Monday, March 26, 2007

Poetry Matters in the Local Paper

Been off traveling for a week, back to the blog at last.

Thought I'd show one of the poetry columns I write
monthly for our local weekly.

The one I chose offers a short profile of Perie Longo,
the woman who has just been selected to take over from
me as the second official Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara.

Barry Spacks
1111 Bath Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 966-9959


And when the drum beats like thunder
that is the time to raise off earth.

-- Perie Longo, from "Coming of Age"

A poem's energy arrows fully home to our feelings when offered by the
living voice of its maker, so it's good to know that a new CD has
appeared with readings by a major Santa Barbara poetic talent,
Perie Longo,

Available at Chaucer's and at various poetry events, this compilation
--Waiting for Jamal -- gives us 26 key pieces drawn from the career of
this gifted whirlwind of a woman who has been a mainstay at the
Santa Barbara Writers Conference, a pioneer in the art of poetry-
therapy (President of the Association for Poetry Therapy) and area
coordinator and teacher for the California-Poets-in-the-Schools.

Recently Perie was asked to undertake what proved to be a strange,
funny, and unsettling experience as a woman writer performing in
Kuwait. Her reading and lecture stint received extensive front page
news coverage over there. Her poems tend to be expansive beyond
the limits of this column, but let me give you a taste, at least, of
one of her amusing and politically savvy Kuwait memory-pieces, a
poem in which the speaker finds herself rushed off to an appearance
driven by

...the driver, Habeep...
Habeep is a good name for him. Beep, beep.

The Sheraton lobby swarms with white robes,
not a woman in sight.


In the light, I am a crow
in a field of lilies


I shift foot to foot in my high heel shoes...
ask if anyone knows Jamal. “I am Jamal,” the man
says. I ask where the reception is for the Minister.
He shrugs his shoulders. “I am not that Jamal.”

-- from "Searching for Jamal"

In another poem from Kuwait, the visitor's official hostess can't be
dissuaded from pleasing her with gifts.

She buys me saffron in a bottle with its red filaments

that will turn rice yellow, so yellow
you become 
like the sun, eating it.
-- from "At the Kuwait Marketplace with Haifa"

The poet ranges among all sorts of subjects in her work,
but writes about relationships with a particularly compelling
tenderness and wit. Here's the ending of her celebrated
“Fishing With My Father,” which served as the title poem of
a literary anthology in 2005. The speaker records her pleasure
as a child just in "...being with my father 
/ in his joy" as a fisherman. The poem concludes:

If I blinked my eyes thirty-nine times,

on the fortieth a muskie would strike, that fish 

my father’s dream he took to heaven I think.

When I held his arm at his passing,

clung to his hand like no fish ever had,

he let go and I slipped off, like that. 

If I blink thirty-nine times, on the fortieth 

maybe I’ll catch a glimpse of him.

What else to say about Perie? She wrote the dedication
poem, carved in stone, for Santa Barbara's Douglas Family
Preserve, and runs the annual three day Santa Barbara Summer
Poetry Workshop, as well as teaching poem-making privately.
Her third print collection, Nothing Behind But Sky: a journey
through grief (Artamo Press) is also out this fall, and she's
featured in an anthology CD recently released, a Laureate Project
as a fund-raiser in support of April Poetry Month's yearly festival.
This one, Eight Santa Barbara Poets, offers a sampler from a pod-
casting project making spoken-word segments from local poets
available via iTUNES and on the Net. For more info on
The Podcasting Poets of Santa Barbara, tune in to



At March 27, 2007 at 11:14 AM , Blogger Queen Whackamole said...

This column is such an important service to poetry in SB... and wow, how lucky could we get to have YOU then Perie as SB Poet Laureate?

At March 30, 2007 at 1:16 PM , Blogger Marty said...

Nice words from one poet toward another. Fine work, Barry.


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