Monday, 23 of January of 2017

Report: Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival is Alive and Well

This year’s Watershed had great weather — warm sun, cool wind. The featured poets were awesome, especially Jane Hirshfield, who really rocked.

That said, my favorite part was the Creek Walk along Strawberry Creek starting at 10 AM. We got a great presentation by Tim Pine, campus biologist and eco ninja. I learned a lot. We also heard great poems by the Creek Walk poets. Their billing wasn’t as high on the announcement, but the poems they read were totally in tune with the spirit of the day: Stand Up For The Earth.

During the program later several poets gave a shout-out to the Standing Rock People opposing the Pipeline and that was great. Whoever you are, wherever you are, stand up for the Earth!


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Paul Kingsnorth – How Land Feels

“…as we reached the top of the ridge, a break in the trees opened up and we saw miles of unbroken green mountains rolling away before us to the horizon. It was a breathtaking sight. As I watched, our four guides lined up along the ridge and, facing the mountains, they sang. They sang a song to the forest whose words I didn’t understand, but whose meaning was clear enough. It was a song of thanks; of belonging.


To the Lani, I learned later, the forest lived. This was no metaphor. The place itself, in which their people had lived for millennia, was not an inanimate “environment”, a mere backdrop for human activity. It was part of that activity. It was a great being, and to live as part of it was to be in a constant exchange with it. And so they sang to it; sometimes, it sang back.

When European minds experience this kind of thing, they are never quite sure what to do with it. It’s been so long since we had a sense that we dwelled in a living landscape that we don’t have the words to frame what we see. Too often, we go in one of two directions, either sentimentalising the experience or dismissing it as superstition.”

Read the entire article here:

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Love Affair With Deep Ecology

My favorite slam poet, Sierra DeMulder, posted a quote today about falling in love… It’s likely she wasn’t referring to deep ecology and how our planet’s living system are being treated by most humans, but-none-the-less her brilliance with words helps me better understand my relationship with our natural world, especially ancient forests. –DeaneTR


I loved you head over
handles like my first bicycle
accident — before the
mouthful of gravel and blood,
I swore we were flying.
Sierra Demulder


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Rick Bass On The Passing Of Jim Harrison

To see full version of this article, go here.

I was visiting my youngest daughter in the Texas Hill Country when a friend emailed the news. All weekend — before I’d heard, and then after — I’d encountered a profusion of wildlife. That morning, I walked right up on a foraging raccoon and, a short while later, an opossum, then a blue heron. At dusk, a band of wild hogs, the black piglets no larger than footballs, the boar with curved tusks several inches long. Everything I saw was always just a few steps away. It was like a damned Disney movie.


Sitting with my daughter in the shade of the boulders above the creek that next afternoon, we watched as a giant aoudad — an exotic species of wild sheep that prosper now in the rockiest reaches of the Hill Country — came clattering down through the rocks to within 20 yards of us. It was a gnarly old ram with curved horns, a long beard, and the wild yellow eyes of a goat.

He never saw us. He walked right on, his hoofs clopping the granite.

That evening, as coyotes were beginning to yip at the base of Hudson Mountain, I went for a short walk in that last hour of light, when the sun is gone and the world is seen only in silhouette. I was drinking a beer on Burned-Off Hill and thinking, in that crepuscular hour, of Jim.

It’s an ancient, easy ceremony, but I did it anyway: poured a splash of my beer onto the stony ground in remembrance of Jim — a taste, a gulp, for the earth he had loved so much. In that moment, a hawk came flying low and straight at me. It passed right above me, almost close enough to touch, and on into the darkness. Not an owl, but a large hawk, just like the ones that populate Jim’s poems and fiction. The hair on my arms and neck prickled. You don’t see hawks at night. Another three beats of darkness fell, another four beats.

I emptied the rest of my can, just in case he was thirsty — he probably was — and then walked on back down off the hill.

To see full version of this article, go here.

Click to see Armed With Visions multi-media presentation of Jim Harrison’s Alien

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Globe As Dewdrop


“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”

–John Muir

Thank you Steve Toth for sharing this quote with us:

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“Poets and prose writers both make metaphors. Meta, the prefix, means something large, an overarching meaning.

A metaphor connects, it opens vistas; it allows people to see what they have previously missed.

In this, metaphors have great power, and poets and prose writers have great influence over language, which, after all, directs us.

We cannot go to places we have no words for.”
–Dennis Fritzinger

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Report: Watershed 20 – Stand Up For The Earth!

By Dennis Fritzinger

20 years ago the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival landed with a splash in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The brainchild of Robert Hass, then-U.S. Poet Laureate, it got its name from the Gary Snyder essay “Coming into the Watershed” in the Book: A Place in Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds


Noon. Richard Silberg gives opening greeting, followed by an invocation by Kim Shuck.

Next Richard announces the Open Mic. Brilliant poetry. The poets at the Open Mic. The Creek Walk Poets.

Jazz accompanied Chris Olander, who is much practiced at reading to jazz and performed in a clear, measured voice.

Poetry in the Schools Reading (many children, 1st-3rd grade) followed by Poetry Out Loud (a 10th grader) who delivered a practiced recital, followed by John Oliver Simon to cap it off.

Next: Jazz.

Then Tribute to Mark Baldridge:
Kirk Lumpkin “Your Muse Meets Coyote”
Gerald Fleming “The Background Man” about Mark
Maya Khosla reads poem by Patty Trimble written for Mark

Next, Kirk Lumpkin introduces water fountain, Farmer’s Market, T-Shirts, Book Signing Table, and Novella Carpenter, who owns Ghost Town Farm (an urban farm) and has written many books, including Farm City and Gone Feral

Richard Silberg introduces Francisco X. Alarcon, who then reads from several of his books, one of whose titles translates from the Spanish as “Borderless Butterflies”.

Next up, also introduced by Richard, is Simon Ortiz from Acoma (that we know as New Mexico).

After Simon, Kirk Lumpkin introduces River Village (the exhibitors) by name.

Back on stage, Richard Silberg introduces Jane Mead, this year’s Broadside poet. (Each year The Flash puts out a High-Quality, frameable Poetry Broadside). Jane starts with a poem I believe was titled “Money”, though the title doesn’t do just to the poem until you hear it. “The Mule Deer on the Hillside” was next, followed by more poems. Jane read, in a tremulous voice, strong poems with short lines.


Jane finishes and I go backstage to give her my card, while Richard introduces the next poet. On the way I bump into Bob Hass and we exchange greetings. After meeting Jane and giving her my card, I return to my seat in time to hear C.S. Griscombe finish his set. Once again I jump up then go backstage to hand a card to him, and return to my seat in time to hear the next poet, also introduced by Richard.

The poet is John Shoptaw.

John reads to us from his book Times Beach. “Girdled”, “Dry Song”, “Least Concerned”, “Boxing Match” (about a chained bear), and a poem about the pangolin. John is a very concerned, very committed environmental poet, as these poems attest.

Kirk Lumpkin comes on stage next to welcome Genny Lim, but first introduces the jazz trio we have been listening to off and on, the Barry Finnerty Trio.

Genny starts with a Buddhist prayer she wrote, then performs her poem “Ode to the Pacific” to jazz accompaniment. Following that she does “Tomorrow is Now”, a blues poem/song, also to jazz accompaniment. My mind wanders and I think about Bob in his trademark wide-brimmed hat. We chatted briefly. Genny closes her set with a poem about visiting Machu Picchu.

Kirk returns to the stage to introduce Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and longtime Berkeley resident and all-around good guy. In his quiet voice (but loud enough to hear over the mic) Malcolm tells us what Berkeley was like during the Pleistocene, then later when the Ohlone settled, then when he (Malcolm) rattled into town during the height of the Summer of Love, and finally, most briefly, today.

Next we hear more jazz.


After Malcolm & more jazz, Richard introduces Brenda Hillman. Brenda reads first from “Practical Water”, one of a series of books each named after one of the four elements. Brenda has a musical voice, her poems flowing like water down a steep hillside into a rocky ravine, each following its own path. Her next poem is from the Fire book. “In High Desert Under the Drones”, a poem about protesting drones is read, and a poem inspired by Monsanto’s Terminator Seeds, followed by 3-4 more to finish up.

Which gets us to the final poet of the day, Robert Hass. Bob is introduced by Richard as “The Festival’s daddy” and explains what he means by that, then hands the mic over to Bob and we’re on our way.

Festival goers are sitting under the tent facing the stage or at the Pegasus book table getting autographed books or at 16 Rivers Press or the Ecology Center booth or Poetry Flash or Matrix or HeyDay tables. The day has been warm and sunny, not overly hot (last year it was a scorcher). One year it rained and drove the whole Festival inside the nearby Berkeley City College. The Farmer’s Market has long packed up and gone.

Bob, if you don’t know his style, is very playful and erudite and tends to write in long lines full of cultural and biological allusions. Today he first read a poem with the refrain “In the dream” as in “In the dream he was a hawk with a drop of blood on its beak.” Next he read a poem “For the young poets on the smoking terrace” and “Poem not in elegy in a season of elegies,” all new, all (in Bob’s words) “slightly rough”. He ended with a long poem from a notebook about protesting the drones.

When he finished, Bob gave a shout-out to Mark Baldridge in tribute to the work he did getting Watershed together and keeping it going. Joyce Jenkins, Richard, Kirk, and others who knew Mark came up on stage at that moment in show of strength, as the Jazz Trio behind them started up its final number to end the day.

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Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival: Sept. 26, 2015


Please join at the 20th Annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival.

This year’s program: Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Malcolm Margolin (Heyday), Francisco X. Alarcón and Novella Carpenter (Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer),

Info on this year’s exhibitors, readers, and presenters will be updated continuously at and on Facebook/PoetryFlash.

We’ve set aside an exhibit area in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park for literary and environmental organizations and a special area for interactive poetry, art, and environmental exhibits. For info on last year’s exhibitors visit:

We’ve also set aside an exhibit area in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park for literary and environmental organizations and a special area for interactive poetry, art, and environmental exhibits.

Info on this year’s exhibitors, readers, and presenters will be updated continuously at and on Facebook/PoetryFlash. 

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Moving Rocks


Less-WordsThe fifty to a hundred words making up a poem on Armed With Visions is a minuscule amount compared to the number of words you encounter in a day, yet that single poem can and hopefully will have much more impact than all the rest of the words you hear that day.

Turning a gene off or on makes a big difference to a genome — it determines which proteins get made and which aren’t, and this in turn determines all the physical features of the creature involved.

A tiny change can lead to vast consequences, and a series of tiny changes can do even more — turn a dinosaur into a bird, for instance. Move a rock at a spring’s source and it can change the direction of the stream it feeds, and in turn the creek and river. Just moving a rock.

As warrior poets, that’s what we do — move rocks. We seek to change the flow from one direction to another. If we can do that, even a little bit, we’ll have done our job.

–Dennis Fritzinger

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Why A Warrior Poets Society?

by Dennis Fritzinger

In Marge Piercy’s utopia in Woman On The Edge of Time, she posits small communities where, when decisions are made, there’s a member who puts on a mask —Oak mask, Trout mask, Owl mask— and speaks for the speechless. Gary Snyder suggests that’s what poets do, that’s one of poetry’s functions.

Poets, by being able to speak for nature, have a guiding mission within the environmental movement. But too often as poets we have been undercut by long-winded explainers who say they have the most credible information. But what of having someone around to actually help us understand how studying ecology leads to studying poetry?

Well, I say it’s time for poets to stand up! & get organized—reclaim their rightful place in the earth by putting the Earth First! (or any other) community as bards, seers, and interpreters of the wild.

Poets have earned the right to be called activists. Moreover, poetry is a right brain activity that circumvents blockades put up by the left, “rational” brain, the household of what Bly calls “The Old Position”.

Prior to Descartes, according to Bly, Western literature reflected a people whose sensibility was not divided, a people who did not separate themselves from nature or from those elements in their own individual natures that they could not explain rationally, such as intuition, superstition, and spirituality. He cited the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf as an example, showing that when the poet describes the monster Grendel, he does so without having to explain its existence and without doubting that his audience will believe in such a creature; the Beowulf poet had complete “faith in nighttime events.” This proximity to the darker side of the human psyche, this lack of separation from nature, was destroyed, said Bly, when Descartes declared in 1619, “I think, therefore I am.” 51dfa27cea97a8e5bd82e538324820712ddb3d112161ad31f2cf9eeef12da4c8
After Descartes, Western literature would forever divide the autonomous self from nature. As Bly described it in his preface to News of the Universe: What I’ve called the Old Position puts human reason, and so human beings, in the superior position. . . . Consciousness is human, and involves reason. A serious gap exists between us and the rest of nature. Nature is to be watched, pitied, and taken care of if it behaves. In such language the body is exiled, the soul evaporated, the mind given executive power. Bly’s Reference to “The Old Position”

If you want to gauge the importance of poets to the Earth First! movement, check out Ecowarriors (Rik Scarce), The Real Work (Gary Snyder), Simple in Means, Rich in Ends (Bill Devall).

If you want to gauge the importance of poets to the environmental movement as a whole, check out Tongues in Trees (Kim Taplin), Imagining the Earth (John Elder), News of the Universe (Robert Bly), and the intro to The Forgotten Language (Christopher Merrill).

I think poetry can make a contribution to the Earth First! “narrative”—perhaps an even bigger contribution than the poets themselves realize. Or as John Seed, says:

“What we find in one of the processes in the Council of All Beings is a deep mourning, where we start to grieve the loss of things that are being lost from the Earth, our favorite little piece of nature that’s now covered by a freeway or whatever it is, and people begin to weep and howl and wail about what’s being lost.

We’re so afraid that we’re going to be crushed by these feelings, we’ve been led to believe that we’ll be crushed by them, but certainly in this context of a supportive group of people who are encouraging each other to do things, the opposite is always the case. “