Tuesday, April 24, 2018

National Park Week: John Muir, Yosemite and the Action of Flowing Ice

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Yosemite National Park.

No one wrote more passionately — or poetically — about his natural environment than John Muir. During National Park Week we revisit his words, more specifically, his words about Yosemite National Park. It was at Yosemite, camping with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, that the seed was planted to create the National Park Service. The following words were first published in 1914 in The Yosemite. They come from the last paragraph of the chapter, The Ancient Yosemite Glaciers, arranged poetically.

Monday, April 23, 2018

English Poet Matt Duggan in U.S. to Read from One Million Tiny Cuts

The cover of Matt Duggan's One Million Tiny Cuts.

Readers in Boston and New York are advised to circle their calendars for April 25, 29-30 as English poet Matt Duggan will be reading from his latest volume of poetry — One Million Tiny Cuts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Library Way: Isak Dinesen and Shadows on the Grass

 photo © Mark Butkus 2011
And then in the end, the Liberation came.

Isak Dinesen. Tania Blixen. Osceola. Pierre Andrézel. Four of the names that the Danish author Karen Blixen (1885-1962) used in her literary career. Best known for her 1937 book Out of Africa, Blixen is remembered on Library Way with a quote from the last published work during her lifetime, Shadows on the Grass, which itself serves as an end to Out of Africa.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — My Old Soul

photo © Mark Butkus 2007
Remembering The Holocaust and the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.

My old soul has sung before.
It has lain many hands in mine;
I reach for yours,
and link it to he who needs.

He stands in Bergen-Belsen in the rain,
waiting his turn to expire.
He takes hands he cannot save
and sighs and breathes the gas.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Revolution on Canvas: Poetry from the Indie Music Scene

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
This ship — S.S. Palo Alto — has a hole...

catching the grayest of blue skies when
love is just too big to know
straddling april's winter when the
heart is only half whole

Sunday, April 8, 2018

First Lines Second Thoughts — George Orwell's 1984

photo © Mark Butkus 2007
Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast...

First Lines Second Thoughts is an occasional look at the first lines of well known literary works. On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? Today, on a cold April day, we look at the opening lines of George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Of Baseball, the White Sox and Nevest Coleman

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
Having opened their hearts, the Chicago White Sox open their home season today. Go ChiSox!

This one is for Nevest Coleman
Who was thrown a curveball
Who spent 23 years in prison
For a rape and murder
That he did not commit.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail

photo © Mark Butkus 2012
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Written in the margins of a newspaper — the only paper available to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Birmingham City Jail — The Letter from a Birmingham Jail was written four days after King's arrest on Good Friday April 12, 1963 while marching against racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — The Two

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
A poem for Easter. A poem for Passover.

I think when God walked shy to Moses,
stars clustered in his hands,
he led our rabbi down
to the orchards of the heart.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Waiting with Marilyn Hacker

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
"Dismissals and evictions come by mail."

I get up every day before the mail
and go through the same matinal ritual;
piss, wash, make coffee, warm my hands,
prune and water my three rooms of plants,
feed the cats, answer yesterday's letters.
Something frightening is going to happen.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Speak Out with Priscilla Baca y Candelaria

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
You can never be too young to speak out.

Give them voice
Child's song, poetry
Value their pearls.
Read, regurgitate
Read, question
Read, write
Voice rights

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Open Call for Artists and Writers in Melaque

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
Art shows are in bloom this spring in the Costalegre.

I say Melaque, you say San Patricio. A new Centro de Arte y Cultura is opening at Las Cabanas #15 — across the street from La Paloma in San Patricio, Jalisco, Mexico. Expat artists and writers are encouraged to join local artisans in promoting art and culture in the Costalegre at the inaugural art show and sale on March 24.

In attending and showcasing their creative output for market, expats get to strengthen their ties to the community while exchanging ideas with native born creators of all things artistic.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Blanca Segura y la poesia de la Ceguera

photo © Mark Butkus 2009
Colgar de un hilo...hanging by a thread.

Colgar de un hilo,
como suspendida en el aire,
flotando impaciente
esperando que algo pase:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

River Mary Malcolm and the Vagina Nigretto

photo © Mark Butkus 2009
Welcoming the first day of spring.

In my dream, my patient,
herself a physician
asks me about
the "Vagina Nigretto."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Stacy Rae Lake and her Mystical Kauai

Do not throw pebbles into a pond without blessing them first...

Today her astounding beauty made me cry
I felt mesmerized with the wind and the promise of true movement forward
Sitting at my table now..
The Holy Ones...
Each of us a strong tree still growing
The Kahunas tell me to be true to myself

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Eileen Shanahan and The Three Children (Near Clonmel)

photo © Mark Butkus 2012
An Irish poet for an Irish day.

I met three children on the road —
The hawthorn trees were sweet with rain
The hills had drawn their white blinds down —
Three children on the road from town.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Taste of Mexico at Barra Galeria de Arte

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Call for artists for upcoming art exhibition in Barra de Navidad.

The Barra Galeria de Arte has put a call out to invite all artists in the Costalegre to participate in a new art exhibition that will run from March 19, 2018 through to April 6, 2018.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Of Chynna Chilton and Body Language

photo © Mark Butkus 2010
Sway with Chynna on April 1, 2018 for the Backstage Bar and Blue Wave Cafe's Eighth Birthday Bash!

His body sways
Toward her very presence
Permeating heat waves
That singe the hair on her arm
As they pass

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Prisoners Literature Project

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
Nelson Mandela, Eldridge Cleaver, Jean Genet, Angela Davis, and Gandhi have written about the great solace they received from books in prison.

In perusing an "anarchist collective" bookstore in Haight-Ashbury named Bound Together, we spoke with volunteer staff about life, politics and the Prison Literature Project — a project to give prisoners books. They had a couple of shelves of used books selling for a buck or two to help fund this project. They passed  me a flyer about the project and I asked if I could reprint it here in the hope of spreading the word about the Prison Literature Project. They gladly gave their consent.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Great Expectations in Haight-Ashbury

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Where 21st century hippies quote 19th century Dickens on sidewalks.

On a recent walk through the streets of San Francisco we came upon a quote from Charles Dickens 1861 novel Great Expectations scrawled upon the sidewalk at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury — Ground Zero for the Summer of Love.

The quote as it appears in Haight-Ashbury reads as follows:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

On the Road: America's Poet Maya Angelou at 15 Breaks Color Barrier as First Black Streetcar Conductor in San Francisco

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
San Francisco today runs historic street cars from many cities, like this one from Toronto.

Some notable people, in life, get to write an autobiography. Maya Angelou wrote seven autobiographies. The trailblazing poet who was reverentially called "the black woman's poet laureate" was also a trailblazer outside of arts and letters — Maya Angelou was the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco in 1943. At age 15.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Lenten Poem by Olga Broumas

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
A river runs through this poem.

Still weeks before the equinox
in March strange pleasure
to prepare to come
to visit you in April April

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sherley Anne Williams: The Green Eyed Monsters of the Valley Dusk

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Almond orchard in the Central Valley.

Sunset knocks the edge from the
day's heat, filling the Valley
with shadows: time for coming
in getting on; lapping fields
lapping orchards like greyhounds
racing darkness to mountain
rims, land's last meeting with still
lighted sky.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Longfellow's Evangeline — A Tale of Acadie

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville, Louisiana.

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,   
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,   
Stand like Druids of old, with voices sad and prophetic,   
Stand like Harper's hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.   
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean           
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Library Way: Langston Hughes and a Refugee in America

"Refugee in America" is referred to as "Words Like Freedom" on Library Way.

The poem on the plaque commemorating Langston Hughes on Library Way in New York City is identified as Words Like Freedom. A Google search of the title will come up with 201,000,000 results. Add Langston Hughes' name to the search and your total drops to 636,000 results. Google Refugee in America and you will see 2,680,000 results. Add Langston Hughes name to that search and your total becomes 140,000.

Friday, February 23, 2018

John Keats — Here Lies One Whose Name was Writ in Water

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
The grave of  the romantic poet John Keats.

The epitaph of the poet — a young English poet — John Keats is one of the most famous literary epitaphs. Died February 23, 1821 in Rome, Italy, Keats is buried in that city's Protestant Cemetery. 

Keats' unmarked grave contains the following poetic epitaph that begins with words written by his good friend, the artist Joseph Severn and concludes with Keats own words:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Death’s Echo by W.H. Auden is to Dance in Barra de Navidad

photo © Bar None Group 2010
Dance, dance, dance till you drop.

“O who can ever gaze his fill,”
Farmer and fisherman say,
“On native shore and local hill,
Grudge aching limb or callus on the hand?
Father, grandfather stood upon this land,
And here the pilgrims from our loins will stand.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Visit to the Asylum with Edna St. Vincent Millay

photo © Mark Butkus 2007
The oldest public hospital in America, Bellevue has housed its' fair share of poets.

Once from a big, big building,
When I was small, small,
The queer folk in the windows
Would smile at me and call.

Monday, February 19, 2018

D.H. Lawrence, Walt Whitman and The Open Road

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
The great home of the Soul is the open road.

The following excerpt is from an essay of Walt Whitman by D.H. Lawrence in Studies in Classic American Literature published in 1923. It has been arranged poetically.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Artist's Easel: Legal Victory for 5Pointz Graffiti

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
5Pointz was a popular destination for graffiti artists until 2013.

The "world's largest open air aerosol museum" known as 5Pointz was a beacon for graffiti artists in New York City until 2013 when the owners of the building in Queens whitewashed all the graffiti on the building. Graffiti artists sued and on February 12, 2018 a federal judge granted 21 graffiti artists an award of $6.7 million.

The following pictures capture a moment in time at 5Pointz before the art was obliterated.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Spirits of Anza Borrego

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Communing with Native Spirits at the Rock House in Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

The winds whip and whirl
Through Rock House Canyon
And I am one with the spirits
Of all who came before me.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Not the Trump Inauguration Poem

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
Recalling a simpler time.

Has it really been a year? A year ago today the legend of the Trump inauguration poem took hold. Like most things to do with the administration since January 20, 2017 things were not what they seemed.

The inflammatory poem was not commissioned to be read at the inauguration but "could" be read at the inauguration. The poem came with cues for the inaugural crowd to join along.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Wasted — An Addiction Poem

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
This number may save the life of someone you love: 1-800-662-HELP

Wasted time.
Wasted mind.
Life wasted in a wasted grind.
Wasted talent.
Wasted luck.
A wasted fellow asking you for a wasted buck.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Poesía callejera del Perú: Amor de Cusco

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
Para Sandra Salas Camacho — la mujer qi me ha pasado...Te amo!

Sol q alumbra tus cabellos
los alumbra aclarando su color
Sol q dilatar tus ojos
Safiros q miren con amor

Monday, January 15, 2018

Civil Rights Memorial Mural Outside Selma, Alabama

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
Jonathan Daniels; Viola Gregg Liuzzo; Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Rev. James Reeb; Jimmie Lee Jackson.

The Civil Rights Memorial Mural stands in the shadow of the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama. Painted on a wall along a strip of failed businesses, of failed dreams, it is a stark reminder of America's past.

A reminder of those who paid the ultimate price to advance the ideals of this great nation. Found in the windows of a row of boarded up businesses were a sign condemning the KKK and a more hopeful sign.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Walking the Symmetrical Path to the Sea

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
Russell Rosander takes us on a walk to the sea.

In the preference of nature for symmetry,
Down the crooked line of the spine,
Hands and feet alternating,
Propelling me forwards
Between left and right,
Traveling between my two eyes
Along the dividing line between opposites
Through which all water and blood flows
Down to the sea.

Friday, January 12, 2018

La Tristesse par poète haïtien Coriolan Ardouin

photo © Mark Butkus 2012
Recalling the devastation of January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti through a 19th century poem.

La tristesse n'est pas une fleur du jeune âge.
La brise vole et chante et baise le feuillage,
La Rose vient d éclore et le Cygne d'amour
Glisse sur les flots bleus où se mire le jour.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Oakland Street Poetry: These Black Hands

 photo © Mark Butkus 2011
Where are all the black construction workers?

These hands,
These black hands,
These are strong black hands
That can swing hammers
And pound nails with precision.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — Then We Came Home

photo © Mark Butkus 2010
Home being that place where the heart lives.

Then we came home;
your fingers pushed my hair,
grew flowers in the ash and I was young.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tales by LeRoi Jones, Words by Amiri Baraka

 photo © Mark Butkus 2011
"When I walk in the streets, the streets don't yet claim me."

First Lines, Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works. On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? Today, we take a different approach. We look at the opening lines of a short piece of fiction — Words — by the Beat poet LeRoi Jones. Words is from a collection of short fiction entitled Tales that had it's first paperback printing 50 years ago in 1968. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

On the Road to Graceland

photo © Mark Butkus 2009
Remembering the King — Elvis Presley — at Graceland.

But I don't want to go to Graceland

It was a whine more than a declaration
And it had been said more than once
Over the last 1500 miles

But I don't want to go to Graceland