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Day 50: Ashland

UPDATE!

More from Ashland!

Emergent Forms!

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We’ve taken a lot of cabs on this trip, and we usually get a gruff no-response when we tell the cabbies what we’re up to

(e.g. Cabbie: “So what brings you to our fair city?”
Us: “Yay! Poetry reading! Yay!”
Cabbie: “uh . . . ”
Us: “We’re doing fifty in fifty days on a bus! The Poetry Bus!”
Cabbie: ” . . . mmm ”
Us: “The Poetry Bus!”
Cabbie: “Yeah so that’s nine fifty, you want me to pop the trunk?”)

But we took a cab from the Make Out Room to Club Deluxe in San Francisco, and our cab driver got VERY excited about the fact that we were poets.

“No shit?” he said, turning to look me in the eye, “I have poets in my cab right now?”

We told him that it was no shit, that he did have poets in his cab right now and so he recited one of his own poems, a short one with the line “a day in the life and a life in a day”, and then he told us that he had committed his life to fighting for his culture, the American bohemian culture.

“I’ve been fighting hard, man, but I’ve begun to think about leaving this country,” he said, “There comes a point when you have to stop fighting and just get out, you know?”

“I know,” I said, and then I told him I thought it would be a shame to leave, and I meant it.

“I hitchhiked down here from Seattle 23 years ago, man, and I love it I mean look at this city,” he said pointing through the fog to the lights below us, “I left once to have a romance in the mountains with a hippie girl, which you totally have to do, but I’ve been here ever since. I met Kesey once at a Dead show, but I was too fried on acid, man. Totally fried. How long are you staying?”

“Not long,” I said, “we leave in the morning for Ashland.”

“Ashland!” he said, slapping the wheel, “That’s one of the great places on the West Coast, a total diamond in the fucking rough.”

That got us very excited, because we had thought, for no reason really, that we might be going to somewhere terrible.

“I can’t believe I had a bunch of poets in my cab going to Ashland!” he said when he let us out, shaking our hands and wishing us the best.

We tipped him as well as we could and headed in to the reading, beaming.

And then the next morning we drove up the coast to Ashland, which was as amazing as our cab driver had said.

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Mountains, eggplant burgers, micro brewed beer, and trees.

K. Silem Mohammad and Craig Wright welcomed us into the Meese Room in the library of Southern Oregon University, where about a hundred folks, including Christian Hawkey’s mom and brother, sat waiting to listen.

And do you know what happened in Ashland? What happened in Ashland was that Bill Wesley, the man who has been driving us around the country in this bus for fifty days, got up in front of the crowd in Ashland and read poems.

Poems he wrote while driving us around the country on this trip.

Bill is a musician as well as a driver, and he’s an incredibly open and creative person, but he hadn’t really considered himself a poet before this trip began, so to see him up there in front of people reading his poems was profoundly moving.

Moving, profound, and incredible because I mean Bill! Fucking Bill was up there in front of the people of Ashland reading poems! Bill!

I almost lost my mind.

Watching him I almost lost my mind because I had forgotten, after 50 or so readings, how much courage takes to get up in front of a crowd and read the poems you’ve spent your time working on.

It’s not normal.

It’s not normal but we forget how special it is, but I watched Michael Earl Craig listening while Bill read, and Earl kept slapping his hands on his legs and shaking his head. He understood how not normal it was.

“I can’t believe it,” he said to me, wide eyed, after it was over.

Neither can I.

Thanks, Bill.

Below is a poem from Bill, and if you want to hear it straight from the Bill, then head over to the Poetry Foundation site to read his own dispatches.

Thanks, Kasey. Thanks, Craig.

Day 49: San Francisco

UPDATE!

More from San Francisco

From The Believer

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The Make Out Room

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Edwin Torres at Club Deluxe

Below are three lil movies from our amazing time in San Francisco.

One of Andrew Joron reading with a backing band at Club Deluxe, one of Noelle Kocot getting her beatnik bravado on, and the last of Michael Zapruder performing a poem set to music.

Day 48: Santa Cruz

Poetry Santa Cruz

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We rode all night from Los Angeles, woke up to egrets, sea otters, hawks and finally 50 high school marching bands on the streets of Santa Cruz (the place poet Peter Gizzi lovingly calls “the Deep End”) where a peculiar kind of exhaustion took over.

We scattered throughout the city, some kayaking, some swimming in the ocean and some sleeping until time came to head up to High Street where the readings happened.

A deep wooly exhaustion through which I can move and dimly perceive but most definitely not be “present” which is what we all aspire to be.

So, I leave the representation of the reading to Beth Pittinger, who put together this cento from lines at the reading.

Thank you, Dennis Morton.

Cento—On the Bus

lost in a forest of pronouns
the non-light of realism
a single answer to a complex question
I rub the grains of the moon in my hands
when you light my cigarette just that way
I am smoke
this is what my lips are for
replacing all the words

I was born in January
or maybe it was July
the signs that said yield
the uncreated still
from the periphery of another world
what if your imagination
went on vacation too

I couldn’t account for my hand
which had turned into starfish
a season arrives with its odd luggage
the gravity of each word
a loneliness about the shoulders
seen as storied

the practice is to unwind the song slowly
sound has its own horizon
long enough to plant an argument
that face driven along some high wire
without a net

that would be like little candles
having feeling for the wax
the events are so far from each other
we are zones

we became breathless
and called it busy
they have bodies
that’s all the faith they need
I’d like to reduce everything
to one syllable

face your face cranium
plant not the color green
it’s black
these fish do swim in partial language
and putting LSD in swimming pools
except some things under this seat
let it be the one who inhales the drunken
dream of a woman

crescendo denotes climax
like a fist out of a water
the better of two futures
it is where the gap is

you’re full of magic holes
concentrate seriously on the pathways
of insects
except to speak for the missing
in the shadow of a great mistake
the sensation of space where it had been once
dense and full
I must have felt the vagrant quotations

I will write for the chill of it
can the corporate highway be replaced
by a rainbow
you were my first ticket to pain
how so clear whereas before
invisible between the sky

all alphabets are manual
an absence spliced
a veined hand waving
to erect a huge disk
over are the days of background windows

is some thing a matter with you
averages predict distant moments from the past
four lines of chopped resonance
not the knowledge of smallness
and who on earth am I telling this to

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