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


Biting in Becoming Judas


 It could be said that Becoming Judas is a book about teeth. Many of the poems incorporate mouth images, and these images are constantly devouring each other.

I’ve always had a thing for teeth—I just didn’t know that I was baring this obsession in my work until friends started sending pictures of my book and their mouths closing around it, teeth close to the cover, the pages squeezed by their incisors.   In Becoming Judas, I did what poets have done for centuries; I revealed my private obsession, my love / fear of being bitten, of being forced to bite back. I believe that good friends do bite back against the way life wants to swallow you. I believe at our best we allow life to swallow us. There is a tension in this—a tension to teeth. As a writer, my responsibility is to bite back, claim my soul against the culture of my time, claim my writing time, bite back against anyone who tells me it can’t be done.

 My friends asked, What’s with all these teeth? Well, there are a mouthful of reasons for teeth—here are my top 32:


1. The etymology of “bite” ties back to “beetles”—leaps to The Beatles. So when I write about John Lennon, I’m alsowriting about biting. This makes me giggle.

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2. My most striking feature is my overbite; people know me by my rabbit-mouth smile.

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3. “Young of the coney,” that is the etymology of rabbit. Coney can be read as “fur” or “fish” or “cunt,” depending

on how far back you trace its edges.

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4. My smile is a furry fish.

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5. My smile is a “wedge,” a “hollow place.”

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6. When I cross paths with a photo of myself, all I see are those teeth jetting out like the slick edge of a knife.

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7. As with any knife, I have mixed feelings about my jagged smile.

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8. Also known as a “horizontal overlap,” an overbite is a constant reminder of horizons.

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 9. It doesn’t take any effort to bite my own lip.

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10. I’m biting all the time—the line between here and there, between running and flying.

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11. The horizon is pressing against our lower lips.

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12. If I really like you, I will ask to know your teeth by my tongue.

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13. When no one is looking, I like to bite my own hand.

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14. My grandmother always dreamed of toothless women laughing; she didn’t like it.

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15. I loved it when my grandmother told me about the laughing toothless; it seems like the perfect secrete shared.

 Bite 8

16. The only time I ever ran away from home was to go to the dentist. I was 5. When caught, I grounded myself from Easter.

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17. I wanted to understand nitrous oxide.

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18. My 4 year-old brother said nitrous oxide is the door to outer space.

 bite 4

19. When my wisdom teeth came out, I fought going under.

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20. With too much anesthesia, I told the nurses: I “half” to get out of here. Go to Vegas. Marry David Cassidy.

 Bite 1

21. I think I love you, so what am I so afraid of?

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22. Teeth are human pearls.

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23. The first tooth I lost, I swallowed.

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24. My mother claims her first lost treasure, I swallowed.

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25. We all carry in us a window.


26. Our teeth give us a view of death.


27. I always look a horse in the mouth.


28. False teeth in a cup look like a happy fish—swimming.


29. Laughter is the perfect secrete shared.


30. Where there are teeth, there is sure to be a tongue—


31. menudo—


32. and marrow.

Please consider adding your own thoughts on biting–pictures of biting–bite, bite, bite. Bite and I’ll send you something, something delicious.

Please Consider, beacause Thoughts are the Currency of Artists

Please consider picking up a presale copy of Becoming Judas.

Red Hen Press

Keeping copies moving is an important component of maintaining the poetry machine; without your support, my place in the apparatus is unable to function. Presale copies of Becoming Judas are currently available on  Every book purchased makes a huge difference for a writer and their press; by purchasing any book you are contributing to the lives and dreams of many artists. I humbly ask you to consider giving this book a home on your bookshelf.

If you would like to know more about Becoming Judas, Brenda Hammack wrote an insightful review of  Becoming Judas. I am grateful for her thoughtful words.

Becoming Judas the poetry film is online. Please watch this collaborative effort and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this work. The tricky thing about the”quiet arts” is I never know if anybody is out there, with me, in the dark.

Zoltar: Your Fortune


New Call for Submissions!!!

Please submit a short poem that reads as a Zoltar-fortune card. I will dispense these cards as a living Zoltar machine at the Red Hen Poetry Prom. With the help of a large box, paint, and cheap costuming, I hope to turn myself into a Zoltar machine and give away your poem-fortunes to readers who love the idea of a fortuitous future. Please send the future to: by June 15th.


Red Hen’s Poetry Prom

La Pintoresca Library, Pasadena Public Library

Saturday, August 3rd

4:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m.


Zoltar Inspired by Seance

I’m in Northern California with my good friend Johnny. Today he will show me all the places I can find vintage prom dresses and used books. He will politely tolerate my reading aloud the entire Rilke’s Duino Elegies. He will not make fun of me when I slip into my old tongue and say Real-key instead of Reel-ka. He will tolerate my desperate search for ghosts and help me catch the right buses to catch a glimmer of light—a orb of hope—the slight chance for meaning—

a feeling.

I’ve been crying a lot this trip. This happens sometimes, I become a rainstorm. I usually keep busy, so busy that there isn’t time to sit and think. I took the train from Southern California to Northern—an entire day of sitting, thinking—an entire day to acknowledge how quickly the long days slip past us.

Thursday night Johnny and I went to the Quiet Lightning reading and I was once again overwhelmed by how San Francisco seems to create families out of their literary communities. Tom Comitta’s Howl in Six Voices opened the show, and as the shadows of the audience stretched across the prism shaped ceiling of Contemporary Jewish Museum, I began to slip into my old heart and believe in ghosts. Again. It is gorgeous, and I found myself nearly green-jealous of Johnny and his Northern California shuffle through fog, hills, and beauty.

That is, until I’m cold. I don’t like feeling cold.

I do love how every inch of the bay seems heavy—haunted; which makes perfect sense, seeing how the city by the bay is built on top of a giant cemetery. While here I’ve been tearing into Christine Wertheim and Matias Viegener’s Séance. Oh, I love every inch of this book. Séance is a collection of essays that look at “Mind vs. Spirit,” “Rationalism vs. Romanticism.” Matias Viegner writes, “The proof of the thesis is in the word itself, O-U-I and J-A, the French oui and the German Ja, yes yes, a double affirmation, a joyous chimera, two yeses and no no’s, yes and yes, demonstrating the essentially affirmative nature of nervous electricity, the medium, and the talking board” (9).


In Séance Janet Sternburg essay “Trochaic” explains, “One thing I understood: history was able to make people disappear. Poetry, though, brought the past alive” (33).

I was very lucky to catch one of my favorite people, Curtis, on his way to a wedding. He needed a hundred paper fans, fifty paper parasols, to keep the wedding guest cool during the unexpected / expected heat wave. So long as we kept up with his quick stride through the gold painted streets of Chinatown, I could be alive with my own past, could be child and woman at once.

Before running into the whirlwind of Curtis, Johnny and I tried our luck with the great soothsayer—the electronic Ouija board himself—Zoltyar!!! My gold fortune ticket reads:

Oh how you love to whistle and sing

oh how you love to dance and swing

your future life with joy will ring

with all the happiness it will bring.

You have a very sympathetic nature. You devote a great many hours to the welfare of others. You have a very find mind, and if you cultivate it properly, you will be very successful. You are very fond of sports and love to dance. You have a graceful walk, and a determined step. You always walk as tho’ you know exactly where you’re going. People respect you for your determination. You will endure some hardship in the near future, but eventually everything will turn out for the best, and unending happiness will be yours.

Unending happiness? Does this mean one day I won’t have to worry about becoming unexpectedly an expected storm?

Feelings of hot / cold seem to be the theme of this trip.

They say ghosts create a cold spot—I’ve been walking around North Bay hugging myself—trying to create a hot spot with my own pulse and breath. I’ve been so cold this trip, but today the unexpected / expected heat wave has arrived and I am swimming in sunshine.

Becoming Judas is ready for pre-order on Amazon. Please consider ordering this book–for some reason I have it in my head that my art-card will be taken away if I can’t get people to buy my books. (This is stupid and illogical, and I recognize it as stupid and illogical–but fear doesn’t understand smarts and logic, so please accept this self-promoting plug with kindness.) I also love this little book; I have to love it, as  Stephen Crane puts it, “because it is bitter and because it is my heart.”


This long ramble brings me to the latest (and I think greatest) Living Poetry Project.

Zoltar Speaks!

When I get home, with the help of a large book and cheap costuming, I hope to turn myself into a Zoltar machine and give away your poem-fortunes to readers who love the idea of the future. Please send the future to: by June

Human Collage

Where to begin?

Last weekend was nothing short of amazing. I drove to West Hollywood to meet (in person for the first time ever!) Cheryl Gross. Cheryl and I have collaborating for the past 3 years. Together we have made three books (Circe, Becoming Judas, and In the Circus of You) and two films (Circe and Becoming Judas). All of our exchanges have been through letters, emails, Podcasts, and Facebook posts. (We live in an odd place and time, no?)

Cheryl has been a guiding light and an amazing friend—yet we had never met…until now.

Cheryl, (her best friend) Louis, (my dear photographer friend) Jason Hughes, and I met in a West Hollywood. In the back parking lot we began to make some impromptu art.

Louis is covered in tattoos; these tattoos create a second skin—a tapestry of love affairs illustrated. (One of his tattoos is part of a collaboration that Cheryl and I have been working on. You can see more about this process by watching the documentary Tatt-Talk.)

Jason took pictures of this living tapestry—I took the images and projected Louis (as art) upon my skin. Then, collage artists Dawn Fox and Pavlina Janssen added paint, glue, paper, nails, and tinfoil to the human canvas. Photographers Emily Fox and Charles Hood took photos of the layering. Layers.

We brought our own stories, intended messages, and experiences to the project. For me, the project was about exploring and exhibiting basic human rights—the right to be, the right to love. (It also was a love message to a dear friend.) Art often is layered even in its intentions–isn’t that a sort of magic.

Hopefully, whoever sees what we made will bring their own visions of what it means to be human. For me, this piece is growing into a web of connections–of understandings. I attempted to write a poema about it; I’ll keep attempting to write “that” poem.

Adding to the excitement–this project continues to grow! There is a strong possibility that this piece will become a performance in the near future. 🙂 Oh, happiness lives in possibility. There are still some details to work out, but if you are interested in seeing “The Human Collage” live, please mark Tuesday, November 27th in your date books. (We might be living poems at the Beautiful Boston Court!!!)

Best to all in hope and layers.

Place—a Pastoral of Amplified Flesh

Intersections of rivers and roads—fibrous—

vein and vessels spread beneath us—

as though we’re candles passing over

or hands plunging under

the unattainability of location. There is

a story omitted from every script –

territory synonymous with unsayable

events. Let me rephrase:

I knew a woman who burned finger sized

scars in her arms with erasers—

marking how she was pinned to an orchard—

the taking of all her fruit.

I knew a man who housed a virus—science

cut doors to his spinal cord.

Hands inside another. This man, woman,

were conscious at entry.

When they said, this hurts. No one stopped

the hurting.

A light passes over—How many hands

before a stopping place?

Photo by Jason Hughes

Next layer of photos by Emily Fox.