Peter Wortsman short premieres for his book Borrowed Words due out on Bamboo Dart Press October 5th

Like a farmer rotating his crops, Peter Wortsman periodically ploughs words back into the mulch of meaning. Romanian émigré DADA poet Tristran Tzara gave it a name: cut-up (or “découpé” in French). Wortsman reverts to cutups when he’s too distracted, depressed, dumbfounded or deranged to write in the regular manner. As the isolation of virtual lockdown during the seemingly interminable Covid-19 pandemic stretches into its third year, Wortsman, a modern-day monk, languishes in the solitude of his cell, longing for meaningful communion. Absent belief in a transcendent being, cutups take the place of prayer. Here is a trailer for the book

Peter Wortsman Borrowed Words is available for preorder

Bill Chen vs. Dennis Callaci on KSPC 88.7 FM Wednesday Sept. 28th

My good pal for decades, Bill Chen and I are both back on KSPC Wednesday Sept 28 from 10am-noon   We will be playing noise and notes and arguing about nothingness.  Listen in locally at 88.7 on yer FM band or on the digital feed at KSPC online live or canned for two weeks after it airs. 

Marc Zegans’ Lyon Street book on Bamboo Dart Press out on September 23rd, check out the first reading/film for the book

Marc Zegans’ Lyon Street is a book of longing, lost and found love for a place and a people that have long moved away from the haven San Francisco was in the 1980’s and 90’s. Victorian houses in need of a paint job then, not an alarm system; Cop cars alit amidst riots that rose as reaction to police brutality. Language of the time not sanded down and soaped up in a gauzy lens, written to reflect where Marc was then. Where the post hippie bloom died and birthed a punk scene of outsiders, poets, artists. In his new book of poems, Zegans, like the spirits that possess the body of each poem herein, guides us through San Francisco as it was. He is talking shorthand here, but for those not familiar with the landscape, subdivisions, and jarring neighborhood lines of demarcation in the San Francisco of that era, you will undoubtedly catch it in the prose and pruned back peel that allow you in. Zegans’ previous books of poetry and spoken word albums signposted that he was no one trick pony. He is one of those writers digging for a new old world. Pulling up bricks of sand from the depths of the ocean to expand his imagined and real worlds. This book is one he has been meditating on for decades and it shows.

Check out this short film featuring a reading by Zegans from the book married to a sculpture created by Noah James Saunders specifically for the poem North Beach.

Marc Zegans’ book Lyon Steet is available for preorder now.

Ruth Nolan’s “After the Dome Fire” book is out now on Bamboo Dart Press

Ruth Nolan grew up in California’s Mojave Desert and worked as a wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management’s California Desert District and also for the U.S. Forest Service, fighting wildfires throughout the western U.S. Her new book on Bamboo Dart Press, After the Dome Fire, focuses on that aspect of her life. She has been notably published in Boom, California; McSweeney’s; East Bay Times; Los Angeles Fiction: Southland Writing by Southland Writers (Red Hen Press;) and Desert Oracle among a plethora of other landings. Ruth was named the inaugural Mojave Desert Literary Laureate in 2021. Below is a conversation I had with Ruth Nolan on the eve of her new book which was issued September 5th.

After the Dome Fire is a collection that has a history dating back at least four years that I am aware of, that is when I first read the poem Mopping Up (the trailer featuring the poem can be seen here ). The poems in the book reflect back on decades.  When did the seed of this collection start for you?

Truth is, I’ve been spending my past few years gathering and sifting through the memory-weave of my desert life, as experienced from childhood until now. Re-visiting and re-imagining a deeply storied desert landscape, and my place in all desert places and journey across space and time. The 2020 Dome Fire in the East Mojave Preserve horrified and infuriated me, and I’d say that my motivation for pulling these poems together was the real incentive for bringing this collection together – an elegy and testament to the brutality of wildfire, in all its fire ecologies, human influences, and the recoveries and resilience that follow via the power of the natural world to heal and regenerate, sometimes in the face of great odds.

So much of your poetry is a reflection of the high desert.  This collection is more personal.  You not only voice your experiences as a firefighter, but also that of a new mother, of love and loss which is threaded through poems of destruction and rebirth of the natural world around you.

Interesting for you to say this, because my work as a wildland firefighter – frequently working in the area of the Dome Fire and the East Mojave Preserve – was my introduction to the forces of wildfire in that Mojave Desert Region, typically spawned by monsoon lightning strikes, and my time as a firefighter came to an end just a year or so before my daughter was born. So there is definitely an overlap and connection: working to care for and nurture the desert through the work of firefighting, in the immediate face of danger and destruction, and also the closely related baton handoff of giving birth and literally regenerating a new life!

It reads closer to a novel than a chapbook of poetry.  A novel with many subplots whose intersections become clearer on repeated readings.

As I’ve said, the many intersections of fighting fires and giving birth, as I have lived them, are filled with possibilities in one’s imagination and poetic sensibilities. Other intersections reflected in my poems weave throughout his chapbook, like long-used footpaths and trails and roads eked across the desert land, and hopefully touch on some of the elements in our shared human stories universal to us all. And truth is, I miss my firefighting days! Some days, I’d rather be out there, working with intent and teamwork, using my shovel and Pulaski fire tool to work hard and get meaningful work done – the excitement and rush of it all. I’d rather be out there than sitting in an air-conditioned condo, writing about it – this can feel rather dull, in contrast.

Your photographs in the book add another dimension to these poems and offer the reader a moment to catch their breath with some of the more harrowing poems.  Most of the photos appear are not of torched landscapes, but of landscapes recovering or untouched. 

I feel that in writing these poems and taking these pictures in such an isolated and exotic landscape little understood by most people, I’m a sort of poetic ambassador – and how interesting to connect this to my current term serving as the inaugural Mojave Desert Literary Laureate – to bring images and stories of the desert to the forefront through my own deep experiences and interpretations of those. You can see that in some of the photos, the torched desert sits next to the pristine desert, burnt Joshua trees almost touching limbs with untouched trees – as if seeking comfort and regeneration, which they are undoubtedly busy doing, above and underground. Just as beauty and vulgarity often stand and even shine, side by side, seeking some sort of transformation and return to balance that we, as humans, must actively work to restore through the power of honoring, nurturing, and caring for the land, and for our own hearts.

There is a stoicism in your voice that has that same quality in these poems.  

Just like the ever-stoic Mojave Desert itself! Except the softness filters in here and there: the lick of gentle monsoon rains; the drifty scent of wildflowers; smudgy sunsets in rainbow tones; gentle sunrise tones peeking in baby hues above the sharpest ridgelines…the softness is always there, against the harshest notes.

Grace and beauty exist in these words, but they are the kind that are as tough nails.

Don’t fuck with grace and beauty! 

Goosewind on the Watt from Pedro show

Always a spiel and revolving revolution listening to Mike Watt’s show. This week his musical guests are Shrimper stalwarts Goosewind whose new cassette is out this Friday. We are celebrating San Pedro today as that is where Rick and Melody of Goosewind live along with Watt. Thankful 4 the Times We Share is the name of the release and serves as a nod to all that we were able to grab onto in this world. Check it out here.

Ruth Nolan trailer premieres for her Bamboo Dart Press book After the Dome Fire

Ruth Nolan, a former wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management’s California Desert District and U.S. Forest Service, is a widely published writer/scholar whose work focuses on California’s deserts. Her new book of ecopoetry, After the Dome Fire, uses the aftermath of the 2020 Cima Dome Fire in the East Mojave National Preserve as a closely examined and imagined focal point to provide an autobiographical pulse of her life in the Mojave Desert, where she fought wildfires and, as a single parent, raised her daughter. These poems also take a deep look at the impacts, along with wildfire, of increasing human interferences with intact desert ecologies – such a solar industrialization, urbanization and tourism – and both celebrate the beauty and mourn the loss of pristine wildlands. Poems with titles such as “Mopping Up,” “Friendly Fire, “Escape Route” and “Ghost Flower,” along with photos taken by the author, puts readers in her hiking boots and takes them along for a hike down a rugged desert trail carved across a powerfully storied and evolving landscape.

The book is out September 5th and is available for preorder here. Check out the trailer below.

Goosewind Video Premieres on Ears to Feed

Goosewind’s first release on Shrimper in three decades is out on August 26th, Check out the first song on side one of the cassette below in this premiere on Ears to Feed for Shadow Mirror Raps. The cassette has built in hiss and is a limited edition of 100 numbered cassettes available via Midheaven/Revolver and Grapefruit distribution and finer independent record stores while supplies last. A digital version of the release, Grateful 4 the Times We Share is forthcoming as well as a CDR version. We do the reverse out this way, the physical is the forefront and the digital the afterthought.

Thomas R. Thomas “Missing Shaun” book is out today on Bamboo Dart Press

Thomas R. Thomas has written poetry for over fifty years. He wrote when he was holding down full time work, raising a family and juggling all that was tilting in his path on a daily basis. He wrote about these very things in his poems. His life experience colors his writing and in his new book he shares a book of poems about the loss of his son Shaun. These poems found a way out of him and were written for only one. Like Kendall Johnson or Juanita Mantz‘ books on Bamboo Dart Press, this book touches upon sorrow and loss, not in an abstract way nor in a manner of confession, but as a match in the dark, a signpost for others that have gone through sorrow that they are not alone in the that sorrow, offering a hand as they themselves are bowing from the pain..

I had a brief conversation with Thomas below that captures his fearlessness and his selflessness. His book Missing Shaun is out today and in it you might see yourself, see those you love, maybe those you lost rendered in a manner that is subtle and tender without being maudlin or cliche.

You are an accomplished draftsman whose work has included the most droll of the everyday to work on Ren & Stimpy and Beavis and Butthead. There is a savagery in that kind of animation that seems polar opposite to your exacting style in both draftsmanship and writing.
Drafting and poetry are not in opposition. Also, my work on the cartoons, and later video games, was more technical than creative. My approach to poetry is also technical as well as creative. Even in the poems I write that don’t follow a formal structure, I will look for a pattern, such as length of line, or how many lines in a stanza. At the same I always pay attention to the music in the flow as I write.

Part of what fascinates me about your writing is the divide between adhering to rules of writing, as in the haiku work that you do, and also breaking from that format if need be. I wonder if what I perceive of your unique voice is not unlike that of one that has learned a craft by endless trial, error and passion.

I always look at the chaos as I write, although what appears to be random, such as the patterns in a fractal, or the apparent chaos of a Jackson Pollock, there is always some form of order in the chaos. As far as the process of my writing, I have written for almost 50 years, and
most of that time was in experimentation. My goal was to learn the rules, and then to see how far I could veer off from the rules, and in most cases the rules were of my own design. I find that an artist is one who travels roads not commonly taken. It has been my observation that often in the arts the artist will repeat what others have done, or they find a niche and remain in that small area. I have always wanted to explore new fields after I have started to feel comfortable. It is my goal to feel inherently uncomfortable in my art, and to explore new regions, at least new to me.

You run the Arroyo Seco Press which has issued a plethora of incredible books and chapbooks. There is something to the lightness of your thumbprint to your imprint that is present in your writing as well. There is a natural beauty to them both, an honesty instead of a histrionic neediness to what you write and what you choose to issue.
Regarding the press, I find that I need to let the poets shine. I really try not to get in the way of their craft. Even in the presentation of the press itself it is about the poets, so if you look at the website you will notice that my name is not anywhere—that is so there is complete focus on them. I won’t even publish my own work, except for a few places on the Redshift publication where I have a few poems listed under a pseudonym. Even in my own poems I would rather focus on the poems rather than on me. Although, I have no problem revealing very personal details. I think that real experiences, and feelings will be more relatable. Although I do have a few poems that are pure fiction, and are of characters that I personally can’t relate to.

Missing Shaun takes two paths. One is the transcription of the texts of Shaun’s last few weeks and the other, the haiku’s and writing in verse after his death. Anyone in modern times can relate to the rushed hospital updates of a loved one in the hospital, but even more relatable is the poetry, your defining the empty space, the slivers and the mountains.
One reason I wrote the opening narrative was that I wanted to connect the poems that I had written to the week that preceded most of them. Listing the dates and times was because I wrote most of the poems on my phone or computer, and they would record when I wrote them. Also, the texts and phone calls had the dates and times. I think the chronology represents an immediacy that we can all relate to. It certainly places what happened in a time when most of us were experiencing great loss, or at least the fear of loss. Our loss of our son was not unique, but something that all of us experience to one degree, so although personal, what I have written is everyone’s story.

The reflection of the coffee table recently straightened by Shaun, the door to his room not being ajar, the morning comics you can’t share with him. These are the most heartbreaking details in all of the book.

I wrote the poems about the coffee table, open door, and the others like that as the thought about them came to me in part because I was feeling the emotions of missing him so intensely. Those are the things that we all experience as we miss our loved ones. That is where something so personal is still relatable to anyone who reads them, and will spark memories of lost loved ones. The last part of the book is me trying, maybe for the last time to talk to him. I have always enjoyed talking with both of my sons. Even when they were little we talked to them, and then with them in a way respecting their intelligence and their opinions, and they have given back in ways that still astound us. I can give his older brother Martin a call, or have a conversation in text just about any time I want, and I always learn from him. That is something I have lost now with Shaun.

There is some light in this book and I would be remiss in any conversation to not hit upon that. You purposely introduced a bit of that as you put the book together you mentioned. I think this book is important not just because is it by a writer at the top of his game, but a writer that is giving us everything in his arsenal.

As I was writing the poems I shared them with some poet friends. I had not shared our loss to very many people outside of our families. from the feedback from my poet friends I knew that I needed to share what I had written. I also needed to share Shaun with the world. We live our lives in a flicker of time, and in the billions of lives who have and who will live in the world, one life, yours, mine, and Shaun’s, still has a major impact on this world—this vast universe.