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2020 Poetry Flash Reading Series


Poetry Flash readings readings that are live and in person take place at Moe's Books, Berkeley, and at East Bay Booksellers, Oakland. Due to shelter-in-place and the pandemic, the Poetry Flash Reading Series has become a virtual series as of August 9, presented online until further notice. To find out more about the Poetry Flash Reading Series, please email editor@poetryflash.org. ASL interpreters for the deaf and hearing impaired may be requested with at least one week's notice, email editor@poetryflash.org. Our bookstore venues are wheelchair accessible. Read more about the series on the Poetry Flash Reading Series page.


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9 JANUARY 2020 — thursday

Ellery Akers and Barbara Berman

Poetry Flash presents a book launch reading by poet and artist Ellery Akers, Swerve: Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance, with poet and reviewer Barbara Berman, Currents, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, wheelchair accessible, 7:30 (510/849-2087, www.moesbooks.com)

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Ellery Akers's new book of poems is Swerve: Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance. Joseph Stroud says, "Swerve is a book that confronts the primary issues of the twenty-first century with insight and candor, along with hope and courage." Her first collection, Knocking on the Earth, was named a San Jose Mercury News Best Book of the Year, and her second, Practicing the Truth, won the 2014 Autumn House Poetry Prize, a 2015 Independent Publisher Book Award, and the 2015 Bay Area Book Festival Award. She's won thirteen national writing awards, including the John Masefield and Paumanok Awards. Her play, Letters to Anna, won a Dominican University One Act Play Award, and she's also the author of a children's novel, Sarah's Waterfall: A Healing Story About Sexual Abuse.
Barbara Berman's debut book of poems is Currents. Eavan Boland says, "The reach of these graceful, ambitious poems ranges across stars, cities, storms. Their music is both political and deeply private, braiding the two undersongs together in challenging and sometimes wrenching poetry." She is also the author of the chapbook The Generosity of Stars. Organizer of one of the first independent press festivals in the country in Washington, D. C. in 1979, she currently reviews poetry for The Rumpus.


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16 JANUARY 2020 — thursday

David Shaddock and Peter Dale Scott

Poetry Flash presents a book launch reading by David Shaddock, The Book of Splendor: New and Selected Poems on Spiritual Themes, with poet and political thinker Peter Dale Scott, Walking in Darkness, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, wheelchair accessible, 7:30 (510/849-2087, www.moesbooks.com)

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David Shaddock's brand new book of poems is The Book of Splendor: New and Selected Poems on Spiritual Themes. Daniel C. Matt says, "David Shaddock discovers splendor in the mundane. By the power of his lyrical imagination, he liberates the divine sparks trapped within their material shells." His previous collections are In This Place Where Something's Missing Lives, Dreams Are Another Set of Muscles, and Vernal Pool. His work has won the Ruah Magazine Award for a collection of spiritual poems and the International Peace Prize. A psychotherapist who lives in the East Bay, he's also the author of several nonfiction books, including the forthcoming Poetry and Psychoanalysis: The Opening of the Field. He writes "Poetry and Healing," a regular column in Poetry Flash (poetryflash.org).
Poet, political thinker, memoirist, former Canadian diplomat, and UC Berkeley professor Peter Dale Scott's recent poetry collection is Walking on Darkness. His other poetry collections include Tilting Point, Coming to Jakarta: A Poem about Terror, Listening to the Candle: A Poem on Impulse, and Minding the Darkness: A Poem for the Year 2000. Robert Hass said, "Coming to Jakarta is the most important political poem to appear in the English language in a very long time."
Peter Dale Scott was awarded the prestigious Lannan Poetry Award in 2002. His recent books on political topics include The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S Democracy.


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23 JANUARY 2020 — thursday

Alan Williamson and Jeanne Foster

Poetry Flash presents a reading by Alan Williamson, reading from his brand new collection of poetry, Franciscan Notes, with Jeanne Foster, Goodbye, Silver Sister, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, wheelchair accessible, 7:30 (510/849-2087, www.moesbooks.com)

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Alan Williamson's new book of poems is Franciscan Notes. Kevin McIlvoy says, "It is impossible to leave Alan Williamson's Franciscan Notes without experiencing the inmost smile that is the response of the body and mind to intimate, authentic truth-telling." Author of many previous poetry collections and several books of criticism, he has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and he has been a poetry panelist for both the National Endowment for the Arts and for the Pulitzer Prize.
Jeanne Foster's most recent book of poems is Goodbye, Silver Sister; her previous collections are Great Horned Owl and A Blessing of Safe Travel. Widely published in literary journals, she's published recent work in the Southern Review. Both are translators, and they recently did a joint translation of the Italian poet and novelist Bianca Tarozzi's selected poems titled The Living Theatre, which won the Northern California Book Award for Translation in Poetry.


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26 JANUARY 2020 — sunday

Wendy Barker and Sandra M. Gilbert

Poetry Flash presents a poetry reading by Wendy Barker, Gloss, and NCBA Cody Award-winner Sandra M. Gilbert, Judgment Day, East Bay Booksellers, 5433 College Avenue, Oakland, wheelchair accessible, 3:00 (510/653-9965, ebbooksellers.com)

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Wendy Barker's brand new book of poems is Gloss. Vincent Toro says, "Wendy Barker's Gloss utilizes the lyric form to conduct an archaeological dig, a profound excavation. With wit and candor, the poet unspools the narrative of three generations of women to create a family portrait that is vivid, complex, and sometimes shocking." Her sixth collection, One Blackbird at a Time, won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry. With Dave Parsons, she co-edited the anthology Far Out: Poems of the '60s. Among other books, she authored a selection of translations from the work of Rabindranath Tagore, Final Poems, co-translated with Saranindranath Tagore, and co-edited The House is Made of Poetry: The Art of Ruth Stone, with Sandra M. Gilbert. Among other honors, her poems appeared in The Best American Poetry 2013, and she's received fellowships from the National Endowments for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Sandra M. Gilbert's new book of poems is Judgment Day. Eavan Boland says, "Unswerving perspectives on beauty and pain—on age, and loss—give grace and surprise to each page. …These intimate, moving, meticulously crafted poems will stay with the reader for a long time." She has published many previous collections, including Kissing the Bread: New and Selected Poems, 1969-1999, Ghost Volcano: Poems, and Blood Pressure. As well as a distinguished, prolific poet, she is also an acclaimed critic and editor. In 1979, she and her collaborator Susan Gubar published The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, widely recognized as a central text of second-wave feminism. The two co-authored and co-edited numerous other celebrated volumes. She herself edited the recently published Essential Essays: Culture, Politics, and the Art of Poetry, the career-spanning prose of Adrienne Rich. Gilbert has received many honors in her career: notable recently are the National Book Critics Circle's Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award (with Gubar), and she herself received the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2019 Northern California Book Awards.


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6 FEBRUARY 2020 — thursday

Dan Bellm and Alicia Suskin Ostriker

Poetry Flash presents a reading by poet and translator Dan Bellm, Deep Well, and Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Waiting for the Light, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, wheelchair accessible, 7:30 (510/849-2087, www.moesbooks.com)

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Alicia Suskin Ostriker's latest book of poems is Waiting for the Light. Daisy Fried says, "Ostriker so loves the world, its griefs, traumas, praises, mysteries, and joys, that she teaches us to love the world with her—sometimes desperately, heartbrokenly, never despairingly. Ostriker is an essential poet, writing at the height of her powers." Both poet and critic, she is the author of many previous collections, most recently The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog, The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems, 1979-2011, and The Book of Seventy, winner of the National Jewish Book Award. Among other honors, she's received the Paterson Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. Her forthcoming collection, The Volcano and After: Selected and New Poems, 2002-2019, will be published in September.
Dan Bellm is both poet and translator. He's published four books of poems, One Hand on the Wheel, Buried Treasure, winner of both an Alice Fay DiCastangnola Award and the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Prize, Practice, which won the 2009 California Book Award, and Deep Well. David St. John says, "These lyrics of memoriam and these deep songs (in Lorca's sense) of mourning seem almost to etch themselves onto the air. Keep this book at hand; hold its passages close. This is an essential collection of poetry." His latest translation is Central American Book of the Dead, by Mexican poet Balam Rodrigo; others include Speaking in Song, by Mexican poet Pura López Colomé, and The Song of the Dead, by French poet Pierre Reverdy.


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9 FEBRUARY 2020 — sunday

David Alpaugh and Connie Post

Poetry Flash presents a poetry reading by David Alpaugh, Spooky Action at a Distance, and Connie Post, Prime Meridian, East Bay Booksellers, 5433 College Avenue, Oakland, wheelchair accessible, 3:00 (510/653-9965, ebbooksellers.com)

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David Alpaugh's new book of poems is Spooky Action at a Distance. Kathleen Lynch says, "David Alpaugh's Spooky Action at a Distance offers readers a cornucopia of delights, complications, and some truly moving insights—all in an intriguing new form of his own invention. Alpaugh's double-title form shows how two titles can be separate, like two photons miles apart, yet 'entangled' in meaning and intent." He's published several previous collections, and his first, Counterpoint, won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize from Story Line Press. His essays on poetry have appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine, Rattle, and Chronicle of Higher Education, and his musical play, Yesteryear: 3 Days in Paris with François Villon, was recently published in Scene4. Originally from New Jersey, he's now sufficiently "Californianized" to have been published in the anthology California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present and to have been a finalist for laureate of the state.
Connie Post's new book of poems is Prime Meridian. Dean Rader says, "In poems both personal and political, Post manages to connect physical and geological ailments by way of her spare but unsparing lyrics. This is an important collection everyone should be reading." Her first full-length collection, Floodwater, won the Lyrebird Award. Others include the Crab Creek Review Poetry Award, The Caesura Poetry Award, and the Cover Prize. From 2005 to 2009 she served as the first Poet Laureate of Livermore, California.


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27 FEBRUARY 2020 — thursday

Poetry and Prose of Lawrence Fixel: Gerald Fleming, Jack Marshall, Patti Trimble, more

Poetry Flash presents a book launch reading celebrating The Collected Poetry and Prose of Lawrence Fixel, with the collection's editor Gerald Fleming, and poets Jack Marshall, Edward Mycue, Jo-Anne Rosen, and Patti Trimble, painter Stephanie Sanchez, photographer Mark Citret, psychotherapist Robert Cantor, and teacher Wendy Berkelman, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, wheelchair accessible, 7:30 (510/849-2087, www.moesbooks.com)

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This event will be a celebration of The Collected Poetry and Prose of Lawrence Fixel, work of the late San Francisco poet, edited and with an introduction by Gerald Fleming. Also appearing and presenting on the work of Lawrence Fixel at this event will be poets Jack Marshall, Edward Mycue, Jo-Anne Rosen, and poet-painter Patti Trimble, painter Stephanie Sanchez, photographer Mark Citret, psychotherapist Robert Cantor, and teacher Wendy Berkelman. Michael Heller says. "Lawrence Fixel was one of our most beautiful and original writers.…In a world of dogmas, false certainties and oppressive realities, he was an angel of Evanescence itself, fluid, ungraspable, seeking as he wrote 'to find in that which passes, that which does not pass.'" Gerald Fleming is a poet and editor; he's published four books of poems, most recently One, edited and published the literary magazine Barnabe Mountain Review, and is currently editing the limited–edition vitreous magazine One (More) Glass.


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15 MARCH 2020 — sunday

Judy Halebsky and Susan Briante

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED. Poetry Flash presents a poetry reading by Judy Halebsky, Spring and a Thousand Years (Unabridged), and Susan Briante, The Market Wonders, East Bay Booksellers, 5433 College Avenue, Oakland, wheelchair accessible, 3:00 (510/653-9965, ebbooksellers.com)

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This is a celebration for Judy Halebsky's new book of poems, Spring and a Thousand Years (Unabridged), a finalist for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize. Katy Peterson says, "Under the spell of Bashõ's haiku, but written in a voice entirely its own, Judy Halebsky's Spring and a Thousand Years (Unabridged) is the first book of poetry I've read in years that makes civilization look good. It makes me want to make dinner, make love, make noise." She's the author of three previous collections, the first of which, Sky=Empty, won the New Issues Poetry Prize. Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, she moved to the Bay Area to study poetry. Then, after college, she received a fellowship from the Japanese Ministry of Culture to study Japanese literature at Hosei University in Tokyo. She lives in Oakland and directs the low-residency MFA program at Dominican University.
Susan Briante's latest book of poems is The Market Wonders. Juliana Spahr said of it, "Poetry's conventions tend to assume that poetry does not need to bother itself with the economic machinations of something like the Dow. These conventions are wrong and Susan Briante's The Market Wonders proves it. This is poetry that is only the richer for how it weaves the economics that shape our daily lives into it." She's published two previous collections, Pioneers in the Study of Motion and Utopia Minus. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and coordinates the writing program Field Studies Southwest, which brings MFA students to the U.S.-Mexico border to work with community-based environmental and social justice groups. She also hosts the radio program "Speedway and Swan."


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18 MARCH 2020 — wednesday

Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Matthew Siegel, and Richard Silberg

CANCELED - Poetry Flash presents a poetry reading by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, What Blooms in Winter, Richard Silberg, The Horses: New and Selected Poems, and Matthew Siegel, Blood Work; please note the different, special day of the week for this event, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, wheelchair accessible, 7:30 (510/849-2087, www.moesbooks.com)

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Maria Mazziotti Gillan's latest book of poems is What Blooms in Winter. Marge Piercy has said, "Gillan contains some of the most honest poems about marriage and family a reader is likely ever to come across. The craft is there, the well chosen word or phrase, but the power of these poems comes also from the truth in them that is moving and rare." She's published fifteen books of poetry. With her daughter Jennifer she's co-edited four anthologies, including Unsettling America and Identity Lessons. Editor of the Paterson Literary Review, her honors include, among many others, the Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers and the American Book Award for her collection All That Lies Between Us.
Matthew Siegel's debut book of poems is Blood Work. Mark Doty says, "This unexpected book—a genuine contribution to the literature of illness—centers on containment: how we contain our blood, how blood is contained in tubes and vials, how sometimes we do not seem contained by our bodies, and sometimes the body seems to contain nothing, and even how in the face of control or self-reliance leaking away, we might manage to contain ourselves, to feel held, to feel held in place." His book won the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry from University of Wisconsin and was a finalist for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection from Forward Arts Foundation in the UK. His poems and essays have appeared in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Cincinnati Review, The Guardian, PBS NewsHour, San Francisco Chronicle, Tin House, and elsewhere. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he is a Professor of Humanities and Sciences at San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Richard Silberg's latest book of poems is The Horses: New and Selected Poems, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize. D. Nurkse said, "Dynamic, kaleidoscopic, shot through with a thousand faces and voices too real to be characters, Richard Silberg's work is a Chaucerian pilgrimage to strange and uncannily familiar places.…The Horses is a deeply serious, wild, and powerful contribution to American letters." He's published six collections, including, most recently, Deconstruction of the Blues, PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Award-winner, also nominated for the Northern California Book Award. Associate Editor of Poetry Flash, he is also a critic and a translator, whose co-translation of Korean poet Ko Un's The Three Way Tavern won the 2007 Northern California Book Award for Translation.


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26 MARCH 2020 — thursday

Cathy Colman

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED. Poetry Flash presents a rare Bay Area poetry reading by LA poet Cathy Colman, Time Crunch, with a poet to be announced, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, wheelchair accessible, 7:30 (510/849-2087, www.moesbooks.com)

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Cathy Colman's new book of poems is Time Crunch. Patricia Smith says, "The textured and lyrically lush narratives in Time Crunch—deftly-honed poems that titillate and resound long after their last lines—firmly establish Cathy Colman as a fierce and formidable voice destined to be a stalwart presence in the contemporary canon." Her first collection, Borrowed Dress, won the 2001 Felix Pollak Prize for Poetry and was on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List; her second was Beauty's Tattoo. She's won the Browning Award for Poetry, the Ascher Montandon Award for Poetry, and was a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review. She lives in Los Angeles.


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9 APRIL 2020 — thursday

Hugh Behm-Steinberg and Sarah Kobrinsky

This event is postponed. Check back for updates. Poetry Flash presents a poetry reading by Hugh Behm-Steinberg, Animal Children, and Sarah Kobrinsky, Nighttime on the Other Side of Everything, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, wheelchair accessible, 7:30 (510/849-2087, www.moesbooks.com)

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Hugh Behm-Steinberg's new book of poems is Animal Children. Maxine Chernoff says, "Like Ovid, Hugh Behm-Steinberg is preoccupied with transformation and resolution, the many complications of life negotiated with gentleness and humor in his prose poem collection, Animal Children. For any problem that presents itself, there is an imaginative way out in these contemporary fables.…It is a poetry of connection with many resolutions partaking in love and ingenuity." His two previous collections are Shy Green Fields and The Opposite of Work. Widely published in literary journals, he won the Barthelme Prize for short fiction in 2015 for his short story "Taylor Swift." A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he was also the recipient of an NEA fellowship.
Sarah Kobrinsky's debut book of poems is Nighttime on the Other Side of Everything. Jill McDonough says, "In Nighttime on the Other Side of Everything, Sarah Kobrinsky opens with a brief meditation on the imposter syndrome that also speaks to where all poems come from, anyway. Elsewhere we read 'I make. I tinker. I create. An instinct born/of my blueprints, deep within my DNA.' But these poems also come from us, from knowing what people say about kids looking like the milkman, pranks like TP-ing houses and tying shoelaces together, a recognizable rhythm of punchlines." Born in Canada, raised in North Dakota, seasoned in England, and tempered in California, she was the Poet Laureate of Emeryville 2013-2015.


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23 APRIL 2020 — thursday

Meryl Natchez and Dion O'Reilly

This event is postponed. Check back for updates. Poetry Flash presents a poetry reading by Meryl Natchez, Time Crunch, and Dion O'Reilly, Ghost Dogs, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, wheelchair accessible, 7:30 (510/849-2087, www.moesbooks.com)

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Meryl Natchez's brand new book is Catwalk. David St. John says, "There is an enviable muscle to these lyrical meditations.…," and Lynn Emanuel writes, "The things of and in these poems carry all we know of joy and sorrow." Meryl Natchez's previous collection of poems is Jade Suit. Her books include a bilingual volume of translations from the Russian, Poems From the Stray Dog Café: Akhmatova, Mandelstam and Gumilev. She is also co-translator of Tadeusz Borowski: Selected Poems. Her work has appeared in Hudson Review, Poetry Northwest, The American Journal of Poetry, ZYZZYVA, The Pinch Literary Review, Atlanta Review, Lyric, The Moth, Comstock Review, and elsewhere. She is on the board of Marin Poetry Center and blogs at www.merylnatchez.com.
Dion O'Reilly's brand new book is Ghost Dogs. Ellen Bass says, Ghost Dogs, Dion O'Reilly's fine first poetry collection, will haunt you the way art should. Bristling with pain, wit, desire, and tenderness, these poems investigate not only "the daily harms" of an abusive childhood, but the deep solace non-human animals can offer.…She doesn't sugarcoat or flinch from suffering—her own or others'—she transforms it. Line by crackling line, image by unforgettable image." Dion O'Reilly has spent much of her life on a farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She has worked as a waitress, barista, baker, theater manager, graphic designer, and public school teacher. Her poetry has appeared in New Ohio Review, Sugar House Review, Rattle, The Sun, Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Bellingham Review, Atlanta Review, Catamaran, and elsewhere.


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26 APRIL 2020 — sunday

Patrick Cahill, Terry Ehret, Eliot Schain

This event is postponed. Check back for updates. Poetry Flash presents a Sixteen Rivers Press book launch reading by Patrick Cahill, The Machinery of Sleep, Terry Ehret, co-translator of Plagios/Plagiarisms by Ulalume González de León, and Eliot Schain, The Distant Sound, East Bay Booksellers, 5433 College Avenue, Oakland, wheelchair accessible, 3:00 (510/653-9965, ebbooksellers.com)

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Sixteen Rivers Press Book Launch!
Patrick Cahill's new book of poems is The Machinery of Sleep, a book of jazz-infused prose poems. Widely published in literary journals, his poetry has twice won the Central Coast Writers Award. He is a cofounder and editor of Ambush Review, a San Francisco literary and arts journal, and was a contributing editor for the Sonoma County anthology Digging Our Poetic Roots.
Terry Ehret's new book is her co-translation of the poet Ulalume González de León, born in Uruguay and later a Mexican citizen. Plagios/Plagiarisms, their translation, is the title Ulalume González de León chose for her collected poems. She won some of Latin America's most coveted awards and was of a generation of women poets challenging traditional ideas of feminine identity. Terry Ehret, one of the founders of Sixteen Rivers Press, has published four books of poems, most recently Night Sky Journey. Among her honors are the National Poetry Series, a California Book Award, and the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize. She served as Sonoma County Poet Laureate, 2004-2006.
Eliot Schain's new book of poems is The Distant Sound, a prismatic meditation on what it means to be human seeking a path to heaven. His work has been widely published in literary journals and anthologized in The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed and in Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California. His previous collections are American Romance and Westering Angels. He has served as program director for the Poetry Society of America, was a career high school teacher, and is now a practicing psychotherapist.


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9 AUGUST 2020 — sunday

devorah major and James Cagney

Poetry Flash presents a virtual poetry reading by devorah major, Califia's Daughter, and James Cagney, Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory, online via Zoom, free, 3:00 pm PDT (Register to attend: please click here; you will receive an email with a link and information on how to join the reading)

Please join us for the Poetry Flash's first virtual reading on Sunday, August 9 at 3:00 pm PDT! We are excited to bring you devorah major and James Cagney via Zoom. To register for this reading, please click here. After you register, you will receive an email with a link and information on how to join the reading. We hope this virtual reading will be the first of many more to come. Thank you for continuing to support Poetry Flash and our reading series during these unprecedented times.
devorah major's new poetry collection is Califia's Daughter; her previous books include and then we became, Where River Meets Ocean, and The Other Side of the Postcard. Juan Felipe Herrera, US Poet Laureate 2015-17, says, "All the dimensions of devorah major's life and (yours) are here —from the 'beginning before the beginning,' galactic particles to the bebopness of our lives. She speaks of being, of becoming, of totality. Is it a journal, an investigation, the life philosophy of a great poet woman? …In this work, devorah charts the infinite music inside of us all." San Francisco's third Poet Laureate, devorah major is a writer, editor, writing coach, spoken word performer, recording artist, and poetry professor. Poet-in-Residence at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, she has toured in Italy, Bosnia, Jamaica, Venezuela, Belgium, England, Wales, and throughout the United States, performing her poetry and speaking on African-American poetry, Beat Poetry, and poetry of resistance. In 2015, her play Classic Black: Voices of 19th Century African-Americans premiered in San Francisco.
James Cagney's recent book is Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory. Sam Sax wrote, "I remember first hearing James Cagney read poems in a packed backroom in Oakland and being entirely shook by what this man can do with language. Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory makes good on that promise of strangeness, urgency, lyric prowess, and invention. Toggling between loss, therapy, the pastoral, illness, the humorously personable, and the darkly familial—at every turn this book surprises, aches, and delights. 'what flower / cuts thru the bullshit / between people'—do yourself a favor and read it thrice." Cagney's poems "interrogate identity, family, loneliness, and the expectations of masculinity. Using dreams, blues, and a chorus of voices, this collection of poems examines the complexities of intimacy for an adopted person trying to find balance between two families—one rattled by age and illness; the other, holding space for a son that doesn't exist." A Cave Canem fellow, he studied writing and poetry independently, via the public library, workshops, and the open mic scene in the Bay Area.


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