Monthly Archives: November 2009

Stealing Writing Moments

I’ve been carrying a small notebook with me at work.  At the after-school program where I work, the students are working on still-life drawings of corn, pumpkins, the fruits of autumn.  The markers they were using had some awesome names: terra cotta, true green, tuscan red, blue slate, poppy, and my favorite, rhodamine.

Apparently, the “rhodamine” marker was named after a family of chemical compounds.

***

Today, at the bookstore where I work, I learned that lily of the valley and night-blooming jasmine are poisonous.

***

I’m contemplating making a chapbook of “aswang in L.A.” poems after reading for the Light the Sky Poetry Series in Eagle Rock.  Some folks inquired about purchasing something from me, and I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to bust out the “Honey May Soon Run Out” chapbooks.  They seem a bit outdated, and don’t contain the aswang poems.  Might this distract from the bigger project? Is this all just for vanity?

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Artist Communities

The beauty in the drive down to Laguna Beach begins with the Open Space Preserves in Irvine, CA.  As the freeway thins out to a three-lane road, you see tall brown grass on hills, rock carved into mountains, cornstalks along the side of the road.  I wish I knew the names of all the plants and flowers.  You forget the smog, the traffic, the unreliable public transportation, and remember how much of this wildness creeps from beneath Los Angeles sometimes.  As you drive into Laguna Beach, small houses, artist studios, outdoor pottery fairs border the base of mountains.  Turning into the downtown area, you see ocean.  Breathtaking combination.

This past weekend, Thomas and I visited Laguna Beach, which is in southern Orange County.  Much to my surprise (and I think I was brainwashed by commericals of the reality show named after the city), Laguna Beach began as an artist community started by a watercolorist from San Francisco.  It is also home to many art festivals.

Some information below from the Laguna Beach City website:

The community’s long-standing status as one of the county’s biggest art colonies can be traced back to shortly after the turn of the century, when a San Francisco watercolorist named Norman St. Clair arrived by stage and started painting the surroundings.

Back in San Francisco, St. Clair became a one-man visitor’s information bureau, persuading fellow artists to follow his trail. Within 10 years, more than 30 artists had settled in the coastal village. In 1918, they created the Laguna Beach Art Association, a body that exists today.”

Eating at a local cafe, eating chocolate gummi bears, resting near the ocean is ideal for me.   However, I did notice the sparse numbers of folks-of-color.  I know that this is important to me, as I think about my future home and community, where I want to be as an artist.  I wonder if artist community beach towns filled with artists-of-color exist?

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Light the Sky Poetry Series

Last night, I had the pleasure of reading at the Eagle Rock Plaza Mall for the Light the Sky Poetry series.  I was the first one up, and felt quite nervous since I hadn’t read in a while.  Going up there felt natural though.  I was able to read some new poems for the aswang series, and I like being able to publicly read poems that aren’t quite ready because it helps with my revision process.

I’d never read in a mall before, and that was fun and also challenging.  Teenagers walked by, talking on their cell phones, speaker systems in the mall corridors went off, the occasional delivery guy hauled carts full of boxes.  Lots of noise, although the organizers, Cece Peri and Gina Garay, were able to quell the distractions.  I actually didn’t mind it.  It was a good challenge to be able to read in a place where folks are LIVING, eating, shopping.  It was nice to think of how accessible the venue, the Metro Cafe, is to non-poetry folks.

The line-up of poets — Jamie Asaye FitzGerald, Lory Bedikian, and William Archila  — was such a treat.  I loved Jamie’s love poems, which reminded me a lot of Neruda’s; Lory’s emotional precision and imagery of family;  William’s evocation of living as an immigrant and exile in Los Angeles.  I hope to have these poets on The Blood-Jet next year, hopefully sometime in the spring.

It’s readings like these that remind me of how lucky I am to be a poet and to be part of such a welcoming community of poets.  There were many familiar faces there, many I’ve never met officially but have seen around at other events.  The air electrifies with such beautiful, haunting, powerful words; it’s hard to not be inspired.

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Today at the Eagle Rock Plaza @ the Metro Cafe at 7 pm

Wed., Nov. 18th, 7-10 p.m., for the LIGHT THE SKY POETRY SERIES @ EAGLE ROCK PLAZA — our featured poets will be:

William Archila,
Jamie Asaye FitzGerald,
Lory Bedikian,
Rachelle Cruz.

Logistics for Wed., Nov. 18th, 2009:
Light the Sky Poetry Series @ Eagle Rock Plaza
Metro Café, Upper Level, 7-10 p.m.
2700 Colorado Blvd. (where the 134 meets the 2)
Los Angeles, CA 90041 (323) 256-8763

Map of the Area: http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Los+Angeles+&state=ca&address=2700+Colorado+Blvd&zipcode=90041

The Poets:
William Archila was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador, and earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Oregon. His poems have been published in The Georgia Review, AGNl, Poetry International, The Los Angeles Review, Notre Dame Review, Crab Orchard Review, Rattle, Poet Lore, Poetry Daily and Portland Review among others. He is a PEN Center USA West Emerging Voices fellow. In his first book, The Art of Exile, Archila asks readers to engage with a subject seldom explored in American poetry: the unrest in El Salvador in the 1980s and its impact on Central American immigrants who now claim this country as home. The Art of Exile is the recent winner of the Emerging Writer Fellowship Award from the Writer’s Center. “A poet of the heart and head, of the personal and public, at times William Archila’s poignant poems make me hear and feel an echo of Pablo Neruda and Cesar Vallejo,” from the introduction by Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize winner.

Jamie Asaye FitzGerald was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. She has published poetry in journals Snow Monkey, Ariel, LORE, Speechless the Magazine, Poetic Diversity and Media Cake; and in the anthologies Hunger and Thirst (City Works Press, 2008) and Return from… Beyond the Valley of the Contemporary Poets (tcCreativePress, 2008); and on Seattle’s public buses. She has received an Academy of American Poets College Prize and the Edward G. Moses Poetry Prize from the University of Southern California, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. She currently works for Poets & Writers in its Los Angeles office.

Lory Bedikian received her BA from UCLA with an emphasis in Creative Writing/Poetry where she was twice nominated for the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Prize in Poetry. She earned her MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon, where she was awarded the Dan Kimble First Year Teaching Award for Poetry. Her manuscript has been selected several times as a finalist in both the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition and in the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award Competition and has received grants from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial fund as well as from AFFMA: Arpa Film Foundation for Music & Art. Her poems have been published in the Connecticut Review, Poetry International, Poet Lore and Heliotrope among other journals, have been included in Blue Arc West: An Anthology of California Poets and are forthcoming in the Portland Review. She currently teaches poetry workshops in Los Angeles.

Rachelle Cruz is from Hayward, California. She has taught creative writing, poetry and performance to young people in New York City, the Bay Area and Los Angeles. She has self-published many chapbooks, in addition to being featured in Dark Phrases Magazine and Maganda Magazine. She hosts “The Blood-Jet Writing Hour” Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio. She recently received the PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellowship in 2009, and is working towards her first collection of poems, tentatively titled Ascela at the World’s Greatest Fair.

LIGHT THE SKY POETRY SERIES takes place the 3rd Wednesday of every month at the Metro Café on the Upper Level of Eagle Rock Plaza, 2700 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90041 (323-256-8763). Featured readings are 7-10 p.m. There is no cover charge, and–due to time constraints–there is no open mic at this time. Parking is best on the Upper Level; enter through the center doors — the Metro Cafe is the first on the right.

For more information about the series and directions visit: http://www.LightTheSkyPoetrySeries.com.

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Autumn Update

A few things:

-I’ve decided to apply for an MFA in Creative Writing.  So far, I’m looking at Cal State Long Beach, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, SF State, and Mills College.  I want to stay in California.  Anyone out there have any thoughts on these schools/programs?  I’m hungry for a structure and place where I can focus better on writing.

-I’ve been writing 3 pages every morning again.  I started this routine earlier this year, but stopped recently as the workload piled up.  It’s a great way to begin the day.

-I’m reading on Wednesday, November 18th at 7 pm at the Eagle Rock Plaza @ the Metro Cafe, along with William Archila, Lory Bedikian, Jamie Asaye FitzGerald.  Check out more information here.

-Lee Herrick will be on The Blood-Jet this Friday, Nov. 20th at 10 am PST.  Check out the website here. Good stuff.

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Things that Renew My Writing, Pt. 2

roadtrip

  • roadtrips
  • observing the changes in the horizon throughout the day
  • kids who challenge me to a game of Scrabble (and then win)

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Memory

I’ve been reading through Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s newest collection of beautiful poems The Book of Seventy.

Some of the lines from the first poem in the book, Approaching Seventy, strike me.

Sit and watch the memory disappear

romance disappear the probability

of new adventures disappear


well isn’t it beautiful

when the sun goes down

don’t we all want to be where we can watch it


redden

sink to a spark

disappear

***

This weekend, I watched pieces of a documentary produced by HBO called The Alzheimer’s Project with Thomas, my boyfriend.  I thought about this notion of control slowly dissipating with old age.  The bits of memory that stay with us; the songs/poems we sing despite our sons’ names forgotten; the flashes of an artist’s palette that remain.  I think of Ostriker’s poems.  The fleeting moment that is here, the spark that reddens before disappearing.  Despite helplessness, confusion, despair that comes with memory loss, how beautiful it is to stay in a moment/the present.  As a poet, I think about why.  One reason is being HERE by interacting with it; recording its beauty.   I suppose even the page itself is fleeting; crossed-out words, trashed poems before heading to the next page.  But, sometimes, what remains are the flashes of crafted words to stand up to the unreliability of human memory.

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