Berkeley Book Launch Nov. 5 by Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) and Dick Cluster 

Berkeley Book Launch 
by Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) and Dick Cluster

Sun. Nov. 5, 3 p.m.

Sponsored by Poetry Flash

Art House Gallery & Cultural Center
2905 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705

with refreshments

Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) reads from "God in Her Ruffled Dress" (What Books Press) and Dick Cluster reads from Paula Abramo's poetry cycle "Fiat Lux" (bilingual edition translated by Cluster from FlowerSong Press), nominated for a Northern California Book Award.

Please note: we turn clocks back at 2 a.m. that calendar day, so make sure not to be late!

Berkeley Book Launch Nov. 5 by Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) and Dick Cluster 

Berkeley Book Launch 
by Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) and Dick Cluster

Sun. Nov. 5, 3 p.m.

Sponsored by Poetry Flash

Art House Gallery & Cultural Center
2905 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705

with refreshments

Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) reads from "God in Her Ruffled Dress" (What Books Press) and Dick Cluster reads from Paula Abramo's poetry cycle "Fiat Lux" (bilingual edition translated by Cluster from FlowerSong Press), nominated for a Northern California Book Award.

Please note: we turn clocks back at 2 a.m. that calendar day, so make sure not to be late!

The Music of Poetry, A Writing Workshop Nov. 4 with Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) (via Zoom)  

The Music of Poetry
led by Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein)

via Zoom

November 4, 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time

Hosted by Hudson Valley Writers Center 

Working with our attention on the sound of our words returns a spirit of play and discovery to our writing. 
Even while writing free verse, we can call on a range of musical techniques to both enrich our poems and help us access content that we are not yet conscious of. 
Get out of your own way as you create by heightening the musicality of your poems.
In this workshop, we will first read poems that put musical form and elements at the forefront. We will review tools such as rhyme, alliteration, assonance, syllabic stresses, and enjambment. 
Then we will turn to playing with these techniques and others (such as listening to a poem in a language you don’t know and “translating” it, and writing while listening to music) to produce work that is freer and perhaps more revelatory — with a more direct connection to the muse. 
The workshop will include discussing the new work we have generated. 

It will be taught on Zoom and capped at 15 students. Registrants will receive the Zoom link to the email address they use to register. It will arrive immediately after registration so please check your spam folder if you do not receive it. It will also be sent the day before class as a reminder. Please review the course policies page before registering for any classes. 

New Poetry Book "God in Her Ruffled Dress" out in October from What Books Press 

I'm thrilled that my second full-length book of poetry, God in Her Ruffled Dress, is to be published October 17, 2023, by What Books Press, reaching online bookstores October 25. 

You can order a signed copy directly from me now. Go here for payment options or contact me.

What Books Press comprises a collective of writers, who have created a small nonprofit publishing house featuring beautiful-looking and compelling literary work with a West Coast sensibility. 

(One of the reasons I enjoy their collective approach is that in the '80s, I was a member of the San Francisco-based publishing and editorial collective Five Fingers Poetry, launching the respected literary journal Five Fingers Review.)

Back to God in Her Ruffled Dress: it appears an astounding 34 years after my first full-length poetry volume The Transparent Body, from the highly esteemed Wesleyan University Press New Poets Series. You can purchase that volume directly from me as well, along with the chapbook that preceded it, Anorexia. 

In the years between my first books and this new one, I became a jazz and groove singer and spoken-word artist, with seven albums and a number of singles featuring my original songs and adventurous versions of standards and covers, most of them interwoven with my spoken verse. Poetry, spoken word, poetic rap are all represented in these innovative music-verse meldings. I was fortunate to record with James Gardiner, who has more than 40 gold and platinum records as an engineer and is also a highly skilled producer and composer, at Pajama Studios in Oakland. Some of my tunes were composed with such artists as Wayne Wallace, Barbara Higbie, Scott R. Looney, Ben Flint, and Jeff Marrs and all feature some of the best musicians in the Bay Area

It's been refreshing and fascinating to return to the literary world where I cut my artistic teeth. And to compare today's poetry publishing with the indie music scene, which constantly transformed itself throughout the more than 20 years in which I've been releasing music. Of note is that I'm grateful that the fraction-of-a-penny streaming model has not penetrated literary or any other kind of publishing.

To my surprise and delighted gratitude, six fabulous poets and critics sent me supportive remarks about the new book. They are displayed in various ways here, because there's so much to highlight, and because some of you prefer images and some like text (and because, let's face it, I'm so proud). 


“A book of deep seeing, ‘the code inside the code’... also a book of intense listening, ‘the bright spurt of trumpet’ and the train calling like a late-night lover… a series of divine pleasures transcribed faithfully by a skilled musician and writer.” 

D.A. Powell, author of Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys and Repast: Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails



“Bears écriture feminine into the twenty-first century with grace, wit, and incredible technical dexterity.”  

Kristina Marie Darling, author of Daylight Has Already Come and Look to Your Left: A Feminist Poetics of Spectacle


Lisa B’s stunning new book weaves together body, spirituality, politics, and the world we live in….Fierce, feminist, and necessary...this engaging collection will stir your mind and bring you into beauty, into ‘a place so much more multiple than one god’s face.’ ” 

Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Hourglass Museum and Dialogues with Rising Tides


“A dazzling lyrical demonstration... She takes us on a journey through ecstasy and pain: from the highs of great jazz performance to the zen of blood testing for diabetes.” 

Lawrence R. Smith, editor of Caliban


“Effortlessly surprising, thoughtful, and inventive...musical and rhythmical above all...[poems on] the physicality of jazz, the physicality of spirituality, and the self hearing all her edges and hinges through illness, pleasure, and doubt.”  

Sean Singer, author of Honey & Smoke and Today in the Taxi



“Offers a series of superb poems about...jazz greats...[and other poems] that call down the spirit in ways that are at once promiscuous and defiant.”

Daniel Tiffany, author of Cry Baby Mystic and My Silver Planet: A Secret History of Poetry and Kitsch


Look for upcoming posts about poetry readings and workshops! If any of you would like to review the book or interview me, of course I'd be glad to accommodate you. 
And please contact me and/or join my mailing list for updates direct to your email box.  

New Video of "Warrior Cat"!  

This past year has made us all warriors. So I've been thinking especially about "Warrior Cat." 

(And it didn't hurt that in July I adopted two outgoing, affectionate tortoiseshell kittens after the untimely death of my beloved German Shepherd in April. Back to the universe of cats.)

"Warrior Cat" explores, models, leaps on how to be a warrior -- not in the tanked-up way most often presented in our culture, but a warrior in the way a cat is, and the way a writer is. 

With grooving music by Scott R. Looney and me, powered by live drumming by the late, great Paul van Wagenginen. Engineered and mastered by my longtime compatriot James (Jim) Gardiner, of Pajama Studios, twice Grammy-nominated and with 42 gold- and platinum-certifed records.

The tune came out on my 2006 record, "What's New, Pussycat?," about the feline side of being human, or put another way, about cats actual and symbolic. Magic, cool, warm, transcendent, domestic. 

2020 has been tough. So I made a new video for the year of the warrior cat.


"Reverberant: Poems & Music": Latest Videos and News  

With the growing prevalence of Facebook and Twitter, I haven't been posting as much as I used to. Ah, the early days of blogging! 

But I wanted to come back so you might be able to find this. 

It's been wonderful to release "Reverberant: Poems & Music" in the spirit of finally foregrounding some of my free-verse poems originally written for the page, transforming them in performances with music. My marvelous collaborators are some of my favorite musicians -- pianists Ben Flint and Scott R. Looney, bassist Marcus Shelby, drummer Jeff Marrs, and the masterful Jim (James) Gardiner playing all of the above and more as well as contributing his expert, nuanced engineering skills (42 gold- and platinum-certified records plus lots of work since then will earn you those).

Many of the poems from the record appeared in esteemed literary magazines: Brilliant Corners, Caliban, The Kenyon Review, Lilith, and Sequestrum. 

These pieces all focus on reverberation, both literal (resonance) and metaphorical (repercussions). They are jazz homages (Max, Cecil, Billie, and a bassist modeled on Ron Carter) and tales of spiritual self-realization -- sometimes both at once. 

Here's a mashup of selected cuts on the record, organized by the motifs of sound, loneliness, light, and singing.


Check out the press "Reverberant" garnered here and the radio play it achieved (and I'm still adding more)!

Extra fun of late has been creating new videos for the selections on the new record that include my singing: "Some Things To Do with Pain" (a true guided meditation with a groove and visuals), "Lisa's Lord's Prayers," and "Billie Goes Home/Lover Man." Check 'em out below.

Please comment, find me on social media, or go to the contact page on my website to say hello. 

I appreciate your attention and feedback. Truly. 

New Single Release: "I Am an Orchestra: A Tribute to Cecil Taylor"! 

The legendary pianist Cecil Taylor passed away almost a year ago, on April 5, 2018.

To honor him, I released this new single: a poem to the accompaniment of brilliant pianist Scott R. Looney. Engineering is by my longtime collaborator, James (Jim) Gardiner, at Pajama Studios. 

You can check out my blog post reminiscing about my personal contact with Cecil in childhood and thereafter. Plus there you can find a written version of the poem we just recorded. Reading it, I see it took on another life in multiple dimensions existing in this musical dialogue with pianist Scott. 

Here's some of where you can hear (stream, download, share) this exciting music, or see all platform links at right:

Please let me know how you like it! And share this post! 

May this piece send up a flare to the utterly unique genius of Cecil, wherever he is. 

Cecil Taylor 

Cecil Taylor, copyright Lenny Bernstein
Cecil Taylor, copyright Lenny Bernstein
I met Cecil as a rather young girlhe was a friend of my parents and a visitor to my home. He asked me, the then-classical-piano-student, to play Beethoven for him, but I was too shy to sit down and do it. Cecil probably was even shyer than I back then; he made the request through my Dad and couldn't really look at me. So we were then two shy people of very different ages wanting to connect. He did speak, though, about his childhood of practicing Beethoven and other composers, and how strict his mother was with him about it, which was a bit scary to me as a child.  

I heard (and saw) him perform with his group around the same time, unable to really process the music but deeply affected by it. Such physically, emotionally, and mentally cataclysmic sound!

Years later, as an adult, I saw and heard him many times, at Kimball's and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and the old Yoshi's and the new Yoshi's in Oakland, among other venues, both onstage and backstage. Cecil visited my folks' home again, bought a number of my Dad's gorgeous photos of him, and commented kindly on my poems. And my parents had all of his recordings.  

Cecil Taylor, copyright Lenny Bernstein
Cecil Taylor, copyright Lenny Bernstein
Of course he was an unforgettable genius, and my experience of music was changed forever after hearing his as a child. Like the work of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cecil's showed that poetry and jazz could be united onstage, and not just by blowing some words over an unconnected jazz background. Though I felt that his music was more evolved than his poetry, that lesson marked me deeply.

As a character, a creator, a person, there was no other like him. 

Thank you, Cecil.

Cecil Taylor, copyright Lenny Bernstein
Cecil Taylor backstage, copyright Lenny Bernstein
In this previously unpublished poem about him, the quotes from Cecil are not actual quotes, but rather my poetic expression of what I imagine to be excerpts in his inner voice and about his internal journeythough the part about the backstage gossip is literally true (and a mere fraction of the other tales he told, dramatically, thoughtfully, ruefully, as the true storyteller he was). 

Cecil Taylor: I Am An Orchestra

BASH the affectionate
black-and-white scale of his Bosendorfer
keyboard is raked right to left—oh
voices are
and he is marvelously
replying.  “I
—I am an orchestra,
a brontasaura,
and the scales fall
from my fingers,
groaning and sighing,
falling from the San Francisco skyline,
this afternoon's sunlight-on-shingles
lifting from silver cupolas—”

The din
a rent in time
through which the heads
of Horus, Osiris
travel, dragging their little dogs

“It’s my world,”
says Cecil,
“not my undoing.”

In the dressing room,
too delicate to pull the peach chiffon
curtains closed along the rod,
he is slyly telling stories
on Oscar Peterson.

But before the crowd
hear in the crashing
body body
ribs fingers
arrayed keys black pressed
grapes hear in this
jade black wine
rage forgiving its own sadness.

“Hear me smash
through the tombs
future and past
a glimpse
of a human heart”

then he bends his head
as if entering a low door
through the shiny black
Bosendorfer’s hull
elbows rise and fall
then throwing back
his head
rollicking under the chords.

“Must one always
have a chord,
a world, a
Remember, mama,
though I’m not past practice,
at last the world listens
as I cavort
like a girl
let me break
let me take off
my imaginary robe
let me line up
the clusters series of choruses
forests faces each a door a
poem a


copyright 2018 Lisa Bernstein