Free spirit: Julia Vinograd

Let’s start with the Bubble Lady.  I used to see her all the time on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, always in a fur coat, always with a bottle of bubble soap.  I thought she was an eccentric street person, but somebody told me she was a poet too.  Every so often I see one of her poems in a collection.  She has become Berkeley’s semi-official city poet, probably for all eternity.

Like me, she was born in Berkeley, though raised in Pasadena.  After doing an undergraduate English major at Cal, she went of to Iowa to get her MFA, then came back to Berkeley engulfed in the sixties counterculture.  “They all looked like they’d just walked off a tapestry. I wandered around the streets with my notebook and tried to capture it all.”

I like her take on recent trends in poetry:  “There’s a lot more poetry right now. The ‘60s produced the worst poetry I’ve ever read, everyone trying to capture the essence of their acid trips. The ‘50s were good, and things started coming back in the ‘70s. The critics were mad at Charles Bukowski because people actually read him, and critics feel that poetry is something that should have to be interpreted.”

Here’s a sample of her work, about the founder of Moe’s Books.  Moe put up such a stink when the Berkeley City Council passed their anti-smoking ordinance that they had to grandfather him in and allow him to smoke cigars in his own store.    Hopefully you don’t have to be a denizen of Moe’s or Telegraph Avenue to enjoy it:

Quotes above are from a Berkeley Daily Planet article of 6/4/04.

This is my following poem, for which I don’t at the moment have a title:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Common Council
for the City of Madison
(aka the Berkeley, the Athens, the Greenwich Village,
of the Midwest):
The proposed ordinance would take effect
next April Fool’s Day,
and for the next 24 hours you will sit on the street
while our homeless citizens
living and dead
create 78 square miles of whimsy
right up to the border of reality.

Be it resolved:
Adam declares we shall all lie on the floor for an hour and read a book;
Scanner Dan declares we shall all ride fiery serpents through the air;
Jennifer declares that anyone can ride an elevator from sickness to hearth;
Art declares the sky today shall be purple;
Majik declares a hundred-ring circus shall open on the rooftops;
The twins declare every child shall have a puppy;
And Snowball declares we shall live forever,
with gumdrops, champagne and our own teeth.

I would like to introduce to you,
In solidarity with this joyous venture,
visiting us today from Berkeley
(aka Berzerkeley, The People’s Republic of Berkeley, Athens of the West,
or as we like to call it, the Madison of California),
our honorable mistress of ceremonies,
Julia Vinograd,
aka the Bubble Lady.

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