Saturday, February 27, 2010

"My Ship"

couple of weeks ago the poet Garrett Hongo commented on Facebook that he was listening to "Miles Ahead + 19" and that his favorite song was "My Ship" by Gershwin/Kurt Weill.

Some of the lyrics go like this:

"My ship has sails that are made of silk / The decks are trimmed with gold / And of jam and spice / There's a paradise in the hold // My ship's aglow with a million pearls / And rubies fill each bin / The sun sits high in a sapphire sky / When my ship comes in..." (I like that the paradise in the hold consists of jam and spice!)

I love the song and loved that he was writing about it (although actually, I don't think he was was focusing on the lyrics but on Miles' instrumental version). I had to comment:

"Heard that around the house a lot growing up plus my Mom's out-of-tune a cappella singing of it. Hence had to learn it once I became a singer.

"I felt it was really about singing (= lyric = poetry)!

'I do not care if that day arrives / That dream need never be / If the ship I sing / Doesn't also bring...'

I don't think it's just a scanning problem that led to not saying 'the ship I sing OF' but instead 'the ship I sing'  I prefer to think that one is really singing that ship into being."

Despite her utter untunefulness, my Mom sang its first couple of lines with heart and just the right mix of fervor and wistfulness  and then stopped, implying the rest with her bright-eyed expression.

Gotta remember to sing that ship into being  the only way it's going to get here.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Lisa B's 3-Dot Journalism for February

Dear Friends,

Bucking the trend of producing a beautifully designed, relentlessly self-focused newsletter, I decided to send out something including the cool happenings of some other creative folks in my immediate universe…(and I always loved those Herb Caen columns)…

Jamie Fraser, the hip-hop dancer in my recent music video for “The Poetry of Groove” (let’s face it, my only music video) will be competing on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” this Thursday Feb. 11 at 10 p.m. with his crew BreakEFX. Watch  and text or phone the show  to vote for them. A sweeter dancer-teacher cannot be found.

…And does anyone want to invite me over to see the show? As some of you know, I don’t subscribe to TV shows, not only to save the expense (forget the antenna idea, it’s completely beyond my skill set and would pick up only a few stations), but also to allow time to watch the uncountable number of DVDs supplied by my beloved father…

Speaking of which, I was happy to recently share some of these DVDs on jazz and Latin music with my good friend and very first music mentor since I became a grownup, the Latin jazz wonder Wayne Wallace, to show in some of his classes this semester. Wayne has produced a dizzying number of CDs recently, well worth checking out.

…About that same music video: Its L.A. director/cinematographer Royce Dudley also recently shot a wildly different piece called “Mind of the Demon: The Larry Linkogle Story”  which just won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2010 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film also was awarded Best Documentary at the Bel Air Film Festival. It explores the psyche of the dirt-bike legend who helped kick-start the freestyle motocross revolution, then battled problems with drugs and violence. I must say I’ve known folks who faced the latter, but who knew there was a motocross revolution?

…I was thrilled to have two very different kinds of interviews in the past couple of months, one by MSN Messenger  which method allowed both spontaneity and increased written eloquence – and the other by phone (for an online radio show) – which allowed my and the interviewer’s mutual female enthusiasm to bubble up complete with vocal nuance. The first, with the delightful writer Jordan Richardson, he titled “Lisa B on Assertive Women, Poetry and Monk’s Genius” and is at . The second, with the vivacious and talented singer Carmen Milagro, can be downloaded or streamed at . Both are very off the cuff, not that I have cuffs.

Francisco Alarcon kindly invited me to participate in a reading to benefit Doctors without Borders’ Haiti relief efforts. It’s at La Pena in Berkeley on March 28, 7 -10 p.m. An extravaganza of more than 30 poets reading for 5 minutes each, including Al Young, Diane DiPrima, and many others. I’m hoping to perform to one of the instrumental tracks from my recent “The Poetry of Groove” CD to add a shot of poetic spoken-sung experience to the proceedings. Francisco and I were published together in “Red Dirt”’s inaugural issue of 1991, edited by Lorna Dee Cervantes

…I enjoyed catching my friend Daria and Roberta Donnay, the two Lickettes for Dan Hicks’ recent show at Oakland Yoshi’s  not least because they were so funny, especially Daria. I didn’t expect that from her other performances. It’s a real talent to be a momentarily goofy comedienne who also sings so richly and hiply…

Also unexpected was the January 28 review of my new CD by Mark Saleski, in which he likens me to “non-standard” female vocalists Bjork, Kate Bush, and Meredith Monk but contrasts me with them because I lack any “perceived strangeness of presentation.” (He hasn’t seen me in the morning.) He describes the record as “spoken word beautifully sung excursions…in a bunch of snazzy grooves that vary from hip-hop to slinky jazzification” and calls it spiritually uplifting, evocative, hopeful, funny, and sexy.

…I’m back since October at Emeryville’s Anna Yates Elementary School teaching poetry-writing as a weekly volunteer, having graduated from my 2nd- and then 3rd-graders (I taught the same group for two years) to start anew with a rambunctious and sweet 4th-grade class...

One of the then-3rd-graders, whom I’ll call Star, wrote a thank-you at the end of the last school year that I only recently received. It’s one of my favorite responses ever. I was struck by her ability to look outside her own experience to insightfully portray and evaluate a grown-up: “I like the way U…/Use your colors./Always have Energy./Present your self,/And what you stand for./Out of know where come up with a rhyme.” The kids did work with color in their poem-writing, but I feel she also saw my use of color vibrations as a clairvoyant reader (which she knew nothing about) and my focus on “energy.” And I really like the spelling of “know where.”

...If you're a musician/songwriter and would like to collaborate, please get in touch and let's explore...

For your valentine or yourself, you might want to give “The Poetry of Groove” or the very pink and amorous “What’s New, Pussycat?” Aptly, the 2-for-1 holiday sale is still in force (get a free CD for buying one via PayPal). Delivery is rapid, and you will be hugely appreciated not only by the recipient but by me (demonstrated by a kiss if you want it or whatever inscription you specify). Links to retailers are at

So out of "know where," I wish you a love-filled and rambunctious February. Thanks, Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"Lisa B on Assertive Women, Poetry and Monk's Genius"

Singer-poet Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) from "Center of the Rhyme" CD
I had the honor and fun of a long interview, before the turn of the year, with Jordan Richardson of both and Canadian Audophile's Reviews and News. Check it out at

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Free-Wheeling Radio Interview Yesterday with Carmen Milagro

singer-poet Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) laughs
Really enjoyed this free-wheeling interview yesterday with the vivacious Carmen Milagro on how I became a poet and singer, using social media, coaching kids, advice to musicians seeking gigs (i.e., advice to self), making a living, using different sides of the brain, the biggest risk I ever took, and more. Stream or download from link.