Marin Arts & Culture May 2017 - Page 31

Poetry John Briscoe John Briscoe’s Crush: Wine and California from the Padres to Paris was one of four finalists for the 2016 California Historical Society Book Award, and, dedicated to Kevin Starr, will be published by the University of Nevada Press this fall.  His essay “The Judgment of Paris,” lavishly praised by California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, ran in Catamaran Literary Reader last year and is a nominee for both the Pushcart and Best American Essay awards.  Briscoe’s The Lost Poems of Cangjie, published by Risk Press and just released, are translations of recently discovered poems of the Chinese historical figure Cangjie, storied inventor of the Chinese system of writing during the reign of The Yellow Emperor, Huangdi, in the 27th century BCE, approximately 4,700 years ago.  Briscoe has published several other books, on history, law, and of poetry.  His Tadich Grill, a history of San Francisco’s culinary scene (Ten Speed Press, 2002), remains a popular history of a colorful and historically remarkable aspect of San Francisco.  His poetry and legal, literary and historical essays have been widely published in literary and scholarly journals.  He has practiced law in San Francisco for 45 years, tried and argued cases in the United States Supreme Court and the Permanent Court of International Arbitration in The Hague, was Special Adviser to the United Nations for the environmental aftermath of the Gulf War, and is a Distinguished Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. The Crown of Literature is Poetry —W. Somerset Maugham   Deaf Adder, Deaf Heaven                                                    Venomousness           hisses in Jewess,        in Negress but it can’t be in            the innate sounds of those words.  It must lie  in the sneering, sibilating way      this woman chooses to             enunciate them.          Then again mimsy, slithy toves and every child’s favorite borogoves made us giggle long before Humpty Dumpty            told Alice what they meant.                              For that matter if borborygmus        were redefined to mean Armegeddon we’d still titter at its silliness.          My grandmother, who raised me, suckled me   she said, would have forbidden me to dwell a day in this place, Squaw Valley, squaw                  the most mocking caw of Crow, the bird, a word crueler than digger, the unutterable,               the for-this-you-fight-Son D word.           I will take you, she would tell me, to Place Where They Burnt the Digger.        It isn’t far.            My eyes flit up one granite cliff, alight on a saddle on its east, drop down its draw to a high spring which falls and feeds Squaw Creek   feet from me, where the August grasses part fast as a bobcat’s prowl and flatten silent; a snake I cannot see must be      sidewinding by the bank down the valley to the Truckee.  A raven croaks.  A crow       squawks retort.  I grope, dig hard                but cannot hear                                         her hurt.     [Place Where They Burnt the Digger Amador County. Place Where They Burnt the Digger is a Miwok Indian ceremonial area located on Old Stockton Road east east of Highway 88 near lone, California. See See Psalms 58:4-5; Sh., Son- net 29] > MARIN ARTS & CULTURE 31