REAL GOOD, FOR FREE…


Sunday, November 5, 2017…There was, you see, a reading–a poetry reading at Gatsby’s Bookstore in Long Beach, CA.

gatsbys

It was free. Not a penny did it cost to hear poetry.  And, for me, it was not just another reading (though I don’t do many). It was a huge event.  There may have been an audience of 10 or 12, I didn’t count.

Just out of a 3-week stay at the hospital–a life-defining experience–and scared I wouldn’t be able to stay on my feet for the duration, I was given the gift of a most wonderful experience and it feels really important for me to acknowledge it.

 

Thank you, first, to Gatsby’s Books, gatsbycat

whose support and enthusiasm and love for the arts absolutely surpasses any I’ve seen anywhere.

Thank you, most extraordinary poet, Rick Lupert,

Lupert

for generously agreeing to read with me. Your work is so alive, so electric and I am huge fan. It was a privilege to share a podium with you and I could have listened forever.

Thank you, my dear friend, Meg Kalvy, constant throughout all these years–

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sometimes as my conscience, always as my friend. To see you walk through that door on Sunday was my guarantee that I could stand up and read.

Beautiful Janis, whose last name I don’t know, in your phenomenal hat,

hat-lady-anthony-masterjoseph

thank you for your focus, your attention, your tears, your smile, and –yes–the very important purchase of my books. I will see you again at Gatsby’s and I will get your last name and another series of your warm hugs and whispered kindnesses.

Dear Couple in the Front Row, you beautiful young smiling poets, couples-seated (1).jpg

thank you for your attention, your kind words, your obvious understanding and your love of poetry. I know I will see you again and look forward to hearing something you have written.

Poetry lives!  POETRY LIVES! and it is alive and running and walking the streets of Los Angeles and its environs right now.

I was reminded of a wonderful lyric by Joni Mitchell which always rings a chime in my head to remind me what poetry is about.

HE PLAYED REAL GOOD FOR FREE
I slept last night in a good hotel
I went shopping today for jewels
The wind rushed around in the dirty town
And the children let out from the schools
I was standing on a noisy corner
Waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood
And he played real good
On his clarinet, for freeNow me I play for fortunes
And those velvet curtain calls
I’ve got a black limousine
And two gentlemen
Escorting me to the halls
And I play if you have the money
Or if you’re a friend to me
But the one man band
By the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good, for free

Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their T.V.
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony…
I heard his refrain
As the signal changed
He was playing real good, for free.

Songwriters: JONI MITCHELL
For Free lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing
poetry lives.jpg
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WHAT TO SAY…HOW TO SAY IT…


I’m not sure how many of you know that my family were Polish Jews. We lost cousins, aunts, uncles to the Nazi camps. Nearly all died, some lived to tell about it. Their stories never went away. They were told and re-told so that none of us would forget how easily and quickly evil moves in and takes over a person, a nation.

The stories were always similar: good people, kind people, neighbors, families laughed and joked and respected each other’s differences of opinion, turned their heads while part of their populace was marched down the streets to the waiting trains, turned their heads while their country warred,  rotted and died before their eyes.

They said, “It’s just politics.”
They said, “Don’t worry. You’re taking it all too seriously.”
They said “Disagreement and opposing ideas are good for the country.”
…and they said and they said and they said while Hitler and his gunsels turned their lives, their nation, inside out and took them and their neighbors to the death camps.

donald trump is doing what a cockroach does, what an asp does, what a monster does. This government–trump and his minions–has gone way beyond politics or ideals or clashes in philosophy. It is no longer what the trumproach does, what the asp does, what the monster does, it is about what WE do and What WE are.

Those who voted for this administration (and I HAVE to believe, or die of a broken heart, that there are some good, kind, giving, caring people out there who did) have got to stand up and admit that they were wrong, that they were duped, that what they thought politically and philosophically was a far cry from what trump is and what he is doing to what is still their country.

The gaping fissures which have developed between families and family members and friends can be healed, but only if those who supported the ongoing evil we see in front of us will step away from it and declare their mistake and their willingness to fight what they see is going on. Loud, proud, and repeatedly…Those who are fighting trump’s march toward Nazism need to know that their friends and families do not support this regime. They need to know that this was NOT what their friends and families thought would happen and that those same friends and families are withdrawing their support of evil and vowing to fight it.  Ego, pride must be put aside to save our country.

TO MY PERSONAL LOVED ONES:
There is great courage in saying, “I did not see the evil then when I cast my vote for trump. I do see it now. I want this creature who sits contentedly in the White House through my support to be gone and his policies and cronies and devastating actions which are bringing down my country to be gone for good.” No one will fault you or say, “I told you so.”

I cannot and will not withdraw my love or my belief in the people I have loved and known for more years than I can count. I believe in those from whom I have received love and kindness and generosity. I believe that you are good and honest and that you care when you see evil around you. I have seen you protect your children from it. I have seen you help those who need your help. I will not believe that you will let this horror continue without stepping forward. I beg you to step forward and denounce what you have to know is wrong, evil, dangerous–without justification, without explanation–just denounce it and keep denouncing it until it is erased. This is not about politics. It is about who we are/what we are.

Namaste

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood–A Rant of Sorts


 

Artists/Writers who don’t have extensive CVs or friends in high places or  well-known names are desperate for an audience.

Everything I say here, by the way, is the same for sculptors, potters, paper makers, jewelry creators, etc etc etc. You know who you are.

 

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of negative posts on Facebook regarding the requests for friendship as a way of introducing an artist’s work. In other words. someone asks someone to be friends and, if the friendship is accepted, the requester presents a page to be liked or a book promotion or the publishing of some work in a lit mag, or a group of photographs or a portfolio of paintings. It appears that, among some, this is considered very UNCOOL.

I don’t get it.

If we are not “friends” on social media, how are you supposed to draw my attention to your work?

It doesn’t matter how you happened upon my name; maybe you enjoy my work. Maybe you’ve seen me on one or another posts about writing or art and you want to introduce me to YOUR work. You’re not sure if you’d like to be my buddy, but you would like me to recognize and maybe even buy something and, even better, talk about it to others.  But, to some, this is a kind of irritant or a symbol that you are just not COOL.

Well, I’ve never been real comfortable with what’s COOL or UNCOOL. It seems to me that garnering an audience in the art/literature game is really tough.

 

Most can’t afford the fees of PR businesses and, unless your book is being published by Random House or Black Sparrow Press or your paintings/photos are featured in a gallery or are part of a book of prints. you can figure that you–the artist–is the only one bringing that work to the world.

 

 

All we have is each other. The “life raft” that is the well-known, widely-read writer, or the artist who actually sells, is that person or persons we look to as a source of support. One good word from a big name or even a medium-size name can make a huge difference in a writer’s book sales/readership or in the sale of a painting or a photograph.

Note to those who are offended by such requests: No one is trying to offend important writers and artists and artisans. No one is trying to be your best friend–you probably have plenty of those. Most are not even trying to be a significant event in your lives. We’re all  just trying to get a fucking foothold in the cold world of art and literature. We’d be incredibly grateful if you’d just take a look at what we do. We just really want to get your attention somehow.  Didn’t you ever want that for your own stories and poems and pictures?  We’re just hoping that MAYBE you MIGHT buy one of our books from the small, independent publisher who had 6 ounces of faith in a few of us and published us, or that you like the painting you see on our pages enough to ask about it, find out its price. None of that is about COOL or UNCOOL. It’s about support–any way, any kind.

Really, it’s as simple as ignoring the request if it offends you.

So, here is my note to artists:  if you want me, Martina, to take special notice of what you do and you request “friendship” of me in the hope that I’ll do that, that’s fine. I’ll take a look at your work, your page, your pictures. If I like your work, I’ll tell others. If I have some money to spend, I’ll buy something. If it’s not for me, I’ll say nothing. But you are more than welcome to “friend” me and guide me to your page, to ask me to “like” that page or like you, or have a look at your work.

The world needs its artists.  COOL or UNCOOL, you can buzz me. I’ll definitely have a look.

 

FEEDING PIGS, DO’S AND DON’TS*


HIPPIES

Before the revolution, we had tape
decks and ghetto blasters and psychedelic
posters. The hummingbirds out there in the
desert sipped red syrup and sang their scorched

hummingbird

music to our patios and golf courses.
Before the revolution, we were one for
all and all for one. We sang kumbaya
and rested our arms on each others’ shoulders.

armsandshoulders

We smoked whifty, ate food, counted our change
and chipped in, shared cheap red wine at gatherings
where we shouted slogans and argued meanings.
We vowed never to send out children to schools

rainbowkids

which required uniforms, or never to send
them to school at all, or we vowed never to
have children. We fucked each other with vigor
and intensity followed by yabyum and

samanthabadra-yabyum_79

hashish. Before the revolution, the wind
blew strong through the canyons and brought the desert
to our doors and windows, sighed and sobbed what was
to come, sighed and sobbed probabilities and

wind

failures. We knew furniture makers and bread
bakers and those who created sand paintings,
drug addicts who wrote songs, hefty women who
sat at looms and lay with strangers.  It was a

weaving

good time. Forever was ending even as
we lived it. Now, there are places where the grass
is no longer damp in the mornings. There are
skies the color of a dirty plastic bag

dirtyskies.jpg

and that which races through the canyons are strong
winds tainted with the smell of blood. The bosses
are at the doors of our bathrooms and bedrooms.
The money-ed are large, even-toed ungulates.

greedypigbankers

They eat anything they come across; grass, coins,
berries, carrion, dollar bills, tubers, bonds,
monuments, baby feet, insects. They use their
powerful noses, not just for sniffing and

pig nose

locating but for rooting up the sidewalks,
the beaches, forest floors, the arctic ice floes.
They burn the books and shun science; they nurture
illiteracy, proclaim the trivial.

trumppig

Now we work for all there is and for nothing
at all. The jewels, gemstones gone to calcium,
pulp and cementum, dentum and enamel
animosteeth in the mouth of a dragon.

greedy drgon

 

 

*from the article “Feeding Pigs Do’s and Don’t’s” by Jeff Griffith; July 3, 2009; Smallholder, UK

Prayer to the Divine Feminine


Beloved mothers of Humanity …
We thank you for watching over us and
for nourishing our souls with kindness and mercy …Mary Queen of Heaven

Thank you for showing us ways that lead to the
Creator.
You are Mystic Roses of the world’s gardens;
You are precious waters cooling the deserts.
Your presence purifies everything.
You are the mothers who protect us,
who help us to heal the wounds and scarsHindu Goddess
this false world brings to us.
Thank you, Divine Mothers, for the ancient wisdom and
the clarity your love offers us.
Ladies of Peace,

Ladies of Meditation and Prayer,
Mothers of this world and the one beyond,
Isis
grant us grace, peace, the willingness to forgive.
Ladies of the Rainbow, of the Angels, of the Lotus,
shine on us the rays of the Creator’s love that we
might warm this frigid world.
Spread over us the Divine Cloak of your endless love.
Calm us that we may calm the fearful.
Warm us that we may warm those who are cold.
Feed us that we may feed the hungry.
Forgive us that we may forgive all humankind.
Jewels of Heaven, continue to love us though
we rarely deserve it. Show us humanity through Muslim female saint
your eyes. Continue, please, to plead
for us, to place our vulnerable souls and our
human needs before the Creator.

Shanti.   Amen.   Amin.  
Om Mane Padme Hum.   Hallelujah.

LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN


I first read “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” when I was just out of high school.  My father was an ardent Socialist, Union Organizer, free thinker, blue collar philosopher, lover of “real people,” etc.  You get the picture.

I browsed the public library then as if it were a buffet table and I was starving.  It was not unusual for me to be in there from opening to closing.  My parents never had to worry about my whereabouts.  The library is where I could always be found. After library hours, I was in my room, reading.
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I found the book by chance, sat down at a table and began to read.  I checked that book out more times than anyone the library had ever seen.  I bought it for myself, finally, when I was 20 years old and married.
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What I saw in those pages was the assurance that no one, anywhere, understands anything until they’ve lived it.  Poverty, hunger, lack of education, lack of choices, abuse—all of it, any of it—it is not understood until it is experienced.
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I learned from that book that my suspicions that my peers didn’t understand my life were well-founded.  My mother HAD to sew my clothes.  My father was often on strike, sometimes injured in picket lines, always worked like a slave in the steel mill for every cent and, only through the union were his efforts rewarded.
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I learned in those pages that the government lies.  It lies to cover up its willingness to ignore the poor and uneducated.  It lies to keep the poverty-stricken poverty stricken and the uneducated uneducated.  It lies so that the general populace can feel good about itself.  It lies so that it can build its capitalist sties on the backs of working people and will hire writers and photographers to further those lies..
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James Agee and Walker Evans were like my father. They refused to lie.

Those pages gave me pride in my own father’s work ethic, his truth, his unwillingness to ever be anything more or less than he was.  It made me ashamed to sit back and not try to help the impoverished.  It made me want to shake the world out of its drowsy complacency, wring its neck a little.
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I could not, in those early years, think of what to do, so I began to write.  And that is still what I do. Besides the little money I can give, aside from the little help I can offer as an individual, I can write what I see.  So I do.
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I have gone back to that book a hundred times.  No exaggeration. I’ve read it at least that many times.  It changes me with each reading. At this time of year especially, I urge anyone to buy this book, see what it does to you, to anyone who is fortunate enough to read it.
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To Unions With Love…


When I was a young ‘un, my family was kind of poor.  Hell!  We were poor.  We had a roof over our heads, and food on the table.  My mother sewed all my clothes and a lot of my father’s.  She was very talented.  But, the luxuries weren’t there and we lived a pretty spare life.  ANYWAY… My dad was a steelworker.  He worked in the open hearth, shoveled slag for a living.  His face was always dark brown, burned that color by the mill’s heat.  His hands were extremely calloused–he couldn’t make a tight fist because of the callouses. He worked a lot of overtime for us and we all suffered through a lot of strikes when the big piggy bosses decided they wanted the working slobs to work for nearly nothing.

Want a snack during strike times when there’s no money coming in?  Saltine crackers and milk—not white, creamy milk from the carton–pale, watery powdered milk from a plastic pitcher. If there was some money left in Mother’s black beaded bag up in the closet, maybe some margarine on the crackers; the kind of margarine that came in a plastic bag with a little yellow food color capsule inside to make the pasty stuff look like butter. Please don’t misunderstand,  I was happy to have it and I knew enough not to make my folks feel bad by complaining.

At some point in my childhood, the United Steel Workers UnionImage joined up with the Teamsters Union and the strike time I remember best changed my life. With the Teamsters Imagecame a new kind of striking.  NOW the union had food to pass out to the steelworkers and their families.  We went to the union hall–all three of us–with smiles and flushed faces. There, some guys in nice clothes stood behind long tables—each table with a sign that said “Single Men,” or “Single Women”, or “Married, one child,” “Married, two children,” “Married, three children,” “Married, four or more children,.” On and around those tables were boxes with stacked bagsImage of potatoes, onions, pinto beans, white beans, boxes of crackers, packages of spaghetti, blocks of butter, cans of pork and beans, cans of peas, cans of corn, cans of tomatoes, cans of carrots, jars of honey, bags of sugar and flour.  There was oatmeal, bread, canned meat (Spam), canned tuna, peanut butter, grape jelly. But, miracle of miracles, there were long boxes of cheese. Image I know it was just plain ol’ American cheese, but it was CHEESE, a thing I loved and a thing that was not generally around during strike times.  We took a few grocery boxes of food home. My mother cried happily while she put away the food. My dad smiled proudly.  His union dues helped him take care of his family.  We were ok.

Why am I remembering this?  Tonight, I sit quietly inf front of my computer. My Brian is not hungry so no big dinner tonight.  From a kitchen cupboard, I reach high and take down a box of saltine crackers. Image I open a package of inexpensive cheese.  But, instead of milk from a plastic pitcher, a blessing waits to be opened.  There, in my refrigerator is a bottle of champagne—a gift from someone who wanted to gift my Brian for a job well done. Image It’s wonderful–icy cold, stinging bubbles.  Delicious!  My sweet husband smiles proudly. He did good work. He was paid for it and given something extra in appreciation.  His work has given us more than a meal.  It’s given us a luxury.

Funny how all things come around, come together somehow, meet and dance together in memory…funny and magical.

God bless the working man/woman and those who know how to say “Thank you” to him/her.

Just sayin’…