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Sacramento International
Poetry Festival 2000

Featured Poets

Bei Dao

Photo by Zhiping Wang

Bei Dao (pseudonym of Zhao Zhenkai),one of China’s foremost poets of the "misty school," was born in 1949 in Beijing.
During the Cultural Revolution, Bei joined the Red Guard movement, like many other middle-class youth, however, he soon became disillusioned with Chinese society and was later sent to the countryside, where he became a construction worker. Living in total isolation in the mountains outside Beijing increased his youthful melancholy and prompted him and many of his contemporaries to explore a more spiritual approach to life.
Searching for a fresh poetics, many of China’s new writers of the Seventies experimented with "free verse" in a hermetic, semi-private language characterized by oblique, oneiric imagery and elliptical syntax. That linguistic style, in which subject, tense, and number are elusive and transitions are unclear, came to be called "menglong shi," or "misty poetry."
By 1974, Bei Dao had finished the first draft of his novella Waves and begun a sequence of poems. Those poems were to become a guiding beacon for the youth of the April Fifth Democracy Movement of 1976, in which thousands peacefully demonstrated in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Bei Dao’s poetry won instant recognition and a faithful following, especially among young readers.

In December 1978, Bei Dao and Mang Ke published the first issue of China’s first unofficial literary journal, Jintian [Today], which survived until Beijing officials shut it down in 1980.
Widely treasured by those who participated in China’s democracy movement, Bei Dao’s poetry is marked by the effort to reveal the nature of the self, to identify both public and private wounds, to trust in instinctive perceptions, and to reach out to other afflicted souls. It depicts the intimacy of passion, love, and friendship in a society where trust can literally be a matter of life and death.

He was forced into exile following the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. He, along with other exiled writers and artists, has found a voice in a renewed version of Jintian, which was re-launched in Stockholm in 1990. "Ironically, it is…this…position of an exile that has given Bei Dao new insights… His experience has translated into three volumes of poetry, each of which has earned more critical acclaim than the one before."

(c)1999, Stanford University

(Edited version, for complete bio click on link below)

Stanford University Bio/Interview
University of Arizona Interview
The Journal of the International Institute Interview

Poetry by Bei Dao

Quiet And Tremble

The Boat with a Red Sail

(Translated by the author with the assistance of
Chen Yan Bing and Diana Jaio)

you are drawing yourself
being born--light's rising
turning the paper-night

madness that you released
is quiet cast by truth
pride shines as if internal wounds
darken all the words

in secret trembling
those angels in uniforms
of a private school
become fish, querying sea

a wind reads ruts
saluting the blue silk beyond

© Bei Dao
(The Meng Long Shi Series)

(Translated by Gordon T. Osing
and De-An Wu Swihart)

If the ruins of the walls are all about,
how shall I insist
the only road is the one we're on?
Are you fooled into believing
the streetlights that fill the eyes
come out nightly like stars?

I won't deceive you anymore,
won't let your heart, like a trembling maple leaf,
be written all over with lies about Spring.
I can't comfort you anymore
because, after heaven and earth,
only time witnesses to our existence.

On the beach, where sands are pulverized darkness,
when the spray runs off our eye-lashes,
we see the sea behind it is boundless.
Still, however I want to say,
wait, girl,
wait for the boat with a red sail, that brings the wind.

© Bei Dao

More Poems by Bei Dao
More Poems by Bei Dao

Viola Weinberg

Photo by Kent Lacin

Viola Weinberg was born in Ashland, Oregon, and has lived for many years in Northern California.
She is author of three books of poetry, the most recent being The Sum Complexities of the Humble Field on Pennywhistle Press, Santa Fe. Her poetry has appeared extensively in journals, newspapers, magazines, and anthologies, including Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend and Ladies, Start Your Engines (both Faber & Faber, Boston & London.)
As a radio journalist, Weinberg worked for the legendary KZAP FM in Sacramento, KTIM FM in San Rafael, KCBS AM, and KALW FM and KQED FM in San Francisco. She was the founding Director of the International Fund for Photography, which hosts the Leica Award for Excellence. For several years, she worked with KVIE TV as a coordinating producer and researcher. In 1978, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the California Commission on the Status of Women.
In 1996, Viola Weinberg was awarded the Mayors Award, the highest recognition given artists in our region. Last year, she was runner up for the Thomas Wolfe Award for Fiction. This year, she has been named as one of two Poets Laureate of Sacramento city and county.

Poetry by Viola Weinberg

Bonfire in a Blizzard

The Seductive Scent of Paris

When I write, it’s like a bonfire in a blizzard—
A red highway undulating in the desert
With my ancestors stuck, mouth down in the asphalt
And dual exhaust pipes rumbling in the wind
And everything jerky and out of phase

Like at the movies when the projector jumps
Fast and nervous, almost out of the frame
And everything looks dead and pretty soon
You are talking to the dead with their black eyes
And pretty soon the dead are answering you
And suddenly, you look like the dead yourself
And you put your little black hat on and say

I’m a writer!

The blizzard in you lifts off like a rocket
And the stars blur and you are thrown up
Into the next dimension at the speed of sound
By the sound of flight, like a baseball in flight
Flight through the dark, coming down hard and cold
You draw back your bat and wham! Home run!
And every blow you ever felt is released and

Your whole life flashes before you in one second
And every good thing you did looks good
And every bad thing you did is small and
All the dark poems you never finished finally go out
A particular run that burns black holes
In the journal where every stolen word resides

Wake up, Honey, Wake Up!
Writing is bleeding, blood draining from the hand
Ink seeping into the vein with capillary succulence
A small, illusional fire called passion, intensity,
Gravity will make your hands flap over your heart
Drawn magnetically by the force of every stinking word

© 1999 Viola Weinberg
Is rarely sensed in this valley town
With its bumper-hugging dusty pick ups and
Dolled up blondes with pink nails
And its boys with caps on backward—
Living under the tent of their sagging pants.

But this morning, I waken to the smells
Of coffee in small cups at a certain temperature—
Trees whirring in the butter knife wind
A scent of mustard and chestnut leaves, autumn
Autumn in Paris, the end of tomato season here

The thought made me walk slowly
As if I were on my youthful way
To Victor Hugo’s apartment
This time with enough francs to climb the stair
Again, alone, as I always imagine myself
Alone among the poets and the planets, alone

Some how I have forgotten how lost I was
In that place, how mixed-up and angry and tired
A hick on the boulevard, forlorn and lonesome—
Shining and earnest with her quill dipped in ink
Brushing her hair in public to entice the Arab boys

What takes me there, so far from the field hands
And double axles and dirt bards of home?
Look, look at the size of my head!
Who do I think I am to be reveling in Paris?
I retreat to the bright corner of my suburban hermitage

I bring out the fountain pen and green ink
To write in the small embossed leather book
Of the same color I keep expressly for this—
And in this simple movement, I find my way
Back to the only address I have ever really known.

© 1999 Viola Weinberg

Dennis Schmitz

Dennis' reputation as an outstanding poet is International. Over his distinguished career, he has seen hundreds of his poems published in magazines and anthologies. His list of awards and recognitions include the di Castignola Award, the Shelley Memorial Award and the Pushcart Prize.
He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1978-79 and has been been a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow three times. He has had six volumes of poetry published, including his most recent collection, About Night: Selected and New Poems.
Dennis has taught English at California State University, Sacramento for over thirty years. He was awarded the Mayor and Chair's Literary Fellowship in 1996.
Also, in February 2000, Dennis was appointed by the Sacramento City Council and Board of Supervisors as one of two Poets Laureate for Sacramento County.

Poetry by Dennis Schmitz

The Truth Squad


Roped against the bridge-pier so that
his tired legs can scissor down

more compressor-hose, Chicago’s last
sand-blaster kicks from one grafittied

meaning to another, his free hand kneading
over his face a rubbery other face

& glassed eyeholes as the compressor
overhead accelerates into rapturous bursts.

It’s the same sexual noise he sucks
through the gritty mouthpiece, panting

as he works. Gang tags, laments & manifestos
crackle away under his pistol’s hissed-out

spellings. I read what he denies
from the next bridge over. Behind me,

all Dearborn Street is stalled paraphrasing
where its cars want to go. My own car’s

sideways across both lanes, your plea squawking
on the cell-phone. I’ve flipped

open the trunk for the spray-cans;
two cars back, another commando is beginning

to letter a Honda’s windshield.
Determined others rappel down the Wrigley

Building’s white sides.
At least one of us will write your secret.

© Dennis Schmitz
Straw into gold-- what’s technology’s
dwarf-name that our princess sent

out so many courtiers to recover?
The anthropologists brought back Ishi,

who took a whole day
to manipulate tule roots into a simple basket,

the too-short discards loose
against one lab wall ... & the same dwarf

in my laid-off neighbor told him to divide
his Volvo into six jobs he must do

before the aerospace industry would proper.
The dwarf must’ve lost the servo-drive--

for a whole June, the loose parts,
entrails of the Volvo’s electric window-lifts,

one gismo of lubricant-shiny gears
& glossy plastic like a tiara,

glittered in his yard’s yellowing grass.
If the neighbors I won’t name hadn’t kept

the baby they shouldn’t have tried to make,
I’d name the clinic that would’ve churned

it into ectoplasm by the title of this poem.
My neighbor’s face got redder

behind the wedged-shut glass
each time he drove the wife through

false labor. “Ishi” is ironic--
why did the whites name him “man”

in a language he didn’t know,
all of his tribe posthumous in the poor basket

he’d made, the “last California
wild Indian”-- the last speaker of his own

language, the curses of which he must’ve mumbled
into the cot mattress, above him in the lab night

bows, arrows, & many, many baskets he’d tried
for the tribe’s sake to make true ...
& who’ll ever know-- what if he had been Klutz,
the tribe’s worst weaver,

now dwarfed by what he had to do?
Whose riddle, whose child, whose gift?

© Dennis Schmitz

Rama Chambers

Rama Chambers is a poet and performance artist whose work has been featured in several anthological works and literary publications that include: Sacramento Voices, Origins and Politics and Poetry Now.
As a member of ZICA Creative Arts and Literary Guild, she has read her work in a wide range of creative spaces in the Sacramento area including The State Capitol, Art and Soul of Black Folklore Festival, Poets on the Patio, Poetry Unplugged and Poets On A Saturday Afternoon.
Four literary anthologies edited by Ms. Chambers were selected for inclusion in the Area Authors Room of the Sacramento Public Library.
In addition, Ms. Chambers has been a member of the cast in theatrical production at Chautauqua Playhouse, Sacramento Repertory Theatre and, The California Original Theater Company.

Poetry by Rama Chambers


At midnight
After the lights have dimmed,
Wind brushed leaves
Scatter into sedate drifts
Against rustic brick and ivy
To become literary murals
For poets to ponder
Near Campus Commons.

At one,
When the leaves of Cocteau
Become frayed at the edges
Like rare books reserved
In library vaults,
I press forward
Eyes strained
Head nodding
To the sip of mint and scones,
Until I turn the last page
Curtain the lights
And await
Passage to dreams.

© Rama Chambers

John Fremont

John has 25 years writing, publishing, teaching and editing experience.
He received his M.A. in American Literature from the City University of New York and has lectured in English language and literature at Brooklyn College, College of San Mateo, University of Malaya and College of the Redwoods.
He has worked for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency and American Book Company, been published by Esquire Magazine and Ace Books, and edited or ghostwritten dozens of books. He has published a magazine for letter writers, edited a newsletter for self-publishers, and currently writes a column for a Mendocino County newspaper, The Outlook.
He co-founded the Mendocino Festival of Books and conducted workshops in self-publishing for MSPA, Writers Connection, Festival of Books and the San Francisco Bay Area Book Festival. He is senior editor with Cypress House and Q.E.D. Press in Fort Bragg.

More Info On The Writers Workshop
Presented By John Fremont

Self-Publishing Workshop

For fiction and non-fiction writers as well as poets, this workshop will explore whether you should consider self-publishing, its benefits and drawbacks, what it costs, where to cut corners and how to expand sales opportunities.
Self-publishing is not for everyone, but if you are willing to self-promote and have a good business sense as well as writing talent, you can make money and establish a reputation that may open doors to mainstream publishing houses.

Carol Frith

Carol Frith is co-editor of the poetry journal, Ekphrasis.
Her poetry has appeared in Blue Unicorn, The Formalist, Poetry New York, Perihelion, Karamu, Baltimore Review, Slant, Cold Mountain Review, Owen Wister Review, Fox Cry, Iris, Sheila-na-gig, Sonoma Mandala, Comstock Review, Architrave, Plainsongs, Potpourri, River Oak Review, Kimera, Maryland Poetry Review, Sierra Nevada College Review, California Quarterly, Brownstone Review, Sulphur River Literary Review, Half Tones to Jubilee, Interim, The Lyric, Phoebe (NY), and others.

She has work scheduled to appear in Negative Capability, Cumberland Poetry Review, Spillway, Chariton Review, The Macguffin, & Faultline.

A finalist in the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award sponsored by The Formalist in 1997, 1998 & 1999, Carol was awarded first place in the Blue Unicorn Open Competition, 1997, and third place in 1999. She was awarded third place in the 1999 Eve of St. Agnes Competition, Negative Capability, received an Honorable Mention in the 1999 Rainier Maria Rilke Competition, and was a semi-finalist in the 1999 Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition and in the 1999 Comstock Review Contest. She received an Honorable Mention in the 1999 New Millennium Contest, was a recipient of the Poets Hall of Fame Award for the 1999 Sacramento International Poetry Festival and was awarded second place in the Friends of the Library Contest, 2000.

Poetry by Carol Frith

Virgin Night Witch

The Stutter of True Rain

Pity the virgin night witch
and forgive.
She is vegetable in her lusts.
Her hair is ivy
and her hands are fern.
She never sleeps.
She blooms at dusk
and fruits in the dark.

Follow her into an unconditional
The unblemished harlot
in the garden,
she will garland you with lilies
and lead you into secret

She is genital chaos.
Her touch will root
your passions to the earth
where you will grow
six thousand years,
striving in the solitary

© Carol Frith
in our long bodies,
we are like orchids
tattooed with mildew
and slippery in the dark.

We vocalize, rocking
in our skins.
The air crackles
with brash static,
a ragged carillon
of praise.

Our nerves,
leaching through flesh,
stain the sheets
with tannin, and we
roll through the wet
warm mold of our dreams.

When the rain is over
we will surface, blowing
bubbles like a deathsong.

© Carol Frith

Laverne Frith

A graduate of San Francisco State University (where he also did his postgraduate work); Laverne co-edits the poetry journal Ekphrasis. He is regular monthly poetry columnist in a regional magazine and co-author of Practical Poetry-A Guide for Poets.

His chapbook, In a Fast Food Place, was released from Talent House Press in December 1999.
He was also a recipient of the Poets Hall of Fame Award for the 1999 Sacramento International Poetry Festival.

In 2000, he won the Nostalgia Poetry Award and was a finalist in the Atlanta Review 2000 International Poetry Competition.

Laverne's poetry has been accepted or appeared in many publications, including Poetry New York, The Christian Science Monitor, The Montserrat Review, California Quarterly, The Dalhousie Review, Perihelion, Potpourri, Architrave, Maryland Poetry Review, Poetpourri, Sonoma Mandala, Lucid Stone, Phase & Cycle, River King Poetry Supplement, Small Pond, Iota, Green's Magazine, Daybreak, New Laurel Review, Kimera and The Acorn.

Poetry by Laverne Frith

Around The Magnolia Tree

Morning Light Over Endert's Beach

this June, there is a battlefield;
leaf-bodies lie in random scatter
in various states of disrepair

the whites of their flesh, even
their marrow, on full display

so many of their comrades, still hanging
from the tree, still bearing the
full dread of summer, no longer

wishing for a relieving breeze
these are the browned ones,
already filled with too much exposure

the war, as usual, has been unkind
taking no responsibility, few prisoners

© Laverne Frith
(near Crescent City, Del Norte County)
-- after a photograph

Before the horizon releases the sun,
early light glows in the inland streams,

a blue meander through the flats

and all about the small rock island,
half buried in green moss.

Beyond, it is brighter still
and out to sea.

Between island and shore, there are
footprints and other ways

the days are forced to remember.

© Laverne Frith

Phil Goldvarg

Phil Goldvarg is a poet and artist in Sacramento, CA.
He's a member of the Zapatista Solidarity Coalition, Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol and Z-rail poets.
He's been published in Ventanan Abierta-Revista Latina, Drum Voices Review, Voz de Zapatistas, Rice & Beans etc.
He has been featured in many poetry readings, read poetry in the schools and worked with students and teachers in a search for the magic of poetry.

Poetry by Phil Goldvarg

Drums For Peltier

The Ugly American -
An Oppressors Tradition

drums for Peltier,
conga drums,
water drums,
bata drums,
skin tight,
hands slap the skin,
new skin
over old skin,
heart beat,
breath beat,
dream beat,
the drumming of feet
on mother earth,
she drums back in contentment,
deep voice of love,
drumming for Peltier
across the night,
sunrise and sunset,
drumming ocean waves of hope,
crashing the rocks of injustice,
put them hands on the skin,
new skin over old skin,
ancestor skin,
seven generation skin,
regeneration skin,
we go on beating,
never retreating,
we are the skin
caressing skin,
drum echoes dance Paha Sapa,
dance Leonard,
repair the circles,
spirit drums,
eagle drums,
wolf drums,
all relation drums,
hand in hand,
arm in arm,
wall of voice
calling for freedom,
for Leonard,
handing him the drum,
the skin of our soul,
beating the drum
for us and Peltier.

© Phil Goldvarg
"Entonces Boricua,
you want to get out of the directives
de Vieques,
you want your own Isla,
too bad,
we got it,
like when we sailed into Manila,
took over la agua, la tierra
the people,
how you like my spanish,
used the dictionary,
that's all I need to know".

Entonces Estados Unidos,
the directives are eating
our Isla Nena,
pero, we still got it,
broken playa,
disappeared trees,
la tierra con deep wounds
that bleed into
las almas de nosotros,
we are lovers,
no matter what the face looks like,
que hermosa mi Isla,
you look for excuse to bomb and burn,
tu eres Columbus en mascara,
Taino flesheater con sonrisa malo,
you place sickness in the lungs
of our ninos,
feed them death before birth,
y las madres con lagrimas
y leche kissed
by corporate munition makers,
profit at any price,
war game testing at any price,
1492 otra vez,
pero, we will not disappear,
we will not lay en su cama sucio,
somos juntos en la lucha,
your directives are paper,
somos sangre fuerte,
grito de generations,
we direct this palabra to you,
it is sharp and unbending,
we will not move
from La Isla Vieques.

© Phil Goldvarg

Clarence Griffin

Clarence Griffin, was born and raised in Sacramento.
He attended Pitzer College in Claremont California, graduated and then moved to Zimbabwe where he worked, lived, and wrote for the past three years.
He has been published in "Drumming Between Us."
His poems center on the theme of truth: its telling, revealing, and living, through love and unavoidable suffering.

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky has published her poems widely, including in Earth's Daughter's, Paterson Literary Review, Shiela Na Gig, Crab Creek Review, and in the anthology Essential Love.
Her poetry collection, "red clay is talking" came out from Scarlet Tanager Books last year.
In her day job she is a Jungian analyst with a practice in Berkeley.

Poetry by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

in the junction


From "red clay is talking"

between summer
and the fall
things come to a sudden
halt--train brakes
in the middle
of nowhere--metal
shrieks--the conductor is
shouting: "princeton junction!"

i'm eight
my mother is sitting on the suitcases
as though she's just gotten off
the boat--

behind us a city world
of brick
row houses--
before us--bright meadows
my mother will be laughing
among the women

i've not yet crossed
the swinging bridge
become a wild horse
kicked up a glory
of red and yellow fallen leaves--
nor have i found the secret lap
of the oak tree
a seat
i'll lose
and find

the long slow language of the afternoon
sun tangled in the green
and something hovering

beyond my tongue

© Naomi Ruth Lowinsky
From "red clay is talking"

when your soul finally
caught up with you
opened all the doors and windows
the dream

which had been everything
you knew
your people your sky
your house your earth
slipped away--

there were children in it
green grass
sun light
maybe a cave
where an old woman waits for you
maybe not
how do you know you're not

the dark dank smell
the niche carved
for a god
the light of the candle throwing huge
maybe she was never
in your dream
maybe she's been sitting here
for years

waiting for the moment
when the world you are in


© Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

Tim McKee

Tim McKee is a Sacramento poet and author of "No More Strangers Now: Young Voices from a New South Africa," which was chosen as an Honor Book for the 1999 Jane Addams Book Award.
He went to Princeton and has a masters degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, has worked as a high school teacher in South Africa, a journalist and also a grant writer.
In addition he has just finished recording his first full-length spoken word CD, "Letter from an Alien", with Sacramento musician Rusty Miller.

Poetry by Tim McKee


Carrier Pigeons

I spend my days in fields of sage,

Gathering stems and bouquets

For the poems I will write

When my basket is full,

When the sun has slid back behind earth's eyelids

And the night descends


With the blackness

That lights my soul

And moves my pen.

Wildcrafting in this field of madness

I scan for daisies and lavender sunbeams:

The smiles of children twirling on carnival ferris wheels,

The airport embraces of fathers and sons,

The glow of puddles after nights of rain,

The guitarist sitting on an overturned soapbox,

Winter's shouts mere notes floating on Spring's breeze.

How I wish that was all I see.

But the weeds grow tall here

In this land of slanted sunshine,

They sprout out of plastic and concrete

And spread their dark fruits

As if fire on gasoline.

Wildcrafting I find

Women turning away to hide bruised cheekbones,

Children dragging tears behind them like anchors,

Soiled mattresses and 8 a.m. alcoholic sways,

Sneers etched on the faces of angels,

Weeds that in seconds

Can strangle the fragile blossoms

I have gathered

In the straw basket

That is my poet's heart.

I have no choice but to throw these nettles in,

To sing their songs because so few will.

And so my poems are broken-

But alas, so are we.

© Tim McKee
I've been working here for four years,

She says as she rings up

Chocolate morning

Caffeine sugartwists

At small town America 7-11;

Do you know that necklace

You're wearing

Comes from my country,


She says,

The one I remember by the Amharic words

My grandmother used to whisper

While I bounced on her knee?

The one of burning maize

Dust everywhere

And early morning cow milkings

When I learned how much better


Makes anything taste?

I don't know these anymore.

I only know cash register

Thank yous

And time clock horizons,

I only know selling cigarettes

Is the best way to see George Washington

And to watch for masturbating men

By the magazine rack.

I only know

Africa from famine

Screamed on the television

As I lay down to sleep

After nine hour shifts.

From Ethiopia

I only know my brown skin

And what I know you must see in my eyes.

May more customers

Bring me pieces of the old world

So that I may remember

The songs

I used to hear

In silence.

© Tim McKee

Joshua McKinney

Joshua McKinney is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Permutations of the Gallery (winner of the 1996 Pavement Saw Chapbook Contest) and Saunter (Primitive Publications, 1998).
His work has appeared widely in magazines such as American Letters & Commentary, Boulevard, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, International Quarterly, Poetry International, and many others.
He was born on an Iowa farm and grew up in the mountains and high desert of northern California where he worked seasonally as a fire fighter for the United States Forest Service. He has also lived in Japan where he earned a black belt in kendo and taught English as a Second Language.
He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Denver. Currently, he teaches at California State University - Sacramento.

Poetry by Joshua McKinney


A Theory of Consequence

Blossoms and leaves can’t staunch the light

that left the straightened gardens bent. Nor can sight

unhinge itself from the dark stain spread beneath

the trees. What’s ample now is long in the teeth

soon enough the classics say. They name death night

and tuck it in. The bare limbs break; a man turns right

at a fork in the road. He meets his father and fights

to pass into the city. As if his keenest eyes bequeath

blossoms and leaves

to a familiar world. We know the tale, the blight

that lay like frost upon the land. And it might

be enough for us, if this irony, belief,

were brilliant fruit instead of bread, if grief

were not a mighty empire, which at its height

blossoms and leaves.

© Joshua McKinney
There is a theory that the material world

reasserts itself near the end. Hence, to learn

to pay attention is a virtue. Bored,

waiting for my interest to return,

I spent the afternoon aloft on the high-

tiered hay, watching a pair of barn owls stare

down from the rafters. Near dark, when the sky

seemed to descend and I was suddenly aware

of the frogs trilling in the irrigation ditch,

one bird rose, beat its wings and flew away.

Then all was still. I could not say which

stayed behind, female or male. But one stayed.

Then I climbed down and passed beneath the one,

and knew fear and was glad again. Though you were gone.

© Joshua McKinney

Jose' Montoya

Jose Montoya is one of the Chicano movement's most respected artists and educators.
Born in New Mexico and growing up in Central California, he witnessed the struggles of migrant farm workers firsthand. He inevitably joined in the labor organizing efforts with César Chávez and the United Farm Workers movement. The UFW strife was the beginning of Montoya's steadfast commitment to the artist as provocateur and his unwavering dedication to artistic activism.
In 1970, Montoya co-founded a cultural collective known as The Royal Chicano Air Force, who use art as a tool to teach Chicano history to young people.

Best known for his highly acclaimed poem, "El Louie," Montoya influenced several generations of poets by incorporating Spanish, English and barrio slang in his poetry.
Montoya is the author of three collections of poetry, including the highly acclaimed In Formation: 20 Years of Joda, and is featured in more than 40 anthologies and a recipient of the Poets Hall of Fame Award for the 1999 Sacramento International Poetry Festival.
He is currently working on a new book of poetry and short stories.
Montoya is also a well-established musician and artist. A mural by Montoya and the RCAF can be seen in San Diego's Chicano Park.

Poetry by Jose' Montoya

The Bar Drawings

I find myself fending off the temptation to
Write algo about my bar drawings-it be easy, ese,
Too easy, ese, an' ah se, pa que, ese? And
I tells me, they "write" themselves whatever
Needs to be writ-the bar is the bar-well, not
Quite that easy, ese. Each type of bar being
Unique writes itself uniquely, 's wot I'm saying,
Ese-and even that ain't so extraordinary.

But my bars are by the simple virtue of how I
Came to drinking, very special. My joints are those
Four-corner country bars and grills where the growers
Drink at one end of the bar and the campesinos are
A nuisance but it's peak harvest so they're allowed to
To be rowdy at the Back end of the bar.

And I enjoy the honky-tonky dance bars out in
The boonies where red necked cowboys resent wigged
Blond bombers two-stepping with skinny Tejanos, these,
Y los congales del varrio, dives, where my type of
Freaks frequent, er, hang out. Y ni pa' que have it any
Other way, buey!

But, understand, now, that that doesn't mean I
Won't to go to a nice club-be it a lounge lizard at the
Hi Ritz or even the Hyatt if there's no boycott, and
Have me my shot of Cuervo gold and Bud chaser-and
Even, si senor,- even do a drawing or two there as
Well. Indeed, in these barras jaitonas, I might even
Order a Manhattan up, or a shot of Johnny Walker
Red Label water-back the way my 'ol pal Alegria
Taught me "bout serious drinking in New York and
Puerto Rico on a reading jira back in '79.

But, no...las cantinas del varrio and skid-row bars,
They're my best bet. There the drawings write themselves.

© Jose Montoya 1999

Resonant Valley

When I was
Young among
The pregnant
Vineyards of
All the un-domed
Capitals of
The raisin
Industry -
Musically chiming
Charming towns like
Del Rey
Kingsburg and Sanger -

I was lazy


From a family
Of clean pickers
The pride of
Any Fijikawa or
Saroyanesque Krikor -

Quinienteros of
Five hundred trays
And the day barely
Two thirds along

But everyone said I was


I knew. Bout how I knew!

Why I was easy
On the clusters -
Careful with
The leaves,


I was too quick to
Sadden at the sight
Of the green, iridescent worm
Scorching itself in the
Hot, planed-for-trays, sand.
And knowing I had something
To do with its death

I wept.

And rather than
Repeat the
Senseless carnage
I remained lazy

Sitting under the vines
Imagining what my reactions
Would be to some similar


Intolerable le panic!
With both
Upon my head
My eyes
Shut tight
Stabs of color
On the roof
Of my skull - and
A child-young urge
To roll
Upon the burning sand,
I remained lazy.

And the family
Of quinienteros
Didn't make as much
Money That summer
In the valley of the San Joaquin.

But the worms, the wasps, and the
Black widow spiders - for a short
Time, at least - frolicked
Cooly in that green-leaf world

Beneath the sun.

© Jose Montoya 1969

Judith Tannenbaum

Judith Tannenbaum serves as Training Coordinator for the Writers Corps program in San Francisco. For over 25 years she has taught poetry to prisoners, public school youth at all grade levels, continuation high school students, and gifted teenagers in a summer program at UC Berkeley.
She has written extensively on issues of community art and cultural democracy and is the author of Teeth, Wiggly as Earthquakes: Writing Poetry in the Primary Grades, one book, four chapbooks, and a portfolio of her poems.
She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Poetry by Judith Tannenbaum

The Time It Takes

In Autumn Light

Her hands cup the white bowl
Porcelain filled with petals
Rose scent and lavender color
She gives the time it takes to watch
Those petals purple the water they float in
Blue, indigo, violet
The word “unfolding”
Which the world does
When you add time
The breeze lifts the curtain behind her
Sun falls through that gauze, casts
Leaf shapes on the wood floor
The smell of redwood, the smell of pine
Her shoulder warmed by the sun
That warmth also steeping
Through flesh and freckles, bone and below
Now her belly is warm
And her thigh covered with shadows
The bowl still in her hands
Mid-summer, late afternoon
The sun disappearing
Blue, indigo, violet
And then the black dark of night.

© Judith Tannenbaum
In autumn light
one madrone in a field.
A girl sits in the V,
the two arms of this tree.

What was, what is, what might be
all now. Late September.
A girl in shorts and a shirt
in this tree in a field
with light falling low,
more auburn than gold.

© Judith Tannenbaum

Angelo Williams

Angelo Williams, writer, poet, musician and community activist.
A native of Los Angeles, Mr. Williams is an honors graduate of Crenshaw High School as well as the University of California at Davis where he earned dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology (Law and Society) and African and African American Studies.
He is a well read and traveled scholar with attendance at the University of Ghana in West Africa, the University of Michigan and in Port au Prince, Haiti as a visiting student scholar.
He has won research and work scholarships including two terms as a University of California Minorities in Undergraduate Research in Letters and Science Scholar, a National Undergraduate Research Scholar (Kalamazoo, Michigan) KCRA's (Ch. 3) Minority Media Scholarship and The Sacramento Bee's Journalism and Media Scholarship.

In addition he has also worked as a top 40 radio public affairs talk show host (1035FM Sacramento), for SmithLine Public Relations, and as a reporter, staff writer and intern for The Source Magazine, The Sacramento Observer, The Los Angeles Sentinel, The Sacramento News and Review, the University of California Newspapers, and also worked as a foreign correspondent for Le Journal Libete (Haiti) and Horizon Magazine (West Africa).

More Info On The Writers Workshop
Presented By Angelo Williams

"In the Tradition"

Exploring the nexus between words and sounds through jazz and poetry.
Workshop participants will learn about syncopation and rhythm, their relations to words and the art of rhyming.
The process of mimicry and improvisation will be discussed and a selected history of jazz and poetry will be presented.
Bring your favorite poems, paper and pens to explore your personal voice, sound and poetic rhythm.
Specific instruction will be given on the history of words and sounds (poetry and jazz), tapping into your personal poetic sound and its meaning, as well as audio visual examples of blending poetry and music by poet Amiri Baraka.

More Poems/Bio's On The Way!

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