KUSP's Poetry Show

Juan Felipe Herrera reprise


20 - JFHThe Poetry Show congratulates California poet Juan Felipe Herrera on his recent appointment as 21st United States Poet Laureate. We can say we knew him when he was merely California Poet Laureate – last year.


20 - S. Kessler


In April of 2014, host Dennis Morton sat down for a conversation with Mr. Herrera and a long-time friend and fellow poet, former Poetry Show host Stephen Kessler. To celebrate this new honor, the Poetry Show re-broadcast that show from last year.

From the Library of Congress Website:

“Herrera succeeds Charles Wright as Poet Laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position including Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, W. S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, and Rita Dove.”

Len Anderson, guest poet

Dennis and Len

Dennis Morton and Len Anderson

Local poet and poetry advocate Len Anderson joined host Dennis Morton to read some poetry, by himself and others, and also to talk about Poetry Santa Cruz, the organization Len and Dennis started in 2001. In addition to his general responsibilities as a Poetry Santa Cruz board member, Len is responsible for maintaining the website with its comprehensive events page, the go-to source for information on local poetry.

Poetry Santa Cruz sponsors a number of regular and ongoing events, including:

  • “Poetry Santa Cruz Presents”- a regular reading on the second Tuesday of each month, at Bookshop Santa Cruz. These events typically feature a local published poet paired with a well-known visiting author
  • “Poet/Speak” – a monthly semi-open poetry reading at the Santa Cruz Main Library, usually on the 3rd Sunday from 2:00-4:00 PM
  • An annual Santa Cruz County high school poetry competition
  • “Community Writers” – a monthly open mic reading, 4th Saturday at Porter Memorial Library in Soquel.

Len read several poems from Harvest From the Emerald Orchard, an anthology of poems by members of the local Emerald Street Writing Group, which has been nurturing local writers since the mid-1990s. Members of the group have been past guests on the Poetry Show. Another source was a poetry periodical called Caesura, published annually by Poetry Center San Jose.

In addition to the interplay with Len, Dennis read a number of poems by recently-deceased Steve Kowit, and others from an early anthology Kowit edited, called The Maverick Poets.

Christine Tobin, Rattle #48


31 - Tobin CD coverThis week’s Poetry Show began and ended with selections from a 2007 CD by singer-composer Christine Tobin, on which she created songs from a number of poems by others. Read more about her in her website “biog”. The cut heard at the beginning of the show sets to music a poem called Horses, by Paul Muldoon (you can play this song from the website). At show’s end, we hear another of Christine Tobin’s songs, this one called Muse of Blues, incorporating a poem by Eva Salzman. The CD is titled Romance and Revolution, which is also the title of another Salzman poem (not set to music).

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Sandwiched between the Christine Tobin bookends, Poetry Show host Dennis Morton read selections from the latest issue of Rattle magazine (#48 – summer 2015). Rattle remains a favorite on the Poetry Show.

Sholeh Wolpé, guest poet


24 - SholehAs promised, this week’s Poetry Show was a conversation between host Dennis Morton and Iranian-American poet-writer-editor-translator Sholeh Wolpé. The conversation was recorded on the afternoon of May 12 at the KUSP studio, before Sholeh’s evening appearance as featured reader for the Poetry Santa Cruz monthly event. The conversation covered a wide range of topics, and included readings from several of her books.

Books by Sholeh Wolpé include:

  • Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths (2013), collected poems
  • Breaking the Jaws of Silence: Sixty American poets Speak to the World (2013), editor
  • The Forbidden – Poems from Iran and its Exiles (2012), editor
  • Sin – Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad (2010), translator
  • Rooftops of Tehran (2008), collected poems
  • Song of Myself, by Walt Whitman, translated into Persian
  • The Scar Saloon (2004), collected poems

24 - Blue Hyacinths


Sholeh’s most recent collection of poems is Keeping Time with Blue Hyacinths.

Sholeh has also worked extensively as a translator. She read for Poetry Show listeners a selection from her translation of The Conference of the Birds, a poetic work by the 12th-century Persian Attar of Nishapur.

Two weeks ago, we whetted listeners’ appetites with selections from The Scar Saloon CD, recorded in 2006, - the author reading the poems from the book, accompanied by traditional and contemporary Iranian music.

More from Ploughshares, plus Tom Crawford, Sholeh Wolpé


03 - ploughsharesIn the first half of the Poetry Show for May 17, 2015, host Dennis Morton returned to the latest issue of the fine literary magazine Ploughshares. This issue of Ploughshares is especially interesting to Poetry Show listeners for two reasons: 1) it is given over entirely to poetry, and 2) Neil Astley is the guest editor.

This week’s new batch of readings from Ploughshares continues where we left off on the Poetry Show two weeks ago, and includes poems by Barbara Hamby, Tracey Herd, Tony Hoagland, Major Jackson and Pascal Petit.

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Closing out the first half are a few poems from Caging the Robin, a new book by Tom Crawford.


17 - Scar SaloonFor the second half of the show, we listen to selections from a CD called The Scar Saloon, by Sholeh Wolpé (2006). The Iran-born poet interleaved her spoken words with traditional and contemporary music by some very talented Iranian instrumentalists to create this multi-media CD. Some of our local listeners may have seen and heard Sholeh Wolpé at last week’s Poetry Santa Cruz  reading and, while she was in town, we recorded a conversation between Sholeh and Dennis. That recorded conversation will be next week’s Poetry Show.

Adela Najarro, guest poet


10 - AdelaNajarro240Local poet and educator Adela Najarro paid a visit to the Poetry Show on May 10, 2015. She has not one but two new books out, and will be reading from both on Tuesday, at the monthly event sponsored by Poetry Santa Cruz. A bilingual heritage informs Adela’s poetry, along with an interest in the history and politics both of her parents’ native Nicaragua and the United States.  Adela now lives in Santa Cruz and teaches creative writing, literature and composition at Cabrillo College.

10 - Split Geography




The book title Split Geography (Mouthfeel Press) refers to that mix of ethnic and cultural influences, a duality that Adela feels strongly in her life and expresses in her poetry. Adela read a number of poems inspired by various times and places and events, followed by discussions with host Dennis Morton. Fellow poet and Cabrillo College instructor David Sullivan says:

Split Geography covers vast tracts of land and multiple countries in language that heals as it explores both internal and external rifts. The vagaries of love, and the need to love oneself and others (in all their rich complexity) surface in poem after poem. The personality that emerges from this collection is funny, poignant, irascible, and above all, in love with the promise that writing can be a spiritual exercise to re-make ourselves. These are poems to live among.”

10 - Twice Told Over






Twice Told Over (Unsolicited Press) takes a more personal turn, exploring themes of family and personal relationships. California poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera offers this endorsement:

“For its eye of the all-seeing crocodile half in dark waters and half in the prey-light of death and hunger, for its electric rush of love, its gambles with destiny, for its deep knowledge of borderlessness, the slippage of love and dissolution into something like Mystery makes this collection a rare magic. And perhaps, because of its woman eye, illusory skin, bleached colors and its various upside-down taboos where words and love-deeds are “hechas para atrás / pushed aside,” I commend this book. It is a surreal mathematics, a travelogue to ancestors, a gypsy’s deck of last-breath, plotting flowers ditching toward the sun. A tour de force, magnificent, lovely, sculpted, drenched with Borges, Sexton, Najarro. A radically new Latina verse.”

Ploughshares: Neil Astley, guest editor


03 - astley_neil_apThe first half of this week’s Poetry Show spotlights the latest issue of Ploughshares (issue 126, spring 2015), the quarterly literary magazine published by Emerson College in Boston, Mass. Guest editor for this issue is Neil Astley, well known to regular Poetry Show listeners as the founder of Bloodaxe Books and editor of the Staying Alive trilogy: Staying Alive (2002), Being Alive (2004) and Being Human (2011).



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Poetry Show host Dennis Morton presents readings of selections from this self-described “trans-atlantic” poetry anthology. A number of the poets included have been guests on the Poetry Show. Just going back to the beginning of our podcast archive in May, 2007, that group includes Gwyneth Lewis and Eva Salzman (twice – here and here). An additional pair of poets selected for this special Ploughshares issue have been heard on the show courtesy of our UK correspondent Gwynne Harries. We’ve aired Gwynne’s recorded conversations with Gillian Clarke and Vicki Feaver.

In the second half of the show, we hear selections from a CD titled The Voice of the Poet: Adrienne Rich. Poetry Show listeners have previously heard other selections from this CD, most recently on January 6 of this year.

Poetry of Scotland, with guests Dorothy and Bryce Taylor

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A panoramic view of Aberdeen, Scotland

Dorothy Taylor and her son Bryce traveled all the way from Scotland to join host Dennis Morton on the Poetry Show for April 26, 2015.

Natives of Aberdeen, Dorothy and Bryce have been in California to visit their daughter and sister, respectively - Lesley-Anne Taylor, who has often hosted Poetry Show hours in past years and is well known to regular Poetry Show listeners.

26 - Ian Middleton TattiesDorothy shared a variety of Scots poetry, both in English and in the northeastern dialect known as Doric. Most impressive to Americans is that these works were recited flawlessly, dramatically and entirely from memory. One humorous poem in the Doric, titled A Nod’s as guid’s as a Wink, by Ian Middleton, required some translation afterward into American English. You can listen to Middleton’s own version of this poem and others on Spotify.

Scotland is known for music as well as poetry, and Bryce contributed a fine rendition of a song by Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland whose birthday we celebrated on the Poetry Show back in January. To conclude the show’s first half, Dennis contributed readings of a number of short poems by another contemporary Scot, Don Paterson.

Dorothy began the second half-hour with a recitation of a well-known Robert Burns poem, To A Mouse, followed by several more poems (and translations) in the Doric dialect. Dorothy is a retired drama teacher, and still performs poetry recitations in the Aberdeen area.

Yuki Teikei Haiku Society

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Kiyoshi and Kiyoko Tokutomi

Joan Zimmerman and two other members of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society (YTHS) were guests of host Dennis Morton on the Poetry Show for April 19, 2015. Joining Joan were Alison Woolpert, current YTHS president, and Carol Steele YTHS newsletter editor. The occasion for this visit is the 40th birthday of YTHS. To commemorate the event, our three guests read past winning entries in the organization’s annual haiku contest.

After we heard the first ten winners, Dennis read a number of haiku poems by the YTHS founder, Kiyoshi Tokutomi. Next we heard excerpts from a history of the YTHS, written by Kiyoko Tokutomi, wife of Kiyoshi. We learned that Kiyoshi was actually born locally – in Watsonville - and met Kiyoko in 1948 while teaching English in Japan (more history of the Tokutomis here).

19 - above-the-clouds-coverAmong many other activities, YTHS publishes semi-annual haiku anthologies. The 2013 anthology was titled Above the Clouds. The group also publishes GEPPO, a bimonthly study-work journal. A subscription to the journal is a fringe benefit of membership in YTHS.

Joan Zimmerman was a Poetry Show guest about four years ago,  to talk about the 2011 YTHS anthology - Wild Violets. More recently (March 29, 2015), Joan visited the show to read from and discuss issue #47 of Rattle magazine, which featured Japanese poetry forms.


Curt Anderson and Marjorie Simon, guest poets


This week’s Poetry Show guest poets were Curt Anderson and Marjorie Simon. The two will also be the featured readers at this month’s Poetry Santa Cruz reading - Tuesday, April 14, at Bookshop Santa Cruz. In a preview of that reading, Curt and Marjorie joined host Dennis Morton to read and discuss their poetry and a variety of other subjects.

12 - Marjorie SimonMarjorie Simon is best known locally as co-editor of Kayak Magazine, with her late partner George Hitchcock (not to be confused with Alfred). As a poet, she has two published collections: The Long Distance Oatmeal Eater (Jazz Press, 1985) and Adam & Eve, etc. (with George Fuller, Jazz Press, 1981). On this occasion, one of the poems she shared with Poetry Show listeners was an unpublished work written after George’s death in 2010.



12 - book-occasionistCurt Anderson’s first published poetry collection is titled The Occasionist, published by Hip Pocket Press. Curt traces his evolution into a poet back to grad school days at San Francisco State, where he pivoted from English Lit. to Creative Writing and studied with Stan Rice.