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          Forrest Curro
                                by Judy Jones








When I first read Forrest Curo's

poetry I knew I never needed

to read another poem because

I had found the best in the

whole world!

After traveling to many countries

and hearing others poetry, Forrest

is still the number one poet,

male that is!

Hemingway comes to mind when

reading Forrests poems.  They

are simple, quiet and

elegantly POWERFUL!


Recently I found one of his poems

in a local newspaper and contacted

Forrest to do an interview with


Fortunately for us, he said yes!


May I introduce Forrest Curo,

one of our most gifted poets!



                                      by Forrest Curo


Forrest, how old were you when

you first started writing poetry?


I wrote verse in elementary school

and wrote one bad poem in college,

(I don't suppose there's a copy

anywhere) and then started writing

again unexpectedly in 1979 when

a piece wanted me to write it

in the laundromat. I was about 35

years old then.


As I got divorced and started flailing

after various women, I wrote more. 

The night I decided I was a "poet",

I was with a singles' group in a place

that was giving out door prizes, and

I won a briefcase.  That confirmed

it for me.


What exactly is poetry?


One day I was riding the bus home and

an old woman next to me asked what

I did.  I hesitated, then told her I was

a poet.  "Ah", she said,  "You tell

the truth!"

There are all sorts of word games people

like to call "poetry."  I can't call the

'Dictionary Police' on these people; but

we just aren't talking about the same


Truth, if you really want to get under her

skirts, is poetical.

Truth is not a proposition; it is not any

collection of propositions; it isn't even a

"thing."  Better to talk about a state of

understanding where we're grasping for

something without our mind.  Sometimes

we can say what we mean with some

"true" proposition, or if the truth

we're dancing with doesn't fit into our

language, we might just have to get wild.

The big truths are too emotional,

metaphorical or paradoxical to

to let some formal statement hold

them down.  Even if you have a

whole mob of statements from a big,


book about everything, the truth is

too much for it.  It takes a human

being to open the book and be its

truth for a while.


 A poem is a song designed to be

spoken.  Songs have the advantage

of music, and can get away with

being simpler.  Poems have

the advantage of greater freedom,

to be more disorderly, complex,

diverse in subject.

Not all truths are willing or able

to fit into a poem.  But a free use of

metaphor, even a whole stew

of mixed metaphors, will let you say

things a respectable prose statement

would be afraid to try.



Why do you write poetry?



It's a gift.  "If you bring forth

what is within you, it will save you.

If you don't bring forth what

is within you, it will destroy you."

Besides, as Stephen Gaskin said,

telling the truth gets you high.



Do you write novels?


I've done that.  Science fiction,

better than many things I've seen

published, but not quite right, so far.


Is poetry as we know it dead?  With

the electronic media, poetry slams,

etc., it certainly seems to be changing.

What is its future form?



I don't have the faintest idea and

I don't think there's a "we" that knows

what  "poetry as we know it"  is.

I don't know the form of the next

poem I'll write, or whether Id like

anything called  "poetry" twenty

years from now, and it doesn't matter.


Does society really need poets?


Like a dog needs fleas. Society really

needs to be poets, but it's so hard

to practice without a license.


Do you come from a family

of poets/artists?


No.  My father wrote light verse, had

a copy of Clement Wood's rhyming

dictionary that I liked to read.  He

took to poetry in his old age, but

he didn't have long enough to do

it well.


What impact will the life

of Forrest Curo have on

lives of the future?


The life of Forrest Curo is part

of something larger; it is not something

isolated that could affect anything at

all apart from everything else.



What impact is it having now?


What a silly question!  If I could

decide what kind of impact I would

have on anyone, would I make a

wise decision?


Are you satisfied with the direction

your life has gone?


We've failed and our civilization

appears headed straight for hell.

Aside from that, I'm perfectly content.


When you die, is that it?  Or

will you get to return and finish

anything you haven't, write a

few more poems?


A good poem is like a

pearl; it happens because a

particular piece of sand has gotten

under our shell when we were

ripe for it.


You are married to a wonderful

poet, Anne Curo.  Do you help

each other write poetry?


She wrote one of my best lines. 

But normally we don't edit each

other, except for prose.


Would you change parts of your life

this very moment if you could

wave a  'magic wand'?


No doubt I'd do things entirely

differently, and could end up

far worse.



Why are poets seemingly poor?


Poets are seemingly poor because

people don't have the sense to

envy our great wealth.


Do you think a poet should read

their own poems in public or leave that

to others after they die?


I enjoy reading to people who want

that, but it doesn't happen often.


Why did you move back east?


A couple years ago Anne and I went

to Pendle Hill, a Quaker publishing,

spiritual and intellectual center near

Philadelphia, for one school year.  I

hoped to experience something

like a Quaker yearly meeting, only

longer, and this was in fact what

I found. I'd still be there, if it

were up to me, but my current

assignment is to find that same

spiritual intensity in this less

promising place.



Are you or have you written

your autobiography?


I expect I'll still be thinking

about it when I die.


Who are your favorite poets,

living and deceased?


Jesus, Rumi, Margaret Atwood,

Richard Wilbur, Paul Simon,

Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan,

Jaques Ellul, who probably never

thought of himself as a poet, and

occasionally was horribly

wrong-headed, but tickles my head

like no-one else, Ursula K. LeGuin.

Certainly Anne Curo, and a few other

people you probably never heard of and

maybe a few I don't remember at

this time.


And which (if any) have had

the biggest influence on your work?


Probably Margaret Atwood, but I

don't know if there's any obvious

resemblance.  I was doing my

ex-wife's homework, analyzing

a poem, so I picked Margaret

Atwood's  'Tricks With Mirrors'

and ended up wanting to write

things like that.


When you write, are you

'being helped by the spirits

of all the poets that have ever

lived or do you create, alone?


All the poets that have ever lived

were helped by the same spirit

that helps me.  And I still have to

do it myself, then fix the mistakes.


Are poets more sensitive

than other people? 


Someone asked LoVerne Brown

this, and she said that being able

to write poems about things that

bother us made us tougher than

other people.  She didn't know

how non poets managed to get

through their suffering without

turning it into poetry.


Why is homelessness in the

United States growing at such

a rapid rate?"


The country is possessed, and

poor people have increasingly been


William Stringfellow wrote, in 1964:


 "While the poor are confined to their

ghettos, more and more space is being

diverted in the city to luxury housing.

In part the exodus of the middle class

contributes to this;  it is also an

accommodation to the interests of the

utilities, builders, insurance companies,

banks, some unions and universities,

and other heavy investors in real estate.

For principalities [in the apostle

Paul's sense]  such as these it is more

advantageous to redevelop the city

for the rich than to rehabilitate it

for the poor.


The illusion is maintained and

reiterated that public policy in

the city in employment, housing,

education, redevelopment,

transportation and the like is

determined by the political

administration elected by the

voters.  Therefore, public policy

is supposedly orientated toward

the welfare, safety, prosperity

and freedom of the person.  But

one does not have to live in the city

very long to discern that the

electe4d political administration

exercises only a very modest

discretion in questions of public


It is not just that politics

is often corrupted, but that the

effective power to determine public

policy is exercised by the great

principalities, institutional powers:

investment, commerce, industry,

education, labor, and the like, and

that policy as a result is oriented

toward the profit and survival of

those principalities."

There has also been, since he wrote,

a persistent effort to make this

society more frightened, more

mean-spirited, more punitive and

hard-hearted, culminating in Bill

Clinton's decision to help the

Republicans drive poor women and

their children into desperate misery,

in what was called,  "Welfare Reform."



In my day, 'street people' were romantic

adolescents in search of Bohemia.  Old

alcoholics were housed in cheap hotels

downtown.  Then those hotels were

closed, and the welfare system got

a little meaner, and the State hospitals

were emptied, in hopes that nursing

home operators could make windfall

profits servicing former inmates.



Suddenly we had "homeless people"

but at first these were alcoholic men

and people too crazy to go to a social

worker.  Then, as rents went up and

the monthly checks went down, you

started seeing disabled people in

wheelchairs, and old people, living

outside toward the end of each month.



In the years since welfare was

'reformed',  many mothers have

coped by crowding two or more

families into one-room apartments

but those less fortunate went

straight onto the streets, lived

in hiding to avoid losing their

children, but all too often had them

stolen by  "protective services"

that wouldn't spend a penny to

house them safely with their mothers.



Stringfellow again, 1973:  "The failure

of conscience in American society

among its reputed leaders, the

deep-seated contempt for human

life among the managers of society,

the moral deprivation of so-called

middle Americans resembles, at

has been observed, the estate

described biblically as 'hardness

of the heart.'  This same condition,

afflicting both individuals and

institutions (including nations)

is otherwise designated in the

Bible as a form of demonic possession."


A metaphor?  If you like.



If you could offer a 'one

sentence suggestion'  on

how to house, feed and clothe

every person on earth, what

would it be?"


Love your neighbor as yourself.


If you could be the first poet on

Mars, would you?




As humans become more

machine where will our

souls end up?



Where is your soul now?



If poets/artists are the creators

of heaven upon earth, why do

so many mirror our 'darker sides?'


I don't remember seeing that

in the job description.  Mine went

something like this:  "Prophet/poet.

Tells truth, gets taken for crazy,

tries not to let it go to his head."

Other poets are no doubt on

different assignments.


Is war a natural progression

of evolutions course?


War has been a natural

consequence of our evolution

and a force that shaped it.

For most of pre-history, war was

almost ceremonial.  Two groups

might come together, yell and

throw rocks.  When someone was

badly hurt or killed, that might

be the end of it.  They were

establishing boundaries, not

trying to exterminate their rivals.

Between raids and battles, hunters

found disputed territories dangerous,

and so these became places where

game could survive and replenish.

As people became more organized,

they became more national and

inhumane about war.  Territory

could be permanently settled, or

conquered.  Food could be stored

for a long campaign;  enemies'

supplies could be destroyed;  whole

tribes could be readily killed or

enslaved.  Warfare started driving

our cultural evolution, not always

in good directions.

War has contributed to the variety

 of people in the world, by keeping

different groups separate and also

brought separated cultures into

contact.  It's amplified a whole

stew of cultural traits, some good

and some bad.

The contemporary effect of war,

at our present level of technology,

is to corrupt everything.  To accept

it as a means toward securing

any good whatsoever is to be

fooled, and ultimately corrupted.

I've tried to stop our nation's war

against Iraq;  I'm one of a small

group of other San Diego Quakers

who still demonstrate regularly

against it, every Tuesday morning

on a couple of busy downtown

corners.  But I never expected

to be able to actually prevent

or stop it. 

The war itself is a misfortune;

our involvement in it is a consequence

of our national karma, and that

karma is bad and getting worse.


Are some of us 'old souls' and if so

what does that mean?


I heard someone once who

claimed to be  'an old soul', 

but I felt she was just set in

her ways.  I don't remember

all of this current life, nor do I

think I'd benefit from dwelling on

it.  I've only recently reached a

point where I know anything

worth remembering, and I'd like

to remember that.  But I might

need to forget some of it to

learn better.


Do you believe in  'accidents' or

is everything  'meant to be'?


Accidents are parts of the

story God is telling us.


Why are so few poets famous?


How many different rock groups

can you remember?


  Poems by Forrest Curo  




You're being asked 

You're being asked
to leave the flames of Hell;
you have done well
and been well done.
Why have you put yourself here?

Can't you accept yourself
without proving yourself

Can't you forgive yourself
as you'd forgive others
if you dared?

Your Daddy's calling; it's
time to come home
and play.

I used to love the rain

It goes back to my childhood
my mother wouldn't let me out in it
at first; and then it was a treat
to feel it plopping on my waxy yellow raincoat
under the big bright hat like a fireman would wear
or a fisherman out at sea in a hurricane,

drops falling splat splat in the puddles--
water out of the sky--how amazing
and how grown up to be walking in it
all by myself.

I used to love the rain, even
when I came home from the storefront Methodist
church my parents thought would be good for me
full of Noah and the fire next time

daydreaming of water over the ditch
up the hill and into the driveway, water
over the curb, into the basement,
water up the front stairs
and the door, flooding the whole world
to the windows; then we could all go around in boats.

I always loved the rain
in the Bible, falling
with loving impartiality;
the real rain would remind me of it
and make me smile; the air felt clean
as if it were already done washing

and on a rainy night you know
the psychic power lines are buzzing
so anything can happen, anything--

When you're an overpromised failure at college,
inside-out and shriveling with loneliness,
you might venture out on a sleepless midnight
to find a wandering stranger at the doughnut shop
(holy-eyed and ranting of past lives he'd seen you in)
to invite you to a mansion in the Berkeley Hills
where a young woman fifty thousand years old
waits to initiate you into mysteries;

anything can happen on a rainy night
when you need it to happen, when the time is right;

you can move in to protect
a woman you're mistakenly in love with
and adore her from afar in her own living room;
you could steal her a Christmas tree
thirty years ago when I did it
though I wouldn't recommend that anymore;

(The rain came down in drops crowded together,
every drop like a fishbowl, the wind tearing
at the world while I sat cozy inside the window.)

I always wanted it to rain; I wanted
to feel the angels washing me clean again
for another start, another adventure,
or maybe just the simple love of the rain.

There was a time, once
when a decent person might love the rain
and it wouldn't have to mean someone was shivering;

it wouldn't have to mean people sleeping in wet clothes
with no mommy to put them in a hot bath
so they wouldn't catch their deaths out in all that.

I have seen my country ruin itself
in a frenzy of wilful ignorance;
I have seen mercy despised, cruelty accepted--

heard men like ants prattling of freedom
to create wealth by picking each others' pockets--

I have had to learn to live
by swallowing indignation
but beyond all that
they have stolen my rain

and that is not even mine
to forgive.


A Cat Meditation

It's spooky.
He's sitting in the living room,
all tangled up, staring
at a perfectly empty spot
on the floor. I wonder how

do they get into those
positions, how
can he spring if anything
comes out? I wipe

my nose on his hand and he tells me
he's hunting the Great Mouse.

How shall we live in the
      Burning House?

There is still time
to laugh and turn the music up louder

We have a fine living room
to sit and read reports
on flames here, flames there
The house is burning, we say

We can buy wine, and chocolate
to make our last hours more comfortable
We have computers, and stories
of that old hero/villain game

The holy egg sleeps
in a bedroom full of smoke;
we are afraid to touch the doorknob

We are learning to draw pictures
of the house burning around us

Our brothers are burning;
they laugh
and turn up the music
They hit themselves and their women
and anyone that scares them
to show they are not afraid

Our sisters
apply makeup
and hope a man will come
to protect them and their kids
Woe to the useful
hardworking makers
of inflammables!

Some decorate their bedrooms
and some huddle in hallways
There is money being made
as the house burns

We might rush into flames
to rescue the innocent
to find them merely the helpless
stinking of oblivion

We can talk awhile with friends
as they make their tidy beds
in the burning house

We would flee for some
desolate garden
shriveling in the heat
of embers falling, falling
as we watch

The Egg gives birth in fire!
There, seek Wisdom's child
cradled in ashes



What's my Job?


All my life I am saying

"What's my job?!"

and taking whatever I hear

as maybe the Answer


My job is being crazy,

having a headful of ideas

that have driven

everyone insane

and making antibodies


My job is

having no job

to put before our

job with the Big J.


Everytime I think

I have an answer to

the American Question:

"What do you do?"

it turns out sooner or later

I'm laid off from every Idenity

Some day people say

The answer will be

"I'm dying"

but meanwhile

I'm a Flower sneezing

 in the spring air


Commentary on a line from


Cut-Don't pretend

even for an instant

"Cut modesty's throat

with a knife!"


Don't be humble

You can't be nearly

humble enough


Don't pretend

when you know

It is God's truth

you are given

Proclaim it!


The Lord has need

of a donkey,

the child

of a donkey



A Parable

This time
she came down
from the cross

Bulldozer drivers
met the Torah and wept

This time
in power
she descended

Not power of death and fear
but power of seeds erupting
grace and life

Death squad sadists
suffered compassion
fell to the the ground
and rose again

Presidents repented
in filth and ashes
before tv cameras

All the world saw her
coming in clouds and glory

Tanks fled
lone dissidents
the censorious stared
in unmistakable lust
We lukewarm
fell to our knees in shame

She smiled down on all
"Now, now, dears
Run along and play"




An Open Letter to God

It's not that you are altogether
guiltless, judged by our standards–
There are murdered corpses heaped
beyond the dreams of Presidents

and you made us capable of that;
this is nothing to the pyramid of bodies
left by disease, starvation, accident–
which you invented, and made us fear.

If we escape all that, we fall
gradually to slow, still-twitching rot
preserved in nursing homes, pickled
like the still-breathing accomplishments
of some superstitious funeral technology,

the brain and guts discarded
while what remains still moans, unheeded,
for death, or fear of death; this is justice
for wanting to live more than is good for us.

You have not, I fear, made us
as intelligent as I'd like,
though we are clever. I will give you
credit for the Father of the Neutron Bomb
and the mute, inglorious Edisons
of the punji stick; we all know
sufficient examples of human cleverness.

You have given us enough fear
to keep us turning in our beds;
this is a necessary part
of the mechanism that runs us
til it unwinds, or drives us
against the wall at the end of the freeway.

I am grateful–You know I am–
to have escaped so much, and of course
to have enjoyed so much being here.

I am grateful for religion, though I think
you ought to have made a disease
transmitted by self-righteous hatred–
I guess you did; we call it "patriotism"
or "politics", or sometimes "religion."

We may die of that. Even I,
who know so many people to love,
have noticed a great many others;
I hear you need them to make a world
but I fail to see the necessity
when they drive by with radios pounding;

and there are other things people do
that probably do not justify
my wishing they were dead, or living elsewhere
(We could improve this place immensely
with only a little mass-murder
though I'm not supposed to mention
things like that;

we know there are little things
I do that no-doubt annoy
some people into almost-murderous rage.)

I am glad to be here tonight,
awakened by chronic anxiety
to write this poem, and listen
to drunken voices yelling:
"Wake up! Wake up! Har har har!"

I believe you mean me well; I've been told
that, and I really do believe it.
If I were good, I could call you "Daddy"
and fear nothing, in this world or any.

If I could talk to you, and trust you
like a friend, undistracted
by your power to maim, torture, or worse
life would be so much easier.

Meanwhile, I think of chess pieces
put in their box, and I
wonder if I want what's good for me
and of course
I thank you for this poem.

Forrest Curo (~1987)


         Painting by Forrest Curo

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