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Holiday Mason 11/7, Ventura County’s First Youth Poet Laureate 11/8, Psalms of Cinder and Silt Release 11/9

November 6, 2019
This weekend offers a plethora of poetry in Ventura! Featured poet tonight Holaday Mason followed by an open mic on Thursday Nov. 7, then Friday it’s the inaugurations of the first Youth Poet Laureate, Oxnard’s Genesis Perez, and on Saturday, there’s a reading from area poets from the newly published Psalms of Cinder and Silt.

Every Thursday, at the EP Foster Library in the Topping Room  you’ll find featured poets and an open mic beginning at 7:30pm.  The library is located at 651 E. Main Street  in downtown Ventura (across from Winchester’s) and the host and curator is Ventura County’s Poet Laureate Phil Taggart.

This Thursday, the feature is Holaday Mason who I heard read as part of the Climate Crisis reading “All Fall Down.” Other upcoming readings  are November 14  Sean McCoy, November 21  Michael C Ford, December  5   Scott Struman; my students and I will be there Dec. 5 with our class anthology.

Here’s a another sample poem from Holaday Mason called “Menopause”:

The pause of the blood, the not now
or ever impasse of womb, iron of emptiness,
the buried plasma roots of beginning,
the end of the eggs, the un-union of skin,
the played out tryst, the staunched
memory, stolen heirloom, scarred
slit wrist, the un-hatched, un-cried,
dried blown out wisp of smoke, the sealed eye,
silenced tome, floating black fish,
un-made unmade bed, the cessation
of red, the blank rivulet, the witch’s song
inside the deaf nest — ten young
drowning men in the surf. One on his belly,
a newborn clinging to his back, screaming.

On Friday Nov. 8, all are welcome to attend the inauguration of Genesis Perez as the 2019-2020 Ventura County Youth Poet Laureate at 7pm in Guthrie Hall at Ventura College 4667 Telegraph Road in Ventura; a reception begins the event at 630pm. She will serve for one year as official poet and ambassador to the community for poetry.

According to a press release, “Genesis Perez has been published in Scuffed Diamonds, a collection of Ventura County Poets and Through Me, You Will See, a collection of Oxnard High School Poetry slammers. She won the 2019 Oxnard High School Poetry Slam. Perez is a poet of social conscience, dealing with sexual harassment, sexuality, grief, and the struggles of immigrants. She was a featured reader in Mexican Schools at Beyond Baroque in Venice, Los Angeles, and the Elite Theatre Company in Oxnard. Her poetry is a close and profound examination of the human condition. Genesis Perez is 18-years-old. She was born and raised in Ventura County. She is a freshman at California State University, Northridge, where she studies Marine Biology. She has been involved in the local theater community for many years and utilizes her stage experience to enhance the delivery of her poetry to audiences. She has described herself as a “total ham”. However, she is dedicated to advocacy through the Literary Arts.”

It’s haunting that as we sweep up the ashes from the latest fire and still have the words from last weekend’s reading on the climate crisis “All Fall Down” resonating in our ears, on Saturday Nov. 9, at 2pm, a book release reading for the poetry anthology, Psalms of Cinder and Silt will be hosted by the editors Mary Kay Rummel, Friday Gretchen and Elaine Alarcon at the Museum of Ventura County, 100 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA.  Above is a video of Phil Taggart’s film/poem Fire Season.
Psalms of Cinder and Silt is an outgrowth of a series of readings Phil Taggart organized at the museum the EP Foster Library and at other sites affected by the Thomas and Woolsey fires and the resulting mudslides. The anthology is published as a special edition of SOLO Novo by the generosity of Glenna Luschei.
The collection of poetry is written by survivors of the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires and features work by Jean Colonomos, Florence Weinberger, Jennifer Kelley, Carol Ciliberti Smith, Christian Spangenberg, Nancy-Jean Pément, Raïna Manuel-Paris, Laura Reece Hogan, Brian Kirven, Susan Florence, Enid Osborn, Elizabeth Kuelbs, Gabrielle LeMay, Fernando Albert Salinas, Ariel Fintushel, Anita S. Pulier, Kathi Stafford, Daniel Thomas, Phil Taggart, Danielle Pineda Brown, Amy Tomhave, Tim Tipton, Kathie Gibboney, Gregory Franklin Huyette, Reynold Akison, John Robertson, Judy Oberlander, Amada Irma Pérez, Doug Knott, Jennifer A. Leonardo, Erin Graffy, Friday Gretchen, Zayan Reza, Ellen Reich, Sara Volle, Paula C. Lowe, Bob Chianese, Sandra Knapp, Gudrun Bortman, Katie Goodridge Ingram, Eliot Jacobson, Mark Fargo, Natalie D-Napoleon, Kimbrough Ernest, Marcy Wingard, David Starkey, Adele Menichella, Ricardo Means Ybarra, Riley Jaret, Diogo Avancini Fernandez, Maía, Vincent Mowrey, Suzanne Frost, Claudia M. Reder, Mary Kay Rummel, Ed Coletti, Anna Walsh Palencia, Bonnie Goldenberg, Ann Buxie, Richard Jarrette, Paul Willis, Elaine Alarcon, Laura Muñoz-Larbig, Peg Quinn, Becky Sanvictores, Charles Spink, Conor Adam Logan, Cie Gumucio, Ellen Cohen, Jedediah Smith, Gwendolyn Alley, Marsha de la O.
According to organizers, “These voices in the anthology represent a vivid cross section of our community and its remarkable resilience; these poems bring the power of our stories to create connection in times of crisis.” While I am in the anthology, I am not sure whether I will be in town on Saturdau and able to participate in the reading. The anthology Psalms of Cinder and Silt will be available for purchase at the release party and may be purchased on Amazon.




It’s My Bloggoversary! Happy Birthday to My Blog! Post 1956 in 12 Years 2007 – 2019

November 5, 2019

Twelve years ago on Nov. 4, 2007, on the night of the time change, in my extra hour, Art Predator was reborn here on WordPress after several years in a local, print weekly.

Art Predator (CC) Randy Stewart, Feel free to use this picture. Please credit as shown. If you are a person that I have taken a photo of, it’s yours (but I’d still be curious as to where it is).

Read more…

Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down: #ClimateCrisis, #MariaFire, #ClimateStrike, #RAWWineLA, and #Poetry too

November 1, 2019


Ashes, Ashes,
All Fall Down!

I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis.
I want you to act as if our house is on fire.  
Greta Thunberg
Because our house is on fire– literally as well as metaphorically.
Last night neighbors in the next town over lost their homes, ashes cover my front porch, and as I write this, I look out my window to the east where the sun glows orange as a pumpkin and an ominous cloud of smoke looms on the horizon. Only a few hours before the fire started I was notified that I was no longer at risk of having my power shut off.
I’m not the only one who awakes regularly to this scene. Literally over half of Californians live in an area threatened by wildfire, and California’s recent deliberate, outrageous, and harmful blackouts cost $1.8-2.6 BILLION, reports David Roberts at Vox. And they’re going to happen again and again with more lives lost.

There is so much we need to do– it can be hard to know where to start.

Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse. –  Desmond Tutu

As California burns as a result of a combination of climate change and poor policies, and with a fast moving fire currently less than 15 miles from my house up on South Mountain above Santa Paula near the winery where I have been interning, this weekend offers up glimmers of hope. (Photos from Halloween night about 10pm; taken by my son as I drove him to a sleepover ).


Read more…

Is It as Simple as ABC 123? Tuneyards, Nature, and the 6th Extinction

October 23, 2019

Sun sun sun burn down on me
Atop this hill so I can see
My skin boils red and scabs and stings
But I must be witness to everything
Fan the fire or face the crowd
California’s burning down
Sitting in the middle of the sixth extinction
Silently suggesting the investment in a generator
I called you up because I thought you’d see it my way
I looked for freedom and I found it on the highway
No other option so I’m peeling out the driveway
Sing those brand new ABCs
I want so badly to be liked
I ask myself, “Why was I nice?”
I ask myself, “What should I do?”
But all I know is white centrality
My country served me horror coke
My natural freedom up in smoke
My pre-polluted fetus lead us
Into the obscene, I meanI’m on a desert island and I ate up all the coral
I was so hungry but I know that isn’t normal, oh no
But my behavior isn’t anything but moral
So unhappy, ABC!
From just this excerpt of the lyrics, HMMNN… maybe this person needs NATURE??

My students and I are getting a Nature Fix next Wednesday Oct 30 when we go on our next field trip to the Ventura Botanical Garden located behind Ventura’s City Hall in downtown Ventura… as long as it is approved by the college’s administration!
We will hike up the path, possibly all the way to the Cross, and we will also visit the site of Shepherd’s Garden’s and learn more about Ventura’s history and how Venturans have sought to get people out into nature and to care for it. Although the VBG is free on Tuesdays and major holidays, it is also free for student groups on a pre-arranged field trip like we are on.
“In the field of your imagination are all possible flowers.”
Theodosia Burr Shepherd, the Flower Wizard of California.
Read more about the Ventura Botanic Garden (which was destroyed by the Thomas Fire) and Shepherd’s Garden here.


What’s your spin? What’s your story?

October 16, 2019


According to Martha Beck, in “Finding Your Own North Star, 

“You’re inevitably going to “spin” the story of your life, so you might as well spin it in a cheerful direction…tell yourself a lie story in which you, the hero, are primarily a problem solver rather than a helpless victim.

Neither story is the absolute truth; all our life narratives are based on selection and “spin.”

I just came back from France where I competed on the US Wine Tasting Team in the World Wine Tasting Championship held at Chateau Chambord, one of the world’s most impressive castles, located in Loire, France.

Organized and sponsored in part by La Revue du vin de France, the challenge was to taste and identify six white wines and six red wines. We received points if we could identify what kind of grape was in the wine, where it came from in the world and which region in the country,  who made it, and in what year.

The US Wine Tasting Team: Californians Gwendolyn Alley and Sue Hill, and Texans Jacob Fergus and Taylor Robertson.

Read more…

How To Fill Yourself with Hope: Breathe, Take Action, Build Common Ground

September 30, 2019

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.

Don’t wait for good things to happen to you.

If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

~ Barack Obama

With so much conflict in the world, in our country, in our communities, and even within ourselves, it can feel hopeless. A place to start is to build common ground between different viewpoints and perspectives. To do so, we must periodically ask the question:

How do we build common ground?

Read more…

Victor Frankl: In Our Response Lies Our Growth and Our Freedom

September 25, 2019


In these troubling times, we are invited to take action:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom,” argues Victor Frankl.

“You could say that river cleanup was child’s play compared with the melting of the ice caps—and I would thank you for sharing and get back to doing what is possible. Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it,” writes Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, in an essay published this month in National Geographic.

Or,  as Abe Lincoln says, “I’d rather be playing video games.”

Read more…

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