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Dee Allen.: California Poets Part 7, Five Poems

Dee Allen

July 1st, 2024

California Poets: Part VII

Dee Allen.

Five Poems


An entire nation's

      Soul, whilst under

            Shogunate rule,

                    Was driven

                          By this code

                                Written on hearts:

The samurai's life

       Is tethered to

              The lord of his land.

                     On the way

                           To lasting peace,

                                A samurai must

                                       Have honour, show

                                            No fear to

                                                  His opponents,

                                                        Be ready to

                                                             Protect his lord

                                                                   And taste another's

                                                                         Sword edge—


W: 4.11.16

Bushido: Japanese: “The warrior's way.”



Spirits of the dead—

Drifting, lost—are shown the way

Back home with small flames.


W: 8.18.22


Atobi : Japanese funerary ritual: Small lanterns lit as a means to guide the spirits of the dead to homes they had as living people.


It would be

Very interesting to

Take a ride

Recline inside

A speeding bullet.

But not the kind

Discharged from a gun barrel.

At the colloquial

Drop of a hat,

Two hundred plus

Miles per hour

Speed limit

Is achieved.

The swiftest

B.A.R.T. train

Moves at

The most

Eighty miles

Per hour

Along the

Iron tracks.

A snail's pace.

A bullet made

In Japan, at

Breakneck speed, beats it

Nine times out of ten.

A metallic projectile

Soars, carving a clean

Path through time & space

Originating from

No fired gun, no grudge,

Hitting up myriad

Targets anyhow.

Buckling up

Kicking back

In the passenger

Seat within

Relaxing as you

Feel the pull

Feel the velocity

Times ten thrust your surroundings forward.

It would be

Very interesting to

Take a ride

Recline inside

A speeding bullet.


W: 1.21.17

Shinkansen : Japanese: “New trunk line” or “high-speed railway”. Named after the very first “bullet train”:

The Tokaido Shinkansen [ 1964 ].

B.A.R.T.: Bay Area Rapid Transit. The local subway train system for the San Francisco Bay Area,



How a Goth looks, sauntering, hanging out

In Harajuku: Victorian Age

Funeral wake vestige: Petticoat

Shaped like a chapel bell, ruffled dress shirt,

Rose and ribbon pinned on hair tumbling down

In coils, long stockings, Mary Janes on feet,

Folding fan in one of her gloved hands.

All silk and lace. Stone Bible black. Coffin rest

Ideal. The shoppers have E.A. Poe's long

Lost Lenore brought to life among their ilk.

Modern-day Tokyo—an interesting place

Where all have seen her, but none know her name.

The Fashionistas gave her this cute one:



W: 8.8.23

Lannet: A 14-lined poem, like a sonnet—without metre or rhyme. Devised by Laura Lamarca.

Harajuku: A hip shopping district in Tokyo, Japan. Similar to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, Fremont in Seattle or Little Five Points in Atlanta.



Along the mountain,

Saws slice into wood,

Trees come down.

January 13th:

From the mountain,

Driven into a village,

Trees come down.

There, they are

Cut and fashioned

By over one hundred

Pairs of hands into

A makeshift shrine.

January 14th:

Upon completion, the

Local Shinto priest

Houses the shrine

With a benevolent

Spirit of the road.

A freezing cold night

Dusted over in white—

Every January 15th,

The road spirits

Are honoured

With glowing paper

Lanterns, watch-fires

Beckoning new travellers

On the passage

To Nozawa Onsen.

Everybody's happy

Drunk on sakē,

Pine torches raised and alight,

Taiko drummers pound

Their bulbous instruments,

Formerly signals for war,

The long festive night ahead

Announced in their vigorous beats.

Young men of 42

Perched on the green

Cedar brush rooftop

Hurling down loose

Kindling and insults to

Rowdy villagers brandishing their

Bound reeds of fire & enthusiasm

Gathering on the snowy floor below.

When they rush the shrine, they

Visualise bigger kindling—

Swinging of torches,

Flight of embers,

Thrashing of would-be protectors

Young men of 25

Blocking the entrance—

A ritual is made

A game is made

A salute is made

To the most unruly

Element in nature—

In the falling snow, playful

Clashes between villagers and

Men of unlucky ages

Continue into the wee hours—

Eventually, the ones with

The biggest pine torches

Break through the

Weakening human line,

Penetrate into the heart of the shrine—

The wooden shrine

Collapses quicker


And flickers

Rising with the flames

A joyous roar

Sparking winter kindling

And nothing more—

For all the

CGI distractions around,

Fire never fails

To entertain us.


W: 10.25.16

Dosojin Matsuri : Japanese: “Fire festival of the road spirits.”

Sakē : Rice liquor.

“Unlucky ages”: The ages of 42 & 25, according to the Shinto religion.

CGI: Computer Generated Imagery.


July 6th, 2024

California Poets Interview Series:

Dee Allen., Performance Poet, Multidisciplinary Artist

interviewed by David Garyan

DG: Discovery, your ninth collection of poetry was recently published by Southern Arizona Press. Can you talk about the writing process and the inspiration behind the book?

Dee Allen.: Discovery began with me being a fan of 1950s American pin-up model and actress Bettie Page. My fandom with Miss Page goes as far back as 1998, during the tail-end of her mainstream-level revival, after 35 years of staying out of the public eye. That revival went on for most of the 1990s [ 1992 - 1999 ]. Like her 7-year heyday of modelling and acting [ October 1950 - December 1957 ], you couldn't walk around anywhere in America without seeing Bettie Page's drop-dead-gorgeous image. Some women copied her hair-style with the U-shaped bangs in front. Bettie Page appeared on posters, lunchboxes, comic book covers, stickers and t-shirts.

Speaking of t-shirts: While walking into a funky gift shop, on one of the clothing racks, I first saw Bettie Page on a black t-shirt reproduced from an old 1950s magazine cover. At that moment, I wondered "Wow! Who is this?!!" That's probably the only time in my life I experienced "love at first sight".


After leaving Atlanta for San Francisco in early November 2002, I checked out my first library book from the downtown branch and it was The Real Bettie Page by Richard Foster. Reading that biography book made me want to research Bettie Page, look at other books, magazines, newspaper articles and websites on her life. Little by little, that absorbed information eventually came out as poems. So there was more to her than just a pretty face and body.

Discovery is the end-result of years of research into the life and career of Bettie Page. 


Discovery also contains poems on racism and real estate gentrification. 

It took 5 years to write Discovery [ November 2016 - November 2021—full circle ]. It took an additional 2 years to label-shop Discovery [ December 2021 - November 2023 ], with mostly non-replies and rejections, but that's the nature of the beast. Of the 66 publishing labels I'd sent it to, only one gave Discovery a chance: Southern Arizona Press. To this day, I thank the editor Paul Gilliland for that chance.


DG: It’s been a stylistic choice of yours to put a period after your name with everything you publish. When did you first start doing this and what motivated this choice?


Dee Allen.: There's thousands of people in America with the same name as me. To distinguish myself from all those other people named Dee Allen, I placed a period next to my last name, so my full name looks like a statement on a page. That's been my personal writer's trademark since the first George Bush years. 

DG: You identify as an African-Italian poet based in Oakland. How has identity and place shaped your writing?

Dee Allen.: The phrase "African-American" sounds artificial to me. Besides, I don't want to attach the word "American" to myself due to White America's long history of adverse treatment towards people of African, Italian and Native American descent in every aspect of life. Knowing this history of racism and colonialism shows up as recurring themes in my own writing. I identify myself based on my ancestry, not my citizenship in this country.

DG: What is your favorite place in Oakland and is there a place you haven’t written about that you’d like to one day?

Dee Allen.: Mountain View Cemetery, believe it or not! Located in the suburban neighbourhood of Piedmont. Mountain View, like all boneyards, are places of tranquility. It's also been the site of past afternoon picnics with friends, hikes with a lover and a photo shoot for my very first poetry book. How Goth!

I have yet to visit Niagara Falls and I've wanted to go there since childhood. Have I written about it? Not yet!


DG: Most of the poems you featured in California Poets Part 7 contain Japanese themes. When and how did you become interested in the culture and its motifs?


Dee Allen.: The television mini-series Shogun. When it appeared on NBC in 1980. At age 12, that was my introduction to Japanese history and culture. Also included: The cartoon Hashimoto and Sonny Chiba Karate movies. 

I've always been fascinated with all things Japanese, from their traditional clothing to "bullet trains". Just recently, I'd learned of a dark, sordid part of Japanese history and politics: Military "comfort stations" in other countries the Japanese armed forces occupied during World War 2, the women that survived them and the Japanese government's insistent refusal to take responsibility for them.


DG: Another major theme in your work is social justice—poverty, hunger, and the plight of marginalized people in general. Poetry can show us the truth but only if people are willing to listen. Do you feel more or less optimistic about the future these days?

Dee Allen.: I'm pessimistic about America's future regarding its un-housed/poverty class populations. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-to-3 to overturn Grants Pass v. Johnson—a case that barred American cities from citing and arresting people for being homeless in public. American cities will be more hostile to the un-housed than ever. Glaring examples of this classism are the "sweeps" on Wood Street Commons in West Oakland and Aetna Street in Los Angeles—both settlements of un-housed people, determined to do for themselves what those cities will not do for them: Provide housing. There's also the 17-foot wall of stacked shipping containers surrounding People's Park in Berkeley with Apex security guards—a deliberate effort by the Regents of U.C. Berkeley—to not only set it aside for a 1100-bed student dorm, but to keep un-housed people from re-entering it. And those occurrences happened before the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Grants Pass!

DG: Performance plays a big role in the presentation of your poetry and yet there is also a lot going on visually in terms of the page. Are there ways to retain those elements on stage or is it natural for some of that to be lost in translation?

Dee Allen.: Every time I sit down to write a poem in my notebook and proof-read it afterwards, I always have future performance of it in mind. Be it live on stage or online with me at home. I like having the audience be included in my performances, instead of just passively watching me do everything. Other writers have told me that my words hold up in both places, on the stage and on the page. 

In the case of a online Spoken Word open mic, using video conferencing programmes like Zoom or Streamyard, I would place a couple of pictures and my type-written words using the "Share Screen" feature, so people watching can read my words as well as hear them and catch the visual cues for what's going on in the poem. Like a PowerPoint presentation. Without them, everything I'm trying to say gets lost. The virtual audience wouldn't know what I'm speaking of.

DG: How does a poem start for you? Do you begin with an image, idea, a concept, a goal, a desire to reach some specific person, is it pure chance, or perhaps none of those things?

Dee Allen.: It varies with me, depending on the piece. Sometimes, it'll start with an idea. Other times, with an image or series of images. Other times, with a phrase. Sometimes, a poem or song-lyrics can be produced in one sitting. Sometimes, in pieces, over the course of days. 

In any event, poetry is a written attempt to try to make sense out of an increasingly insane reality. Also, poetry is a written attempt to find the beauty in our everyday reality.


If I could reach out to one person during one of my performances, then I've done what I set out to do. Reaching that one person matters to me, which is better than performing to a tough room and reaching none.


DG: If you could interview any poet, who would it be and why? What are some the questions you’d ask?


Dee Allen.: I'd like to interview Washington D.C. poet Doctor Michael Anthony Ingram. He's interviewed nearly 250 authors on his podcast Quintessential Listening Poetry Online Radio. I was # 243. I'd like to see how he would respond to the same questions he asked me on-air like: 

What is poetry [ to you ]?


In today's society, what is the role of a poet?


Do you remember when you first learned about the power of poetic language? 


Are there messages you are trying to convey with your art?


DG: What are you reading or working on these days?

Dee Allen.: I just finished work on a future 11th book. I already have the publishing label set for it: Vagabond Books, who put out Rusty Gallows back in February 2022. Nobody else. I also finished re-working my first poetry book Boneyard, ideally in time for its 15th anniversary, after being out of print for so long. I want Boneyard to reach a new audience. On top of that, Arkansas-based Gnashing Teeth Publishing has my 10th book, which will be more personal than previous releases, and it's in the production stage. That upcoming book will be released on January 14, 2025.


Author Bio: Dee Allen.

African-Italian performance poet based in Oakland, California. Active on creative writing & Spoken Word since the early 1990s. Author of 9 books—Boneyard, Unwritten Law, Stormwater, Skeletal Black [ all from POOR Press ], Elohi Unitsi [ Conviction 2 Change Publishing ], Rusty Gallows: Passages Against Hate [ Vagabond Books ], Plans [ originally Nomadic Press, now re-issued from Black Lawrence Press ], Crimson Stain [ EYEPUBLISHEWE ] and his newest, Discovery [ Southern Arizona Press ]—and 73 anthology appearances under his figurative belt so far.


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