Al Young title

LIVING IN THE DEEP WEST: In Memory of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013)


Wanda Coleman (1946-2013) in memoriam



 In memory of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013)

SoCal and what you called the Deep West keel

over without you and your defiant signifying.

You skipped right over absinthe, opium, mescaline,

LSD, heroin, orgy and weed to reach the Zone.

You wrote Days of Our Lives, you won an Emmy,

you slid into the Zone on slippery bars of soap

opera, all choruses, no breaks, just one long jes-grew

coda 20 volumes long. In code and flat-out truth,

you logged L.A. behavior hot to cold. In erosong

you sexified her landscape’s dips and swells, her

heavens, her hells. Anything but quiet or quaint,

your pictures in wall-painted language (sliced

between canyons and summits and ridges) stick

to the ribs and to the heart half-free or caged.

Concrete streets and freeways couldn’t always go

the distance or reach the intimacy you loved.

What was a Watts-born woman to do but learn

to boogaloo? Or sail the desert? Or walk the sea?

— Al Young
26 November 2013

© Al Young


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E. Ethelbert Miller: ‘Remembering Wanda Coleman’ | The Nation, November 25, 2013



LEEWAY | A Poem by Al Young


lavender, antique clock and white candle via Knick of Time  © Angie Chávez


“Consider me,
Descended also
From the
— Langston Hughes

Time-weary, still, he feels safest winter nights

in the kitchen by the stove. At the back

of his too-studied brain, cave-dwellers groan.

No music, no texts, no ghosts at his side. Just

silence enough to let him listen to the Mystery

from which he’s descending. Few ever know;

fewer care. When the pull of phone calls dies

and paramedic fire truck sirens dial down,

he can boil eggs, toast bread, drizzle oil,

peel fruit and thank and see forever into

this moment that staggers, opening endlessly

here into now. Deeper than anything he can

remember, fiercer than any fictitious futures,

pure Mystery stops him cold with warmth.

—Al Young

© 2013

“Consider Me” by Langston Hughes was first published in 1951, the be-bop inflected period of his great “Montage of a Dream Deferred”. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.


Al Young Breaks Free in HD at the 2010 Watershed Festival


AY 3D Watershed
The quickie 3-minute version

Al Young ‘Live’

California’s poet laureate emeritus reads, recites, croons and sings him some poetry and blues with Barry Finnerty’s Jazz Roots Trio at Berkeley’s 2010 Watershed Festival | October 7, 2010

The full 22-minute set

AY Breaks Free Wastershed 2010
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Published on Sep 5, 2013

“I have part of this in higher definition on this site. This is fairly high defintition. Al Young was a while back awarded poet laureate of California.”John Rhodes (poet-videographer who filmed this 22-minute set in HD)


ONE AUGUST SUMMARY: A Wildfire Perennial



Button-Play-32x32California Report: RIM FIRE: Wind Carries Sparks That Start New Flames


treesfirecrop  © Newsfix

38px-Speaker_Icon.svg ONE AUGUST SUMMARY

The scents of summer, once so moist and vast,
now scorch your nose. O how your pricked eyes water!
This fire’s going to last and last and last
until your in-laws, wife, two sons and daughter
collapse among the Pepsis, Cokes and chips.
The makeshift rescue center, where you’ve learned
some distant neighbors’ names from their own lips,
fills still with losers just like you. Hurt. Burnt.

A dry La Niña winter, snow-melt, drought
(July: Colfax, June: Colorado Springs,
New Mexico) let heated winds strike out
across your parchment landscape with a zing
that flared up like a sulphurous safety match.
But here’s the catch: Can this mean climate change
is real? Do savvy Californians watch
what happened back in 2009, the range
of wildfires: Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz
(their so-called Lockheed Fire), the Station Fire
near L.A.? Half a million square miles. News.
You sweat. Your wife and family, they perspire.

Août, août, août, août! – August, moaned in French,
needs no translation. You can smell and feel
the fall and peel of summer. Inch by inch
you sink into this smoky state. You reel.
You suddenly realize what really counts:
You’re still alive. Don’t underestimate
again how unseen danger creeps and mounts.

Ooo, ooo, ooo, ooo – August stops you at its gate!

— Al Young
© 2012


AY by Joseph Robinson Photo: Joseph Robinson

Al Young: ‘The California Report Poems’

from KQED San Francisco


WAYS TO STAY AMAZED ~ A Birthday Poem for Susan Duhan Felix


Al & Susan Duhan Felix at Heyday Books

Ceramic artist Susan Duhan Felix (Berkeley’s Art Ambassador) at Heyday Books on Al Young Day, February 5, 2013



 for Susan Duhan Felix

Must birthday toasts state always, “Here’s to you”?
Consider how the woman and the man
whose love and sperm and egg conjoined to issue
a shining daughter; light on water. Stand
back. Picture yourself pulled along two trails
that weave and duck, then twist-turn artfully.

 Imagine how our biosphere emails
us messages. Now only partially
eclipses Then. Does Happy Birthday mean
you’ve risked another round, so now you rest?

 Consider origins, consider clean,
fresh starts, blank slates. remakes, the breathing past.
This you, this I – crocuses flowered from mud.
Let light amaze, let beauty feed your blood.

 © Al Young