Wednesday, December 17, 2008



HALLUCINATING CALIFORNIA by Richard Lopez and Jonathan Hayes
(Windowpane Press, Sacramento/San Francisco, 2008; for Windowpane Press info, contact Jonathan Hayes at

I love everything about HALLUCINATING CALIFORNIA—the structure, the poems, the simple but elegant design, and especially the life-force underlying the whole project.

The chap contains two sections enchantingly titled with the area codes of “916” (the Sacramento section by Richard Lopez) and “415” (the San Francisco section by Jonathan Hayes). Sure, it more accurately might be entitled HALLUCINATING NORTHERN CALIFORNIA but that’s a petty objection for poems that raise and maintain interest for readers whose interests lie beyond California. I raise it here only because the project’s delights made me wish there was a larger book entitled HALLUCINATING CALIFORNIA with many more writers living in all sorts of area codes within the state and writing poems as effectively as Lopez and Hayes.

I received my copy from Lopez and so also received his inscription as part of my chap: “Poetry is life.” And if such was the intention of both writers, then they were successful in manifesting their intent. The poems are basically slices of life in Sacramento and San Francisco, but wisely and wittily distilled into quite enjoyable gems. Here’s one by Lopez:
tripping out

k st mall at 6:00 pm in sac
winter night after work
walking thru and around
the wannabes gangsters
workers waiting for the train
home i’m in deep
neon and shadows shape
thoughts but whose
i’m wandering
have my toes pointed in every direction
which means desire
confused with coordination
tripping out
the best way is to
walk thru

The consistent use of lower-case capitals remind me of a conversation I once had with another poet, Arthur Sze, who shared that he usually writes his first drafts all in lower case because he didn’t want the pauses required for capitalizing letters to interrupt the initial flow. Not to say that I think these poems are just “first drafts” but I recall this conversation because one of HALLUCINATING CALIFORNIA’s assets is the energy that, in “tripping out” does seem uninterrupted as it flows.

Interestingly, I have had various correspondences from Lopez and I can’t recall him ever capitalizing letters. Even when he sends a snailmail address, the first letters of streets, city and state are lower-case. I believe this to be one example of, for Lopez, the lack of separation between life and poetry—even when he might make up something for purpose of a poem, he is always writing the truth.

I sense a similar life/poetic force in the poems I see here by Hayes. Here’s a sample poem:
san francisco, california

still in her Safeway uniform
but now with a cigarette & drink

she fries tortilla chips in the skillet
holds up a bloody red steak to the kitchen air

with our tarnished metal forks
we smash avocados in a ceramic bowl

lemon                   more salt

by the time the guacamole is made
chips are laid on a green Guatemalan cloth

to dry
& cool

she tells us
“como extrano a mi tierra”

This poem is also the first poem in Hayes’ section, and is an effective invitation to the rest of the poems, of which my favorite is
chicken poem

embarcadero center
waiting on the 1 california street bus
she told me
“last week i boarded the bus and a couple blocks up
an old chinese lady came on with a chicken
pecking and heckling
the bus driver told her
‘no animals on the bus’
she snapped the neck of the chicken
and walked to the back of the bus”

As Lopez and Hayes finely illustrate, poetry is all around us and we just need to be observant. Wonderfully effortless poems—no strain, just “walk[in’] thru”


Eileen Tabios does not allow her books to be reviewed in Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to Fred Muratori's review of her I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved in AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW. She feels lucky to have received reviews of her books and, one day, while wondering what to do with all these reviews, answered her own question with her newest book THE BLIND CHATELAINE'S KEYS: HER BIOGRAPHY THROUGH YOUR POETICS which recycles reviews and engagements of her poems into a biography--a biography because, as Ted Berrigan once noted, "there is a self inside almost all of the poems”.

1 comment:

  1. Another view is offered by John Bloomberg-Rissman in GR #13 at