3 Questions for Gary Moody

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
Assembling a LINE may be the most strenuous and exhausting task, or choice, other than choice of title, undertaken in making a poem. LINE is the CHOICE that locates WORD within space and time. Organically, a line is bound by breath, specifically a reader’s lung capacity, one’s ability to modulate the exhalation which becomes speech or song and the comfortable (or uncomfortable depending on one’s ascetic leanings or aging anatomy) duration of that exhalation. Artificially, (with ART the operative root) it is bound by the layout of the printed artifact, the page’s margin, the impulsive white space in which silence blossoms. Rigor may demand that a line always be the shortest distance between two linguistic points or two inhalations, which implies economy and brevity, a staccato of breaths. Yet the oral tradition subverts line brevity, with each teller adding a few more syllables to the river of sounds that comprise the line, thus making it her or his own. Selfishly, (no doubt in response to my own mortality which I hope to hold at bay for a bit longer) I prefer in my own work a line that undulates across the page’s field, one that denies the tiny (or lengthy) winters of white space, one that creates a fertile space for the inevitable dialectic between narrative and lyric, which I believe essential to poetry. As I revise, I try to impart, not only a rhythm of syllables to the line but also a rhythm of image, in which the image itself becomes a counterpoint rhythm to the syllabic, and marries the breath to meaning. This may be why I tend to write in longer lines than some. I also am intrigued by the innate ability of the line to disguise. I once wrote a set of eighteen haiku, each of which consisted of seventeen syllables, and three “LINES”. When arranged on a landscaped page in three columns, the series of haiku became several different poems, which could be read true to a column, down, then up to begin down again, and again, or as an 18 line poem composed of fractured lines across the page (think Cortazar’s Hopscotch). The aggregate of words in this piece is always a finite set, but the choice of LINE renders that finite set into myriad readings.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
If we believe science, when we listen to, or write, poetry, the chemistry of our brain changes, and our body’s response catapults us into a state akin to rapture. I am old enough to remember writing with a pen, or pencil, or the point of a knife against the back side of shed pine-bark when paper was not available. In those days the physical act of writing inclined a different motion than most of us use today, the flow of elbow, wrist, and hand vs. the positioned tap of fingers on a keyboard. I often wonder at the physical way WRITING has evolved, from cave paintings, to petroglyphs, to hieroglyphs, to chronicle, to history; or with the oral tradition from word, to fragment, to line, to lyric, to narrative, to epic, and throughout that evolution, it is the body that produces, through some sort of rhythmic repetitive motion, scratches on stone, etchings on kilned clay, breath across the tongue and teeth, vibrations within the ear, understood patterns of word and image, usually about something experienced by the body of the  one who records the event, whether in memory or imagination, using  the known to  evoke the unknown, possible or impossible, it is always the body that writes, that produces a language bound by the body’s mortal capability to express that which is sensed, desired, imagined, by heart and mind. Fortunately, I am well enough to often venture out into the high desert landscape of our world, and as such much of my writing deals with things, events, or creatures I have experienced directly while wandering the environs I’ve had the good (or ill) fortune to inhabit. It is my body’s memory of the plains, sand and waters of the Texas Gulf Coast, the creeks, rivers, and deciduous forests of Virginia’s piedmont, the Siberian taiga, the Sangre de Cristo and Caja del Rio of northern New Mexico, which I tend to draw on as a basis for my writing. My own body as both animal and human, and its relationship to the animals I love (or abhor) whether domestic or wild, lover, dog, hawk, or human, shapes my work. Even in those pieces, imagined rather than witnessed, I try to evoke the physicality of the page-made landscape by mirroring the known reaction to that landscape of my own body or to somehow render the landscape’s effect on the bodies of the sentient creatures that inhabit my work. Ultimately the life of the body, and its inevitable mortality, inevitably and inescapably inform my work.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
There are a few aspects of the POULTRY BIZNESS, that I truly abhor, things that I find discouraging, stultifying, and strangling. However, I confess I have been blessed and fortunate to be associated with a terrific and kind local publisher, Red Mountain Press, which has been patient and supportive with my idiosyncrasies. And, as any of us who live in Santa Fe know, we are all blessed with an extremely supportive and huge poetry community, containing generous venues for reading such as Teatro Paraguas and James McGrath’s Orchard, fine literary bookstores such as Op-Cit or Collected Works, and numerous writing groups that support each others’ work. Those are the good things. The harder thing is the economic reality of trying to get one’s work published and out in the world, given formatting constraints of presses, distribution costs, consignment costs, time and effort to publicize the work or reading events through social media. This second book of mine OCCOQUAN, became quite an effort. Originally the press and I decided to go with a wide paged book on somewhat oversized paper to accommodate the poems’ long lines, then bowing to costs, we selected the standard 6” x 9” which meant a complete reformatting of the text and redistribution of my usually long lines. About ninety percent through that effort my computer contracted a fatal virus which even infected my back-up files, causing the need to completely wipe my drives and begin all over again. Then there are the horror stories I’ve heard from other writers, the books finished, edited yet never published, bookstores that never pay the writer for the books they’ve sold, presses requesting that poets work on fundraising, the artificial caste system of published vs. self published poets, the puppy-mill way MFA programs turn out an unlimited quantity of graduates who are doomed to the slave-world of being underpaid adjunct faculty forced to live below the poverty line., What might be most troubling about the POULTRY BIZNESS, is the inevitable epiphany (or perhaps suspicion) that  we who suffer the addiction to writing actually suffer from the modern plague of grapho-mania, the certainty that each of us need to be a writer, that written or spoken art is still somehow important to humanity, and without which we will surely perish from this mortal earth, but at least, if we afford a book or possess a library card or find a hook-up to the grid we can read some of the most glorious stuff, ancient or current,  ever created.
Gary Worth Moody’s first collection of poems is HAZARDS OF GRACE (Red Mountain Press 2012). His second, OCCOQUAN, (Red Mountain Press, 2015), depicts the struggles of women for emancipation and suffrage, in the environs of Virginia’s infamous Occoquan Workhouse. He is currently working on a third manuscript with the working title SKINNED LIGHT which considers witch burnings, martyrdom by fire, immolations, catastrophe’s of flame, and the burning of Moctezuma’s aviaries by Hernán Cortés. A falconer, Gary lives in Santa Fe with the artist and writer, Oriana Rodman, two dogs and a red-tail hawk.

There is a sound that is not the first sound that comes
after the cartridge clicks into place inside
the rifle’s chamber,
after-the shot cottontail’s mewl,
or the scuff of dragging its shattered spine
across lava toward unsheltering
yucca after boots crush cinders before the bleeding
rabbit is lifted and the furred neck
twisted into its dying
crack, and the quiet of the dead thing being lain on
the bait tab of the just now set steel trap,
rusted jaws contorted
into position to sever anything innocent enough
to place paw or muzzle
against the husk that once bolted
through light quick enough to be almost invisible
before the hollow point bullet shattered
its life, before the long road under
spinning clouds takes me to the canyon’s mouth
where I park in settling dust
the southwest wind sifts from the jeep’s tires,
climb out and open the door for the already prancing
black-tongued dog, and empty
a water bottle into the plastic
bowl for the must be completed ritual before she runs,
a blurred thing, across desert
as I wander under morning
sun, face down, searching for flaked points, jasper and obsidian
from vanished
hunters, the corn-growers’
limed shard remnants, and lava hollowed by hands grinding grain,
until agony shrills from the arroyo’s
cut just off the road as the dog
jerks against the trap’s fast chain, biting the metal that holds,
screams as I reach
for her, trying to steady the iron,
as her jaws find my hand’s blood, clamp down until
with foot and hand I finally
separate the steel’s grip from her left
front leg just above her tan paw and then she is loose and running
again though only on three
legs as I bleed under sun
and the sounds I hear are breath and juniper creak beneath a raven’s wing
blistering November wind
just as the uncaught pup
finds her fourth leg and, without lameness, races
out of the canyon’s crease
into morning’s untrapped light.

3 Questions for Alison Stone

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
What I love about line breaks is that gives us a second thing. Prose has sentences. We have sentences that are often broken in the middle. That creates an effect. Breaking at the end of a sentence creates a different one. It’s interesting to me to play with the meaning of the sentences and the sounds of the lines. Two different units  — sometimes the sentence is primary, sometimes a line break will make the line primary. This shifts for me in different poems. I used to play my line breaks very safe – a bit of enjambment, a hint of surprise; but nothing radical. I’ve been playing more, indenting lines, working with spacing.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
I’m a Gestalt therapist, and we believe in organismic unity. We are mind/body/spirit. Memories are stored in the body, emotions are felt in the body. The body is essential to my work. Maybe it’s more obvious to women, but I think all poets write from their bodies, or from an attempt to disown or separate from the body. There’s nowhere else to live really.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
The stigma. The loneliness. Being a poet is like having a pit bull, always needing to explain. When I say I’m a writer, people look excited, then I say “poet” and their eyes glaze over. Plus there’s so little money out there, compared to fiction. It spurs ugly competition, scarcity. I’m writing because I have something to say, but knowing that .03% of Americans read poetry is discouraging. Also, readers treating poetry like memoir. The speaker is not the poet. A poem is a crafted object. Sometimes I recited poems to my pit bull. She never asks “but what does it mean?”

bio: Alison Stone is the author of Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014), Borrowed Logic (Dancing Girl Press 2014), From the Fool to the World (Parallel Press 2012) and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award and was published by Many Mountains Moving Press. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and a variety of other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin award. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in NYC and Nyack. She is currently editing an anthology of poems on the Persephone/Demeter myth.
This poem is from Dangerous Enough (Pressa Press 2014)
They have to wait to bury my mother
until my daughter stops nursing.
She had slept in a padded basket
while I stood wooden between my husband and my father;
people droned my mother’s praises
and the coffin loomed.
Now she wakes and roots, all
hunger. A stranger takes us
to the rabbi’s study. Amid clutter
of paper and books, I lift my black shirt.  Broken,
numb, I cannot imagine my body
will respond, but her latch draws milk down.
She sucks dreamily. New to this world,
she knows nothing but a mother
who drips tears on her still-closing skull.
Her eyes flicker open and shut. Someone knocks,
asks me to hurry. I rub my daughter’s back.
Her eyes stay closed now
but the fierce gums clamp.
I wait. The knot in my throat starts to soften.
As long as she holds on, nothing is
final. The drive to the grave
postponed, my mother is still above ground, here
with her new grandchild and me.

Pat Crow knows how to bring calm from chaos. And she tells us how!

Pat Crow knows how to bring calm from chaos. Her native spirit name is “You Have Center Tail Feather Sacred Woman”. The interpretation of that is that when a bird in flight wants to stabilize itself, it uses it’s tail feathers as a rudder, so to speak. Her name reflects her ability to “surf” through chaos as if on a bird’s tail feather to being stability and calm to others. How does she do it? I asked her a few questions:

1. Did you learn this or was it natural?
2. What are the necessary steps involved?
3. Any advice for others? Warnings or hints?

Here is her response:
1.  I believe I learned this behavior, and then it became natural.  I have a propensity for seeing the big picture and recognizing what needs to happen to calm a situation or people.  I have a laser focus that understands what needs to happen without getting caught up in the swirl.

2.  First, gather your wits about you.  Chaos doesn’t necessarily perpetuate unless it is fed or left to its own devices.
     Second, break the existing pattern in order to make changes.
     Third, replace the pattern with a sustainable and more stable one.
     Fourth, follow through.
     Fifth, follow up.

3.  Being a change agent has its rewards, and yet folks often resist change.  They like keeping their familiar patterns, they’re more comfortable than new ones.   Don’t expect accolades.  Just do the job and know you did your best. Perhaps later you will see the benefit of your efforts. 

3 Questions on Poetry for Meg Eden

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
I think a fluid/natural relationship—I try to not think about it too much. I draw a lot of inspiration from the biblical psalms in this way I think, and the idea of a selah, or pause. When I want to breathe in a poem, where there needs to be some break between ideas or a pause for processing, that’s part of how I know to end a line. So I guess that’s to say that for me, lines are more for practical than aesthetic use. 

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
This is a super interesting idea—and I’ve had to really sit on this question because I’m not actually sure for myself. Yes, there is a relationship between words, writing and the body, but I”m not sure fully how to describe my own connection. I definitely know people where this is more true for them than others—and the human body is an obsession for all of us as poets. I think the closest way I can answer this is that writing has become a bodily function for me—like breathing, peeing, and crying—it’s a natural reaction to circumstances. This was much truer when I was younger. I was very easily overstimulated and wouldn’t understand what was causing it—and especially when I was in a group I would feel an urgent need to get away from everyone, to pull out my notebook and write. It was very therapeutic for processing what I was thinking and feeling. I was delayed with learning to speak—I was about three when I started to speak. For the longest time since then, speech felt like an unnatural form of expression to me. Writing came much more naturally. So writing is certainly a way that I figure out what’s going on in my body, that my body can translate its experiences and try to better understand them. And if I don’t write for a long time, it’s a similar feeling to a leg cramping from sitting to long, it’s something that I feel physically compelled to do. 

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
When I have tables at book fairs, I feel like I have to apologize for being a poet! I think my only dislike about being a poet is that our culture doesn’t read poetry naturally. And on my own, I can’t fully explain that my poetry is narrative, that it really isn’t that scary, that I’m a novelist as well so I understand writing in a way that’s attainable for anyone—and I think that’s what aggravates me so much in being a poet! People judge the work before they even look at it! People will say, “Oh sorry I’m not smart enough for poetry” and bullcrap like that. What does that even mean? Not smart enough for poetry? If anything, I’d think poetry would be more popular in our technology, immediacy time. Poems are short. You can go through a book of poems much faster than novels. Yes, there might be arguably more digesting in poetry, but it’s like anything—you get out of it what you put into it. I’d think there’d be lots of skimmers of poetry like there’s so many skimmers of novels. But we live in weird times. So I think if I could change anything about being a poet, I’d want to change what it means culturally to be a poet—if that counts 🙂

Meg Eden’s work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Eleven Eleven, and Rock & Sling. Her work received second place in the 2014 Ian MacMillan Fiction contest. Her collections include  “Your Son” (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award), “Rotary Phones and Facebook” (Dancing Girl Press) and “The Girl Who Came Back” (Red Bird Chapbooks). She teaches at the University of Maryland. Check out her work at: https://www.facebook.com/megedenwritespoems 

Mini interview re: Leonard Cohen with Karla Linn Merrifield

Here is the first in the “What I Know How To Do” series–and what a fun topic!
If you want to participate, check it out.
Karla Linn Merrifield originally wrote me: I’m an expert on poet/singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen. I’m a Cohen mega-fan, a junkie, a scholar, divinely be-Mused by him.


Mini interview for Miriam Sagan re: Leonard Cohen
with Karla Linn Merrifield

1. What was the start of this fascination?

Back in the ’60s, when Leonard Cohen’s song “Suzanne” was a big hit, I was your typical angst-ridden teenager living in a household with estranged parents. As I entered puberty, my mother became menopausal while my Methodist minister dallied with a parishioner and punished me for dating Jewish boys. Cohen was one of them in a way. His intimate voice, his seductive but sad lyrics, his older-man sexiness fed the emerging poet in me. I’ve remained passionate about “my” Canadian poet-singer-songwriter ever since, scribbling poems to or about him.

2. How did you become an expert?

Going on three years ago, I finally got to see Leonard in person. Swoon, swoon. Rapture, rapture. I decided that night to assemble the Cohen poems I had in manila folders and computer files to see what I might have. The task became something much bigger. Being a compulsive researcher, I began reading or rereading everything he’d written and anything about him I could get my hands on. From those books of his and others’ biographies and philosophical and literary explorations of the man and his work, and from listening ad nauseum to his music, a Krakatoa of poems erupted. They’re now a completed manuscript under consideration with two publishers. But, as Cohen has emerged at the ripe age of 80 as a superstar, a flood of new books about him have come out just this year, so I’m still reading, still writing him poems, and learning. Just yesterday I found out all of Cohen’s songs are composed from a combination of only six chords from the flamenco tradition, taught to him by a Spanish guitarist. It’s fun, but certainly exposes my compulsive streak.

3. What have you learned about yourself?

Until I was immersed in “the Cohen poems,” I hadn’t realized just how important – vital – a role music plays in our human lives. Cohen’s songs (along with his poetry) kept me more or less sane during those tumultuous teen years. He and his music have been constant companions through other dark times, and, yes, times of joy as well. When I need to smile, I just turn on his “Tower of Song” and instantaneously the knitted-brow of anxiety vanishes and I’m grinning widely. And I now know with absolute certainty that his poetry has informed my poems again and again.

4. Any general words of wisdom on having a muse?

Give thanks to the Universe for your muse. Always leave the door open for him or her or it. Trust that your muse(s) will be there for you. And remember: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in” (from L.C.’s “Anthem).


To read more on Cohen, see what some other contributors say.

Bettina Gilois interviews Miriam Sagan at Blacktop Passages

BG: If writing is a road what kind of road are you on? Is it a winding mountain incline? A wooded path? A freeway?

MS: What is the road? It’s really been many different kinds of roads. If I have
to summarize, it’s been a road into the remote. I am very easily scared.

A little dirt road in a little subdivision is enough to make me think I’m in the vast wilderness. But it’s been a road that has been away from civilization. I spent several weeks out in Wendover, Utah in the barracks at the edge of the Salt Flats at the Center for Land Use Interpretation. And probably that was the most psychologically remote place I had ever been. It was very, very compelling. I tend to think I’m further away from things than I really am. Two hours out of Salt Lake and I think I’m at the edge of the earth.

BG: How would you describe your relationship to writing? Are you two lovers? Friends? Siblings?

MS: I used to think it was a classic S&M relationship. Writing was the dominatrix. And I was the slave. This muse does not care about me at all personally. Am I hungry; am I tired? Do I want to write? Do I not want to write? Do I need to make a living? It felt like a harsh mistress so to speak.

Then I would say I outgrew this need to for highly romantic relationships. Settled down by the time I was thirty or so. I’d say it’s very passionate. I often feel, and I don’t know if other people experience this, I feel like I’m going to be with the writing. Certain things I want to wear. Certain things I want to eat.

It’s like a date. Certain things I want to read. Being with the writing the way you want to be with a spouse. I want to keep the writing entertained. I want to look good. It’s very personal.


To read more, visit the on-line version of this excellent magazine.

3 Questions for Glenna Luschei

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

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

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

1. My mother said I used iambic pentameter before I could talk in words and my children remember that
I spoke to them in rhyme when they were little so I guess I use it as basic and fundamental.

2. I think I bottle up words in my body. The name of an early book was “Back into my Body.” so I definitely feel I use my body as a storage shed. I feel I am at my physical peak when I am writing or on the tail of a poem. Having a book published is a let down which makes me feel restless. I need to get going again.

I get good images when I’m walking , even better, running. Best yet, swimming.

3. Sometimes I wonder why I have given my life to something so obscure but I like the hermetic life, too.

Glenna Luschei was born in Iowa, educated in Nebraska, and has been a poet all her life. She was a
corn detasseler in Iowa who graduated to raising avocados in California. She has lived in South America and in the American Southwest. With her PhD in Hispanic Languages from the University of California at Santa Barbara she has served as medical translator for migrant workers. In the year 2000 she was inducted as poet laureate of San Luis Obispo, California, City and County.

Since I’m getting on a plane, here’s a short one.

Flight Haiku

So much joy in life
I will be forced to declare
this extra baggage.

3 Questions for Scott Starbuck

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

Organic is the word I would use to describe a poetic line. Some lines, as with editor Robert Hass’ “versions” of Basho, Issa, and Buson, are short to place emphasis on nature element, season, or satori commonly found in haiku. At the opposite end of the spectrum,  Whitman gets music, momentum, political oratory, King James Bible-like parallel structures, and opera-like power out of long lines, according to Voices and Visions.  When considering one’s own lines, it is best to learn from these masters.

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

The breath, pulse, and heart-beat music of the body sometimes helps revision when my poems are read aloud.  However, many times while writing I am so far away from my body that I forget I have one.  Hunger, need for sleep, and other human limitations completely dissolve, and I think this allows me to see some things I otherwise could not.  It takes many years of this practice to peel off some onion skins to get to the truth-or-beauty core.  Many times I have thought I was at the core, only to find out moments or even years later I was far from it.  The social, political, religious, psychological, and self-imposed disguises are so clever. 

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

I dislike the stress that comes from realizing my respect for wild animals, places, and human spirits means I have to say things in poems that many people don’t want to hear.  But who will speak if poets don’t? I recall Norman Brown wrote something like, “For the truth of politics we must look to the poets, not to the politicians.”

For example, I was recently working on an activist poem for my new book Congress of Fish about the danger of poets being co-opted.  In the poem I asked, “but who will speak for drowned  polar bears/ sighted from Arctic helicopters/ if poets are co-opted?”  The idea came from the AWP 2014 Conference in Seattle when Marybeth Holleman reported on the “first-ever recorded” helicopter observations of four drowned adult polar bears due to extreme ice melt.  Cubs have been dying for years due to the same reason.  Bruce Barcott reported on July 19, 2011 on Guardian Environment Network, “Biologists studying polar bears off the coast of Alaska have found that when cubs are forced to go on marathon swims with their mothers due to loss of sea ice, nearly half of them don’t survive the journey.”

Let me be specific about why poets must speak.  Poets need to exercise freedom to speak because governments are trying to silence honest scientists.   Like Galileo before him, Charles Monnett, the scientist who saw the four drowned adult polar bears, was punished by authorities merely for reporting what he saw.  Becky Bohrer reported September 28, 2012 in a Huff Post Green article, “Scientist Who Saw Drowned Polar Bears Reprimanded ” < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/28/drowned-polar-bear-scientist_n_1924730.html >, “The official, Walter Cruickshank, deputy director of BOEM [U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management], said in a memo that an inspector general’s investigation contained findings that Monnett had improperly disclosed internal government documents [ . . . .]” and  “called Monnett’s ‘misconduct very serious,’ and said any future misconduct may lead to more severe discipline, including removal from federal service.”  The BOEM idea, it seems, was to protect oil company leases instead of polar bears.

Cut to December 4, 2013, when Becky Bohrer reported for the Associated Press on Yahoo News, “Drowned polar bear scientist gets $100k settlement,” . The article noted, “Following the investigation, BOEM ultimately found no evidence of scientific misconduct. But Monnett was reprimanded for improper release of emails that were later used by an appeals court to strike down an Arctic oil and gas exploration plan approved by BOEM. [ . . . .] Monnett, in a release, said the agency tried to silence and discredit him ‘and send a chilling message to other scientists at a key time when permits for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic were being considered. They failed on the first two goals, but I believe that what they did to me did make others afraid to speak up, even internally.’ [paragraph break] He said he could not, in good conscience, ‘work for an agency that promotes dishonesty, punishes those who actually stand up for scientific integrity, and that cannot tolerate scientific work not pre-shaped to serve its agenda.'” 

Sometimes while on my way to hiking and poeming in the Pacific Northwest, I see this sign by a bridge, “YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK” and in my mind I add “SILENCING HONEST SCIENTISTS.”  I can be meaner, and will be.
Prior to AWP 2014, I was looking for a place to send a new manuscript, and saw The National Poetry Series was accepting support from Exxon. Thinking of the thousand plus oil-soaked otters from the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill,
I thought this was exactly like God asking Satan if he could spare some change for the cause.  The history of oil companies in the United States speaks volumes .

Last night I watched American Experience: We Shall Remain: Disc 2 about the Trail of Tears.  Images came to mind of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe currently fighting the Keystone XL pipeline, partly out of concern about oil contamination of the Ogllala Aquifer.  In the Trail of Tears documentary I saw President Andrew Jackson betray the trust of the Cherokee Nation, and even refuse to honor U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall’s finding that the state of Georgia’s attempt to forcibly remove Cherokee people was unconstitutional.  Jackson’s reply was “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it! … Build a fire under them. When it gets hot enough, they’ll go.”  According to the documentary, it was the only time in U. S. history, a president refused a ruling from The U. S. Supreme Court.  Land was at stake so basic human rights were denied, the U. S. Constitution was ignored, and ethnic cleansing resulted.  PBS Online noted “over 4,000 out of 15,000 of the Cherokees died” on the winter march though other reports put the number of dead much higher.   Today, March 24, 2014, is the The 175th anniversary of the end of the Trail of Tears, and what have we learned?  Ask the Rosebud Sioux.

Seven Things I Saw Near Borrego Desert
Turkey vulture reminded me of Congress.
Waterless river – poverty.
Discarded pack of Winstons – lies.
Kumeyaay pictograph suns, humans,
and weaving – hope.
One-legged man fighting
steep trail with a walker – myself.
Cougar attack sign – failed love.
Swainson’s hawk carrying a snake
reminded how spirit wins
over flesh every time
and eventually flies you home.

A 2013 Artsmith Fellow on Orcas Island < http://orcasartsmith.blogspot.com/2013/02/artsmith-artist-spotlight-scott-starbuck.html >,
Scott T. Starbuck feels destruction of Earth’s ecosystems is closely related to spiritual illness and widespread urban destruction of human consciousness.  His newest book The Other History <   http://www.amazon.com/The-Other-History-Scott-Starbuck/dp/1938853415  > was recently published by FutureCycle Press. His blog post on eco-poetry writing, “The Godfather Box,” is at South 85 < http://south85journal.com/2014/02/the-godfather-box/ >.  He lives on Whidbey Island and in San Diego, and blogs about environmental issues, fishing, and poetry in the Pacific Northwest at http://riverseek.blogspot.com/

3 Questions for Lea Bradovich

1.What is you personal/aesthetic relationship to the artistic line in drawing and painting? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

Manet famously said that ‘there are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against the other.’ As a young artist I loved the ideas of Kandinsky, setting his lines free from his shapes, letting his color roam. The surrealist vision that I am pursuing now requires some of the methods of realism, however.
When I paint in gouache the media lends itself to linear qualities. The old tempera painters like Botticelli are known for their beautiful line. Less than a generation later Leonardo’s oil paint evaporated line like smoke, sfmato, in his words, “without lines or borders…” It looked real.
I draw with line, of course, but its at the service of the image I’m envisioning. Sometimes I transfer a drawing onto a panel, sometimes I rough in the design with paint, no line, massing darks and lights, refining it as I go along. I like dissolving flat, wet oil lines out into form, watching another dimension (or the illusion of another dimension) come into being. It gets me every time.

Do you find a relationship between painting and art and the human body? Or between your art and your body?

I am a body who paints the illusion of the body, if mainly the portrait. Studying the human form is a life long pursuit. There is so much to learn. We are endlessly expressive. I love good figurative art, there are many, many fine contemporary artists depicting the human form. I’m awed and humbled at their mastery. I even like mediocre figurative art. I adored the ‘bad’ painting of the 80’s, as long as there were figures involved. Wherever there is a human form there is a story, a narrative implied. I love a story.
Nature repeats all good functional forms, cross species, cross plant and animal kingdoms. I used to riff on the fractal similarities between human vascular forms and trees, roots and branches – consider the pulmonary system, two great trees within the lungs, respirating. (In one painting I used that theme as a big skirt) As within so with out, one could say.
A few days ago another artist told me that there seems to be evidence that the universe is furrowed, like a brain. (Do you remember “A Wrinkle in Time”?) The forms and functions that comprise the body may well be everywhere.
Since I only get to paint as long as I have a body I have a lot of incentive to care for it. Standing and moving is good while painting, later in the afternoon I’ll sit and work on some detailed section. I don’t need to pull back to see the whole effect then. While standing (or sitting) I try to employ the principles I’ve learned from yoga and tai chi, tuck the tail bone, pull up and in on the two lower energy centers, breathe, balance, unfurl the spine. If things are going poorly I check these principles, sure enough, I’m slumping, clutching, holding my breath, locking my joints. Returning to my body returns me to the moment.

Is there anything you dislike about being an artist

I can get a bit isolated, quite inward, a studio cave woman. I almost never feel lonely, tho. It is necessary to leave words behind while drawing or painting and exist in the visual moment. I have an extrovert within that is very verbal, however. It has recently occurred to me that I need to allow the verbal extrovert more time and attention. Writing is very satisfying, and again, a solitary pursuit, so I am thinking of ways to be creatively social and interactive. Except I typically won’t take time of from painting to do so….

Come Hither Queen Bee
copyright 2011 Lea Bradovich

Homage To The Common Bird
copyright 2011 Lea Bradovich

3 Questions for John Brandi

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

This question sends me back to my childhood beginnings as a poet and
painter. My parents, neither of whom were artists, gave me paper, pencils,
and plenty of solitude in which to simply sit, imagine and squiggle
imaginary labyrinths. My language was the line, a ceremonial thread
extending from body to page, procreating as it unraveled, bestowing
dimension to the paper. The line was a sonorous filament intimate with the
pronouncement of my dreams. I sang as the line unrolled, and the more I
sang, the more I “saw.” My parents also introduced me to the natural
world: the California coast, the High Sierras, the Mojave Desert. After
our trips, my father would ask me to draw something from the places we
visited; my mother would suggest I write a line to express how I felt in
the place that I drew. When my drawings and “lines of feeling” began to
pile up, they would gather and staple them into pages, ask me to make a
cover and add a title. “There, now you have a book.”

Fifty-five years later I still do what I did then: travel out, feel the
world, return home, and allow the line to unravel into a poem, a picture,
a book. In 1985, after my first fifteen years in New Mexico, That Back
Road In was published, a collection of  64 poems with ten “word maps”
culled from my journals. The word maps harkened back to the sinewy lines
of my childhood drawings. My type-set poems were sinewy, too—each line a
topographic, or typographic, projection of the high desert. I didn’t, and
still don’t, adhere to a flush-left format, my preference being to keep
the poems as close as possible to the way they came into my head, out from
my hand, into my journals.  The flush-left format is clean and readable,
but it doesn’t bear a close relationship with music—the essential drift of
song which poetry celebrates. Nor does it allow me as easily into the
poem, or into the poet, as does a more visually seductive format.

Physical geography is very important to me—geography was my favorite class
in school, and maps were an essential part of growing up. In a sense,
geography begins from within, erupts from the imagination, becomes real as
we walk, disappears when we stop. A trail through the land is a path
through the mind. In my own poetry the shape of a line can have to do with
the terrain of a hike or of a psychological amble into deep solitude; it
can sound the depths and record the musicality of wildly-rambling
consciousness or become an isoseismic graph measuring an emotional abyss.
It can unroll as a calligraphic Chinese scroll, a jagged labyrinth of
automatic writing, or strange telegraphic teletype spelling out metaphors
for a world beyond. It can leap with juxtapositions and record the
sensory, extra-sensory and emotionally expressive realities of an outward
journey: a high-altitude summit, a hop-skip-jump over rushing whitewater,
a surge through warm currents after a deep-water dive, a crawl through the
cosmos of the backyard garden.

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

Absolutely. The poem is liquid, manufactured in the body, not in the
brain. It doesn’t agree with logic, it is not separate from the soul, it
is a secretion; a cosmopolitan third-eye nerve-ending “seeing” (in the
manner of the ancient rishis). It is blood equation, alchemic fusion,
soma, spittle, light cycled through the flesh to be made word. Thus, not
“created,” but there before creation. Erupted, spewed. As is magma. The
drunken boat of Rimbaud is a poetic evolution of the body’s journey. Pure
secretion, fluid word pictures. As are those of Wang Wei: exaltations,
pulsing mindframes, moody hues—mauve, pewter, apricot—sifting from mind
and mountain, into the body’s garden, through rustling bamboo into elusive
poem-pictures re-conjugating in mid air. Flesh and world as one. Body and
word as song. Energy as eternal delight (Blake).

3. What’s to dislike about being a poet?

Funny question, but a good one. Sort of like asking the farmer what’s to
dislike about the hoe. What I like: I’m out of the money loop, I’m content
with the hardships, it’s interesting to break through the hardscrabble and
look for water (or gold), and it’s okay to stumble (no career loop, thus
nobody watching) while mixing and fusing the alchemic brew. Poetry is the
perfect anecdote for the world of speed and distraction that has gobbled
people’s lives. I enjoy its process: the “not doing,” the pause within
everyday details, the wake-up clonk! that lets me see/feel/absorb the
familiar as if for the very first time.  Even though I can get cranky and
hard on myself during the final stages of honing a poem (elbow grease,
donkey work, re-seeding the furrows that didn’t produce, etc), it’s all
worth the toil. Eventually a garden ripens—profuse with blooming weeds,
unexpected wildflowers, bright tomatoes, eatable greens. Painting is also
a wonderful dance, no mind, all action. Over the years I have been
fortunate to enjoy the patronage of a small circle of collectors, and
this—tacked together with miscellaneous invites to teach, lecture, build a
fence, or create a one-of-a-kind book—has kept the financial rivers
flowing, though just barely in the dry season.

As to the “dislikes,” I’ll tackle what comes to mind randomly:

Because the American mainstream puts art, especially poetry, behind more
profitable and less mysterious tasks, poets often get cornered into the
idea of volunteering their craft, as if the making of poetry were some
sort of spare-time hobby. It is demeaning to hear a school celebrate the
“art saves lives” rap, then turn around and offer you a pittance of pay,
or none at all—not even a gratis book—for coming in to teach, save a life,
save the endangered species of human imagination. A couple years ago a
university asked me to return to read and lecture, but, because of “the
times,” they asked if I would come back for half of what I received the
year before. When your roof leaks, I asked them, do you ask your plumbers
to return and do the work for half of what they were paid the year before?
I wondered if the faculty was used to asking gas station attendants for a
cheaper rate before filling their tanks.  It also occurred to me that,
because of “the times,” poetry might be even more important than it was
the year before!  Poets shouldn’t have to kneel and explain their worth.
Surgeons, attorneys, and pilots don’t. A dedicated craftsperson—at his or
her vocation for decades, accumulating experience, growing a diverse
library as a horticulturalist would a garden of rare plants—is a
professional! When my relatives, who had worked in the auto industry their
entire lives, called on me to write a poetic tribute for my father’s 85th
birthday, they said: “You’re the wordsmith in the family.” And I thought
to myself, I’m honored, somebody really gets it!

Here’s another gripe: the poet-in-the-chair position. The
face-the-blank-page notion of duty that is often associated with poetic
process. Give me the active state! Walking, weeding, hammering the roof,
fitting stones into a path, splashing the brush across paper, splitting
oak for the hearth. Anything but the unnatural position at a desk, staring
at a blank piece of paper, waiting for the poem to come. How about a blank
sheet of sky! Walk out under it, and hundreds of sensations flutter into
the head that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

Another dislike: competition in the world of poetry. That strange, and
strangely ongoing, literary scramble that fills the eager-to-get-ahead
with the need to  hobnob for opportunity, profile, recognition, gig
getting, etc., as if poets were business people selling their products, or
worse, selling themselves. Can’t imagine Mirabai, Kabir, Ghalib, Blake,
Basho, Chiyo-ni, Lorca or Dickinson opening their briefcases and flaunting
their résumés.  I once got paid to judge a poetry contest, a little dinero
for teeth repair (which turned out to be less painful than reading the
contest submissions). The poems seemed to be shaped by rivalry, written by
authors standing on tiptoes, painfully aware of the kind of awards-in-mind
“craft” one learns in MFA programs. Each manuscript was over-baked in the
same mold, cupcake look-alikes, taste-alikes. The work would have
benefited if the authors had loosened up, taken chances, left the
superhighway (and its rules) for a zigzag trail. Tearing up the images and
reassembling them with some ragged edges might have helped; or opening a
window to let the breeze rearrange the pages. Mostly, the poems would have
profited if the authors had had some real life experience. A good
non-academic head shake, an impromptu burlesque, a stint as a butcher,
steel worker, farmhand, midwife.

A poet of the 1950’s generation recently reminded me: “we didn’t need
awards, gigs, recompense. We had each other. We just went out and read! We
drank, listened, devoured!” I think of this whenever I encounter clever,
elbows-out poetry opportunists rushing forward with the weight of “where
going, what means.” I’d rather shoulder the tools of the trade, hold out
an empty bowl, see what falls into it. The essence of poetry is dust and
chaff—all that is unfinished, half-formed, charged with its own
energy—that settles on the plate.

John Brandi has been faithful to the craft of poetry, painting, and
journaling for the majority of his life. He is the recipient numerous
awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship,
four Witter Bynner Foundation teaching residencies, and a White Pine Press
World of Voices internship in Buffalo, NY. A former Peace Corps Volunteer
in highland Ecuador, he moved to rural New Mexico in 1971. He is an ardent
traveler, with over 36 books published in the US and abroad. A prolific
visual artist, his paintings and collages are in collections worldwide. In
2008 a wide selection of his art, including hand-colored letterpress
books, glyphs and word maps, were shown at Loka Gallery in Taos. In 2009
he lectured at the Palace of the Governors Museum in Santa Fe, where he
also co-curated the “Jack Kerouac and the Writer’s Life” exhibition. That
same year he gave the keynote address at the Haiku North America
conference in Ottawa, Canada. In 2010 the Bancroft Library at the
University of California, Berkeley, acquired his archives. His most recent
book of longer poems is Facing High Water, from White Pines Press. A
tri-lingual selection of his haiku is forthcoming from a publisher in
India. John lives with his wife, poet Renée Gregorio, in El Rito, New
Mexico, where he plants a garden, sets stone, and continues to teach, as
he always has, apart from the academy, as an itinerant scholar and