Tuesday, June 19, 2018

On the Road in Nevada: Walter Zabriskie's Ode to the Jim Butler Motel

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Ode to the Jim Butler Motel in Tonopah, Nevada

Jim Butler is the place to stay.
It's really pretty nice.
It's clean, convenient, comfortable,
All for a budget price.

The P.O. is across the street,
The Mizpah is next door,
You're in the center of the town...
Now, who could ask for more?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Fathers Day Poem: He Was There by Hannah Rodrigues

photo courtesy Hannah Rodrigues
A father's happy place.

He was there...
    Looking at me, only the way he could

He was there...
    Feeding me my first ice cream

He was there...
    Holding my hand

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — A Father’s Pen

photo © Mark Butkus 2009
Beholding in wonderment its vantaged range.

I weep as I write my remembrance of the hour
when I and my now-lifeless son
played inside the panes of an imperishable vacuum.
Upwards we climbed the sheer towers of its scope

Thursday, June 14, 2018

On the Road: Mark Twain and Lake Tahoe

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Where Taylor Creek empties into Lake Tahoe.

At last Lake Tahoe burst upon us,
a noble sheet of blue water
lifted some 6,000 feet
above the level of the sea,
and walled in by a rim of
snow-clad mountain peaks
that towered aloft
a full 3.000 feet higher still.

Monday, June 11, 2018

San Francisco Blocks — Around Union Square with Amos Gregory

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Finding Amos Gregory in a San Francisco alley.

"The road to peace is
narrow and long,
Amos Gregory wrote upon
an alley wall in 2017,
but my conviction is strong.
Upon it's path do my feet belong."

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

At The End Of The Affair with Maxine Kumin

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
The key to the beginning of the affair.

That it should end in an Albert Pick hotel
with the air conditioner gasping like a carp
and the bathroom tap plucking its one-string harp
and the sourmash bond half gone in the open bottle,

Monday, June 4, 2018

On the Road: A PW Covington Roadtrip (Paying for the Gas)

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
We were San Francisco curious and decided to commit poetry.

A tattered copy of Sirens of Titan
is chosen over bad motel TV
at the start of a five state road-trip

Coffee, sleeping pills and truck stops
four dollar gasoline
seems all too much to spend for poetry
and words of witness shouted into the irrelevant abyss

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Revolution on Canvas: Brian Martinez Pens a Letter to Dear Ginsberg...

photo © Mark Butkus 2010
Poetry from the Indie Music Scene.

Dear Ginsberg...

I wrote a letter to Ginsberg and
and sent it to the sky,
through my eyes and to the
nearest stars and with pupils
opened wide, I cried and cried,
unashamed, uninhibited. the
angels read aloud to Ginsberg,
sitting in some heaven ness sky,

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Traveling with Chu Tun-Ru

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
That now the traveler has departed.

The red has parted from the green.
I'm half sober from my drink last night.
The horse in harness waits outside the door.

Friday, June 1, 2018

On the Road in Santa Cruz: Tilly Washburn Shaw Goes Vroom!

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Flagrant metal chains of gear.

Out walking in the fog on Westcliff Drive,
everything becalmed & muffled way high up
over the Pacific, when comes a rumbling

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Seattle Blocks — Madison and 6th

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Above all else.

It’s the ground floor
On the morning after
The year before
From the California desert
Of Palm Springs to
The Pacific Northwest
And Seattle rains.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Saturday, May 26, 2018

On the Road in Seattle: Love and the Pongo Poetry Project

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
The courage of the poet's pen is expressed in Seattle public art.

At the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle we came upon a booth for the Pongo Poetry Project. Pongo is a 25-year-old Seattle-based nonprofit that has helped more than 7000 teens inside jails, shelters and psychiatric hospitals heal through poetry. A flyer distributed at the booth had the following poem on love.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

First Lines Second Thoughts — Philip Roth and Portnoy's Complaint

She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.

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 the day of his passing, we look at the opening lines of Philip Roth's controversial novel, Portnoy's Complaint.

Published in 1969,  Portnoy's Complaint is a continuous monologue of Alex Portnoy to his psychoanalyst. The novel was considered scandalous at the time for its explicit language and vivid descriptions of of masturbation. It was banned from many libraries, and Australia too.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Stacy Rae Lake is Something Current for Now

photo © Mark Butkus 2010
Now I am a boat resting at a dock.

When I looked down at the beach
My toes were made of crumbling sand
Each grain of sand spoke to me
offering significant steps to unfoldment

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Nora May French asks, How Ends The Day?

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
The end of day at the Mission in Carmel.

We wandered where the violets bloom,
    beside the sunlit stream.
We saw, where on the crystal waves,
    the water lilies dream.
Their gold hearts wreathed in leaves of
    pearl, all silvered by the sun,
We heard the brook laugh as it swayed
    their bright heads one by one;
Yet no smile dawned upon your face, to
    chase the tears away.
"The waters cease, the lilies fade, in
    darkness ends the day."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bar None — Brenda Hawley and Passing a Hangover

photo © Mark Butkus 2010
Remnants of the night before.

My mind is numb today
Everyday play, play, play
Need to take a break today
I declare today a movie day

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — Harry Truman as a Child

Born this day, 1884, Happy Birthday Harry!

The fields were boxed into sounds, weren’t they,
as carefully as books beside your bed,
and a necktie draped for the next day on a chair?

And you owned it all, didn’t you?
You owned the priceless fields
and start of day as warm as Mama’s voice.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Where the Wild Things Sleep

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
The Rock House in Anza Borrego Desert is home to many an overnight hiker.

Desert silhouettes
Winter creosote
Dusk escapes
Through fissures
In rock walls
White contrails
Turn pink
Before dissipating

Monday, April 30, 2018

An Untitled Poem About Grand Central Station

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
Track 23 at Grand Central Station.

"Grand Central, let 'em out please, watch the doors!"
In His own image did He make all men.
"One ham on rye, I'll have a coke, what's yours?"
From Adam's side our mother moves again.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Stacy Rae Lake and the Glory of Transformation

"The miracle that you are is in everyone else."

If I wrote a poem about you it would be called Glory
The spiritual heart is bigger than form
Giant glowing arms reach out to embrace all states
And they grow colors and flowers on every inch of their earthy bodies
Energy as essence pours rain and tears
balancing joy and purification
It can wash the darkest city into bright vibrancy
Telling stories about truly living life

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Poet Diane Burns writes, Sure You Can Ask Me A Personal Question

photo © Mark Butkus 2006
No, I don't know where you can get Navajo rugs real cheap.

How do you do?
No, I'm not Chinese.
No, not Spanish.
No, I'm American Indi—uh, Native American.
No, not from India.
No, we're not extinct.
No, not Navajo.
No, not Sioux.
Yes, Indian.

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.