and my vocation
I'm happy to report
Art upsets, science reasons.
All your America is like a dense Balzacian hive in a jewel point.
Time Being Books, 2011
Paperback, 107 pages, $15.95
"... an artist who uses the
broad sweeps of her brush
to create a pastiche that is
both historical and personal,
fictional and fantastical; a
certain cursive movement
of language that entices
The world is a solemn place
with room for tennis
riding beside me
on the oakland bus
the old stranger
presses his leg against mine
oh why not
You have held two professions for a very long time: you are an instructor of creative writing, and a working poet. Does work with the one take away energy from the other?
Poet Tom Centolella is the author of three books, Terra Firma, Lights & Mysteries, and Views from along the Middle Way. His poetry has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, as well as on NPR. He has been the recipient of a Lannan Literary Award, the American Book Award, the California Book Award from the Commonwealth Club, and the Northern California Book Award from the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association.
Mr. Centolella also served as a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He has been a visiting writer at many universities and colleges. His poem "View #45", was read at the United Nations as a part of Poets Against the War. He currently lives in San Francisco and teaches at College of Marin, in private workshops, and at the Institute on Aging in San Francisco.
My profession and my vocation peacefully coexist, I'm happy to report. One allows me to commune with the inspiration that has visited fellow writers, and the other to commune with the inspiration that has visited me.
What brought you to poetry?
I was a frustrated filmmaker. There were just a few courses in Film Studies available at Syracuse University, so I took a dual major in English Lit and creative writing.
Who in the world of letters has influenced you?
Early on, Nadine MacDonald and Phillip Booth. Later on, Carl Dennis and Denise Levertov. Great teachers all.
The poet Audre Lorde said, "... it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are—until the poem—nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt." Do you agree?
I like John Berger's take on drawing, which you can apply to any art: "We who draw do so not only to make something visible to others, but also to accompany something invisible to its incalculable destination."
Do you know what you're going to write about when you set out?
I tend to have an inkling, maybe more, which doesn't mean I know exactly where I'm taking the piece, or where it's taking me. Far from it. As Berger says, "It's an incalculable destination," and I'm glad it is. That's the pleasure and excitement of writing: letting it transport you into the unexpected and, hopefully, into the revelatory.
Do you keep to a daily schedule, maintain a regular time and place to write?
I don't force myself to write every day, but when I am into it, I reserve mornings for the muse. She likes the bed or my recliner.
What keeps you going?
Great art of every ilk, great writers in particular. Music is large for me; I worship at the altar of my Yamaha U-3 upright piano. A healthy regimen is vital: good food, exercise, enough sleep. Digging deep with friends is inestimable. So is a meditation practice.
"Wise words soak the brain—
Quiet takes the swollen mind
And squeezes, squeezes."
How do you define "flash fiction"? How does it differ from prose poetry?
A piece of flash fiction is 1000 words or less. Hemingway's "A Very Short Story" is around 750 words. Flash fiction is narrative distilled. Obviously, the writer doesn't have to fuss over the poetic line, i.e., enjambment and cadence. A prose poem might or might not deliver the narrative arc and payoff of even the shortest story.
Has there been a high point - a priceless moment - in your career so far?
There have been a number of them. Getting my first book published as a winner in the National Poetry Series, selected by Denise Levertov. Receiving a Lannan Literary Award out of the blue. Accepting the American Book Award, presented by the Before Columbus Foundation, in NYC in front of my family. Hearing Garrison Keillor read my poems on Writer's Almanac. But equally priceless, if not more so, was the remark made by a student of mine after one of my readings. She had been working on a moving but difficult memoir about traveling to Poland to investigate what happened to her Jewish family during WW II. After I read, she came up to me and said, "Your poems give me hope." It's impossible for me to measure the value of that moment.
The critic Pauline Kael said, "The words 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' make perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of movies." If you were asked to state in fewest words the inherent message of poetry, what would you say?
Personally, too often it's been "Kiss Kiss Boo Hoo." But for poetry lovers at large, how about "Aha"? And I'd be negligent not to reference the great American poet, Muhammad Ali, and his two-word poem: "Me ... We." That's one succinct reminder that even at its most inward-looking, poetry is a public articulation of the dynamic between one sentient being and another.
If you were recipient of a very large windfall (a prize or a grant), would you continue to move with the rhythms of others?
Absolutely. I prefer the tango.
-Reviewed by Joe Zaccardi
After reading CB Follett's varied and wonderful poems in One Bird Falling
, I found that they would sneak up on me days after I read them. They worked their way into my body. I have gone back to many of her poems and found more of the otherness they possess; her use of animals -- fox, geese, deer, pelican, dogs and horses et al -- helped me to understand more. Their sweetness ruins me; their mixture of pain and pleasure terrifies me, because what she writes about is truth, and truth is almost indefinable, since everyone has his own history and beliefs; everyone feels he has right on his side.
This is foremost a book of poems about all living things and all things that have lived. It concerns reconciliation, an accounting. The narrative thread is in the weave of their forms: incantations, allegories, concrete prose poems, stories; all done with the feel of an artist who uses the broad sweeps of her brush to create a pastiche that is both historical and personal, fictional and fantastical; a certain cursive movement of language that entices the reader.
Here, in One Bird Falling
, CB Follett's seventh full-length collection, there lie significant leaps between the political world and the natural world, leaps that bear upon the imminent concerns of today. Follett allows the travelers in her poems to act out their own tales in their own ways and gives the reader the sense that the characters, real and imagined, are receptive and reflective, and most of all vulnerable. She is acutely aware that her prophetic words make it difficult to answer the questions she poses. She follows Robert Frost's Road Not Taken, "...the one less traveled by," to lead us out of the desert into a garden of regeneration.
Follett gives her poems a voice that is direct and wry. The collection is a journey through its six sections. I found that by putting the section titles together, one discovers an overview of this work that can be read as a coda, as follows:
Somewhere in Time
Laying Down a Trail of Wind
A Cry Breaks the Silence
Winding in the Thread
In the section Heading Out, she begins with one of the finest poems I've ever read about September 11th, One Day Last Week, that builds upon this tragedy and expands it to the tragedy of our war in Iraq. In a prose poem sited in the desert of that country she writes, "Sand is the guerrilla ambush, the dirge heard in the wind. This is the enemy. This, the invincible foe." These are strong words, and strong words are what America and the world needs to hear. The poet says, violence is wasteful, terrorism is wasteful, both are wrong.
And from section to section there are several weaves -- i.e., in the poem Odysseus,
He has not forgotten the way home,
he has forgotten home
segues to Belonging,
So I say to you, home is not where
you find it. Home is where you put down
roots and return with that conflicted sense
In this book Follett attempts (and I believe, succeeds) to take a new approach to the longstanding questions and their answers, about all our long felt and heartfelt needs. By any standard, the poems as they face each other from one page to the next are fascinating; they exude wit and humor, suffering and endurance, courage and tenacity. What they do not evince, from first poem to last poem, is cowardice.
The penultimate section deals with remembrance, past and present, of the poet's mother, "In her tenth decade..." where the poet directly faces mortality and a daughter's guilt, "to watch your mother sinking in shadows." Then Follett shifts to an earlier time, in This Is Not a Poem About My Mother, where the first line starts with these striking words, "Rather, about a young woman..." The last section, Outside, Calling, is more thoughtful, meditative and prayerful. In the poem of the same title she writes,
a cairn of stones
blue flies cracking through sunlight.
And then shifts again to a wistful poem where she imagines a life completely different, a place where she could have been "horse ridin', boot wearin', " concluding with, "How to enjoy so much space. How to call this home."
My hope is that those who have already read One Bird Falling
will find something in this review to send them back to re-read and contemplate CB Follett's work, and those who have not yet read them, will seek out this book and return, as did Odysseus, to their own homes, to try on the body of these poems and feel the way it feels. This is poetry that does not talk to the reader; this is poetry that allows the reader to think, and to find that universal path:
"Let us, then, move toward rest."
Previously published in Pacific Northwest Poetry Review 2011
-An Update from Marin County Poet Laureate 'Lyn Follett
It's been a while since I've checked in with you, so here is an update.
I want to thank all of you: those you are facilitating, those who are reading, and those who are still waiting to read. The programs are going very well and serving a need and pleasure in the community.
The Seniors (ROAR - Reach Out and Read) program has 12 facilities on an on-going basis. Most hold quarterly readings, some are bi-monthly and a couple are monthly. The responses have been very heartening. Most are holding some form of Open Mike when possible. Some provide poem writing and exercises. One has a quarterly tea and invites relatives and neighbors. The feedback from both the Activities Directors and the Readers have been positive and touching.
The Communities' ROAR program is very popular. We have three programs currently and are working on readings from the Native American canon.
Latino Corazon is held at Whistlestop for the Spanish speaking community, mostly from the Canal Area. Poets read from the Central and South American poetry canon. These poets read only in Spanish. The readers have been wonderful in making connection with the audiences, which grow larger each time.
Marin City Library - Black poets reading from the Black canon. We've had two so far, each with two readers, great poetry, and great food supplied by the Friends of the Marin City Library who host this series. We've been having Q and A, which has been popular and so far, used up our Open Mike time. I feel badly about that but Libraries close and Librarians want to go home. We've had nice mixed audiences and I hope even more Marin City residents will attend.
About to start in West Marin is Recital de Poesia de ROAR. Also Reading from the Spanish poetry canon, but perhaps concentrating on Mexican and Central American poetry to fit in with the local population. Some poems will be read in both Spanish and English to see how that works there.
Some Poet Laureate news.
As many of you know, the Marin Arts Council has fallen by the wayside and if not defunct is pretty close to it. Though we are sponsored also by The Marin Poetry Center and the Marin Cultural Commission. The Marin Arts Council was our overall sponsor, financially, and through office help etc.
It is time to be nominating the next Poet Laureate, but this process is in hiatus while the Poet Laureate Committee looks for a new 'home'. I am continuing for the time being, but feel it is important to nominate a new laureate as soon as we can. Fresh ideas and all that, plus Marin has many worthy candidates.
The Future of ROAR
The next poet laureate, once chosen, will have his/her own projects and may or may not wish to include ROAR. To that end, I have identified some poets willing to take ROAR under their wing and keep it going. If anyone else is interested in helping with that, please let me know.
The Poetry Exchange boxes, which are fairly self-regulating, will need someone to check on them from time to time. Let me know if that project interests you. There are currently 12 locations; one of the most popular is a third grade class. Some are in libraries, and it seems as if all the libraries should be approached. I have extra boxes, poems, cover sheets etc. to keep things going.
The Poem of the Week, which used to appear on the Marin Arts Council newsletter, has been suspended (no newsletter). I would like to find a new venue for that; maybe the IJ would do it for us.
So, again, I'd like to thank all of you involved. You make a difference.
Best to you all, xxx,
Calling all Florence Ziegfelds!
MPC is in need of an events person to run our Third Thursday reading series. This is a great way of getting involved with MPC, helping us serve our membership, and meeting your poetry idols.
Those interested should contact Becky Foust at email@example.com .
High School Poetry Program needs Volunteers
MPC is in need of a person to help with our High School program which sends poets into to Marin high schools to give poetry workshops, and runs a county-wide high school poetry contest. Another fine way to give back to MPC and the local community.
Those interested should contact Barbara Martin at 415-868-1586 firstname.lastname@example.org .
Marin Poetry Center Monthly Reading Series
Third Thursdays @ 7:30 pm (unless otherwise noted)
Falkirk Cultural Center, 1408 Mission St. at E, San Rafael
Troy Jollimore and Dean Rader
For more information, visit www.marinpoetrycenter.org
or email Becky Foust at email@example.com
Marin Poetry Center Anthology 2012
| Mar 1 - March 31.
Entrants must be current members of Marin Poetry Center.
If you're not a member, then you can download a membership
Submit up to five poems (unpublished preferred, six page maximum).
IMPORTANT: Do not put your name on any of the poems.
Simultaneous submissions are permitted. Please notify the editor immediately if
your poems are accepted elsewhere.
Submit your best work. No revisions are allowed after March 31.
This year half the poetry will focus on the theme of Horses -
be creative, we're looking for the literal, figurative and
mystical interpretations - the rest is open to any subject matter.
We now prefer email submissions
On the subject line type in: mpc-submission.
In the body of your email include your name, contact information,
the titles of the submitted poems, and your bio (limit fifty words).
Include your poems, without identification, in a single attachment
(Word .doc or .rtf) to:
For snail mail submissions:
Enclose a cover sheet with your name, contact information,
the titles of the poems, and your brief bio.
Include a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE)
in order to be notified about results.
Send your submission by regular USPS. Please use #10
business size envelopes. Large envelopes clog the mail box.
Mail to: MPC Anthology, c/o Joseph Zaccardi, Editor,
P.O. Box 9091, San Rafael, CA 94912
We will notify you of our decisions, via email or SASE, within three months.
Click here to read
our Code of Ethics.
Marin Poetry Center Summer Traveling Show 2012
Look out for your 2012 Summer Traveling Show Packet
MPC is gearing up for the 2011 Summer Traveling Show. Members should soon receive a
letter with background information about the Traveling Show as well as a signup sheet listing
the reading sites and dates. Any member is welcome to read by marking and returning the
postcard with your 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices by March 31st. Assignments are made on a
first come, first serve basis although every effort will be made to give each reader
one of their three choices. If you have not received a packet by March 15, please
and we will contact you to get your selections.
MPC is looking forward to another great summer of poetry!
Open Mic/Poetry Critique at Falkirk Cultural Center, on the fourth Thursday of
each month (except Dec.), starting at 7pm. Bring ten copies of your poem, no more than
one page in length. This event is free, and is open to everyone.
1408 Mission Street, San Rafael.
Marin Poetry Center Bookgroup meets at 7pm the second Wednesday of each month, rotating
among living rooms of participants.
For more information contact Roy Mash:
Poetry Farm is a monthly reading series held at Dr. Insomnia's Cafe in
Novato. This is a well-attended and high-spirited reading series.
We feature one published author each month. If you would like to be
considered for our "Featured Farmer" spot, please send an email describing
your work to Kirsten@Neff.Org. Otherwise, come
join the audience or sign up for open mic.
Second Mondays, 7pm,
Dr. Insomnia's Cafe on the corner of Grant and Reichert in Novato.
Sunset Poetry By The Bay
has moved to the Second Wednesday
of the month.
Located at: Studio 333, 333 Caledonia Street, Sausalito.
Wednesday, March 14 features Chris Olander, Terri Glass, and Bill Gainer.
For more info see:
Call For Submissions: "Open to Interpretation" Deadline March 15, 2012
Open to Interpretation produces several books a year. Each book begins with a themed call for photographs. The selected images become the literary inspiration for the writers' submissions, from which two are chosen to accompany each image.
For details visit: www.open2interpretation.com
Call For Submissions: "Songs of the Soul"
The International Association of Sufism (IAS) is pleased to announce
Songs of the Soul Poetry and Sacred Music Festival to be held at the Embassy Suites in San Rafael -- March, 16-18, 2012.
In conjunction with this Festival, IAS would like to invite poets living in Marin County/greater Bay Area to submit their unpublished works of poetry for consideration and entry into the first annual Songs of the Soul Poetry Contest.
For more details visit For more details, visit:
Songs of the
Soul, or call 415 472-6959.
The Writing Life with Ellen Bass, March 30 - April 1
Register directly with Esalen at 831-667-3005 or at http://www.esalen.org. From beginners to experienced, all writers are welcome. Whether you are interested in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or journal writing, this workshop will provide an opportunity to explore and expand your writing world.
Class with Oscar Villalon: How to Write Book Reviews. Sat Apr 14, 10-12:00 pm
Former S.F. Chronicle Book Editor and ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon shows how to write a smart, entertaining book review. He explains what works best in long and brief reviews, what to keep in mind when assessing a book, and how to shape the tone of your review. $45.00. Location: Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera.
MPC Mailing List: If you would like to be included in the Marin Poetry Center
mailing-list events notification, please contact
MARIN POETRY CENTER
|Board of Directors |
|Paula Weinberger - Chair/Summer Traveling Show |
|Rose Black - Anthology |
|Barbara Brooks - Recording Secretary |
|Laurel Feigenbaum - Membership/Recording Secretary |
|Rebecca Foust - Events |
|Barbara Martin - High School Poetry |
|Colm Martin - Treasurer |
|Roy Mash - Webmaster, Book Group |
|Joe Zaccardi - Anthology ||
|Contributing Members |
|Calvin Ahlgren - Newsletter, Open Mic Workshop |
|Maggie Morley - Newsletter |
|Kirsten Jones Neff - Newsletter |
|Gabrielle Rilleau - High School Poetry, Aegis Program |
|Margaret Stawowy - Hospitality |
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