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Archive for March, 2008


Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

“Washington and Hollywood spring from the same DNA.”
Jack Valenti

The unclocked cruelty of time,
saudades: a yearning for yearning.
That everything you ever wished
or cared for sinks or disappears
tells time where it can go.

What you’ll get isn’t what you see
at all. If Southern California goes
the way of Santa Ana, over 700 homes
burnt to the ground from San Diego
to the Mexican border, the winds fueling
wild fires in the form of global climate
change: fires burn faster than ever before.

New flooding in New Orleans leaves water
waist-high in certain streets. The rich
will lose their homes in California, the poor
go down in Louisiana. What do we do?
Where do we go from here? What works,
what loves? Who, in nighttime operations,
can win when nooses make the news?

You know the lucid look of it: the sheen,
the products pitched and tossed like
lakefront huts in moody, wind-washed nights,
a storm antithesis to why you live offshore.

The cruelty of time melts down to this:
You lose all track of you and you and you.
You do forget how still time stands still
the very minute you’re no longer in it.
Time knows it’s just a big old funky fake.

Al Young
Copyright © 2008 by Al Young


Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Go to the California Arts Council original

Sacramento County Student Takes Second

“I was astounded at the emotional maturity of all these students,” says California Poetry Out Loud judge.

Placer County student Roshawnda Bettencourt of Oakmont High School took first place in this year’s highly competitive California’s Poetry Out Loud state finals; Sacramento County student Daniel Horne of Elk Grove High School took the first runner-up position; and Sonoma County student Grace Erny of Sonoma Academy took the second runner-up spot.


Roshawnda Bettencourt
Photo: Mary Beth Barber


Bettencourt won the chance to compete in the national competition in Washington, D.C. on April 27-29, 2008; $200 in prize money; and an additional $500 in poetry books for her high school–as well as a $100 gift certificate and luggage from the state finals’ sponsor, Target.

This year marks the third time the California Arts Council has produced the Poetry Out Loud competition, a contest that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition of classical poetry. The program was started by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, and is fulfilled in the states by the state arts agencies. Local arts agencies and school districts implement the program on the county level.

“I was astounded, not only at the savvy choice of poems that each competitor chose, but at the emotional maturity and poise these students exhibited today,” said California Arts Council Vice Chair Malissa Feruzzi Shriver and a judge in 2008 state finals for California Poetry Out Loud. “Not only were these pieces performed well, but the students understood them deeply, on a truly profound and emotional level. They were all so fantastic it was almost impossible to be a judge.”

Horne, as runner up, will have the chance to compete in the Washington, D.C. competition and represent California if Bettencourt isn’t able to attend. Horne also received $100 in prize money as well as $200 in poetry books for his high school, as well as a gift card for $75 from Target. Erny, in third place, received a $50 Target gift certificate.

Five additional students of the 20 competing made it to a tie-breaking third round of California’s Poetry Out Loud competition when the judges decided the scores were too close to determine a clear winner and runner-up. They were, in no particular order: Spencer Klavan of Laguna Blanca High School (Santa Barbara County), Annie Griffin of St Monica High School (Los Angeles County), Malachia Hoover of Tamalpais High School (Marin County), Cecily Stevens of Salesian High School (Contra Costa County), and Jessica Knapp of North Coast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy (Humboldt County).

Click for the full list of the 20 competitors, their counties, high schools and their poetry choices.

The California state finals of the national contest are especially competitive because of the large size of the state and number of students and schools that have made Poetry Out Loud available. With 147 schools statewide partaking in the program, California has the largest number of schools participating in Poetry Out Loud of all the states. California also has the greatest increase in number of schools over a year’s time, with 87 new participating schools in 2007-08.

“We think of poetry as being text, but it really lives in the heart,” said California Poet Laureate Al Young, also a judge in the California Poetry Out Loud competition, at the conclusion of the competition as the students stood next to him on stage. “Language moves us because it is very close to music.”

The national initiative that is fulfilled by the California Arts Council in the state is part of an attempt to bring literary arts to students–a critical need in U.S. schools, according to a 2004 National Endowment for the Arts report, “Reading at Risk,” that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers. The Poetry Out Loud program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry–recitation and performance.

BEAR FLAG REPUBLIC: Prose Poems and Poetics from California

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Edited by Christopher Buckley and Gary Young

“Baudelaire thought that the prose poem would be the major form of the twentieth century.”
Robert Bly (in his Preface)

Click cover to order


Poems from ninety poets, including Marilyn Chin, Killarney Clary, Wanda Coleman, Peter Everwine, Richard García, Amy Gerstler, Lola Haskins, Robert Hass, Eloise Klein Healy, Juan Felipe Herrera, Jane Hirshfield, Garrett Hongo, Mark Jarman, Dorianne Laux, Philip Levine, Larry Levis, Glenna Luschei, Morton Marcus, Czeslaw Milosz, Doren Robbins, Luis Omar Salinas, David St. John, Joseph Stroud, Amy Uyematsu, Diane Wakoski, Charles Wright, and Al Young, among many others. Twenty-two essays from poets, including Robert Bly, Maxine Chernoff, Mark Jarman, Diane Wakoski, Charles Harper Webb, and more.

421 pages
$24.95 U.S

Just published Spring 2008

Greenhouse Review/Alcatraz Editions
3569 Bonny Doon Road
Santa Cruz, CA 95060


Monday, March 17th, 2008

Spotlight: Al Young


With a buttery smooth voice and a career that has flourished in a number of literary genres, Al Young is sure to entertain, inspire, and enlighten attendees of the 2008 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger named him Poet Laureate of California in 2005, saying that Young’s “remarkable talent and sense of mission to bring poetry into the lives of Californians is an inspiration.” A master at multiple genres, Young Also writes novels, musical memoirs and screenplays, and music has remained a steadfast influence throughout his career; a musician-turned-poet, he often recites his poems to musical accompaniment and uses vocal styling drawn from jazz and blues.

His work has appeared in the Paris Review, Ploughshares, Essence, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature. His honors include Guggenheim, Fulbright, and National Endowment of the Arts fellowships. He received the PEN-Library of Congress Award for Short Fiction, two American Book Awards, the Pushcart Prize, and two New York Times “Notable Book of the Year” citations. His novels include Ask Me How and Seduction By Light. A native of Mississippi, Al lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Al will share his invaluable insights on writing with audience awareness in a Master Class and will be interviewed by Jarvis Deberry of The Times Picayune in a Literary Panel.


Master Class: Just You, Just Me—Writing to Listening Readers: Friday, March 28 at 3:15 PM at The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Literary Panel: Conversation with Al Young and Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry: Saturday, March 29 at 2:30 in the Bourbon Orleans Ballroom.

Jarvis DeBerry

Susan Larson’s New Orleans Times-Picayune Blog

CULVER CITY: Prose Poem Journal Entry (Spring 2007)

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

It’s Culver City and I’m registered here at the Culver City Hotel. The story goes that John Wayne won this joint in a poker game. Facilities and rooms are named after famous film performers. There’s the Munchkins Restaurant downstairs, Clark Gable Room, Duke’s Bar, the John Wayne Room of course, and here I sit in the Marilyn Monroe Room. And what should turn up on TV tonight – it’s late, it’s almost 1 a.m. – but The Misfits, Marilyn Monroe’s last movie, Clark Gable’s last movie, Montgomery Clift’s last movie. The vulnerability of thick- and thin-skinned people. How old was Monroe when she died? Thirty-five, 36? Two framed pictures of her iconize the walls of this retro-restored room I occupy.

 marilyn.jpg                              lgst4074marilyn-monroe-in-glasses-marilyn-monroe-poster.jpg

marilyn-monroe-oversized-postcard.jpg                                          marilyn-2.jpg        Courtesy Photos

At Ford’s Filling Station, a restaurant so named because Harrison Ford’s son started and runs it, I ordered fish & chips, and so did Susan Obrow, my affectionate dark-haired host. She loves Culver City and how the arts are faring here. She told me that Brian Wilson’s son has opened a restaurant, too. And there are others. “The sons of famous men are opening restuarants,”she said.

The Kirk Douglas Theatre stands on one corner. Debbie Allen features a dance studio here in Culver City. Susan Obrow and I ducked out to dinner after seeing we weren’t going to make the reservation, given the time it was going to take the dance troupe from India to register as they bunched in line ahead of us at the check-in desk. Beautiful kids. Elegant and graceful. From such observations, I’d concluded they must be dancers.

 Meanwhile, the chasing of horses in The Misfits – by airplane, by Jeep, by truck, by lasso, by cowboy hat, by cowboy shirt, by blonde-sick-love – loses me. It always did. Here these white men buck and jeck, trying to lasso and finally roping one sweating wild horse. The metaphor rolls on. Cowboys. Gangsters. Vixens and ho’s. But in The Misfits, everybody is sensitive.

I suppose they’re still out there and going to be out there roping, trapping, capturing, typing up and taming Iraqis and Afghanistani these days? Conquerors of their known world. Despair mongers. Cowboy hat. Baseball cap. Taming a horse, to anglophone, meant taming a wild woman, too. Shrew. In English the man will forever congratulate the man.

 It’s when they try to turn their belief and behavior into controlling policy and philosophy that everything falls apart.

Kiss me, Culver City, and bid Prohibition booze and jazz and Louis Armstrong’s house your fondest cheese fondue adieu.

 Al Young
Copyright © 2008 by Al Young