You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2013.
Let me know if you find it, that poem I was thinking about last night (like pigeons flapping, cooing and mating on the air conditioner on the other side of the wall) tired as I went to sleep, knowing that you always forget these wild thoughts drifting off to sleep, but this time I was thinking that I would probably remember, whatever it was (ideas for lines, image-kernels of verse) and then again today, driving away from the Mercado la Paloma Chichen Itza restaurant (after lunch, my cousin taking my mom back to East L.A. as I drove through USC and Pico Union to Koreatown), thinking of the thing again, pieces of verse striking out like arrows, structures of lines, the idea of it I was certain this time I’d remember, as I drove around the block and found side street parking in front of a sidewalk vender in a folding chair (merchandise piled in the dirt, I asked if I was in his way, he wagged his finger back and forth), then I went into the 8th Street Unitarian Church (last time I’d been inside the hall on the side, 25 years ago for a meeting with Sandinista representatives, we stood fists raised to shout, “Venceremos!”) and Linda stood at the church door welcoming people as they entered (Linda is Raul’s daughter, I’ve known her since the 7th or 8th grade; she’s an artist; I hugged her and said, “he was a great guy,” and she thanked me for coming); she was down with family in the first pews in front by the time I entered and sat down with a former supervisor and co-worker from my school who I’d met out front, by chance, because Raul had known so many people, had mentored so many, including my former supervisor and then old Al Cobos, one of the eulogists who spoke at the podium (it turned out, he had hired me for my first teaching job, where we’d worked with Raul in the 1980s and who spoke of that time), the other eulogists laughed and wept, the guitarist in the wheelchair played—by then it was gone, absolutely, completely gone, I couldn’t recall an image or a single word, when we rose and I went to my wife, who’d entered late and sat in the back, and we all went out to the courtyard for the reception.
Neither yielding to rain
nor yielding to wind
yielding neither to
snow nor to summer heat
with a stout body
never getting angry
always smiling quiet-
eating one and a half pieces of brown rice
and bean paste and a bit of
vegetables a day
not taking oneself
looking listening understanding well
and not forgetting
living in the shadow of pine trees in a field
in a small
hut thatched with miscanthus
if in the east there’s a
going and nursing
if in the west there is a tired mother
going and for her
bundles of rice
if in the south
you don’t have to be
if in the north
there’s a quarrel
or a lawsuit
saying it’s not worth it
in a drought
in a cold summer
pacing back and forth lost
nor thought a pain
is what I want
CADI QUIÑE NISAGUIE LAANU
(NO SUCUMBIR A LA LLUVIA)
Cadi quiñe nisaguie laanu
Cadi gucueeza bi laanu
Cadi gucueeza guendanaga’nda’ ne guendanandá’ laanu
Gápanu ládinu naguidxi ne nazaaca
cadi gache lunu bidxichi ne sti’ stobi
Guxídxinu dxido’ cadi guxidxi xhétanu
Qui chu’ dxi guidxiichinu
Guido’no guirá’ dxi tapa xiga arroz
ne tuudxi gueta soya ne xuba biidxi’ casi bizaa
Cadi guicá lunu laaca laanu
nga qui chu’ dxi
Gunda’chi’ chaahuinu ne guiénenu
Laaca, cadi gusia’ndanu
Xa’na’ baca’nda’ sti’ ca yaga soo ra ñaa
gúninu xquendanabáninu ndaani’ ti yoo zinña
Ne pa neza rindani gubidxa nuu ti baduhuiini’ huará
chuunu chigápanu laa
Ne pa neza riaazi’ gubidxa nuu ti gunaa ma bidxaga
gacané nu laa gua’ ca guixi nanaa candisa’
Ne pa neza guete’ tuuxa cayati
gábinu laa cadi guidxibi
Ne pa guiá’ cadinde cabe pacaa cuchelani’dicabe
gábinu laacabe cadi tinde cabe ti gasti’ zabeendú cabe
Pa gusiguí guniná laanu cadi guiaadxa’ nisa ndaani’ lunu
ne sa diiñenu ne xizaa lu ca xhi gusindá’ ga’nda’
Zaa gabi binni laanu “guidxa sti’ stobi”
ne qui chu’ dxi guchá cabe guendanaró’ stinu
ne cadi siñe cabe laanu
Ti binni zacá
Traducción: Atsuko Tanabe.
No sucumbir a la lluvia
No sucumbir al viento
No sucumbir a la nieve ni al calor del estío
Tener un cuerpo firme y sano
sin avaricia ni codicia
Sonreír siempre tranquilo
Nunca tener ira
Comer cuatro tazas de arroz al día
y un poco de pasta de soya y legumbres
No contar conmigo mismo
en ninguna ocasión
Observar atentamente y comprender
Además, no olvidar
A la sombra de una arboleda de pinos en el campo
vivir en una choza de cañas
Si al este hay un niño enfermo
ir a cuidarlo
Si al oeste hay una madre fatigada
ayudarle cargando las gavillas de arroz
Si al sur hay una persona moribunda
decirle que no tenga miedo
Si al norte hay pendencias y acusaciones
decirles que cesen de hacerlo porque no es interesante
Si se presenta la sequía tener lágrimas en los ojos
y caminar perplejo y preocupado bajo el verano frío
Ser llamado ‘títere imbécil’ por la gente
sin nunca ser alabado
Un hombre así
grad school program advice:
1. dont get in debt over it, teach your way thru or get grants
2. academic creative writing programs are a pyramid scheme, cranking out would be writers by tens of thousands who have some expectation they will have academic jobs teaching creative writing but there arent any (and even where those jobs exist, they may degrade the would be writers ability to write useful, interesting work—look at how many CW professors there are in any given urban area, and look at their low level productivity, look at the minimal stuff they write—)
3. an mfa program is a two year hiatus from ‘the real world’ where you get a chance to meet like-minded sparkly-bright young would be writers, some small percent who will later do actual writing, like maybe 15% or less, it’s a chance to spend two years focused on being artistic and talking about aesthetics and politics/economics of aesthetics
4. but you should know that for you to function long term as writer you need to develop a poetics or aesthetics related to some actual community “in the real world” and not only functioning in the hothouse of academia—that’s a question MFA programs never address, which the aspiring writer faces before grad school, and then after
5. often, for example, poetry programs don’t even note or address simple community-related topics or issues such as giving public readings and developing some idea of local audience;fiction programs don’t address publishing beyond the idea of getting an ny agent to peddle your stuff—their thinking is often subconsciously and not, aligned with corporate publishing out of nyc: which is to say academic MFA ideas for writer-reader relationship are often hierarchical, business-oriented, traditional, restricted, ossified, staid or undynamic, undialectical, irrelevant, and that inflects their teaching instruction, since often MFA “instruction” consists of polishing or packaging poems and fiction as products to sell at auction in NYC, adding subtracting phrases and ideas, adding and subtracting fiddly little parts to commodify the writer’s vision into saleable product—which is not to say that isnt useful, sometimes (but not all the time)
6. my daughter did her undergrad at the california maritime academy, got her third mate’s coast guard license, went to arctic to work tugboats and made in her first four or five months out of college the same money i make in a year after 3 decades teaching, i’m just saying—
7. i recommend you keep your independence of mind, regardless of major field in grad school. your poetry and ultimately any originality as a thinker depends on that—on not just becoming a functionary academic bureaucrat cowed into conforming to the tiny prevailing breezes at some little college. (many academics think if they don’t speak their fear, they can be unafraid—but they remain afraid. few walk outside the lines. that’s death to creativity of any kind.)
wheerever you are, seek out and value local intellectuals of every kind in the community (outside of academia), whether they are old cranks who read piles of newspapers or bookstore owners or community activists running community centers or journals, garrulous beer drinking porch sitters or old ladies who run reading circles or wannabe writers or idealistic students or any original thinker who happens by. rudimentary, frank, rude, and ordinary discourse from varied democratic viewpoints has to have some part in our production, in our process, in our thinking.
it’s true that to remain intellectually alive, you gotta participate somewhere, some way. universities are the system of monitoring and controlling that. certainly make use of their facilities, but don’t deed them total ownership of your mind…
the bus harry talked about
i don’t remember the story
something about his last day on the job
the night job driving the bus
(one time i got on the bus at the airport
and it wasn’t harry driving, it was koenig
who ran out on his family)
was about something like driving all right
every night through desolate spaces of the city
with strange characters or lost citizens of the night
or no one, nobody
and harry (a bus driver! harry!
who doesn’t drive anywhere, who takes the bus
and the subway and light rail everywhere,
and who i see sometimes at the video store
which is next to the train station)
(harry even takes the bus or train
to valencia, where i used to drive
to teach—like harry—
when i had a broken ankle, post-op
my foot would turn throbbing black if i let it down,
so i used to drive 45 minutes on the 5 with my foot
resting on the dashboard)
what was his story about?
i must have been paying attention
maybe i was worried about something
i think harry’s story was about being the solitary bus driver
of the night bus through the night city
strange people getting on and off that he couldn’t relate to
or talk to
and a violent altercation of some sort
breaking out on his bus
with some shadowy stranger
beating up a woman on his bus or raping her?
and harry stopping the bus “in the middle of nowhere”
on some empty stretch of avenue with nothing around
no one in sight
and harry wakes up on the bus
or perhaps in the street next to the bus
covered in his own blood, beaten up
alone, except maybe a suitcase
he said something about a suitcase, maybe
i do remember that harry said
he decamped the bus, he left the bus there
lights on, the bus running, he quit
the bus driving business, walked off into the night
then and there and never went back
and what was i thinking when harry said all this
i don’t know
2 in the rain sheets of minneapolis, shivering in ecstasy and caffeine.
2 in the garish noon of bakersfield, shivering in joy and terror.
2 in the basin and ranges of nevada, delivering joy or terror.
2 in the national stadium of chile, american agents stalking.
2 in the liquified muskeg of SE alaska, shivering slightly stalking.
2 in the mild whorishness of the city, shivering in joy and exaltation.
2 in the purposive burning of civilizations, lost in flesh of smoke.
2 in the hurtling automotive spaces of USA, wracked with joy or fear.
2 in rising and falling motion of the Pacific, rolling and trembling.
2 in shopping blocks of downtown boulder, talking poetry and stuff.
2 in the long avenues and boulevards of L.A., cleaning properties.
2 in the pink furled sheets of bedroom, trembling as sleep falls.
When my nephew Nick was three years old and his brother Matt was two, we took them to the beach with our daughters. It was another hot smoggy summer day on the Eastside, so we drove a half hour to Santa Monica and up Pacific Coast Highway to Matador State Beach, because it lacked signs that said “No Dogs”—we brought our big dogs. Nick was a thin, pale cute little kid made cuter by a solemn expression set off by ears that stuck out like his hair stuck out. My daughters were somewhat older than Nick and Matt, more kids to play with, along with the red Malemute and the Australian shepherd mongrel. Matador was approached from a gravel parking lot on a high rocky bluff north of Malibu. It was a great place, I thought, for kids and dogs because you descended to the beach on a long sloping ramp of a trail down the eroding cliff and you could walk north along the beach through several separate coves.
It was beautiful, with great sentinel rocks standing like monoliths in the surf, some of which had eroded into arches with the ocean behind them. The previous times we’d taken the kids and dogs there, we’d find a cove without too many people for the dogs to bother (though the dogs weren’t bothersome, generally).
We set our stuff, towels and sand toys and lunch stuff on the sand at one of the farther coves beyond a huge rock that was at least the size of a three story building. The waves pounded the backside of it; the big rock emerged from the beach, partly surrounded by waves. The ocean that day wasn’t too rough—maybe two to three foot waves—mild enough for little kids if you watched them. We didn’t let our youngest daughter or her two cousins go anywhere near the water without standing by them, watching over them.
We could run with the dogs, dry off on the beach towels, have lunch, and wade in the water. Our daughters showed endless fascination for all the little wonders of a beach: building sand castles, digging up and playing with sand crabs in a cup, populating a sand castle with sand crabs, poking sea anemones on the rocks to make them squirt, etc. Nick stood in a little puddle in the shady side of the big rock and stamped, splashing in the few inches of water in the puddle. This puddle was at least ten to fifteen yards from the actual rolling surf. I was standing nearby, and when I looked at Nick, I noticed that the puddle he was standing in was moving. It was expanding and contracting slightly, almost as if it was breathing. That got my attention.
Then the puddle expanded, rising about Nick’s legs, and suddenly drained out of the bowl-shaped depression, knocking him off his feet. When the water emptied out, Nick was gone. The sudden rise and fall of the water had knocked him down and he’d gotten sucked down a little hole at the base of the rock that had been hidden by the puddle. I screamed Nick’s name and ran, thrusting my arm to the shoulder down the hole,. My hand grabbed nothing but water and slippery stone surfaces. The goddamned giant rock swallowed my nephew.
My wife was screaming something, what happened?
I had no idea.
I splashed into the surf, heading around the back of the rock. I expected the rock to open out into the waves—it had to be riddled with caves, like so many of the arched and caved rocks at Matador. The ocean had to be pouring through caves into the little puddle that had swallowed Nick, but as I ran through the waves around the side of the rock, I could not imagine how I would locate the toddler in the waters of a cave. Would there be any light? Would I be diving underwater, searching blind crevasses and cubbyholes clogged with seaweed and sand in the backside of the giant rock? As I rounded the backside, a wave receded, washing back into the surf with its surging foam, planetary pull and force and swirl. Behind it, another wave rose like a wall, ready to rush in and crash.
Nick appeared screaming, sitting bolt upright screeching in astonishment (but unbloodied and unhurt—his hair barely mussed), pulled out into the ocean by the receding wave, which he was riding on his bottom like a surfer. The backside of the rock was a huge hole, a yawning black opening large enough to swallow a semitractor-trailer truck. Nick rode the water that flowed out of the back of the huge hole. I splashed through the water and grabbed Nick up, so sweet to cradle the saved kid in arms. The nightmare I’d been having about diving without air or light into underwater caves evaporated as I sloshed back to my wife through rolling surf.
At some point I’m sure we stood, peering down at the little stone basin and the little puddle where Nick had been playing. My wife would have been crying, she said, but it all happened too fast. She said she felt like weeping on the way home, and she kept thinking for a long time how we almost lost Nick. It took her weeks before she could tell her sister what had happened top Nick. Sometimes (and sometimes at night) she would suddenly recall that day and it caused her to weep. Some little thing you barely noticed, a puddle in the wide wild world, in a fleeting second could take part of your life and destroy you. Or you might be restored in a second.
Nick doesn’t recall any of this now. Now he works as a cook, has tattoos and a girlfriend with tattoos.
Oh, with the second-hand screwdriver of the windshield wiper I could loosen my boulevard, release one gas of metal coffee beans that stare me down as they go down my boulevard, toward little smiles on my fingernails and toenails which go, thinking how to go, growing up, blurry, mocoso, wiped out windows staring nose hairs of the universe on my roof, tippy tapping ten thousand nights into one, great one in which I am such a small fart, my shoelaces all untied parts of dessicated curly lizards—
for last bookstore directions and parking: http://lastbookstorela.com/directions-parking/
and also at BEYOND BAROQUE 5 PM Sunday September 8:
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
8 September, Sunday – 5:00 PM
LITERARY COMMUNITIES READING
Literary Communities of Los Angeles will feature L.A. based writers SESSHU FOSTER and MELISSA CHADBURN along
with Antioch University students and their Los Angeles’ inspired poetry, fiction and nonfiction.
Where & When
826LA in Mart Vista
12515 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Please join us as we celebrate the latest installation in The Mar Vista Time Travel Mart: The PoemBooth Project!
A poem in a phone booth bears witness to disappearing modes of communication, while suggesting different ways that we might speak to each other. When you pick up the receiver, this phone will automatically dial a hotline. From there, you can listen to a collaborative poem, record your own contribution, or hear the work of a featured student writer. If you choose to contribute, you will be given a question about your life or your surroundings. Don’t worry about making your answer sound like a poem. The raw ingredients of poetry are just that – raw. What makes something a poem is the way the different parts are put together. When we receive enough messages, we will collage them together and put them on the hotline.
We will be having a reception with light refreshments, poetry performances, and, of course, the PoemBooth. Event admission is free and open to the public.
The PoemBooth is an installation for 826LA by Brent Armendinger and Matthew Williams.
Gloria Enedina Alvarez is a Chicana poet/intermedia artist, playwright, librettist, literary translator and curator, who presently teaches creative writing and works as a consultant in public schools, universities, libraries, museums, and art centers. Her literary/artistic efforts have been recognized by the CAC, National Endowment for the Arts, Cultural Affairs Department, City of L.A., COLA Award, Poets & Writers, Inc., among others. Her plays and librettos for opera, Los Biombos, Cuento de un Soldado/Story of a Soldier, and El Niño, have been produced internationally. Her books of poetry in English and Spanish include La Excusa/The Excuse and Emerging en un Mar De Olanes.
Brent Armendinger is the author of two chapbooks, Archipelago (Noemi Press, 2009) and Undetectable(New Michigan Press, 2009). In 2014, his full-length manuscript, The Ghost in Us Was Multiplying, will be published by Noemi Press. His work has recently appeared in Aufgabe, Bateau, Bombay Gin, Colorado Review, Conjunctions, Court Green, Denver Quarterly, LIT, Puerto del Sol, and Volt. In July of 2013, he was a resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts. He teaches creative writing at Pitzer College and lives in Echo Park.
Kristopher Manuel Escajeda is a guitarist, born and raised in Boyle Heights. Other instruments played are the keyboard, piano, drums, saxophone and others. He writes and performs music that takes you on a global experience, a cross fusion of punjabi, jazz, avant garde, break beat, progressive rock, experimental, folk, and percussive rhythms, featuring the three string guitar. He has performed and toured throughout the U.S. and U.K., solo and with his groups, White Gurls, Electric Current Eccentric Chaos, and as a duet with Eddika Organista of El Haru Kuroi. He has performed at many local festivals, music and art venues in Los Angeles, like the World Stage, Leimert Park, and others in Southern California.
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. He is currently collaborating with artist Arturo Romo Santillano and other writers on the website, http://www.ELAguide.org. His most recent books are the novel Atomik Aztex and the hybrid text World Ball Notebook.
Matthew Williams is an artist, writer, and woodworker. He grew up in the San Fernando Valley and for about ten years he could slam-dunk a basketball with two hands. He lives in Echo Park.
for more information http://826la.org/WP/2013/08/29/poembooth-opening-reception-at-the-mar-vista-time-travel-mart-on-september-6th-2013/