Saturday, September 18, 2010


It's been almost a year since poet, film scholar, teacher, colleague and dear friend Morton Marcus left us, and I miss him like crazy. But his influence continues to ripple throughout Santa Cruz arts and letters. The 1st Annual Morton Marcus Memorial Poetry Reading will be inaugurated in his honor on Saturday, November 6, 7:30 p. m. at the Cabrillo College Music Recital Hall. The event will feature a reading by visiting poet Robert Hass, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, and former U.S. Poet Laureate. This year's event also coincides with the release of Mort's final book of poems, "The Dark Figure In The Doorway: Last Poems" (White Pine Press). Gary Young, Santa Cruz County’s Poet Laureate, will serve as M.C., and join local poets Joe Stroud, and Stephen Kessler in reading from Mort's final book. The event is co-sponsored by Poetry Santa Cruz, Ow Family Properties, Cabrillo College English Department, and UC Santa Cruz. Tickets will be available starting October 5th, so start planning now. Admission is free, but seating is limited, so pick up tickets early at Bookshop Santa Cruz, UCSC McHenry Library, Cabrillo College Bookstore and Bookworks in Aptos.

Earlier this year, Mort's contribution to the local film community was celebrated when the 2010 Santa Cruz Film Festival offered its 1st Annual Morton Marcus Audience Award For Best Narrative Feature to participating filmmaker Eugene Kim (Liquor Store Cactus). Believe it or not, festival honcho Julian Soler is already soliciting for film and video submissions for next year's SCFF (the festival's 10th anniversary season), to be held May 5—14, 2011. The deadline for submissions is February 11, 2011, with an early bird discount for entries postmarked by November 19, 2010. Click here for submission info, or visit the SCFF website for more information.

By the way, did I ever tell you about my favorite Morton Marcus poem? There are plenty to choose from, I know, but when I heard him read "Smoking Cigars" at a book store once (from the collection "Moments Without Names"), well, it blew me away. Understand, I hate cigars in practice, but in a few fleet, lyrical phrases, Mort had me reimagining the whole idea of smoking as a way to commune with the spirit of a place and the souls of ancient lives, a consummation with history itself.

Unfortunately, this revelation didn't make me any more tolerant of Mort's sweet cigar smoke wafting upstairs from the porch below and into our open window late at night during the two vacations Art Boy and I, and Mort and his wife, Donna, took together in the French countryside with our friends Bruce and Marcia McDougal. But I'd give a lot to go back to France one more time and fall asleep breathing in those toxic fumes, knowing that Mort was still down there on the back porch, in rapt conversation with a lost world.

(Photos by Jana Marcus, as seen on

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