The Octopus Literary Salon Wednesday 10/3/18

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Photo by Vinicius Vilela on Pexels.com

I am on a roll with readings of late. And that’s a good thing because I really enjoy lit events – being featured, reading with other writers and being in the audience.

This week, I’ll be reading at:

Pandemonium Press Presents

Hot! New! Books!

Wednesday October 3, 2018 at 7:00 pm

The Octopus Literary Salon

2101 Webster Street

Oakland, CA

I’ll be featured with Mary Mackey, Kelly Landmine and Cassandra Dallett

I’d love to see you there!

There will be an open mic.

Food and drinks will be available for purchase as the venue is a café. Yum.

WELL-RED Reading Series at Works/San Jose Tuesday August 14th

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I am looking forward to reading my work with poet David Denny on Tuesday August 14th in the WELL-RED reading series, at Works/San Jose. I am honored that Poetry Center San Jose asked me to come “down south” to read.

I will be reading poems from my upcoming chapbook “How it Happens” (September, Nomadic Press) and new work. Can’t wait and hope to see you there.

WELL-RED at Works/San Jose

Tuesday, August 14, 2018, 7:00 pm

A Poetry Center San Jose event

at Works/San José
365 South Market Street
in downtown San José
doors open 6:30pm
$2 admission, no one turned away
Works is on the Market Street edge of the San Jose Convention Center,
just to the right of the parking garage entrance

 

 

 

Elephant on the Sidewalk

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I was recently chatting with a white male neighbor who suddenly launched into talking about a book he had begun to read for his book club. The book focused on race and racial issues in the United States. I had not read the book and was not familiar with it, so I could not speak to it and I told him so. Despite that, my white male neighbor, pressed on with the discussion that he decided he needed to have with me.

He: Have you read this book?

Me: No

He: I think the author tries too hard

Me: Oh?

He: Yes, and in my book club, there seems to be a majority belief that I don’t agree with.

Me: Hmm, but I’m thinking “uh oh” as I sense a rather large elephant standing nearby

He: “Yes, the author really doesn’t provide evidence.”

My neighbor then reads aloud a sentence or two from the book.

The sentence he reads aloud doesn’t help me to understand specifically what he’s referring to, as I haven’t read the book and have told him so, but I sense that there’s an elephant standing beside us, a really big one.

He: “Race has happened all around the world. Many societies had slaves.”

I’m thinking “Here we go again, another white man explaining away slavery in America and its connection to race relations and American society in the 21st century and ignoring the construction of ‘race’ for political and economic purposes, and so much else.”

Me: “Slavery in the U. S. was for economic gain.”

He interrupts me, excitedly.

He: “Yes, it’s about capitalism!”

Me: “Slaves were treated as property, not people, as inhuman, they were objects to be bought and sold.”

He: “Yes! Capitalism and the things that have led to the terrible political things today.”

I’m still feeling the elephant standing on the sidewalk next to us. It’s still quite large.

Me: “Race and racism are two different things.”

My neighbor seems to be using “race” and “racism” interchangeably as he attempts unsuccessfully to make another point about the global historical slave trade. He finally gets to the truth or to what he really wants to say.

Him: “I’m afraid to speak up in my book club. White people need to talk to other white people about this.”

Me: “White people are afraid to talk about race because they are afraid that they will be seen as or called racists. That stops any conversation that could be had and prevents anything from moving forward.”

He looks at me with surprise, as if I have just awakened him from a nap.

Me: “Have you seen the film 13th?”

I’m thinking that because the film so brilliantly and clearly connects the 13th amendment, history of slavery and the prison industrial complex of the present, this might help him to gain some footing on the issues he seems to be floundering in. Plus, guys usually like history. Ava DuVernay made that film with great intention, and it’s perfect for conversations like these and the ones that my neighbor wants to have with other white people.

He: “Yes, we had to view it while reading this book for the book club. It was too heavy; I can’t watch it again.”

Me: “Hmm.” While looking at my phone, I say, “Okay, well I have to get going now.”

He: The mind can overcome this.

Me: “Not without heart.”

He: “Okay, goodbye.”

Me: “Goodbye.”

#52essaysNextWave

Authors, Readers and Books

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The People’s Republic of Berkeley, my current home, is such a hodge-podge and mix-mash of people. I went to the Bay Area Book Festival this weekend and mingled in that hodge-podge and mix mash of people. And I heard authors of different genres, backgrounds, ages, geographical locations talk about their work and about writing in the context of a theme for each session. The sessions I attended were:

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz author of “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment” interviewed by T. J. Stiles – history and statistics on gun culture in America that were not entirely surprising, but still…damn. Here’s one: 1/3 of U. S. households have guns, yet there are 300 million guns owned privately in the country, so most of these households contain multiple guns as the U. S. population is about 300 million. Today a gun owner owns “an average of eight guns” according to Dunbar-Ortiz. This number is up from 112 million in the early 1970’s. Whaaat?

Robert Reich and guests in a panel discussion titled: “Income Inequality: A World Gone Mad, Mean and Immoral.” I won’t report back on that one as many are familiar with Reich’s videos do an excellent job of illustrating the not-normal that exists with the American almighty dollar(s).

Melissa de la Cruz, author of YA fantasy, History and Modern Life (also a former writer of the social lives of celebrity elite in New York for major magazines –glossies) interviewed by Jessica Lee. The woman is a highly imaginative, focused and prolific writer with a great sense of humor. Her output of books is stunning and she is still quite young. I loved it that she began writing one of her series of books because she missed New York. So, she created and wrote books about young society vampires. Isn’t that what you would do? Hmmm….I’m originally from Brooklyn, maybe I ought to think about an angle….(smile) Here is a link to Melissa’s web page: http://melissa-delacruz.com/ Her latest YA novel, a sequel titled “Love and War” continues the story of the love between Eliza and Alexander Hamilton.

Lidia Yuknavitch “On Fearlessness, Truth, and Misfits” was interviewed by Daphne Gottlieb. I loved Lidia’s discussion of connecting with her audience without a need to provide graphic descriptions of violent behavior and instances of sexual connections between characters. She goes for the emotional connection. I understood what she was talking about and I also know how difficult that is to do. I’m looking forward to doing more reading of her work. So far, I’ve only read essays, so I have a lot to choose from with her speculative fiction “The Book of Joan,” memoir “The Chronology of Water,” and novels “The Small Backs of Children” and “Dora: A Headcase.” Her most recent book is “The Misfit’s Manifesto.” I’m most interested in speculative fiction these days, so “The Book of Joan” it will most likely be.

Today’s panel was the most powerful session for me and seemed to touch the rest of the audience in the same way. Authors Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (A Kind of Freedom), Rodrigo Hasbún (Affections) and Madeleine Thien (Do not Say We Have Nothing )  were moderated by reviewer Mal Warwick in a panel titled: “Resist: Unlocking the Political Power of the Novel.” The authors’ answers to Mal’s questions were surprising, nuanced, thoughtful and interesting. By the way, Thien’s Tumblr for her novel is fantastic: http://donotsaywehavenothing.tumblr.com/

Margaret, Rodrigo and Maddie’s answers went deep and made me think about a lot of things personal/political as well as the inherent truth that the personal and the political are radically intertwined and that some of us are more aware of this than others. And at the same time, I think that in America many more have become aware of this truth or this living something. I still don’t know what to call it because it isn’t a thing, I don’t really think the word “fact” captures the reality, but it just is and there really isn’t a separation involved unless one is in extreme denial. And some are.

Added to the festival, I listened to an On Being podcast with Buddhist monk and writer Angel Kyodo Williams with host Krista Tippett yesterday, which I found riveting. Williams talked about being optimistic (herself) because all it would take would be a mass of people to do the inner work that would change individual and collective consciousness and shift inner and thus our outer reality. Here’s a link to the webpage for the podcast series: https://onbeing.org/

After taking all of these discussions in, I began to think about what makes something meaningful. I think that what is meaningful does not bloom and flower and grow with analysis. It just is. What is meaningful just is. And dissection, analysis and all of that stuff aren’t really necessary and is just a mental exercise designed to distract me and Lord knows whom else. And too much of it kills the spirit.

There is so much that is meaningful just because it is. Meaningful like call and response, like singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Anybody Turn Me Around” as loud as I can in the car as I drive to work, James Brown singing “Get on the Good Foot,” that moment when Aretha threw her fur coat off her shoulders while singing Natural Woman at the Kennedy Center Honors for Carole King, The Stylistics singing “Betcha By Golly Wow,” and Sam Cooke singing “A Change is Gonna Come.” And hip shakin’ and singin’ along to (y)our own rhythms with no interference.

Not sure what brought this on, but I think it was listening to writers talk bout the work of writing, the work of living. The work is inextricably connected and all part of the one to many of us who write.

How can I separate myself from my writing, from the act of writing? I can’t, writing is part of my life, part of me and has been for a very long time. I am glad that so many younger writers are as invested in writing as I and those of my generation have been. I’m glad that they feel the urgency to give their voices wings. The work continues, the voices rise, the circle opens and new voices enter the choir. Good. Deep gratitude for this cycle that continues.

 

Director of Talent for the Electorate

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Since last week’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony the question of whether Oprah is going to run and/or is qualified to run for and become president has been tossed around, and around. And today, the Washington Post has an in depth article with her photo and the headline “Our Next President?”

I am not sure whether Oprah wants to sacrifice her life to run for office or endure the accelerated aging that happens to every person who takes that office. Have you noticed the way that the weight of the job begins to appear on all of our former presidents’ faces? It seems that one cannot really take the job lightly if one has a true understanding of its depth and heft. It is indeed a big job.

This is not a comparison of presidencies. It is also not an endorsement of Oprah for a presidential campaign. And it is not an opinion piece on whether I think she should run for office.

After Oprah’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. de Mille award, last week at the Golden Globes and the reaction the power of that speech has evoked in so many people, I have been thinking about what I know of Oprah, through her former network television show, her acting roles, her film television producing, her philanthropy, her interviews, and her documented conversations with others.

Oprah could bring a multitude of experience to the presidency if she did indeed decide to run a campaign for and become the next commander in chief. It’s important to expand on the “We don’t need another celebrity” that I’ve been seeing and hearing in the media and on social media. For me that phrase indicates shallow thinking and a habit of making women one dimensional and therefore invisible. The irony of that is not wasted on me.

Although I’m not Oprah’s close personal friend and I have never worked directly with her, I can see that there is a lot more to her than just “a celebrity.” And I would go so far as to say that many who contributed to social media discussions and others who saw Oprah’s speech on the Golden Globe Awards last week were blown away by the power of her delivery and of her words but they can’t consciously articulate what that being blown away has evoked in them. Waking up to something one has been blind to isn’t always easy.

So, I’m going to take on the role of “Director of Talent for the Electorate” and share some of what I see as being Oprah’s qualifications for a job that requires intelligence, good judgment, a high degree of interpersonal skills, the ability to interact and communicate extremely well with people across cultures, experience dwelling in the public eye, which includes media scrutiny, interest in and work toward the common good, and more.

Here are just a few of Oprah’s qualifications:

Oprah’s interpersonal skills are not only top-notch; she has honed them and held multiple positions that have allowed her to further develop them since the mid 1970’s. These positions have been: news anchor, actress, talk show host, producer, media conglomerate owner, philanthropist, and boarding school founder.

She is highly intelligent and thinks outside of the box.

She can deliver focused, clear speeches that contain an explicit main point and sub points.

She is well connected across many demographics, nationally and internationally

She has experience interacting with people from all walks of life from interviewing them as a talk show host, building and hiring staff for her school in South Africa, mentoring young people, hiring and managing staff of her company and its many projects.

She is patriotic, as she is on board with what America could be if it lived up to the ideals and values espoused in its constitution, its amendments and enacted laws.

She has maturity on her side as she’s been around the block a few times professionally and personally, and she is about to turn 64. Although age is a protected category in most hiring situations, when one is applying for the position of POTUS, the age of a candidate is public information.

She is a woman. It’s clear that we need more female leadership in our local, state and federal governments. Women tend to think of the future, of children and of legacies that will be left to their children and to children in general. Women tend to consider these things whether they are parents or not.

So it seems to me that there is a lot more to Oprah than the title “celebrity” suggests. I haven’t even mentioned the social issues her work has uncovered and made part of the global conversation. Her talk show and the issues that it focused on did have a majority female studio and broadcast audience and my guess is that her work on OWN is currently followed mostly by women (and probably a smaller male audience). That speaks volumes as I see it, because the issues and problems that we face as a world can and will only be addressed through the awareness and work of fully conscious women and their male allies.

We currently have and we will have a lot to clean up and make right for many decades to come. Anyone who is still indulging in staring at her or his navel need not apply to the work of turning things in this country and in the world toward a more humane direction.

That is, if any of us are still around to do the work.