Archive for the ‘poet’ Category

Beau Beausoleil

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Beau Beausoleil is a San Francisco-based poet and the proprietor of the Great Overland Book Company, which is located in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood. Beausoleil has written more than ten books of poetry. His most recent collection, Ways to Reach the Open Boat, was published by Barley Books, UK in 2013.

Beau Beausoleil at the Great Overland Book Company

In 2007 Beausoleil read an article in The New York Times about a car bombing on al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic bookseller’s street in Bagdad. This incident inspired the creation of the al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition, a project which currently has five distinct components: 130 letterpress printed broadsides; 260 artists’ books; a publication of poetry and prose titled Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here; the coordination of poetry readings around the world each year on the March 5th anniversary of the bombing; and most recently Absence and Presence, a call to 260 printmakers for the creation of fine art prints.

The project involves hundreds of artists who have created work specifically as a response to the 2007 bombing; and extensive local and international exhibition schedules, much of which Beausoleil coordinates himself. Complete editions of the visual art responses will ultimately be donated to the Iraqi National Library in Bagdad.

We met in early February over a cup of tea at Beau’s kitchen table.

Whirligig: What is poetry?

Beau: What is poetry? At one point in my life I stood on the corner of Powell and Geary, it was real close to Union Square not that far from Macy’s, and I had a little box next to me on the ground that had a sign that read “Support your local poet.” I would give out multiple copies of a poem that I had printed out to anyone who would take them. They didn’t know that they were poetry. My secret hope was that some patron would appear out of nowhere with a wallet, but of course that never happened.

I usually made enough to print out the next batch of poems. Some people would avoid me. They would go out into the street thinking that I was handing out a religious tract or a political tract of one kind or another. Some people would take them. I’d see them read them. I’d see them crumple them up after half a block and throw them away. But every now and then something would happen. I remember this one guy who took a poem. I watched him walk down Powell and I could see that he was reading the poem. He got about three quarters down the block. He turned around and walked back to me and said in this agitated voice, “I don’t know what this means, but this one line, that speaks to my life.” That’s poetry.

One time I was part of a group that was visiting Folsom Prison where there was a writer’s workshop. The visitors would read and then the prisoners would read. During the break this guy came up to me and said, “Are you Beau Beausoleil?” And I said, “Yes.” He said, “Did you have a poem in . . .” and he named this small magazine, and I said, “Yes.” He said. “Did it go like this. . .” and he recited my poem back to me. I was pretty stunned. He said, “I just wanted to tell you that that is the poem that started me writing.” That’s poetry.

Lorca, the Spanish poet, tells a story about duende. Duende is the inexpressible in art, in beauty. It’s there and you can feel it. Some people can recognize it. It’s an important part of the life of any artist who is really at that point. He tells a story to illustrate it.

There was a flamenco contest in this basement in Spain. All these young women are assembled. They are all in their 20s and beautiful. They are getting ready to go on the stage to perform before these three judges. Suddenly the door opens. A woman in her late 50s walks in, walks straight up to the stage, throws her arms in the air and the judges declare the contest over because they could see that she had duende. That’s poetry.

Poetry is something that gives you back part of your own life. It allows you to see your own life in another form, another way. That’s what poetry is.
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Steven Andrew Kacsmar

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Steven Andrew Kacsmar is a San Francisco based singer songwriter. His band Phantom City has just released its second CD Off the Map.

Whirligig: Off the Map is Phantom City’s second CD and your third. What goes into making an album and how do you determine the arc of the music?

Steven: My songs come from my experiences and sometimes from my idealism. Sometimes I write tunes to try and help people think about how things could be better. Sometimes I just have a story to tell. But even the songs that are about a real event often undergo a transformation from the literal to the allegorical.

In terms of making a CD, there is a lot of work that goes into producing a CD that goes unnoticed unless you don’t do it. For example, on Off the Map we recorded many takes of each part then picked the best sections and then blended them into a single track. We also ironed out any wrinkles so that we put out a polished product, hopefully without losing the fresh feel of the song. In the process of creating a CD, you spend a lot of time listening, and honing, taking out as much as you put in.

Whirligig: How did you come to be a musician and songwriter?

Steven: I’ve always been musically inclined; I sang on my mom’s lap in the car when I was a child. I was in band in high school and have been playing guitar since I was about 8. There’s always a soundtrack going on in my head. I was curious so I asked some of my friends if this was true for them and was surprised to learn that not everybody has a soundtrack to their life going on in their head. So I guess it’s safe to say that music is an integral part of who I am as a human being. I have worked at many things in my life, but the day gig I had longest was with Bank of America, for 21 years. When I left the corporate world behind, it was with a very clear intent to focus on my music while I still had some fire in my belly. (more…)

Jane Reichhold

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Jane Reichhold is an internationally recognized and award-winning artist and poet, prolific writer, editor, publisher, and scholar based in Gualala, California. Jane has written thousands of poems and published nearly 35 books on haiku, tanka, and renga, including Basho: The Complete Haiku (2008); Ten Years Haikujane (2008); and Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands on Guide (2002). Jane is a co-editor of LYNX, the publisher of AHA Books, and editor of AHA! POETRY where she keeps the practice of writing successful haiku and other Japanese poetry forms alive and lively.

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Whirligig: You spent over twenty years working on Basho: The Complete Haiku. What compelled you to create this book? Can you talk about your motivations and processes?

Jane: I felt that if I could really see how Basho wrote his hokku, by seeing each word he used and not some translator’s idea of what a haiku could be in English, I could figure out how to write a better haiku. I started first by collecting every translation of each of his poems and comparing them. Then I asked Japanese friends to give me a word-for-word translation. I began to study Japanese but still depended on Japanese translators. My only contribution was to understand how Japanese poetry works and to make the translations fit or follow these precepts.

Whirligig: That’s a very humble response for twenty years of work which resulted in invaluable insights for both Basho and haiku scholars and enthusiasts.

Jane: Truth, like haiku, is so simple.

Whirligig: What initially drew you to haiku?

Jane: On the sale table at City Lights Books Store in San Francisco, in 1968, I found a Peter Pauper book of translations for a quarter. Though I had been writing poetry since college, I felt that here in the Japanese poems was a new way of expressing poetry. Soon afterwards I was making a vessel on a potter’s wheel and just as I pulled the clay upward a bird sang out. I had the feeling that it was the bird’s voice that caused the clay to rise. I realized that in this coincidence what I felt was the same kind of inspiration Japanese poets valued.

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Alice Templeton

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Alice Templeton is winner of the New Women’s Voices Prize in Poetry (2008), which she received for Archaeology: Twenty-one Poems. Alice is a poet, musician, songwriter, educator, and scholar. In 2007 she received the distinction of honorable mention from the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation for her poem Homing. Journals which have published her work include: Poetry, 88, Puerto del Sol, and Many Mountains Moving. She currently teaches creative writing and literature at the Art Institute of California in San Francisco.

alicetempleton_smWhirligig: When we first met you told me your poetry was about nature, but it actually encompasses so much more than what might typically be called nature poetry. I see yours as more like landscapes with an aftermath of human residue. What inspires you to write?

Alice: That’s a wonderful description of it. I think I am very place oriented, and that place is the way I measure what I feel and think. In the poetry I try to define, through concrete imagery and language, where I am so that I can know how far I’ve come — what my thoughts are now, what my feelings are now

I often write about the places that have been meaningful to me, like my parents’ farm where I lived during high school and have continued to go back to throughout my adulthood. I think those images, those cycles of labor that we went through on the farm, were formative in my sense of who I am and what language is. I hear my parents’ voices and phrases a lot. I hear that connection between the language and the tools and the landscape. So landscape does shape my poetry, but I’m also interested in and driven by philosophical and cultural questions like: What is justice? and What is history?  Hopefully those human things inform my poetry as well.

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