Doggish Notes from California

No blogger likes to vanish unless it’s a matter of wild fortune–winning the lottery or being abducted by cuddly, literate aliens–in my case neither of which has occurred though I’m immoderately happy on the “left coast” of the USA where I’ve been on a ten day book tour.

The very phrase “book tour” sounds overblown and it is. Forgive me. This really isn’t a book tour. Publishers don’t pay for authors to fly about and speak unless they’re more than passing famous (which I’m not) or they’re media figures (which I’m not) or maybe they’ve done something intolerable and are hitting the come back trail (Pee Wee Herman?).

No I think it’s best to say I’m on a dog tour with a book in hand. The book is mine, the dog is her own creature and we’ve been with friends both old and new. Good fortune. Let it be said. The dog and man are having charmed lives.

Here for instance is a photograph of me reading from the book in hand at Romeo Vineyards in Calistoga, California just three days ago:

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Thanks to Emma Blatcher of Romeo Vineyards for hosting us. “Us” meaning Dog and Man but also my dear friends Ken Weisner and Becky Roberts from Santa Cruz. Ken is a poet, teacher, scholar, French Horn player, and my pal these past 40 years. Here’s a photo of Ken reading his poems at Bookshop Santa Cruz just this past week–an event he made possible and yes, I followed his poetic lead and read from my dog book.

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I first met Ken Weisner in Iowa City in 1978. We were graduate students together, baby poets if you will, (there should be a word for baby poets–something Russian perhaps like “Sputnik”) but terminology aside we hit it off for we both loved classical music, Pablo Neruda, baseball, and complicated jokes.

As I recall, the first joke I ever told Ken involved a rebarbative and scatological piano teacher who instructed his pupil to defecate every time he hit a wrong note. The punch line was: “Good thing I didn’t shit in the piano!”

I offer the above as an example of Ken’s decency, for he befriended me despite this and we’ve been baby poets together, than stripling poets, and now we are entering the phase of life and art one may call “caducity” and there’s no help for it. And no, my jokes are no better these days.

Here’s a photograph of yours truly reading just after Ken. I’m describing how I had to walk with a woman guide dog trainer who was wearing a dog harness–an early stage of guide dog training. That exercise was loony (though perhaps necessary):


After visiting Calistoga Ken and Becky drove me to San Rafael through lush countryside. And I had the great fortune to spend some time with my old friend Michael Meteyer and his wife Kate Byrnes. They are long time friends of the blind and their home overlooks a thrilling bird estuary and there should be a word also for speaking both human and bird language for I’m convinced Michael can do this as all the local birds adore him and why not? He’s a man with a Zen heart who actually does help old ladies across streets. He also took me to visit Guide Dogs for the Blind, the famous local guide dog training center. Here’s a photo of yours truly and guide dog Caitlyn posing by their lobby sign:

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(I love visiting guide dog schools. I’ve had the good fortune to visit schools in Japan, Finland, the UK, and at various locations in the US.)

As I write this morning I’m in Los Angeles where tonight I will speak at the Mark Taper Auditorium at the Central Library.

My doggish life has been rich, often filled with joy, many times more lucky than my morning imagination supposes. The morning imagination is like Wallace Stevens who once said the “world is ugly and the people are sad”–which may be true enough, but then again, just walking, taking in the air as a living circus (my own words from an old book) is what the world is for.

Connie Kuusisto :
Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Barnes and Noble

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger 

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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