5th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Day 27 :: JEN HOFER's L.A. (POETRY) LOVE
[box]It’s hard to believe that this is our FIFTH annual 30/30/30 series, and that when this month is over we will have seeded and scattered ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY of these love-letters, these stories of gratitude and memory, into the world. Nearly 30 books, 3 magazines, countless events and online entries later, and this annual celebration shines like a beacon at the top of the heap of my very favorite things to have brought into being. [If you’re interested in going back through the earlier 120 entries, you can find them (in reverse chronological order) here.]
When I began this exercise on my own blog, in 2011, I began by speaking to National Poetry Month’s beginnings, in 1966, and wrote that my intentions “for my part, as a humble servant and practitioner of this lovely, loving art,” were to post a poem and/or brief history of a different poet…. as well as write and post a new poem a day. I do function well under stricture, but I soon realized this was an overwhelming errand.
Nonetheless the idea stuck — to have this month serve not only as one in which we flex our practical muscles but also one in which we reflect on inspiration, community, and tradition — and with The Operating System (then Exit Strata) available as a public platform to me, I invited others (and invited others to invite others) to join in the exercise. It is a series which perfectly models my intention to have the OS serve as an engine of open source education, of peer to peer value and knowledge circulation.
Sitting down at my computer so many years ago I would have never imagined that in the following five years I would be able to curate and gather 150 essays from so many gifted poets — ranging from students to award winning stars of the craft, from the US and abroad — to join in this effort. But I’m so so glad that this has come to be.
Enjoy! And share widely.
– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Managing Editor/Series Curator [/box]
JEN HOFER on L.A. (POETRY) LOVE : A Few Poets, Press Projects, and Community Events That Make Me Excited To Criss-Cross The City On My Bicycle
[line][articlequote] This is the view from my here: Los Angeles, east of Western Avenue (but really, mostly east of Figueroa), bikeable, hilly, occasionally hazy with smog and occasionally crystalline enough that you could stand in Griffith Park and look all the way down Vermont Avenue to the mechanized mammalian behemoth machines of the Port of Los Angeles and the expanse of ocean beyond, molecular in its commitment to neighborhood or street or small group of friends working together to make something happen. This is the view from my now: April 2016, busy being busy, always on the cusp of the next thing, overcommitted and underslept, questioning everything I do and doing it anyway, outraged and disheartened by structural injustices and aggressions at the macro and micro level the world over and right here on my block, curious about the capacity of human imagination and interrelation to spark alternate structures and joyous resistances to aggression, in excellent company and often lost in the spiraling atomization of being inside this body, this personal history, this self, this hurtling life. This is a view from where I ride and read. I’m not trying to be exhaustive, I’m trying to be exhilarated—there’s so much more! write me (email@example.com) and tell me about your Los Angeles! teach me new things about our exuberant city! Meanwhile, here’s a tiny glimmer of a view into poets and poetry phenomena that make me love mine: [/articlequote]
Chiwan Choi reminds me to let go and to hold on: both things, simultaneously, not contradicting or negating one another but rather exerting the centrifugal equal-and-different force of opening.
i want to remember something important
but all i can think of is riding in george’s camaro
somewhere in torrance
it was around 1am
there was nowhere we were trying to get to
we were just waiting
for our skin
from “we are only aware it’s winter”
Chiwan reminds me: burn what you write and keep writing. There are no bridges, so leap whether or not you have faith. Chiwan reminds me: there are words (though we may be unlearning the languages we were taught and this may cast us into orbit) and there is love (though we may be unlearning the ways we were taught to love and this may cast us into orbit) and there is no clear path and that’s precisely where we need to be.
the emptiness of our sacrifice
lifted by my hands above this love that tries to bind us
to an old name that no longer
knows the road home
Chiwan is an alchemist (in the Downtown Literary Alchemy Lab sense of the word) and a whirlwinding centrifugal force of literary provocation and community (alongside the rest of the Writ Large Press crew).
Raquel Gutiérrez reminds me that we learn by doing, that making things with our hands is making things with our minds, that the unbounded acrobatic experiment of performance and its many potentials for productive failure is a radical instruction in how to live inside the both/and. In performance, in poems, the body in a specific space and time being a specific body can also extend beyond what might be possible for the body outside the container and buoyancy these embodied forms provide. Raquel’s work is an embrace: an articulation of the ways that an epicenter can radiate beyond the singular, toward the tentacular multiple transits of interrelation.
scatter my ash; the keeper of my ambivalences,
a casket is
a sorry stage unable to
satisfy my internal monologue,
scatter me in the mouth of Los Angeles
her stomach the desert
her ass the sea
her shoulders the mountains
and her womb
the east Los Angeles freeway interchange
for the 5 brought me all of California
while the 101 took to me to where it was possible
impossible on the 10 during rush hour
and the 60 carried my broken teenage heart home
Raquel edits Econo Textual Objects, a small-scale-big-dreams micro-press endeavor that publishes occasional works by writers that bust the bounds of the normative with grace and aplomb and no concern whatsoever for doing things the “right” way because they are too focused on doing things.
Ashaki M. Jackson
Ashaki M. Jackson reminds me never to look away. Or that if I look away, I am looking at something else: there is always something to be seen, recognized, taken in, transformed via the taking in.[line]
from “Gathering the Bones“[line]
Ashaki’s clarity and illumination don’t ease the pain: pain is not to be eased. It is to be singed into relief, etched into consciousness and made gorgeous, honed into articulation via unflinching honesty, via flinches and gasps, via acknowledgement without assimilation. Ashaki reminds me to ask: what is the knowledge that comes from acknowledgement? Where and how does it settle in a body; where and how does it leave a body unsettled; what can the body do beyond the bounds of what is known?[line]
You and death are seizing but unremarkable. What you have learned is that fulcrums are constructed of bodies – two bodies joined at the chokehold, one body at its ligature mark. And if we break the body with indifference, it too becomes a hinge. You understand this as a tipping point.
from “Fulcrum: the support about which a lever turns; the part of an animal that serves as a hinge or support.”
You can read 10 poems from Surveillance at Cultural Weekly and you can buy the chapbook here (100% of proceeds go to organizations fighting police brutality). Ashaki organizes readings through Black Poets Speak Out and is co-founder-and-champion of Women Who Submit. There’s a great podcast interview with Ashaki and Women Who Submit co-founder and stellar writer-activist Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo; it’s well worth a listen.
If I had all the time in the world, there would be some sentences and samples here illustrating the ways that Neelanjana Banerjee, F. Douglas Brown, Cathy Linh Che, Kenji C. Liu, Angela Peñaredondo, Amarnath Ravva, Zoë Ruiz, Melissa R. Sipin, and Vickie Vértiz have become part of the internal landscape of my writing and thinking life. In the absence of that time, links. [line][line]
There are a number of bookstores and press projects and adventures in poetic action that contour my complex experience of being a poem-maker and poem-lover in Los Angeles. Here is a brief list of what I’d suggest a visitor explore—and given the vastness of L.A., I find it’s easy to feel like a visitor even if you’re from here:
+ Avenue 50 Studio, with an astonishing constellation of literary and arts programming nurtured by phenomenal literary activator and poet Jessica Ceballos, including the La Palabra Series curated by Karineh Mahdessian, poet and instigatrix of Las Lunas Locas.
+ Black Grrrl Book Fair, instigated by Teka-Lark Fleming (herself an amazing writer) and Skira Martinez whose Cielo Galleries/Studios radically and gorgeously redefines what a neighborhood-based cultural space can be.
+ Dum Dum Zine (founded/edited by writer and musician and bookmaker Taleen Kalendarian)
+ L.A. Onda: not poetry as most people would recognize it (but I’m not most people!); poetics via political action and political dissent and RISOgraph fierceness.
+Seite Books: zines, DIY books both local and far-flung, graphic novels, and thousands of used books in a corner store space with a corner store ethic and dozens of excellent $1 books on shelves on the sidewalk.
+ Third Visions, a RISO printed zine non-exclusively centered on works by women of color writers and artists, conceived, printed and hand-sewn by brilliant writer Allison Connor through the Loose Pleasures endeavor.
+ wxpt (we are the paper we are the trees) convened and sparked by choreographer and dancer/mover/educator/learner taisha paggett. You might think of this as dance or improvisatory movement or cross-disciplinary queer teaching or Black dance curriculum but I see and feel poetry: we are the paper we are the trees.
Why, you might be wondering, are wondrous Angelenx writers like Will Alexander, Brent Armendinger, Tisa Bryant, Amina Cain, Sesshu Foster, Janice Lee, Robin Coste Lewis, Douglas Kearney, Fred Moten, Haryette Mullen, Maggie Nelson, Wendy Ortiz, Claudia Rankine, Luis Rodríguez, Anna Joy Springer, and Brian Kim Stefans (and and and) not on this list? (And if you’re wondering if I might not entirely believe in the purported distinction between poetry and prose, you might be right to wonder.) Why, you might ask, is there no mention of Beyond Baroque, Entropy, Eso Won Books, L.A. Zinefest, Lana Turner, The Last Bookstore, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Phoneme Media, Poetic Research Bureau, Siglio Press, Skylight Books, Stories Books, Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore, The World Stage, and so many more vibrant SoCal cultural spaces? Because you’ve likely heard of them. Or will hear of them if you ask even the first question about Los Angeles literary landscapes—and if you haven’t heard of them, when you follow those research tendrils (or simply consult the amazing listings at LALitScene) you are in for many wonder-inducing treats! And I don’t want to write a piece that responds to the first question. I want to write a piece that anticipates and instigates the thirty-first question, and the hundred-and-first, and on and on. I want to write a piece that makes you want to write which writers and presses and spaces would excite you enough to criss-cross your city or town or county via your chosen mode of transit, and I want to read those pieces and get a vision of your literary excitements from where you are currently located, currently thinking and re-thinking, currently reading and writing and loving and wondering how the hell it’s possible to keep making poems that can respond to the brutality of this endlessly heart-breaking and vastly heart-expanding world, and over and over again being sparked to remember that it is, in fact, over and over again, possible.
[textwrap_image align=”left”]http://www.theoperatingsystem.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/jenhofer_suntunnels-e1461760371894.jpg[/textwrap_image] Jen Hofer is a Los Angeles-based poet, translator, social justice interpreter, teacher, knitter, book-maker, public letter-writer, urban cyclist, and co-founder of the language justice and language experimentation collaborative Antena and the local language justice advocacy collective Antena Los Ángeles. Both Antena and Antena Los Ángeles are currently in residence at the Hammer Museum. Jen’s most recent translations include bilingual versions of Style/Estilo by Dolores Dorantes (Kenning Editions, 2016) and Intervenir/Intervene, by Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015). She publishes poems, translations, and visual-textual works with numerous small presses, including Action Books, Atelos, belladonna, Counterpath Press, Kenning Editions, Insert Press, Les Figues Press, Litmus Press, LRL Textile Editions, NewLights Press, Palm Press, Subpress, Ugly Duckling Presse, Writ Large Press, and in various DIY/DIT incarnations.
Recent work online includes translations of poems by Uruguayan writer Virginia Lucas and prose by Mexican writer Cristina Rivera Garza, and collaborative essays with Dolores Dorantes on the Harriet blog, with Sesshu Foster in The Capilano Review, and with John Pluecker on Jacket2 and The Volta. Jen’s visual-textual work can be found online at Alligatorzine, Public Access, and Spiral Orb, and in Exhibit Hall 1 at the Center for Land Use Interpretation’s Wendover site. She teaches poetics, translation and multilingual writing, and DIY/DIT bookmaking at CalArts and Otis College in addition to working as a freelance translator, interpreter, and language justice organizer supporting community groups in creating effective bilingual and multilingual spaces where no language dominates over any other.
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