Grand Park was amazing



Grand Park went amazing well today. Lots of kids having a great time playing with poetry.

Having a few days to take care of Mark has been good for me too. I’ve gone walking every morning, done some reading, and writing. I’m starting to feel human again. Mark doesn’t sleep well because tossing and turning in your sleep isn’t possible when you’ve had open heart surgery. But he’s doing well, and now that I am breathing, I feel much better myself. And I’m ready to go to Texas to read with Peggy Shumaker and Ellen Meeropol this week, and I’ll be back Friday night for Mark’s reading at Skylight.

Published in: on March 28, 2015 at 8:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mark requires two women to get him on the road to recovery, Jen and me

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Mark’s recovery is coming on apace. He’s gone for some walks, worked with Stephen on some plumbing around the house. We had to stop him from getting involved with the cooking, and from moving the water heater which seems to have gone out. We’re enjoying cold showers which aren’t bad once you get used to it.

Open heart surgery isn’t the kind of thing you go home to by yourself. And I’ve been so over-wrought by the whole thing that I needed some backup. My friend Jen is staying with us for a few days and it’s so great. Somehow it’s making it possible for me to unwind. We are writing and thinking and working on stuff for the press, all of this rolling forward one after another. But, I’m getting caught up on sleep. It’s hard for Mark to sleep because after open heart surgery, you can’t really sleep on your stomach. You really can only sleep on your back .

We believe in raw juices in our house as a means of recovery, so Mark is drinking raw juice every day. Raw juice and sleep are a great combination. I feel that most health problems can be improved by getting enough sleep and drinking enough water.

Mark is recovering much more quickly than I expected. I would manage to do considerably more whining, crying and carrying on. I would use the whole thing to get attention, but Mark is behaving with amazing grace.

To heal, you have to try to not think too much about what just happened to you.
1. They cut open your sternum. Think about that. They cut you open.
2. They take out your heart.
3. They hook you up to something that runs your vascular system.
4. They fix your heart and put it back in.
5. They sew you up.

But don’t think about any of that. Just think, I’m well now and I’m getting better all the time. That’s what Jen and I are telling Mark. The press is fine. We’re fine. We’re writers. We’re writing a new beginning, a new middle, a new ending.

Published in: on March 27, 2015 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reading Los Angeles, my piece in The Guardian

Call them siren songs … The stories of Los Angeles make people want to come here. “Los Angeles is like the rest of the country, but more so,” in the words of journalist and author Patt Morrison. The Southern California dream is like the American dream, but better. Not simply wife, kids, yard, but palm trees, oranges in winter, beaches and more sin, drugs and fun than the rest of the country can imagine. It has glorious sunshine and apocalyptic events, fires, floods, earthquakes, riots. People move to California to reinvent themselves. That clichéd dream is perfectly reflected in Carolyn See’s Golden Days, which also follows a tradition of California phonies like Aimee Semple McPherson: it features a lunatic with followers and then nuclear apocalypse.

There are many Los Angeles in literature – and all feel vaguely familiar thanks to countless celluloid adaptations. Hollywood itself is, no doubt, the setting for much of the town’s literature. LA stories like F Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel The Love of the Last Tycoon place films as a major character in the city, a backdrop for everything. Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locust, set in the Great Depression era, describes piles of houses with a strange mixture of architecture from everywhere, as if a child God were playing with stacking toys between the freeways. One of its minor characters, Homer Simpson – which inspired the Simpsons TV character – walks out into what he thinks is a mob but turns out to be people in a film. And that is the essence of all LA stories: nothing is as it seems. The beach, the house, the hair, the intangible wealth, nothing is real.

I’ve always liked the idea that Los Angeles writers think they’re making up a new language
LA Noir, the sub-genre encompassing tales of crime set in the shadows of the streets, is impossible to imagine without Raymond Chandler. With The Big Sleep, he began the stories of Philip Marlowe, the hard-boiled detective who finds that Los Angeles is full of liars, cheats and dirty deals. Women jump into bed with you, but sometimes they have a gun. The distance between rich and poor, between the grime of the streets and the clean swimming pools, threads through LA noir stories: James Ellroy’s LA Confidential, Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, also follow LA detectives through its mean streets. In Los Angeles, of course, the movies stick with us as much as the books do. Devil in a Blue Dress is hard to think about without remembering Denzel Washington walking through mid-Wilshire and LA Confidential is one of the most enduring films about Los Angeles, crudely introducing us to street hustling.

But lovers of Los Angeles stories would say: don’t stop. What about drug stories? Among many others, Lithium for Medea is a tale of addiction and of LA as an anti-paradise: “The deformed sun dissolving above me and spitting sick orange blood on the pavement,” writes Kate Braverman. Incidentally, she once told me that she invented “tropicalizing the language.” I’ve always liked the idea that Los Angeles writers think they’re making up a new language.

A must-read southern California chronicler … Joan Didion sitting inside white Stingray car, with cigarette, pictured in Hollywood in 1970. Photograph: Julian Wasser/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Contemporary authors capture this bittersweet character of Los Angeles perfectly. In Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, we have the absent father, the mother in prison and the young woman inventing herself over and over, learning about drugs and sex too early. In Paint it Black, Fitch takes the story further: a young woman falls in love with a wealthy young man, but they cannot find happiness because they are both so damaged. Mona Simpson’s Anywhere but Here has a mother and daughter coming to Los Angeles to be happy together. But happiness is out of reach. It seems real like the huge gloating sunshine, the palm trees and the freeways against the skyline, but it’s not. Happiness is in movies that you didn’t get a part in. You tried out, you seemed perfect, but everyone else got into that movie except you.

For many readers of Los Angeles, the crime fiction and the inequality come together with Charles Bukowski. However, once you read John Fante’s Ask the Dust, you realise who Bukowski was reading as he fell asleep. Fante’s Los Angeles is colder and crueler than we’d like it to be, and it’s far dirtier. Mike Davis’ elegiac City of Quartz, depicting a metropolis destroyed by corporate greed and short-term civic thinking, is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how Los Angeles evolved. Wanda Coleman, Luis Rodriguez, Eloise Klein Healy and Laurel Ann Bogen are the poets you’d read to hear the music of the city. Of course, that music is all encompassing in Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, the Los Angeles novel we’ve all been trying to write ever since. It’s about the desire to have it all matter, to have it all amount to something. To have the story hold up against the world:

There was silence. Something real was happening: this was, as it were, her life. If she could keep that in mind she would be able to play it through, do the right thing, whatever that meant.

Published in: on March 26, 2015 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hospital zombies



Hospitals are all about fighting indignities or getting used to them.
I’ve spent very little time in hospitals. My daughter spent her first night at a hospital, my son has never spent the night. He was born at 8:20 am, I had lunch at home that day. I once spent three nights at the hospital with a kidney problem. My husband had never been to the hospital since he was a child. He has now been in the hospital two weeks and counting.

Hospitals break down your sense of dignity. Prisons are worse, but hospitals are no fun.
1. They keep track of your bathroom habits.
2. You tell them you are in pain; they make you wait. Mark was given medicine at 1 pm yesterday. At 4, he felt like hell and asked for medicine, they said it was on the way. At 8 pm, he was beside himself and I had to go to the boss nurse to get something to happen. They make you wait for everything.
3. You have to wear this clothing which makes you feel like a petri dish being examined by high schoolers.
4. The food is crappy and cooked in some vat.
5. Your bed is uncomfortable.

You lose control over bathing, eating, sleeping, pain, visitors.
At home, you can say this isn’t a good time. In the hospital, people visit around their own schedules.
You lose control over how you present yourself to the world. Let’s face it, the hospital gown looks good on nobody.
You lose control over how the place smells, the aesthetics of your environment.

You get lost in that world and it’s mind numbing and antiseptic and fluorescent. It feels like being in a trapped air zone where everything is being filtered to you through some flat faced robot. A zombie apocalypse would be a real plus in a hospital ward. A real pick me up.

Unless Mark comes home tonight, which seems unlikely, I’ll spend another night on ward. Praying for a zombie apocalypse, and an early release for Mark.

Published in: on March 23, 2015 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  

NICELLE DAVIS presents her newest poetry collection IN THE CIRCUS OF YOU, March 22nd, Skylight Books


In The Circus of You (Rose Metal Press), 5:00 pm Sunday

In The Circus of You is a deliciously distorted fun house of poetry and art by Nicelle Davis and Cheryl Gross. Both private and epic, this novel-in-poems explores one woman’s struggle while interpreting our world as a sideshow,
where not only are we the freaks, but also the on-lookers wondering just how “normal” we are—or ought to be. Davis’ poetry and Gross’ images collaborate over the themes of sanity, monogamy, motherhood, divorce, artistic expression, and self-creation to curate a menagerie of abnormalities that defines what it is to be human. The universe of this book is one in which dead pigeons talk, clowns hide in the chambers of the heart, and the human body turns itself inside out to be born again as a purely sensory creature. This grotesquely gorgeous peep show opens the velvet curtains on the beautiful complications of life.

Praise for In The Circus of You
“Accompanied by Cheryl Gross’ illustrations of stretched flesh and biomechanical anatomies, In the Circus of You writhes in a fever dream of divorce, depression, and an undercurrent of poverty. Nicelle Davis directs a cast of disfigured pigs, desiccated pigeons, and circus freaks in poems whose forms are often cinched with wasp-waisted girdles or filed into jagged angles. Never simple oddities, these afflicted characters and musical poems amount to a harrowing account of loss and how one has to fracture herself in private to appear unbroken in public. Don’t miss Davis’ acts of lurching grace and terrible beauty.”—Douglas Kearney, author of Patter

“Nicelle Davis’ newest book mythologizes pain, making grief, anger, disgust, and fear bearable by transforming them into finely wrought poems. These poems are filled with sharp edges, dissections, illusions, and images of flight, both in their language and in the ways they occupy the page. They are perfectly matched by the drawings of Cheryl Gross, who translates Davis’ poetry into an equally grotesque, equally eloquent visual language. In the Circus of You is a visceral spectacle of controlled excess; it dismantles the three rings we use to contain our most domestic horrors and shows us the way through vulnerability to release.”—Evie Shockley, author of the new black

Nicelle Davis is a California poet who walks the desert with her son J.J. in search of owl pellets and rattlesnake skins. The author of two other books of poetry, her most recent book, Becoming Judas, is available from Red Hen Press. Her first book, Circe, is available from Lowbrow Press. Another book of poems, The Walled Wife, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2016. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Beloit Poetry Journal, The New York Quarterly, PANK, SLAB Magazine, and others. She is editor-at-large of The Los Angeles Review. She has taught poetry at Youth for Positive Change, MHA, and with Volunteers of America in their Homeless Youth Center. Recipient of the 2013 AROHO retreat 9 3/4 Fellowship, she is honored to work as a consultant for this important feminist organization. She currently teaches at Paraclete and with the Red Hen Press WITS program.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Cheryl Gross is an illustrator, writer, and motion graphic artist living and working in the New York/Jersey City area. She is a professor at Pratt Institute and Bloomfield College. Cheryl received her MFA from Pratt Institute. Her work has appeared in numerous films, TV shows, publications, and corporate and museum collections, including: The Museum of the City of New York, The New York Times, The Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, Jimmy Stewart and His Poems, Circe, and Becoming Judas, among others. She wrote and illustrated the novel The Z Factor.

Event date:
Sunday, March 22, 2015 – 5:00pm
Event address:
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Published in: on March 21, 2015 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  


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In the long line of Kate skills (and there is a long line, people!) caretaking is not high on the list. It’s on the list but down there. Below horseback riding, speaking French, dog walking, gardening, flower arranging, opening bottles of champagne –which I usually need help with, below writing and barn painting, (which I’ve done numerous times), below cliff diving and way below top skills like swimming and having fun on vacations.

Mark is really good at it. When my kids were growing up, they claim their short lived illnesses were because I expressed extreme boredom whenever they seemed sick and I refused to entertain them. However, as humans do, I am attempting to rise to the occasion. Mark’s been in the hospital two weeks and when you’re at the hospital eating their vast assortment of nasty hospital food and being poked and prodded by nurses, hanging around in a hospital gown which is very fetching, with all the beeping of machinery and moaning of the other patients, it isn’t exactly pleasant. Starting tonight, I’m going to give sleeping over at the hospital a whirl and see how that goes.

I researched caretaking, so I’ve assessed which of these problems I might find myself dealing with:
1. You feel guilty. I do feel guilty! Although I do feel like I’ve been run over by an eighteen wheeler or at least a van, I didn’t have my chest ripped open and my heart taken out like in the third Indiana Jones movie, oh that scene was freaky! The solution is supposed to be to lower your standards and be okay if you’re a B plus. Does any of that make sense to the Kate? Lower your standards? Are you freaking kidding me? B plus? WTF mate.
2. Anger and resentment—feeling that your life has been hijacked. Well, it’s occurred to me that now I have an excuse to take a break from running, and Pilates so I haven’t gotten to the anger/resentment phase.
3. Worry and loneliness. Not really happening. Everyone has been so nice and emailing, calling, texting, commenting on FB. Someone sent flowers, I’m going to talk my friend Jacqueline into making the awesome lentil soup, my friend Cathy from NY! Is in town next week and offered to bring us Zankou chicken! Lisa offered to help with food. It’s amazing. Everyone is incredible. I am not lonely and I don’t have time to worry or freak out. The suggestion for lonely people is to join a support group. Yeah, in my spare time.
4. Grief can overwhelm you. Hmmm? I’m not really into grief. He’s going to get better. We’ll be having champagne and oysters pretty soon.
5. The last one is supposed to be defensiveness, taking everything personally. I can see that, but that’s not my style.

Mark is going to have some serious healing to do and it’s going to be weird. It’s going to be different. It’s going to be an adventure.

Published in: on March 21, 2015 at 8:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Mark is superman


They say Mark’s a superman, one day and he’s out of ICU, actually called CCU, Cardiac Care Unit, and onto the recovery ward. He will be there for several days, and I expect him home by mid week. This whole thing feels like I am walking on strange stilts, hanging above earth like a Sri Lankan fisherman.

Our garden is growing well; I can’t wait for Mark to see how well the roses are blooming when he gets back. And the tea garden all minting and lilting.

What defines us is how we behave when we are un-tethered, un-tended, un-gloved, un-dressed, un-wound. Jared, Tobi, Stephen and I are the four musketeers. Mark’s brother Alan who works all the time and never takes time off, he came down and was with us for four days. Nicholas has called in each day, and we hold Mark’s hands and heart in our own and will him to live forever. We believe in love, family, and the great times we will have when he is better. I won’t ever forget this turning of life.

Mark went through this with a valiant spirit I couldn’t have duplicated. In Hollywood where he is, the whole world goes on, twisting and turning. It is always so strange ho the rest of life tumbling on while the sky is cavorting for us and the moon and the clouds are not right. You get lost in your thimble of life and cannot imagine the rest. We will emerge and find the sky and the floating fiery sun. We will again take wing and test the clouds in flight.

Published in: on March 20, 2015 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Strange things about the hospital


My thoughts as Mark recovers in the ICU.

1. They don’t tell you anything. Okay, I’m kidding. They give you info on a need to know basis for normal people, but I want to know a lot more. Which is why we, like everyone else in the world, ended up doing extensive research on what was happening.
2. Everything moves very slowly. We had to be at the hospital yesterday for the surgery at 9 am. Mark was taken into pre-op at 9 am, we waited until 3 pm. He couldn’t eat or drink and neither did I because I am an Amazon warrior. But he was in pre-op for six hours and there isn’t anything to do. No books, music, food, dancing, computer use, movies, but we’re like firelight story tellers so we kept entertaining ourselves, but six hours is a long time.
3. Yesterday’s parking–$16. Surprisingly, I wasn’t as pissed as you would think. It was just whoah.
4. Kaiser has huge hospitals and the Sunset has a couple wishing wells. We wished.
5. Sunset has a healing garden which is pretty thin, but sort of nice anyway.
6. Sunset Kaiser is right across from the Self Realization Fellowship and the Scientology Center. Either would have been uniquely un-helpful but the buildings are nice.
7. When you’re at the hospital for a long time, you start to feel like your mind is un-spooling.
8. When you’re working and answering questions while at the hospital, it still feels like you are disconnected from the ground.
9. Tobi and Stephen walked to the grocery story for fruit. The cafeteria wasn’t wonderful. No surprise there. I wasn’t hungry. No surprise there.
10. Mark started learning how to do magic in the hospital. He’s becoming a magician.

Published in: on March 20, 2015 at 7:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Mark’s surgery is tomorrow

Mark’s surgery is currently scheduled for tomorrow. We very much appreciate all the kind well wishes that we have received from people all over the country who we didn’t even know cared about us. It’s been amazing how everyone keeps telling us that we’re going to be all right. I almost believe it. Thank you everyone who has reached out to us.

Good advice that people have given me during this crazy time

1. Put on your own oxygen mask first.
2. When was the last time you ate?
3. Wear your seat belt
4. Just focus on your family.
5. Sleep.

My kids’ advice:
1. We got this.
2. Mark is a Jedi knight and the force is strong with him.
3. We’re ninjas.
4. Ninjas in pajamas are still ninjas.
5. This is part of our amazing story. We’re epic.

Published in: on March 18, 2015 at 8:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Red Hen Press Publisher, Mark E. Cull, will be having open heart surgery this week

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and should be home by the weekend recovering comfortably.

This all begin with a walk, dizzy-spell, fall and concussion, which led to the discovery of a genetic heart valve disorder. Talk about getting inside your character’s head, or, be careful of what you write about: Cull’s forthcoming novel, KING OF THE SEA MONKEYS (Guernica Editions, April, 2015), is about a man who experiences memory loss. Fortunately for Cull, his memory loss was temporary, and with expected perfect recovery, he’ll be celebrating his book’s publication at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, along with Red Hen author Chris Tarry (How to Carry Bigfoot Home) in early April.

Red Hen Press also just celebrated 20 years of publishing the finest poetry, fiction and essays. Mark E. Cull and Kate Gale are looking forward to seeing you all at their 21st and are declaring, here’s to another 21 plus years of quality books, friends and good health!

Published in: on March 16, 2015 at 4:51 am  Leave a Comment  

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