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Previewing a Book for National Poetry Month … and A Book for Life

Closing out a month that I will forever remember as the Month of Voluminous Editing. Never have I worked on so many great books simultaneously – novels, memoirs, travel narratives, my own projects. It just goes to show that, in this age where traditional publishing, self-publishing and e-publishing all offer viable paths of publishing success, good writing will rule out in the end. There will never be any shortage of well-written, well-conceived books. In fact, from where I sit, it seems that we’re back on an upward curve when it comes to overall quality of writing. Let’s keep it up.

Now we come to April: . I want to profile a couple of books that are on their way to bookstores and online Print

The first is The Hummingbird Review, the literary journal for which I’ve been editor for three years (except for the Spring 2012 issue, when I was teaching at Ananda College). Publisher, poet and author Charles Redner, who always keeps part of his heart attached to his dramatic arts past, decided to paint a Hollywood theme this time – combining movies and literature. For his part, Charlie wrote a short piece on those dramatic arts days … and a fine actor who emerged from his class. (I’m not telling you: you’ll have to read The Hummingbird Review).

The result is the Spring 2013 issue, our annual National Poetry Month issue, which features Hollywood-themed poetry and essays by our esteemed cast of new and established authors, including Dances With Wolves author Michael Blake, extraordinary poet Martin Espada, screenwriters Adam Rodman and David Milton, and a special lyrics package from my friend and client Stevie Salas, who scored Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventurein the late 1980s as his musical career was beginning to take off. Now Stevie is producing a documentary film on Native Americans in rock and pop music. We also have stirring lyrics from the solo work of legendary X frontman, lyricist and poet John Doe, who has appeared in more than 30 films and TV shows and series. (We did ask John to furnish the lyrics to one of X’s greatest songs, “The Haves and Have Nots”, which also appears).

We also pay tribute to an old friend of mine, the late Idaho Poet Laureate Emeritus Bill Studebaker, a man whose outrageous humor and sense of adventurism (especially white water kayaking) was matched by two things: his love of family, and his poetry writing. He was a fantastic poet whose works will live on for a long, long time. We present a half-dozen of his poems in a special tribute. Bill died in 2008 in a kayaking accident.

In addition, the spring issue features three dozen fine poems from new and regular contributors from throughout the country. It opens with one of the more memorable conversation-interviews I’ve conducted, with former Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins. The interview features plenty of Billy’s trademark humor, while also touching on subjects near and dear to his heart – such as bringing contemporary poetry into the schools through his Poetry 180 project.

The Hummingbird Review will be available through bookstores, on Amazon.com and on the website at www.thehummingbirdreview.com in mid-April, which is National Poetry Month.

• • •

51wvY-lQbaLAbout 18 months ago, the person who would later become my literary agent, Dana Newman, asked if I would be interested in editing a very special memoir that she was representing. I took a look at the manuscript, and knew it was a book I would never forget.

Now, here it comes. Cracked … Not Broken is the story of Kevin Hines, a young man from San Francisco, diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, who attempted to end his life at age 19 by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He survived. Halfway through his plunge, he realized he wanted to live, and by the grace of God, his body turned in such a way that he survived impact.

From there, Kevin started embracing life. It was tough, and painful, but now, he is a dynamic, nationally recognized speaker and advocate for suicide prevention, a man whose story has inspired countless thousands. Maybe millions. This memoir is a testament to the will to live, and to learning to fall in love with life – after nearly ending it. There’s no sugar coating in this book: it is tough, gritty, emotionally raw, and leaves nothing to chance or speculation. Which makes it a great book.

Cracked … Not Broken is available on pre-order from Amazon.com.

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A Great Time for The Written Word

What a week for poetry, spoken word, and the greater cause of literature. Last weekend, I had the distinct honor of coordinating, co-producing and emceeing The Hummingbird Review Poetry Revue, an afternoon of readings from seven current and future contributors to The Hummingbird Review, the literary anthology that I edit.

Then, a few nights later, I joined Hummingbird Review producer Charlie Redner, Dances With Wolves author Michael Blake and San Diego spoken word favorite Maggi DeRosa, author of The Fool Is King, in a spirited and wonderful hour-long discussion about poetry and the written word to a global listening audience on WorldStreams Radio. If you didn’t hear the show live, you can right now: click on the link and enjoy!

The live reading was fantastic. Held at Vista (CA) City Library, nearly 100 people came to the event, which also featured a splendid open mic by our hosts, Dick Eiden and the Sunset Poets, as well as a four-page program that Millennium Media Masters and The Hummingbird Review published for the occasion. During the open mic, Hummingbird Review publisher Charlie Redner and I kept glancing at each other; several of the poets that read can expect phone calls or emails from us. We want your poems for the next issue! Of particular note: Sunset Poets co-director Clifford King’s “Buffalo,” which he read directly to a man who knows something about buffaloes, Michael Blake. I’m still tingling over that honoring moment.

Our all-star cast represented not only four different writing genres, but the literary, cinema and music worlds as well. Leading the way were our headliners, Michael Blake and American Haiku magazine co-founder Don Eulert. Michael read his moving poem “Horse Number 1202,” then talked about his 20 years of work to restore and save buffaloes and wild horses, including the bid to establish a “Buffalo Commons” for native wild animals to inhabit on some of the 250 million acres of public land in the West. He finished by showing the wonderful artwork accompanying his new novel, Into the Stars, which releases Monday, Nov. 1.

Don read a yearlong cycle of full moon poems from his haiku masterpiece, Field: A Haiku Circle.” His 55 years of poetry writing experience shimmered in every word he uttered as she shared poems of love, nature, social reality and a highlight of the day — donning a full coyote pelt to read a pair of coyote poems, one by the great poet Gary Snyder, who sent along greetings to his old friend.

Our third renowned reader was John Doe, best known as the lead singer/songwriter/bass guitarist for the legendary Los Angeles punk-rockabilly band X. John’s poetry centered on themes of the west, love, challenge and horses, and reflect the same well-chosen, clear languaging that has made him one of the best lyricists of the past 30 years. He also let a cat out of the bag: X will be touring on the West Coast during the holiday season, so check for dates. Also, look for John’s work in the next issue of The Hummingbird Review.

Much of the day’s accolades went to Maggi DeRosa, the San Diego open mic and spoken word favorite who delivered a tour de force of poems from her collection, The Fool Is King, and newer material. Maggi sprinkled four- and five-line poems among larger works, and showcased part of The Hummingbird Review’s purpose: to present works by great young poets whose voices need an international stage.

We had a momentous occasion, as The Hummingbird Review publisher Charlie Redner read a selection of his works and others, including material from Luis Alberto Urrea and Robert Wrigley. For Charlie, a late convert to poetry, it was his first public reading — and he rocked.

Our other guest reader was Alwyn Martin, the 2009 Southern California Writers Conference writing award winner, whose read from her short story “Pete’s Van.” Alwyn is working on a novel, Stories & Cigarettes, that will be published in 2011 or 2012. I’ve heard excerpts of this book — it’s fantastic. Alwyn also read the frontispiece poem from the second issue of The Hummingbird Review, Martin Espada’s “The Republic of Poetry.”

In addition to emceeing the event, I snuck in a few poems from my Shades of Green, Coyotes in Broad Daylight and The River-Fed Stone collections: “Paths on a Face,” “Strings of Wisdom,” “No Longer a Boy Wonder,” and “The Muse Will Not Be Harnessed.” I also read poet-musician Joy Harjo’s immortal poem, “The Eagle’s Prayer.” Joy will be featured in the next issue of The Hummingbird Review.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be uploading video from all seven featured readers onto YouTube and three websites: http://www.hummingbirdreview.com, http://www.wordjourneys.com and http://www.millenniummediamasters.com.  Be sure to check it out: as readings go, this was tip-top.

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