Escaping city life for the woods along the coast of Northern California, Blake More is an artist poet who stands on her head, dances, eats raw food, digs in the dirt, hugs trees, and swims with dolphins whenever possible. A UCLA graduate and lifetime member of Phi Beta Kappa, she has avoided a “real job” since 1989 and makes her living as a radio host, performer, graphic designer, writer, costume designer, and poet in the classroom.
She organizes and hosts a long standing poetry and jazz series, hosts two radios shows (a poetry podcast called “Cartwheels on the Sky” and Women’s Voices on KZYX&Z Mendocino). Her book godmeat is a collection of poetry, prose, color artwork, and a DVD compilation of poem movies. Her latest chapbook is Up In the Me World. She has definitely made up her mind on the eternal question of whether to breathe or not to breathe.
To explore Blake’s many other creative endeavors, please go to her website:
I am a poet. I accept my position as an obscure art-form bottom-feeder passionately and with gusto. I write for myself and those who happen upon my work. I am secure knowing there are others, non-writers even, who love poetry as fiercely as I do—even if our numbers are small, we are mighty. It sounds depressing, but awareness is power. It is also healing.
Anyone devoted to the craft knows being a writer is a solitary journey. Sure, there are conferences and writing groups, reading opportunities, friends who enjoy reviewing drafts, book tours if we are lucky, but generally writing means time spent alone pounding our thoughts into the keyboard (or for the old school, lined paper).
And if you are a “performance poet,” this isolation is exponential—for who but the most dedicated literati willingly listens to poetry?! Sure I’m joking, but I’ll wager that most poets brave enough to offer a “poem” in a social situation are used to a roomful of sighs and lackluster “okays.”
It isn’t personal, as no matter how many standing ovations a poet has received, culturally, Americans are more resistant to poetry than any of the other creative arts. Perhaps it is because no one has the time or mental concentration for it in our flashy media-obscured world of images and pithy quotes. Poetry is obscure, emotional, heady, too rife with imagery to capture ears at a football game or drunken dinner party (unless you are dining at a bohemian kitchen table in North Beach—which just so happens to be among my favorite places to read).
Yes, poetry is experiencing a surge in Hollywood attention, poem-a-day digests, and bestowals of poet laureate laurels, which warms my bard heart. But let’s be honest, even Rumi will never rival the readership of Stephen King.
However, this does not mean that I go gently into the quiet study. I am too much of a show off. Instead I drive my poems on the freeway, park them on busy sidewalks and parade them down main streets across the west coast.
It started in 1995. I had just returned to SF after a three-year stint in Tokyo and was figuring out what to do next. I had a bit of money saved, so I was creatively wide open and had free time on my hands. One day I looked at “Zezzie the Girl,” my Kelly-green 1968 Karmann Ghia, and envisioned one of my poems on her hood. That’s all it took and within days, that first poem, “To the Mama of Stalactites, Jellyfish and Us," was permanently emblazoned, which in my mind was a fitting throwback to the hippie roots of her time. Soon another poem found its way onto her driver’s door, then the passenger, and on the back I wrote, “Words don’t have to be spoken to be heard, remember everyone is listening.” Symbols, flowers, other decorative images illustrated each poem. Eventually she even had a large flower, which I called her pedestrian catcher, welded to her bumper.
It was a trip. Never had my poetry gotten so much play. People left flowers and notes, I received hugs and questions about my work as a writer. I’ll never forget returning to the parking lot after an event at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin’s San Geronimo Valley and discovering over a dozen young people in their early 20s kneeling beside Zezzie scribing her poems into their journals. That inspired me to make chapbooks, which I sold or gave away to interested people. It was like my very own road show poetry museum.
I was hooked. In 2003, deciding to move up a notch in sophistication and environmental awareness, I moved on to Eartha Karr a 1978 Mercedes 300CD that runs on biodiesel and is painted in a renaissance, tattoo-art inspired palette. Poems grace her hood, both doors, and the back. Reflecting my growth as a poet and a painter, she is more actualized and as a result spent three months in a curated art car show at the Towe Auto Museum in Sacramento, which elicited a lot of attention, both good and bad, as I discovered the majority of classic Mercedes owners think writing poems on a Mercedes is sacrilege. Fortunately, they are a minority, and Eartha, which I still drive, regularly receives flowers and notes, elicits hugs and, yes, sells books.
Since I was turning 50 in 2015, I decided to update my ride, or as one of my student calls it, my whip. So, I purchased another Mercedes, this one a black SL500 with a V8, and spent December 2014 to February 2015 painting her in a metallic-only palette. I named her “Star Yantra” and she is the p.m. to Eartha’s a.m. I feel invigorated as a poet every time someone walks up to me and asks, “Did you write this? It speaks to me so deeply,” or “It made me cry,” or “Can I take a picture of it to read alone later?” She has already been featured at a couple of festivals and this summer she had an all expenses trip to a Solstice Festival in Seattle where she was seen by over 60 thousand eyeballs.
So what if perhaps only 1/24th of them actually read the words—I am happy for the opportunity to leave my desk behind for a change and bask in the joy of poetry. Sometimes, a poet just has to wear her words on her sleeve!
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An interview with Marcela Griffin, author of a collection of poems
Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Marcela Griffin has made California her second home for over forty-seven years. A retired teacher, she focuses her art on the personal interaction between her spirit and the landscape. In nature, she finds the strength to cope with the loss of her only child. The poems and photographs in this book reflect her time of solace along the California coast.
Reflections by the Shore: Poems and Photographs
Paperback – April 7 2015
In this interview with Susan Bono of the Noyo River Review, author Marcela Griffin touches on some of the ways the MCWC community has supported and shaped her writing.
What brought you to MCWC and when?
The first time I attended the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference was in 2009. I wanted to learn about the best way to write a memoir about my experience with grief, hoping to help others who are going through the pain of the loss of a child.
Who was your workshop instructor?
My first instructor was Sharman Russell, who opened my eyes to the task at hand with the encouragement I needed. I went back again in 2010, and again experienced kindness and hope from Kat Meads.
What kind of project were you working on?
A memoir, which is now shelved for future work.
How did your relationship to your work shift as a result of attending MWC? Mention any other factors that played an important role in your evolution.
I believe it was in 2010 that I attended an afternoon talk by Ellen Bass. She gave us a prompt that changed my projects for ever. Since then, I have been focused on Poetry: writing it, feeling it, being surprised by it. From 2012 through 2014, I attended the Poetry sections at the Mendocino Conference, with instructors like Kim Addonizio, Joshua McKinney, and Sharon Doubiago. All of whom planted seeds of craft and creativity in my work. My memoir is now in the back burner, but I do plan to go back to it.
What helped you decide to publish a book of your own poems and photography?
I have been a photographer since the early ‘90s, but in the last four years, I decided to mix photography with poetry. The result is the publication of my first book, Reflections by the Shore. It was time to expose my work and learn even more from the feedback.
What were some of the highs and/or lows along the path to publication?
Once I decided to publish my book, the realization of my lack of knowledge in the field of publication forced me to look for other options. After much thought, I decided to use CreateSpace and self-publish my book. It has been a long and difficult journey learning every step I had to take, but it has been worth it. Classmates from the Mendocino Conferences I attended were always an inspiration to keep going and not feel insecure about my work. They are my thoughts and reflections and they gave me the strength to cope with the loss of my only child, so I hope the book might offer help to others who deal with grief each day of their lives.
How does it feel to have a book in the world?
Having published has given me a sense of accomplishment and a desire to keep going and publish more of my work.
What advice would you give to other writers to help them on their way?
The advice I go back to again and again is to trust yourself and do not let the judge that sits on your shoulder stop you from expressing yourself. Just write, even if you end up throwing some work away.
Attending the Mendocino Coast Writers Conferences gave me the tools I needed to let my imagination soar. All the staff has always created a sense of safety and a sense of home, where I was encouraged to move forward.
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