Jim Natal’s third full-length poetry collection, Memory and Rain, was published by Red Hen Press in 2009. His first collection, In the Bee Trees (Archer Books 2000) was a finalist for the Pen Center USA and Publisher’s Marketing Association Ben Franklin Awards. A second collection, Talking Back to the Rocks, was published by Archer Books in 2003. His poetry was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007 and 2008 and has been published or reviewed in Bellingham Review, Runes, Pool, Reed, the Paterson Literary Review, Poetry International, and the Los Angeles Review among other journals. Natal’s work also has appeared in many anthologies: Crazed by the Sun; Chance of a Ghost; Mischief, Caprice and Other Poetic Strategies; Blue Arc; Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer’s Disease; Open Windows; What Have You Lost?; So Luminous the Wildflowers; and Fresh Water. He also is the author of three chapbooks–Explaining Water With Water, Oil on Paper, and The Landscape from Behind–and two handmade limited-edition chapbooks–A Collector of Infinity and Rain in LA.
He has been a featured poet at dozens of colleges, bookstores, literary series, and festivals, including Long Island University, Washington College, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Writers in Focus series, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the Tucson Festival of Books, and the Santa Barbara Poetry Festival, the Long Beach Poetry Festival, and San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival.
Natal curated and co-hosted the Poem.X and Rose Cafe poetry series in Santa Monica for more than ten years and helped establish and coordinate Antioch University’s multi-genre LA Writers Series. He also runs and teaches poetry workshops, one of which, the annual Plein Air Poetry outdoor writing workshop, is coordinated through the Desert Institute and Joshua Tree National Park.
Natal was an executive for the National Football League’s Creative Services Group in Los Angeles for twenty-five years. He received his MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles in 2005 and taught writing and publishing skills at the New Roads private school in Santa Monica. He currently teaches creative writing at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona, where he also is the director of the Hassayampa Institute’s The Literary Southwest series. With his wife, graphic designer and book artist Tania Baban, he founded Conflux Press in 2004, which specializes in custom trade books, chapbooks, and artist’s books.
Memory and Rain
Publication Date: February 15, 2009
Memory and Rain is first an evocation of place and mood, of how the exterior landscape affects and shapes the interior landscape. Then the collection goes deeper with an exploration of how the facets of memory—some crystalline and some surreal, some painful in retrospective clarity and some wryly humorous—coalesce into a life that gradually fades with memory’s loss. The collection is bookended by two extended sequences bridged by such pivotal poems as “Photographic Memory,” “The Missing Scene: He Speaks Again to the Ghost of his Father,” and the Pushcart-nominated “Three Fates.” The opening sequence, “Rain in L.A.,” features a speaker literally and figuratively forced inside by a seemingly unending series of storms. His life becomes a series of vignettes of self-examination interwoven with montages of noir films, a soundtrack of jazz and blues, and a running commentary on the quirks and natural splendors of Los Angeles observed with a poet’s eye. “In Memory of Her Memory,” the final crown of poems, deals with the author’s experience of watching his mother descend into the abyss of Alzheimer’s, dead to him even as she is alive. Reflective and ultimately redemptive, Memory and Rain challenges readers to ask themselves what in their lives is of substance and what is “just music in winter air—not even there. It’s not even there.”