Friday, November 25, 2005

Across Another Border

Here is a poem written in a walking workshop I gave. We used Santa Fe as our backdrop and inspiration. I took the poets to various places around town, the Capital, Witter Bynner's home, an old print shop, the plaza and we wrote poems based on the locations. This poem came out of visiting a photography gallery. The exercise was to use one of the photos as a basis for your poem. Thanks to Pam for allowing me to post it here. Happy Thanksgiving, xox Gary

Across Another Border
Pamela Bentley
from Carl Mydan’s photograph “Collaborationist (French woman accused of sleeping with German is shaved)”

The clippers in Fernand’s hands dull
before the task of desecrating my mass of hair,
the act meant to shame me,
to destroy my femininity so I will
not be desired by men,
German or otherwise.
Mariette and her sister-in-law Josée laugh,
a joke made at my expense
but that’s nothing new.
Plus ça change …

What difference
if I seek passion in the arms of a man
from across a border?
I did not make these borders;
the lines drawn
have nothing to do with feelings.
Other men’s borders
have brought us to this place
where whom we sleep with is a crime.
And what have these people
who surround me,
taunt me,
delight in my punishment,
done to resist the Germans?
No more than I have.
My act may have even more effect.
Perhaps the satiation of lust,
the giving of love,

dulls the war appetite for battle
for killing –
(though for some it is never there at all,
I learned from the German boy
each night he came to me).

I have no fear of Fernand’s sure touch
as he shaves the back of my neck.
Fernand (who is really Fernando)
and his brother, Martín
(I will see years later when
I come across this photo of us in a gallery)
is almost smiling,
looking directly into the camera.
Martín, who that very night
ran his hands across my shaved head
touched my lips
with his fingers, then his mouth,
said I was still beautiful.

His long slicked-back hair,
when ruffled and released by my fingers through it,
was enough for both of us;
his body and the color of his skin
so like that of my “collaborator”
the “German” boy, blond,
who spoke French and Italian with the same accent
as Martín,
whose language, though like ours,
is from across another border.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mo PPDT and the Poetry Shed

PPDT performed at Zozobra, Santa Fe’s version of burning man, which predates burning man by sixty or so years. This festival attracts over 20,000 people. We had an early time slot and would perform for several hundred people with the caveat that if the producers of the festival liked our performance, they would bring us back right before the burn. I made a hodgepodge loop of some Jimi Hendrix guitar solos and scratching and we created a “Burn Him! Burn Him” chant to recite over the loop. The producers loved it, brought us back and we performed in front of the full crowd. It was amazing to look out over the field and see those tens of thousands of faces and feel the energy as they started to chant with us.

As part of this same weekend “Fiesta Days,” which has been held continuously in Santa Fe for 180 or so years, there is a wonderful event called the “Children’s Pet Parade.” About five thousand citizens of Santa line the streets to watch marching bands, civic groups and costumed pet lovers parade. I believe we were the first poetry group to march in the pet parade and I created a poetry/army style chant “How do I love thee, Let me count the ways, One Two...ect.” The crowd went wild as we poet-stepped by reciting, “The Tyger,” and “We Real Cool.” It was a nonstop hour long performance, that covered a couple of miles.

OK, what is a poetry shed? Ever since I saw the Monty Python episode including the obscure bit about “Two Sheds Jackson,” a man famous for owning two sheds, I have wanted my own shed, this year my dream came true. As we were short of classrooms I was given the option of cleaning out an old adobe building on the Desert Academy campus. As I gathered a stage, lights and last to complete the nightclub feel, small round cocktail table, I felt like Mickey Rooney saying “Hey kids, let’s put on a show!” I found out about the space on the Friday, before school started and worked all weekend, including making a fused glass “Poetry Shed” sign. I think at least part of our momentum this semester has to do with having a great performance space. Just imagine you are a high school student and you get to go to class in a quarter-size night club!

Tonight, (OCt 7th) we perform a mulit-voiced version of “Howl” at the High Mayhem Festival, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Ginsberg’s first public reading of the poem. Yesterday, while we were rehearsing “Howl” one of the kids said, “This has to be the coolest poem ever.” (Up date: our reading of "Howl" went over gangbusters! and the High Mayhem folks did an great job all weekend)

Next up: I am reading at the Texas Book Festival on Oct 28th, Friday night at Mojo's. A fun gig run like a talk show, with Matthew John Conley, Andy Buck, Amelia Ortiz, and Liz Belile.

Bit o' Good News from

of the New Orleans Community

It is time.

On THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13 a critical gathering of NEW ORLEANS artists, poets and friends will assemble at The Gold Mine Saloon with a general reception between 6:00 - 8:00pm.

This event "STILL STANDING" will be a joining of hands for many of our beloved and special people in the New Orleans community whose great friendships and words and works are most vital to this region.

The event will feature a stellar cast of painters, poets, writers, musicians, artists and friends of all walks and minds.

It will also be a time for strength and for helping further our awareness of the great and incomprenhensible occurences that manifested on Monday, August 29 leading into these many nights and days since the landfall of Hurricane Katrina.

Please celebrate this great return with us, and also, as we celebrate the return of the 17 POETS! Weekly Thursday Night Poetry Reading Series at The Gold Mine.

YAWP: A Journal of Poetry & Art is also formally announcing the final call for submissions for its upcoming 3rd issue.

Those who will be making presentations on Thursday, October 13 at 8:00pm include:


This event will be documented by our longtime videographer LANCE ARNOLD.

The Gold Mine is located at 701 Dauphine, on the corner of Dauphine and St. Peter in the French Quarter of New Orleans, 504-586-0745 and 504-568-9125.

Dave Brinks

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Precision Poetry Drill Team/Lit Journal

Hey Blog,

Sorry, I have been so bad about posting. I promise to never neglect you again, no really. The Precision Poetry Drill Team and I were commissioned this summer to compose a piece on Federcio Garcia Lorca for the Santa Fe Opera's festival on Lorca. We performed LorcaLand twice. The kids wrote hip-hop flavored flow and we did a mash up of Lorca's "Lament" and Hernandez's "Lullaby of the Onion." It was a great send off after working together for the past year. Our group version of "Verde te que quiero Verde," done as a kind of chant was well received. A section of the was show entitled, "Whose Lorca?"It consisted of video I shot at a street fair in Santa Fe, and all the answers people gave off the top of their heads. Two women hula hooping were the best as they purposely confused Lorca with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, calling him Gabriel Garcia Lorca.

Here is link to NPR's "All Things Considered" story on the PPDT.

Yesterday classes at Desert Academy began and I now have 18 Drill Teamers, as well as teaching a literary journal class. The students are whip smart and we have been asked to perform at Zozobra, which is kind of like "Burning Man," without the nudity and predates it by about 50 years. Part of this post is to show the Lit J class what a blog is and I just want to say, they are sweet and I can't wait to see what they do this year. I am running the class like a small press and our first project is to do a parody of the New Yorker. They will also be creating a blog and doing podcasts. I will put a link up from this site.

I really did miss you old blog o mine.
Big kisses and hugs,
Gary Mex
P.S. Sparking Memories: The Alzheimer's Poetry Project Anthology
is done and you can find out more about the book
Thanks to Bread for the Journey for the funding!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Albuquerque, ER Break Room: 2:05pm, 5/06/2005
“What was your trauma?”
“He fell off a horse-
then the horse fell on him.”
Tapping foot off time to the classical guitar,
a nervous tap, soft shoe, a brown clog.
“I don’t want to heat up the salmon too much fishy smell.”
“I’ve never even had a massage.”
“You lazy shit.”
Reaches around and tickles her.
Breath deep.
Guitar cascading cords.
Cotton scrubs, blue, green, clean.
Plastic badges pinned and visible.
An intercom system blasting:
C8 is ready for Swift, Swift is ready for C8

Santa Fe, Juvenile Lock Down: 4:12pm 5/06/2005
“Are you carrying any weapons?”
“You left your grenades at home?”
Blue doors slide open and close, with a hollow metal click.
Walkie Talkie, “Be advised you have two visitors.”
40 cotton jumpers, plain, all brown.
Guitar graduation.
They play Black Magic Woman.
One guy is shaking uncontrollably.
The guards see him.
Bring him out of the room.
Jamming, grrrl lock downs screaming,
boy lock downs howling.
The guy is shaking.
Breath deep.
Shake out your arms, breath deep.
They play Hotel California.
The shaking guy sits down.
All the girls sing harmony.
As they file out, “Watch your personal space.”
When I ask one of the guards about the shaking boy,
she says, “Fine,” inhaling the word, turning her head down
and sliding her eyes shut.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Youth National Poetry Slam

Just got back from four wonderful days in San Francisco at the 8th annual Youth National Poetry Slam. The final event was the best attended poetry slam in the history of slam with 3000 poetry fans going nuts. New York won and will host the event next year. The team pushed the boundaries of poetry into what is being called "Hip Hop Theater." It is quite amazing to see 3000 people leap to their collective feet to cheer a poem.

The real success story on the festival was the Chico Team, who also made the finals. The team put together by Aaron Yamaguchi had strong writing and dynamic group pieces. More on this latter but for now many thanks to James Kass and everyone at Youth Speaks who put together the event.

NPR's "All Things Considered," aired a segment on the Precision Poetry Drill Team and you can listen to the story here:

I am off to the airport for a reading at a school in Savannah!

Poet's Plaza

One of my favorite chapters in How to Make a Living as a Poet, is on the Poet's Plaza.
I like it because the project started out as an exercise how an architecture class and everyone got so enthused with the idea it ended up being a real flesh and concrete project. Here is the project directors' description of the ground breaking ceremony, which was held on April 22nd.

"I wanted to tell you a sweet little story from the Poets' Plaza groundbreaking. We did all the background and thanks, then Dale Harris read a beautiful poem and then Masood, one of the kids from Escuela del Sol, read one his poems. As we started to scoop up some earth to scatter (with our gold shovel) someone hollered to look into the sky and there was a perfect little rainbow across one of the clouds (someone said it was a sun dog?!?). We scattered some earth, sprinkled flower petals around and lots of folks, little children, parents, poets, artists, and grandparents, wandered in and out of the circle Cassandra (the artist who designed the plaza) traced in the ground. Very lovely. And auspicious, I think." Susan McAlister, Harwood Art Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico

For more info on the Poet's Plaza you can reach her at

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Turns out Chicago poet J.J. Jameson was leading a double life. Check out this spin on the story:

Here is excerpt one of Jameson's poems from

The Puttering Penis

Las week, late last week,
I went to the theater to listen, raptly,
to the vagina monologuing.

I put my ear down close,
I mean really, really close,
I wanted to hear every spluttering syllable,
I wanted to bite very pulsating enunciation.

I put my other ear down,
I mean really, really down,
I did not wish to miss fondling, aurally,
any climatic sentence even a fragmented one,
preferably a compound one.

Kurt Heintz, has some interesting comments:

Slam Pappy Marc Smith is quoted as saying to the Chicago Sun-Times,"This is a huge one, It will be shocking to everybody and a little disconcerting. That's pretty wild."

Is it true that if you could be arrested for bad poetry he would have been caught years ago?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bowery Poetry Club

This post is out of sequence and goes back to March 29th. The flight into New York was delayed because of weather and we circled Chicago for an hour as huge clouds filled and exploded with lighting. I wonder what Wordsworth would have written about wandering lonely clouds if he could have seen them from 30,000 feet. Coming off the plane it was made clear that I had missed my connection and would have to spend the night in Chicago. As I was heading to take the train into town, I heard my name over the intercom system being paged to a certain gate. The short of the story is that the airline actually brought the plane back off the tarmac and allowed about 6 passengers to board.

I got into New York about 1:30am and recited, "The Owl and Pussy Cat," while standing on the bar. Two of the regulars got into a shouting match, each telling the other they should listen to me. When I got to the "O pussy, O pussy what a beautiful pussy your are," line, the woman regular said, "Please talk about my pussy," and the man regular went crazy, yelling about her pussy, which ended with her punching him in the face and him returning the punch, but she had got the best of him and they both were exiled from the bar. That's Slam Poetry!

Robert Creeley Saved Sam Hamill

Tucson Poetry Festival

Was interviewed with Sam Hamill yesterday on the local public radio station. He did a poem in the voice of his long time friend Robert Creeley, turns out Sam can do a perfect imitation of Creeley's dry voice, so accurate that Sam used to call up Creeley's house when Creeley was on tour and talk to his wife as Creeley, which of course pissed off both wife and poet. That led to me asking Sam to tell a story about Bob. Sam said, "I owe my life to Creeley," and proceeded to tell how when Creeley had run off with Rexroth's wife Martha, Sam was addicted to heroin and how Creeley had told him, "Your heroes Miles Davis and John Coltrane both kicked heroin because it was killing them and their music." He then locked Sam in a bedroom for five days as he kicked his habit. Sam ended, "So if Creeley hadn't been diddling Martha I might not be alive." Later we started talking about Haiku and Sam made the point that translators always get Basho's frog poem wrong its not a frog splashing into an old pond, its a frog jumping into water sound.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Alpha Rooster

Ithaca New York

Often when engaged in a poetry tour, one finds themselves crashing on someone's couch. Andy Slamtractor runs a great reading series up in Ithaca and the evening ended with an invitation to crash on his friend Mina's couch with the caveat that I help her with a rooster problem. She had adopted this fine fellow from a friend and now it was temporarily in a garbage can, with hay and chicken wire top, waiting to be moved into his new coop. The idea was that I would move the rooster in exchange for sleeping on the couch. Luckily one of Mina's friend's is a poultry expert and gave me instructions on handling roosters. It seems that because roosters subscribe to the pecking order theory that all one has to do is establish that one is the alpha rooster in order to control the lower rooster. In order to help all touring poets who find themselves in this position here is a step-by-step guide to becoming an Alpha Rooster:
1. Get a firm grip on the rooster's back.
2. Push it to the ground.
3. Reach underneath the rooster and grab its legs.
4. Flip the rooster on its back.

You now have complete control of the rooster and can move it as needed. Caution, you have about 3 seconds between grabbing the rooster's back and pushing it to the ground to establish dominance before the rooster realizes you are not the Alpha and pecks the shit out of your hand.

All night I thought about the rooster. In the morning Mina and I went outside and approached the rooster. I made my first mistake when I moved the garbage can closer to the coop, this enraged the rooster and when I removed the chicken wire top he puffed up, his feathers swelling with anger. I reached down grabbed his back, his beck dug into my hand and he pulled loose. He winged out of the can and began to race around the yard, me splashing in the mud after him. Mina shouting, "Catch him, catch him. He was fast and darted from out the can each time I tried to put it over his head.

Then he turned into a fenced in section of the yard and banged his head against the fence and in his dizzy state I grabbed him, pushed him down and got hold of his legs. Mina, shouted, "Flip him," and he went limp as I put him in his coop.

What a male ego opportunity. Don't forget poetry sounds like poultry.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Purple Cow and Monkey Nuts

Although the majority of readings I have done for Alzhiemer's patients have been enjoyable and rewarding, like any endeavor sometimes things don't go as hoped for.
Today in Savannah the patients had bruised eyes, sores erupting from their skin,
they drifted in and out of focus mostly out. The facility was clean and seemed well run, just a sleepy time of day and a group on their last legs.

As I was reading them "The Purple Cow," one woman began screaming at me, "Does the Monkey want a peanut?" Then she would look around and yell, "Does anyone have peanuts for this monkey?"

On the positive side another woman mouthed the words of the poems along with me and clapped when I finished the poems and the woman with the worst facial sores knew most of the words to Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepard..." which she recited with verve.

Musical Hot Tub

The reading last night in Greenville, SC went well, good audience and a great local
retro beat band with growling lead poet, were they called, "Daddy Jack and the Paddy Wacks?" The reading is run by Kimberly and she packed the house. Wendy Loomis an old friend from Poetry Alive showed up and we went back to her house in the woods of North Carolina. We had crab stuffed pork chops, then ventured out to the hot tub, which included a rotating light show and old time jazz. The tub also had a water fall spout and foot jets, producing a full body vibration that bordered on illicit. While test scores continue to fall and today's headlines reveal that the pressure for schools to perform under the "Leave Know Child Behind," act has led schools in Texas to cheat- not the students but the teachers and administrators, America continues to lead the world in hot tub design! Soak! Soak! Soak!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Kayaking Honey Creek

The Southeast Booksellers retreat is v. relaxing, all the food is fried, all the booksellers love books, yoga in the morning and wine at night. Wanda Jewell
who puts it on is welcoming and has the great idea to put writers and booksellers
together and see what sparks fly. It really is wonderful to meet people who own and manage bookstores and learn how hard they work to put the right book with the right person; how hand selling does still exist, even with the malling of America.
Every poet/writer should have the chance to chill with book people.

This morning I took a kayak out on Honey Creek, the water was still and flat, red headed woodpeckers pecked about and the living was easy.

Yesterday, all the attendees got massages. The novelist Elizabeth Flock (Me and Emma)
had the best line, when she looked up with her big green eyes and told the masseuse, "Anna, if we were both single, you would be my girl." To which Anna replied by increasing the pressure of her kneading.

Ah, life on Honey Creek. Late at night we danced to swing music. Are you old enough to boogie?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Oak Trees and Spanish Moss

Honey Creek Georgia

Stopped at an old plantation and walked the grounds. The brochure talks about how after the end of a steady supply of cheap labor the plantation was no longer profitable-can you say reparations? Light rain and Spanish moss on the huge old oaks, it is beautiful here in the south. Did you know New Mexico had Indian slaves
as late as the 1920's?

Sylvia of Sycamore Gallery, in Atlanta pulled together a last minute gig, got a few people out, poured wine and made me feel at home. Jammed with the jazz band at the restaurant across the street from the restaurant. The gallery had realistic paintings by Suzy Schultz including a series of a flamingo, er Spanish dancer, not photo realism but she captures something of the person, makes you feel like you know them.

The Southeast Book Sellers Association meeting starts tomorrow. I teach a workshop, "How to Drink Coffee Like a Poet," with plenty of beatpoet slurping.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Last night got sucked into March Madness as the café that had been full all day emptied to just myself and the 3 baristas, the nearby college was hosting a game and playing that night in the tournament. I read the baristas a poem that was embarrassing for them and me; still they were nice about it and took the sting out of no one showing up for the reading.

I trusted a local poet who said she would get the word out, but on arriving no one had even bothered to put up the posters I had sent. You are vulnerable when you book a tour, hoping for the best when someone says, “Yes we’d love to have you come and read.”

Started off the day on television in Memphis, "Live at 9," with a trio of young star-search women in ball gowns, perfect make-up and high C voices, gorgeous young women and their nervous moms. Read “The Tyger,” and talked about working with Alzheimer’s patients. The hosts were great although shocked when I told them, "How to Make a Living as a Poet," is fiction.

Then this morning got a call from a radio producer that thought the Alabama reading was today! She still wants to do a story that will run in April for poetry month and I shall get my Alabama audience. Just after she called I pulled into Wyatt’s Bar-B-Que in Decatur. Ah, bar-b-que and sweet tea. Old shack, sauce been on the stove since 1829, greens and black-eyed peas for luck.

Monday, March 14, 2005

OK City Erotic Poetry and Art

Small but enthusiastic workshop in OK City, as usual Jonathan Bryant and his paramour Lindsey were great hosts! The reading was at a gallery performance space for Individual Artists of Oklahoma and they had just had their big fundraiser for the year- a fetish party. The gallery was still hung with erotic art and during the reading I stopped and had people write spontaneous interpretations of their favorite art work. We then went around the room and read the pieces. Lots of heavy breathing and whispers of, “Its getting pretty hot in here.”

More Police and Poetry

Read to 75 residents of an assisted living center outside of Little Rock this morning, including the one time chief of police of the city. Played the harmonica and got him up to dance. Got a good blues stomp going and we started to swing, twirling and doing a version of the cheek to cheek tango. He told me he didn’t like poetry when I came in and started to leave, but I think I won him over by letting him lead. Imagine someone telling him years ago when he was still on duty, that he would be dancing with a poet in an old folk’s home. One woman told me as I was leaving, “If I had known poetry was so fun, I would have paid more attention to it.”

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Police and Poetry

I saw him parked in the middle of the highway.
I tapped my brakes and slowed down to 65 from 80.
Looked in the rearview, too late he was pulling out,
I pulled over, rolled down the widow, got my license ready.
Poet: “Hello officer, how are you today, saw you slowed down,
Please don’t give me a ticket; I’m on a book tour.
Cop: “What’s your book called?”
Poet: “How to Make a Living as a Poet.”
Cop: Hearty belly laugh, “OK, no ticket.”
He invited me to his cruiser, checked my record, and interviewed me.
Cop: “How did you get started writing?”
Poet: “Dirty limericks in the 9th grade.
I asked him if he wanted a book, he did I signed it,
To Officer Sean, thanks for keeping the roads safe for
Poets and other people.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Green Eyed Monster

The folks at Eureka Springs were great. Rita recited a poem she wrote called, “The Green Eyed Monster.” She remembered the whole poem, which she wrote 20 years ago. Russ went along and worked well with the patients. They group of had a great sense of humor, with one woman asking if I was married and when I showed her my ring, she turned and asked if Russ was married. Party at Doug’s after the reading at the Slam. So 00's to be at a party working on a blog.

One Couch Surfed

After an 11-hour drive and arriving at Doug Shields' place
in Fayetteville, he decided I needed to see Cat Fury's new band,
"All Else Fails," tame name, hot band. Cat and lead guitarist, Jessica
were dressed in plastic wrap skirts, held on by electrician’s tape.
The mosh pit was full on huge men; faces pierced primitively, slam dancing. In the corner the opening band celebrated with grrl on grrl
kissing and dunking for nipples, lit up with the mini DV camera crew. Is anybody not making a mini DV movie? It was the perfect
first night of the tour.

Now off to read poetry to Alzheimer patients in Eureka Springs.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Tour Kick Off

Welcome to the H2Blog.

It's early morning here in New Mexico, the car is packed and as soon as I finish coaching the Precision Poetry Drill Team, (PPDT) I leave for a 16 day, 19 reading tour. The big news is that NPR came and recorded a session on the PPDT that will probably air in April. I will post when and where to listen when I have the details.
Here is a little about the PPDT.

Desert academy's Precision Poetry Drill Team performs multi-voiced classic poems such as Blake's "The Tyger," freestyle, hip-hop takes on Poe's "The Raven," a chilling version of Szymborska's "The Terrorist He's Watching," a jazzy version of "We Real Cool," by Brooks and original spoken word. The ensemble draws inspiration from everything from jump rope rhymes, military chants, auctioneers of animals, gospel call and response to rap. It's synchronized swimming with words and Modern Greek Chorus and motor-mouthed youth spilling over with teenage angst. These kids are lettering in poetry! The Precision Poetry Drill Team is a rah-rah free zone.

What this blog is about is getting your responses to the "How to Make a Living as a Poet," book and publishing the best of them. Please write your ideas, takes, thoughts of bringing poetry to life. I look forward to hearing from you!