It took us a while to find a title for this book. We knew we wanted something that would link us as a group yet not lock us into a group identity. Although we've been influenced by one another's voices and words, sometimes in ways too deep or complex to trace, we've worked to follow our own directions, and we wanted the title to reflect that. But all the titles that first came to mind had already been taken.
Sometime in February, still untitled, we decided to assign homework: For the next meeting, everyone had to bring three possible titles. Maybe because we never assign homework, everybody did it. After about an hour, when we were all giddy with the power of rejecting, Kathleen said, "Maybe we should just call it Lucky Dogs. Because we're lucky dogs to be working together." We liked it until we thought about the jokes it might invite. More searching, and then one night in June, Forrest said, "How about Times Ten?" Instantly, we felt the high that comes with finding the right ending after weeks or months of struggle.
The group itself has been anything but struggle. We started meeting in January of 1991, a few weeks after a party that was part celebration, part mourning for the end of Richard Silberg's Fall 1990 UCB Extension class in writing poetry. When he heard us lamenting that the class had ended too soon, Richard suggested that we do what some of his former students had done—keep on meeting at somebody's house. So six of us tried it. Two of the original six had to drop out early on. None of us is quite sure when the others joined. The year of the fire. The year the drought really ended. The year John fell in love and moved away. Time mixes in with our voices.
Maybe it works because we keep it simple. We meet every two weeks if we can. Each of us brings a poem, and we do what we did in Richard Silberg's class: First someone else reads the poem, next the poet reads it, and then we all discuss it. We try to tell the truth. We try not to let jealousy interfere. And we try not to take ourselves too seriously. On the best nights, we laugh with a wild glee.
But even on off nights, we feel lucky. We're not stuck with one another. We show up for the same reason we kept on going to Richard Silberg's class: We love the company. We dedicate this book to Richard because it wouldn't be here without him, as we wouldn't be where we are. Oh, we'd probably all be writing, with similar degrees of separation and connection. But when we heard someone say Lucky Dogs, we wouldn't be counting our blessings in quite the same way, times ten.
Lynne Knight August 1997
An Anthology of Northern California Poets