Word Perv
(noun): One who takes delight and is skilled at constructing, writing or saying naughty phrases or dialogue.
May 20, 2015

Berkeley Poetry Festival

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In my search to discover the poetry scene in the San Francisco bay area, I turned to the knower of all things: The Internet. With help from this magical place I found a poetry festival very close by and of course I added it to my calendar to check out.

Last Saturday, I went to the 13th Annual Berkeley Poetry Festival.

Berkeley Poetry Festival

The festival was a small gathering, a handful of local presses selling their chapbooks and journals, the readings of local poets and then an open mic by lottery -sadly  my name wasn’t called and so I didn’t have the opportunity to read. Of the local poets featured, Gabriel Cortez was my favorite. His poem, Perfect Soldiers, was especially powerful.

Since I’m in Oakland for a month for work, and will be here on and off for the next five months working on a project, I decided to check out the poetry scene. As it turns out, there is a huge poetry scene here.

The first venue I wandered into was The Octopus Literary Salon.

octo_med_ish

Monday nights they usually have an open mic but the first Monday I stumbled into they had a set performance of two poets and one musician. The first poet was very deadpan in his delivery, which was entertaining for one poem but a bit tiring for poem after poem. The second poet was Steve Roggenbuck who apparently has a reasonably sized following but it wasn’t the kind of poetry I like. To me he seemed like he was high and had extreme ADD. But of course the great thing about poetry is there’s an audience for every poet.

On a Friday night I checked La Commune Cafe and Bookstore. They were having a poetry reading featuring Laura Glenum, Johannes Goransson, and Lucas de Lima. I wasn’t familiar with any of these poets but I’m always on the lookout for new poets to love. Unfortunately none of the poets were to my liking. Each had a style of his/her own, and it’s wonderful to find your niche, but it just wasn’t one that worked for me. When Lucas de Lima got on stage I really had no idea what to expect.

Lucas de Lima reading his poetry

Lucas de Lima reading his poetry

 

And while there were individual lines withing de Lima’s poetry that I liked, I didn’t like any poem as a whole. His book, Wet Land, is about the death of his close friend Ana Maria, who was killed by an alligator – definitely a unique book of poetry. The same was true of Glenum and Goransson – each had lines within a poem that I liked, but I didn’t care for any poem as a whole and I was particularly confused by Glenum’s work. But hey, it was a new experience and it’s always good to go in with an open mind because you never know what you might find.

I’ll continue my hunt for poetry in Oakland and I’ll continue reporting what I find, I’m certain I’ll eventually find something I love.

 

April 30, 2015

A Month in Review

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April was National Poetry Month and so I thought I’d make this last post of the month about what I accomplished this month.

I wrote 38 poems. That’s a lot and while not all of them are great or even good, the practice of writing is so very important. And while not all of them are good there quite a few that are good, some that are really good, and a handful that are great.

I submitted poetry to 41 different journals. Most of them will come back with rejections but earlier in the month, on a day when I’d gotten three rejections, I opened an email right before going to bed, expecting my fourth rejection of the day. Instead it was an acceptance letter – Germ Magazine is publishing three of my poems! REDEMPTION!! I’ll put up the links when they’re published.

Of the fourteen books I read this month, five of them were poetry.

I got to see Andrea Gibson perform live. I have a bit of a poetry crush on her – her poetry and her presence are fierce.

Overall I’m very pleased with how much poetry was involved in National Poetry Month for me. Now I just gotta keep the momentum rolling!

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What was your highlight in April?

April 29, 2015

A Month of Many Things

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April is a month of many things. In addition to being National Poetry Month, something that obviously resonates with me, it’s also Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It may seem strange to have a month dedicated to this, but to any person who’s dealt with sexual assault – and according to RAINN it happens to an American every 107 seconds – this is a very important issue to bring attention to.

I’ve been sexually assaulted. I was lucky because it wasn’t anything as scary as rape, and I was able to get out of situation quickly. But it happened. And I was an adult – an outspoken, extrovert adult – when it happened. And in that moment I felt helpless. And frightened. And pissed. And shocked that a man, a stranger I didn’t know, felt like it was okay to shove his hand down my pants and touch me. This happened in public. There was no alcohol involved.

I’m lucky. Others aren’t so lucky. Some people experience years of abuse at the hands of people who are supposed to love and protect them. I have a friend who suffered such abuse. She’s a fighter and she’s strong, but my heart still breaks for her. And so I often write poems for her and about what she experienced. It’s not to exploit her or the suffering she lived through, but to remind people that this shit happens. And it is NOT okay. It is NEVER okay. I write poems for her to giver her a voice, to fight for her because sometimes she needs a little support from her friends.

Dirty Blood                                                                                                                      

He stole her voice when he forced

her to her knees, held the back of her head,

forced her mouth open, forced her to say

“I love you daddy,” after she’d swallowed

him down. He took her voice

when he took her virginity

at fifteen, when she was only just sprouting

breasts. He stared at her

over dinner while her mother

blurred the scene with cheap

white wine. After dinner her mother

kept drinking, seven bottles

in seven days in the recycling bin.

Her father pressed into her

while she washed the dishes, growled

she should shave her pussy, he wanted

to lick her skin. She cried into the dishwater,

salty tears dissolving the suds.

When she drug the razor

across her skin, shaved smooth

and pubescent, she grazed her wrist

with the blade, wanting the courage

to press harder, to color the bath

water pink with her dirty blood.

That night he turned the lamp on,

let the soft glow blanket her

as he slide inside, held her face tightly

and made her look at him, the bruises

blooming beneath his fingers,

between her legs.

The next day she covered them with makeup.

The next day she eyed the razor.

April 22, 2015

Organ Donation

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Eleven years ago today my mom got the best birthday present ever – my dad got a new kidney.

My dad has a kidney disease that rendered his kidneys useless. He was on dialysis for over five years before he finally got a donor kidney. While I can’t speak for my siblings, I know why I never offered him one of my kidneys. I was scared. My dad’s disease is hereditary so there was a chance I had the same disease that plagued him. At 25 I wasn’t yet ready to face my own mortality so I didn’t get the DNA test to determine if I had the disease. Without the DNA test I couldn’t donate a kidney to my dad. I know this is cowardly and selfish. But I also know that’s how I felt at the time and my parents never pressured me or any of my siblings to donate a kidney. Of course now having seen how wonderful it is for an organ recipient I would be much more comfortable donating a kidney. And I’m an organ donor – when I die I want them to take every useful part they can.

When my dad got his “new” kidney he got a new lease on life – and given that living donor transplants (as was my dad’s case) last an average of 15-20 years I’d say he’s got a few more years left to enjoy it. Every year on the anniversary of his transplant I am reminded that I was too afraid to get tested. I was too afraid to offer up my kidney because it meant the possibility of finding out I had the same disease. I no longer feel guilty about it and my dad certainly never made me feel guilty about it but none the less it inspired this poem.

Filter                                                                                   

He’d been dying for years

when they finally pulled

the scalpel across the pale

of his body. Unzipped

his skin and stuck their gloves

inside, the heat steaming up

as they pushed aside organs,

finally shaking hands

with his kidneys before

clipping them clean.

The new kidney sat

in a stainless steel tray,

cooling in an ice bath,

red-purple with blood

it glowed in contrast

to the gray, cyst-filled organs

they gingerly lifted out.

In the waiting room

four healthy, grown children

and his wife wait,

their blood pumping fiercely,

their kidneys filtering

their fear and shame.