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Archive for May, 2008

UTAH PHILLIPS (1935-2008)

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Click image to see painting in its truthful context


It was my privilege and pleasure to have basked in the presence of Utah Phillips in Nevada City, California, where he died May 23rd. The stories he told in poetry and song expressed his love for underdog working people and all human populations against whom the deck is stacked. Like a latter-day Johnny Appleseed, Utah planted in his audiences the spirit of populism and compassion that characterizes America’s noblest legacy. At a bend in our history when we hear continuously of corporate wars and hostile takeovers and little of workers or labor, Utah Phillips devoted his whole life to the cause of social justice. Every day this spirit is disappearing from the world. News of his death quiets and saddens me.
— Al Young


In October of 2003 guitarist-songster Marc Silber holds up announcement for an upcoming Utah Phillips performance at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage. Marc and Al, who once played folk music together, have been friends for half a century, since college days at Ann Arbor.


Go to the original

Utah Phillips Dead at 73:

Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp

by Jordan Fisher Smith and Molly Fisk

Utah Phillips, a seminal figure in American folk music who performed extensively and tirelessly for audiences on two continents for 38 years, died Friday of congestive heart failure in Nevada City, California, a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains where he lived for the last 21 years with his wife, Joanna Robinson, a freelance editor.Born Bruce Duncan Phillips on May 15, 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio, he was the son of labor organizers. Whether through this early influence or an early life that was not always tranquil or easy, by his twenties Phillips demonstrated a lifelong concern with the living conditions of working people. He was a proud member of the Industrial Workers of the World, popularly known as “the Wobblies,” an organizational artifact of early twentieth-century labor struggles that has seen renewed interest and growth in membership in the last decade, not in small part due to his efforts to popularize it.

Phillips served as an Army private during the Korean War, an experience he would later refer to as the turning point of his life. Deeply affected by the devastation and human misery he had witnessed, upon his return to the United States he began drifting, riding freight trains around the country. His struggle would be familiar today, when the difficulties of returning combat veterans are more widely understood, but in the late fifties Phillips was left to work them out for himself. Destitute and drinking, Phillips got off a freight train in Salt Lake City and wound up at the Joe Hill House, a homeless shelter operated by the anarchist Ammon Hennacy, a member of the Catholic Worker movement and associate of Dorothy Day.

Phillips credited Hennacy and other social reformers he referred to as his “elders” with having provided a philosophical framework around which he later constructed songs and stories he intended as a template his audiences could employ to understand their own political and working lives. They were often hilarious, sometimes sad, but never shallow.

“He made me understand that music must be more than cotton candy for the ears,” said John McCutcheon, a nationally-known folksinger and close friend.



Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Go to the original at thanal online


Volume 2 | Issue 4 | May 2008 |


Farideh Hasanzadeh-Mostafavi






Kate Evans

Embrace human error. Embrace possibility.



Kate Evans is the author of a poetry collection, Like All We Love (Q Press), and a book about lesbian and gay teachers, Negotiating the Self (Routledge). Her poetry, stories and essays have appeared in more than 40 publications, including the North American Review, Seattle Review, Cream City Review, and Santa Monica Review. She has been nominated for the L.A. Times Book Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and Pushcart Prizes in fiction and creative nonfiction. Currently she is working on a novel. She lives in San Jose, California by way of Seattle, Santa Cruz, and Yokohama, Japan.

About the interviewer
In former issues of thanalonline you may find more details about interviewer Farideh Hasanzadeh-Mostafavi who is a poet and translator from Iran. There is also her photo in the latest issue.

So let us introduce Thanalonline’s readers to a painting by an Iranian famous painter: Master Shakiba whose paintings show Iranian women in the first decades of the 20th century.

This interview is from the book Eternal Voices: Interviews with Poets from All Around the World, which will appear in the next year.



The reasons for my interview with Kate Evans:

1– I like her sincerity as a poet. She doesn’t enforce herself to write poems, essays and novels to show herself as an important academic person. She writes only for a simple reason : to share her experiences with the words to find a meaning for her life.And when others find meaning in her words to enrich their experiences, she appreciate herself as a simple woman; a human.

2– As a teacher she is a real follower of Walt Whitman; doing her best so that her students learn:

Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing , searching , receiving, contemplating …

She doesn’t assume teaching as a duty only for earning money. She goes beyond text books. She introduced me and my daughter to her students for exchanging ideas and Information between American and Iranian culture , simply because her kind heart hates politicians’ exchanging of weapons.

3– Love is not only a word for her to write or to speak about it. To respect the roots of love, she appreciates her parents by devoting to them the most precious thing she needs: her time.

In one of her letters to me she wrote: “I’ve been so busy with my new job, running the literary speakers’ series. I’m kind of behind in many things.” And yet : “I have been spending a lot of time with my mother .We are going out together to lunch tomorrow. She’s always so happy to see me — her whole face lights up.”

And in Kate’s blog one may see a beautiful picture of her father and pictures of her great favorite poets.

4– She knows what she is doing with her life ” Before death’s knife provides the answer ,ultimate and appropriate”:

“One of the poems I’ve attached is about, in part, reading about war in the news. And it makes me almost crazy to realize that I write about it as something I read about in the paper, while there are people in the world who write about it as something they have to experience. The inhumanity of people to one another in this world is a form of insanity. Thus, connections like the one we are having right now are a state of grace.
— F.H.Mostafavi


Farideh: What is “the good poem” in your idea? And how can a poet become a better poet?

Kate: There are so many reasons a poem can be “good”– but I guess the core “goodness” of a poem to me connects to Sam Hamill ‘s quote: a good poem moves me. Maybe it moves me because of its humanity, or its acknowledgement of life’s beauty or pain, or because it surprises me with its humor or horror or both. Most poems I love strike to the depths quickly through the economy of words. Also, many poems I love use a personal experience to connect more broadly to others. There is an empathic gesture in many good poems.

How can someone become a better poet? Read poetry. Observe the world. Observe the self’s response to the world. Ask why. Ask questions that have no answers. Listen a lot. Honor ambiguity. Love language. Revel in contradiction. Embrace human error. Embrace possibility.

F: What is your interpretation of this statement: “Egocentricity is a normal characteristic of poets”?

K: I think egocentricity is one side of the coin. The other side is universality or humanitarianism. So I think poets, in a way, foster a bit of both. The egocentricity–or perhaps, a better way for me to say this is subjectivity–is part of the poet’s work because she filters all life experience through herself in order to put it on the page.

But to make a piece a poem (as opposed to a journal entry), it has to transcend the individual and speak to the human condition. Here’s the paradox: The poet gets to the universal through the specific. The poet uses the self to speak to the human condition.



Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

“Why can’t these so-called poets just stick to writing poetry
and leave politics alone?”

Michael Savage, radio talk show host (with reference to Al Young)

In the throes of criminal conspiracy,
in this dire hour, plum blossoms
push me back into pink chambers:

women, interrogators. Some strip
in front of Muslim men, then stand above
them to let their menstrual blood drip

onto captives’ drained faces. True or false?
No waltz of flowers, no gum-tree flower
trumps this sick misuse of flora and genus.

Torture of the landscape remains as American
as Billie Holiday’s strange fruit of lynch mob
justice. Dispensed with a callused hand,

with pride, such justice melts the polar ice
and caps the land with life-canceling poisons.
What on earth goes on here, Marvin Gaye?

Al Young

© 2008 Al Young


Monday, May 19th, 2008

In Memoriam

poetry-program-at-kpfa-1-edit.jpg qr-hand-karla-brundage-edit.jpg poetry-program-at-kpfa-2-edit.jpg karen-al-slim-lucha-kpfa.jpg

© Raymond Nat Turner/Zigi Lowenberg


spkr8.jpgLISTEN NOW | Full one-hour tribute to Reggie Lockett on Kris Welch’s KPFA Living Room program of 30th May 2008. Hear poets and friends broadcast their hearts in a live broadcast studio at KPFA Pacifica: q.r. hand, jr, Avotcja, Jack and Adelle Foley, Lucha Corpi, Adam David Miller, Kim Shuck, Judy Juanita, John Curl, Kirk Lumpkin, Kim McMillan, Gerald Nicosia, Mary Rudge, Raymond Nat Turner, Katherine Hastings, Karla Brundage, Jim LeCuyere, Karen Folger Jacobs, Slim Russell, Wanda Sabir, Al Young, and others.


Photos © Kathy Sloane

Thursday, May 22
11:00 a.m.
Bee Bee Memorial Cathedral
3900 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609

Buried at Rolling Hills Cemetery, Richmond, CA



singing the Movement
blending with other voices
we miss yours, Reggie

Adelle Foley


for Reginald Lockett

Your words are in the air
and enter us
on this hottest day in memory
flowers burst open
beyond open
brown birds with beautiful voices
dance in sprinkler rain
Would you be surprised to know
poems are being written
all up and down California tonight
in an attempt
to hold on to you somehow?
To love you into thin air?
Just hours before the call
Borges on death:
For me death is a hope, the irrational
certitude of being abolished,
erased, and forgotten. You think it matters
if tomorrow I will have disappeared?
Old spirit. New spirit.
Teacher of Watts and Trane,
August Crumpler,
West Oakland Archaeology,
the Culbersons and Backyard Boogie.
You wrote “To Kathy,”
a name from childhood
growing up in the 60s
in some other world

Katherine Hastings


for reginald lockett

there were your eyes
always holding twinkle and swoon
eyes to make ladies blush and smile

and the voice that rumbled deep
thunder on a summer day
sure to bring a cooling rain

and the head that tipped
with the tease that was to come
slipping it in with a wink and a chortle
always close with a ready quip, a cogent quote
a push, a pull, a slap on the back

sharp sure
a man’s man
true friend
a woman’s man
loved and loving

bookstore owners too knew
your face, your name
as you often sought out shop corners
as places of refuge, places called home

you were a man
of letters and words and books
reading inside their lines, you
could unknot meter, explicate metaphors,
and glean the truth from the quirkiest of prose
the most layered of poems

in your work, you laced memory and song
beneath and around your family of blood
your comrades your students your teachers
your daughter maya, who reshaped your heart
into new drum rhythms
your loves who brought
jubilation and destruction
your last love who brought
joy and acceptance

words of love, and history
regret and defiance
filled your pages
beside the music
that made your spirit dance

carrying sadness in your belly
laughter in your chest
a military posture of pride
and a hip sloping stride
Reginald you were always you
and we will miss you
miss you dearly

devorah major
devorah major at YouTube


polysyllabic omniverse of our dreams
for reginald lockett in memoriam; for his family and all of us
may 16, 2008

we set sail to the endless shore
riding ripples of language
carrying us toward the
ultimate song

you now
an ocean-going vessel
piloting a course
through the polysyllabic omniverse
of our dreams

i want to borrow your rhythm
but cannot match your cadence
i hear you sing praises
louder than any church choir
bolder than the soloist’s shout

your multiphonic speech
breathes cascading color
of a hue not yet seen by the naked eye
a fabric so finely woven that you can
drink from it

the sustenance you provide
is like water gushing forth
from an underground spring

now you are that spring
and we take heart in
your unending flow

you are with us
here now
you are with us
as the cosmic dance
you are with us
as the planet ceases its spin
a moment

before bursting in praise

we are now your pages
leaves dog eared from late night study
we are the letters
that form the words
that build the phrase
to sing the song
of love we feel for you

as the boat now reaches its shore
you step forth into the light
you so often spoke of
each one of your poems
a particle forming to
embrace your union

you are with us
hear our song
you are with us
as we join together
you are with us
entities entwined
we will find you
in the polysyllabic omniverse
of our dreams

brian auerbach


Reginald Lockett, died May 15, 2008

If there was ever a poet deserving of the title poet laureate for a city, Reggie was Oakland’s unnamed honoree. His work breathed Oakland—each syllable an experience that we, who call this fair city home, could relate to. He lived in a haunted house, haunted by the memories of black people from southern towns where they were just as unwelcome, as some were here. Reggie was born in one of those places, too, but his family moved here and here is where the poet was born.


OAKLEY HALL (1920-2008)

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

In Memoriam



Photos: Brett Hall Jones

Go to the San Francisco Chronicle original

Oakley Hall, author of ‘Warlock,’ dies at 87

Heidi Benson, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oakley Hall, a prolific author and influential writing teacher best known for the novels “The Downhill Racers” and “Warlock” – and as a founder of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers – died Monday night in Nevada City. He was 87.His death was caused by cancer and kidney disease, said his daughter, Brett Hall Jones, executive director of the Community of Writers.

Mr. Hall was one of a handful of writers who helped to define and elevate California literature in the generation after John Steinbeck.

He was the author of more than 20 works of fiction and nonfiction, including two books on the art of fiction writing and thelibretto for an opera based on Wallace Stegner’s “Angle of Repose.” Among the many honors Mr. Hall received were lifetime achievement awards from the PEN Center USA and the Cowboy Hall of Fame.

“Oakley Hall was a master storyteller who loved the West,” said California poet laureate Al Young, who has known Mr. Hall for nearly three decades. Pulitzer Prize finalist Mr. Hall’s novel “Warlock,” a finalist for the 1958 Pulitzer Prize – and the first of a trilogy – was reissued in 2005 as part of the New York Review of Books Classics series with an introduction by Robert Stone.

Set in the fictional 19th century town of Warlock, it draws on the story of the OK Corral, said Edwin Frank, editor of the series.” Oakley effectively rediscovered the Wild West for post-World War II America – not as the heroic proving ground of the nation, but as a weird dreamworld and tragically violent masquerade,” Frank said. “It’s a great book, and it blazed a path for fellow writers like Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy.”

Author James D. Houston, a longtime friend and instructor at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, cites Mr. Hall’s 1997 novel, “Separations,” as a favorite. “It is about the discovery of the Colorado River, coming down through that canyon country on rafts in the 19th century,” Houston said. “It is some of the most remarkable writing about the Western landscape that you’ll ever see.”

Mr. Hall was born in 1920 in San Diego and grew up in that city’s Mission Hills district and in Honolulu. After graduating from UC Berkeley, he joined the Marines, serving in the Pacific during World War II. After the war, Mr. Hall studied in Europe on the GI Bill and went on to earn a master’s of fine arts in creative writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.