On the Island of Caliban at The Edison Nov. 4th !!!


Wednesday, November 4th

7:30 PM

at The Edison:

108 W 2nd St, # 101, Los Angeles, California 90012

On the Island of Caliban is a modern sequel to William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and retelling of the Caliban story. In the desert of Los Angeles, we meet the afterlife, the fireworks, and the ultimate outsider–Caliban, carrier of food and water,

This “Caliban Story” is in part inspired by my home. I am located in the Antelope Valley—meaning, I am situated between religious compounds, prisons, schools, aerospace, and Joshua Trees. This isn’t an easy place to live, but I love it. It is a place that defines me and redefines me—maybe it’s a place that defines and redefines Los Angeles and the American Dream—maybe? The Antelope Valley is as far north as Los Angeles Country reaches. LA often refers to us as “the devil’s armpit.” We are the last train stop and often the place LA sends all they don’t want including the hidden, displaced, lost, poor, and forgotten. Here is a gathering of people who must find their human after being told they have none.

 Ultimately, On the Island of Caliban is about isolation. The word isolation comes from the Latin insulatus which means “made into an island.” In our play On the Island of Caliban, Caliban’s only desire is to find an opportunity to love and be loved, however such opportunity does not exist for abandoned Caliban.

I wanted to explore what happens when basic needs are never met? Is there a power greater than love—a word that encompasses the kindness and mercy a character like Caliban requires? Maybe something—something like, Grace? It is a word that is often described as broad, meaning it has no definition—no easy explanation. It is beyond classification. I’m afraid On the Island of Caliban is similar. It isn’t something to be understood; it is felt.

I wrote On the Island of Caliban because I felt intense isolation—a lack of humanness. I never would have dreamed of turning it into a play (a play would require many players, and I was spending endless days / nights alone in a room, writing). It wasn’t until I ran into Anthony M Sannazzaro who asked me, “Are you working on anything real?”  “I’m working on something that is making me really crazy” I told him. “I’d like to work with you on this,” he said.

At the end of The Tempest, Caliban is left and forgotten by those who leave him. What happens to such a character? How can one reflect if there is no one to cast back the light of being? Such a character breaks—fractures into many parts. These parts exist in memory, dream, and fever. They fight with themselves. They fight each other. Caliban straddles the mirror; he pivots on the fine line between self-loathing and a world that abhors him. There is nowhere for him to go—he belongs nowhere—he is beyond identity—he is all of us and he is utterly singular.



Written by Nicelle Davis
Directed by A. M. Anthony M Sannazzaro

Featuring the Talents of:

Stage Directions/Sycorax: Allaire Koslo
Ariel: Jeffrey Gardner
Miranda: Lisa Blacker
Prospero: Andrew Blacker
Operating System: Melanie Jeffrey
Caliban 1: Fransico Cedeno
Caliban 2: Jonathan Janssen
Caliban 3: Beach
Caliban 4: Cynthia Johnson/
Camille Willette
Caliban 5: Nyssa Newman

On the Island of Caliban is a brand new play-in-verse continuing William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Focusing on the character of Caliban, this modern language deconstruction of the bards classic text, presents an “everyman” Caliban for today’s society; Caliban tackles universal experience by exploring the realities of what’s left him/her alone on the island.

Split into five separate personae, and played by many genders, ages, or races, Caliban, is kept company by malevolent stage directions, Ariel’s chastising severed-tongue, and his personal revelations. In the disillusioned states of dreaming, memory, and illness, Caliban discovers the truth by grace that resides in himself/herself.

Rounding out the cast of players is a withered forgetful Prospero, a silenced domesticated suburban Ariel, and a tortured Miranda—all longing for something other than what they bargained for.

Through emails, mixed media, imaginative design, and poetics, On the Island of Caliban violently thrashes after The Tempest to look unflinchingly at the damage left after the Shakespeare’s storm.

Join Red Hen Press for their new special, formal Downtown LA reading series, “Fluid.”

**Dress Code is sophisticated, no athletic wear (gym shoes, shorts, hoodies, baseball caps, etc…) or uncollared shirts allowed.**

Admission is free with a two drink minimum.

Doors open at 7:30PM. This is a 21+ event. Please have a valid ID ready.

A blend of the past, present, and future, The Edison inspires the romance of such legendary nightspots as The Cocoanut Grove and Crio’s while remiding us that we live in a City of dreams and at a time of invention. For more information on The Edison, please see www.edisondowntown.com.

The Edison !!! Wednesday September 2nd. I’ll be in fur, latex, and fishnets, you?


The first installment of Fluid will be at The Edison, featuring Louise Wareham Leonard and MacGillivray, with appearances from Tom Janikowski, Kim Dower, and (me) Nicelle Davis.


The Edison

108 W. Second St.
Los Angeles, CA  90012


Red Hen Press will launch the first of what hopes to be a series of readings at the gorgeous Edison in LA. The series will be called Fluid as in the movement of water during a time of drought–poetry at a time of oppression and silencing.

Please come see the poetry show on September 2nd. Please be mindful that poetry was designed to be heard. By supporting this reading you will be supporting future readings at this location.

This opening show will prove that poetry is sexy and provocative–it is a show of heat and ice. It is Fluid.


The Edison is a steampunk themed nightclub located inside the Higgins Building basement in Los Angeles, California. The Edison opened in 2007. The Higgins Building basement was Los Angeles’ first ever power plant, built by Thomas Higgins. After spending several years derelict and underwater, it was rescued by entrepreneurs Andrew Meieran and Marc Smith, who made a post-industrial steampunk venue for Los Angeles nightclubbers. For more information visit: https://www.edisondowntown.com/


Let me introduce you to my outfit for the event along with the designer behind this fishnet-latex-fur genius, Pavlina Janssen.

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What to Wear to The Poetry Circus: An Interview with Proto-Organic Artist

ND: Hello Pavi. I’m finding it oddly difficult to find a “normal” way to start a conversation about costumes and costuming—maybe we can begin with our beginning—talk about the first project we worked on together—or, the first costume you made for me.

PJ: Oh my goodness, do I even remember the first costume I made for you? Oh what was it? Was it the honey dress?

ND: Oh no, it was way before that. It was for the cover of Becoming Judas. Remember, I brought you a turkey carcass.

PJ: Oh. Yeah.

ND: In my defense that turkey sat in bleach for two weeks in my kitchen sink before I brought it to you, but…

PJ: I don’t think I used any of those bones at all.

ND: You said you wouldn’t take it because of salmonella and you would die.

PJ: But I did get sick, but I don’t think it was your fault.

(We giggle; I guess, because even illness is funny between girlfriends.)

ND: So, do you remember anything about making that costume?

PJ: I remember that you gave me some interesting piece to start with, things like bones, and feathers, and your negligee and said do what you do; and I did.


Honestly, I don’t really remember much about that time; in fact I don’t really remember much of when I’m making things. I just kind of put it together the way it feels it needs to go.

ND: So creating is an organic experience for you.  Which makes for a good transition into discussing your overall aesthetic –you refer to your work as being Proto-Organic Art—what is Proto-Organic?

PJ: Proto-Organic is a new way of looking and arranging things you’ve already seen before, like looking at the organic aspects of inorganic things or looking at things that make them seem organic or feel like they blend into our natural world because everything is technically homogenous when we get down to the core. I would try to make something

ND: Yeah, yeah. First of all, just to describe for those who haven’t seen your art yet—besides costumes you also make Proto-Organic canvases. These portraits, if you will, are made of dollies, but they are dollies that are made to look like flesh under a microscope—and on top of this you collage other organic materials.  Maybe to give a more common place comparison, your art is beautiful like a spider’s web.

I remember when I first saw it I was overwhelmed and couldn’t help but call it beautiful out loud. You responded by saying: yeah that is an exciting piece because whoever owns it will get to see it rot and decompose before their eyes. Do you want to expand on the joys of watching things come undone?

PV: Sure. I just think it’s really beautiful and fascinating to see things that are organically deteriorating; I’m interested by the visual of erosion or things that are naturally slowly rotting away or things that get deteriorating though bacteria—you know—those visually chaotic textures. Interesting enough, when I would experiment with inorganic materials it would still come out looking alive. I work to make a new type of organic image using inorganic materials, such as glitter or plastic, and depending on how you affect them they can end up looking organic and natural.

ND: Yes, organic and natural: I think most of the materials that we have worked on together have been teeth and latex, or teeth and condoms.  What do you think teeth and condoms have in common?

PJ: They either come from or go into your body.

(More giggling.)

ND: So for you, the making process is organic and it reflects organic materials. You named off all the properties of the organic that you find beautiful—words like decomposition, rot, and erosion; so for the person who all those words terrify, could you help them understand why Proto-Organic art is beautiful?

PJ: I don’t know if everyone is going to find it beautiful. I think that if I can make something that affects people—positively or negatively—then I’ve done something. There are a lot of organic textures that do bother people—a lot of people don’t like to see things like that—and I think that’s part of my fascination with creating Proto-Organic art; if I can create a texture or bring about an emotion that makes you feel the way something in nature would make you feel…then that’s good.

I think you and I think it is beautiful, but most people might say…ohhhh! That looks like a rotting carcassthat’s gross—I don’t want to touch that. But it is not a rotting carcass it is a piece of art or costume—and I’ve done my job.

(More giggling.)

ND: That brings us to costumes and costuming; you are an icon in our community.

PJ: No I’m not.

ND: You are—you are; because you spent most of your life walking around town in costumes—for example this is the most natural your hair color has ever been, and you spent a lot of time making and wearing Alice in Wonderland costumes for street clothes—I would say most of your teens and early 20s you were Alice, do you want to talk about that?

PJ: I always like wearing costumes. I’ve told you this story before—I’d be walking around L.A. wearing my Alice in Wonderland dress and people would stop me on the street and ask, Oh so why are you so dressed up?

If I told them I was in a play, they’d be perfectly okay with it. But it I gave them no reason they’d be really put off by it. There is a very fine line between clothing and costume.

I liked to challenge people’s perspectives on costumes—to play with that line. I mean clothes are clothes. I happen to be wearing a dress that represents a character people are familiar with, but that doesn’t mean that it means anything more than that being a dress to me.

Humans are trained to see a certain kind of clothing as normal and anything that goes outside those standards is a costume or not clothes. If it’s not jeans and a t-shirt, your dressing up.

ND: Do you think costume cover-up or amplify who a person is?

I think it is both. I think that people think that they are covering up by wearing what they wouldn’t normally wear.  There is an underlining peak into their psyche. Whether they choose to dress up as a pirate, or a president, or a dinosaur, why would you choose that? You can dress anything, so why that choice? What does choice reveal about us—I like that question.

ND: What new projects are you working on?

PJ: I’ve been working on translating my collage art into fabric prints.

AND you’ve been wearing my costumes; they will be showcased at The Edison on September 2nd!

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: http://redhen.org/events/rhp-at-building-bridges/

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.

bite 26

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

 bite 25

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.

 bite 23

4. My smile is a furry fish.

 bite 22

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

bite 20

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.

bite 19

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

bite 21

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

bite 24

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

bite 17

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

 bite 16

11. The horizon is pressing against our lower lips.

 bite 15

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

 bite 14

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

bite 13

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

bite 12

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.

bite 7

17. I wanted to understand nitrous oxide.

bite 3

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.

bite 2

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?

bite 6

22. Teeth are human pearls.

 bite 11

23. The first tooth I lost, I swallowed.

 bite 10

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

bite 18

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 submit to The Living Poetry Project’s RAIN


I am in New York; I’m in love with New York.

New York has been teaching (or rather, reteaching me) about weather. It is giving me great lessons such as, it rains. Unlike California, where it only rains sunshine, New York gets wet.

I’ve been enjoying the grey sky and moving colors of the city. It is a lovely contrast; one that makes any rain (literal or figurative) endurable–even endearing.

This has me thinking about Seattle, the home of rain. AWP this year will be in Seattle. People will need coverings. Lets cover them in poems, yes? Please send me your poems and I will paint them onto umbrellas to give away at this years AWP. I’m sending out the call early this year, because I’m hopeful to bring a suitcase full of shelter to AWP.

Please send your poems to NicelleCDavis@gmail.com by February 25th, 2014. I will give your poems out here:

2014 AWP Conference & Bookfair

Washington State Convention Center &
Sheraton Seattle Hotel
February 26 – March 1, 2014

Also, if you are in New York this week, please find me at:

Red Hen Press at Cornelia St. Cafe

Thursday, Sep 19 6:00p
Cornelia Street Cafe New York, NY

Red Hen Press presents four annual reading series in New York City to parallel its own four in Los Angeles. The press hosts events at Cornelia St. Café, KGB Bar, The Players Club, Bryant Park, and Poets House, bridging the gap between the nation’s coasts. – See more at: http://redhen.org/events/rhp-in-new-york/#sthash.43BL2SdZ.dpuf

Laurel Ann Bogen, Nicelle Davis, Morgan Parker, and Chris Tarry.

Will You Go to Prom with Me?


I’m excited to be attending the Red Hen Poetry Prom!

I would love to dance to poems with you; what songs would you recommend for our playlist?

Leave your song request in the comments and you’ll enter a raffle to win 5 poetry books,

including a copy of Becoming Judas.


Pasadena, California—Red Hen Press, LA’s largest independent press and one of the largest literary presses on the West Coast, will commemorate its Twentieth Anniversary in 2014. In honor of that milestone, the Press intends to publish an Anniversary Anthology showcasing the depth and diversity of the Red Hen catalog, to produce a free, public festival celebrating literature and the arts, and to conduct a book drive supporting community literacy projects throughout Southern California. To fund this Anthology and the associated programming, the Press is launching its first ever Kickstarter campaign. It kicks off at 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 3rd, with Poetry Prom, a free event at the La Pintoresca Branch of the Pasadena Public Library.

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 Amazon.com.  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: NicelleCDavis@gmail.com 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: NicelleCDavis@gmail.com by June

Map to New York

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with maps; the obsession is based on a game my son plays with his little friends. These friends create horrific imaginary worlds that they must battle, systematically—these children are mapping adulthood. The maps are nothing short of perfect art.

I want so badly to be near perfect art, but I can’t. I’m too old. I can’t enter such suspensions of reality.

Oh, but I want to.

I’ve been collection the children’s maps and to create my own—a map back to childhood. Of course, it is a failure—my adult approximation of newness. I’ve been mapping my son in order to find something I fear is lost forever—but it feels good to attempt such connections.

Recently, I was looking at a wooden puzzle of the United States (my son love’s puzzles of the United States). This map was a topographical—my son asked, how am I to see a mountain in a bowl of macaroni? This isn’t dirt, he said, this is a bunch of lines. He is right, a bunch of lines.

Once a map is no longer a map, it begins to look more like flesh—the human body stripped of its skin. The map is only an attempt to position the singular identity in reference to others.  And oh, how we wish to find each other or escape each other (same things really). I’ve been reading Peter Turchi’s, Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer ; this is such an incredible book on the subject of maps as metaphor.

At 3 A.M. I leave for New York. I’ve been studying maps of the city, trying to decide the cheapest way of finding myself in this city of epic energy. How does something wild, as a girl from the city of all sky, find her way through the maze of skyscrapers? Adventure; it should be fun.

I’ll be reading Friday night at The Players Club. Such an honor, I feel, requires a devotion of time and imagination—it deserves a map.

My dear friend Pavi has hand painted a vintage dress—it is an approximation of a map. I’ve been working with JJ to turn him into a map made of poetry. I’ve also been creating glass chickens as gifts for my fellow readers—you know, so much depends upon…

I want to find New York and have it locate me. I would like to be with New York. The theme of my reading centers on the “want” of location—location me to location you—location me as you—you as me. We’ll see.






The Red Wheelbarrow

William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white