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“What You See, What You Take With You “
after Marisela Norte’s photographs of Los Angeles—by Vickie Vértiz:
“Los Angeles Postcard”:
art by Daniel Gonzalez:
We are pleased to invite you to the launch event of the sixth issue of Párrafo Magazine, dedicated to the city of Los Angeles. The event will take place at 5:00 pm on April 18, 2014, at UCLA (Royce Hall 306). Join us to celebrate our new issue and have some drinks with our authors, artists, and Editorial Board! We will also have copies of our magazine for sale at a special reduced rate!
Están todos cordialmente invitados a la Presentación del número 6 de Párrafo, dedicado a la ciudad de Los Angeles. ¡La cita es este viernes 18 de abril a las 5 pm en UCLA (Royce Hall 306)!
Párrafo No. 6 includes texts by Deborah Aguilar Escalante, Sesshu Foster, Alberto Fuguet, Pere Gimferrer, Vinicius Jatobá, Román Luján, Nylsa Martínez, José Luiz Passos, Anthony Seidman, Vickie Vértiz, and Maite Zubiaurre.
The Los Angeles Issue also features photos and artwork by Ryan Allen, Daniel González, Jean-Paul deGuzman, Mario de la Iglesia, Román Luján, Vinícius Praxedes, Johnny Taylor, Noah “Kast” Teran, and Elizabeth Warren.
At this time we will also release the online version of our issue with some “bonus tracks,” including an interview with film director Chris Weitz by Jesús Galleres, artwork by Sandy Rodríguez, and a photo by Oliver Shou.
No, it wasn’t a mushroom cult. It’s that we lived in a dome, a
geodesic dome that we called the mushroom. I arrived after it was
built. It was acoustically perfect, had its own atmosphere.
Occasionally clouds would form in the highest lofts of the dome.
I experienced life in perfect remove. People passed by me, and their
words and movements were sparkling and real. I laughed at the
funniness of all of our hinged movements, elbows and knees, jaws
opening and closing. We all moved like funny animals, like wooden
creatures–animated by energy passing through us. Our feelings,
opining, statements, desires all passed through us and my perceptions
of the others passed through me–they were like abstract creatures to
me. At a certain point, I couldn’t really even understand what they
were saying, and I only recognized the timbre of their sounds, the
colored forms of their bodies and my own inner life worming, inching,
cycling, pulsing, firing and shivering.
I remember Eufencio, green always wore green. Straight up East Los
Angeles character, maybe his parents from the San Gabriel Valley
though? We were the only two from LA I thought, maybe I’m wrong. He
knew Liki Renteria, and we both witnessed strange weather–him a
tornado that almost killed him in 1992 and me a frog-rain in April of
that same year.
Our study center was about 120 miles outside of Rancho El Consuelo,
Sonora. No, there was water, little streams with birds, the bosque was
lavendar at night. We were a little ways away from the water. Stupid
people of the east coast United States, they think that the Sonoran
Desert has no water–or they can’t imagine that the desert could be
blister-hot and have water, both still water and flowing water,
lavender water and brown water. Water that reflected clouds and
reflected only blue sky.
Our routine was the same every day. We woke up at 4:30 in the winter
and 3:30 in the summer. There were teams, water team, building team,
vision team, waste team, of course the lazy-ass art team. We worked in
teams until 5:30, when we heated the water and made mesquite and rice
gruel–saffron yellow stuff. That and coffee, always coffee. Ironwood
fire in the darkness was so orange but disappeared in the light when
the sun and heat rose and gradually all you would see of the fire was
black wood and ash, even though you could hear it crackling! Couldn’t
eat too late or you would lose your appetite in the summer heat.
After breakfast, deep silence and Tensegrity practice in the Dome
until 10:00. At 10:00, we got back into teams and worked on our
projects, with Castaneda making rounds. We never ate lunch, only drank
teas from plants around us all day. “Water, Water, Water, Running and
At the sun’s apex, we would begin sweating ceremonies which lasted
until sundown. One hour after sundown, we would light another fire and
begin making dinner. Usually vegetarian, something boiled or roasted
on a comal. Occasionally, we would have someone on the vision team go
out after dark and come back with a few rodents. Kangaroo rats come
out after dark. You throw a stick at them, heavy stick, kill them,
then put it on a stick, singe off the hair over the fire. Then, you
grind the whole body up into a paste, bones and all, really crush it
down. Add it to the gruel or roast it flat on the comal. Luiseño
style. When I got back to LA, even the radicals looked at me all
disgusted when I told them that. Ignorant people are never very clear
on the fact that we are bodies too, and that seeing a small body
crushed and ground is itself a reminder that we are both crystalline
structures and rotting flesh. The rat’s blue crystalline energy
illuminates my structure before moving on, just as its small
pulverized body passes through me. All these thoughts, my achievements
and creations are made of kangaroo rat, coffee and rice, datura, dried
anchos, grilled nopales, mesquite seeds, fire, ash, water, sunlight.
1. 1. You write both fiction and poetry. What can a poem “say” that fiction can’t? And vice versa? And how does your method for each differ?
* For me they genres overlap. I like the documentary aspect of narrative so that often shows up in whatever I write. Most of what I publish features narrative, as I see that as a useful tool. “The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” Muriel Rukeyser famously stated (she wrote both prose and poetry). Narratives are useful not merely because they document our Universe, but also—perhaps more importantly—because new stories challenge the narratives that we live our lives by and don’t realize it, that we don’t question ourselves. Until a real writer comes along. This is one reason why people continually demand new stories. 19 year old Mary Shelley’s Frankensteins story is has been a best-seller since its publication and is retold every year on stage and screen precisely because it offers a counternarrative to the worthless lies of technocrats and politicians who tell us that to submit to endless capital and technology is the final solution. Frankenstein, like Moby Dick, warns us otherwise.
* If a narrative is more of a socially negotiated agreed upon series of conventions (dialogue shall be placed in quotation marks in America, but not in England, for example; the narrator shall be first person or third person, etc., ) etc., all the conventions of narrative reflecting the negotiations of literary tradition, then poetry is seen as a more autochthonous, individualist, maverick—not adhering to or following upon Aristotle’s Theory of Tragedy, the elements of which remain so influential in narrative forms of storytelling, theater, movies, novels. The sources of poems are more wild, more diverse: poetry comes from conversational speech and public speeches, from prayer, utterance, spells, sayings, proverbs, mnemonic phrases and words, images and notions, whims—not insignificantly, poems often come from the rational intellect being defeated, unsuspected emotions rising to expression, the calculating mind replaced by something more primal. If narratives speak through socially agreed-upon conventions and work to subvert social expectations, inventing new stories, then poems can simply start from that place—beyond conventional, customary language. That’s why most readers cannot abide poetry. It’s only for those willing to go off-road, bushwhack, go off the grid and get outside boundaries. Of course there are poetic conventions and traditions also, but you’re asking me to draw a line between poetry and prose.
* To make it brief, my methodologies overlap in many areas related to writing. This relates to one of your questions below. Where they differ is, perhaps, that in in narrative the novelist or storyteller keeps going back to the story till it is done with her or him. The poet goes to figures of speech.
2. 2. If I may paraphrase, you said in an interview with Amy Uyematsu in 1997 that you were interested in voices and the rhythm of the spoken language, that you find the way people talk poetic. Sixteen years later, have these rhythms changed? How?
Have rhythms of Americans speaking changed since 1997? Not really, I think. Maybe people are more tentative, more subdued, by economic cycles of dispossession and waste and income redistribution from the working class to the rich. Maybe Americans sound more tentative. I usually work with specifics. This past year we lost some great poets, Jayne Cortez in December 2012, and in the past year Amiri Baraka and Wanda Coleman. What voices do we have that can speak truth to power like they did? I am grateful for our California Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, for example.
3. 3. Your work has been called experimental. Do you agree or disagree? Why? If not, what is considered “not” experimental today?
Experimentalism has been a feature and methodology of 20th century Modernism, going back to the late 19th century. I don’t disagree that it’s a feature of my work; I’d disagree that any original writer is not experimenting with innovation in some aspect of her or his work. It’s a standard feature, like 21 speeds on a bike. What is considered “not” experimental are prose fiction writers who don’t alter much their accepted conventions of paragraphing, sentence structure, POV, etc. Often those prose fiction writers are selling conventional stories that don’t challenge prevailing narratives in our lives (genrefied, murder mysteries, romances, etc.) to insecure readers. Related to the third part of question #1 above, I enjoy employing techniques of contemporary poetry when I am writing prose, and deploying techniques of prose fiction in hybridized books I write (such as World Ball Notebook) that are marketed as poetry. I can tell you which one sells more.
4. 4. Sir Philip Sidney says in his Defence of Poesy that “[Nature’s] world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden,” and this is a good thing because it gives people a moral standard to strive toward. Do you think this is true for poetry today? During Sidney’s time, poetry was under fire because it was considered the “mother of lies,” a waste of time, a force that made men sin, removed real courage and valour from reality and puts it into poems, etcetera… Today fiction writing and poetry attract critique in the university (and lose funding) because we live in a world increasingly centered around science and technology. If you had to give your own Defence of 21st century poetry, what would your argument be? And what line would we still be quoting five hundred years in the future?
Contemporary poetry is so diverse as to include Kenneth Goldsmith’s work and that of like-minded conceptualists—he once retyped an edition of the New York Times and published it as a book—to (UC Davis professor) Joshua Clover, Juliana Spahr and (UCSC professor) David Lau who argue for “poetry and writing committed to anticapitalist and antistate politics” to neoRomantic lyric poets who might argue that their tender little quatrains are the last bastion against industrialized processed feeling. It’s very diverse, out there in Poetry Land. My defence of poetry—and literary writing in general—is that it’s democratic. It’s not all bad, it’s not all good. Some of it’s not going to work. Some of it is. Some of us are going to suffer and die and we’re not going to win. Keep your eyes on the prize. Some of us are gonna win. Some of us will get there. There’s only one way to get there. That is to go.
But I don’t care about one line somebody (I don’t know who that would be) would quote in 500 years. If they are quoting any of us in 500 years, good for them, it has done its work—because it serves their needs, whatever they may be, 400 years after Global Warming.
5. 5. What’s the most important thing you took away from your time at UCSC?
My girlfriend at the time; we got married in 1980 after graduation. Yesterday, I got a chance to tell her that she was my favorite person.
A.) Happy Crowd of Faces and Bodies
Pink face coughs up turquoise clouds and dust balls
Cleaved face allows direct looking into both of their eyes
The cleaved nature of their face means that skins of animals like gray squirrel and raccoon are the lining of their wounds (the inside part of their face)
Orange face, what orange on their face! Such cheer and good natured friendliness, a glowing orb chest
Ropes that look like twisted green, brown, red and yellow cloth are like borders around images, or snakes moving around them, but also like veins or roads or sinew
Some of them have been torn apart, those retain some of their cheerfulness but alarm also shows on their faces
“Wow, I’ve been torn apart, my natural state is to be devoured. You all should know that we spend most of our existence in a state of spread rather than a state of unity. Unity is brief”
Some might have grease stains on their embroidered clothing, capes, sarapes, tunics and shirts. Some of the shirts will be full of animals flying in all directions like cave paintings.
Some of the faces’ chests will be caves.
Some of them will appear to be wooden women and men; like their bodies are made of carved wood with multicolored sinew joints.
Some will have slippery and shiny skin, some will have skin that’s opened and full of pustules–their eyes will be open for you to look at them, or their skin will be made of eyes that will look at you
Some will have saffron colored handkerchiefs in their hands that they will stretch between their fingers, and their fingers will be stained green from holding and stretching the handkerchiefs
Many will have shades of sage grays under their eyes, like effluvium of glared vision sprayed out of their eyes
Many will have stone animals that they wear around their necks, others will be the things that others wear around their necks
Some will have fat rings of paint circling around their collarbones to their shoulder blades
Some will be painted bright colors, some will have bright colored skin
Some will have bleeding gums from disease or lack of care. These flares of pink and red will communicate smells
Some will wear bundles of bones and ochres, others will paint themselves with bone black and red ochre
Saffron, teals, oranges, vermillion, turquoise, corals, pinks, ultramarine, blueish whites, blacks, lime greens, simple greens, cerulean blues
Many will be disintegrating and incomplete. They will not ever complete themselves or their own meaning
Hair will vary greatly, most hair will be black or gray and straight or wavy
Some hair will be covered in clay, white clay or red clay
Some hair will have stamped images made with white clay by painting a design on their palm, then pressing the wet design onto straight hair
Some will have great jewelry made of silver shapes, some will have hard and sharp adornments and have their hands full of objects
Many will force you to look into their eyes or face until your own face comes into question
Some will have bent bodies, some will have straight bodies, some bodies will be run through with braided cloth in many colors, some of the cloth might actually be intestines dyed with plant stuffs like indigo, onion skin and madder root
Some of them will inspire some amount of terror because they will be the living manifestations of bodies ruined by violent acts
Others will be terrifying because they will be the living manifestations of what will happen to all of our bodies
Some will be terrifying because of our irrational fear of unpredictable behaviors, or our fear of irrational and unpredictable behaviors
Some will be so generous of spirit that they will give you energy to roam the room
Some will obviously be the hills of Los Angeles
Some will belong to the history of California
Some will have backbones as long as the continents
Some will recline across vast patches and tufts of land
Some will have hearts that open into yours
Some will be eating hearts
Some will split open, some will split you open
They will not be of a personal nature, or an allegorical nature, instead they will be of a gateway nature, one that allows one to pass through
Their attitude will be that of allowance, of invitation to take a step into
Some will have candles or lightbulbs, some will hold and light other types of lights
Some will sit in small burrows located inside others’ burrows
Some will have clothing that has folds where other clothing can be found
Most will be worlds unto themselves, hosts of all life
The room of their bodies and faces will be full of turbulence and stillness
No lyricism, no fanciness. Plain faced truth even if it doesn’t appear to be plain on the gross level, the faces will be easeful and presently plain
Some will sit and some will stand, some will be contorted by all types of things, boxes, caves, old age, deformity. The truth of bodies will be there for us to see
Some of their bodies will appear mechanical or wooden, some will be puddles on the floor, soft jackets of skin
Some of their skin will be radiant, some will be smooth and beautiful, others will have beautiful skin of eruptions
Some will have fur on their skin and the faces of animals
Others will have masks of animal faces or twisted faces
Some will hold metal things, rusting in their hands
Stains will be everywhere in the happy crowd of all kinds of faces and bodies
The faces will be serene in the happy crowd
The happy crowd will have endless depth and scale
The flatness of the depiction will speak to the essential limited view of our own perceptions, painted food and painted hunger
It will also speak to the abundant spaciousness of our connection with painted images, that our perceptions are a flat gate to real dimensional realities
1.) YOUR FACE WILL BE LIKE:
Clowns or spirit types, portraits, in large hi res photo prints, buffered with drawings, maybe ceramic objects.
Large portraits evoking large ideas of emotional states, obliquely referring to outdated and old iconography of lost traditions and inaccessible feelings. Hidden feelings, hidden cultures, all layed out through a manifesto of portraiture.
Sacred plants, foolish or contorted poses, layered clothing that hides the body or exaggerates it. Dirty or messy organic backdrops, enigmatic or ecstatic pointings to.
2.) Like gray blue plants, crisp and ashy
Like self regulating storms, building and ebbing, waving like fingered oceans
3.) I (my shivvering plant self) came out of an offshoot of the root of my rhizome, which has often used personae to establish and unhide dimensions of the fringe, dark connections/metaphysical connections unique to Los Angeles.
These connections include honoring the natural fibers of los angeles and the original aesthetic of the basin as cultivated and invented by the tongva people, harmonic resonances established, invented and amplified by thousand year projects.
Mestizo overlaying projects also created their own harmonics
The project in this context is an act of reclamation of an aesthetic value system, not traditional but living.
It’s also a clown project though. XXXXXXXX the past with its emphasis on cosmologies peopled with saints or supernatural presences, point to this new thing. It’s these personae that anchor the place that’s really the subject of the photo.
Sacred clowning, like sacred sainthood is an exalted place in human perception. Clowns occupy a frige space on the opposite side of the spectrum of saints. They’re dirty saints, creative and fecund. Getting into things , messing shit up.
The interrelatedness of them all make them a society. The individual attributes of each, often contradictory make them deities. “You can alway tell a god by their hilaritas” they have multiple attributes but maintain both sides if the “hilar” derivation being both full of hilarity and being hilarious.
Sacred clowning is a Native American practice. One power is that they are irrespective and sometimes disrespectful though not ignorant of power structures. They disappear, they reaffirm “no-soul”
These clowns challenge power by pushing through older harmonics, older perennial patterns. The power structure that down trods these patterns of life is non-living–while the fringe society that acts and re-enacts these works is more powerful than power structures.
“Funny Soul makes this world.”
4.) Risk of humiliation as clown is target of laughter. Clown cracks open people as zen master cuts off student’s finger. “Now you understand”
5.) Archetypical and can be consulted as a living embodiment of ancient human harmonics. A refined body language that enacts the symbiosis between human and non human earth.
6.) Outside Society: The clown is a representation of the egoless non participating human spirit–that which is apart from social convention, whose personality is unformed and ego undefined by the desires and reflections and self judgements triggered by society. Clown reaffirms existence of turbulence.
natalia ginzburg, alicia partnoy, jayne cortez, charlotte delbo, yoko ono, emily dickenson, cecilia vicuna, lisa chen, claudia rankine, wanda coleman, bhanu kapil, sharon doubiago, grace krilanovich, chris kraus, yosano akiko, dolores dorantes, yasmina reza, vera johnston, rosa luxemburg, grace paley, mei-mei berssenbrugge, anna seghers, mari sandoz, clarice lispector, helen potrebenko, jen hofer, marisela norte, karen yamashita, c. d. wright, ntozake shange, carson mccullers, flannery o’conner, gertrude stein, tsering yangmo dhompa, renee gladman, mary shelley, lynne tillman, virginia woolf, sei shonagon, lynda barry, sarah menefee, elena poniatowska, claribel alegria, nancy morejon, margaret randall, susan howe, rebecca solnit, allison hedge coke, rossana rossanda, muriel rukeyser, anuradha mahapatra, etel adnan
THE BOY held onto his father’s clothing as the train rolled around a bend. Everything looked dusted with gold. Black train tracks, flatcars on a siding, a low row of weather-beaten green houses with tar paper rooftops, the shadows of screened windows behind picket fences. He could see the city glinting on hillsides in the distance. Like some fabled city in an old country, temples roofed in gold. As the train slowed, his father jumped onto the gravel and in almost the same motion plucked his mother and the baby, his hand closing over the boy’s as he called for him to jump. The rocks hurt the boy’s feet and the sun was hot. The train blew by in a big noise for a long time and then faded away. “We’re home,” his father sighed as they walked toward unshaded boxcars down a dusty embankment. And the boy felt inside his stomach a warm lonely pain he thought must be love. A line of laundry fluttered from a boxcar to the fence.
City Terrace Field Manual