You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2009.


Sesshu Foster’s World Ball Notebook is a tour de force of the wide shot and the close-up. On the “world ball” field, the actions of governments ricochet off each other and their citizens; simultaneously, the moves each individual makes in her life produce private effects and global reverberations. Very few contemporary writers have captured with such skill and feeling the specific geography and register of Los Angeles—its relentless highways, urban milieu, mixes of peoples and languages, various local struggles–and its inextricability from much larger geographical, political and human landscapes that stretch from the American West to Central and South America to Asia. Past and present and future constitute their own playing fields, too. What distinguishes World Ball Notebook from an array of contemporary poetry books is the capaciousness of Foster’s vision, one that never generalizes or makes reductive, and his empathetic respect for the individual characters whose lives might otherwise be lost to history.

-Dorothy Wang, Judge for the Poetry category of the Twelfth Annual Asian American Literary Awards


World Ball Notebook, enjoyed by all ages! Recommended for youth! Erases unsightly wrinkles!

Since 1998, The Workshop has honored Asian American writers for literary excellence. The culminating event of Page Turner, the Twelfth Annual Asian American Literary Awards will honor great contributions to Asian American letters. Come have a drink and raise a glass to three award winning writers!

Since 1998, The Annual Asian American Literary Awards have honored Asian American writers for excellence in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, memoir, stage plays and screenplays. Literary awards recipients are determined by a national panel of judges who are selected on the basis of expertise in a literary genre and/or experience in academic environments relevant to Asian American literature; residence in the U.S. and ethnic background as to create a diverse committee.

The Asian American Literary Festival Presented by The Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Readings at PowerHouse Arena
PowerHouse Arena
37 Main Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Saturday, November 14, 2009

11am-6pm: Reading Events on the Hour
6pm-7pm 12th Annual Literary Awards & Cocktail Reception

Join us at PowerHouse Arena for PAGE TURNER: The Asian American Literary Festival, a groundbreaking event that’ll cover topics from the quirky to the academic. Listen to writers “narrate” a film clip with one of their creative works, explore Japanese American and post 9/11 South Asian internment, and or just sip cocktails with renowned writers. The day will conclude with the presentation of the 12th Annual Asian American Literary Awards and Cocktail Reception to honor last year’s best Asian American writing.

Confirmed guests include a wide range of talents, including: Pulitzer winner Jhumpa Lahiri; Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang; hot stand-up comic Jen Kwok; one of the country’s most respected historians, Columbia University Professor Mae Ngai; Believer magazine editor Ed Park; Crossword Book finalist Amitava Kumar; and many more!

Poetic Research Bureau shares a little theater space near the intersection of Glendale Blvd and San Fernando Road in Glendale. I read there before at a reading organized by David Lloyd of USC to raise money for Palestinian children. Thursday November 5, 2009, the PRB hosted Mark Nowak, who used to live in Minneapolis (but moved to Maryland, he said). I chatted at the door with Brian Kim Stefans, who said he was teaching my recent book, World Ball Notebook, in his class at UCLA. Tisa Bryant showed up, saying she’d recently moved to L.A. (this venue in in her neighborhood) from NYC for a teaching gig at Calarts. She said she’s working on a new book of exsperimental essays (perhaps like her 2007 Unexplained Presence, from Leon Books). Martha Ronk ducked through door when we didn’t get out of the way.
shut up shut down
$5 donation, the little theater seats plush and comfortable. With the briefest of intros, the lights went out and Mark Nowak started a DVD which featured three poems being read, an older worker with gray hair in a ponytail reading a poem in front of a chainlink fence and parking lot about working for decades—“I grew up in the plant/ I bled in the plant…”—only to have Ford close down the plant and lay him off, then Philemon from South Africa reading about being a ford worker in South Africa, “anything can happen,” and Philemon among a group of other auto workers reading a group poem—“managers get training if they make a phonecall, workers get training if they take to the streets”—followed by the group chorus: “Oh! What a life!”

As he cued the video, Mark explained that he’d done some poetry workshops with auto workers, but that otherwise the UAW did not return his calls, presumably “because they don’t see culture as important, at least not part of their mission; they see themselves more like an insurance company providing support for the workers if something goes wrong.” But he said that he wrote to the South African trade union umbrella COSATU and received via email, I guess from NUMSA, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, almost immediately a long itinerary of 8 hour per day workshops that he might provide for Ford auto workers in South Africa, along with information requests which included whether or not he was a vegetarian for meals they provided. Mark outlined how he ran the first 8 hour workshop to focus on production of “first person” poems by individuals and the second 8 hour day with workshops that produced a “first person plural poem,” essentially the poem read by the group on the video.

Nowak read parts of his new Coffeehouse Press book Coal Mountain Elementary, which is about coal miners, their deadly industry and the disasters that befall them in the U.S. and China. He discussed his writing process (as much of the book is selections from transcripts or testimony which Mark said that he culled from several thousand pages of material, distilling it to a couple hundred pages, keyed to selected photographs by Ian Teh) as well as his aesthetic. “I like it that this book is not available on Kindle,” he said, “instead the pages face each other and say,” he demonstrates with the book in front of him, “unless you cover up the photo [by Ian Teh from China] you have to keep in mind at the same time, or all the time that it’s facing something in the U.S., and I also like that the book is not entirely classifiable or pigeonholed by genre as creative nonfiction, poetry, a play or democratic testimony.”
coal mountain elementary
Mark showed a slideshow of pictures from a recent trip to Argentina, where workers had taken over abandoned factories and fought off the police to occupy them and bring them back into production, including an aluminum plant which made cans and toothpaste tubes, and where, he noted, they offered a range of cultural classes or workshops, and he showed a picture of their lending library. He said this movement had organized some ten thousand workers. He read more from the new book, and then conducted a quick Q & A. Since he’d mentioned that some of his writing had been performed as theater, his Mac laptop was set up at his right hand so he could click on an NPR website video of a “readers theater” production where actors read from his Coal Mountain Elementary as a script, materials related to the “Sago mine disaster” where a dozen miners were killed. In response to another question he projected behind him on the portable screen his blog about mining accidents and disasters globally: The questions ranged from the relation of pictures to text in the work (my question) to questions about his process or approach in the Sago area, where he mentioned how CNN paid a local homeowner $250,000 so Anderson Cooper could stand on their property and use the Sago mine in the background as backdrop for his broadcasts. I was sort of more interested in languagy text-based questions, but Mark’s presentation and the thrust of his comments had gone global in more ways than one. Mark said he’d recently read at UC Santa Cruz for fellow Coffee House Press author Karen Yamashita, and the students mentioned I’d read there recently and they’d liked my book.

Mark, Tisa, Brian and others were headed to a bar in Echo Park, not far, but I couldn’t make it, because these days, with misty lights on top of Mount Wilson, I’m heading down the driveway at 5:20 AM for the gym. I went to my predawn work out inspired and envious of Mark’s powerful documentary process and projects, like an engine humming in my mind.mark nowak

dog zep goes down!

East L.A. airship Colima suffers mishap! Back in service ASAP!

 car haiku #6

flat tire on the

405 then battery

dead san diego

courtesy transport east l.a. dirigible lines

Hop on the courtesy shuttle provided by the East L.A. Dirigible Lines!

me, lali & statue of liberty

Say hello to the Statue of Liberty, 7 AM.


Date: Saturday, November 14, 2009
Time: 11:00am – 7:00pm
Location: powerHouse Arena
Street: 37 Main Street
City/Town: Brooklyn, NY

Join us for a celebration of the brightest voices in the Asian American literary community! Star studded, yet intimate, this all-day extravaganza features readings, stand-up comedy, academic discourse, and the Twelfth Annual Asian American Literary Awards!

The line-up includes: Jhumpa Lahiri, David Henry Hwang, Ed Park, Mort Baharloo, Monique Truong, Hari Kunzru, Meera Nair, Mohan Sikka, Hirsh Sawhney, Mae Ngai, Mitra Kalita, Alexander Chee, Sesshu Foster, Ron Hogan, Rakesh Satyal, Jen Kwok, Porochista Khakpour, Ed Lin, Jennifer Hayashida, Jeff Yang, Sree Sreenivasan, Ravi Shankar, Hua Hsu, Dennis Lim, Julie Otsuka, Rea Tajiri, Sunaina Maria, Tania James, Hasanthika Sirisena, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Amitava Kumar, Lijia Zhang, Alexandra Chang, Walter Lew, and Ye Mimi.

For a complete schedule and tickets see:

$5 per reading; $20 Day Pass; $10 Literary Awards & Reception Only; $25 All-Day Pass+Awards

12:00:00 PM The New Eclectics
From Chinese cops to Asian dating to immigrant name changes, four writers are creating a new genre of quirk and comedy. Come hear your friends Porochista Sons and Other Flammable Objects Khakpour, who the New York Times Book Review praised for her “punchy conversation” and “sharp humor”; Sesshu World Ball Notebook Foster, American Book Award Winner whose latest contains prose poems, shopping lists and overheard conversations, Ed This Is A Bust Lin, winner of the most AAWW Members’ Choice awards in the Workshop’s history, and Rolling Stone-featured comedian Jen Kwok of Date an Asian fame. A reading with verve and risk. Watch out, there may be some laughing involved.

santa cruz1

Chinese eating after the reading at UC Santa Cruz October 14, with Karen Yamashita, Allen & Ume and terrific students like Marni. Thanks Jeremiah for the foto!

November 2009