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July 14, 2008

Inaugural Post

Welcome to the unveiling of the PoetryFlashBlog. As often as I can, I'll post news, thoughts, poems, reviews…whatever doesn't make it into our print magazine. At this moment it can't be interactive, because of our current technical limitations, but hopefully in the future it will be. For now, send me your news and ideas at And please try to be patient—sometimes this is like flying by flapping your arms.

One of the biggest surprises of this summer of rapid change was the sudden closing of Cody's Books in downtown Berkeley on June 20. Perhaps there were rumblings, but even to most employees it was a shock. After moving the Poetry Flash Reading Series all over town since the Telegraph Avenue store closed in 2006, and moving back to Cody's twice, once to Fourth Street and finally to downtown Berkeley, and watching the number of books on the shelves dwindle like fading oxygen, the one strong feeling that remains is that the book will survive, damn it, poets and writers and chewy syllables are not going away. We'll find a way and make the best of it—the economy, the Internet, the book as an object of nostalgia—all of it. The Poetry Flash series will continue with spirited readings at the marvelously vital Moe's Books, the new anchor of Telegraph Avenue, one Thursday evening each month, and at Diesel, A Bookstore, on College Avenue in Oakland, monthly Sunday afternoons this fall. Diesel is a bookstore so intelligently run that it practically beams. Just to walk in these bookstores makes my heart glad and I fall in love with books all over again. It's never over.

Spreading the love wherever they go, it's all over the Los Angeles book world that the previously mentioned Diesel folk, who already have a cozy and beautifully selected store in Malibu, have announced plans to start a new Diesel bookshop in a 1,500 square foot space in Brentwood Country Mart, in the Westside neighborhood still grieving from the final closing of Dutton's this past spring. And just the thought that Skylight Books in Los Feliz in LA and Small World Books in Venice are doing well is reassuring. I've had the pleasure of sitting and shuffling through books at both of those stores, pulling down favorites, comparing translations, finding old friends on the shelves and introducing them to new readers (often my patient and bookloving daughter). Those have been some of the most pleasurable moments of my life. Like losing an afternoon at Powell's Books in Portland, an evening reading at Open Books, the poem emporium, or a shiny morning with coffee at Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle…

Down the street from Cody's, Pegasus Books on Shattuck Avenue also stopped presenting their readings, but for a much happier reason. The mastermind of their poetry series, Clay Banes, has moved to his dream job, marketing at Small Press Distribution, also in Berkeley—he'll still be nurturing small presses and selling poetry and prose to indie bookstores from his new nonprofit base.

Our first Poetry Flash reading in a Cody's Free World will be Sunday, August 3, 7:30, at Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley. Richard Silberg, Associate Editor of Poetry Flash, will read his own work with Chad Sweeney (co-editor of Parthenon West Review and editor of "Listening In," a feature on MFA poetry in Poetry Flash) and Jennifer K. Sweeney, who are both leaving San Francisco for the Midwest. They will be missed.

Here's a poem by Jerry Ratch, who will read his poetry at the East Bay JCC in north Berkeley, 1414 Walnut Street, July 23 at 7:00. The more things change, the more they remain the same?

Immolation at Cody's Bookstore Reading

by Jerry Ratch

A man in the audience immolating himself

cutting his leg over and over with a pen knife

moaning: Oh God, oh God

Groaning, is more like it

All I can think from up at the podium is

this guy must absolutely hate these poems

I'm reading from Puppet X, the first time in public

for this long 60 page

admittedly somewhat depressing

but very funny (if you give it a chance)

book length series of poems

This guy must be ready to retch

right in the bookstore

he hates it so much

That is all I can think

I am mortified

I didn't think it was that


This is Berkeley, 1973, Telegraph Avenue

Anything can happen. The war

keeps raging on

— posted by Joyce Jenkins

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