Joaquin n’ Me

Writers in the Woods

For nearly two years now, I’ve served as the California Writer’s Club Writer in Residence at Joaquin Miller Park. I’ve driven the five minutes from my house up the hill almost a hundred times, seeking meditation and bird song and inspiration and exercise and time to write. I’ve written three or four dozen blog posts about my adventures there, interacting with the communities of people and animals and plants. I’ve given talks about history’s literary lights, seeking silence, making art, sustainable storytelling, and nurturing creative companionship. I’ve hosted readings and open mics. I’ve zoomed into many board meetings with the Friends of Joaquin Miller Park, nurturing programs and protections along with an awesome group of volunteers. I’ve helped to encourage positive change and envision even more. I’ve read a lot of poetry, and written a little. I’ve also grown some new wrinkles and about a foot of hair.

My creative goal was to turn my earworm of a singalong into a children’s book, but I keep getting distracted by the unfolding mysteries and beautiful histories of this park’s past.

One of the puzzles I’ve been working on has been the skewed reputation of misunderstood Miller, who, a century after his death, is still remembered more for the things said by the people who didn’t get him than as the world-renowned iconoclast, life artist, social critic, cultural explorer, spiritual seer, and far-ahead-of-his-time showman he really was. Oakland should really be more proud of him.

Liam O’Donoghue, for his 100th episode of East Bay Yesterday, pondered this giant weirdo with me, Corrina Gould of Sogora Te’, Oakland mayor Sheng Thao, and author and historian Alan Rosenus, helping to daylight all of the doubts and mysteries that surround the great poet. Did he really fight on both sides of the Indian Wars like some proto-Kevin Costner? Was he really a horrible husband or are his three marriages really that big a deal? Was he a shit to Ina Coolbrith or her pride and joy? And was he really a horse thief? Why is his Wikipedia page so condescending? And why should anyone care? Liam’s expert storytelling pulled everything into perspective.

Listen to the episode now via Apple, SoundCloud, Spotify,
or wherever you get podcasts.

photo by Stephen Flynn Photography

We did our interview after I did a talk for some high school students, then I sang to them, as I do. After we pondered and wondered together—for over two hours on the top of the hill—photographer Steven Flynn kindly gifted me with a fun little photoshoot. And Voilá! The headshot I’ve been trying to get on the calendar for 3 years!

Things you can read in my blog, Walkin’ with Joaquin:

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I host a literary picnic each October, and I’d love you to come up and enjoy the last says of summer with me, especially if you’re part of a local writer’s group. But I’m also up there every third Wednesday if you want to come write with me! At Write in the Hights we basically co-work in the park, generate words, eat snacks, and then share what we’ve worked on.

What I’m most exited about right now is the progress I’m finally making on my book, “Joaquin Miller Went Walkin’.” This will be a gift for Oakland’s school children, a field guide to Park beings, an invitation to write poetry, and a chance to sing and learn new things. After approaching every Oakland publisher I could find, I finally decided to create the book myself. After all, that’s something I do!

If you would like to make a small or large donation to support the CWC/FOJMP Writer-in-Residence Program, or to my  book project, you will be part of this journey! 

  • Donate to the California Writer’s Club through PayPal,
  • send a tax-deductible check made out to “Intersection for the Arts” with “CWC-BB (Kristen Caven WIR)” on the memo line, to Intersection for the Arts at 1446 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, or
  • Donate through Friends of Joaquin Miller Park.

Moved by the words of the Wordslanger in the wild. (photo: Donald Caven)

“Glintings of day in the darkness,
Flashings of flint and steel,
Blended in gossamer texture
The ideal and the real…”
—from Joaquin Murietta by Joaquin Miller

Joaquin Miller went walkin’. Joaquin Miller went walkin’. Joaquin Miller went walkin’. A walkin’ in the Oakland Hills.”
—from Joaquin Miller Went Walkin’ by Kristen “I’m Not Worthy lol” Caven

But wait there’s more. I think one of the reasons I’m so drawn to Joaquin Miller is that he and I have the same Human Design!

What do you think?