Thursdays at Readers Poetry Series: Toshi Washizu & Judith Yamamoto

Join us every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in our Readers Bookstore Fort Mason for our weekly FREE poetry series! Browse books and enjoy a glass of wine while listening to internationally acclaimed poets and artists such as Jonathan Richman, David Meltzer, Diane di Prima and California Poet Laureate Al Young. The series is  curated by Friends’ Resident Poet Jack Hirschman. For a full line-up and more information please visit our website at

Proceeds from our bookstores benefit the San Francisco Public Library

On August 6th we are excited to have  Toshi Washizu & Judith Yamamoto read!

hqdefaultBorn in Shizuoka, Japan, at the foot of Mount Fuji, Toshi Washizu never climbed his native country’s highest peak. Instead, in his youth, he crossed the ocean to America. He became a filmmaker and for decades produced award-winning documentary films. His movies include Bone, Flesh, Skin; Mr. Oh: a Korean Calligrapher; and Issei: The First Generation.
Washizu’s poems and essays have appeared in the literary anthologies The Chalk Circle; Sunrise from Blue Thunder; Family Matters; In Other Words; Forum; Poets 11; Noe Valley Voice, and The Walrus.

Read more »

Highway Five by Neeli Cherkovski


the highway bleeds into Los Angeles
on a causal Sunday, it is 9 A. M. few cars
on the road, we began in a Motel Six somewhere
unclean, there was a show on big game hunting
that kept me awake much of the night, a man
from Boise, Idaho had bagged
a giraffe, the man looked like a disease
and the giraffe lay
all over the wounded savannah, I wondered
how they would ship his head overseas
and would it hang over a walnut table, center-piece
in the hunter’s heart, it was difficult to keep
my eyes on the road and to maintain a safe
distance, someone cut me off, angered
I gripped the wheel and sped far enough to wedge-in
between him and a sleek blue spots car

the highway crawls up the Grapevine, here
the truckers need skill, they are born
for the struggle, some are mastodons
and others mere specks, the trucks
bear the names: Walmart, United, FedEx
and on an on into the wired miles
past shrubbery and steep cliffs, in winter
there could be snow, in my mind
the route should be endless, a magic
road explaining the meaning of our magic
and the demise of our dance

but the immense Basin will come
into view, signs appear for the Spanish mission
and the sprawl begins, back on the road
warring clans, it happens to be May Day
the road goes down to a valley
of palms with a river running through it

the local women are gathering
to wash on the banks, children dive
into the water and re-surface gleaming
like stars, the warriors pass
on their monumental ponies

I’ve been this way many times
many years, so often into the grim routine
of skirting pain or diving into it, listing birds
on a notebook page, thinking I could be
a bird circling over the oil rig
right here on highway five, deep
into the roots, down beyond sorrow
we decay and then we rise
to find the light again, the engines
run well, the tires don’t fail, ruthless
drivers drill into things, angry men
spread pestilence

in the middle of the valley
one imagines mountains to the east
or the fry of a wounded animal
an animal who is dying

at the turn-off there is a three hundred foot
statue of Buddha, he is resting
his eyes are closed, the sign says “Buddha is
meditating, not resting,” and goes on
to explain the fever of renunciation

further on statue of a priest
from the doldrums, this man lost his way
and died of thirst, he, like Buddha, is
one of the wonders of Highway Five
he is a priest of the deer clan

the largest statue is of an eighteen year old
skateboarder who surfed from San Francisco
to San Diego before disappearing, the sculptor
caught his lanky limbs and the artful
turn of his wrists

I will offer you a map
of the land, and if you push me,
I will diagram your fear and the profound
ennui that leads you down
the wrong paths

people pull over for a reality check
and ice cream cones, they lick
and allow their kids
to circle the statues, you will not
perish, you will survive, cancer
is the other man’s concern, old age is a rumor
mass murder a mystery, global
warming is horseshit, you will find
at the center nothing but questions
and somewhere you might even
earn a glimpse of the creator, or
be pulled over on a steep grade
for speeding, if so keep your hands
on the wheel, show respect

the road
is mere legend

August 3, 2015

Best Things of the Week, August 4, 2015

Best Things of the Week

by Byron Spooner

August 4, 2015


flacoBest Thing I Heard All Week, Flaco Jimenez and Max Baca at SFJazz: It was just the two of them and an Oakland bassist they’d rehearsed with once or twice and at times I could have used a bigger band, something with a little more punch, with lines of percussion weaving through the button accordion/bajo sexto duets, but these guys are such masters that it was mostly a passing thought.  That Jimenez is a world-class instrumentalist was monumentally clear even though I haven’t got sufficient tools to compare him to others in his field, but Robbie Robertson, Jim Hall, Bobby Hutcherson and Bill Monroe, pointillists all, leapt to mind.  The line to get CDs signed was the longest I’ve ever seen at the venue and when I ended up first, through stupidity more than design, I could feel the exuberance of it boiling at my back. After stalling around for thirty minutes, Baca and Jimenez emerged from the back and pandemonium triumphed with women of all ages pressing forward for autographs and selfies with their idols. There was outrage, and even a threatened sit-in, at the absence of silver Sharpies. We witnessed no panties being thrown but then we did leave pretty early. Read more »

New Poem by Neeli Cherkovski

Now it is a skinny young poet

Running into the garden at midnight

Thinking I’ll pay attention

Because I’m an old man

And love younger men

But it’s too late

Everything is cold

Even this chair I sit on

Next to the baby tree fern


Now this young poet begins reciting

Tom Elliot

And I am not particularly impressed

What moves me

Is the dark night and the darker night

And the memory so many nights

It is difficult to know

When is the best


I do love this midnight garden

Leaves on the red brick and a whip

Lemon tree across from me

Succulents surprising

In their firmness


Now the young poet

Is a Lion tamer

He needs a saber-toothed cat


As I prepare to tell him

What is necessary

He breaks into many pieces

And I pack the pipe again

grope for matches


I do not see any stars

Only my flowers and trees

And the memory of birds

Hidden in my warring thoughts

Trigger Warnings

Trigger Warning: This article may trigger depression among readers of literature:

A New Poem by Neeli Cherkovski

For Larry Eigner

he used a giant saw
and begin to do a job
on the boards, sawdust flying everywhere
until the green earth turned brown
and the yellow leaves trimmed in
a red border, we read between the lines
because in the empty space he revealed
simple flight of a hummingbird= in the Spanish garden
and demonstrated concentric rings of power

the great poet did not speak as other men do
he had palsy from a difficult birth
he spent many days on a glass-enclosed patio
and from that vantage-point
birds and bees and sycamore trees
mountains and mindful meadows
came into focus

the orange sky looked like
crinkled paper, the giraffe went down
and the lion fell onto the savannah’s floor

winter a fallen leaf, pressed between
Helen and a fleet of ships, small
thin bouquet, you’d think of pleasure
and never truly understand the patience
he practiced, winter’s blue arm, long
summer nights, twilight bird. he rarely wrote
“finch” or “sparrow,” most the word “bird”
sufficed, he spoke in a difficult tongue, his
words precise, he saw into and outside of
common objects and wore a ring of the inevitable

like most magicians he spoke
our names in secret, he re-arranged
limestone ribs of the sky and shook demonic
rain until it snowed – Massachusetts is
always “in for it,” you see the poet
watching the ice, keen to observe the idea
of a frozen sky

“From the Sustaining Air” was
his first ideal you might say “an ideal”
to keep his frame intact, we stood
in the memorial park one afternoon
and said goodbye to a revolutionary
traditional man who shook
the boundaries, form light bird
shadowing fear of dying our rueful
page, a page turner, our words

E. L. Doctorow Dies at 84

Thursdays at Readers Poetry Series: Heather Bourbeau & James Tracy

Join us every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in our Readers Bookstore Fort Mason for our weekly FREE poetry series! Browse books and enjoy a glass of wine while listening to internationally acclaimed poets and artists such as Jonathan Richman, David Meltzer, Diane di Prima and California Poet Laureate Al Young. The series is  curated by Friends’ Resident Poet Jack Hirschman. For a full line-up and more information please visit our website at

Proceeds from our bookstores benefit the San Francisco Public Library

On July 30th we are excited to have  Heather Bourbeau & James Tracy read!

maxresdefaultTracy is the co-author of Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power and the author of Dispatches Against Displacement: Field Notes From San Francisco’s Housing Wars. He is an adjunct Instructor at City College and works at Community Housing Partnership. He is currently trying to rediscover poetry, and is a former member of the Molotov Mouths Outspoken Word Troupe.

old crow and new crow

old crow and new crow

sit on a fence

old crow says they nearly

clipped my wings

new crow chirps

i still sing


old crow and new crow

fly across the field

old crow says

i almost was a thing of the past

new crow nods

we’re built to last


old crow and new crow

perch on razor wire

old crow says

they marched against me

new crow laughs

they still do but

i’m much more tricky


08d922cHeather Bourbeau is a writer, living in Berkeley. Her poetry has been published in AlimentumThe Citron ReviewOpen CityBoston Literary MagazineCleaverThe Fabulistsparkle + blink, Tupelo Press and Work. Her piece “Hopscotch” was just nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was a finalist for the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, a Tupelo Press 30/30 poet, and the winner of the Pisk! Poetry Slam. Her journalism has appeared in The EconomistThe Financial TimesForeign AffairsForeign Policy and The New York Times. She was a contributing writer to the New York Times bestseller, Not On Our Watch: A Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond with Don Cheadle and John Prendergast. She has worked with various United Nations agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia. Her first collection of poetry, Daily Palm Castings, profiles people in overlooked professions.

You can check out some of Heather’s work here:

“How to talk to a former warlord” in The Missing Slate

“The Toast” published in 100 Word Story

“Five Pieces of Micro Fiction” in Citron Review –


Letters to Myself: Alan Blackman

PastedGraphic-6-copyAlan Blackman has had a long and storied career, as an artist, calligrapher, typeface designer for Adobe, lettering arts instructor, and three years working for the U.S. Post Office at San Francisco’s Rincon Annex. By his own account, however, his most significant work isLetters to Myself.

Letters to Myself was a personal project first undertaken by Blackman in 1968. His then 11-year old son Stephen lived across the bay in Berkeley, east of San Francisco.

Through his work in the postal service, Blackman became familiar with “first day covers,” letters affixed with a stamp on its first day of release and mailed from the city from which the stamp originated. Each such letter is stamped with the cancellation FIRST DAY OF ISSUE, as well as the date and city of origin.

For every letter that Blackman sent to his son, he sent a similar one to himself. Using the stamp design as a starting point, he hand-addressed the letter in beautifully colored calligraphic design, each cover compatible or related to the design of the stamp. Over the years, his calligraphic envelopes became more elaborate and theme oriented.

Read more »

Authors Rise Up Against Amazon