscles’ to stretch,
They Lion grow.

Earth is eating trees, fence posts,
Gutted cars, earth is calling in her little ones,
“Come home, Come home!” From pig balls,
From the ferocity of pig driven to holiness,
From the furred ear and the full jowl come
The repose of the hung belly, from the purpose
They Lion grow.

From the sweet glues of the trotters
Come the sweet kinks of the fist, from the full flower
Of the hams the thorax of caves,
From “Bow Down” come “Rise Up,”
Come they Lion from the reeds of shovels,
The grained arm that pulls the hands,
They Lion grow.

From New Selected Poems (Alfred A Knopf, 1991), © Philip Levine 1991, used by permission of Alfred A Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
See more at: www.poetryarchive.org/poem/they-feed-they-lion#sthash.RXyDaCvo.dpuf

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