Saturday, May 20, 2023

JOIN US in San Francisco at Bird & Beckett! Denise Low, Art Beck, Art Goodtimes

June 8, 2023- 7 pm,                              Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate emerita, has won a Red Mountain Press award, NEH grants, and other recognition for her writings and research. She was president of the Associated Writing Programs board and is a founding board member of Indigenous Nations Poets. Her memoir The Turtle's Beating Heart: One Family's Story of Lenape Survival is from the University of Nebraska Press. She has articles and reviews in Unpapered: Native Writers on Identity; PostIndian Aesthetics; and Marsh Hawk Press’s Chapter One series. She has a close relationship to jackalopes and sighted Bigfoot with her husband.

 Art Beck’s Opera Omnia Luxorius, a Duet for Sitar and Trombone  won the 2013 Northern California Book Award for poetry in translation. His Mea Roma, a “meditative sampling” of Martial epigrams was a runner up in the American Literary Translators Association 2018 Cliff Becker Book Prize. His Etudes, a Rilke Recital was a finalist in the 2021 NCBA. He will be reading from his 2022 volume, Angel Rain, Poems 1977-2020.

 Art Goodtimes retired in 2016 after five terms as Colorado’s only Green Party county commissioner. He co-directs the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds poetry project, is poetry editor for Fungi Magazine , and co-hosts the Sage Green Journal online anthology. He founded the Institute’s Prospect Basin Fen Project and its Ute Reconciliation and Indigenous Peoples Day projects and remains on their advisory boards. His poetry books include As If the World Really Mattered (La Alameda Press) and Looking South to Lone Cone (Western Eye Press). He was co-editor of the anthology MycoEpithalamia: Mushroom Wedding Poems (Fungi Press). Art’s latest book is Dancing on Edge: The McRedeye Poems (Lithic Press, Fruita, CO, 2019). A widower and a grandpa, Art lives alone on Wrights Mesa near Norwood. His oldest daughter Iris Willow and his granddaughter

 BIRD & BECKETT EVENTS ( Bird & Beckett 653 Chenery Street San Francisco's Glen Park neighborhood. 415-586-3733

Glen Park BART station; MUNI lines 23, 35, 36, 44, 52 and J-Church

I-280 South - Monterey exit (hairpin right at end of the off ramp, then left on Diamond, right on Chenery)

1-280 North - San Jose/Bosworth exit (immediate right at Rousseau, right turns on Bosworth, Diamond and Chenery)

Friday, March 24, 2023

Cynthia Cruz wins the 2023 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry

NBCC Poetry Prize winner Cynthia Cruz writes poetry and essays. Her poem “The Undersong” (2016) states an aspect of her poetics as it begins, 

“But whose voice will enter/ and what will I do/ with that brutal but beautiful music.” It continues,

In the city, from my hotel window

I can see the elements and trace.

Structures constructed to protect the mind

and the gorgeous culture of the body.

In the park nearby, at dusk.

With plastic transistor radio

and magnetic apparatus,

so small they fit into the palm

of my hand.

The first-person narrator grieves—for what is not clear, beyond a generalized ennui within urban disconnections. The “hotel window” viewpoint is one of a homeless person, even if the perch in a hotel is temporary. The music, like poetry itself, strives to “protect the mind” as it appeals to the corporeal senses. All of the moment is a self-contained vignette, fitting “into the palm/ of my hand.” Yet it also opens out into a shared condition, an “Undersong” that most may not hear as its sadness plays below conscious awareness. This concise lyric has its own music as it creates unexpected pangs in the listener/reader--myself.

Cruz grew up in Northern California, a major influence, she explains in an interview with Paul Rowe: “I grew up in a small town in rural Northern California—there were hawks, rabbits, snakes. We had animals and acres and I spent most of my girlhood outdoors chasing these creatures. In the long driveway were cars and the carcasses of cars, engines and pieces. So, there’s that—that landscape shaped me, made me who I am.” In her interview with she continues to explain her early experiences as invisible to those middle class readers without a similar background (of poverty, working class culture) but omnipresent, as “an interior or a flight to an externalized interior: someplace away from the slick and sleek exteriors of the Neoliberal city and suburbs and all that these places require” (interview with Paul Rowe, Minor Literature[s]). 

Denise Low, 2023

Cynthia Cruz won the 2023 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry with Hotel Oblivion (Four Way Books, 2022). She is the author of four other collections of poetry, including three with Four Way Books: How the End Begins (2016),  Wunderkammer (2014), The Glimmering Room;  and Ruin (Alice James, 2006). She has published poems in numerous literary journals and magazines, including the New YorkerKenyon Review, the Paris ReviewBOMB, and the Boston Review. She is the editor of an anthology of Latina poetry, Other Musics: New Latina Poetry (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019). She also publishes essays: Disquieting: Essays on Silence, critical essays exploring silence as a form of resistance (Book*hug, 2019) and The Melancholia of Class (Repeater Books, 2021). Cruz has received fellowships from Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony as well as a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. Cruz grew up in Northern California, where she earned her BA at Mills College. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in writing and an MFA in Art Criticism & Writing from the School of Visual Arts. Cruz is currently pursuing a PhD in German Studies at Rutgers University. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

Four Way Books: Four Way Books » Cynthia Cruz Author Page

Poem Hunter: Cynthia Cruz Poems - Poems by Cynthia Cruz (

Poetry Foundation bio, poems, prose: Cynthia Cruz | Poetry Foundation

Video reading of “Silence”: Cynthia Cruz reads “Silencer” - Ours Poetica | Poetry Foundation

Academy of American Poets: About Cynthia Cruz | Academy of American Poets

Friday, February 24, 2023

William J. Harris, an Ad Astra poet, is featured in Poetry (Feb. 2023)

A poem from this blog, published May 21, 2010, is among poems by friend, scholar, and poet Billy Joe Harris in a portfolio of lyrics in the Feb. issue of Poetry. I have always had the highest regard for Billy as a poet and as a person. Some of his generosity of character shines through in the Poetry interview that accompanies the portfolio. He was an essential member of the Poetini group that met regularly with Ken Irby, Judith Roitman, Stan Lombardo, Susan Harris, Joe Harrington, Jonathan Mayhew, Beth Reiber, Barnie Warf. Below is a reprint of that May 21 post, also available in the print anthology I published with the Washburn University Center for Kansas Studies, To the Stars: Kansas Poets of the Ad Astra Poetry Project.   (Another poem, "Practical Concerns" by William J. Harris is also on this blog, Nov. 13, 2010). Denise Low, Feb. 24, 2023.

Billy Joe Harris, University of Kansas professor emeritus, spent a sabbatical year studying poets and painters, including artist Giorgio Morandi. He admires Morandi for “muted colors and radically reduced subject matter.” He employs this approach to his own verse. His work suggests narratives, but in such concise form that cultural referents may be minimal. In the poem “Sympathetic Magpies,” the Chinese origin of the legend is secondary to the universal concept of bridges. Further, the stanzas’ own parallel lines suggest intervals of bridge girders. Love creates a bridge between mortal and immortal beings, and the interplay between heaven and earth are universal. The memorable magic here is the bridge made of magpies. The poem has parable-like directness, with love that can defy the decrees of heaven. Like bridges, romance between a young weaver and herder can be set in most times and places. The Milky Way itself is another kind of bridge. Then Harris shifts to present time, inviting readers to also become part of legends through the poem. With a few simple images—lovers, Heaven, and bridges—the poet creates a story, briefly outlined yet complete like a Morandi painting. Harris said of the painter: “His quiet visual drama tells you that you need no more than these few objects to tell the human story.” This also applies to “Sympathetic Magpies.”

There is an old Chinese legend
About a weaving girl and a cowherd
Falling in love and being punished
By Heaven because she was celestial
And he was a mere mortal

Heaven only allowed them to meet
Once a year
On the seventh day
Of the seventh month

The magpies were so sympathetic
Each year
On that day
They made themselves
Into a bridge
Stretching across the Milky Way
So the lovers could kiss

Poems are sympathetic magpies
Bridges between lovers
Bridges between selves
Bridges between worlds

Education: Harris received a BA in English (Central State University 1968), MA in Creative Writing (Stanford 1971), and PhD in English and American Literature (Stanford 1974).

Career: William J. Harris is an emeritus professor of American literature, African American literature, creative writing, and jazz studies. He taught at the University of Kansas, Pennsylvania State University, and Cornell University, among other universities. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. This poet and critic’s books include: Hey Fella Would You Mind Holding This Piano a Moment (Ithaca House 1974), In My Own Dark Way (Ithaca House 1977) and Personal Questions (Leconte Publishers, Rome, 2010). He has published in over fifty anthologies. He is the author of the critical work The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka (University of Missouri Press 1985) and editor of The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1991, second edition, 2000).

Friday, December 30, 2022

Tom Weso Paintings and Denise Low Poems: A Dialogue

Thanks to folks associated with Numero Cinq! This is from 2014, and it brings back fond memories. The poems ended up in Melange Block, Red Mountain Press. Click link for full chapbook.


A family burns chairs, clothes, and axes
but nothing stops the silent killer.
Neighbors find them frozen in bed.

Another year trees explode.
Crows fall from trees.
Lakota winter counts show a black-ink crow.
Ben Kindle writes, “K’agi’ o’ta c’uwi’tat’api.”
Crows, they freeze to death.

This enemy seeps through sills and door jambs.
Chimney flues fill with its wrath.

North is its direction.
Nothing stops it from reaching
through flesh to the center of bone.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Denise Low reviews a first book by Georgiana Valoyce-Sanchez

A Light To Do Shellwork By, by Georgiana Valoyce-Sanchez. (Scarlet Tanager Press. $18.00. ISBN

9781734531350 2022). This California Indigenous author, of Islander and Coastal Chumash people and an enrolled O’odham member, publishes her first full-length collection of poetry. This elder’s book is an important link among generations. The poems celebrate and renew family spiritual practices, as in the poem “The Fox Paw and Coyote Blessing.” It describes the narrator’s conversation with her departed grandmother:

. . . The morning of my Giveaway

at the Sunrise Ceremony

sprinkling tobacco to the east

of the ceremonial ring

I prayed to my Papago Pima gramma

who died a few years back but is

alive somewhere . . . .   (p. 35).

The narrator knows the grandmother is “alive somewhere,” and the poem adds another dimension to that reality. Another intergenerational work is “The Red Shawl,” a dramatic poem that works well on the page. Valoyce-Sanchez has faith the readers will receive her words as living testaments. Her generosity of spirit pervades the poems.

I am honored to have been asked to write the foreword to this important book, which includes these comments about the title: “Especially moving in A Light to Do Shellwork By are the poems about the narrator’s father, in his nineties, as he finds his way through blindness and memories. Respect for this man’s life embodies the respect for all the cultural traditions. His [Chumash] people have survived over five-hundred years of contact with settlers from the west and the east. Prayers, songs, dances, and poems are among the techniques of survival, for a people and for the individuals. Gratitude to Georgiana Valoyce-Sanchez for this magnificent gift” (ix-xi). A stanza from the title poem “A Light To Do Shellwork By,” tells about the day the poet’s father died, :

The ocean sang in my father’s hands

abalone pendants shimmered rainbows

from the ears of pretty girls

and shellwork dotted driftwood carvings

            cowrie shells, cone shells, volute shells

            red, black, white, blue, brown, green shells

the life they once held


old stories etched on

the lifeline of my father’s palm . . . .  (p. 61)

The verse includes culturally based topics as well as recent political issues, such as tribal terminations by the federal government. California Indigenous peoples suffered some of the worst persecutions and violence from settlers. A Light To Do Shellwork By is a healing work that looks forward without forgetting the past.

Biography: GEORGIANA VALOYCE-SANCHEZ, author of A Light To Do Shellwork By: Poems (Scarlet Tanager Books, 2022), is a descendant of Islander and Coastal Chumash Peoples from her father’s lineage, and O’odham (Akimel and Tohono) from her mother’s lineage. She is currently an enrolled member of The Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation and chair of the Chumash Women’s Elders Council for the Wishtoyo Foundation. She taught many different classes for the American Indian Studies Program at California State University, Long Beach, including two classes she designed: “World Genocides: An American Indian Perspective,” with graduate student Anna Nazarian-Peters, and “Conduits of California Indian Cultures: Art, Music, Dance and Storytelling.” She retired from CSULB in 2014, after twenty-seven years. She was a board member for many years at the California Indian Storytelling Association, and she continues to be an advocate for California Indian languages and sacred sites. Her poem “I Saw My Father Today” is on display at the Embarcadero Muni/BART station as one of twelve poems cast in bronze and placed prominently in San Francisco. 

Praise for A Light To Do Shellwork By

 "This long-awaited book of poetry by Georgiana Valoyce-Sanchez is a beautiful masterwork on how to take care of the light of knowledge given to her by family, by the lands and the waters. Each poem is as delicate and precise as a carved shell. Each shell-poem reminds us of the original purpose of poetry, to function as blessing songs, as memory holders, or observations for what is humbly important but might go unseen unless given a place to live in a poem. These poems will take you to the ocean’s edge and allow you to listen deeply to the blue deep. They will take you to the desert and sing into you the shimmer of rain feeding the generous expanse of sunlight. With this collection of poetry, you will make it home."

— Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek Nation), 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate


“An illustration of intimate family history that’s a testament to the continuity of Indigenous life and poetics in California.” Kirkus Review

Monday, November 14, 2022

Meadowlark Books Publishes Denise Low's Book of Essays Jigsaw Puzzling

JIGSAW PUZZLING: ESSAYS IN A TIME OF PESTILENCE by Denise Low, Meadowlark Press. Games/Essay/Memoir

The 15 essays in this book explore the pop culture of jigsaw puzzlers while reflecting on art, geography, history, and more. Denise Low considers mosaics, reassembled pottery shards, play as rehearsal for life, and more. She quotes other literary jigsaw authors like Susan Sontag, Gaston Bachelard, Margaret Drabble and poets James Merrill and Dick Allen. “I never underestimate the power of a single puzzle piece. It fits within a whole, like each moment of my unfolding life story.” —Denise Low

Online discount 20% off. Click on this link:  PAYPAL LINK Also available on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and the publisher’s page Meadowlark Books. Paperback, retail $20. 122 pages, ISBN 978-1956578263, 6.2 ounces, 5.98 x 0.28 x 9.02 inches.

PRAISE FOR Jigsaw Puzzling

What is a sane, reasonable response to an insane, unreasonable Pandemic? Unlike some of us who lurched into bread baking, home renovation, or exploring the life of the hermit, Denise Low instead challenged a world of logic and symmetry by setting out to master the domain of the jigsaw puzzle. This is a realm of surety: logic within defined boundaries. Solving a puzzle demands concentration and leads to a higher contemplation of morality and ethics, as well. Denise Low has brilliantly accomplished this unfolding of the simple into the multifarious with insight and charm. —Sandy McIntosh, author of Plan B: A Poet’s Survivors Manual

Obsessions never fail to get my attention, especially when they concern things I completely overlook. Jigsaw Puzzling is a dive down unsuspected rabbit holes of jigsaw culture and plague history, lessons in art, geography, and much more. If you know Denise Low’s books–I do, I’ve read them all–you know her as a sharp, droll observer of the natural world, including the world of human nature. Her quiet, poetic voice leads a reader into hidden rooms filled with surprises, striking notes that resonate deeply with the world we live in. A wonderful read with or without a pandemic! –Jim Gilkeson, author of Three Lost Worlds: A Memoir.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Lucille Lang Day, Wampanoag-descent poet, writes bold beauty


The talented, generous writer Lucille Lang Day is author most recently of Birds of San Pancho and Other Poems of Place (Blue Light Press: First World Publishing, 2020). She contributes to the literary community in so many ways. First, she is publisher of Scarlet Tanager Press, an independent press that publishes Indigenous and other writers. She edits anthologies, including Red Indian Road West: Native American Poetry from California (co-edited with Kurt Schweigman, Scarlet Tanager) and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California (co-edited with Ruth Nolan. She organizes readings, supports Scarlet Tanager authors at the Associated Writing Programs conference, and appears at events. In addition to her support for others, her own poetry is dynamite. The title poem of her latest book Birds of San Pancho begins:

A great kiskadee sits on the casa wall

belting its exuberant song above

the dusty, cobblestone street. The bird

is masked like a raccoon, its breast

yellow as the butterflies that flit

amid hibiscus and bougainvillea. . . .

The poet describes the scene with bold brushstrokes, unafraid of interpretive adjectives like “exuberant” and a vivid comparison of a bird’s head markings to a raccoon’s mask. She is in control of syntax as she effortlessly progresses through the poem. Her balance of description and reflection keeps the poem interesting as it builds to its ending point:

Later, at the lagoon, a great blue heron,

a little blue heron, a green heron,

a night heron, two great egrets, eight 

snowy egrets and twenty cattle egrets

gather while brown pelicans dive

for fish and the sun’s bright disk sinks 

into the sea. When it disappears,

the egrets rise in groups and pairs

to settle in two coconut palms

for the night. Oh, to sit up there too—

safe, having eaten my fill—with

folded wings, watching over creation.

Focus is on the birds and nature’s patterns, not the poet’s life and ego—until the very end when the poet enters into the moment to share, not to overwhelm the entire poem. Her “Vincent’s Bedroom at Arles” is a perfect double ekphrastic poem—about the painting and about the physical room itself—and then it turns out the Arles citizenry recreated this room because the original was destroyed during World War II.  This gives Day occasion to ponder intersections of fiction and reality on many levels, made (seemingly) effortless in her poet’s spell. “At Lake Tahoe” is another well calibrated poem about the poet’s Wampanoag ancestry set side-by-side with California Indigenous people of this place, the Washoes. It ends:

Yet in summer Washoes still do the Pine Nut Dance

and Wampanoags do the Grass Dance to keep the world

in balance and remind us that the Earth is living, every

rock is sacred, and every tree and salmon has a soul. (79)

Day is able to tie two coasts together in this ending—the Massachusetts Wampanoags and the California Washoes. This understanding of unities is one of the pleasures of the collection. Day has a science Ph.D., and also M.F.A. in creative writing. She puts these two perspectives to good use in her writing. It is precise, complete, and transformative.


Interview with SF Review of Books Zara's Blog (

Poem by Lucille Lang dYetay, Valpraiso, “Birds of San Pancho

Poem by Lucille Lang Day  Poetry Foundation, “Tooth Painter,” 

Video of Lucille Lang Day  Berkeley Public Library poetry reading,

Video of Lucille Lang Day “How to Publish a Memoir,”

Lucille Lang Day is the author of seven full-length poetry collections and four poetry chapbooks. Her latest collection is Birds of San Pancho and Other Poems of Place (Blue Light Press, 2020). She has also edited the anthology Poetry and Science: Writing Our Way to Discovery, and she coedited Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California and Red Indian Road West: Native American Poetry from California. Other publications are two children’s books and a memoir, Married at Fourteen: A True Story. Her many honors include the Blue Light Poetry Prize, two PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Awards, the Joseph Henry Jackson Award, and eleven Pushcart Prize nominations. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from San Francisco State University, an MA in zoology, and a Ph.D. in science/mathematics education from the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in Oakland, California. She is of Wampanoag, British, and Swiss/German descent.

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, won the Editor’s Choice Red Mountain Press Poetry Award for Shadow Light. Other publications are memoirs The Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (U. of Nebraska Press,) and Jigsaw Puzzling: Essays in a Time of Pestilence (Meadowlark, Sept. 2022); Wing (Red Mountain, Hefner Heitz Award finalist); Casino Bestiary (Spartan); and Jackalope (fiction, Red Mountain). She is co-author of Northern Cheyenne Ledger Art by Fort Robinson Breakout Survivors (U. of Nebraska Press, Ks. Notable Book). Her PhD in literature and creative writing is from the University of Kansas, and her MFA is from Wichita State. At Haskell Indian Nations University, she founded the creative writing program. She teaches for Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies. Board memberships include Indigenous Native Poets (In-Na-Po) and Associated Writers and Writing Programs (past president and contributing editor). Her heritage includes British Isles, German, and Lenape/Munsee (Delaware). She lives in California’s Sonoma

Monday, August 29, 2022

Denise Low: The Ethics of Endorsements and Book Reviews

Years ago I began book reviewing for the Kansas City Star and for literary journals. When I signed a contract as a freelancer for the KC Star, I learned the importance of ethics for this respected newspaper, which has won Pulitzers. Informally, as editor of the Cottonwood Review and then on the board of Bob Woodley Memorial Press (until I published a book with them). The ethics were obvious and not complicated: do not review or endorse any publication where there is a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest especially involves exchange of money.

These days, after print-on-demand has made self-publishing an industry, these ethics are not always apparent. Some important review venues sell reviews, like Kirkus Review Indie, where reviews cost about $500. Kirkus has been a long-time, respected publication, and its main company still is. This side-gig company is a moneymaker that exploits vanity authors. I avoid Kirkus completely now. This is old school; the basic rules of book reviewing are these:
  • Do not review books by family members, employers, employees, and others with whom you have a close personal relationship. 
  • Do not review books for which you have received money for any part of the publication process--proofing, copyediting, design, promotional work. 
  • Do not review books you have not read. 
  • Do not write promotional reviews under a pseudonym.
  • Do not do anything sketchy, as your name as an ethical person is important in this business.
  • Selling review copies is considered unethical.
Ethical practices for endorsements (blurbs) are a bit more relaxed, as often people blurb for friends and for students. However, once money exchanges hand for any part of the writing-editing-publishing-promotion process, you may not endorse nor review the publication.  Do not use any text for a blurb or other promotion without permission. A famous poet once wrote me a great compliment about a book in a letter, and she was insulted when I asked to use it as a blurb. Her reaction has stayed with me!

This is a first post about this issue, but a situation arose where the conflict-of-issue was clear, and the other party had never learned of the ethics of writing reviews and endorsements.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Annie Newcomber interviews J. Kahn

Kansas City has a lively arts scene, including literary arts, and one of the most compelling voices is that of
Jemshen Khan. Poet Annie Newcomer interviews him about his recent book at  Flapper Press Poetry Cafe. He tells about his mission in writing poetry: Resistance writing, especially, is a path of one's own making. Devoting writing energy to beliefs that run contrary to established interests is a step toward a specific type of freedom, waking a few readers from the trance of mainstream propaganda." His chapbook Speech in an Age of Certainty is available from Finishing Line Press. The interview also has a preview of his next book, The Popol Vuh: An Illustrated Epic, based on a Mayan creation narrative. I interviewed him also for this blog, Denise Low Interviews Jemshed Khan. Khan is a poet working from his experience donating medical assistance to Guatemalan people, his experience as an immigrant, and his experience as a person of conscience. Please enjoy his humanity and grace in this interview, and thanks to Newcomer for bringing this to the literary community! Her chapbook Comets: Relationships That Wander is from Finishing Line Press. Viva Kansas City!