Viruses come and go (soon, we hope), but the tug-of-war over California water is always with us. In a piece for Bay Nature, I trace the latest twists as Governor Newsom seeks compromise and President Trump seeks, well, nothing but maximum water for the San Joaquin Valley. The hope of a negotiated truce seems to have gone glimmering. Will the powerful State Water Resources Control Board pick up where it left off at the end of the Jerry Brown years, mandating that we let a bit more water flow down rivers for the sake of fish, the Delta, and San Francisco Bay?
So begins my lengthy article on the poets of the Activist Group, which formed in the 1930s around my father Lawrence Hart and achieved national profile in the 1950s. The piece appears in the online journal Talisman: A Journal of Poetry & Poetics. I describe Hart’s critical ideas, his unique approach to nurturing poetic talent, and the very diverse styles his students evolved. Concluding with work by contemporary poets working in this tradition, the article is a down payment on a pending Activist Anthology. Here’s more about the background and current publications and readings.
In October in Oakland, scientists met to share research results on the health of San Francisco Bay and the Delta. Diagnosis: condition guarded and trending the wrong way. Getting from knowledge to timely action is the challenge I write about in two longish pieces for the excellent Estuary News, December issue. Can a little more water be allowed to flow down overtapped feeder rivers to nourish Delta and Bay? Can a mishmash of shoreline governments really form a common plan to deal with sea level rise? Hope is in the air at such conferences, but inertia is a mighty force in the world outside. See my “The View from the Precipice” and “Regional Science and Governance.”
So many people write poetry: How many read it with open yet discriminating minds? This discussion course at Book Passage, Corte Madera, is a place to get down to earth with poems: what we like and what maybe we don’t; what has a stirring effect and what, in another brain, does not. Poetic “beginners” are welcome. We start Monday, September 9, 7 to 9, and continue for the eight weeks to Halloween. In all weeks but the first, I send selected texts to mull in advance. “If you like poetry,” a returning member says, “you’ll enjoy this class. If you don’t know if you like poetry, you’ll enjoy this class.” Signup here.
Bluecoat and Pioneer has been on the road, with events in Casper, Wyoming (Fort Caspar Museum), Story, Wyoming (Fort Phil Kearny) and Cedaredge, Colorado (Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center and Pioneer Town). I gave four different slide shows, featuring John Benton Hart’s stories of adventure in each spot. In October, it’s the turn of Kansas City, Missouri, and Topeka, Kansas, in the region where the young Hart enlisted in the cavalry and helped fight off the massive Confederate invasion of 1864. Order book
My poem “Sirens” is one of two texts chosen to be drawn in calligraphy for display among paintings and sculptures in the exhibit “Earth Air Water Fire: Balancing on the Edge.” The show hangs through May in the Tides Converge Gallery at the former Letterman Hospital site, 1012 Torney, San Francisco (open weekdays, 8:30 to 5:00). The exhibit is the brainchild of Gwenda Joyce, the Art Ambassador; “Sirens” was initially published in Blue Unicorn. Fire image by Moein Moradi.
Platte Bridge Station, 1866, by William Henry Jackson
Bluecoat and Pioneer debuts in Berkeley on February 21, 5:30 to 7:00, at University Press Books on the edge of the UC campus, 2430 Bancroft Way. I’ll talk about the origin of the manuscript–“a genuine attic find,” one reviewer says–sketch the 150-year-old events my ancestor barely survived, and read some dramatic passages. We’ll explore an unexpected link to Bay Area history, the Native American occupation of Alcatraz in 1969-71. The usual refreshments. More about the book at University of Oklahoma Press.
After 150 years, the selected adventures of my frontiersman great-grandpa are in print from University of Oklahoma Press: Bluecoat and Pioneer: The Recollections of John Benton Hart, 1864-1868. Foe of the Confederates and friend of the Crow Indians, JBH was something of a hero and something of a scamp, with his own lively angle on the conflicts to which he brings new witness. Historian John Monnett goes so far as to say: “[Editor] John Hart offers scholars and general readers alike perhaps the most important original memoir of an enlisted soldier and plains frontiersman.” Order at the press.
With the October 2019 issue–now dubbed Fall–the all-poetry journal Blue Unicorn changes format and schedule. Instead of three forty-page issues a year, we will publish two, Fall and Spring, each containing sixty or more pages of content and having a flat-spined, “perfect” binding. Editorial policy has also shifted. To make life a little easier for poets, we will now consider multiple submissions (tell us if) and previously published work (tell us where). E-mail submissions to email@example.com are preferred, in the form of attached files; postal submissions, with stamped, self-addressed envelope, are also still okay. Annual subscription remains $20.
Big water stuff going on as the authorities struggle to set river flows adequate for fish, try to get their minds around sea level rise, and brace for wetter floods and dryer droughts as climate change kicks in. For Estuary News I reported the Resilient by Design showcase of solutions for cities menaced by rising tides (May) and the biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference (September). And I’ve penned a new intro to the Bay Institute’s report about the state of the vast watershed draining to the Golden Gate, From the Sierra to the Sea. First published in 1998, it is about to be reissued, with update. (Hint: Things aren’t getting better.)