Is there a person nationwide who doesn’t know the fate of Kelly Thomas? Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas’s father remains an outspoken advocate for the homeless community. Four years after Fullerton police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were acquitted of brutally beating his son Kelly Thomas to death near the Fullerton bus station in 2011, he continues to be an advocate for justice, not only for his son, but for all those affected by homelessness in his local community and nationwide. We spent an hour with Ron talking about the early days of Kelly Thomas, the need for social reform, the use of excessive force from both sides of the fence (Ron is an ex-sheriff) and much more. We were joined by homeless advocate, fine artist and poet Leigh White, as well as poet and reading series host, Steve Ramirez.
To My Son
A second trial has just begun
It’s been over 4 years since I lost you my son
On that hot July night with such fright in your eyes
Those six murdering thugs beat you, until you were no longer alive
As citizens watched the horror unfold
All of them learning something—that none of us were told
The fact that those who took an oath to protect and serve
Could kill a man so brutally without any reserve
I often look back on all of the years—
We did so many things together,
And soon come my tears
So many times we played our guitars
Both of us knowing we wouldn’t go far
And when we laughed so hard it hurt inside
Realizing that neither one of us could sing—
Not knowing what July 5th, 2011 would bring
I spend every day seeking justice for you
My redheaded son with eyes of blue
I give you this promise, as your dad that is true
I will not rest a day until justice comes through
You cried out my name 31 times—
And within moments you were no longer alive
I will forever miss you, my heart always sad
Those 31 times you cried out—
Crying out for me—
The only poem every written by Ron Thomas, father of Kelly.
Brian Turner’s latest book, My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir (W.W. Norton & Co. US 2014; Jonathan Cape/Random House UK 2014) has been called “Achingly, disturbingly, shockingly beautiful” by Nick Flynn and “a humane, heartbreaking, and expertly crafted work of literature” by Tim O’Brien. A Dutch edition was published in 2015 and an Italian edition is forthcoming in 2017. His two collections of poetry: Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005; Bloodaxe Books, 2007) and Phantom Noise (Alice James Books 2010; Bloodaxe Books 2010) have also been published in Sweden by Oppenheim forlag and Poland by Galeria Literacka. His poems have also been published and translated into Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish.
His poetry and essays have been published in the New York Times, National Geographic, Poetry Daily, Virginia Quarterly Review, Georgia Review, and other journals. Turner was featured in the documentary film Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a USA Hillcrest Fellowship in Literature, an NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, a US-Japan Friendship Commission Fellowship, the Poets’ Prize, and a Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. Phantom Noise was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize in England in 2011. His work has appeared on National Public Radio, the BBC, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Here and Now, and on Weekend America, among others.
Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division (1999-2000). As well as an infantryman, Brian has worked as a machinist, a locksmith’s assistant, a convenience store clerk, a pickler, a maker of circuit boards, a dishwasher, an EFL teacher in South Korea, a low voltage electrician, a wide variety of day labor jobs, and as a radio DJ.
Another of his ongoing passions is music; Turner was the bass guitarist for Fresno-based bands The Dead Guys, Chrome Grandma & the Shakes, and The Dead Quimbys. His recent musical collaborations and compositions include a concept album to complement an ongoing book-length poetry project.
Composer Shawn Crouch set Turner’s poetry to music, which was recorded by Chanticleer as “Gardens of Paradise” on their album Best of Chanticleer (Warner Classics, 2010). Other composers who have taken up Turner’s work and woven it into their own pieces include Jake Runestad and Rob Deemer—with performances by Vocal Essence, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Manitoba Singers, and at Carnegie Hall (November 2016) with the Park Avenue Symphony Orchestra and Choir.
Turner co-edited The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders (McSweeney’s, 2013) for The Poetry Foundation. He serves as a contributing editor at The Normal School, and he curates an ongoing series for Guernica Daily called “The Kiss.” He also founded and directs the MFA in creative writing program at SNC Tahoe, which emphasizes writing in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and writing for children and young adults.
Brian is married to poet Ilyse Kusnetz. They live in Orlando, Florida.
I am a drone aircraft plying the darkness above my body, flying over my wife as she sleeps beside me, over the curvature of the earth, over the glens of Antrim and the Dalmatian coastline, the shells of Dubrovnik and Brčko and Mosul arcing in the air beside me, projectiles filled with poems and death and love.
I am 32,000 feet over the Atlantic seaboard. The fields, the orchards, the woodlands below press together the way countries on maps do, coursing waterways, paved roads and dirt tracks and furrows cutting through. Countries touching countries. Bosnia and Vietnam and Iraq and Northern Ireland and Korea and Russia pressed together in the geography below. Cumulus scattered above them, their shapes authored by sunlight on the ground beneath. The Battle of Guadalcanal emerges from the shadows where my grandfather lives. Now Bougainville. Guam. Iwo Jima.
Highway 1—Iraq’s Highway of Death—stretches through desert on one side and California’s San Joaquin Valley on the other. The eucalyptus trees of my childhood line the sides of the highway. In places I can see the scorch marks on the asphalt where transport trucks were left to burn. My dead Uncle Paul steals oranges in the night groves there, just as he did when I was eight years old, while fresh dark earth covers the newly dead on the other side of the highway. Owls perch on their gravestones calling out for water.
Each night I do this, monitoring heat signatures in the landscape, switching from white-hot to black-hot lenses as I bank and turn, gathering circuit by circuit the necessary intelligence, all that I have done, all that we have done, compressed into the demarcations in the map below.
Ken Waldman has drawn on his 30 years in Alaska to produce poems, stories, and fiddle tunes that combine into a performance uniquely his.
A former college professor with an MFA in Creative Writing (University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1988), Waldman has had published six full-length poetry collections, a memoir, a children’s book, and has released nine CDs that mix old-time Appalachian-style string-band music with original poetry. Since 1995 he’s toured full-time, performing at some of the nation’s leading universities, festivals, arts centers, and clubs.
Three of his poetry collections are set in Alaska. His first, Nome Poems, details white and Native issues in rural Alaska and went through two printings with Albuquerque’s West End Press before Waldman reprinted it himself. His second, To Live on This Earth, was released by the same publisher and has poems set throughout Alaska; many focus on the natural world there. His third, The Secret Visitor’s Guide, was published by Wings Press of San Antonio, and revisits both Alaska settings, and includes work set outside Alaska, plus a sequence of political poems inspired by the September 11, 2001 attacks. Waldman has three other full-length poetry collections by respected and known publishers: And Shadow Remained (Pavement Saw Press), Conditions and Cures (Steel Toe Books), and As the World Burns (Ridgeway Press). His memoir, Are You Famous? (Catalyst Book Press), chronicles Waldman’s adventures on tour throughout the United States. His self-published children’s book, D is for Dog Team (Nomadic Press) is a sequence of Alaska-set acrostic poems for young readers that was almost immmediately picked up for distribution by University of Alaska Press.
Waldman has had over 400 poems and stories in journals and anthologies, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Puerto del Sol, and Quarterly West. He is currently shopping four additional full-length poetry collections, a novel, a story collection, a sequel to his memoir, and a hybrid work that is both memoir and a guide to writing—and also includes a full poetry collection of poems about writing and writers.
Among Waldman’s CDs are two for children, Fiddling Poets on Parade (2005) and D is for Dog Team (2009), which goes with the children’s book of the same title. On all CDs, Waldman is joined by ace accompanists. He’s also composed and recorded over one hundred original tunes.
Though he still performs solo on occasion, Waldman teams with other musicians when he headlines such venues as Cal Poly Arts, Lakewood Cultural Center in Colorado, The Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., or else for concert series and festivals. He’ll also bring a troupe of musicians for performing arts series shows.
He is also a popular visiting artist in classrooms. Using both his fiddle and a repertoire of proven writing exercises, he has led workshops in over 225 schools in 34 states nationwide, and has been a guest writer at over 100 colleges and universities, including University of Tennessee, Knox College, and San Diego State University.
His recent essay about making a living as a touring artist was in the September/October 2015 issue of Poets & Writers magazine, and can be seen here.
I toted my junker, side seam already cracked,
an old cheap box of wood that would take
the steep banks of small planes aiming
for runways, the bumps and jostles of sleds
hooked to snowmachines, the ice, the wind,
nights in the villages. Higher education
missionary, I made rounds to students’ homes
(where I visited, but never fit), to liaisons’
offices (where the state-issued equipment
sometimes worked), to the local high schools
and elementaries (where I volunteered service)—
fiddle closer to my heart than the backpack
full of books. Indeed, closer to my heart
than the frozen broken truth: a bloody pump
buried in utter darkness. Quick to unsnap
the case, I scratched tunes where no one had,
played real-life old-time music to Eskimos
and the odd whites in that weathered land.
The Pied Fiddler, I might have been, gently
placing the beat-up instrument in others’ hands,
giving up the bow. Good for smiles and laughs.
Random questions and comments. A third-grader:
It must be like having a dog making noise—
you must never get lonely. A high-schooler:
Is it hard to learn? One of my college students:
Why are you out here? Where is your family?
Education. While at Naropa University (Boulder, Colorado) studied and hung out with beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Gary Snyder, and others; became a Tibetan Buddhist meditator. Performed in and produced conceptual art multidisciplinary presentations as poet, videographer, and electric guitarist. Undergraduate thesis on Japanese classical haiku, BA in Poetics and Expressive Arts, 1982. Completed Tibetan Buddhist seminary training in 1984, and returned to Naropa for an MA in Contemplative Psychology, graduated 1986. Worked as a clinical adult outpatient psychotherapist at Boulder Community Mental Health Center. In 1990, completed a Ph.D. at The Union Institute & University, in Poetics and Depth Psychology, studying Archetypal Psychology with James Hillman. Moved to Kumamoto, Japan, in 1997, teaching at university and publishing academic articles on Japanese and English-language haiku, while designing EFL educational software. Received tenure as an Associate Professor of British and American Literature, Faculty of Letters, Kumamoto University in 2002.
Activities. Co-judge of the Kusamakura International Haiku Competition, Kumamoto, Japan (2003-present). Founder and Director of the Kon Nichi Haiku Translation Group, Kumamoto University (2002-present). Founding Associate Member of The Haiku Foundation (thehaikufoundation.org). In March 2008, publication of Poems of Consciousness: Contemporary Japanese & English-language Haiku in Cross-cultural Perspective (Red Moon Press, 2008, 306 pp.) was awarded the HSA 2009 Mildred Kanterman Award for Haiku Criticism and Theory. In mixed media publication, the gendaihaiku.com website presents subtitled video interviews with notable gendaihaiku (modern Japanese haiku) poets, biographical information and haiku translations. In 2011, publication of Ikimonofûei: Poetic Composition on Living Things (a talk by Kaneko Tohta, with commentary and essays. Gilbert, et al, Red Moon Press, 92 pp.), and The Future of Haiku, an Interview with Kaneko Tohta (with commentary and essays. Gilbert, et al, Red Moon Press, 138 pp.). In 2012, publication of Selected Haiku of Kaneko Tohta, Part 1, 1937-1960 (with commentary, essays and chronology. Gilbert, et al, Red Moon Press, 256 pp.), and Selected Haiku of Kaneko Tohta, Part 2, 1961-2012 (with commentary, chronology and encyclopedic glossary. Gilbert, et al, Red Moon Press, 250 pp.). The two 2012 Selected Haiku of Kaneko Tohta volumes were awarded The Haiku Foundation 2012 Touchstone Distinguished Book Award. In August 2013, publication of The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A New Theory of English-language Haiku (R. Gilbert, Red Moon Press, 132 pp.): A revised and expanded update of the decade-old essay, which first appeared (in North America) in Modern Haiku Journal 35:2 (2004). The book contains 275 haiku by 185 authors, and several new sections, including a comparative discussion of strong and weak styles of disjunction in excellent haiku, and a presentation of seven newly coined “strong reader-resistance” disjunctive categories. (Full bio. available: http://thehaikufoundation.org/poet-details/?IDclient=159)
as an and you and you and you alone in the sea
Haiku in English, Kacian et al, New York: Norton, 2013, p.240
a drowning man
pulled into violet worlds
Haiku in English, Kacian et al, New York: Norton, 2013, p.240
something of a scar
of ocean left
Fereidun Shokatfard is a native of Iran. He is an artist, educator and accomplished businessman. His love for poetry of Rumi and Hafiz was inspired by the teachings of his maternal grandfather, who often gathered the children and played the tar – an ancient Persian string instrument and recited poems from Rumi and Hafiz. Fereidun’s love for nature and the outdoors led him to study agriculture. He graduated from Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany with a Ph.D. in Agro Economics. During his graduate studies, he also studied Art at the Pedagogic Institute in Giessen. Fereidun taught at Pahlavi University in Shiraz, Iran.
Dr. Shokatfard is an author of three books: Colors of Paradise, a collection of his art work and poetry; Colors of Love and Peace, a which brings together artwork of the students of 186th St. Elementary School in the LA Unified School District; and Colors of Joy and Happiness, an instructional art book. The Dalai Lama graciously wrote a foreword for the latter two books. These collections are part of the permanent patient library in local and national children’s hospitals.
In 2012 Fereidun created Heartful Children’s Foundation to help children with cancer through art. He agrees with the medical community that “children need more than medicine to get well” and conducts art shows to highlight the work of patients and share what is going on inside these facilities. Some former patients are familiar faces when he conducts workshops for children at his home.
No more room
Somewhere at the edge of the emptiness
Layers of images coming to focus in my mind
Finding myself in the children’s cemetery
Graves of little angels as far as eyes could see
Fear no more heart, if you don’t hear the laughter
of Lily, Patrick and Paul
Where are Kylie, Jasmine and Laura
They all faded away
The killer, the cancer took them away one by one
The four year old Lily who looked like a porcelain doll
with her dark brown eyes, radiating life was a promise
If you overlooked her bald head and the tube in her nose
and just saw the pretty tiara on her head
and the fluffy petty coat bouncing when she came to the playroom,
with such an enthusiasm
You could hear her shouting in silence,
I will make it
O heart that led me to Laura’s bedside
to tell her that I brought the book of her art work
while my wife and her mom, who could not speak
a word of English were hugging and sobbing
I knew that the end was near
but I had to tell her what was in my heart Te amo Laura, I love you
She opened her eyes slightly, smiled and softly replayed, me too
and went to a deep sleep
I need to take my mind off the cemetery
I have half an hour to rush to the hospital
to do art with those kids
They are waiting for me
And this time I am convinced
They all going to make it
Because we are going to love them a bit more
I told the Drs and nurses do your very best
I just passed the cemetery
There was a big sign in front of the gate that read
No more room