Wednesday, February 26, 2014

News from Cathy DeForest: Al-Mutanabbi Readings and New Work

Twenty seven readings in the US, Europe and the Middle East are scheduled in March to mark the seventh anniversary of the bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street, the ancient bookseller street in Baghdad.

Please join me as I participate in these two readings in SF:
 1. The Great Overland Book Company (Bookstore) San Francisco, California  - 
       Coordinator - Beau Beausoleil and Andrea Hassiba
       March 5, 7:30 - 9:pm - at The Great Overland Book Company, 345 Judah
       Street (at ninth avenue)

2. San Francisco.San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California - Coordinator - Ozlem Ayse
       Ozgur - March 6th, 7-9pm, San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall, 800 Chestnut
       San Francisco, CA.

If you are in Oregon, consider coming to these readings:
1. Portland, Oregon  - Coordinators - Bill Denham and Laura Russell - March 5, 7-9pm,
    Multnomah Friends Meeting House, 4312 SE Stark Street, Portland, Oregon
2. Atelier 6000 in Bend, Oregon - Coordinators - Julie Winter and Patricia Clark
       March 6, 4:30 - 7 pm - Atelier 6000 389 SW Scalehouse Ct. #120 - Bend, Oregon

For readings in London, Boston, Newfoundland and beyond, check out:

I will be reading from my book Ink and Blood, created for the al-Mutanabbi Street Project. For more info, check out:

For poetry lovers everywhere:

A beautiful new book of poetry from Kim Stafford, Legacy of Beginning: Poems in Bhutan, has been published by Larkspur Press. The hand-sewn book contains wood engravings by the artist Wesley Bates. Stafford writes in the book’s preface:

"In the winter of 2011 … I gathered a band of ten writers from America and one from Poland for a creative pilgrimage to the kingdom of Bhutan. These poems were written as we sat together around the bukhari, the iron stove where pine crackled and winter kept us close. The poems are informed by the Buddist notion of four dimensions for each encounter, from the visible to the increasingly mysterious and important."

Centennial Portrait

If you love William Stafford's poetry, check out the artists' books Derek and I letterpress printed in honor of his Centennial:

Hidden and Revealed: Stafford Aphorisms

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cathy DeForest

New York City features 250 artists' books from the Al-Mutanabbi Project! 

I am pleased to announce the opening of the Al-Mutanabbi Project in NYC in 5 venues. Big thanks to The Center for Book Arts' for organizing this! I will be coming to NYC Sept 14-18 and speaking at the Center for the Book Arts on Sept 18, along with other book artists. Come join in this dialog!

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Project assembles artists' responses to the tragic loss of a cultural and intellectual hub in Baghdad that occurred on March 5, 2007, by a bomb explosion. Al-Mutanabbi Street had been the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, and the heart of the Baghdad literary community.

The exhibition features approximately 250 artists' books and 50 prints by artists from around the world, and was co-organized by Beau Beausoleil, Founder of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition, and Sarah Bodman, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Fine Print Research in Bristol, UK.
A comprehensive catalog accompanies the show. 

Center for Books Arts
28 West 27th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10001
Telephone: (212) 481-0295

Alwan for the Arts
16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10004
Telephone: (646) 732-3261

International Print Center New York
508 West 26th Street, Room 5A
New York, NY 10001
Telephone: (212) 989-5090

Columbia University Libraries
Butler Library

535 West 114th St.
New York, NY 10027
Telephone: (212) 854-7309

Poets House
10 River Terrace
New York, NY 10282
Telephone: (212) 431-7920

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Poets on the loose!

March 28, 2013

It is officially almost April, National Poetry Month, and Poets On The Loose are ready to hit the streets again. We are a band of folks who offer poems to willing strangers on the streets of America. Join us if you can!

Let the merriment begin!

Here are ideas for this year based on our adventures last year. It was so much fun.
1. In order for our Poets on the Loose ideas to spread, we have set up a Facebook Fan page for Jubilation Press featuring Poets on the Loose. This is where we hope to post poems, photos and narrative of our Poet on the Loose adventures. Please consider doing these things:
Please sign up as a fan of Jubilation Press at and do one or all of the following:
* suggest poems for poets on the loose
* post your adventures on our facebook page
* post photographs of your readings on the street

2. Thanks to Kim Rosen, we have a Poets On the Loose website. It is: Please visit it and check out the poems Kim and others have posted there. If you click on the Acts Of  Poetry tab, you can read posts people have made. If you wish to tell your tale or offer a poem, scroll to the end to the “Leave a reply” list. Instructions and other suggestions are listed on the home page. Thank you Kim Rosen and Nancy Bardos.
3. Here are guidelines for anyone who wants to be a poet on the loose:
Keep poems short. Read a 5-8-line excerpt from a longer poem if you wish.
Be welcoming. We want to avoid offensive language, etc. Shower the person with goodness and joy.
Bring a fun kid’s poem with you to read to children. This is a revolution after all and we need the next generation to join in. Consider making copies of your poems to give away. Consider putting this on the bottom of your poem:
Thanks for helping us bring poetry to its feet!
Poets on the Loose- bringing poetry to the streets.


4. Here is a script for you to use if you wish to do so:
“Hi. April is National Poetry Month.
We are Poets on the Loose, reading poems to people all over town.

We would love to read you a short poem….would  you like that?"

If no, walk on.
If yes, give them five or so cards of poems to choose from. (I personally put the blank sides up so they do not see the text of the poem when choosing).

Read the poem they choose.

Say: "Thanks! Would you like a copy of that poem?"

Give them a copy of your poem and include on this card the words:

Thanks for helping us bring poetry to its feet!
Poets on the Loose—bringing poetry to the streets

5. Possible places suggested by last year’s organizers:
Senior Centers, grocery stores, hospitals, bookstores, banks, galleries, libraries, folks on the street, Farmer’s Markets, parks, etc.

6. Please feel free to recruit more people….the more poets popping up everywhere, the merrier!  Have them email me at:  or call me at 541-690-6976 to officially sign up or ask questions, etc.

7. Please write up a short email summary of where you went and what happened. Post it on the Jubilation Press facebook page:  and /or

8. I have poetry pockets for sale designed and made by Cantrell Maryott and myself if any of you wish to purchase one. They are made from beautiful repurposed fabric and come with two pockets—one pocket is for a poem and one pocket is for keys, glasses, phone, etc. Call me at 541-690-6976 or email me at

Have fun!

Cathy DeForest

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Poets on the Loose a la L.A.: The Street Poets

Southern Oregon has our particular brand on "Poets on the Loose," but the Street Poets in L.A. bring poetry to a whole new level. 

The Street Poets lead writing workshops and poetry performances for youth and young adults all around Los Angeles County. They work not only with youth in elementary, middle, and high schools, but also in juvenile detention centers and on Apache and Navajo reservations. One component of the organization, Street Poets United, is a "violence prevention-themed poetry performance group, composed of our formerly incarcerated workshop alumni and staff, [that] performs at schools, youth justice & peace conferences and juvenile detention facilities."

It's really quite difficult to explain the power of these poets. Here is an excerpt of a poem by Chris Henrikson, taken from their website:

Last week I strip-searched the streets
For a soldier poet
Struggling to make life rhyme with hard time
I found him on page three
Right next to me
Scratching his way back to the beginning
With nothing but a pencil for protection
In this mad house of correction
We all call body

Now the Street Poets, who have been doing this work since the late 90s, are asking for some larger community support to purchase a van. Many of the youth who attend their workshops and events have no access to transportation and must take public transit for hours. In some cases, youth "must pass through different gang neighborhoods on the way to [their] workshops, waiting at bus stops where a friend or brother may have been shot."

So the Street Poets are raising $40,000 by July 15 to buy a van (and the van will be equipped with recording technology for traveling broadcasts). They are about $7,000 away from their goal. Can you help? Even $8 helps and there are gifts in exchange for your tax-deductible donations. To make a donation, or for more information, click here.

Long live Poets on the Loose!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Artists Donna and Peter Thomas coming to Ashland, Oregon

Peter and Donna Thomas have been making artists' books for over 30 years.  
They are coming to Ashland, Oregon with their Gypsy Caravan to teach a workshop!
You can meet them
and see their books two ways:
Saturday, June 25 1:30-4:00  
at Illahe Gallery  
215 Fourth Street in Ashland's RR District 
by taking this workshop 
Sunday, June 26 10-4:00
at Ashland Art Center  
357 East Main St.

Creating Artist Books Workshop:
The Nested Accordion Book; Scrolling Codex 
$45, ages 15 and up
·    Contact Cathy DeForest to register at 541-690-6976 or   

Peter and Donna Thomas, are self employed book artists, papermakers and letterpress printers who write, illustrate, and bind their own books. In 2010 and 2011, as the wandering book artists, they traveled around the USA in their homebuilt Gypsy Wagon Bookmobile.

Since 1977 they have produced over 125 limited edition books and over 300 one-of-a-kind artists' books, which can be found in collections around the globe. They have been self-employed in the book arts since 1977, making books, teaching workshops and giving lectures. Check out:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Amiri Baraka in Denver

Last Friday (February 28, 2010) I went to see the poet Amiri Baraka read at Denver University. The former Poet Laureate of New Jersey, Amiri Baraka is a distinguished poet, author, playwright, music critic and political activist. Familiar with controversy, Baraka's poetry (and other works) battle subjects such as racism, slavery, white culture and conservatism and his reading this Friday was no exception. A jazz critic, Baraka's words were filled with jazz references, and accompanied often by rhythm as he pounded on the podium, tapped the microphone, sang refrains and scat melodies. At one point drumming with so much enthusiasm all his papers fell from the podium, his energy was especially impressive considering Baraka recently turned 75.

At times Baraka's words were full of remorse and resentment for the history of African slavery--my brother the king sold me to the ghosts--and the connected history of the Americas--at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean/there's a railway/made of human bones/black ivory. Yet he added to this the songs slaves sang to keep their pride--I may be wrong, but I won't be wrong always. Still, the history he retold warranted the notion the preparation for pain is minimal/for joy, a lifetime.

Perhaps the most animated and comical part of Baraka's reading was his series of lowkus (haikus for Afro-Americans who "don't have time to count the syllables"). Baraka strung the lowkus together by singing the melody of Bud Powell's "Un Pollo Loco." The lowkus were full of humor, much of it directed towards whites--the devil said he left heaven because there were too many niggers/that's why he started Europe--the rich--since the rich eat more than anybody else/it's reasonable to assume/that they there are more full of shit--and Bush--the main thing wrong with you/you aint in jail and in Mandarin the word Bush mean dumb motherfucker. (Watch a video of lowkus at a UC-Berkeley reading. The lowkus begin at the 31 minute mark.)

Baraka's reading was a powerful reminder of the world's madness, which is recognized by liberals, conservatives and apoliticals alike (although opinions about the root cause of this madness vary). While demonstrating the tensions that still affect issues such as race and class, Baraka spoke of the need for this country to stay vigilant against conservatism. In order to do this, "we" need to stop fighting each other and fight the common bigger enemy, which Baraka would call the Republican devils. In addition to the outcry of his poetry, Baraka repeatedly offered another solution, referencing the DU student crowd by saying things to effect of, "You are all students, study this stuff."

Baraka ended the reading with a poem that has attracted much attention entitled "Somebody Blew Up America." Living in Newark, New Jersey, directly across the river from the Twin Towers, "Somebody Blew Up America" is Baraka's response to watching the smoke rise as the buildings fell. Baraka lost his laureateship for the poem, which repeatedly asks the question, "Who?":

       Who fount Bin Laden, maybe they Satan
       Who pay the CIA,
       Who knew the bomb was gonna blow
       Who know why the  terrorists
       Learned to fly in Florida, San Diego.

While implicating the Bush Administration, and many others, in the execution of 9/11, the poem’s questioning criticism goes far beyond any single event:

       Who got the tar, who got the feathers
       Who had the match, who set the fires
       Who killed and hired
       Who say they God & still be the Devil
       Who the biggest terrorist
       Who change the bible
       Who killed the most people
       Who do the most evil
       Who don't worry about survival
                                  (Read the rest of the poem)

During the question and answer after his reading, a young woman asked, "Who exactly are you talking about?" to which Baraka replied something to the effect of, "That's just what I'm asking, who? ... You're in school, study this stuff." But while you're picking up those books, be warned: poets on the loose, we're coming around.

Written by Derek Pyle. Photo by Lynda Koolish from

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Ghost of December Past

What a December! We at Jubilation Press printed a new broadside, "Vipassana," a poem by me (Derek Pyle). In addition to that, I was honored to read poems for two audiences, at Illahe Gallery and Studio, and at the Winter Farmhouse Salon with Jeff Pevar, Inger Jorgenson and Jaese Lecuyer. For the Salon, the night was cold and the moon was dark, but as we shared together song--in the mythic sense, poems count as "song"--we were warm. I opened the evening with this poem:

        Life river cold and foggy
        winter bite working its way,
        gets pinkie fingers and tips of ears

        but if we bring our voices to verses
        the clouds move from our rainy Northwest hearts
        bodies together call warmth,
        they sing warmth's song

        At the foggy banks
        we know leavening--
        bodies together we sing warm praise,
        all the loaves break open
        to hear the song.

 In writing this poem, I was inspired by one of William Stafford's journal entries (dated December 9, 1984, as found in a book of his work Every War Has Two Losers): "In the tunnels where they hid during bombings the Welsh would sing. No one outside could hear them. Their songs never silenced a plane. But in that rich darkness their music sounded so pure that a diamond formed in the soul." A warmth indeed.

As I searched for more information about the Welsh singing in the tunnels, I found another website with an article about the origins and wartime miracles of the German song we know as "Silent Night." Of the three stories I found, one is particularly famous; you may know it already. In 1914 during World War I the Germans and British fought fiercely, except on an especially cold night on December 24. That night, the German soldiers hung lights on small Christmas trees, then raised the trees for the British to see. From across the trenches, the Germans began singing "Stille Nacht," while the British sang "Silent Night." The enemies troops convened in the center of the battlefield, talking in broken languages and exchanging gifts. For a moment, the war stopped with a warmth beyond any cold weather. It was the warmth of the human heart, the warmth we so often find in song. This is the same warmth we found last December at the Farmhouse Salon--I especially liked Jeff's solo rendition of "Silent Night."

Have a warm winter filled with song and friends.