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* My hands are like starfish in the cold surf.
* I have on my back the big basket of the year strapped on, to shoulder the burden of time.
* I can barely lift it, if I did not ask the help of my woman I could never make it.
* The basket seems to be full of soft pink and purply fuzz balls, the balls of some wild cats who now roam the great jungles and dry hills with no balls, yowling.
* I have a yellow knot in my throat at this very thought.
* A thought is capable of both choking me, and of helping carry all year long the load of time.
by Rigoberto Gonzalez
City Lights, $15.95 paperback
Perhaps one of the most inventive books to appear in print in recent years, Sesshu Foster’s “Atomik Aztex” (City Lights, $15.95 paperback) is a spellbinding quantum leap of the imagination as it ponders the state of the world today had the Aztecs conquered the Spaniards.
Zenzontli comes from a “civilization ruled by Aztek science, Aztek teknospirituality and kommunist ecoconomiks.” Adult citizens read the “Teknotitlan Times” and their children eat “Hershey’s chokolatl.” All is well as long as the warriors appease the gods with human hearts “in the most cost-efficient, legal manner possible.” After conquering the Americas, the socialist imperialists sail across the ocean to begin the colonization of Europe.
But a disharmony is upon the Aztex, channeled through Zenzontli, whose dreams thrust him “between real visions and fake insights, between fake visions and real delusions” and into the frightening conclusion that “the Wurlitzer of the Universe is packed with 78 rpm realities side by side.”
In the alternate dimension, the Aztek leader is Zenzon, a peon at an oppressive Southern California slaughterhouse, where the boss thrives on exploiting the workers and on intimidating them away from union organizing efforts. Outside, the world is not any better: it is “tinged with boringness and boredom and futility and dubious idiocy of repetition.”
Zenzontli’s title as “Keeper of House of Darkness” is threatened by his “epileptic peregrinations”—those unsettling glimpses into a capitalist society where people suffer the schizophrenia of mob mentality and selfish individualism. His only solution is to surrender to the dreamscape, but to conquer it from within, using his warrior wisdom and wit. But the gods warn: “your steps from here on out echo throughout overlapping levels of reality and akross chronologies.”
For Zenzontli, the parallel worlds converge as he sets out to address the question asked by the two realities: “Isn’t Existence & Being strange & wonderful enuf as it is, without reflektion, that smoking mirror?” And that journey is a spectacular word-play bursting with social critique and satire.
Foster’s tongue-in-cheek portrayal of an Aztec-ruled world makes a strong statement about U.S. economic imperialism, especially as the reader gets to see contemporary America through the eyes of an outsider—indeed, a foreigner to this universe. And that there are times the two worlds resemble each other more than they contrast, reaffirms that Foster’s jabs are not aimed solely at European Americans, and that “Atomik Aztex” is a commentary about the human condition.
This cleverly crafted novel in which “time spirals in & out of hidden histories,” is as serious about its message as it is flippant. Foster is not engendering discontent, but activism—there is a Zenzontli, a social conscience, in everyone.
“Atomik Aztex” is a stunning testimony to all times.
* I watched a murder mystery about the eyelids and the waves.
* Someone walked down a trail of dirty music and transparency.
* We descended into any number of hills till we were the hills revolving.
* The young were getting younger, listening to their happiness and souls on the radio.
* My listening went back and forth like scissors and like seaweed.
* Eyes and birds went black and cloudy then pink and hairy then straight at Israel.
* Mighty suavecito of you kid, if you sweat and desire, leaping into the future, “Oh yeah!”
* Juan Felipe Herrera, author of some 25 books and major voice in contemporary poetry, including HALF THE WORLD IN LIGHT: SELECTED POEMS, winner of 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award.
- Eleni Sikelianos, author of eight or so books, including her most recent BODY CLOCK (2008) and THE CALIFORNIA POEM (2004) and a memoir of her father, THE BOOK OF JON (2004)
- Claudia Rankine, Jamaican American author of four books of poems including DON’T LET ME BE LONELY: AN AMERICAN LYRIC (2004), editor of a couple of poetry anthologies, including AMERICAN WOMEN POETS IN THE 21ST CENTURY (WHERE LYRIC MEETS LANGUAGE) (2002 Wesleyan).
- Will Alexander, widely admired L.A. surrealist, author of six books of poems and a novel, SUNRISE IN ARMAGEDDON. His latest book of poems is from New Directions, 2009, THE SRI LANKAN LOXODROME.
- Sherwin Bitsui, young Navajo author of two award winning books of poems, including the latest FLOOD SONG (2009, Copper Canyon Press).
- Mark Nowak, documentary poet, author of 3 collections of hybrid poetry with photography, including his latest about the dangers of coal mining in China, COAL MOUNTAIN ELEMENTARY, 2009 Coffee House Press.
* Noah Eli Gordon, young experimentalist poet in Denver, with a number of books, including three books out in 2007 alone, including NOVEL PICTORIAL NOISE (Harper Perennial, which I selected for the 2007 San Francisco State Poetry Center Prize).
- Amy Gerstler, perhaps the most nationally popular L.A.poet and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, author of some dozen books, her latest being DEAREST CREATURE (2009, Penguin).
- Marisela Norte is considered the unofficial poet laureate of East Los Angeles, one of the most important Chicana voices in Los Angeles, author of PEEPING TOM TOM GIRL, 2008 Sunbelt Publications.
- Ronaldo V. Wilson, young mixed race NYC poet, author of THE NARRATIVE OF THE BROWN BOY AND THE WHITE MAN (2008, University of Pittsburgh), and THE POEMS OF THE BLACK OBJECT (2009, Futurepoem Books).
—no video found
- John Yau, author of some 50 books, including PARADISO DIASPORA (2006 Penguin).
* Trevino Brings Plenty, Minneconjou Lakota poet & musician, music and poetry available on his website: http://www.trevinobringsplenty.com/music.html
Public Address is a collaborative platform for free events, public conversations, workshops, lectures, public projects, actions, events, meals, and more, currently operating out of Outpost for Contemporary Art at 1268 N. Ave 50, Highland Park, Los Angeles—
Sunday, October 17 – 8pm – 10pm Poetry Reading, Visual Presentation, and Public Conversation with poet Craig Santos Perez and artist Arturo Ernesto Romo-Santillano.
Craig Santos Perez comes to the Southland to celebrate publication of his second book, titled _from unincorporated territory [saina]_ (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010). Craig is a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), and has lived in California since 1995. He received his MFA in Poetry from the University of San Francisco and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. He is co-founder of Achiote Press; his first book, _from unincorporated territory [hacha], was published in 2008 by Tinfiish Press.
Arturo Ernesto Romo-Santillano was born in Los Angeles, California in 1980. His artwork, mostly mixed media and installation works, has been exhibited internationally, most recently in the exhibition Holy Jolina, at Trpico de Nopal Gallery and Art-Space in Los Angeles. His subject matter is influenced by conspiracy theory and alchemical texts, junkyards, sprawl architecture, terrorism and entheogenics. An overarching theme in his work is fluency and its folly; he sees his artwork as a companion multiplier to an already baffling, origamaic world. His art-making is inspired by explorations on the streets of East Los Angeles, which feed into an ongoing series of fake radio shows called The Recent Rupture Radio Hour, created with writer Sesshu Foster.
Charles Bukowski: Poet on the Edge
Oct. 9, 2010–Feb. 14, 2011
Library, West Hall
“I’m simple, not profound. My genius stems from an interest in whores, working men, street-car drivers – lonely, beaten-down people.”
Charles Bukowski, from Sunlight Here I Am: Interviews and Encounters, 1963–1993
One of the most original voices in 20th-century American literature, Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) lived and wrote at the edge of society. With unflinching honesty and strong language, his poems and tales speak of life on the streets of Los Angeles among the prostitutes, drunks, gamblers, and outcasts struggling to survive in an unforgiving world. In telling these stories, Bukowski wrote without artifice in simple, natural language, repudiating the formal conventions of the literary establishment. He strove to keep his writing “raw, easy, and simple,” to grasp the “hard, clean line that says it.”
This fall, The Huntington presents a much-anticipated exhibition on the life and works of Charles Bukowski, drawn from the archive of his papers donated to The Huntington by his wife, Linda Lee Bukowski, in 2006. “Charles Bukowski: Poet on the Edge” opens Oct. 9 in the West Hall of the Library and continues through Feb. 14, 2011.
Born in Andernach, Germany, Bukowski emigrated with his parents to the United States as a child, and the family settled in Los Angeles. A perpetual outsider in school, he escaped the hardships of life with an abusive father and passive mother, dropping out and leaving home in his teens. Wandering from one cheap rooming house to another, and working at an endless series of menial, dead-end jobs, he lived among those on the fringes of society. All the while, he struggled to make it as a writer, drinking heavily, nearly starving when money ran out, but always capturing his life and the stories of the people around him in his writings. Initially publishing in small poetry magazines, he eventually became a cult writer with an enormous following of fans whose lives he touched.
Among the rare items on view in the exhibition will be first editions of his works, including Ham on Rye (1982), the autobiographical novel about his brutal childhood and young adulthood; Factotum (1975), the fictional account of his succession of low-end jobs; andBarfly (1984), the screenplay he wrote for the 1987 film starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. Corrected typescripts of poems and of the novels Pulp (1984) and Hollywood(1989) will also be on view. There will be original drawings by Bukowski, correspondence and fan mail, and large-format printings of his poems produced by the Black Sparrow Press and other fine printing houses. s. Scarce, important “little magazines,” which were the first to publish Bukowski’s works, will include such publications as Wormwood Review, The Outsider, The Limberlost Review,and Runcible Spoon. More famous (or infamous) magazines like Oui and High Times will show a more lucrative aspect of Bukowski’s craft.
In addition, Linda Lee Bukowski is graciously lendng a number of iconic items, including Bukowski’s manual typewriter, an original oil portrait by John Register, and very scarce early books, including Flower, Fist & Bestial Wail(1960) and It Catches My Heart in Its Hand(1963).
Charles Bukowski continues to attract a huge following of readers who feel a deep connection to the writer who spoke for the downtrodden and disaffected. Writing as an outsider, on the periphery of both society and the literary establishment, Bukowski knew that, for him, “the place to find the center is at the edge.”
Of course the Huntington Gardens has great gardens, particularly the century old Japanese tea house and the great cactus garden, but the gardens used to be free—the dead Huntington’s ghost’s way of giving back a tiny fraction of what he stole from the public through his railroad baron oligarchy, but now the ghost’s representatives charge $15 on weekdays and $20 on weekends, hardly worth it! Better to make like Harold Bissonette and drive the family jalopy onto the grounds, crash into one of the silly stone statues, and have a picnic! “They have a FREE day on the first Thursday of the month, but you have to get reservations the previous month which start being distributed on the first day of the month at 9am. They usually distribute quickly so you have to be on time. Then they will mail you the tickets. All for FREE. Parking is FREE too. You can get up to 5 tickets (children don’t need one)”—yelp—
According to ghost representatives: “Tickets are free and can be requested by calling our ticketing agency at 800-838-3006. You may also reserve your tickets online: selecting from two arrival times: morning (10:30 a.m.) or afternoon (1:30 p.m.) below. A limited quantity will be available the first day of each month preceding the month you wish to visit. (For example, if you wish to visit on August Free Day, you may call for tickets beginning July 1). Please note that Free Day tickets are not available at The Huntington, and may only be reserved by phone or online.”
“Bastards!” Kennedy Diaz’s dad Bobby would say.
Use ’em or lose ’em—-they finally figure out if they don’t do something with the nuclear warheads they’ll just turn into radioactive sludge pooling like fried chicken grease in the deep silos where the loneliness of America leaks out. So they’re going to annihilate the world—on the streets, if a pistol is flashed, sooner or later it must be used. But (here’s where we come in), before the world is incinerated in a fireball of technological glee, we’re going to Paul’s Kitchen to eat our last meal. This last meal could go on for days, weeks (rum & coke in the back room)—it might last all summer. All summer, drifting from table to table covered with plates of stale salty Chinese food—too much celery, greasy noodles. In the insipid light of the burnt out afternoons at the end of the world, traffic goes by on Atlantic Blvd, they hope we stay in Paul’s Kitchen forever. Maybe Sara and her flute can get people on their feet with the ELAC salsa band. Who else is hanging at the bar? I can’t take any more of that 1960s chow mein.