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illustration from

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

foto by Lisa Chen

women with big backpacks walking across the freeway overpass and the only place in 2010 i’m likely to see a girl student hitchhiking

redwood trees dusty summer sunshine wide hillside fields of brown grass of campus (which was once cowell ranch) a few cows and horses old fence lines jogger running down the trail

saturn vegetarian downtown pacific ave cafe wi-fi with santa cruz brewery on tap ipa wheat and amber

our late afternoon citlali bought a bag in a vintage clothing store as i sipped a nice ipa and emailed ume in hawaii

she fished on the way to the islands and caught mahi mahi and albacre might bring albacore to l.a. if possible

like this one life finishes and another new one begins

Commentator George Skelton and the team of L.A. Times reporters, Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith do the public a disservice by repeating the fallacy that standardized tests are not only a reliable measure of student learning, they’re an excellent measure of the quality of instruction by teachers. The tests are inherently flawed, and yet these tests are proposed year after year as a palliative for all educational problems by pundits and politicians far from actual schools, actual teaching, and actual students.

George Skelton [“Parents Have the Right to Know: Teachers should be judged in part by how well students do” August 23, 2010] claims that focusing on test scores, and pretending that these numbers do things which they were never designed to do, “will make the public more informed.” But that’s not true. In fact, if you read the fine print, buried in the back pages of the newspaper, the L.A. Times admits that “Value-added ratings reflect a teacher’s effectiveness at raising standardized test scores. As such, they capture only one aspect of a teacher’s work, and, like any statistical analysis, they are subject to inherent error.” According to the Times this data is “subject to inherent error,” and yet in a series of articles, Skelton, Felch, Song and Smith are willing to use these inherently flawed numbers as a stick to beat teachers with.

School budgets are being cut across the nation. Class sizes have been raised to levels unseen for decades. Teachers and administrators have been laid off, transferred, or demoted. Teachers and administrators have had their pay cut and been assigned furlough days. Students are having a more and more difficult time getting the instruction they need, the classes they need, counseling and the support services, not to mention programs in art, music, athletics and other activities which make school meaningful. It is in this environment that Skelton and the pundits and politicians like him propose to make standardized tests all important. It’s not hard to see why. Because numbers seem to be objective and neutral (even if those who know better can tell you they are “subject to inherent error”). And more importantly, because you can focus on tests and try to pretend that budgets aren’t being cut, class sizes rising, art, music, athletics and enrichment programs being cut, counseling and support services slashed, all the while pretending that standardized tests are some magic bullet that will cure all these systemic ills. Budgets won’t have to be replaced, teachers won’t have to be hired, programs won’t have to be reconstructed, the culture of education won’t have to be nurtured—no, we’ll just test the students more and more and use that to scapegoat everyone—teachers and administrators alike—who has direct connection to the actual student.

This championing of standardized test scores as a cure-all in education (while simultaneously agreeing to slashing every other aspect of education) is not just erroneous, it’s fundamentally duplicitous and unfair to parents, teachers and students most of all. Finally, it is students who will be punished and dunned with these endless standardized tests, the boring curriculum that will be tailored to the tests, and the substandard schools which will continue to languish without educational programs that are actually meaningful to students. But, of course, Skelton and the test champions will never have to face the kids.


Sesshu Foster

Reies shows where to cut the jugular on both sides of the neck, under the ear
Each Delaware or Cochin rooster kicks and jerks, drips headless
blood into plastic bucket, with the heads
“They’re so trusting, domesticated. Just like American voters, they get the knife.”
We work on two tables covered by plastic, scalding 160, 170 degree water and plucking
Scorch pinfeathers off with a propane torch
Snap off feet (Reies only takes 4 or so, no one wants any)
Slice or snip around the vent (anus) and preserve the guts intact, insert hand into the body cavity and detach organs, remove heart, clean gizzard interior of pebbles and feed
Throw testes in trash with feathers
Livers in another bowl for Olga
The birds seem like strong elements stinking like the dusty hillside where coyotes descend the other side of the fence line
Their blood sprays my wrist and coagulates in my hands
Half a century I’ve eaten chicken and only today slaughtered these 9

typical offender---

“Whitewashing American Hybrid Aesthetics” by Craig Santos Perez


Wow. An anthology titled “American Hybrid.” How exciting that the editors wanted to “show the historical depth and vitality of the concept of poetic hybridization in American poetry” and to “present the impressive range of poets we believe articulate this impulse” (from David St. John’s introduction).

Certainly the editors would…

examine the idea of aesthetic hybridity in terms of Native American literature.

Certainly they would cite Arnold Krupat, in The Voice in the Margin: Native American Literature and the Canon (1989), who defines indigenous literature as produced “when an author of subaltern cultural identification manages successfully to merge forms internal to his cultural formation with forms external to it” (214).

Or David Murray, in Forked Tongues: Speech, Writing and Representation in North American Indian Texts (1991), who sees Native writers “forked” between cultures, languages, oral and written forms and genres.

Or Louis Owens, in Other Destinies (1992), who uses the concept of a “mixedblood” as an aesthetic, experiential, and critical concept. The mixedblood embodies the Native literary text, which is “intensely dialogic, a hybridized narrative within which the author is in dialogue with himself, within which two distinct linguistic consciousnesses, two kinds of discourse, coexist in a ‘dialogically agitated and tension-filled environment’” (35).

How many Native American poets are included in this anthology?

Certainly the editors would highlight one of the most cited essays in Asian American literary studies, Lisa Lowe’s “Heterogeniety, Hybridity, and Multiplicity,” which appeared in her book Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (1996). Lowe defines “hybridity” as “the formation of cultural objects and practices that are produced by the histories of uneven and unsynthetic power relations […] Hybridity, in this sense, does not suggest the assimiliation of Asian or immigrant practices to dominant forms but instead marks the history of survival within relationships of unequal power and domination.”

Certainly, the editors would cite the extensive theorization of literary hybridity within Latino/a literary studies.

Of course they would mention Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987), in which she writes: “From the racial, ideological, cultural and biological cross-pollination, an ‘alien’ consciousness is presently in the making—a new mesiza consciousness, una conciencia de mujer. It is a consciousness of the Borderlands.”

Of course they would mention José David Saldívar’s Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies (1997): “This zone is the social space of subaltern encounters, the Janus-faced border line in which peoples geopolitically forced to separate themselves now negotiate with one another and manufacture new relations, hybrid cultures, and multiple-voiced aesthetics.”

Without a doubt they would include the most important poet/theorist of aesthetic hybridity, Alfred Arteaga, who wrote in Chicano Poetics: Heterotexts and Hybridities (1997): “The interlingual speech fo the Chicano and the hybridized poem in particular are especially apt at expressing the ambiguities inherent in mestizaje and those in either Aztlan or the borderlands. The Chicano’s hybrid thought allows for a movement among discourses that replicates the possible range of perspectives on race or the homeland. This speech is interlingual in that it not only acknowledges a confluence of difference but emphasizes the factor of hybridity.”

Certainly they would be a generous selection of work from Guillermo Gomez-Pena, El Rey del Híbrido himself.

Is it true that there are no Latino/as in this anthology? [see Jordan Windholz & J. Michael Martinez’ essay in the most recent issue of Puerto Del Sol]


So much for showing “the historical depth and vitality of the concept of poetic hybridization in American poetry.”

So much for presenting the “impressive range of poets we believe articulate this impulse.”

It’s easy to be discontent with how this anthology doesn’t live up to its title, to be discontent with how incomplete and ignorant it is. There a fine line between ignorance and prejudice.

But I want to ask: if this is not truly an anthology of “american hybrid” poetry what is it an anthology of?

A clue can be found in the section of Swenson’s introduction titled “Legacy,” in which she traces the development of the two-model system in 20th century American poetry.

Swenson’s “Legacy” is a white poetic legacy, a white reading of 20th century American Poetry (of all the anthologies she mentions, not a single one is an anthology of ethnic or native American poetry—which is surprising considering no one fetishizes anthologies more than poets of color). Thus it becomes clear that “American Hybrid” should have more accurately titled “White American Hybrid.”

One major difference between white hybrid aesthetics and hybrid aesthetics articulated by us minorities and native Americans is that a white hybrid aesthetics is based purely on aesthetics:

Swenson writes: “Today’s hybrid poem might engage such conventional approaches as narrative that presumes a stable first-person, yet complicate it by disrupting the linear temporal path or by scrambling the normal syntactical sequence. Or it might foreground recognizably experimental modes such as illogicality or fragmentation, yet follow the strict formal rules of a sonnet or a villanelle. Or it might be composed entirely of neologisms but based in ancient traditions. Considering the traits associated with “conventional” work, such as coherence, linearity, formal clarity, narrative, firm closure, symbolic resonance, and stable voice, and those generally assumed of “experimental” work, such as non-linearity, juxtaposition, rupture, fragmentation, immanence, multiple perspective, open form, and resistance to closure, hybrid poets access a wealth of tools, each one of which changes dramatically depending on the others with which it’s combined and the particular role it plays in the composition.”

Or is it?

Why are white poet editors jumping on the hybrid bandwagon so late in the game, seemingly without any true understanding of the historical depth and vitality, as well as the complex problematics of the concept of poetic hybridization in American poetry?

White poets want to be hybrid for two reasons (these reasons are both aesthetic and cultural):

One: white poets don’t want to be New Critical Fugitive Southern Agrarians “taking their stand” against america’s move towards the urban, national, international, industrial, and integrative progress within a self-contained, insular, united and banded expression of a confederate aesthetic.

Two: white poets don’t want to be Kenneth Goldsmith hoarding and molding the provisional disorienting detritus of digital empty signifiers cut pasted skimmed forwarded spammed and downloaded into unboring, uncreative writing without allegiance to anyone’s real.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind being a New Critic—most of them had stable teaching jobs in the academy. I also wouldn’t mind being Kenneth Goldsmith; he has cool fedoras and memorable facial hair.

Alas, I am not white so I cant be either. But I feel for all you white poets out there stuck between Southern Rock and a shard of non-place.

I blame Ron Silliman. For many things, but most of all for propagating the simplistic binary reading of poetic history into quietude & avant garde. Let’s face it, it’s Silliman’s poetry world and we just blog in it.

Of course, Silliman solved this binary long ago…by becoming Silliman. but most white poets don’t want to be Silliman either, which I don’t understand because he gets tons of free books! Anyways, Silliman forced white writers into the binary of Ranson or Goldsmith, creating white cultural-aesthetic anxiety, which necessitated the formation of an “ideal hybrid,” the publication of a white American hybrid anthology, the establishment of this panel, and thus me spending time writing this paper.

However, I must thank Silliman because if this panel didn’t exist I wouldn’t have gotten funding from my university to attend AWP because the 8 other panels my name was on were all rejected because the AWP selection committee is either racist or sexist or ageist.

In conclusion: white hybrid aesthetics is the rejection of being Ransom, being Goldsmith, or being Silliman.

Click to access martinez-windholz-poetics-of-suspicion.pdf

a poetics of suspicion: chicana/o poetry and the new
j. Michael Martinez & jordan Windholz

…Yet the exclusion of minority writers for the sake of propagating “new” poetics is not solely the result of avant-garde poetries. The most recent example—of Yu’s “ethnicization” and of Chicana/o (and Latina/o) exclusion—is the Norton Anthology, American Hybrid. Perhaps not surprisingly, though tellingly, the anthology organizes around a racialized term, hybridity. Though it denies an avant-garde status, the anthology nonetheless is positioned within the avant tradition; it is, after all, “A Norton Anthology of New Poetry” (emphasis ours). In her introduction to the anthology, Cole Swensen walks a fine line between the avant-gardist tradition (derived from European modernisms) and the self-contained verse tradition of the New Critics. In an attempt to reconcile the two traditions within a new hybridized ideal, Swensen even slips into a paradox in which she cannot help but embrace marginality: amidst the many schools and traditions of poetry, Swensen sees “a thriving center of alterity.”5 For the ample representation Swensen and St. John provide, not a single Chicana/o poet can be found within these pages. The anthology is composed of and edited by writers whose work we deeply admire; however, who inside this collection is really outside; where is the alterity so central to the anthology’s organization?6

In an anthology about hybridized poetry, the Chicana/o has no voice. This is particularly problematic considering the decades worth of criticism devoted to articulating how Chicana/o identity and poetics is situated in states of plurality, of “hybridity.” But given the particular poetic history that Swensen and St. John trace and even validate, how could Chicana/os find a place in this anthology? In instituting the binary of the two traditions, the editors of American Hybrid assume a particular history of poetics (and politics),7 and, unfortunately, the history of poetics and politics constructed by Swensen looks over/through the rise ofChicana/o literatures and politics in the ‘60s—the rise ofa truly “new” and “hybrid” political identity and voice in the U.S.

This oversight occurs perhaps because the concept of “voice” remains troubling for many “new” poetic movements. Indeed, today’s poetry—constituted as the avant- garde or its heirs—considers identity as a voiced construction passé, if not heretical. In a recent edition of Poetry, Kenneth Goldsmith reasserts the abolishment of identity even as he challenges fragmentation and non-linearity. He asserts, Our immersive digital environment demands new responses from writers. What does it mean to be a poet in the Internet age? These two movements, Flarf and Conceptual Writing, each formed over the past five years, are direct investigations to that end. And as different as they are, they have surprisingly come up with a set of similar solutions. Identity, for one, is up for grabs. Why use your own words when you can express yourself just as well by using someone else’s? And if your identity is not your own, then sincerity must be tossed out as well.8

Our contention with Goldsmith’s assertions has little to do with the actual work of Conceptualism or Flarf; many of these works are interesting and challenging (though they are far from entirely “new responses”). However, Goldsmith’s essay is troubling for the Chicana/o poet for the claims it makes about identity. Chicana/os still lack a viable social and political self. And though Chicana/o identity is, in many ways, a question—even “up for grabs”—the culture and society in which the Chicana/o lives, works, and breathes, too easily solidifies and essentializes that identity by denying the Chicana/o a voice. Expression matters in the current social and political climate for the Chicano. To say—to express—matters. For the ethnic-racialized subject whose very subjectivity is invested in terminologies of identity (“Latino,” “Chicano,” “Hispanic,”), language is vital. Thus, to dictate a teleological aim for language, to posit that our poetries progressively move forward in a narrative that requires newness, is to offer a colonial dictation for the ethnic-racialized subject’s ontological and national status. Questions of identity are still at the heart of Chicana/o poetics, and, though the Chicana/o poet is decades removed from Corky Gonzales’s assertion, “I am Joaquin,” Gonzales’s proclamation has not lost its pertinence. Indeed, Chicana/os “have come a long way to nowhere,/ unwillingly dragged by that monstrous, technical,/ industrial giant called Progress and Anglo success . . .” precisely because they have long struggled to express themselves “using someone else’s [words].”

To put it in other terms: one must have a politically and economically viable identity in order to willingly lose it, to throw it to the wind. Those who say that for aesthetic reasons identity is dead, fragmented, or passé, often have a viable identity they do not need to worry about. Being invisible or visible as a white male is quite different than being invisible or visible as a Chicana/o. This invisibility itself speaks to a broader symptom in the poetics of the “new.” The invisibility of identity is a symptom of a broader ideological construction: that of the exclusion of Chicana/o voices in the broader cultural hierarchy (this is not a categorical absolute, but rather, a fact of this particular moment in U.S. history). The exclusion of a representative Chicana/o and Latina/o voices (NB: Rodrigo Toscano, Lorna Dee Cervantes, and even Juan Felipe Herrera arguably fulfill the publication and aesthetic criteria) in American Hybrid and other such “avantist” anthologies is symptomatic of this broader ideological exclusion and social disparity…

J. Michael Martinez, author of Heredities

—see also:

Seamless. I'm trying to cut across the intersection. It's like through a membrane. I feel like I am barely moving. Like I will never get through. I'll never get there. It's like I almost don't even exist. When did this happen?

"We've seen you around a lot. You're always passing through. Maybe you never noticed, but we caught you. Yeah, there was like a wind storm, they put out a warning. I'm sure to you it was just another day. Maybe you thought it was a great day!"

These were the stations of transit in my life. I probably lived some forgotten and significant parts of my childhood and young adulthood here. I have the smell of the grease pit in my head. Those warning signs, "for insurance reasons, patrons are prohibited from this area at all times" always ignored, the clank of steel tools on a solid concrete floor. Hiss of air compressors, rattling of the generator. How could I forget these moments, accumulating like whole seasons across the range of years in my life.

This includes footage of looters sweeping through the convenience store, threatening the clerk who retires behind the counter. They trash the place. It's on some other, ordinary night when the teenager who is clerking is robbed at gunpoint, and though she turns over the contents of the register, she is shot through the neck. A couple months before her high school graduation and her 18th birthday, she survives as a paraplegic.

“A woman walked into the gas station and lit herself on fire, after pouring gasoline on herself. The attendant said maybe she said something about she couldn’t take it any more. She did not survive. You read that in the L.A. Times, but that was just like colors flickering along the boulevards at twilight, across pretty photochemical skies.”

My memories of these sites along the west coast are pleasant, so pleasant I can hardly recall anything about them at all. They have the edgeless insouciance of grassy hillsides, mustard yellow of the summer, of the dust and granite alongside trails of the high mountains in the summers. As if on the coast it is somehow always summer in Southern California. As it is.

"You mentioned the shooting, when the two LAPD pulled into a gas station and shot at each other, and the undercover vice cop killed the off-duty police, justifiable homicide. They didn't like the looks they were giving each other. But you're just saying that for lack of something better, for lack of something real. Put it this way, nothing really much happens on this corner. Isn't that good? Isn't that at least all right? What's there to say about it? The thing is, you know there's something to say about it."

The smell of summers. Kids on bikes going down the block. Traffic.

“The civilization terminated (in periodicity) at this station, intersected at this locale, the petroleum fueled economy of all industry, finance and commerce. Your childhood on the road, in and out of the sheet metal restroom doors, toilet stalls, vague unease of neglect or filth or coming upon someone like Ernie the Wino who died in the gas station restroom on Eastern Ave. One time you were gassing up at Costco, hobbling around on crutches because you broke your ankle backpacking in the Cascades, rode 1200 miles back in the back of your vehicle with your ankle wrapped in an ace bandage, to have surgery to put it together back in L.A. Eddie Castro (who is a doctor these days) pulls up to the pump nearby and sees you struggling to gas your vehicle, teetering on one leg. ‘Boy, you sure live a hard life,’ he said. Then he drove off. You didn’t tell him that you were doing way better! You were up and hobbling around, finally!”

Time in a restroom, or on a gas station corner, walking across the asphalt toward a vehicle. In 1983, returning to Los Angeles from years in the Pacific Northwest, having driven all the way from Seattle with the family and everything to our name in a battered blue Toyota Corolla wagon, we pulled into a gas station on Vermont Avenue, late afternoon, heavy traffic, rush hour, smog in the air.

“Time in a restroom, or on a gas station corner, walking across the asphalt toward a vehicle. In 1983, returning to Los Angeles from years in the Pacific Northwest, having driven all the way from Seattle with the family and everything to our name in a battered blue Toyota Corolla wagon, we pulled into a gas station on Vermont Avenue, late afternoon, heavy traffic, rush hour, smog in the air.”

I used the pay phone at a corner of the lot at the gas station, placed a couple calls to let people know I was back in town, joy to return to the heat and smog and traffic of rush hour. A car screeched to a halt, a young woman thrusting her head and shoulders from the window of the front passenger door screaming for help. "Somebody, please, somebody help!" She tried to get her leg out of the window; the car jerked forward, halted. "Police! Help me please, somebody!" An arm encircled her waist from behind and pulled her inside the vehicle. I had walked over to the sidewalk and watched the car re-enter the traffic of late afternoon.

Yellow mustard and Spanish broom blooming yellow across the hills. Eucalyptus straggly, pungent. The hills sear brown and the avenues melting in liquid glare of heat waves. Most of the sky really too bright to look at.

Manny Estrada's house on Eastern Avenue was "condemned" and his family had to move. A gas station was built on that location, kitty corner from the McDonald's that they built on the site of the apartment building that was also 'condemned' and bulldozed for this development. Gary Soto lived in those apartments, and moved up on Helen Drive, afterward, by Sixto's house. The gas station didn't do very well; I heard that it kept getting robbed. For over a year it was abandoned, fenced off and vandalized, and it was said that the reason they couldn't sell it was that the gas tanks leak toxic and carcinogenic chemicals into the ground that a buyer would have to clean up before anything new could be built. Nowadays there's a Burger King with a busy drive-thru.

"We seen you around here so many times when you were a kid. Asking for change for a dollar for the coke machine or whatever, using the men's room or the air hose to fill up your bike tires, riding bikes with your friends. You still maybe come by to inflate your tires, eh?"

"I suppose you concentrate on destinations. Like John Gilbert suggested in the poem about his late wife and their marriage when it was over, what you cannot remember are the ordinary times, the most prevalent, most common times you shared. Later you recall mostly what was out of the ordinary. Not the way you passed most of your time. That's gone. Anyway, you hated your life and wanted to change it all. No loss there. You wanted some life completely different from the way you were treated as a child."

How a woman tells you to watch her kids in the car and goes into the restroom to clean the blood off her face, fix her face. Things you never told your own children riding through the city in the car, when you didn't say anything.

"You saw the landscape in a utilitarian way. You didn't love this Chevron or that Texaco gas station. It was just part of the civilization, part of the transportation system that involved locations you departed from, destinations you moved toward. They felt abstract in that way, cement driveways between the pump islands, those flying roof lines high above on the supports. All those nights and days you stood underneath them thinking about whatever, with the nozzle in the side of your vehicle. Didn't you know it was your chance to love that life?"

Dave Eggers

NEW YORK — Dave Eggers and Amiri Baraka are among the winners of the 31st annual American Book Awards, given for literary works that cover “the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community.”

Amiri Baraka

Eggers was cited for “Zeitoun,” a novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and Baraka for “Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music.”

More than a dozen winners were announced Thursday, including Sesshu Foster’s “World Ball Notebook” and Victor Lavelle’s “The Big Machine.”

The awards were established in part by author-poet-playwright Ishmael Reed. There is no cash prize.

Read more:

The complete list, from

Amiri Baraka, Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music University of California Press)

Sherwin Bitsui, Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press)

Nancy Carnevale, A New Language, A New World: Italian Immigrants in the United States, 1890-1945 (University of Illinois Press)

Dave Eggers, Zeitoun (McSweeney’s/Vintage)

Sesshu Foster, World Ball Notebook (City Lights)

Stephen D. Gutierrez, Live from Fresno y Los (Bear Star Press)

Victor Lavalle, The Big Machine (Spiegel & Grau)

François Mandeville, This Is What They Say, translated from the Chipewyan by Ron Scollon (University of Washington Press)

Bich Minh Nguyen, Short Girls (Viking)

Franklin Rosemont and Robin D.G. Kelley, editors, Black, Brown & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora (University of Texas)

Jerome Rothenberg and Jeffrey C. Robinson, editors, Poems for the Millennium: Volume Three: The University of California Book of Romantic & Postromantic Poetry (University of California Press)

Kathryn Waddell Takara, Pacific Raven: Hawai`i Poems (Pacific Raven Press)

Pamela Uschuk, Crazy Love: New Poems (Wings Press)

Lifetime Achievement:

Quincy Troupe

Katha Pollitt


From the press release:
“The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no categories, no nominees, and therefore no losers. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to underrecognized authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects it as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or “special interests,” but rather as the definition of all of American literature. The Awards are not bestowed by an industry organization, but rather are a writers’ award given by other writers.”

The awards ceremony will be on Sunday, September 19th, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street (at Grove), San Francisco, CA. A reception will take place following the ceremony. This event is open to the public. For more information, call (510) 642-7321.

See you there!


Chris Kraus writes this about George Porcari, for a 2009 exhibit she curated in NYC:

Porcari’s remarkable body of work spans almost four decades. Born in Lima, Peru in the 1950s, he emigrated to Los Angeles at age 11 and began taking photographs ten years later to record his own sense of dislocation. In subsequent years, Porcari went on to document his observations of cities (New York, Chicago, Europe, Latin America) through occasional series of photographs, which have also included cinematically- inspired collages, portraits of Los Angeles/international artist friends, the US-Mexican border, and still-lives of an intensely-curated assortment of books.

Porcari attended art school in New York and Los Angeles, but rather than pursue a gallery career he became a professional librarian: a vocation that has allowed him to pursue his wide range of idiosyncratic interests. Describing himself as a ‘photo-journalist,’ Porcari’s visual vocabulary is equally informed by Bresson, Robert Frank, and Vladmir Nabokov. His images are bracingly realistic and incidentally lyrical.
Writing about Porcari’s work, the novelist Veronica Gonzalez has noted “a sense of possibility mixed in with regret … for all these images exist in the present, the present of the work, a desire for cohesion, perhaps enacted here.”

Porcari’s writes this in an essay about his friend, sculptor Jorge Pardo:

“I drove a drunken Pardo home through the dark pretty streets of a forest. We were in a wealthy suburb outside San Francisco where there were no street signs no lights and no visible homes, just trees and the broken white line barely visible with our headlights. One decent thing about money is that your life can belong to you in a way that is not possible without it. I wasn’t being morally superior to these people. Sooner or later we are all “Orlando’s” in this world. But most of us never get much in return for it. At
most a job we can tolerate. Riding home in the dark I could see myself in a nice house with a pool Penny and a couple of high maintenance bitches. What would I do to get such things? How far would I go? I’m a lazy Tupac Amaru. And as for Penny – not a chance – and high maintenance bitches? I donʼt think so. Jorge explained his idea by drawing on a napkin and speaking with total seriousness:
-Taking steel cable you could pull the front of the ready teller with you car.
-YOUR car maybe I’m not pulling anything. Anyway with this fucking car you wouldnʼt even be able to pull a trash can much less a cash machine. Anyway the idea is crazy.
-But why?
-Because we’d be shot!
Jorge’s idea of “hitting” a ready teller machine reminded me of Ronnie a drifter I met on a warehouse job in L.A. in the early seventies. His retirement plan was to hold up a liquor store and to keep doing it until he was killed or got caught and sent to prison. He reminded us that prison wasn’t so bad because you get fed regularly, and the bad stuff you just get used to, like anything else. I believed him but being a young man I figured on doing better. To his credit he didn’t hold that against me. Jorge and I laughed at Ronnie down Market St. but my laughter was considerably less certain than Jorge’s. Downtown San Francisco is over illuminated with yellow street lights and the Victorians seemed theatrical and sinister; Market looked like a street where people were supposed to motorvate but there was no one there except for us. It was so quiet you could hear the sound of electricity running along the sheltering ceiling of wires over the street. After a few blocks in front of a concrete and glass Burger King we saw three prostitutes who looked right through us as if we were invisible. They could see we were broke. When a cab drove by they would get all sexy and start to walk like they were models in some dream fashion show. We were staying in separate places so we said good-by and I go out and turned towards the Haight – I got very popular passing out quarters to all the bums. Some of these people were hippies that time had forgotten. They had become middle aged and had lost their luck.”

Year in, year out, she always chattered to fill a silence. She was just trying to be nice. She thought that if there was “company,” there should be conversation. Conversation with her was like a lot of contemporary poetry, which needs no referent, no point, no utility—it only needs a general register, to strike certain tones. She wanted light, perky, lively tonalities, without any clunky things like content. After all, the purpose was to make pleasantries to pass the time. While we stood in front of a movie theater at the corner of Atlantic and Main St., she noticed that I had mentally dismissed her once again, that I was staring off above her head and paying no attention as she rambled on, and I saw a flash of anger and hurt appear in her face, bitterness which she usually reserved entirely for her husband (who was, of course, summarily dismissive). I was taken aback by the fierce penetrating anger in her eyes, and my attention immediately snapped back to her.

I suppose more than once I intimidated a woman in the parking garage when her martyrdoms corduroyed my shoulders. I intimidated colleagues or coworkers that way, and I was happy to send them scurrying to the fields. Sometimes the city seems cowering in all the faces, boxes for people all day, other boxes at night. In 1942, they put grandma and the whole family in the horse stalls at Santa Anita for a month. I go about thinking that I am so free, I don’t even know. Once I casually opened the car door, and traffic tore it off and threw it in the street. That clatter and that racket vibrated through the sunshine and through my hand.

Accessorize your buddha:
1. beach umbrella & cooler
2. cell phone
3. shotgun
4. cap
5. porcelain commode ashtray
6. Marlboros & pistol lighter
7. motorcycle jacket
8. tats (yakuza)
9. Ray Bans
10. iPod

from Broken Pencil #48

World Ball Notebook is a series of reminiscences that come together as an embryonic whole. It’s a book artfully structured to evoke the world weary, cynical, yet somehow optimistic view of East L.A.’s Sesshu Foster. This isn’t the sweeping canvas of his previous novel, the masterful Atomik Aztex, it is, instead, a book of quiet, weirdly hilarious, yet searing moments. Mixing poetry, prose, memory and music, Foster evokes an exhausted, depleted America full of people looking for the next scene, justifying their self obsessions (“the way i fight back against it all is by maintaining a totally organic vegetarian diet”) and driving “the freeways as if hounded by wordless, mindless fury.” But this isn’t a book about the big picture. It’s a slowly stitched together collection of small incidents that gradually start to seem more defiant than random, more funny than futile. “When officer lilly of the beehive state says there is a strong smell of alcohol, I’m going to search your vehicle, you translate this to mean, I refuse however to recall the frogs flattened on this highway of a summer, I must live in this present.”

August 2010