Commentaries - January 2014

James C. Hopkins & Yoko Danno: From 'Scrolls,' an experimental work in progress (installment two)

[AUTHOR'S NOTE.  Scrolls is a new “experimental” collaboration in progress by James C. Hopkins in Kathmandu and Yoko Danno in Kobe.  One of us writes the first half of a sentence and the other follows up with the rest of the sentence. The latter begins the next sentence and drops it halfway, which is taken over by the former. Writing thus in turn we draw “picture scrolls” with words. There is no rule except that a scroll should consist of five paragraphs. When we start a scroll we never know how it will develop and end. We have set out for adventures in an unknown land without a map or a compass.]

SCROLL 14

I took a deep breath ten times, facing the morning sun and held it as long as I could possibly hold it. Orchids appeared in front of my eyes, then my long-dead grandmother's face and then a voice spoke to me, "Don't forget to breathe out, my dear, it's important." I looked around but only saw a thin white dog, running frantically down the path behind me. I exhaled, and decided to run after the dog. I needed to figure out why I was always haunted by specters—or should I say—haunted by the same old ghost that seemed intent on taking many different forms. Today the white dog, tomorrow a bunch of purple orchids would be watching me from the dim corner of my room.

Yesterday I saw the noodle shop waitress spying through a crack in the kitchen door. Of course the dog was faster, and I slowed down, thinking it was foolish to run after a phantom. My tooth suddenly began to ache. I wondered what I could eat for lunch—maybe momos? But maybe I wouldn't have lunch today, since we were supposed to be on the road all day, searching for a 5-year-old who had been missing these past few days. She was playing alone in the dry rice-field, while older kids were at school and no one noticed that she had disappeared. I'm sure that she's alive, but we should have known better.

She is easily wrapped up in her imaginary beings and it finally got her into trouble. I'm now quite sure she's below the earth, in a secret chamber, having followed a mole, her dear friend. I should have listened more carefully to her talk about the persuasive power of rodents and sky-drawings of crows, but I simply dismissed it as childhood fantasy—now I know better. In my own childhood I have spent hours folding colored paper into small birds and animals. They were animated while I was playing with them and from time to time one of them would fly out through the kitchen window, or run across the floor and out the door.

This has continued into the present day, where you are expected to see things only with your physical eyes. Yesterday I thought I was watching some foreign letters appearing on the wall of my room although actually there was nothing on the wall but a small black spider with red legs. The next morning, on the way to the noodle shop, a small French man in red stockings came waltzing down the street. He made an abrupt halt before me and asked if I had ever seen him before and I replied "non." Suddenly he leapt into the air, spun around, and raced off with his bushy tail dangling from his butt.

I'm feeling pretty sure the 5-year-old girl is safe by now, protected by the fox, her guardian god, and the fact that she has not yet gone to school. Dogs and foxes have the power to foresee the future, but humans barely understand their languages, which we need to start learning at least by the age of five. Likewise, they will develop a dependency on music and the whirring of locust wings for guidance through life. As for me, I've decided to return to the forest to find the exit of a mole's tunnel, just in case the 5-year old would come out from it. Now I've realized the secret chamber is their underground school and hope to apply for admission, myself. It's never too late for the violin.

SCROLL 15

This year is bad for azaleas. There was an untimely frost in early May, just before the flower buds were coming out, and now only a few blossoms have appeared in my garden. I'm sitting here, with the party just a week away, wondering how to entertain my guests without the usual full boom of azaleas. I have been planning the party since last autumn, and requested each guest to wear shoes the color of flowers, but so far their choices will be a little limited. White, of course, pink, drooping blue—it seems that nature is not participating in the festivities, but I'm still hoping the yellow and purple of gorgeous irises may stay in bloom. 


But you never can predict nature's whim, especially this time of year. Just as unpredictable this year has been topsy-turvy like having hot summer days in winter, or typhoons in early spring. The other day we had a tremendous tornado which swirled up cats, dogs and people along with houses, cars and shoes, and I saw on TV a monster spider caught up in the swirl as well. When the tornado died down, the monster spider was left in the air and began to take various eerie forms—a huge squid ejecting gloomy ink like a spell, or an enormous octopus-like figure. I felt as if it was going to choke me off with its eight long arms which moved like serpents.

The spider was seen for two days after the storm, then disappeared, and a magnificent rainbow appeared in the clear blue sky. I watched at the spectrum—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet—and noticed a dark streak of shadow along the inner edge of the arch which seemed to touch the earth just behind a shining new building downtown. I decided to go to the building and have a look—you never know what you can do with this kind of phenomenon until you find out what has caused it. I went up to the roof of the building and found there a pile of ashes still smoldering and a strange-looking lump of melted metal. I took the lump—about the size of a medium-sized coin—and dropped it into my pocket and went home for lunch.

I had forgotten about the lump of metal until a few days later when I heard a strange buzzing sound coming from my clothing closet. I opened the closet door, and found the floor was covered with shining insects, about 3.5 cm long, in gold and green colors, with purple stripes. I groped for the metal lump in the pocket of my jacket but it was gone. Then suddenly I realized that it had given birth to the swarm in my closet—which was spreading in all directions. I picked up one of them, held it to the desk lamp, and it began to sparkle iridescently as though the light from a distant planet had found its way into the cells of the insect. As I held it, it turned to dust in my palm, so I decided to keep the swarm in my closet without touching them.

I wondered what I should feed them with, and left the house to wander the streets—pondering over the strange "insects," azaleas, and the way that storms always bring drastic change. A few blocks away from my house is a butcher shop, and the butcher, who was usually busy chopping meat, was acting funny without any lump of meat on the chopping board. With a knife in each hand he was beating the board like a drummer and singing at the top of his voice. The song was something like this: "Flowers in summer never last, and the azaleas are nowhere now. Come back, come back, my sweet azaleas!" and suddenly I became worried about the multicolored shiny insects in my closet, the party, and the dogs that had been blown into the air. I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, turned around and headed into the nearest bar.

SCROLL 16

Where have you been hiding?" I asked the face in the mirror—not having seen it for what seemed like years. Actually it had only been a few days since I met this strange, foreign woman. She was smiling in the mirror as if she had swallowed a canary, which she may well have for all I know, but at the moment she wasn't hungry for sure. Behind her head, in the tree outside the window, was a big calico cat, peering into the room, waiting for a chance to pounce at anything alive. I opened the window to warn off the cat but accidentally fell with a crash into the bushes below. Gracefully jumping to my feet, I made a lunge for the cat, but it disappeared into the air, screaming like hell.

I tried to go back to my room but the window was tightly closed from inside and, staring out at me as though I were crazy, was my younger sister, who had disappeared more than three years ago! I opened my mouth and she vanished in front of me like a story that had never been told. It was she who had left home, I muttered to myself, and left me to tend to the flowers. Is it possible that she could have returned, after having eaten the cactus flowers I had cooked for her? She had gone wild and run away for good, it seemed, but her sudden return started me wondering. I ran around to the front door of the house, which stood open, and called out, "Anybody there?"

"Welcome home!" my sister responded from inside the house, and suddenly I realized it was 1975 and I was out of orange flavored Tang drink, but there were Oreo cookies in the cabinet, a parakeet in a cage by the red sofa, and one of my toes was bleeding onto the carpet. I shouted, "Bring me a paper towel," and sensed someone approaching, but there was no answer. I remembered I had fallen from the window, when my toe must have been injured, but after that was a blur, and now it seemed I could only imagine my adult life as a kind of dream. Completely confused, I walked into the kitchen and looked at the calendar to make sure if it was really 1975.

It was in fact September 1975—and yet my mind was somehow still my "adult" mind, observing and participating in my childhood life, just as though nothing unusual had happened. I went to the door and hesitated to open it. In my childhood I always had a "fear" mixed with expectation before opening a door and this moment was no exception. Nonetheless I opened the front door, and realized the world outside was 2013 and that I had been planning to plant some autumn flowers, but found my garden grown wild with brambles. I was shocked because I had always kept it neat, knowing that controlling nature is controlling gods.

I picked a handful of cactus flowers and, instead of cooking them, strewed the petals all over the rambling garden, praying intensely that order and balance should return to nature as well as to my mind. But nothing happened except where each flower petal had fallen there appeared a cat with a ribbon around its neck, sitting patiently and staring at me as if waiting for a command. Beneath the tree was the calico cat that I'd tried to catch earlier in the day and I blinked twice, focusing my thought on the strange woman who had smiled in the mirror, then on my sister who had re-disappeared and the calico cat under the tree. I looked again in the mirror and found, to my distress, that the strange foreign woman had returned! I yelled at her to leave me in peace, but the only sound from my mouth was a deep and menacing purrrrrrr...

[NOTE. The full series of Scrolls, still in progress, can be found on the Ikuta Press web site, from Kobe, Japan, at http://ikutapress.com/index.html, and an early selection appeared as well on Poems and Poetics.  About Yoko Danno’s equally experimental move from writing in Japanese to writing in English, Gary Snyder has written in his “Introduction” to a projected collection of her poems, Heading for A Further Center: “Yoko Danno has chosen to write poetry in English rather than Japanese. She has been doing this for more than 20 years. It is not that she has lived a long time out of Japan. Although she herself might not say so, I think that her choice of English is part of a strategy toward the solution of contemporary dichotomies and unearthing of the deepest roots. If she wrote these poems in Japanese she would run the risk of sounding precious or archaic. The bluntness of English is an excellent foil for her subtleties.”  Excerpts from her translation of the ancient Japanese Kojiki can be found elsewhere on Poems and Poetics.

James C.Hopkins is the author of 4 volumes of poetry, including two in collaboration with Yoko Danno.  He lives alternately in Washington, DC. and Kathmandu, where he studies Buddhist philosophy at a Tibetan monastery & directs a microfinance project, Quilts for Kids Nepal, in a nearby encampment of Indian beggars. His most recent book, Many Threads:  Invisible Children of Nepal (The Ikuta Press, 2012), is a book of photographs & verse based on his experiences in that community.]

Stein comix

by Kyriakos Mavridis

a page from Kyriakos Mavridis's comics rendering of a Stein prose-poem

Kyriakos Mavridis participated in ModPo (a free open non-credit online course on modern and contemporary American poetry), where among the Gertrude Stein readings we find a short prose poem called “Let Us Describe.” Its ending, an accident of descriptiveness gone thus awry, writes an automobile accident that seems to have occurred on wet rural French roads one stormy night. I'm very pleased to make Kyriakos’s comics rendering of “Let Us Describe” available here.

Evenings of various wonder in Cypress Park

by Jen Hofer

WOW
WOW

The Evenings of Various Wonder occur as an entirely homemade, occasional, and joyful labor of love. I organize them when friends from afar whose work I am excited to share with the local literary and arts communities are coming to Los Angeles at a time when I have the space and wherewithal to host an event. Performers have been from many places in the U.S., from India, from Mexico, from all across Los Angeles, and from right around the corner in Cypress Park. Audience sizes have ranged from around 40 to around 120. Performances have taken place in nearly every room in the house and in the yard, on the roof of the studio, in the studio, and in the Airstream trailer in the eucalyptus grove. I have made no effort whatsoever to regularize or regulate these Evenings into a more “official” form, nor to document them thoroughly or especially carefully, other than via the memories of those who were there. Intrepid performers, crowds of revelers, and friends who dance far into the night are notoriously challenging to document; the few images you see here exist thanks to Rob Ray.

The Evenings of Various Wonder are an opportunity for me to express my enthusiasm for some of the artists, writers and musicians who make me excited to be in the world, and to manifest my gratitude for their work and their being. The primary reasons I built my house are to have a home base and to be able to share the space with others, so as I see it the art, conversation, conviviality, boisterousness, and dance moves that occur on these Evenings and the people—both performers and audience members—who make them happen are crucial elements in making this house a home.   

What follows are the invitations, in chronological order, of the Evenings of Various Wonder I’ve hosted thus far. When’s the next one? I don’t know! Perhaps you should visit and we’ll make something wondrous happen.

Note: The original invitations contained links to each performer’s website or online work; it wasn’t possible to reproduce these for this post, but if you’re curious about these amazing artists, please google them.

Jen Hofer performing a live film narration piece with an image from the film “On The Beach” at an Evening of Various Wonders (inspired by those on Elm Street) at the home of Anna Moschovakis and Trevor Wilson in South Kortright, NY.

Evening of Various Wonders: 02.12.2010

Celebration! Extravaganza! Numerous Delights!

Please join me to enthusiastically appreciate the joys of some of my favorite local and non-local artists and to welcome visiting wanderer Matvei Yankelevich and recent transplant Tisa Bryant to Los Angeles as we belatedly celebrate my birthday (no gifts, please) and in a timely fashion enjoy an Evening of Various Wonders on Elm Street.

Friday February 12, 8 p.m. onward

2905 Elm Street  Los Angeles  CA  90065

BYOB

Home-baked goods provided; additional treats welcome

Matvei Yankelevich will read from his enchanting and adventurous brand-new book, Boris by the Sea!

Textual forays from  Tisa Bryant will knock our socks off and kick our minds into gear!

Katie Shook will perform hand-made puppet magic!

Cat Lamb will swoon us with dynamite sounds, tunes and harmonies!

We shall be oceanically delighted by wondrous sea shanties from MISSINCINATTI, featuring Jessica Catron, Jeremy Drake and Corey Fogel!

It would be a delight to see you!.

Fondly, 

Jen

P.S. I have some very old-school sound equipment (reel-to-reel player/recorder, 78 record players, etc) I would like to donate to a good artistic home. Please let me know if you're interested.

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¡¡Second Evening of Various Wonders on Elm Street!! — 4/20/2010

Ahoy friends!

Tuesday April 20, 7:30 p.m. onward (show begins at 8:30)

2905 Elm Street  Los Angeles  CA  90065

BYOB

Home-baked sweets provided; additional treats welcome

Please join me to enthusiastically appreciate the joys of some of my favorite local and non-local artists and to welcome visiting wanderer Stephanie Barber from Baltimore. It is not yet Mayday, but do please come to Cypress Park to cast off the chains of laborious productivity for one mid-week night and experience the magnificent talents of these enchanting humans:

Jen Nellis will re-navigate "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" via live film narration as vast history and tunneling futures collide in the heart of a dinosaur!

Yelena Zhelezov will perform an abstraction of a Russian game show via hand-made puppets and illuminating projections!

Stephanie Barber's sparkling new performance piece In The Jungle will electrify a new form of fabricated botany and melodic plant research!

We shall swoon as we are rocked into auditory amazement by pitch > like < masses, featuring Jon Armstrong, Andrew Lessman, Billy Mark, Kari Rae Seekins.

It would be a delight to see you!.

Fondly,

Jen

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Welcome Home Rob Ray Evening of Various Wonders: 6/17/2010

Home-baked goods, fresh fruits, homemade salsa with chips from the tortillería around the corner, and Tisa Bryant beautifying the table

Ahoy friends! Extravaganza is in the air!

Thursday, June 17, 7:30 p.m. onward

2905 Elm Street  Los Angeles  CA  90065

BYOB

Home-baked sweets provided; additional treats welcome

Please join me in the backyard eucalyptus grove to enthusiastically appreciate the various joys of the wondrous artists who have lived and worked in the studio at 2905 Elm Street, and to welcome my sweetheart Rob Ray as he arrives in Cypress Park from downtown Troy New York to begin living in my heart and home and making his art in the backyard studio.

The walls of the studio will come alive as portals to actual and potential realities via the two-, three-, and multi-dimensional magic of Alyssa Gorelick, Anne Libby, Max Warsh, and Peter Wilson!
Lee Anne Schmitt will spool filmic ruinations on the philosophical, social and topographic landscapes of the west as we know or imagine it!
Marcus Civin will bridge the past and the future as he magnetizes swirls of errant Elm Street energies into blue goo, actualizing the timeless energies of orgone!
Whether you're wearing socks or not, Monica Howe will definitively knock 'em off (and possibly your feet too!) with her incomparable voicebox and some brand new homemade tunes!
Rob Ray will flex his PowerPoint prowess to propose potential first works to be made in the 2905 Elm Street studio; the assembled audience will have the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cast votes and make Rob do our bidding!

It would be a delight to see you.

Fondly,

Jen

Marcus Civin performing in front of a drawing by Peter Wilson in the studio in the backyard

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Evening of Various and Indivisible Wonders: 9.12.10

Left, Pireeni Sundaralingam in the front room introducing Indivisible and the reading; Right, Pireeni Sundaralingam in the front room reading from Indivisible in front of Mark Sylbert’s drawing. 

Ahoy friends! Fall is nigh and the hot winds are swirling windy whirlwind breezes into our pacific midst! Please join me to enthusiastically, joyously and festively celebrate the publication of the uniquely lovely first-of-its-kind book Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry and to welcome five wonder-inducing contributors and one amazement-inciting editor who will leap from the pages of the anthology to bring their visual, textual and sonic works into the living room at 2905 Elm Street in Cypress Park.

Sunday September 12, 7:00 p.m. onward (show begins promptly at 8:00)

2905 Elm Street  Los Angeles  CA  90065

BYOB

Home-baked sweets and South Asian snacks provided; additional treats welcome

Ro Gunetilleke charts the tensions of ethnic identity, set against the civil war and genocide of Sri Lanka.

A poem by Bhargavi Mandava and a drawing by Mark Sylbert simultaneously unfold and converge as they explore the intersections of identity in time before and after a student’s suicide.

Reena Naryan travels to Fiji and India, exploring her relationship to the women in her life.

Amarnath Ravva will delight us with the marvels of his visual and textual landscapes of South India, as well as his undying love for Apollinaire.

Pireeni Sundaralingam will map out the territory of South Asian American poetry, as seen through an editor's lens.

It would be a delight to see you!.

Fondly,

Jen Hofer and Pireeni Sundaralingam, co-curatorial-conspirators

P.S. Please bring some cash dollars to purchase Indivisible. You can read a review of this exquisite and inspiring anthology here.

Amar Ravva performing excerpts from his forthcoming book American Canyon alongside projections, in the front room.

Bhargavi Mandava reading accompanying/accompanied by Mark Sylbert drawing in the front room.

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Evening of Various and Encyclopedic Wonders: 11.12.10

Hello Friends!!

It's about to be the season for partying at the drop of a hat, and we're ready to drop the hat now!  We will be elated if you might join us for An Evening of Encyclopedic Wonders, an extravagant extravaganza of words, melodies, projected images, occult divinations and dazzling dance moves to celebrate the long-awaited arrival of Encyclopedia Vol. 2 F-K! Please come share the joy with us, and feel free to bring all manner of edible, quaffable cheer! Contributors, if not for you, Vol. 2 would not exist. Come to Cypress Park and be treated like the rock star you are: you get extra credit and a kiss if you wear a shirt that says "Kiss me, I'm an Encyclopedist"!!

Friday November 12, 7:30 p.m. onward

(performances begin at 8:30, with dancing far into the night)

2905 Elm Street  Los Angeles  CA  90065

BYOB
Home-baked sweets provided; additional treats welcome

Performers of all sorts from both volumes of The Encyclopedia Project will be exploring the possibilities of the truly unruly eleven letters A-K. Behold the unforgettable wondrous encyclopedic alphabetic adventures that await you:
 
Greg Chandler's sure-footed fictions will guide us into deep and uncanny CANYONS both interior and exterior.

Playwright and CRACKER author Jonathan Ceniceroz’ latest film collaboration will tease us into the seductions and complications only a hotel room can contain.

Writer Sarah Labrie shall intrigue us into double takes and DOUBLE EXPOSURE with her undeniably with her fantastic prose forays.
 
DOUBLE VOICED Juliana Snapper will excite exhilaration with the operatic joy of her insatiable, indelible voice.

Paula Cronan (EAVES) will animate our imaginations with her moving and mobile images.

Writer and rocker extraordinaire Anna Joy Springer (GODDESS) will embody divinity in word, deed and beyond. 

HB3 (HABERSHAM) accumulates accolades as he celebrates both Vol. 2 and his own fantastic new book, Avalon (with its own soundtrack!).

You might be lured to talk back to the media that talks at you via INTERPRETATION, in the form of live film narration from Jen Hofer.

KILLER culture-maker Chris Kraus will knock our socks off with her wry wit and noir-esque fervor; we'll run barefoot through her reconfigured landscapes.

At intervals throughout the evening, connoisseur of the carnivalesque Mady Schutzman will  invite you into the eucalyptus-ensconced Airstream Argosy to experience her candle-lit tarot talents.

We will end the evening and possibly welcome the dawn by cutting a rug on the hardwood floor to the digi-vinyl delights of DJ Mil Caras.

Given the cross-pollination of friends and contributors, spontaneous expressions of encyclopedic wonderare certainly possible, and definitely welcome. Delight us!

Fondly,

Tisa and Jen, Co-Curatorial Conspirators

P.S. Please bring some cash dollars (or checks or credit cards) to purchase volumes one and/or two of Encyclopedia. You can read a write-up of volume one of this dazzling project here.

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An Evening of Various Wonders! 03.22.11

Ahoy friends! Spring is upon us! Longer days, balmy nights, meandering bike rides, the sweet smells of jasmine, honeysuckle and smog... irresistible! Do not resist!

Tuesday, March 22, 7:00 p.m. onward

2905 Elm Street  Los Angeles  CA  90065

BYOB

Home-baked sweets provided; additional treats welcome (vegan appreciated!)

The delights of Los Angeles will not be resisted by Sommer Browning and Noah Eli Gordon, who descend from their Rocky Mountain apex to grace us with their many charms. Please join me in welcoming them, along with the enchantments of three homegrown wonders:

Eric Lindley will play cat's cradle with our heartstrings via prosey tunes and tuneful prose addressing (and possibly absolving) familial guilt, the soft erasure of bodies, and oblique metonymy.

The tangled strings of heartfelt hybridity will form monstrously rhythmic knots as Janice Lee orchestrates projected and performed adaptations from the score of her forthcoming book Daughter.

What might be found when divine work does the work of divining? A volunteer chorus of readers will perform their hearts out via selections from The Source, a work of ambient research and constrained bibliomancy by Noah Eli Gordon.

It doesn't matter who holds the key to your heart! Sandra de la Loza will set up an Autonomous Lock-picking Zone to demonstrate her pin-slipping prowess, and maybe teach us a thing or two while she's at it.

Sommer Browning's projected poetry comics may shatter your newly-unlocked heart, but you'll want nothing more than to store the pieces in the velveteen pocket of the poetry she will read aloud in the liveliest deadpan this side of the Mississippi.

It would be a pleasure to see you.

Fondly,

Jen

Sommer Browning reading in the front room.

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Happy Hour of Various Wonders: 06.05.11

Ahoy!

Friends from anear and friends from afar! The joy of good company in the beautiful blue late afternoon light! Linguistic, sonic, visual and culinary pleasures! A warm Angeleno welcome, please, for Vivek Narayanan and Rashmi Sadana (and the loveliest Ambika), who grace our fair city with a visit from India -- reason enough for celebration! -- to mingle artfully and enthusiastically with numerous local wonders imported from Culver City, Michigan and Querétaro!

Sunday, June 5, 5:00 p.m. onward

2905 Elm Street  Los Angeles CA  90065

BYOB

Home-made snacks and sweets provided; additional treats welcome

We'll set the BBQ afire after the performances end so bring delicious morsels to grill if you wish

Feel free to email if you need biking, driving or public transit directions

Summer is heating up and a sweet-as-pie stray cat (as yet unnamed—suggestions welcome!) has wandered in through the open kitchen door at 2905 Elm Street and taken up stripey orange residence in our hearts. The birds chirp far into the night, the winter garden has long gone to seed, and the succulents are overflowing with fractal delights. Succulents do not like to be outdone, but they just might be, as we welcome these dazzling fractal delights to Cypress Park:

DanRae Wilson will weave a world of handcrafted puppet enchantments!

Gerhard Schultz and Dylan McKenzie will charm our ears with chiming mathematico-poetic open-string sequences!

Angelenos might take particularly avid interest in these tales from a recently-developing transit system, as Rashmi Sadana guides us through the tentacular subterranean and surface multiplications that are the universe of the blossoming Delhi metro system.

Román Luján will unfasten our understanding of English as he explores the spaces between languages, where anything and everything is possible -- we might never button up our vocabulary again!

The illustrious, sassy, and savvy Mr. S, familiar and foil in the poems of Vivek Narayanan of Almost Island fame, shoots from the hip with an entire cultural landscape as his target: watch out!

It would be lovely to see you!

Fondly,

Jen and Rob

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Various and Reanimated Wonders: 04.19.13

Ahoy friends! For a number of years there have been occasional Evenings of Various Wonder at 2905 Elm Street in Cypress Park, but recently they have become so exceedingly occasional that the unsuspecting Seeker of Wonder, and even the most die-hard Fans of Wonder, might possibly have forgotten entirely that Elm Street is in fact and verifiably a Site of Wonder. Forgetfulness—begone! Memory—get ready to constellate! The present is upon us, and an occasion is nigh! Beloved and brilliant friends from afar—Brooklyn, Houston, and Tijuana—shall join forces with beloved and brilliant friends from anear—Alhambra, Echo Park, Leimert Park (by way of New Zealand), and Lincoln Heights—to remind us that wonder is a state of being and doing. Wonder is precisely the air we need to breathe:

Friday, April 19, 8 p.m. until we stop dancing

2905 Elm Street  Los Angeles CA  90065

BYOB

Home-made snacks and sweets provided; additional treats welcome

If you have a folding chair (or three) you might want to bring?

Feel free to email if you need biking, driving or public transit directions

Abraham Ávila will brave the brutal lines and bad politics at la línea to bring visionary video communiqués from south of the imaginary yet militarized border to our city of angels (or ciudad sin ángeles), this "otro México" which was in fact Mexico until not so very long ago (and perhaps might still be...).

Andrew Beccone will put the anima in reanimation when he proffers "An Incomplete Portrait of the Reanimation Library" in advance of the opening of the Highland Park Branch (see announcement below, please!).

Arshia Haqqani and Kirk Gee will spin vinyl with vim and vigor, spooling soundwaves into our ready ears, making it entirely worth the effort to clear the front room of furniture so we can dance into the wee hours and then some, caught on the oceanic lure of deepsea beats from the Balkans, the Middle East, South Asia, and beyond.

The East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines, via inimitable conductors of spirit and soul Arturo Romo Santillano and Sesshu Foster, will float us into an altered visual-textual consciousness where ethereal realities and yucca-sharp revelations commingle in a barrio that might feel familiar, if only it didn't seem so strange.

John Pluecker will trace the traces of untraced maps and reveal what is irrevocably hidden from revelation in histories of place and person, charting uncharted territories we might recognize as imagined dreams we dreamt we remembered in a dream.

What is the taste bud equivalent of a photographic memory or perfect pitch? Who knows what it's called, but Jorge Galván's got it, and will be dazzling our palates with chileatole, homemade salsa, and other delights based on recipes devised entirely from his impeccable and savory culinary recall.

How many dimensions exist between the 2nd and 3rd? Rachel Bers will lure us toward that question as she colorfully sculpts the plasticity of our multi-dimensional world.

But wait!!! There's more...

A sphere made of many kinds of triangles forms a geodesic dome for this hillside home constructed against a Los Angeles backdrop, Mathematics, 1963.

Reanimation Library: Highland Park Branch

Monte Vista Projects

5422 Monte Vista Street

Los Angeles, CA 90042

April 20–May 19, 2013

Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday  12–5

Resources will be available on-site for visitors who wish to scan or copy images or text for their own use.

All this and more... the more being YOU! We hope to see you at one or more of these wondrous events!

Fondly,

Jen & Rob

An afternoon of surrealist writing

Sunday, January 26, 2014, starting at 2 PM, in the Special Exhibitions Gallery of the Perelman Building, Philadelphia Museum of Art (free after Museum admission). Kenneth Goldsmith, Tracie Morris, and Marina Rosenfeld.

Lions, mists, riot poems

Poetry, many cultures in many different times have decided, is a good genre for ecological thinking, for cataloguing and storing things humans need to know about the plants and the animals in order to survive. It is often, as many nations realize, a fine genre in which to incite patriotism. And similarly, many use it to articulate a love for a beloved.

And yet this morning, we were asking ourselves what if the riot is one of these things with which poetry also has a special relationship? We are asking this question naively, aware of its possible absurdity. Nervously even. We've said milder things, called milder things into existence and got called terrorists for it before. 

We are asking it after reading Philip Levine’s  “They Feed They Lion,”a poem he wrote about the five days of the Detroit riots of 1967. (And we’re just going to use the word “riot” and not “uprising” or any other possible euphemisms. We’re fine with riot. It doesn’t need to be a slur if we don’t let it be.) Levine called this poem a “celebration of anger.” It is a list poem full of repetition and sonorous rhythms. It is a poem that keeps amazing.

And then after that, thinking some about the lion we are to rise like after slumber in Shelley's “Mask of Anarchy.”   

Levine attributes his lion line to the literal, to something someone named Eugene said when Levine and Eugene were sorting universal joints. But one cannot hear the line “they feed they lion” and the line ‘Bow Down’ come ‘Rise Up’” and not hear Shelley’s “Rise like Lions after slumber / In unvanquishable number, / Shake your chains to earth like dew / Which in sleep had fallen on you — / Ye are many — they are few.”

Although next thought: what Shelley? For that poem with its pun on swords and words has never had an interpretative clarity. Some use it to justify the rise up that sometimes gets called militancy. Some use it to justify passive resistance. We’ve thought often that the mist of that poem, the mist that seems to call forth the maniac maid called Hope, is this interpretative unclarity.  (And we are often thinking of that Shelleyian mist more literally every time we click through our daily riot porn, which is often full of gases and mists of various sorts.)

And then we began reading, as if we had all day, in a sort of associational way. Turned to Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die,” written next to the red summer of 1919 when there were over twenty race riots where white people attacked black people. In many cities, black people fought back: “If we must die, let it not be like hogs.” This poem of such a rich history; it was read and recited by the prisoners of Attica before they began to riot in 1971. 

Next spent some time with Gwendolyn Brooks’ Riot, about the 48 hours of riots in Chicago in 1968 after the death of Martin Luther King. We promised ourselves that we would return to this book in the future. 

This list just the beginning of our noticing. There is a lot of riot in literature. 

Our thoughts this morning are more associational than anything else. Is it just us, or is there a dry period of riot poetry in the 80s and 90s? We can remember them here and there. Myung Mi Kim, for instance, writes on the 1992 LA riots in Dura. She gives two pages; she quotes the mother of Edward Jae Song Lee who was killed during the riot; references the newspaper. But this poem is more descriptive. It isn’t the solidarity statement that is Levine, Shelley, McKay, Brooks, etc.

Then we thought it is hard right now to imagine someone writing a book defending a riot and calling it Riot. But why did we think this? Because our next thought was Sean Bonney.

We know though that we thought this despite Sean Bonney, and some of the works we hope to discuss in the weeks to come, because is easy to imagine the sorts derision that might accompany this book called Riot, the accusations of naivity, of wielding a rapier of coolness, of supporting totalitarianianism, of being an armchair leftist, easy to imagine all the comments that this imagined author might experience when they announce their publication of this imagined book on facebook. Why does so much of poetry land want to discipline and dismiss this sort of work? Why so much shaming of those who write about riot, protest, uprising? Why so much dismissal of the rich, diverse, and various traditions of writing that have supported them? Why do we not complain more about the relentless red baiting of this moment?   

For as riots are a thing that happens, sometimes in our own backyards, why wouldn't they have a poetry? Or be a part of a poetry? Is it something to do with the genre? Riot porn, we get. We get why they call it porn. It excites. Inspires sometimes. But riot poetry seems less obvious. In part because, unlike riot porn, it is often recollected in tranquilty. So that has opened it to one easy accusation of being armchair. But then most poems are in some sense written from the armchair and that can't mean we all want poems that celebrate only activities conducted from armchairs. But then also a lot of the work that we admire that has been written in the last few years has been so not armchair. 

Trying to begin to think on this, pulled out Spy Wednesday by David Brazil. In it he tells a story of being arrested in an anti-war protest (it probably wasn't a riot but it is a literary representation of protest so we're going there). We remembered that moment where he calls out his name: “As they were loading me in the van /someone yelled out “Whats your / name man?”  And I cried out / real loud  ‘David Brazil! / David Brazil!’ / Then I was in / the van.  In handcuffs. / That's an experience.  Solitary, / cut off, fettered.” When we first read this in 2008 we thought of the maqta of the ghazal. Today we thought about how there's all this stuff that happens in life. As landscapes exist, as love exists, as breakups exist, as patriotism exists,  so riots exist (and seem to be happening more). And if nothing else, the poetry of riot is at least in opposition to a poetry of nationalism and that has to be a good thing. 

As we’ve been reading and writing this, we’ve been again paging through Paulson's The Art of Riot in England and America. And we've noticed that he only talks about prose when he turns to the “literary riot” as he calls it. And this might explain why we find Paulson’s book less exciting when he writes about literature. When Norman Mailer writes about the 1968 riot  at the Democratic National convention in Miami and the Siege of Chicago: An Informal History of the Republican and Democratic Conventions of 1968, he writes of watching the riot from the nineteenth floor of a hotel. It is Mailer, so he feels guilty. Of course, we hear more about that than the riot. In his guilt, he goes out and incites the police to apprehend him.