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Farewell, Jackson Wheeler

June 10, 2017

Poet, art collector, community activist Jackson Wheeler

Last night, June 9 before 9pm, surrounded by friends and family poet Jackson Wheeler, 64, passed on from this life experience to the next one. He had fainted on April 21, 2015 and they discovered and removed a tumor in his brain. While he recovered in time and was able to rejoin the poetry community and his Arcade reading series at the Carnegie  Art Museum in spring of 2016, by January 2017, the last time I saw him, he was not faring well.

By the publication party of his recent book Was I Asleep last weekend, he was unable to attend (order his book here). Instead, friends and loved ones read the poems which were recorded for him to listen to during the final days of his life. Here’s a poem by Jackson Wheeler from that book which you can order here:

Fragrant Journey
                     for Thong Pisey
I have eaten the sticky rice
The spicy curry. My lips
Have been moistened by
Mr. Lee’s excellent plums
In coconut milk.
I have listened to the saffron-robed
Monks chant the 10,000 blessings
The prayers of farewell, the karmic directions.
I have plucked one leaf from the ground
Beneath the Bodhi tree and I have greeted
You in an honorable fashion – the divine spark
In me bowing to the Buddha spark within you.
I have greeted all the members of your family
Who rejoice in your long life – one journey has
Ended – for your next journey I leave incense and
Scented petals by your small, still hands.

Social worker, art collector, philanthropist, poet, Jackson Wheeler deeply influenced our community in many ways. Following a study of ceramics at Ventura College in the late 1970s, he began collecting local art including works by gauvin, George Hitchcock (who we were both mentored by), Otto Heino, Horace Bristol, Carlisle Cooper, Gerd Koch, Sherry Loehr, Hiroko Yoshimoto, Susan Petty, and Beatrice Wood.  Jackson’s advice to would-be collectors: “Buy what you love, what moves you,” and with his passing, Jackson’s collection has been promised to  Oxnard’s Carnegie Art Museum which hosted his Arcade Poetry Series for many years.

Jackson’s poetry was strongly influenced by growing up in a rural environment with strong oral traditions in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains.

As you can hear in the videos, his voice retained that beautiful southern lilt.

There is a tradition amongst poets to produce an “Ars Poetica,” and Jackson’s is one of my favorites. The first time I heard him read it gave me the shivers, and I asked if I could share it with my students and on my blog; it was originally published in Bear Flag Republic. Here it is again:


Because I was sung to as a child. Because my father shot himself when I was ten. Because my mother took in ironing and worked as a janitor. Because, my mother would say, “I could turn on the radio and you would lie in your crib and listen, quiet as a mouse”. Because there was singing: Kitty Wells, The Louvin Brothers, The Stanley Brothers, The Carter Family, The Stoneman Family, and when I was older, Saturday afternoons with my father’s mother, her dark Indian eyes glittering in the twilight of the room – boxing from Chattanooga, Tennessee, announced by Harry Thornton. Because I watched my uncles slaughter hogs, because I watched my mother kill a chicken for dumplings, because I watched the Rescue Squad drag the Nantahala Lake for drowned vacationers, up from Florida. Because Southern Appalachia was imagined by someone else – I just lived there, until I read about it in a book, other than the King James Bible, which is “all true” my mother said and says, “every jot and St. Matthew tittle of it”. Because God is a burning bush, a pillar of fire, a night wrestler, a swathe of blood, a small still voice, a whisper in Mary’s ear. Because my family is rank with alcoholics, wife beaters, spendthrifts, and big-hearted people, who give the shirts off their backs. Because their stories lie buried in the graveyards, because their stories have been forgotten, because their stories have been misremembered. Because my father’s people said they were from Ireland, down Wexford way. Because my father’s father baptized people, because my father’s mother bore a child out of wedlock and was part Indian. Because my mother’s father got his leg crushed at the quarry, because my mother’s mother died of brain cancer; My friends think I talk too much, don’t talk enough; that I’m too queer for company that I’m not queer enough. My mother’s people were Scots and Welsh, three cheers for the beard of Brady Marr, three cheers for the blood on the shields of the Keiths from Wick, three cheers for immigration, the waves of it and the desperation behind it. Let’s hear it for King’s Mountain and the Scots’ revenge for Culloden. Three cheers for extended family, the nameless cousins, all the petty griefs and regrets, the novels never written, the movies never made, the solace of the bottle, the solace of sex, the solace of loneliness of which there is plenty. All hail the poetic arts, and the art of poetry and the knowledge at the heart of it all: Words bear witness.

Jackson Wheeler

Ed Elrod wears a hat inscribed with words from Jackson Wheeler’s “Ars Poetica” from his recent book “Was I Asleep.” Stay tuned for information on how to order your own hat as a fundraiser to cover the substantial costs of Jackson’s final care.


Farewell, Jackson. You were truly a gentle man and beloved on this earth. Thank you for sharing with us your many gifts.

Late Fragment by Ray Carver
New Path to the Waterfall

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved,
to feel myself beloved on the earth

June Fun in the Sun: A Few Wine, Beer, Art, Music Festivals in Ojai, Santa Barbara, LA

June 8, 2017

It can be very easy to overwhelm yourself with how much there is to do in the summer sun — and under the moon! — in Southern California! While the weather is great most of the year, once the June Gloom burns off, summers are full of outdoor music, wine, art and other festivals and concert series, many of them FREE!

For us in Ventura, it’s an hour or so more to drive south to get to various venues in LA and less than an hour to get to Santa Barbara.  And Ojai is even closer!

Tonight the world-famous 71st annual Ojai Music Festival commences under the oak trees in downtown Ojai’s Libbey Bowl. If classical or new music is what you crave, this is world class: Read more…

Ventura County May Poetry Events: Erotica, Joy Manesiotis, plus AP and students too!

May 10, 2017

While April is National Poetry Month, this May there’s some great poetry readings to catch in Ventura County!

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 11 at 7:30pm in the EP Foster Library Topping Room (651 E. Main Street, Ventura), join Ventura County Poet Laureate Phil Taggart as he hosts a featured reading by  Joy Manesiotis followed by an open mic with readings by local luminaries as well as poets in training and others including my Ventura College Composition students.

Expect the unexpected! I tell my students they can find poetry anywhere.  They could submit anything they chose to that they’d written this semester but they can read what they want Thursday night.  Above is the cover that Brandon Elliott designed using the title that the students generated and voted for and an image submitted by Maria Sheldon that she took in her photography this semester.

Featured poet is Univ of Redlands prof Joy Manesiotis

Read more…

People MAKE the People’s March for Climate, Jobs, Justice 2017: Ventura CA

May 3, 2017

On Saturday, April 29, the People spoke about Climate, Jobs, and Justice.

  • we spoke with our feet as we marched
  • we spoke through our signs
  • we spoke with our voices through chants, cheers, song
  • we spoke through our actions–
  • our circles of unity
  • our swarm
  • our thermo-climb
  • read more about why!
  • and more background here


Read more…

People’s March Climate, Jobs, Justice: Join Ventura’s Rainbow, Swarm, Thermo-Climb

April 29, 2017

Today’s the day! Time to get your Climate March on! People are already marching around the world to send a message to leaders and community members alike that we need to tackle global warming and climate change in a way that addresses social and environmental justice. Read more about why, where, and how.

It is not only the right thing to do to create a more just world, but the Green Economy is creating far more jobs that the older petroleum and carbon based one! It is time for the US to step forward to renew our commitment to the Paris Agreement, to be inventive and innovative, and not hold the world back.

While it may seem that the weather and the climate is just fine, especially on a gorgeous day like today, 97% of the world’s scientists argue that it is not.

(This is a great recent article about how Bill Nye may not the the right person to lead the charge on global warming, however).

We need to take radical action, and we need to do it now: for our children and for the all living beings on our planet:



If you are joining us in Ventura where we will make a rainbow and a circle to show our diversity and our unity for justice for all at around this HUGE Moreton Fig in Mission Park:

and then we will be at the Ventura Botanic Garden in all of its spring wildflower glory:


At both sites, we will have postcards to decorate and address to be sent. We will be collecting donations to pay for the postage for these postcards as well as a commemorative postcard that we will send to participants who make a donation and fill out a mailing label.

If you are willing to help out, we need 1-3 people to collect donations and help coordinate each color.

We will have water donated from The Water Store as well as juices, sodas, and organic lemonade and organic snacks for sale.

More details here:

Choose a color and RSVP to this FREE event:

Climate march color flyer here to print out.

Rise, Rally, Resist: March for Climate, Jobs, and Justice Sat. April 29, 2017

April 28, 2017

You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.
— Pema Chodrun

Unless it’s not weather but climate change…

On the first day of his presidency, along with a few million others, I marched.

Now on the 100th day of his presidency, along with a million or more, I will march again, this time for Climate, Jobs, and Justice, in an event that I am co-organizing that takes a stand for climate justice and a clean energy economy.

Even for someone like me who considers herself an activist, it seems like it has been non-stop from one March or action to the next, including spelling out RESIST at the beach and waving at cars about education in the pouring rain.

Because times have changed. Just watch this Simpson’s episode if you have doubts. Read more…

Happy Earth Month 2017! How will YOU celebrate? March for Science! and Climate!

April 21, 2017

In this time of alternative facts, the eradication of information from government websites, the slashing of science budgets, and being that April is Earth Month, now more than ever we need to stand up for SCIENCE.

Join a nationwide movement to champion support and funding for science, science-based policy, and diversity

On Earth Day 2017, scientists and fans of science will march together because as Neil DeGrasse Tyson noted in an interview with Bill Maher,

The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.


The other good thing about science is we have so many great scientists around who love to talk about science — and that are fun to listen to and learn from, like Bill the Science Guy who will be saving the world on Netflix starting today.

While a fan of Bill Nye, I am not the aficionado — like my son is. Now 13 and in 8th grade, every Friday in 7th and 8th grade, he’s looked forward to getting out early, having shorter classes, and, in science, watching an episode of Bill Nye The Science Guy.

So I asked the expert in the house to watch the trailer with me — and yes he’s impressed!

“Much better production values,” the 8th grader says knowingly. “Can we watch it now?”

Ha! Later, I said, I’ve got this blog post to finish and other things to do as we prepare for the Climate March in Ventura April 29. But we will, I promise! Soon!

Most people have probably figured out how they are going to celebrate Earth Day and which March for Science they will participate in. But just in case you haven’t got those kinds of friends who tell you about stuff like this, here’s a few of the BIG events going on around here.

Or do as the Sierra Club suggests, and take a hike! “It doesn’t matter where you are or how you do it–it can be a walk through your neighborhood, a stroll through your local park, or an urban hike in your city,” the Sierra Club says. “Share your corner with us. There’s something special about each corner of our Earth–we want to know about yours! Use the hashtags #EveryCornerand #TeamSierra.”



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