Two Hands in my Gut


Reflections on Snyder, di Prima,
& Urban Bioregionalism
—by Dennis Formento


So I’ve been re-reading Gary Snyder—his books that came out since I fell out of the loop with him. He was always inspiring to me, and it is only by accident of fate that I took the path into the city, into poetry as cultural activism, and that I did not become a *real* bioregionalist. Yet bioregionalism is the most real expression of the way I see things—as if this mechanized culture we live in is an oppressive overlay that submerges the natural world beneath a carpet of concrete, steel, glass and plastic. I used to say “a bioregion trapped inside an area code.” Maybe that is why I feel uncomfortable 98% of the time. The other reason is that I don’t know if I would ever be comfortable living among the mosquitoes & the 110% humidity that is our bioregion. Ugh, the discomfiting admission. 

Two Hands in my Gut - 1 Digital Landscape from Photos
Two Hands in my Gut – 1
Digital Landscape from Photos
©2018 Michael Dickel

Yet one of the precepts of bioregionalism is “DON’T MOVE.” I’d add, “that if you want things to change, don’t move.”

So lately I’ve been rereading his work and also that of another radical beat poet—Diane Di Prima. She is as urban as Gary is not. She is much more in line with what I’ve ended up doing than Snyder, and yet his pull is strong because I feel there is an ultimate truth there, more fundamentally expressed, that I need to serve. Diane stands for the anarchic, urban, inspirited element at the cross roads of Buddhism and Magick—the effort to make city life livable by creating alternative cultural centers, and making creative expression possible that speaks of and to and for the survival of the species and which ALLOWS people who are thought to “have no voice” to use theirs. I haven’t sponsored open readings for 20+ years so that people can be silenced. 

Two Hands in my Gut - 2 Digital Landscape from Photos
Two Hands in my Gut – 2
Digital Landscape from Photos
©2018 Michael Dickel

I have this image in my mind of two hands reaching into my gut and pulling it in two different directions, and as uncomfortable as that sounds, that feels like the point of stasis where I am now.


short attention-span poetry

Cricket in the dry brush:
                   grand entity
in the tiny elements

stockpile geraniums
they go to critical mass
in the spring

good morning, earthworm
sorry to wake you up
so rudely

I just ate a tomato worm
          the price of a backyard
          fresh salad

cat on my pajamas
the first hairball of spring!

fishing through fire pit ash
for couple good nuts and bolts
remnants of old swing

dishing out the last 
winter-lettuce salad
how many of these worms 
have I eaten?

it’s spring! and
the first ant bites of the season
are here, and here, and here

we’ve been talking
           all day long— can’t think
of a single word for silence

Around the corner
            comes a car
pursued by a butterfly

In grey morning light
bubbles of turtles breathing
in a drainage canal

A fat, mean Chihuahua
the last comfort
of an angry old woman

Got to get that song
off my mind—it’s beautiful
but it’s driving me crazy

This morning’s journal—
in a half hour, three lines
seventeen syllables
Two Hands in my Gut – 2
Digital Landscape from Photos
©2018 Michael Dickel

Dennis Formento lives in Slidell, LA, near Bayou Bonfouca with his wife, artist and yoga teacher, Patricia Hart. 

Formento is the author of Spirit Vessels (FootHills Publishing, 2018), Cineplex (Paper Press, 2014,) Looking for An Out Place (FootHills Publishing, 2010) and a couple handfuls of chapbooks and broadsides. Since 2011 he has been organizing local readings in New Orleans and in Covington, LA, for 100,000 Poets for Change, a world-wide movement for peace, ecological sustainability, justice and cultural exchange.

Dennis Formento
photo ©Lucy Wells Tierney

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