KUSP's Poetry Show

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.

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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.”

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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.

Jericho Brown, guest poet


05 - j brownJericho Brown was a first-time guest on the Poetry Show for April 5, 2015. Host Dennis Morton sat down for an interview with the young poet, whose new published collection is titled The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014).

The wide-ranging conversation encompassed much more than poetry, and was interspersed with Mr. Brown’s engaging reading of poems from the new book. Listeners who persevere all the way to the end of the podcast will be rewarded with a song from Jericho and Dennis.





05 - new testamentFrom the publisher:

In The New Testament, Jericho Brown continues his tender examination of race, masculinity, and sexuality. These poems bear witness to survival in the face of brutality, while also elegizing two brothers haunted by shame, two lovers hounded by death, and an America wounded by war and numbered by religion. Brown summons myth, fable, and fairy tale not to merely revise the Bible–more so to write the kind of lyric poetry we find at the source of redemption–for the profane and for the sacred.

‘Rattle’: Japanese Poetry Forms


Rattle #47 features 25 poets writing in Japanese forms, and a conversation with haiku scholar Richard Gilbert. (Courtesy of rattle.com)

Local poet and Japanese poetry form enthusiast Joan Zimmerman joined host Dennis Morton on the KUSP Poetry Show for March 29, 2015,  to read from and discuss the latest issue of Rattle magazine (#47), which features poets writing in Japanese poetry forms.

Japanese poetry forms – especially short forms like haiku – have become popular in the US, and especially in our area. Joan Zimmerman belongs to a very active local group: the Yuki Tekai Haiku Society.  There are also many excellent online and/or print publications with a significant interest in Japanese poetry forms. Joan mentioned a few of them:


Poetry from Prisons


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Special guest Jack Bowers joined host Dennis Morton for a special show spotlighting poetry that has emerged from arts programs in correctional institutions. Jack heads the Prison Arts Project at the William James Association, and has long been involved with prison arts projects all over California, including state programs such as ARTS-IN-CORRECTIONS.

Locally, that involvement led to the establishment of poetry workshops at the Santa Cruz County Jail, which Dennis has been leading for nearly three years.  We hear several examples of the remarkable poetry produced in those workshops and in other programs around the state.

Jack Bowers is also well known locally as a jazz composer and pianist. At halftime, we hear a song called Soledad Morning, part of his Soledad Suite, inspired by work at the state prison in Soledad and performed last year at Kuumbwa Jazz Center. Another movement from that suite can be heard on this YouTube video.

Poetry Show listeners also know of Dennis’ work at the County Juvenile Hall. In 2012, several poems written by those kids were incorporated into a “symphonic poem” composed for the Santa Cruz Festival of Contemporary Music.

The Prison Arts Project, with a grant from Arts Council Santa Cruz, printed a broadside (discussed on the show and reproduced below) for distribution around town. It includes poems composed by participants in Dennis Morton’s workshops at Santa Cruz County Jail.

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Writers Cove Poetry Workshop


logoThe Poetry Show had a full studio last night, as host Dennis Morton was joined by six of the participants in a recently-completed poetry workshop, sponsored by Catamaran Literary Reader as part of the new Writers Cove endeavor.

There are currently five different workshops on a variety of writing styles, including poetry (2), memoir, science and nature, and YA novels. Santa Cruz is already full of writing talent, and Catamaran aims to mine more of that local treasure and bring learning opportunities to the rest of us.


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It’s not often we have an excuse to post a picture of Dennis but, as leader of the poetry workshop, his inclusion this time is merited. In addition to hosting the KUSP Poetry Show for umpteen years, Dennis is on the board of Poetry Santa Cruz, and is involved in many other local poetry-related activities.

And yes, that’s Dennis in younger days, posing front and center and sporting a stylish cravat for the Writers Cove promotional image.