For the past year or so, four of us have been hosting more-or-less quarterly salons–with letterpress invitations from Littoral Press and a diverse group of artists, poets, writers, and musicians attending and reading or performing or showing their work. Each of us gets 10 invitations, and about 30+ people attend. We’ve had everything from bronze and clay sculpture to handmade dresses to series of sketches and paintings to original music in addition to stories, poems, novel, play and memoir excerpts. Our only rule is no more than five minutes per person. Otherwise it just gets too long.
Yesterday happened (by coincidence) also to be the first day of the Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop, where three of the four of us met. This is a truly inspirational week in the Sierras, writing every day, and reading your fresh poem in workshops. I’ve been several times, and last time took one of my favorite signs, which we use now for the salon.
Our invitations say “inspired attire admired but not required,” and I usually wear a thrift shop item. This time was no exception.
The hat had a poofy furbelow on top that really deserves its own photo.
We had a strange artifact that had fallen out of a magazine called “Outsider 4/5” published by Loujon Press. It was a pressed and laminated flower picked “within a mile of Geronimo’s grave.”
It had a letterpress note attached, explaining that it was not for sale, but was one of 500 distributed free (money would break the spell) with the hardcover edition of the magazine. The note suggests you tap “dead center” seven times and say “I’m alive” something wild will happen to you within seven days “if you let it happen…”
Of course, I (and several others) walked to the center of the labyrinth and did so. On her way home, one guest already had something wild happen. As she unlocked her car door, she heard something behind her and turned to see a buck with a full head of antlers behind her!
I’d be happy to publish others’ contributions from the salon if anyone likes–just send them to me, or put a link in the comments. Here’s the poem I wrote that morning, inspired by my new hat:
Prayer or Question
I drop the carefully repaired refrigerator drawer
just as I’m about to insert it back into its slot
and I am suddenly in a Dean Young poem
where even the dictionary is agonizing
over meaning and objects have a singular
malevolence? I didn’t mean it
when I said this refrigerator is a piece of shit.
I take it back. Just let the drawer work
so that life can go back to normal.
Let normal be recognizable.
Let it be calm as a cat
curled on the red synthetic velour blanket
weaving its orange fur into the fabric
just by the impression of its body.
Let it be serviceable
as a hat to a pin,
though hats have fallen out of fashion.
Even rhyme can’t save them
with their dotted veils,
their frolicsome furbelows.
The spell check insists we have to frolic
without the help of the letter k,
its presence quirky as a kleptomaniac.
When you stand in the center of the outfield
you see everything baseball has to offer.
The grass is greener there.
They use a lot of chemicals,
paradoxically. No one wants to be out,
or miss out, out in the cold.
A refrigerator is a humming box
of cold in the center of the warmest room
in the house. Hum and function
so that I, too, may hum and function
after my fashion.
Another Loujon Press artifact is a letterpress edition of diary entries by Henry Miller, mostly about an artist named Hans Reichel, in Paris before the second world war (1937-1938). It’s a beautiful multicolored letterpress edition, with a final note by Henry Miller. The end of the note reads:
Out of this potpourri of food and fun some writing got done, some painting, and a lot of living. It’s hard now to tell which was more important. They went together, that is all I can say. And what better can one say? That his paintings are now coveted by collectors and museums means nothing to Reichel now. He would be just as wonderful if no one had ever heard of him. Henry Miller 5/8/66
I couldn’t have written a better description of our salon myself. I’ll post the Polenta Pizza recipe tomorrow.