THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
February 18, 2017
Greetings, friends and celebrators of the joy to be found in stories—writing them, reading them, telling them, or hearing them. If you enjoy a good story, this weekly blog is for you.
This week, beginning the third Saturday in the month, I am happy to introduce you to Alan Bern. Alan is a friend of mine, and I was proud to publish two of his poetry collections some years ago: No no the saddest, and Waterwalking in Berkeley. The former book is a sequence of linked but independent stories, which combine to form a narrative of Alan’s first wife’s aneurysm, brain surgery, coma, and eventual death. It is indeed a sad story—a nightmare, in fact, but a beautifully told account of a defining episode in the poet’s life.
Alan’s second book, Waterwalking in Berkeley, is an affectionate tribute to Berkeley, California, where Alan was born and where he has spent most of his life. A theme running throughout the book is the importance of place. This is a collection of narrative poems that read like stories about people, scenery, and the spirit of community.
I invited Alan to write something for this blog, and he has taken the opportunity to tell us about his latest book, which I can certainly recommend. The design of the book, the illustrations by the book designer, and of course the poems themselves, are stunning.
In the central section of his book greater distance, which is based on the last years of his parents’ lives, poet, translator, and performer Alan Bern gives us a quiet pathway of observed moments and invites the reader to walk it with him... since we all must travel it. Also included in this volume are adaptations of two broadsides written by Bern and illustrated by his friend and collaborator, the artist and fine printer Robert Woods. Under the imprint of Lines & Faces they designed and printed both original broadsides on a Vandercook proving machine, “Dialogue” and “From Futility.” In “Dialogue,” San Francesco d’Assisi and Hildegard von Bingen meet as breezes to speak about their lives and views. Reminiscent of Dante, this poem is translated into Italian by poet and Neapolitan educational theorist and activist, Marco Rossi-Doria.
Alan Bern is a poet and storyteller, a performer, a printer and designer, and a librarian. As a prize-winning poet (eighth annual Littoral Press Poetry Prize, 2015, and Semifinalist, 2016 Center For Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Competition), Bern has been published in both print and online magazines and journals and has published three books of poems: No no the saddest (2004) and Waterwalking in Berkeley (2007), both with Fithian Press, McKinleyville, CA, and greater distance and other poems (2015) with Lines & Faces.
Bern has worked for nearly 45 years with artist Robert Woods as Lines & Faces (linesandfaces.com) to design and produce illustrated poetry broadsides of their work.
As a performer, he has read his poems and told stories for almost 50 years and for the past 15 years has worked with dancer/choreographer Lucinda Weaver as PACES: dance and poetry fit to the space. Their current work will be performed at the Gualala Arts Center, March 10 and 11, 2017. And from March 10 – April 1, Lines & Faces will have a broadside exhibit at the Gualala Arts Center. http://gualalaarts.org/.
As a librarian, Bern has been a tireless advocate for improving services and programs for the underserved. He has worked primarily in community outreach and children’s and teen services for the past 25 years in San Francisco Bay Area Public Libraries.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for March’s 99-word story submissions is March 1, 2017. The stories will appear on my blog post for March 11, and will stay posted for a week.
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: email@example.com
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY (choose one):
Make up a story inspired by the following quotation from Julius Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March,”
or inspired by the following couplet:
“The winds of March that make my heart a dancer;
A telephone that rings, but who’s to answer?”
Calling all published authors—
I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week!