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IDLING HOT 100 DEGREES IN THE SHADE
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I WOULD SAY THE DIFFERENCE WILL HAVE TO BE MADE
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WIND OUT OF THE NORTH, RIPPED THE ROOF OFF, SENT IT FLYING IN THE NIGHT
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“In March 2011, without packing or telling anyone, writer Dolores Dorantes fled her home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and crossed the border into El Paso.
Ciudad Juarez was the city where she grew up, began work as a reporter, and developed a following as a poet — and it was reeling from drug-related violence. The government responded with deadly military action and the deaths of hundreds of young women went unsolved.
In a column for a Mexico City newspaper, Dorantes criticized government policies that failed to put an end to the violence.”
continue reading the article here:
listen to the audio here:
“In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, writer Dolores Dorantes received death threats. The U.S. granted her asylum and now her latest work reflects on her four years here.”
see also Dolores’s new book: http://www.uglyducklingpresse.org/catalog/browse/item/?pubID=318
2015, Ugly Duckling Presse
“… imagine an intervention between the body and that which destroys it ” — Daniel Borzutsky
Intervenir/Intervene is a searing, tender, unflinching collaboration between two Mexican poets—Dolores Dorantes, who lived in Ciudad Juárez for 25 years and now has political asylum in Los Angeles, and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez, who lives in Mexico City. Intervenir/Intervene asks questions no one should have to ask: in a climate of state-sponsored violence, what kinds of speech, writing, relation are possible? We are being intervened. How do we collaborate? How do we resist?
Intervenir/Intervene es una colaboración mordaz, tierna e impávida entre dos poetas mexicanos—Dolores Dorantes, que vivió 25 años en Ciudad Juárez y ahora tiene asilo político en Los Ángeles, y Rodrigo Flores Sánchez, que vive en la Ciudad de México. Intervenir/Intervene hace preguntas que nadie debería verse obligado a preguntar: en un clima de violencia promovida por el Estado, ¿qué tipos de expresión, de escritura, de relación, son posibles? Estamos siendo intervenidos. ¿Cómo colaboramos? ¿Cómo resistimos?
La poesía se me olvida
como se me olvidó tu cuerpo reventado:
CON LA BOCA
Escriba “el rostro de mi amor en la tierra”
Escriba “¿qué te hicieron, amor?”
Escriba “al cuerpo de mi amor lo encontré sin un dedo:”
I forget poetry
just like I forgot your burst body:
WITH ITS FACE
Write “my love’s face in the dirt”
Write “what did they do to you, love?”
Write “I found my love’s body missing a finger:”
read an interview with the authors here:
and another excerpt here:
check out Dolores’s blog here:
how to survive?
a. call me. call me at one AM, crying so i can hear mucous over the line, say UC irvine decided in the middle of your the first year of your MFA program to take back your financial award.
b. talk to me late into the night even if i have to get up for work.
c. meet me for noodles; i’ll take you to pho. i’ll listen to your whole deal, how you are a tenured professor but your books don’t sell. you edited a poetry series that was canceled by the university in a budget cut.
d. i’ll buy you pho.
e. ask me to lend you $40. i will.
f. text me. say you’re going to be at the airport on such and such a date, layover for the afternoon. i’ll take you to aliki’s tavern greek restaurant.
g. meet me at the little house in el sereno. your relatives standing silent behind us on the porch in the darkness before dawn, duffle bags in hand. we’ll embrace out front, breath coming out plumes in the chill. they slept on the floor and they’re ready to go, so there’s not much time to to chat. you don’t need more coffee, just a drink of water. you got thousands of miles to drive.
h. we’ll help you load. your people are waiting on you.
i. call me when you get to california. tell me you just arrived and don’t know anyone. you don’t have a place to stay. i’ll give you my cousin’s number (this was before he was married).
j. my cousin will let you stay at his place, mid-city for a month till you get a place. usually i’ve got a couch or an extra room.
k. meet me by accident at the front door. i’ll be living in a different house by then. one night when i am cleaning out the empty house, having moved out, trash bags in both hands, i can’t see you under the street lamp. people stand at the bottom of the stairs in the street lamp. you step into the light and tell me who you are, and we laugh because i haven’t seen you in years, the last time was a thousand miles away. you’re looking for an address up the street, a meeting at a house of an old revolutionary.
l. i’ll point up the dark street. i might know the person you are looking for.
m. change your name. get rid of your slave name, revert to the indigenous. run a pirate radio station out of a van around the hilltops of east l.a. broadcasting secret revolutionary communiques in the middle of the night.
n. ask me for a letter of recommendation for a job at the university. send me the CV, i’ll say anything. i’ll be glad to. that’s why they call it ‘creative writing.’ i’ve written hundreds of rec letters.
o. ask me to show up and talk to your students. i will.
p. i’ll drive to nimitz middle school and read poems to a library full of middle schoolers. i’ll read them poems and answer their questions about poems and about how to be a writer. i’ll find a ticket on my windshield afterwards. ask me to speak to a group of high school kids at the alternative high school. i’ll read them a couple poems at the picnic table under the tree. i’ll give each one at the table a free book of poems, and sign the ones who ask. (marisela norte will talk to students at another table.) ask me to talk to students at ucr (graduate seminars and undergrads on their cell phones), university of minnesota, harvard, hunter college, columbia, occidental, ucsd, ucsc, sf state, suny buffalo, eerie community college (where those kids paid real attention and asked great questions), pasadena city college, bisbee central school project, cal state l.a., cal state northridge, i’ll go. i’ll drive a rental car from boston south, from tucson through tombstone to bisbee, i’ll drive a rental from the airport at cedar rapids to a reading at lacrosse WI, up the cold winter mississippi river to minneapolis. i’ll drive four hours south through hellish stop and start traffic on the 5 to get to a benefit reading in someplace like laguna beach or san clemente.
q. ask me to meet you so we can talk about grad school.
r. ask me to meet you so we can talk about teaching writing to students.
s. ask me to meet you so we can talk about your manuscript, publishers, agents, your options.
t. don’t hesitate to appear in my dreams:
…california coast town, some novices—community college group— a handful of people amid desultory scattering of student desks, what’s going on? nothing? the instructor who is a pal, doesn’t have programming or agenda, turns to me, “you want to read something? you got something?” of course, i always have something. i can always do something. i’ll read, “the blue garage.” but what is “the blue garage”? it was supposed to be something i could run through without thinking. but now i can’t recall exactly what it was. i just need something, just a little clue, a word would suffice, just to get started. hold on, i’ll do this. i got this. but i can’t remember what it was. it’s like everything has gone dark, and indeed, i am standing in the middle of the blue garage. it’s an old abandoned garage, debris, blue paint blistered and peeling, and i’ve been standing there so long only one person’s left, my host leads me away. there’s a reception or gathering afterward in some little downtown storefront, but i’m in no mood, disgusted with myself, later i wake up in a furniture store in a pile of rugs—it’s morning in the town, time to go.
u. when you get old and sick, someone will put out the call. this person has been one of our best, one of our bravest, one of our toughest, they stood up for us, they spoke up and now they’re old and sick and need our help. because it’s true (you were brave and you never stopped), i’ll cut a check.
v. though i have debt without end, i’ll write a check.
w. ask me what i do for a living. when i answer, frown with your disgust and class bias. “really? that’s what you do?” you stare at me for a beat, eyes hooded. other people are friendly all around the table but after that exchange, you’re cold. what upsets you? (maybe you’re one of those professors who couldn’t publish a book to save your life.) are you one of those positivists, whose rationales mask horror at the seeming physical indifference of the world? if you cared to talk about it, i’d suggest that more than bureaucratic positivism, however, is required to write or make art. believe me, i worked two jobs for decades to enable my writing.
x. come over my house to tell me that you can’t stand it where you are staying, because the poet hosting you in l.a. fights all the time with her boyfriend— “it’s a house of pain.” talk to me about all the poetry festivals you attend around the world, where you can read your poems in los angeles and how can you get money for your poetry? i’ll tell you what i know about festivals, small presses, gigs, the poetry business. invite me to read poems in new zealand, as long as i pay my way.
y. call me and leave a message saying you want me to look at your manuscript.
z. i’ll be happy to look at your manuscript. don’t commit suicide in that motel in san clemente. don’t treat other people like they are disposable, least of all yourself! don’t throw yourself away! treat people well, be good to yourself, be at your best in your work, and you will receive coffee, grants, awards, blurbs, introductions, couches to sleep on, beer, wine, meals, job offers, referrals, advice, sexual favors, puppies, flowers, photographs, poems, rides, money, fellowships, lessons, trips, tips, applause, passes, residencies, walks, recipes, bicycles, admiration and respect, hugs, stories, glimpses, visions and gifts of lives that otherwise would never come your way. if you commit suicide in that motel room you get nothing.
one of the beautiful things about art or writing can be that it comes from you, represents you in the crowd, bears your handprint, it tells your story, it’s personal in the indifferent universe, it’s fun in such grim times, the hopeful thing that is your own gift to give. when you survive as an artist or writer, you will produce art and writing that will help you to survive.
In short, I suggest that you must develop community, you must create for yourself community, beyond just a “support network.” Recently, in the typical superficial style of L.A. Magazine, like all such booster magazines devoted to only the glossiest, most superficial view of the city, a former L.A. Times writer, Scott Timberg, wrote an essay called “Leaving Los Angeles,” in which he mourns the cumulative effects of Reagonomics and the destruction of the “middle class” in L.A., and particularly, his own deteriorated status. “As much as I like Los Angeles,” Timberg writes, “which has been ‘home’ longer than my Maryland hometown was—I’m no longer willing to be a third-class citizen here.”
(I say that America has always treated its artists and writers as third-class citizens.)
Perhaps you, like Timberg, grew up believing that you could move to any community anywhere and due to your education, your whiteness, your privilege, you could engage in a “middle class” life (where every activity is a business transaction allowed by your money and monetized skills, neatly performed within the snappy ideologies of capitalism) and generally not have to consider the struggles of people in your community—and specifically, the struggles of people who made the community more liveable for everyone, labor organizers, unions, community activists, peace activists, public service workers, intellectuals, artists and writers who came before you (from Maryland or wherever). But those things that were good, those people who were good, who greeted you when you showed up, they worked for all that.
Timberg writes (in the July 2015 L.A. Magazine), “In older, more settled places, you’ve missed your chance to belong if you weren’t born there, but L.A. is different. You typically become a local a year or two after landing.” But Timberg demonstrates nothing beyond a superficial idea of community, nothing more “local” than a list of tourist activities that he enjoyed about the city (“Rhino Records… Canter’s… Largo… We hiked in Joshua Tree, drove to remote, tree-shaded wineries…”). After “landing,” these “middle class” writers or artists live the detached life of tourists, who want a life served to them by the community. They want no part of the struggle to make that community.
It may be that you as writer or artist of the post-Reagan era, do not have that privilege.
After the Reagonomic destruction of the “middle class,” reducing many citizens to the “third-class” status where the rest of always us already always were, fighting for our lives, I suggest that disregard of the issues, struggles and history of the community is NOT in your interests as an human being (“the impossibility of being human” as Charles Bukowski put it), as a writer or artist, or as a citizen of any community.
Listen to the snide, complacent class disdain latent in the praise for Los Angeles in a source quoted in Timberg’s article: “Siobhan Spain, who resettled in the Midwest when the Chinatown gallery she directed shut down, remembers L.A. as a magical place: ‘Where else, on any certain day, could you witness Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting at Walt Disney Concert Hall, walk by a homeless person defecating on the sidewalk, swim near dolphins at Point Dume State Beach, help install artwork by Stanford Biggers, sit in traffic for over an hour, watch your friend act in an episode of Nip/Tuck, and go to sleep with ghetto birds circling your neighborhood?” It’s the magical white L.A., where you have friends working “the industry” and Disney Concert Hall [magically built on top of the destroyed neighborhood of former Bunker Hill] and Point Dume State Beach are there for you; and it’s not your friends “defecating on the sidewalk,” not your people targeted by “ghetto birds.” It’s magical white L.A. until your gallery is shuttered, and you are proletarianized. Ah, then it’s not so “magical”. Time to flee.
You, young artist, young writer. Go anywhere you like. But know that a community was there before you—this land was not a magically unpeopled wilderness to be colonized but a place of history, secrets, struggles, heroes and issues. What made it a community was not magic, but labor. Maybe if your labor and your work relates to them, if your aesthetic process is open to that community, your work will not be superfluous. Your work might be useful. You may not have to suddenly flee, like a tourist from the off-season. As an artist or writer anywhere, you’ll need community to survive. Your community-building not only helps you survive, it helps you produce.
4. This argues against the artist or writer as tourist, as parachute journalist. You can develop more organic sources.
5. Your own aesthetic process is a transformative activity; it’s not an economic transaction that you purchase with a university degree.
6. See also, “Letter to a Young Nonprivileged Poet” by Sandra Simonds, http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2015/06/advice-to-a-young-nonprivileged-poet-by-sandra-simonds.html
7. See also, “Writing the Truth: the Five Difficulties” by Bertolt Brecht, http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/ope/archive/0903/att-0196/fiveDifficulties_brecht.pdf In fact, there’s probably too long a list of interesting, useful ideas for you, too long to list here. Part of the fun is getting together with others to find it and discuss it.
8. You gotta have fun doing it. Too much fun.
9. Otherwise this is too much work.
Amy Uyematsu is a third-generation Japanese-American poet and teacher from Los Angeles. She has published three previous poetry collections: 30 Miles from J-Town (Story Line Press, 1992), Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain (Story Line Press, 1997), and Stone Bow Prayer (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Her first book was awarded the 1992 Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Amy was a co-editor of the widely-used UCLA Asian American Studies anthology Roots: An Asian American Reader. Her newest book is The Yellow Door (Red Hen Press)
for more on Amy Uyematsu and her new book, the Yellow Door: http://redhen.org/authors/?author_UUID=C7F24721-5D84-6FD8-419B-AF87FF1D6E65
Sesshu Foster has taught composition and literature in East L.A. for 25 years. He’s also taught writing at the University of Iowa, the California Institute for the Arts, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work has been published in The Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry, Language for a New Century: Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond, and State of the Union: 50 Political Poems. One of his last readings at St. Mark’s Poetry Project NYC is Mp3 archived atwww.salon.com and local readings are archived at www.sicklyseason.com.He is currently collaborating with artist Arturo Romo Santillano and other writers on the website, www.ELAguide.org. His most recent books are the novel Atomik Aztex and World Ball Notebook.
Visit his blog, East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines.
for directions and parking: http://avenue50studio.org/about/directions
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Michele’s work influences my dreams (Chinatown NYC, 2010).
this young group confronts me in an East L.A. parking lot, this troupe of players, performers, as if off the bed of an El Camino pickup, getting ready to sing, but they stop me, the lead guy won’t stop bending my ear, he goes on and on, I know all about it, I have my sympathies, the girl in her vintage clothes and bright red lipstick frowns at me dubiously, so I say all right, all right, I already bought some, I already bought like 4 of them! How much are you selling them for? $5? gimme two more—it’s a chapbook called CLUNKY CHANCLAS, by some chicana doing like a michelle serros thing, these are her friends selling her chapbooks in the streets, doing performances to make sales, and it’s a dream
—Chinatown NYC, 2010
construct and iota alluded to in a dream or reformulated as “vegetables”.
June 4 or June 11, ice left behind in a glass on the table of the cafe.
ice melting, beans softening into the shape of event horizon of Thursday.
inserted from the left, instrumental music without melody (memory of it evaporated).
maybe it was alluded to as noted “in a dream,” or in passing conversation.
(how much conversation can you recall from Thursday June 4?) recycling.
thoughts, newspaper language of social compact, who scratched those clouds on the sky?
who were we (major referents subsumed like energy neither created nor destroyed),
telephone poles of the avenue reorganized as “dogs,” dogs recycled as mountains of the evening…
sunset on mountains recycled as the burnt part washed off the pan, the fire returning as
a paper bag of Thursday crumpled along the edge, unfolded and shook out like a feeling,
as I read about the bicyclist killed by a hit and run driver doing 80, dragged 500 feet on Figueroa.