Bobby Byrd at Collected Works on Tuesday April 29 at 6 pm

When I arrived in the Southwest, Bobby Byrd’s voice was one of the first I heard, along with Joan Logghe, Arthur Sze, Joe Somoza, Robert Creeley, and Keith Wilson. Venerable poet and veteran publisher of Cinquo Puntos Press he will be reading new poetry–a little bit Beat, a little bit Buddhist, a whole lot of heart.
I’ll introduce him and after the reading we’ll chat and he’ll take questions. I’m thinking of asking him:
Are you a Texan poet or secretly a New Mexican one?
Ask you borders, living on one, how it infuses your imagination, other borders (dream/”reality” and life/death).
Of interest to me…aging as a Muse.
Maybe my old stand-by–what don’t you like about being a poet?

Come join us!

How This Poem About Death Got A Title

I woke up the day before my sixtieth birthday thinking about death–nothing particular about that–it probably happens about twice a week.
We were at Pagosa Springs and went for an incredible soak–the pools were deserted. I sat under a folded blue umbrella, and wrote:

I packed for my death as for a day at the beach
towel, hat, apple, book
it has become easier to travel lightly
like a child who runs away
eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
and returns, having seen
a creek for the first time
without anyone’s mother

life, you’ve burdened me
and in return
I’m sure I’ve gotten on your nerves as well
now you’ll have to get along without me
as you’ve done so nicely eon after eon

I’m going to meet what once was my death
at a fern bar on upper Polk Street
and after a few drinks
see if you will have me back
after all, you loved me once–
I have the scar to prove it.


But I needed a title. Tried something pretentious and derivative, like “I Am The Death of Orpheus.” Nix.
Suddenly my husband Rich came around the corner and flirtatiously asked, “waiting for someone?’ I sort of shrieked, “no! no!” and had to read him the poem.
Which is now titled: “Waiting for Someone?”

3 Questions for Richard Vargas

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the
poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it,

rv: My first serious introduction to the importance of the line came about during my early studies of poetry as an undergrad at CSULB. I had developed an interest in poetry when I was in high school, but my teachers were clueless when I asked them for guidance or suggested readings. As a student in college, I started reading William Carlos Williams. His use of the line made me realize I didn’t have to adapt my language and speech to artificial and formal poetic devices to write my own poetry. I didn’t have to sacrifice parts of myself in order to become a “poet.” I was already both. Dr. Williams helped me achieve a certain level of comfort within myself, integrating who I was/am with what I wanted to do, i.e., write poetry. My natural sound could be expressed using a line break based on my breath. I became aware of the relationship between poetry on the page and how it sounds when read aloud. You have to understand that I was a clueless college freshman, and all this was a revelation to me. Within a very short period of time, I found myself reading the work of Charles Bukowski and Nila Northsun, adapting their use of the short line within my own writing style. Robert Creeley’s poems also had an impact. I try to create a rolling, or tumbling effect, where one line falls into the next. I want the poetry to be alive on the page. Poetry is a life force, and as such, we do not choose it, it chooses us.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and
the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

rv: My body, the physical self, gives me a sense of presence. But it is raw. Poetry provides the means to interpret and measure my interaction with my surroundings; both the natural and the manmade. Art plugs me in, turns me on. To deny this role of art in our lives, or diminish it, leads to the dysfunctions we see every day, and I believe will ultimately be our downfall as a species.

When I was in the fourth grade, I was on the Glee Club, the group of kids who provided the music component to the annual Christmas program. During a practice, the teacher directing us stopped us in mid-song, looked at me, and told me to stop singing, to just “move your lips, okay?” It was a cruel and brutal thing to tell a child. No one should ever tell a kid to stop singing. I was scarred, and I never sang again, because I knew my song was ugly. And I really liked to sing! Poetry found me, gave me back my voice, and I can’t imagine what I would have become without it.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

rv: Well, if you put too many of us in a small space, it can get ugly. (I joke, to a degree.) I am not a businessman. But if we don’t honk our own horn, no one else does. So when a book comes out, I find myself playing the multiple roles of publicist/promoter/pitchman, and it’s okay up to a point. I know the publisher is counting on it, and it’s the least I can do. But, as Bones might say to Capt. Kirk, “Damnit, Jim! I’m an artist, not a businessman.” All I want to do is write, read, give readings, facilitate workshops, and publish my poetry magazine. Getting paid enough to make a living while doing these things would be a bonus, but now I’m dreaming.

Bio: Richard Vargas was born in Compton, CA, attended schools in Compton, Lynwood, and Paramount. He earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin and Richard Lee. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980. His first book, McLife, was featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, in February, 2006. A second book, American Jesus, was published by Tia Chucha Press, 2007. His third book, Guernica, revisited, was published April 2014, by Press 53. (Once again, a poem from the book was featured on Writer’s Almanac to kick off National Poetry Month.) Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, and was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference. Currently, he resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he edits/publishes The Más Tequila Review.

why my ex-wife will go to heaven

one day you find yourself managing
a Hallmark gift shop in the San Bernardino
mall and it’s busy because one of the major
holidays is approaching
those ones that bring in the big bucks
that make or break the quarterly profit report
the report that keeps the home office happy
or gives them the excuse to ride your ass into
the ground for the next three months
so this is what it comes down to
as your crew of underpaid clerks
man the register and cruise the aisles
helping customers locate that special piece
of made-in-China merchandise with a
sappy card to match

and as you take position up front to
meet and greet the crowd you notice
the young mother with her toddler in hand
you know the type well
she’ll browse and take her time while
junior is turned loose to make like
a Tasmanian devil touching and grabbing
his heart’s desire as your staff is transformed
into a team of impromptu babysitters
this is how it is and you accept it

a few minutes go by and you see
the child again as he is leaving the store
but this time someone else is holding his hand
someone avoiding eye contact
someone trying to walk fast and not be noticed

years later you take stock of life’s ups and downs
while sitting in a bar in Rockford, Illinois, stacking
achievements and accomplishments against the failures
and the near-misses
wonder what the hell went wrong

always remember this:
how you didn’t hesitate to approach them
as they attempted to leave
how you ignored the man at his side and
bent down so you looked the kid eye to eye
and asked, “where’s your mommy?”
how you heard the sinister whoosh of hot air
as his hand was dropped and the faceless stranger
stepped into the crowd

later, after reports by security and interviews with police
you took a phone call from the near-hysterical parents
who kept repeating “thank you, God bless you,
thank you, God bless you, thank you, God bless you…”

they were chanting for you
elevating your spirit and
that’s as good as it gets

Preview Icelandic E-Book: Photograph by Isabel Winson-Sagan and Poem by Miriam Sagan


Swimming in Reykjavik

I traveled a long way
to sit and knit in bed
beneath a white comforter.

raindrops on the window
obscured the red corrugated roof
the dark blue facade
trimmed in burgundy.

light of the north
filled the art deco hall
that houses
enormous swimming pools.

dreamlike, we were almost alone
except for the bossy attendant
and a lifeguard
giving a small boy
a swimming lesson.

on the roof, a violent wind–
hot water rushing
down the staircase
warmed our feet
and a man with a hairy back
soaked in a hot pot Celsius.

the knitting yarn was gayly
green and orange
not from Icelandic sheep–
let’s be honest–
but from Hobby Lobby
at home.

each stitch made meaning
out of the whitecaps on the harbor,
showed how the sea
makes a pass at the land
like a too bold
pick-up in a bar.

you were still sleeping
in a nap
that trailed all the way
from North America.
I traveled a long way
to have you look
like a child again
and ask me for an apple.

Here’s the link to Amazon Kindle for SWIMMING TO REYKJAVIK


After many years of searching, I am finally in possession of a deck of Brian Eno’s OBLIQUE STRATEGIES cards.
Encased in a small navy blue box, these are a fantastic creative resource. Created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, they are “over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas”–somewhat performancy instructions a la John Cage. And because they were limited editions, often cost several thousand dollars.
I found a 2001 edition for the price of a fancy lunch.
How to use them? I learned Tarot by pulling a card a day. These are so instructional, I figured I’d pull one and work with it until I “got” it.
This took some thought. Bitchy remarks? Lazing about? Writing a sentimental poem?
Then I got it.
Worst impulse: to tell the real story of me and these cards. And post it.
Here goes.
My first husband, Robert, had a set. I loved them. I used them, to write, to teach. He felt I was wearing the out. He hid them from me.
Then he died.
I searched high and low (i.e. the scary basement). I could not find the cards.
Worst impulse: to keep writing about dead husband. To act as if I have not gotten over dead husband despite nineteen years of trying, when it is obvious to me most of the time that I have.
To hold a grudge against dead husband. To feel he should have told me where the cards were hidden. To keep searching. Maybe this is a good impulse.
To keep searching.

So, from time to time I may pull a card and write about it. My even WORSE impulse was to pull a card a day and write a book about it. And not revise my novel or develop a new class or garden. So bad I won’t do it. Not yet.

Basia Miller’s Poem based on the 1/4 Mile of Art at SFCC

Presence, a sonnet

The metal frame’s seen pain,
its loops of sinuous gut
gauze-bound in variegated red.
A brave topology of stripes

wraps wounded tibia and arm,
ties an apparent thorax
with what’s probably a pelvis.
Stretched wide across the wall,

anonymity permeates the form
til viewers let hands, face, throat,
reflect from foil panes in
body-windows octagonal and square.

It startles me to see this minute’s tears
shine in a work of art.

by Basia Miller

Icelandic E-Book Is Out! Enter the Creative Womb of Darkness with Mother and Daughter Team of Poet and Photographer

Poet Miriam Sagan and artist Isabel Winson-Sagan went to Iceland to experience the Arctic night near winter solstice in early 2014. They shared experiences such as searching for the northern lights and swimming in thermal pools, and responded in words and images. These photographs and poems were produced during the trip, and edited and shared later. Together, they express an elemental experience where such forces as celestial bodies, light and darkness, weather, and the points of the compass are embodied.
It is not that usual for a mother and daughter to collaborate, but our experience has deepened our understanding of both place and of each other–two women of different generations and sensibilities. From SIM guest house for international artists to the Hotel Fron to the sky viewing pavilion of the Northern Lights Inn–Iceland proved not only hospitable but inspirational.

Here’s the link to Amazon Kindle for SWIMMING TO REYKJAVIK

Poems in which I knit and Isabel naps, photos of volcanoes and laundry, darkness is our creative womb and where are the northern lights?

The e-book is also FREE at free at