So I have just released two books, both of which, encompass all my poetry about living in South Africa. The first, until their bellies bulge and shine (103 pages), is comprised of poems written while living in Chicago (1988-1993).
The second, i saw a zulu woman once (34 pages), is a book of poems written since I moved away from Chicago. Because these poems are written differently in style, I have produced them as a separate volume.
Both books have free previews available at the link above. Just click on each book title separately, the preview links are immediately below the cover photographs.
So our junk.tank reading series has been on hiatus for a time, but we are gearing back up now. We have performers booked for July 19th (Roseanna Frechette and Marcus Palmer), and possibly June as well. The series will continue on the same schedule, the third Saturday of the month, 4PM until 7PM, along with features and an open mic. We are, however, moving the series to Innisfree Poetry Bookstore, 1203 13th Street, Boulder. Look for updates soon, and join us at our new venue.
I will also be hosting this years annual 1000 Poets for Change Reading at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore in September. Stay tuned. Love, ZZ
did you hear what i played
for you? she
asked excitedly as
i emerged from my room groggy i wasnt sure what
time you were getting up and it was getting
late so i played magical
mystery tour hoping it would wake
you up did you hear it?
our fluffy calico, Garbage, waits for me outside the front door. I am throwing
my big voice in vain from the back yard, up and over the house, to the wind,
telling her to come around.
wait awhile and yell again.
Eventually I go back into the house, open the front door, and there she is waiting. This time she follows me inside. I walk through the house with her trailing behind me. I exit out the back door again. She stops just short of the doorway, refusing to come outside.
So there are good days, and there are bad days, and there are days that are just okay. Today qualifies as a great fucking day, which I trust is significantly better than a regularly scheduled great day, or any old good day. And having said all that, let me assure you that nothing, that's right, nothing can spoil my great day today.
So I'm stuck on sidewalks. Thinking about them, I mean. I find it interesting how they crack over time, developing character all their own. Think of a human hand, how the skin creases, lifelines, stories. I think it is the same with sidewalks.
So it's true I meant what I said the other day, I'm not going anywhere. Colorado is my home. These are my mountains. All my life I missed Colorado whenever I was away on our travels, and I always longed to come back. Well, I am here now. Why leave again?
I will continue always to write about what I write about, but it is here that I will stay. For the last 6 years (yes, it's actually been 6 years since I came out of hiding in Longmont), my desire has been to publish all of the incredibly talented poets I know in Colorado, particularly Denver, and Boulder.
I intend to do exactly that!
Currently I have 3 out of 4 publishing projects at a total stand still, due mainly to technological and financial setbacks. I wont be around much online for awhile as I revamp this teetering little empire, and decide upon our new battle plan.
i walk outside
torn between porch light
and the dark seduction beyond
smoking a cigarette in its entirety
i watch the frosty eyed moon and orion
when a van roars to life
in the darkness
in front of the house
and squeals down the street
the wind suddenly ferocious and threatening
swoops in hysterically thrashing my hair
until it stings my face and my heart races
it is difficult to pinpoint exactly
when paranoia became my friend
how exactly i encouraged it
to move in gradually on a premise
to stay and mooch indefinitely
would be easy a
cinch to get here to
arrive finally prepared in
spite of myself and
everyone else and
it makes sense the
invisible order of
things i mean ready
to surrender within
reach of hemmingway
five maybe seven minutes of glory if i really stretch it out it suddenly occurs to me now after forty six years of white smoke trailing up through my fingers smoking after waking up smoking after eating smoking while drinking alcohol or steaming black tea smoking after sex smoking in bed smoking in the bathtub i have been preparing myself practicing for this moment savoring this passion that has driven my life and brought me here
So I am writing under the Catalpa Tree by the light of an exhausted Tiki torch. On my writing table under the tree there are 3 empty beer bottles, cigarette butts, cigarette filters, hot tea, and well ... beer. Music careens from the house (which at the moment is funk), the flash and clatter of pool balls, and the rhythmic swell of women and men's voices. Beautiful laughter. This is the party after the poetry event party. Poets, artists, musicians and other folk of similar inclination have gathered here. They aspire to revelry at our house, where I am grateful we have such friendly and patient neighbors. 2:00AM Mountain Time: Speaking with poet Max, whom I remember from the old Burnt Toast days. "They call me Toast because of it." He tells me. We are exchanging website information. He reads the paper I hand him, "POETRY VICTIMS! FUCK YEAH! I know you!" 2:45AM Mountain Time: Surfer Vinyl Classic. 3:30AM Mountain Time: Everyone is either gone or asleep. People sleeping in the library. People sleeping on the couch. 4:20AM "Pussies!" He says, feet up, as he strikes his lighter, in the backyard, in the dark, by the light of the moon ... having already cleaned everything up.
over maxwell house coffee and all the fixings and toasted cinnamon raisin bread sagging under heaps of no salt butter i knew i was dying she said bluntly as she sawed a piece of toast in half like a butcher attacking a carcass
So I am spending most of my time these days focusing on changes. I mean changes in my life that I feel are necessary for peace of mind and growth. Many of them are little things, every day habituals (if you will), things that are basically inconsequential to my big picture in the end, but time consuming.
I am sleeping better ... most days. I am dreaming again when I sleep. I am more relaxed, I think largely because I have my space and time and place to reflect. I am painstakingly and ever so patiently repairing my defunct finances. I am making decisions that I believe in, things I have thought long and hard about, things that are important to me.
I am writing more freely every day.
I feel good. I am excited about feeling good!
I am not angry. I am not avoiding anyone. I am just busy fixing holes. One thing at a time. One day at a time. Creative space is important now. And while some decisions are made, others will consequently just have to wait. One day soon, I will even have my camera back and my computer fixed and a reliable phone again. And I will also be taking a little much needed adventure this year.
I perceive a general misconception that perhaps I have no confidence in myself, but on that count I totally disagree. Take open mics or slams, for instance, I am a huge fan. I love going, but I seldom read or perform anymore ... why? I do not go to these events to hawk my wares, I go to listen to others hawk theirs. I am there to listen, however, I will read if I am particularly moved to do so. I just do not feel the need to perform anymore, it is strange. Of course, I do like intimate readings and always have, ask anybody.
I am acutely aware of my talents and confidence as a writer, publisher, editor, artist, and hotelier. If you ask me, my problem is that I tend to have too much confidence.
I do not lack confidence folks, I am just an introvert, and I have had a lot of confusion in my life lately, and there is a big honking difference.
in the library next to my room i close my eyes choose merely by touch instinct/not too large/not too small just a book big enough to distract me from all this thinking too much morning in the burned house by margaret atwood
every day i look at it folded up so cleverly against the wall the gray metallic sheen reflecting blue sky and clouds it says with such brash authority SERENITY in magic marker across the bottom of the seat if this insistent creepy little chair could really i mean really talk i for one would listen
So while organizing my books after moving recently, I found myself traipsing down memory lane as I went through my signed books shelf (writers I've met and writers I've known).
Imagine these conversations... Engagements and disengagements - Paul Agostino red book poems - asalott Reality in Bubblewater - Amanda Celeste Beard Shards - Tom Berman The Possible - Bruce Bond Broken Circle - Bruce Bond colors - David Bond The Near Johannesburg Boy - Gwendolyn Brooks Gottsschalk and the Grand Tarantelle - Gwendolyn Brooks Winnie - Gwendolyn Brooks Blacks - Gwendolyn Brooks I Love You Is Back - Derrick C. Brown Stubborn Hope - Dennis Brutus Somehow these things are all connected - Richard Calisch I've been away so many lives - Richard Calisch Untitled and anonymous - Claire Connolly Heartdance - Nat David Grass Knuckles - Christian Drake id rather B (CD) - Amy Everhart Gathering The Tribes - Carolyn Forche The Country Between Us - Carolyn Forche paper thin - Rob Geisen beautiful graveyards - Rob Geisen Every Woman's Blues - Ulrike Gerbig Love in all the right places - Ulrike Gerbig* The Looking Glass Poems - Ulrike Gerbig* A Lover's Eye - Michael Glaser Cookie Aura - Bert Glick I Used to Be Me - Bert Glick Crow Dreaming - Ed Hanson The Night Parade - Edward Hirsch Wild Gratitude - Edward Hirsch Bright Hunger - Mark Irwin The Man With The White Liver - Angela Jackson Collecting The Light - Markham Johnson Serenissima - Erica Jong Devil at Large - Erica Jong Fruits & Vegetables - Erica Jong Delights & Shadows - Ted Kooser Prairie Fire - Chuck Kramer Black Apples - Lyn Lifshin Musings - L. Luis Lopez This 'n That - Steve Luttrell Mind Static (Vols, 1 through 3) - Anne McMillen over the anvil we stretch - Anis Mojgani Blindsided - Jack Myers Time Pieces - Gianina Opris We Only Ever Listened to the Refrigerator Hum - Emily Owens Jersey Rain - Robert Pinsky On the 8th Day - Seth The Graves Grow Bigger Between Generations - Jared Smith Cat on the coffin - Marc K. Smith I Am South - Donna Snyder Turtle Island - Gary Snyder Live For a Living - Buddy Wakefield We Are All The Black Boy - Michael Warr
So every day for the past 34 years since I
returned from South Africa, I have thought about my great adventure. Reminders
in everyday life pop up unexpectedly keeping my memories vivid and alive. I can’t
speak for anyone else in my family, but I relive my experiences every day.
Africa lives and breathes inside of me like any one of my organs.
Thirteen years after I came back (in the
early 1990’s), I was inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks to write about these
experiences. Over the next six months hundreds of poems poured out of me. The war against Apartheid
was running full bore. The world was finally taking notice in many ways, and
joining in the fight. Gwendolyn was writing about near Johannesburg, Soweto, and
Winnie and Nelson Mandela. We all met the great South African dissident poet in
exile, Dennis Brutus, and were inspired by his story and writing. I was reading
everything I could get my hands on pertaining to the politics of Apartheid in Southern
Africa, writing my poems, and performing in my white t-shirt (specially
designed by a friend), which depicted a black Bart Simpson screaming. “Free
South Africa Now”. I was young. It was a time of heady influences. This is
where my first wave of South Africa poems came from.
Thirteen years later, because of these very
same poems, I met South African writer Candy Tothill. Here was another person
who lived, breathed and understood my fascination and love for the things I
wrote about. We became friends. It was Candy who inspired me to write more
poems, as well as, the memoir/stories that were published sequentially
throughout 2007 and 2008 in the online magazine ‘Sketchbook’. It was then that
the idea on how to go back to South Africa began brewing in my mind.
The complications in my life are incredibly complicated.
Without going into any horrid details, the
United States Government won’t issue me a passport until I pay a certain debt (that
I have been chipping away at for years) in full. It is a dilemma. It occurred
to me that I could re-write these memoirs/stories into book form in the hopes
of raising the money to pay this debt. That was the plan. Somewhere between
here and there, and four years later the plan and everything else in my life
has spiraled out of control. Every time I mention writing the book about South
Africa, somebody has a fucking cow.
It is important to understand why I am
writing this book.
I have actively been writing in circles for
the last two to four years. I have fretted over formatting, the question of
poetry, mixing genres, fiction vs non-fiction, re-writing chapters and liking
them less than the original published stories. I have thought of a million
things I never mentioned in the stories. But mostly, I have come to realize
that the book is as much about my mother and father and to a certain extent my
sisters, as myself. I need hardly point out that the fact that my parents are
now both deceased puts a whole different perspective on everything. It is their
story. It is our story. It is my story. It is a story about living under the
influence of the darker side of human nature, about human dignity, about beauty
and hope and despair. It is a story about Africa and snakes and tennis rackets.
It is a subtle story about why Apartheid ultimately failed. It is a story about
laughter and love and terror. It is a grand adventure. And it is up to me to
write it before I too am gone.
No matter what else happens in my life, no
matter where I go or don’t go as fate will have it, I know that if I do not
finish this book, I will regret it for the rest of my life … it is as simple as
So sometimes inspiration begs for a return to old loves in order to thrive anew. This morning I bought a plum colored Epiphone Special II 6 string electric guitar for $20 at a yard sale next door. To be sure, it has a split neck, but still holds a proper tune. A subtle reminder, sometimes our flaws make for the the most beautiful music of all.
first you find a rowboat then you enlist the help of an adventurous friend or two or three next you find the rowboat owner then you overpower the rowboat owner (because you never want to ride your own boat perhaps you will understand in a minute or two) then you and your adventurous friend or two or three (because you will need that many friends once you sink it) must snag the boat in question and drag it out to sea swiftly situating one adventurous friend on each oar and another in back for balance and wave recognizance now row to the spot where the waves are swelling turn the boat around and face the beach like a runner on your mark w.a.i.t f.o.r i.t row like hell
So it is that we shared one of the most precious things I have to offer in life for a time, and it was beautiful, and it was a challenge, and it was difficult, and it was fun, and it was painful, and it was freedom, and it wasn't yours, and it wasn't mine, and it was beautiful just because it was ours. So we reached beyond ourselves and created many beautiful things together, just for the fun of it, for love, for friendship, because we wanted to share a little of each other. So we burned our beautiful house to the ground good and right, because after all, we are just such creatures of passion. How can we possibly regret any of this? Be proud. Be proud. Be proud.
through the gang/sign etched deep in the glass of the window in the back of the fleet footed bus i watch blue mountains blue spruce whisked by green grass and yellow blue sky white clouds as far as i can see it is a mystery to me how anyone can leave a beauty such as this like i have done over and over again and again in my life
So I am temporarily shutting down Poetry Victims. Without my computer for the moment, it is difficult for me to maintain any online presence at all, never mind keep up with publishing an online magazine. I will continue to maintain the PV facebook and twitter accounts always. I am taking some time away to focus on cleaning up some finances and personal issues in my life. Once I re-tool and have my computer back, I will gear up going solo again. I have also pulled the plug on my publishing partnership with Nicole E. Turiano, it has been almost a year since we have actually done any work together, and we are seldom in touch if at all anymore, and life happens, and things change, and I am very proud of what we have produced together, and I am grateful, and I wish her well in all her future endeavors. I will have some other announcements soon, but for now ... one thing at a time! Be well! Luv ya, ZZ
So my roommate Melissa and I were talking about Joan Baez last night before I went to work. We are all music lovers in this house. It is because of music (and tea) that Melissa and I became friends in the first place.
Anyway, the conversation brought us to a story I related about one of Joan's visits to the Boulderado. I was taking her (Joan) upstairs in the 1906 Otis elevator and I noticed that she was out of breath (the altitude in Boulder sometimes gets to people who are not used to it). Well, I asked her if she was okay, to which she replied, "Oh, I'm fine, we dance on the bus after every show." Got to love Joan Baez! This conversation brought to mind a poem that I forgot I had written, published in Hammers (of Chicago) Issue number 1, 1990. Published by Double Star Press (my old friend Nat David), here it is... I'm Happy to See You Smiling for Joan Baez As a child I was indifferent to your fame, Who can blame me I was indifferent to life. The strife simply passed me by Like a motorist avoiding The hitch hiker's eye. But looking back I can't deny your treasure Singing loud ringing proud Revered! I think Dylan would have said that Had he not been distracted By your disarming alarming charm And looking ahead With millions waylaid underpaid Stricken with AIDS Afraid, We are grateful for a smile. 1990