Joe Cottonwood

Joe has balanced his life as a home improvement contractor by day, author by night. He is from Maryland, imprinted Appalachian, educated midwestern, settled half a century under redwoods in La Honda, California. Joe is widely published around the world. Recently one of his poems was on display as a giant billboard in London, England. His latest book of poetry is Random Saints. Previous poetry books include Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. He is the author of many popular novels for adults and children and the award-winning memoir 99 Jobs: Blood Sweat and Houses.

Poem on Belonging

I AM

I am from Sibley Hospital 
in Washington DC where
my mother bought me 
like military surplus
at the end of World War Two.
I found the receipt 
she’d saved for decades 
in a dusty drawer
that made me sneeze:
“Delivery (normal) $48” 
stamped PAID.

I am from B&O coal cars
pennies on the track
under rivers of black
as mountains were removed.

I am dust from hitchhiker’s thumb
blown from Appalachian lowland
to the foggy redwoods of California.

I safekeep my pennies with
a left-handed banker of curly black hair
who returns with compound interest
child and grandchild, again, again.

I am from lapping tongue of dog,
many whiskers, one spirit.

I am from the dripping faucet
the rot of old wood.
Call me, I’ll repair.

I am from stories
I can’t stop telling
words I can’t stop writing
including my own receipt:
“Exit (normal). No charge.”
Past due.

Copyright © 2022 by Joe Cottonwood. Used with permission of the author.

Civic Engagement

Co-Founder, La Honda Lit Nite

“If you’re driving Highway 84 and see this sign by the side of the road, it’s Lit Nite in La Honda, California. Once a month, locals gather out of the redwood forest into Sullivan’s Pub to read or recite before a live, friendly, and somewhat lubricated audience in the bar. Participants include building contractors, a gardener, a veterinarian, a high school student, a goat farmer, a singer, a teacher, a nuclear physicist, dropouts, published writers. They read from their own work, or they read from books. They read poetry, stories, rants, even a comic book. The event is hosted by myself (unknown novelist) and Terry Adams (unknown poet). We’ve been doing it for a couple of years now, last Wednesday of the month. It’s fun; it’s friendly; it brings us together; it lets us try out our voices and our ideas. It brings literature down to earth.”

Joe Cottonwood, quoted in The New Yorker