It Matters How We Say It

“I wrote the same, but in different words.”

I don’t know if this is a “true” story, or based on one, but the point about how we use our words, and how our words convey our thoughts and ideas is the truth.

How we convey our ideas, our message, is as important as the ideas themselves.

As writers, we have many choices. For me as a writer, I struggle and I revel in those choices. As a writing teaching, sharing those choices is both a challenge and a joy.

I’m not trying to change my students writing, change what they have to say, but to show them that there are other ways to express their ideas that will be more moving, more transformative for their audience…and for themselves.

Jayne Cortez, 1934-2012: “Find Your Own Voice & Use It”

“Find your own voice & use it, use your own voice, and find it

The sounds of drizzle on dry leaves are not like sounds of insults between pedestrians

Those women laughing in the window do not sound like air conditioners on the brink”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, performance poet Jayne Cortez died at the close of 2012 in NYC, having found her own voice and using it throughout her long life, writing, publishing, and performing poetry that addressed racial and sexual oppression. The 2010 video above features her performing with Denardo Coleman, her son with Ornette Coleman.

Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness…

Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.

~ President Barack Obama, 2011

Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2012. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I wanted to get some painting done on my house before I headed midday to the college where I was teaching. I called my dad, an early bird, and asked him if he wanted to come over and help. He declined, saying he had some other projects to work on. Then he called me right back with the news about 9/11–and said he’d be right over to help me paint. School was cancelled the next day, and again I spent it painting; it was calming to do something outside, normal, physical. I didn’t watch any of the news footage but listened on the radio for more news. Once that I heard that twin sisters, close friends of mine since 7th grade, who worked for United and American often flying from their home base in NYC to LA, weren’t on those flights, I was greatly relieved. I know many people lost loved ones that day. It changed us all.

I wrote this poem the morning school was back in session as I tried to negotiate going back to “normal” life.

What are your 9/11 memories? How did that day change you?

art predator

In Friday’s Ventura County Star, Karen Lindell wrote about “how seven local residents – two painters, two sculptors, a digital artist, a songwriter and a poet-artist – channeled their particular variation of mad, sad and overall helplessness after 9/11 into creativity.”

And Art Predator is the poet-artist featured in the article:

In March 2011,  en theos press published my 3:15 experiment poetry collection Middle of the Night Poems from Daughter to Mother :: Mother to Son,in print and ebook; it’s also at, and in stores including The Best of VC Marketplace in Santa Paula where I will be signing books Thurs. Sept. 29.

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Summer Students Celebrate With a Publication Party at Art City July 31

Gwendolyn Alley’s Ventura College writing students  invite you
to celebrate the publication of an anthology of our creative & academic writing

Tues. July 31, 2012
6-9pm Open Mic! Poetry! Music! Art!
Monotypes by Gary Chafe
Stone Sculpture by Paul Lindhard

 Art City
197 Dubbers * Ventura, CA
6pm: Potluck, bonfire, explore, music
6:30pm: Open mic sign-ups
7pm: Open mic

Free—donations for Art City accepted
* Bring a chair * Family friendly *Questions?

Download this flyer pubpartySum2012 Thanks to Lori Lindhard for getting Gary Chafe’s art to us to use. Thanks to Art City–Russel, Paul, Lori, Joanne et al for hosting us and supporting spoken word in Ventura!

Stories & a Poem or two from Nikki Giovanni: It’s Black History Month

For nearly 30 years, UC Santa Cruz has recognized Martin Luther King Jr with an annual convocation.

Last month, UCSC invited Nikki Giovanni to speak.

According to Wikipedia, “Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni (born June 7, 1943) is an American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. Her primary focus is on the individual and the power one has to make a difference in oneself and in the lives of others. Giovanni’s poetry expresses strong racial pride, respect for family, and her own experiences as a daughter, a civil rights activist, and a mother. She is currently a distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech.[1]

And wow, did she have a LOT to say! I wish I could have been there. She presents so much history with so much heart and humor that I am scrambling to figure out how to fit this into my already full syllabus. I can certainly make it an extra credit or make-up assignment, so if you are one of my students, you can watch and listen to this and write about it.

Happy Black History month!

Alley Reads 3:15s on 3/15, Leads Workshop 3/24

Please join me Tuesday March 15, 2011 at 7:30pm in the Artists Union Gallery for the first reading from my new poetry collection Middle of the Night Poems From Daughter to Mother :: Mother to Son (en theos press 2011).

Danika Dinsmore, who began the 3:15 Experiment in 1993, will be reading and I am excited to hear work from other 3:15 poets in the open mic after my feature.

I have readings, workshops, a party and a book fair scheduled in the next two weeks. Read on for more details. Or download this pdf: ALLEYlaunchdetails1upleft

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3:15 Experiment Reading 3/15 of “Middle of the Night”

My new poetry collection Middle of the Night Poems From Daughter to Mother :: Mother to Son (en theos press 2011) will be here tomorrow! See the cover, discover the contents and learn more about the broadside pictured.

3:15 Experiment Reading 3/15 & Other Launch Events for "Middle of the Night" Please join me Tuesday March 15, 2011 at 7:30pm in the Artists Union Gallery for the first reading from my new poetry collection Middle of the Night Poems From Daughter to Mother :: Mother to Son (en theos press 2011). This is the paperback book edition of the chapbook I produced for the 2010 Women’s Conference. … Read More

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Dottie, Vlat, Me, You & More at Artists Union Gallery 12/7

Poet Dottie Grossman will read her work in a call and response performance with Michael Vlatkovich (and possibly other musicians) 730pm Tuesday, December 7 at the Artists Union Gallery, 330 S. California Street, at the Ventura Beach Promenade near the big hotel, the parking garage and Aloha Steakhouse. You can learn more about what Dottie does in the video above and get a sample of the process.

The poetry reading is free but a hat is usually passed and donations are accepted for refreshments of coffee and cookies. CDs will also be available for purchase.

An open mic will follow. If you want to read your own poetry at the open mic, arrive 10-15 minutes early to sign up. Since there will likely be a big crowd, poets should keep their readings short: one poem of less than 3 minutes. If there’s time, poets will read in a second round.

I’ll be bringing my students; we will be reading from our end of the semester class publications. I’ll be reading a poem or two as well from my new collection Middle of the Night Poems from Daughter to Mother :: Mother to Son (en theos press 2010).

Below is one more video of poetry by Dottie Grossman–this one’s short and gives you a good idea of what’s in store tomorrow night!

For more poetry, take a ride on the Monday Poetry Train!

A Halloween “I Am” Poem! (via art predator)

“I am” poems can be lots of fun to play with as a structure for a poem or just to explore ideas. You can write about yourself or take on a persona. This one was written with a group of kindergarten and first graders.

Happy Halloween: From a Scary Smelly Skeleton Pirate! I am a scary smelly skeleton pirate! I wonder where the treasure is I hear black rusty shooting fire cannonballs and swords slapping I see other English ships to get their treasure I want treasure, a golden compass, and a gold ring I am a scary smelly skeleton pirate! I pretend to play swords with you I  feel my bones cracking I touch the shark’s teeth I worry about my pirate ship and how it will disappear one day I cry when my boat tips upside d … Read More

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