There is an undeveloped field—no tract homes but holes

for rabbits, rattlers, packrats.

A graveyard for broken appliances and flat tires—birds build nests in these abandoned round doors.


Out of 365 days, we know 24 days of rain—life here

requires deep and extensive roots.


Developers wait until dark to topple and stack Joshua Trees. It isn’t impossible to wake to a whole world reduced to a small heap—morning reminds us.


This lot has been left new because of its proximity to the prison.


Across the road is the Institution—minimum and maximum security—male inmates.


I feel a snake at my feet.
You ask, Is everything ok?
Is ok. I say but shake like a rattle.


It doesn’t seem like night falling, so much as stars rising. Day and night weighed equally—the horizon vanishes and the prison lights shine like earth bound stars.


You light a cigarette. In the dark, I can see you breathing in the distance—a walking star.


We steal a shopping cart to gather objects left in the desert. We have one night to make an apocalyptic go-cart.

What else would we do? What’s left to do?


We collect what has been left behind by others. I find baby shoes and bullets—a full bucket of each.


You find a shanty town made of broken chairs and sticks.


In the dark, we imagine the worst—bullets in a baby’s foot—buckets full.

From the back of your truck, we watch the meteorite shower.


The sun goes up like a string-puppet. The chairs’ being is to speak—

“Air Show 2014;

we were board here.”


At the foot of the prison, people can watch without paying, fireworks. Independence Day, shots are fired at the sky while babies lose their shoes to snake holes.


This is not the end of the world, but its edge.





Photos by Marcelles Murdock


Words (and footnote photos) by Nicelle Davis


Apocalyptic Go-Cart by Kevin Swiney

Three Poetry Readings in Two Days: Would love to murder, paint, and glitter you!

photo 32 This weekend (September 27-28) I have the privilege of giving three radically different readings at three different locations in Los Angeles. Three readings in two days  is notably a bit much– poor planning, maybe–a constant nearly narcotic need to always be with poetry, certainly. I can only hope to see friends and loved ones as well as poetry lovers at each event.

I like events; I like gatherings. I believe people are made human through experiences with other humans.

I get to run this poetry-read-a-thon with my son. To him, I’m sure it will feel like a form of slow torture–but he will be with words; I can only hope that words will eventually woo him as they did me as a child. I can hope. He will have my friend Debra to keep him company; even if he doesn’t entirely appreciate poetry when he grows up, I know he will be grateful that he had some of the most beautiful and smart babysitters during this mad poetry life. Please come see us. Please come play poetry with us. Here is a little about each event: Hand2

Event #1: Saturday 9/27, 4:30

WeHo Reads Noir: West Hollywood Library (625 N. San Vicente Blvd.) 

Edge of Town. POETRY. With a Noir. Touch. (4:30-5:15)
Take a ride with a group of bold poets who take us to the dark side…where
poetry isn’t always pretty!
 Michael Datcher (“Raising Fences”)
 Nicelle Davis (“Becoming Judas”)
 Suzanne Lummis (“Open 24 Hours”)
 Kim Dower (“Slice of Moon”)
 Charles Harper Webb (“What Things Are Made Of”)

When the amazing poet Kim Dower invited me to participate in the WeHo Read Noir event, I couldn’t say no. Noir isn’t just an art, its a way of life that I’m constantly falling into and chasing after. I was surprised when my son and his friends asked me “what is noir?” Well, what is noir? I had to ask myself. “Its shades of grey,” I told them, “its ambiguity.” “Huh?” the team of 5 to 10 year-olds responded. “Ok,” I said, “take these detective glasses, hats, shovel–take this bottle of fake blood–and lets look for clues to “who done it.” We all took turns being blamed for some part of a murder–because we are all part of the larger story–we all have blood on our hands.

We had fun being our own noir story; I’d like to continue this fun with you at the WeHo Reads Noir Event. I found all the stuff we need for murder; please come get bloody with me. Murderstuff

Event #2: Saturday, 9/27 6:30 PM

LAR @ Bergamont Station:

LAR_Logo_Web Building Bridges Art Exchange, Bergamont Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave. Unit F2, Santa Monica, CA 90404 This will most certainly prove to me my favorite reading. I won’t be voicing my own work, but reading selections from the upcoming LA Review issue. I love this journal, as I love all of Red Hen’s eggs. Bergamont Station is at the heart of art. It is beauty layered with more beauty. Please do not miss this event!

Join Red Hen Press for a special collaboration of poetry and contemporary art at the Bergamot Station Arts Center. Established in 2005, Building Bridges Art Exchange is dedicated to the promotion of national and international contemporary artists, providing a variety of international art exchanges, artist residencies and workshop programs. They will be joining together with Red Hen for the month of September to present poetry readings immersed in the artwork and exhibitions themselves. A portion of the proceeds from artwork provided by Jacqueline Tchakalian and Thom Dower will go towards our outreach program, Writing in the Schools. Gallery opening reception: Saturday, September 6th from 6-9:30 PM Poetry Readings: Saturday, September 13th: Laurel Ann Bogen, Jacqueline Tchakalian, Helene Cardona, John Fitzgerald Friday, September 19th: Kate Gale, Kim Dower, Brendan Constantine Saturday, September 27th: Los Angeles Review reading featuring BH James, Nicelle Davis, Michael Allen Loruss, Michael Cooper, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo All reading events are free and begin at 6:30 PM. On-going exhibitions and artwork from: Thom Dower Jacqueline Tchakalian Shadow Portraits by Rachel X Hobreigh Deep Transparencies: A Hidden Universe by Petra Eiko Feminine Mystique/Treasures from the 21st Century by Barbara Fritsche, Michael Kluch, Tanya Ragir, Mary Cheung, Larry Schuster Building Bridges Art Exchange Bergamot Station Arts Center 2525 Michigan Ave, Unit F2 Santa Monica, CA 90404 Co-sponsored by Red Hen Press and Building Bridges Art Exchange For more info, click here:

art hand

Event #3: Saturday 9/28 7:00 PM


bookstore1 The Last Bookstore is the most magical place on earth. I plan on bringing a circus with me to celebrate this fantastic place. I can not tell you what a dream space this is; you must see it to believe it. Please, please go to this event. We need you. We really do. Every circus is only as magical as those who are there to see the magic. 453 S. SPRING ST, GROUND FLOOR DOWNTOWN LA  |  213.488.0599

Photo by Jason Hughes
Photo by Jason Hughes

Sunday, September 28th, 7pm: The Last Bookstore is pleased to welcome Kate Gale, with her new collection of poetry, Echo Light. She is joined by Red Hen authors Brendan Constantine & Nicelle Davis. Kate Gale is the Managing Editor of Red Hen Press and Editor of The Los Angeles Review. She teaches in Low Residency MFA programs around the country and serves on the boards of A Room of Her Own Foundation and Poetry Society of America. Kate is the author six librettos including Rio de Sangre, a libretto for an opera with composer Don Davis which premiered in October 2010 at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee. Her latest poetry collections are The Goldilocks Zone and Echo Light. She is also the editor of several anthologies and blogs for Huffington Post.

 Brendan Constantine is a poet based in Hollywood. His work has appeared in numerous journals, most notably Ploughshares, FIELD, Zyzzyva, Ninth Letter, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, ArtLife, PANK, and L.A. Times Best Seller, The Underground Guide to Los Angeles. His first book, Letters To Guns (Red Hen Press 2009), is now required reading in creative writing programs across the nation. His most recent collections are Birthday Girl With Possum (WriteBloody Publishing 2011) and Calamity Joe (Red Hen Press 2012). He has had work commissioned by the Getty Museum and he has received grants from the James Irvine Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. He is currently poet in residence at the Windward School and adjunct professor at Antioch University. In addition, he regularly offers classes in hospitals, prisons, shelters, and with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project.  

Originally from Utah, Nicelle Davis now resides in Lancaster, California, with her son, J.J. Becoming Judas is her second book. Her first book, Circe, is available from Lowbrow Press. Her third collection, In the Circus of You, will be released by Rose Metal Press in 2014. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Beloit Poetry Journal, The New York Quarterly, PANK, SLAB Magazine, Two Review, and others. You can read her e-chapbooks at Gold Wake Press and Whale Sound. She is the director of the Living Poetry Project. She runs a free online poetry workshop at The Bees’ Knees Blog and is an assistant poetry editor for Connotation Press and The Los Angeles Review. She has taught poetry at Youth for Positive Change, an organization that promotes success for youth in secondary schools, and with Volunteers ofAmerica in their Homeless Youth Center. She currently teaches at Antelope Valley

Falling in Love: Autumn is the Season for Poetry


September is a busy month. Gratefully, it is busy with poetry. This is the best sort of busy for it always feels like a blessing. Life is in full beauty–in living gold–when with poetry. I hope to fall with you.

Here is where you can find me:


“To me, poetry is about survival first of all. Survival of the individual self, survival of the emotional life.”

–Gregory Orr

I wouldn’t have survived life (or myself) without the poetry of Gregory Orr. I would have lost all belief of integrity if not for Kate Gale. These two teach me how to be human; to read with them will be…

…I’m not sure how it will be. Maybe this is the sort of mystery that marks the difference between life and being alive. Gratitude doesn’t begin to describe it–maybe wonderment.

I have missed New York; it is my other home; the home I’ll never know–the home of a different life.

Poets House: Literary Partners Program: Red Hen Press presents Gregory Orr, Kate Gale & Nicelle Davis

Date and Time:
September 13, 2014 – 4:00PM
Event Location:
Elizabeth Kray Hall
$10 Regular Admission, $7 Students and Seniors, $5 for Poets House Members

Red Hen Press presents a day of readings by:
Gregory Orr
Kate Gale
Nicelle Davis

Moderated by: Teri Grimm

Gregory-Orr-2014Gregory Orr was born in Albany, New York in 1947, and grew up in the rural Hudson Valley. He received a BA degree from Antioch College in 1969 and an MFA from Columbia University in 1972.He is the author of more than ten collections of poetry, including River Inside the River: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2013), How Beautiful the Beloved (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved (2005), The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems (2002), Orpheus and Eurydice (2001), and City of Salt (1995), which was a finalist for the L.A. Times Poetry Prize. He teaches at the University of Virginia, where he founded the MFA Program in Writing in 1975, and served from 1978 to 2003 as Poetry Editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review. He lives with his wife, the painter Trisha Orr, and their two daughters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

KateDr. Kate Gale is the Managing Editor of Red Hen Press, Editor of The Los Angeles Review and President of the American Composers Forum, Los Angeles. She teaches in Low Residency MFA programs around the country and serves on the boards of A Room of Her Own Foundation and Poetry Society of America. She is the author six librettos including Rio de Sangre, a libretto for an opera with composer Don Davis which premiered in October 2010 at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee. Her latest collections are The Goldilocks Zone (New Mexico Press, 2014) and Echo Light, forthcoming this Fall. She is also the editor of several anthologies and blogs for Huffington Post.

headOriginally from Utah, Nicelle Davis now resides in Lancaster, California, with her son, J.J. Becoming Judas is her second book. Her first book, Circe, is available from Lowbrow Press. Her third collection, In the Circus of You, will be released by Rose Metal Press in 2014. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Beloit Poetry Journal, The New York Quarterly, PANK, SLAB Magazine, Two Review, and others. You can read her e-chapbooks at Gold Wake Press and Whale Sound. She is the director of the Living Poetry Project. She runs a free online poetry workshop at The Bees’ Knees Blog and is an assistant poetry editor for Connotation Press and The Los Angeles Review. She has taught poetry at Youth for Positive Change, an organization that promotes success for youth in secondary schools, and with Volunteers of America in their Homeless Youth Center. She currently teaches at Antelope Valley College.

Teri Youmans Grimm’s first poetry collection, Dirt Eaters, was chosen for the University of Central Florida’s poetry series and was published by the University Press of Florida. She just completed Becoming Lyla Dore, a collection of persona poems in the voice of a fictional silent film star. Her writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, Green Mountains Review, Indiana Review, South Dakota Review, Connecticut Review, Sugar House Review, EAT and Homegrown in Florida: An Anthology of Florida Childhoods, among other journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of a Nebraska Arts Fellowship and has been awarded residencies at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Hambidge Center. She currently teaches in the University of Nebraska low-res MFA program.



Back from New York, there will be blood!

Edge of Town.  POETRY.  With a Noir.  Touch. (4:30-5:15pm)
Take a ride with a group of bold poets who take us to the dark side…where poetry isn’t always pretty!
Michael Datcher (“Raising Fences”)
Nicelle Davis (“Becoming Judas”)
Kim Dower (“Slice of Moon”)
Suzanne Lummis (“Open 24 Hours”)
 Charles Harper Webb (” TK “)
After all the bloodshed in Hollywood, I’ll be racing to…
Sat, Sept. 27LAR event
Event starts at 6:30
Building Bridges Art Exchange
Bergamot Station Arts Center
2525 Michigan Ave. Unit F2
Santa Monica, CA  90404
Sat, Sept. 27 – LAR event
Nicelle Davis, BH James, Michael Allen Loruss, Michael Cooper, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo


Collaboration: The Walled Wife

“Mother and daughter I can have no longer, but wife I can and perhaps I shall find a better one.” —Mircea Eliade, “Master Manole and the Monastery of Arges,” The Walled-Up Wife: A Casebook

The Walled Wife is a project that has haunted me for the past six years; it is my retelling of a story about a woman who is buried alive in hopes that her soul will hold up the walls of a church. “The Ballad of the Walled-Up Wife,” is a folk song at least 1,000 years old; it is one of the most famous in the world, according to folklorist Alan Dundes. In an interview Dundes explains, “the song has inspired more than 700 versions — mainly throughout eastern Europe and India — as well as countless essays by scholars.” Countless, he says. Countless, I questioned, and so began exploring the many cases of women being buried alive. I compared variations of a song sung across the globe. The lyrics go: a wife is buried so a structure can rise—it implies a room is worth more than a woman, and as a place she approximates value. I started to wonder if the architecture of intimacy is dependent on violence—if art is the ultimate form of violence—if woman, especially in the role of wife, are worth anything (or nothing) at all? Countless being the inverse of priceless, it would seem that this ballad proves that we are not worth much at all. It shows that the easiest thing in the world to replace is a wife—it says a woman is a thing. I wanted to know if it was true—am I worthless—are we countless. For six years I’ve been burying myself alive trying to answer these questions; I’ve been using different materials and contexts to understand how and why this happens. And yes, this does happen; just recently (as in, in the past three months—as in, in the United States of America— two women were buried alive in their own back yards). How? Why? I allowed my students to immure me in cinder block. I let my friends bury me in their backyard. I’ve put myself in situations that have stretched my comfort levels and distorted my understanding of reality—all to see if one life is worth anything at all? Inside the grave I learned that life is worth living because it is countless—it is beyond commodification. It took the grave for me to understand this: life is worth living because I know how it feels to lie naked against the earth. I attempted to write a book that freed the wife from walls; I failed. What I found in this story wasn’t freedom, but a love that surpasses time and space. Buried alive, the wife was able to love herself. I wonder, by her story, if anyone else will love her? I wonder if there are stories in this world, beyond all the stones told. I cannot count the number of people who have helped me in this investigation, but I can name all of them. These include the women of AROHO. While at the 2013 retreat, I was able to work with filmmaker, Anita Clearfield. Anita graciously helped a group of us writers translate our work into visuals. In the months that followed the retreat, Anita and I worked with the very talented (and in every way beautiful) composer Silke Matzpohl to make the following film.

The First Hour Of Being Buried Alive In the Walls Of A Half-Built Cathedral

Since death and events surrounding it are considered dangerous, it follows that those who directly deal with death both court danger and are dangerous. And, accompanying this dangerous status of women is power. —Ruth Mandel, “Sacrifice at the Bridge of Arta,” The Walled-Up Wife: A Casebook

A sky is eaten by clouds. A ceiling drops as shattered glass. A tree shakes from standing for flocks of feet. A wall is screaming as birds will yell— A unified cry before migration. What was said—black bird to brown bird? What was it I saw? A dirt path— curious objects? Finches copulating while a cat swallows them. Fists for bodies, they never stop beating upon each other—rhythms implying melody—pounding to open themselves like doors. Finality. I feel my voice, a stone, I threw long ago, but windows continue crashing as an indefinable light, exits from me. First printed in Manor House Quarterly

Numbers Matter: A Call for Support


Dear Friends,

I’m writing to tell you, numbers matter.

I have never understood numbers; I only know stories. It often feels like the only thing I’m good at is telling stories. This has been true for as long as I can remember.

In order to make it through any math class, I had to give each number a personality—a character. These characters divided into the Evens family and the Odds family. There were feuds, secrete love affairs, unrequited love, backroom business deals—in a way every math problem for me is like a day time television drama. I never solved a math problem for answers, but rather to realize a new set of dramatic challenges—to discover a new world.

As a kid, numbers were the stuff of magic. After reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the seventh time, and having delighted in the mysteries of combination-locks, I began doing long division (the most complex math I knew at the time) in every closet of my house. I would write problems on the back walls, thinking the answers would unlock a portal into a different world, a better world. I wanted to drink tea with Mr.Tumnus and eat Turkish Delight with the White Witch.

So it turns out, I wasn’t so wrong in my assumptions about numbers. Numbers are magic; they do open portals into a different world, a better world. I often, too often, shy away from one of the most important numbers in my creative life—how many copies of my book have made it into the world. For this, and other reasons, my numbers are low.

How many copies of Becoming Judas sold is an important number for many reasons, but primarily this number is crucial to my publishers. Red Hen took a risk on me—invested in me, in a way few have. They decided to see something in me and attempt to show (whatever that weird light is) to others. I simply can not let them down.

It is for this reason I’m turning to you, my other most important and magic number—my friends. Please consider purchasing a copy of Becoming Judas from Red Hen Press. Buying from the press directly is best for numbers. In the end, it all comes down to numbers. These numbers are the key to that mysterious combination-lock—they unlock my ability to live in a world of poetry. These numbers also allow the press to give other poets a chance to be published, to walk into an entirely new world.

If you are kind enough to purchase a copy for yourself or a friend, I will gladly send you tea and Turkish Delight. I will. I will write a poem just for you on the candy wrappers. Tea and candy are small thanks for such a great gift as giving someone another world–to support a dream, but maybe in another world–a world of poetry, this translates.


Thank you for your kindness, understanding, and support,
Nicelle Davis

Becoming Judas can be ordered here:

Honey: Beyond Baroque


April 27, 2014

Beyond Baroque

681 North Venice Blvd., Venice, California 90291
I am very excited to read at Beyond Baroque. It will be my first time reading at this historical and mythical locations; this will be a dream come true. Perhaps this is why I can’t sleep; or maybe it is too hard to sleep with an entire can of Aqua-net in my hair. No amount of pillow can save me from the helmet that my talented friend Melanie has cocooned me in.
I like costuming (if you couldn’t tell). Sometime I get criticized and questioned for not giving a “straight” reading. Often people want to know why feathers and rhinestones. I can’t think of why not feathers and rhinestones, so I do it.
I dress the part of the poem. When I read from Becoming Judas I’m layering generations of women’s stories. Tonight, I have to learn how my grandmother slept sitting up–dreamed without disturbing her new up-do; this ritual connects me to poems (and to her) in ways I never anticipated.  If I can’t directly talk with the dead, I can channel them–learn from them by “becoming” them. My grandmother was a brave and charismatic person. She is the last time I felt like I had a home. When she abruptly and unexpectedly died from carbon monoxide poisoning, my whole world fell a part.  This event carved wounds I feared would never heal. I even doubted that healing was possible on any level, until there was honey.

Over four thousand years ago, honey was used as a traditional ayurvedic medicine, where it was thought to be effective at treating material imbalances in the body. It has been found that honey does have healing properties–it is a natural magic that mends wounds and lengthens life. A street miracle–honey.

For this reading I want hair that reaches for heaven, want a dress made of gold, want to give everyone a spoonful of honey. I am very happy to say that I have a beehive hairdo stacked under a scarf, waiting to be released for Beyond Baroque along with rivers of honey.
The honey came from my hometown’s Poppy Festival. (Yes I live in a place that celebrates flowers.)  Along with jars of honey, I received my first Chick book. I’d never seen one of these mini gospels, until a representative of Lancaster Baptist Church handed me a copy while I was stuck in the line for a camel rides. The Chick title he handed me was, “This Was Your Life.” In this terrifying miniature comic book, a man is shown his entire life before being tossed into the Lake of Fire. (Scary.)
I fell in love with Chick reads. Fortunately, my friend who was at the festival with me, is obsessed with Chick lit. He showed me his collection of these religious handouts and a documentary about their origins. These strange little books both delight and offend everyone. They are too religious for the non-religious, too non-religious for the religious; they are also sexist, racist, and strange–yet oddly forgiving and compassionate. They are so very human.
I couldn’t help myself–I had to make one.
SO…all of this 2 am typing is to say, if you can make it to the Beyond Baroque reading I will give you honey and my own version of a Chick pamphlet. I will give you all my gold and human. I will dress like a hive. I will do all that I can to believe (and deliver) the magic of honey.
Please come.

Colliding Rhymes Reading: March 16th


This week has been devoted to prepping for the McGroarty Arts Center’s first annual arts festival! Part of the festivities will include “Colliding Rhythms” a poetry reading on Sunday March 16th at 3:30 p.m.


Please, please come. The McGroarty Art Center is something of a poetic wonderland. There will be drums and poems and drinks and trees and incredible light cascading off of mountains.

I didn’t know anything about this place until Joe DeCenzo extended an invitation to participate. I didn’t know Joe; I didn’t know McGroarty. I didn’t know that McGroarty was designated poet laureate of California by the State legislature in 1933. I didn’t know that before the World Wars Sunland was created as a sort of utopian escape from the city—a place for dreamers to bed roots and grow a new life outside of lung-crushing factories. Joe knows this; Joe DeCenzo works diligently to weave California poets into the tapestry of their western heritage.


This magical tree-house of a historic site is a home for the arts. It is well worth your time to be in this space; it truly is an inspirational place.

Inspiration is essential to any artist—any community. It is easy to get lost in the maze ofwhy poetry; inspiration is the thread that leads an artist safely out of the labyrinth.

I’ve been teaching the myth of the Minotaur—that animal that marks our genetics and our reckoning of with the self. It is ultimately a recognition of the other that leads us out from the dark passages—those spiraling corridors of doubt and fear. For this reading, I commissioned one of my students to create a costume. Her handy work is quiet fine; her spirit is nothing shy of lovely. She dreams of being a fashion designer—a maker. She doesn’t just dream; she does the work of the dream. She sews and sews and sews until her visions become tangible. With her help, I’ve been transforming into my own sense of other—my bull of reckoning.


Oh other—bull in the darkness—my strange bread—my sideshow. For this reading I hope to give everyone who attends a little show—a little three rings of self exploration.


I have to admit an obscene about of work goes into any artistic endeavor. Adding to the obscenity is the persistent uncertainty that comes with any creative work. I’ve been working on a character for this reading—a transformation that helps us all enter a creative space—a place of images.

Second Grade: Cell (aka Nicelle)
Second Grade: Cell (aka Nicelle)

As a child, I liked to play with image. I would often cut off all my hair; sometime assume a male name—desperately attempting to understand differences. I thought assuming the differences would help me be closer to others. I often find myself wishing I was more like my younger self; she really didn’t give a fuck what people thought. She was obsessed with how they felt—she wanted to feel as they did, no matter how different they were from her. There was some magic in that—I would like to get back to that magic. I’m going to try on March 16th; please come with me.



 with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.
with Tobi Harper, Molly Frances Wingland, Maureen Alsop, Alexis Vergalla, Lauren K Alleyne, Katie Manning and Cindy Rinne.

AWP. AWP. What to say about AWP? It leaves us all spinning. If you haven’t left a piece of you sanity in the assigned city, you haven’t really been to AWP. This year I left crazy umbrellas wherever I could. In retrospect, I wished I had brought more umbrellas, more poetry. It is always an issue of more with AWP. 30 umbrellas are swallowed quickly by 10,000 writers. Being swallowed is a good way to describe AWP.

 photo 1

This year I convinced a few of my writing students (the very talented Trish Donahueto and Andrea Thamm) to attend. They fought with themselves over time and money spent—it’s just a conference, they objected when I described the whirl of energy, lack of sleep, and the effect that three miles of books has on a word lover. Eventually they resigned to go (maybe just to shush me up for a moment). I was delighted when we eventually crossed paths. They could no longer blink. You tried to tell us, they said. Yes, I can try but there is no way to describe what it is about this event that allows for—I am going to say it—transformation.

 photo 2-3 photo 3-1

The transformation is never expected; in fact the best way to attend AWP is with zero expectations. It is never the same; what you hate one year you may love the next. Some people walk away with the full recognition that life is larger than words. Some fade deeper into the folds of imagination. All is good, even if it feels like hell.

photo 2-4

In our own AWP troupe there was a trip to the E.R. due to exhaustion. I heard feet where broken on the giant escaladers and I witnessed several first time attendees break into spontaneous tears. Had I not been saved by Jason Cook and Maggie Hess (with their magical cup of coffee and hot crêpes) I may have entirely lost my mind in Seattle. I wish I was joking. No. This is no joke. This is AWP. But it’s not. Not really. I mean, it’s just a conference. Right?

 photo 3

Okay, it’s a conference. But I don’t know of any other conference where a person’s ethics, desires, and ideas (/ bodies) are pushed to a breaking point. If you’re lucky, this four day conference strips you to your most primal self. It gives you permission to be what you want—a writer. Even more profound, it reveals who you are—the reason you write. Such epiphanies are not easy to weather.

photo 2
I find it extremely important to keep your friends close when traveling in the storms of desire. I love my Red Hen Press / LAR Family. I love the Pie Bar and karaoke nights; I love feeling like a posse of book slingers. I am extremely proud of Kate Gale, whose new book The Goldilocks Zone launched at this year’s AWP.

photo 2-5

I was also proud of my URC family. My UCR sister Alexis Vergalla organized a reading on a glass bottom boat that included a city race. (What?) Yes. So good. photo 3-2In an ideal world, we would all return home with three solid days to dream away the after-blur of being with 10,000+ people. It isn’t the size of the event, nor the scope, it is the whirling descent of having to face off with what and who we are.


There is more to be said, shared, posted about all of this. Yes. I am hopeful that those of you who received umbrellas will send me photos of where the words traveled. I would love to mail umbrellas to those who wanted the extra shelter but couldn’t find it.

There is more out there…so much more. I am deeply grateful for this–this something more. Love, gratitude, and most importantly poetry to all.



Poetry Umbrellas: The Living Poetry Project will be giving away 30 umbrellas–150 poems by 100 different poets.


Please come find me and I’ll give you an umbrella.

AWP is busy; it is a mad whirl of books, ideas, and people. If you let it, it is can be rush of joy.  It is important to let it be joyful.

Because it is so busy, I made a little list of  places I’ll be; this way if you are looking for umbrellas, metaphor hands, or glitter, you’ll know where to look. I will be looking for you!

On Wednesday 5 umbrellas will be given out at the AROHO party.


On Thursday 5 Umbrellas will be given out at The Run of the Ancient Mariner off-sight Reading

I’m a happy to say that I will also have crowns, wigs, hats, glitter, glam, and metaphor hands to give out.


Please come and be fabulous with us on a glass bottom boat!


On Friday 5 umbrellas will be give out at Red Hen Press at Hugo House!


Most of my time will be at the Red Hen Booth. I have the honor of representing The LA Review.

I am also scheduled to have three book signings for Becoming Judas

I wanted to make these mini-poetry-parties. So please stop by to ask for umbrellas and:

Thursday 10:30-12:30

A photo op with Jesus and Judas! And to make an exquisite corps of me. Yippee!


Friday, 9:00-10:30 A.M.

This Octopus will swim out from under the table and sing to you. Octopus serenade!


Saturday, 10:30-11:30

The Beatles will kiss you! No really. Kiss. You.