You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘urban poetry’ category.

9-4 yucca

The Community and World Literary Series Presents:

Sesshu Foster

Thursday, November 5, 7 p.m.
Markstein Hall 104
California State University, San Marcos

Sesshu Foster has taught composition and literature in East L.A. for 30 years. He’s also taught writing at the University of Iowa, the California Institute for the Arts, Naropa University’s 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. Winner of two American Book Awards, his most recent books are the novel Atomik Aztex and the hybrid World Ball Notebook.

The Community and World Literary Series
Literature and Writing Studies
California State University, San Marcos
333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd.
San Marcos, CA 92096-0001

Campus Maps and Directions:
For more information, call 760-750-8077 or check out our blog:

photo by Arturo Romo-Santillano

photo by Arturo Romo-Santillano

Camus, I want to know, does the cold knife of wind plunge
noiselessly into the soul, finally

Camus, I want to know, does the seated death wing as sud-
den, swifter than leaden Fascist bullets …

Camus, sand-faced rebel from Olympus, brain lit, shining
cleanly, on far historical peaks …

Camus, I want to know, does the jagged fender resemble
Franco, standing spiked at Madrid’s Goyaesque

Camus, I want to know, the dull aesthetics, rubbery thump of
exploding wheels, the tick-pock of dust on steel

Camus, I want to know, does it clackety clack like that destiny
Train, shrieking to the Finland station

Camus, I want to know, does the sorrowful cry of unwilling
companions console the dying air …

Camus, I want to know, does the cry of protested death sing
like binding vow of lovers’ nod

Camus, I want to know, does the bitter taste of jagged glass
sweeten the ripped tongue, dried

Camus, I want to know, does the sour taste of
promise flee the dying mouth and eyes and lip

Camus, I want to know, does the liberated blood bubble
to the soil, microscopic Red Seas

Camus, I want to know, does the cyclop headlight illuminate
nerve-lined pits of final desires

Camus, I want to know, does the secret hoard of unanswered
queries scream for ultimate solutions

Camus, I want to know, does the eye of time blink in antic-
pation of recaptured seasons enriched

Camus, I want to know, does the sliver of quartz sensoulize
the clash of flesh on chrome and bone

Camus, I want to know, does the piercing spear of death
imitate denied desire, internal crucifixion

Camus, I want to know, does the spiritual juice flee as slowly,
as the Saharablood of prophets’ sons

Camus, I want to know, does it mirror the Arab virgin, her
sex impaled on some soldier’s wine bottle

Camus, I shall follow you over itching floors of black deserts,
across roofs of burning palms …

Camus, I shall crawl on sandpaper knees on oasis bottoms of
secret Bedouin wells, cursing …

Camus, I shall reach the hot sky, my brown mouth filled with
fragile telephones, sans rings…

Camus, I shall mumble long-cherished gibberish through
layers of protesting heat demanding …

Camus, I shall scream but one awesome question, does death exist?

Camus, I want to know. . .

bob kaufman & eileen?

Aljazeera America profile, September 6, 2015

“As gentrification sweeps the city, Sesshu Foster has quietly become the poet laureate of a vanishing neighborhood”

photo by Jessica Ceballos

photo by Jessica Ceballos

see also:

“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.”

Dolores Dorantes

Dolores Dorantes

see also Dolores’s new book:


Dolores Dorantes & Rodrigo Flores Sánchez

translated by Jen Hofer


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:


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:


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:

photo by Rob Ray

photo by Rob Ray

Thursday, July 23 at 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Avenue 50 Studio

131 N Avenue 50, Los Angeles, California 90042

Sesshu Foster & Amy Uyematsu will both
be presenting extended sets of poetry.
The hosts of the event are Chiwan Choi,
Traci Akemi Kato-kiriyama & Mike Sonksen.

Ave 50 Benefit Amy Uyematsu2 9-27-08

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:

ucla la poetry symposium
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 and local readings are archived at is currently collaborating with artist Arturo Romo Santillano and other writers on the website, 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:

soviet dirigible stamps

I met Juan Felipe Herrera around 1988. Ruben Martinez, Lindsey Haley and I drove to San Jose in my little white pickup truck to participate in a Flor y Canto commemoration of the series of floricantos that took place throughout the 70’s. Flor y Cantos were Chicano literary festivals JFH participated in with heavy hitters of the day, like JFH’s former roommate Alurista, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Jose Montoya, raulrsalinas, and that whole first wave of Chicano writers (of whom JFH is sort of like a champion, because he’s the LAST ONE STANDING). Ruben and Lindsey were invited to participate in the Flor y Canto and I went along as their driver. We drove to San Jose where JFH had a house with his partner, the poet Margarita Luna Robles and their kids. We participated in Flor y Canto readings at Casa Zapata at Stanford, where both JFH and my wife had gone to college. Afterwards we went to JFH’s backyard with JFH grilling green onions, nopales and chiles and passing them out in tortillas to everybody, exclaiming about the importance of Nino Rota’s music for Fellini movies. He played selected tracks for us on a boombox, while we listened intently. We’d driven 300 miles north for this, both Ruben and I busy in L.A.’s Central American solidarity movement. Ruben shook his head later, asking me, what do you make of all this? I don’t know where Ruben and Lindsey went, but I ended up going with JFH to his son’s soccer game, and that night I slept in the back of my pickup across the street in the camper shell. The next day I wandered into the house a little stiff and groggy—but apparently I’d brought a cassette recorder, so I interviewed JFH while he drove to San Francisco, which took maybe an hour or so in a green and white lowrider classic car straight out of a Frank Romero painting, plying JFH with all the questions I could think of about Chicano literary history.

In 1988, it seemed totally possible that this generation of great Chicano writers would pass by unpublished or unknown, just like the generation of outstanding Chicano movement muralists. In the 1980s, no corporate New York presses published Chicanos. First Maxine Hong Kingston and then Sandra Cisneros a few years later would break through that wall, open up the whole U.S. market. But in 1988, it seemed likely that a whole generation of West Coast writers of color like Jessica Hagedorn, Alejandro Murguia, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Omar Salinas, Jeff Tagami, Ntozake Shange, Cherrie Moraga and Ana Castillo would only be known by the rest of us in small circles, like friends, with their books published by tiny presses in small editions, like Lorna Dee Cervantes’s Mango Press or Ernesto Padilla’s Lalo Press, which published JFH’s atomic hand grenade of a book, Exiles of Desire, as well as the first edition of Michelle Serros’s Chicana Falsa, which started her career. Who has ever seen a copy of JFH’s Exiles of Desire? Why not? It’s such a brilliant book, the literary equivalent to Asco’s work in Los Angeles at the same time. Why were those editions limited to a few hundred copies sold out of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco or Midnight Special Bookstore in Santa Monica or Bookworks in Albuquerque. In those days, who knew any of those books, those presses, or those writers but a few of us? So many voices went unheard, so many lives were silenced, and outside of outposts like Ishmael Reed’s Yardbird, there was no certainty that “multicultural” literature would be allowed to live. In the interview with JFH I asked him about all those literary scenes from Austin to Fresno, from the Taos Poetry Circus and the Bisbee Poetry Festival, from Barrio Logan to the Mission District. JFH was a mover and shaker everywhere he went; he knew about all those scenes; he’d performed with Culture Clash and teatros, on pyramids and stages in Mexico, coffee shops and college campuses across the U.S. for hipsters and Chipsters, pochos and campesinos, for anyone and everyone.

For me, that’s one of the beautiful, essential things about JFH. That’s why he’s a master. Poets like JFH are senseis for the rest of us writers. JFH will bring the poetry to anyone. He will lay it at the feet of everyone. When I met him, JFH was teaching poetry in Soledad prison. We drove past it on highway 101, and he talked about what he did there. He didn’t tell the prisoners, you’re a convict, you’re despised and feared—no poetry for you. He ran the same writing exercises he used with college students. He is not going to say, what, you’re a little kid? No poetry for you. He didn’t say, you’re a farmworker from Oaxaca, barely speak Spanish? No poetry for you. You’re a woman who works day and night, trying to keep your family alive? No time for poetry. You’re from a lost generation, a lame suburb, some mysterious fate? No poetry for you. No! You might be a ghost, a spirit, a raven, a nahual, some unformed being not yet emerged from the air. JFH still has a poem for you! JFH will bring it. Look at JFH’s books. Spanish, English, poetry, prose, novellas in verse, children’s books, memoirs, young adult books, performance pieces, articles, interviews, JFH went there! He does not say, here’s my poem, I don’t know who you are but maybe if you can rise to it, you might be able to read it. Instead, he gets out there, he hits the road, he shatters his own poetry into dust and puts the powder in a  little paper sack or a folded paper; he takes it to people wherever they are and says, “This is ours—this is our poem we’re making.” He’s not theorizing a democratic poetics, the political poetry of a public intellectual. He’s doing it; he’s been doing it for forty years. He’s a sensei.

There It Is
My friend
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake

They will try to exploit you
absorb you confine you
disconnect you isolate you
or kill you

And you will disappear into your own rage
into your own insanity
into your own poverty
into a word a phrase a slogan a cartoon
and then ashes

The ruling class will tell you that
there is no ruling class
as they organize their liberal supporters into
white supremist lynch mobs
organize their children into
ku klux klan gangs
organize their police into killer cops
organize their propaganda into
a devise to ossify us with angel dust
pre-occupy us with western symbols in
african hair styles
inoculate us with hate
institutionalize us with ignorance
hypnotize us with a monotonous sound designed
to make us evade reality and stomp our lives away
And we are programmed to self destruct
to fragment
to get buried under covert intelligence operations of
unintelligent committees impulsed toward death
And there it is

The enemies polishing their penises between
oil wells at the pentagon
the bulldozers leaping into demolition dances
the old folks dying of starvation
the informers wearing out shoes looking for crumbs
the lifeblood of the earth almost dead in
the greedy mouth of imperialism
And my friend
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake

They will spray you with
a virus of legionnaire’s disease
fill your nostrils with
the swine flu of their arrogance
stuff your body into a tampon of
toxic shock syndrome
try to pump all the resources of the world
into their own veins
and fly off into the wild blue yonder to
pollute another planet

And if we don’t fight
if we don’t resist
if we don’t organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
Then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizarre look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is



jayne cortez3

on the imperial highway

jayne cortez1

jayne cortez

jayne cortez 5

jayne cortez 4


jayne cortez 0




jayne cortez 7

jayne cortez9

jayne cortez8



Un hombre pasa con un pan al hombro… por Cesar Vallejo


Un hombre pasa con un pan al hombro.
¿Voy a escribir, después, sobre mi doble?

Otro se sienta, ráscase, extrae un piojo de su axila, mátalo.
¿Con qué valor hablar del psicoanálisis?

Otro ha entrado a mi pecho con un palo en la mano.
¿Hablar luego de Sócrates al médico?

Un cojo pasa dando el brazo a un niño.
¿Voy, después, a leer a André Bretón?

Otro tiembla de frío, tose, escupe sangre.
¿Cabrá aludir jamás al Yo profundo?

Otro busca en el fango huesos, cáscaras,
¿Cómo escribir, después, del infinito?

Un albañil cae de un techo, muere y ya no almuerza.
¿Innovar, luego, el tropo, la metáfora?

Un comerciante roba un gramo en el peso a un cliente,
¿Hablar, después, de cuarta dimensión?

Un banquero falsea su balance.
¿Con qué cara llorar en el teatro?

Un paria duerme con el pie a la espalda.
¿Hablar, después, a nadie de Picasso?

Alguien va en un entierro sollozando.
¿Cómo luego ingresar a la Academia?

Alguien limpia un fusil en su cocina.
¿Con qué valor hablar del más allá?

Alguien pasa contando con sus dedos.
¿Cómo hablar del no-yo sin dar un grito


A man passes with a load of bread on his shoulder

After that, am I going to write about my double?

Another sits and scratches, finds a louse and kills it.

What’s the point of discussing psychoanalysis then?

Another has entered my chest, club in hand.

Shall I talk Socrates to the doctor?

The cripple goes by, a kid on his arm.

I’ll read read Andre Breton after that?

Another shivers from cold, coughs, spits blood.

Never to fit again, those most profound allusions?

Another gropes the pile for bones, rinds?

How to write, after that, about the infinite?

A bricklayer falls off the roof and dies, no longer eats lunch.

Innovate then the trope, the metaphor?

The retailer cheats his client out of a gram by weight.

Afterward, we’ll be talking about the 4th dimension?

A banker falsifies his balance.

Like this, this face, weeping in the theater?

The homeless person sleeps feet folded underneath.

Later, can anybody be talking about Picasso?

Someone weeps on the way to the burial.

After that, how to work your way into academia?

Someone cleans arms in their kitchen.

How will we speak of what exists in the world beyond?

Someone passes counting on their fingers.

How to speak of some Other without howling?

Second International Conference of Anti-fascist writers, Madrid 1937

Second International Conference of Anti-fascist writers, Madrid 1937

etel adnan


etel adnan1

audio file:



see also

more Etel Adnan videos:


and see also:


One guy showed us his tiny sculptures made of tissue paper, saliva and semen. One guy wrote a novel, the same novel that he kept showing me about a once famous child actor who had been his partner who died of AIDS around 1990, rewriting and revising the same manuscript for twenty years. One guy I’m sure still lives with his aged, infirm mom who he dutifully cares for and still writes noir stories he sends out to unknown on-line publications. One woman, the major poet of the city and basically the poet laureate of the city, died ill and broke out in the desert. One woman wrote brutal hilarious stories about dead-pan sexual relationships that I urged her to publish, but she did not. One woman, I should have called her back immediately, left a message on my phone machine saying she had a manuscript she wanted to show me, but committed suicide. One guy published about fifteen years ago a tiny edition, a few hundred copies, of a little poetry book which nobody saw and no one remembers. Sometimes I see him in Trader Joe’s. Another guy I see around seems like a good guy but never talks about books or poetry, instead he asks for favors, recommendation letters or referrals, or money for some project or other. One guy asked me to write a recommendation letter, and wrote me from the mountains thanking me for helping him get the gig; someone said he was drunk at a gathering, talking shit about my work. There was also the Paraguayan Korean poet, who I pointed out in a recent magazine photo to someone who didn’t recognize her; I said she’d gotten married, and the last time I saw her she was drunk outside Ave. 50 Gallery. A journalist we used to talk with about writing in bars or cafes wrote a cook book; the last time I saw him was with a script writer who wrote a little poetry on the side who had recently returned from Cuba, with a Cuban wife no less (supposedly she was making his life hell), who kept trying to turn the conversation into a lament for the death of Communism, but the journalist and I were talking poetry and how poetry related to the journalist’s cook book. The journalist left the city to become a professor up north. I did not see or hear from him after that, but I had dinner with an interesting poet in the Bay Area who said he was his nephew.


August 2021