Poetry isn’t the most popular form of literary entertainment. So, it’s no wonder Fresno’s literary community tends to fly under the radar some, regardless of its output.
“There were some poets who came here who were extremely talented,” says Peter Everwine, an 83-year old poet, who taught at Fresno State in the 1960s, alongside U.S. poet laureate Philip Levine. “We didn’t have the funds or publicity,” he says, “but there was a community here of teachers.”
Everwine retired from teaching in the ’90s, but continues to write and publish. His latest “Listening Long and Late,” was released by University of Pittsburgh Press in October. Everwine will hold a reading and book signing 7 p.m. tonight at the Alice Peter’e Auditorium at Fresno State as part of the Fresno Poet Associate Reader Series. The reading will pull heavily from the new book.
The work is different in form from Everwine’s typical style of lyric poetry. There are more narrative elements in “Listening Long and Late” and in some ways, it’s a more personal work than anything he done before, he says.
“It’s a different book in many ways, though I hope the voice is recognizable.”
Everwine has written close to a dozen books of poetry, and says this is no culmination of his life’s work. “I’m hoping it’s not the grand last effort,” he says. He’s already written several new poems since the book published.
The obits for Lou Reed, who died yesterday at the age of 71, reference the man as an avante-garde rock-and-roll poet, which is the least one could say. He was a true artist. His work wasn’t easy or accessible, or even that popular (though it manifested itself in pop culture again and again). As with many great artists, his legacy will likely be marked as much by those he influenced as by his own work.
My favorite Lou Reed track: “Walk on the Wild Side.” This was his most popular tune, and made most accessible to the casual listener (I first heard it as “borrowed” by Marky Mark), which is crazy given the song’s subject manner. As a teenager, hearing the song for the first time, I couldn’t fully appreciate what I was hearing. Probably still can’t. Here we have these dark, heavy themes couched inside a quirky pop song with a great hook. You can sing along on the radio without realizing the song is about a transvestite, drugs and prostitution.
That is a work of art.
What about the rest of the Lou Reed fans out there? We’d love to hear your thoughts/memories on his passing and what his music/vision meant from the following generations of artists.
Philip Levine, the retired Fresno State professor who become poet laureate of the United States, has added another honor to a list of many: the Wallace Stevens Award, which is given annually to recognize “outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.” Past winners of the prize have included John Ashbery, W. S. Merwin and Adrienne Rich.
The award comes with a stipend of $100,000.
Levine, of course, recently completed a stint as poet laureate, during which time he was feted by Fresno. Other honors include a Pulitzer Prize, two National Book Awards, the National Book Critics Award, the Ruth Lily Prize and the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize.
Michael Medrano once did a reading in the men’s department of a Sear’s store, right next to the socks and the underwear. It would have been a tough gig, even if people had showed, which they didn’t. No one told Medrano he needed to bring his own crowd. They never do.
He read anyway, because that’s what he does. He did a full 20 minutes, shouting his poems to passing shoppers until the manager came and told him to tone it down some.
So, it wasn’t the most successful reading.
“There were just two people and one of them fell asleep,” says Medrano, a Fresno poet, who was tapped to be a guest blogger for Poets & Writers during the month of July. That Sears story came from this week’s post. It was about unusual reading spaces.
Medrano has followed Poets & Writers magazine for years and says it’s a big deal among his circle of friends. Having that outlet to share thoughts about life as a writer in the Central Valley was an honor, he says.
Plus, they came to him. “I’m usually pursuing people,” he says.
Sears reading aside, the Valley isn’t a terrible place to be a poet. Yes, there is an inherent struggle in making art here, but for those with the drive, the final product becomes a thing that is unique and authentic to the region. “Everything is done with our own hands,” Medrano says. “I think that is the beauty of living here in the Valley and doing your art.”
Along with his poetry, Medrano teaches English at Fresno City College, hosts a literary radio show on KFCF and teaches the bi-weekly Random Writer’s Workshop. The next workshop is Saturday morning at the Hashtag, 1298 N. Wishon Ave. The class is $10. Five of Medrano’s poems will be featured on poetrymagazine.com in the fall and will be performing at Inner Ear Poetry Jam’s 11th Anniversary Aug. 16.
Below is a video of Medrano with more thoughts on what it means to be a writer in the Valley.
Here’s a great idea for a warm summer evening: the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust tonight offers its latest “Respite by the River” event. These are wonderful. When I’ve attended, I found myself drawn to the beautiful setting on the lawn at the River Center, the amiability of the crowd and the cool breezes from the river. The evening manages to feel casual and genteel all at once. From the Parkway:
On this summer evening at the River Center, Lee Herrick joins us in reading from his latest book of poems, Gardening Secrets of the Dead. This collection of poetry gives readers a chance to share in Herrick’s reflection of the self – what it means to explore one’s heritage as well as discover one’s future. Described as ‘gorgeously-rendered snapshots’ of life, each poem serves as a witness to life’s shared experiences of sadness, joy, confusion, and love.
Music with Duo Novo (jazz flute and guitar) begins at 6 p.m. The reading begins at 7. Book sales and a signing follows. Bring a picnic dinner, lawn chairs or blanket. Enjoy the river!
Richard Blanco, the first Latino and openly gay poet to act as an inaugural poet, will make a visit April 18 to Reedley College, public information officer Lucy Ruiz tells me. Blanco gave a stirring reading of his poem ‘One Today” at President Obama’s inauguration a few weeks ago. I don’t have any details yet about tickets, but I’m sure this will be a hot one. Quite a coup for Reedley College, by the way.
UPDATE: David Borofka, an English instructor at Reedley College, writes:
In addition to Richard Blanco’s visit in April, we also have Tobias Wolff (author of This Boy’s Life, Old School, and Our Story Begins, among others) coming on March 14. And, down the road, Jane Smiley(author the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, One Thousand Acres, and many, many others) will be with us on October 24.
That’s a great lineup. I’ve been a Jane Smiley fan for decades.
1. LAISSEZ LES BONS TEMPS ROULER
It’s Mardi Gras time! Sunday is the Tower District is Fresno’s annual parade. The rest of the afternoon should be filled with happenings in Fresno’s most happenin’ part of town. You can catch tunes at Audie’s Olympic (Dusty Buns will be out there too!) or party it up at Starline later in the night.
Here’s a random person on Craigslist looking for a women to assist in naked-poetry writing. Now, wait, I know what you’re thinking, but the ad assures it’s not very sexual. So just semi sexual? Like just the tip … of the pen?
Bless you, weird Fresnans.
[Spotted on the Facebook of Niilo Smeds -- he of rad local music and impressive facial hair.]
Lots happening around Fresno on Thursday night. So I won’t waste any time, and just got right to it. Here are six things you could do tonight:
XOTICA ANNIVERSARY:Xotica — the weekly Thursday night drag show at The Express — is celebrating its seventh anniversary tonight. It’s been billed as the “drag event of the year” with seven performers and a red carpet opening at 10 p.m. Get more info at xotica.net.
CITY JAZZ FESTIVAL: Another annual celebration tonight is Fresno City College’s City Jazz Festival, which is in its 21st year. During the day — probably right this second — there are student band performances at Fresno City. But tonight’s there’s a headlining performance from saxophonist legend Bob Sheppard. More info on the flier below.
1. GET A TASTE OF ELY GUERRA
I’m super intrigued by Saturday’s performance by Ely Guerra at Audie’s Olympic. Guerra is a Mexican singer/songwriter whose music has enough appeal to crossover to the indie rock kids that Love the Captive usually brings out to its shows. Guerra’s a star, no doubt (check out this recent NY Daily News profile) but I have to wonder if Fresno’s gonna show up for this one. Hope so.
Donald already filled you in on the all the ArtHop stops tonight. But, as you know, that’s only the first half of what’s one of the best nights of the month in Fresno. There’s plenty of places to be after ArtHop, such as:
It’s a Ms. Soulflower/DJ Bradley shindig, so expect a funky night of music. You know those top 40 nights? Yeah, opposite of that.
Another one is what the folks at Fresno State are calling the “Deaf Poetry Jam.” Here are some details from them:
It will be a night of sounds and signs when University Courtyard’s Diversity Committee presents it’s first-ever Deaf & Hearing Poetry Jam. This student-run group has partnered with members of the local deaf community to present this unique event of spoken and signed works.
“It’s a way for people in the deaf and hearing community to interact, and for all of us to learn from each other,” said Devin Puente, chairman of the Diversity Committee, a group made up of residents who live in Fresno State’s residence halls.
1. SEE KWELI & FASHAWN Fashawn is back in town Saturday night for this CD release party with underground rap hero Talib Kweli. It will actually be Fashawn’s first Fresno show this year. Good news for him: “Boy Meets World,” was the top-selling hip-hop CD at Amoeba this week. It was as high as No. 6 on the iTunes hip-hop charts too.
The place to be tonight if you’re looking for live music is Audie’s Olympic, which has a date with Nico Vega. The L.A. buzz band recently opened for Kiss at the Mid-State Fair and has also played with Gavin Rossdale and The Donnas.
If that’s not your thing, then consider Rhythm and Rhyme (9:30 p.m., $10), the bi-weekly music/poetry night at Aqua Shi, which returns with headlining poet Shihan. Here’s a taste:
Before Rademacher became the hipster heroes of Fresno, bands such as Pinkeye and Montecore were the ones heading bills at Tokyo Garden.
It’ll be like a Fresno indie rock high school reunion tonight at Audie’s Olympic, as Greenladies headline. They’re a Portland-band that includes ex-Fresnans Mike Burnett and Scott Moore, both of whom played in Montecore.
To make things even more six-degrees-of-Fresno-indie-rock-ish: Niilo Smeds (who is on the bill with his current project Wheels of Fortune) used to play in Pinkeye and Rademacher, as well as in The Batteries with Burnett.
Further, I’m estimating that half the people at the show tonight probably played in Rademacher at some point.
Suggestions for this evening: Iron Maidens, the all-female tribute to the UK metal band, is at Audie’s. The Pixies frontman Frank Black does an acoustic solo show in Visalia. And Rhythm and Rhyme is back again at Aqua Shi with live music and poetry.
Of course, we think The Great Fresno Tweetup is the main attraction on this Thursday night, but we’ll still suggest some stuff you can do instead of (or after!) the Meeting of the Tweets. We start at Aqua Shi, where Rhythm and Rhyme returns. Apparently, it’s going to be a bi-weekly event now, which is nice ‘cuz we heard good things about the first one.
The other big event of the evening is at Aqua Shi, where there’s a poetry and music showcase — called Rhythm and Rhyme — put on by the minds behind Black Light Poetry. There’s some great local musicians and DJs involved. Should be good times.
UPDATE: We’ve got a couple of winners — shouts to Kiel and Benjamin.
ORIGINAL: Listen up, Fresnans, we’ve got some tickets to giveaway for tomorrow’s seven-year anniversary show of the Inner Ear Poetry Jam. It’s happening at Full Circle Brewing Co., so you can enjoy some yummy local beer, as well poetry, live music, art and more.
We’ll give a pair of tickets to the FIRST and THIRD commenters on this post. No multiple entries are allowed. We won’t publish comments until we have the winners. Official rules on the jump.
This evening, there are a couple cool events tugging at creative-minded Fresnans who are looking for something to do.
At Starline, there’s the Devoya Mayo-organized Poetry in Motion II. It’s no secret we’re fans of Devoya events, and this one is no different. There’s spoken word, live music and more with Arkansas poet Joshua and Armen Nalbandian‘s all-star band.
For 15 years, C.G. Hanzlicek, pictured, has directed the Fresno Poets’ Association, which provides regular readings at the Fresno Art Museum of some of the nation’s most esteemed poets. Now he’s stepping down, and the FPA will be no more. (Unless, that is, someone volunteers to take over all the organizational minutiae of the event.) There’s one more reading at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night, and it’s sure to send the association out in style. Fresno’s own Peter Everwine is the featured poet, and music will be provided by man-about-town Glen Delpit.
Answer: When I took over the reading series, I thought it would just be for a couple of years. Then one day I looked up, and I’d been doing it for fifteen years, and then I looked at my hand, and it was holding a Medicare card. Running the series is pretty much a year-round job, even though there are readings only six months of the year. The off season is spent figuring out who to invite for the following season, writing grants, preparing publicity, etc. There’s a lot of fetching and hauling involved, and I simply wanted a rest.