Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Song of Poetry

By Suzy Paluzzi
Santa Clara Weekly
April 28, 2010 - May 4, 2010

Santa Clara County’s first Poet Laureate, Nils Peterson, the Master of Ceremonies for “Poetry in Song,” states, “As Santa Clara’s Poet Laureate, I would think myself a success if I could get more things going like this.” Peterson is referring to St. Mark’s Poetry Project’s program, “Poetry in Song,” a unique forum to present “songs that are poetic; poems which have been set to music; poems spoken about music, and poems that are spoken to music,” as Sharon Martin, producer, explains.

On April 18 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Santa Clara, the fourth annual “Poetry in Song” took place on a lovely spring day. The backdrop for beautiful music and words was the altar filled with flowers and the sunlight streaming through stained glass windows. April is National Poetry Month, so the timing is fitting. The first part of the production included poetry by Robert Burns, William Shakespeare, and Robert Frost. Sharon Martin, producer, also sings soprano and presented, “Stopping By Woods on A Snowy Evening.” An ensemble of nine women sang Shakespeare excerpts. The ensemble includes Martin, her mezzo-soprano daughter Annmarie, and the rector of St. Mark’s, Linda Taylor.

The second portion of the afternoon was devoted to original works. Karl Kadie addressed a friend’s plight in the current economy, and other serious topics were homelessness and a heart attack suffered by Bill Costley, among other presentations.

Bill Costley and Sharon Martin began The St. Mark’s Poetry Project five years ago. “For years I conducted discussion groups in my home, and I began with reading a poem. Costley was a member and was inspired by the opening poem, since poetry has a role in his life. He suggested we start a poetry group,” says Martin. “Our group is very open, friendly, and uncritical. It is not a critique group,” she adds. There is no fee to join.

For the last four years, “Poetry in Song” has been The Poetry Project’s crowning achievement. The themes vary, but the constant thing is that the show is about “Poetry in Song.” “There are endless possibilities. We have done madrigals, art songs, pop songs, and Broadway,” Martin gives as examples.

During this portion of the show, expert pianist and accompanist, Charles Cramer remarked how several of the talented there were former students of Santa Clara’s Duane Garton. Garton was in the audience and acknowledged heartily.

After the intermission, the music became a little lighter. “Broadway has enriched our social fabric,” remarked the producer, Martin, and selections including those from Cole Porter, “Kismet,” and “Gypsy,” were introduced. Baritones added to some of the music and the professional strong voice and performance of Annmarie Martin were highlights.

Peterson’s role is to punctuate the event with readings and explanations of his own. He has been invited since the beginning. He and Martin have been associates for years and the connection is San Jose State University and Poetry Center San Jose. Peterson is a Professor Emeritus of San Jose State, where Martin’s children attended college, and PCSJ Founding Member and Board Emeritus. Proceeds from the inexpensive and elevating afternoon go to the sponsors, The St. Mark’s Poetry Project and Poetry Center San Jose.

“Poetry carries us to share and lifts our hearts,” suggests poet Karl Kadie. “ I wish more people were in the know so they could enjoy this,” remarks audience member, Pam, from Alviso.

For more information about The St. Mark’s Poetry Project, call (408) 655-9988. is Nils Peterson’s blog. See for Poetry Center San Jose highlights.

The Hellas of it

When was the last time
I bought something Greek?

Certainly calamari, possibly
olives, wracking my brain
over the Hellas (tm) of it.

Where’s that “Thank a Greek!”
campaign? Couldn’t it turn
things around?

Think (tm) Greece:

“Buy Something Greek!”
Buy Socrates ™ Hemlock!

Remember…Byron! Buy
long Greek bonds!

(28 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v3

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Upping the long count

[for Evan S. Daniels, MD}

you gave me 10 more years to live,
but not yet 15, saying a study was
not yet complete to project that.

When would it be?
“Give me 10 more years.”
Since I’m about to turn 68,
I’ll be turning 78 by then.

you want me to lose 4 lbs.
over the next 4 mos.
until I next see you,
& suggest the South Beach Diet,
so I immediately bought the
cookbook, carb-counter, etc.

Now, if I quickly lighten up,
what will that buy me?

(27 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v3

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Density of Heaven

The density of Heaven
differs from soul to soul:
transparent, opaque, filmy.

Some drift, some stand still
hovering over a place they
loved, liked, or wanted to be.

Dying’s the least of it, after
it’s done. Where they died
is dicey. Few return to it,
unless unable to do otherwise.

Life, dying, death, a continuum
that ends; after that, afterlife.
What is it that living wasn’t?

(25APR 10, Santa Clara CA) v1

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Earthly Worship (the poem)

On 10 APR, in the blog entry ("Earthly worship" ) I wrote: "A natural piety of the Earth as Mother is already widely held, fuelled by conservation & organic movements. Here in Northern California, I fully expect Earth-Family groups to meet on public parks on Sundays, disguised as family picnics." After getting 2 religious e-mails from a poet I knew (intimately, for decades) in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood (she's just turned 60), I wrote this poem with an upbeat contemporary setting: playing Frisbee on a public park, as a shimmering ambiguity: are they aliens? Who are they waiting for? Is this earth/heaven, or purely imaginary? What she does proves good for her to do, however she may rationalize it.

Earthly Worship (the poem)

{for Carolyn Gregory}

After reading his e-mail,
she went to the nearest park
to see if it were true. She found

a family throwing Frisbees
in the lightest way: with
a truly blessed ambience.

Can this be an Earth-Family?
she thought; so she asked them:
“Can you be an Earth-Family?”

They smiled. “Yes, we can. We’re
from Earth, but we’re waiting
for others. Would you like
to join us while we wait?”

She did. It became an experience
like no other. Now she joins them
every Saturday, greeting others.

(24 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v3

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Not Gender-impaired

Before the late 1960s, most mainstream American men did not have m/any 'female' domestic skills due to their being raised 'masculinely'.

I was an exception, raised as an only child until 10 (1952) when my sister Nancy was born, so I was taught how to cook, sew, wash dishes, & wash clothes, hang them out to dry, take them in & fold them, etc. (qua girl), as well as chop & saw wood, repair a bicycle (qua boy.) My range of domestic skills isn't gender-impaired, nor is my sister's, who reminds me that she can use various hand-tools.

My being unable to drive a car is quite another matter.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How long...?

The day after the (it appears) non-violent neoTeaparty event in Boston, I'm still thinking over a demographic probe of the phenom. I think the most relevant, unasked & unanswered Q is:

"How long...?"

"How long have you lived where you are now?"

"How long (years/generations) have your family lived there?
Is your family-heritage rural/urban? Southern/Northern?
Do you have a gun? How many?"

"How long (weeks/months/years) have you been out of work?"

The higher your aggregate numbers, the more rabidly 'conservative' you're likely to be. Or is it really that simple?

A recent CBS/NYT survey yielded: the average TeaPartier is 45+, makes $50K+, & is male. For more:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tax Day 2010

Tax Day 2010

Conned by today’s neoConfederates,
today’s Tea-partiers are saying:
Pay No Taxes. Pick up the gun.

If they do, they’ll have to face
the Army National Guard (ANGUS)
who they must believe will stand down.

This is The Day. They’ve been waiting for

(14 APR 2010, Santa Clara CA)v4

Note: Due to early Spring flooding, both state & fed. tax deadline day have been moved to 11 MAY in eastern MA (=MA Bay.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maine Cooning

Maine Coon cats
can communicate:
every morning my

darling cat Reggie
taps my chin once
with a closed paw,
waking me up;

I respond by rubbing
his furrry neck, then
his very furrry body
until he's satisfied.

(13 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v2

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On Approval

On Approval

Approval matters, tho it’s ephemeral;
who knows what the future holds?
Being appreciated underlasts being
remembered, & depends on chance:

my former publisher thinks a small book
rediscovered in some obscure rural barn
can restore an author lost in obscurity.
Which author’s that? (I honestly forget.)

(12 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v5

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Earthly worship

Earthly worship

(around Easter 2010)

As authoritarian religion destructs, here & abroad, & the constructive mainstream consolidates*, the return of a kinder, gentler piety is growing. Some are adopting varieties of Buddhism, others what they think of as wicca, a later-day druidism.

A natural piety of the Earth as Mother is already widely held, fuelled by conservation and organic movements. Here in Northern California, I fully expect Earth-Family groups to meet on public parks on Sundays, disguised as family picnics.

*Christian denominations are finding each other more tolerable even as they split internally: conservative congregations bond with conservative, liberal with liberal, even sharing pulpits (cf. liberal Lutherans accept an 'exchange of orders' with liberal Episcopalians, cross-ordaining & 'calling' - hiring the graduates of each other's seminaries )

Friday, April 9, 2010

Towards Alviso


Riding towards Alviso thru 6 miles of randomly vacant office buildings in Santa Clara I thought aloud “What will they do next with those buildings?” Ginny replied: "Turn them into housing" -- exactly what I'd thought they ought to have done during the last Silicon Valley downturn. I’ve just heard (on KGL-FM) that office occupancy is down 30%. How long can they continue to keep them unoccupied?

A marshly beauty

At Alviso we parked on the approach driveway; during the slow reconstruction of the bayside county park and its soon to be restored marina, you can’t get into the actual parking lot. I unpacked my dark-red double-wheeled walker & we headed up into the park, down the ramp, & sat on the grey composite-plastic bench facing the small baylet of reeds & rushes. “Listen to the reeds..” (I thought), asking Ginny what she thought when she heard the wind sweep thru them. “A smoothing song…” she replied...

Listening to the rushes rustle
in the light wind brings me
back to where I grew up:
reeds rattling, rushes shusshing.
Do Egyptians hear this
by the Nile’s reedy banks?

(08 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v5

Newt erects

Newt erects a snakeskin tent,
pulls on his snakeskin boots,
& sings a snakeskinny song:
“Ssocialissm! Ssocialissm!
I ssee it ssurrounding me!” as his
band strikes up “Snakes R US!”
& the crowd greedily slathers
as red mice are thrown into it...

09 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v4

Thursday, April 8, 2010

By the Bay

Alviso CA

Listening to the rushes rustle
in the light wind brings me
back to where I grew up:
reeds rattling, rushes shusshing.
Do Egyptians feel like this
by the Nile’s reedy banks?

(08 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v4

Teacher's Aide

Being an unpaid teacher’s aide at 67 is better than I’d expected.

Currently, I help a sometime NASA scientist (Ph.D, Berkeley) with her class of (15) 1st, 2nd, & 3rd graders in weekly after-school kiddie-experiments; we meet in a public-school art classroom in Sunnyvale CA. This 'enrichment' class is sponsored by the Parks & Rec. Dept of neighboring Cupertino (the seemingly unboundaried, entrepreneural public school system of choice here in Silicon Valley.)

Today’s class experiment was to build an unshakeable little house out of odd scraps (lengths of thick paper tube, foam rubber punch-outs, etc.) & test it on a home-made ‘shake-table’ that would reveal its vulnerability. Some kids did achieve a high degree of stability – two girls came up with identical solutions simultaneously, but at separate tables.

On a whiteboard, I drew a cartoon of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel, Tokyo (1923), to show how he set it afloat in a permanent pool of sand & running water. One drawing led to another: suddenly drawing a clockface, one girl decided to instruct another in how to tell time; watching her, a little boy was inspired to create a daliesque triangular clockface with 21 numerals.

So it goes in Silicon Valley, 2010.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Frozen Gold

The infantile Pope
pisses in the snow
& declares virtue:

“Only I can make
frozen gold on snow.
Look! Taste it!” he

shrieks. Nobody does;
he still has decades
to perfect this ruse...

(06 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v3

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring depends

on where you really are:

Auden mocked T.S. Eliot’s
“April is the cruelest month”
as New Englandish, because
April’s not cruel in England.

So far, it’s been rainy here,
just S. of San Francisco Bay.

(05 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v3

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bass falsetti

Yest. San Jose Peace Chorale had its annual practice/retreat up on Mystic Mtn (just above Alum Rock, an East San Jose latino neighborhood.) This poem's about what it took out of the basses to sing one semi-bilingual piece.

Bass falsetti

We struggle to master the rhythms
of “We All Smile (in the same language)”
in a 4-part arrangement of texts of saints
Juan de la Cruz & Teresa de Jesus,

that I know isn’t quite Spanish, but
isn’t quite not. The bass part’s high,
written way up on the staves,
forcing us to sing painfully high

in throat-straining falsetto. By the time
we reach the end, we're badly strained,
totally falsed-out; can this really be
what the composer wants for effect?

(Easter Day 2010, Santa Clara CA)v8


Seagulls squawk!

reminding me
I’m not that far*
from salt-water*,

just south of south
San Francisco bay,

Massachusetts Bay.

Note: Remembering Massachusetts Bay simply, isn't possible because it's dramatically different in each season: snowily awful in Winter, thrillingly windy to hurricany in Fall, nicest in late Spring, scorching in high Summer, so the name's long & complex to anyone who's actually lived there for long. How does one 'remember' San Francisco Bay?
* far (fah) & water (wahtah) rhyme in New England.

(04 APR 10, Santa Clara CA)v4