The California sun has a way of turning Angeleno green into golden hues of paleteros, vert ramps and puppy smiles. Droughts only exist where there is no replacement for water.
STATEMENT FROM CLIPPERS HEAD COACH DOC RIVERS
I work at an art gallery, with doors wide open and always looking forward to the next person who walks in. Today an odd but giddy artist fella stopped by to check out the art, among other things. I was happy to entertain him while he waited for the director to finish her meeting, but found more joy in him entertaining me. In between discussions on Zaum poetry and teaching me standing yoga poses he would yell at me because I questioned his opinion that writing makes people happy. His opinion, in a nutshell and generally speaking, was that any and all writing, like painting, fulfills a deep need for us to get in touch with our emotions and that this leads to true happiness. Hmmm. No. It is what it is.
Hours after he left, my mind ruminated on happiness. And on writing - my mind ruminated on writing…ugh. After work I decided that I'd rather not write and instead I'd finally get around to reading the April/May 2013 issue of Razorcake, the bi-monthly zine put out by Todd Taylor of Razorcake/Gorsky Press. I've been staring at my copy since I picked it up at AWP in Seattle back in February, and the freakin' thing is put together in Highland Park - where I live and work. Weird!
So this is a punk zine right? And so to find myself in tears while eating dinner at a nearby very-public restaurant was a little unexpected on an easy Tuesday night. Forget for a minute that on this night there had just been a shooting a few blocks away and the body discovered not too far. After distracting myself with the first few pages of the zine I skipped to page 8 and read the title "Notes on Grief," and a reactionary inhale overcame me until I glanced at the sketch of a bird and a Sandy Hook graphic on the opposite page. I don't remember exhaling. By the time this zine was published it had been four months since that day happened, the day we would all like to think never happened. But it did happen, and four months is the same as a day.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue, in a couple days I'll be in a cyclical mourning period myself, marking the second year of life without a friend whose friendship I could really use right now. A friend whom I would have called last week to hear her laughter reign over those sounds a broken heart makes, because only the closest people know what mends you - and twenty years of friendship mends everything. But I continued reading, because I'm on a mission. And damn that Jim Ruland for being such a good writer. In spite of bringing me to tears over just how mind-body-heart-gut wrenching the world can be, he wrote about emotion, spirit and strength , and quite beautifully honored his friend's daughter, Avielle, by writing her name to memory.
Although life, its reflection and its death, was happening all around me tonight, Ruland's essay was a suggestion to me that a memory can act as a little bird that kinda passes by to say hello and quickly leaves to create a nest to find shelter in. Don't get me wrong, his essay was more of a recollection of a very dark time, but in it I found glimpses of strength. I would like to try to keep nests for glimpses and recollections of memory and strength. To create memories is an act of eternal giving, that never stops gifting - to at the very least some one. As mothers day approaches I can't help but think of my mother whom I haven't spoken with in a little while for complicated reasons, and that I love her and miss her and for now, until we do speak again, I have those memories - kept in a nest...
A momentary life of trees, branches of strength, blossoming with nests to keep memories nearby, isn't too bad... and something to be thankful for. But to the dude who is looking for happiness; writing this...isn't making anybody happier, anytime soon. And it's okay.
Let's just call it a zine, coming out soon. Yay!
A dream of Infinite possibilities...for any living species that is born of our civilization, with a cage tied to a rope, secured on a belt too tight to ever wear. The house never has enough room to breathe. A dog, a snake, a bird...one of us.
To remove ourselves from the cage. Because...as our beloved Mike Kelley put it...
"It would be nice if a bird could be born in infinite space..."
Ok. I've had a chance to breathe. It's time to reflect. But this time, I've decided to pass the mic to those who made this particular event so special, and so much more important than that other book fest in LA.
I'd like to think that Poesia Para La Gente's (PPLG) first appearance at the Grand Park Book Fest was more than just successful. Thanks to the good folks at Grand Park and the lovely Chiwan, Judeth and Peter of Writ Large Press, for inviting us to share what we do. What we do is bring poetry to the gente (people) of the community (the non-poetry community), using non-traditional spaces as venues, with the hope of maybe inspiring someone just a little (to make a bigger poetry community). The only way we can properly do that is by inviting good poets (good people) to share a little bit of what their idea of poetry is, to share their love for poetry, for community, to share their spirit - with the whole of the city. It's not easy to get out there, give it all you got, and keep at it for a few hours. It takes a lot of energy, especially under the sun. I want to give a huge out-loud thank you, and warm hug, to all of the poets who stopped by to say hi on Saturday and who continued to participate with hearts wide open -
Steve Abee, Gloria Enedina Alvarez, Khadija Anderson, Victor Avila, Dane Baylis, Brandon Brown, Billy Burgos, Juan Cardenas, Jessica Wilson Cardenas, Yago S. Cura, Iris De Anda, Peggy Dobreer, Nikita Liza, Bill Friday, Amanda Yates Garcia, Rebecca Gonzales, Xitlalic Guijosa-Osuna, June Kim, Kenji Liu, Karineh Mahdessian, Wendy C. Ortiz, Crystal Little Bird Salas, Fernando Salinas, Elena Secota, Kelly Grace Thomas, Conney Williams and Vickie Vertiz…
And while it's beautiful that they shared their talent and love for poetry, I also encouraged them - for the first time in our programs history - to share their experiences with us. This is our second time experimenting with the Poems on Demand program so I'm thinking of retiring it for a little while. Don't worry, we have some VERY exciting projects planned for PPLG, and I truly hope that you'll feel inspired to join us for those. And who knows, maybe after reading these reflections, you'll feel encouraged to start your own Poems on Demand project…that would be amazing!
And without further ado I present to you, a little of the book fest amazing-ness, in their own words...
When the rivers rise
to meet where my words once fell and failed me,
so that the words can find balance in swimming.
When I can remain still and comfortably desperate at my desk to write,
in order to forgive myself of my wrongs.
When the day comes that I can finally move on,
from everything that I thought I was,
in a universe I constructed with balsa wood foundations
and houses made of sand castles of his ashes.
When the rivers finally rise to make mud of those ashes,
so that the sun can set the ashes to clay,
as a reminder that everything was real.
And when I can wake up to put a smile on, before deciding what to wear,
and he's still there.
When all of this...is, not dreamt
is when I can say I found the Ark that Noah built,
the one that saves us from ourselves.
The 'animals' were just an illusion.