Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Eagle Has Landed

What a way to start the three-day weekend.  On my front porch last night was the box containing my new book The Yearning Feed.  Thanks to all who helped me along the way, and thanks especially to Laura Sue for allowing me to use the adorable sheep with the withering Miles Davis-like stare for the cover.  And thanks again especially to Joyelle McSweeney and Orlando Menes for choosing the manuscript!

The book's available for purchase at University of Notre Dame Press
and Amazon and Powell's

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Deafheaven is making its way toward San Diego.  I'd like to catch them on the 22nd.  I need some black gloves, though, to throw up my horns.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Reinaldo Arenas

I recently found the following title by Reinaldo Arenas at a used bookstore for a buck.  A writer for The New York Times Book Review once stated: "Arenas works in the sardonic nightmare tradition of Quevedo and Goya."

A random passage in El Central reads (Tr. by Anthony Kerrigan): "To speak of History is to speak of our own dung piled up in a variety of latrines."  

And another quote: "Beautiful is the figure of the naked the longed for land of my dreams."

Check out this beautiful tune used in the movie directed by Julian Schnabel about Reinaldo Arenas called Before Night Falls:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Picasso's Guernica

While everyone was occupied with the Dalí: All of the Poetic Suggestions and All of the Plastic Possibilities exhibit on a different floor at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, my wife and I stood alone in front of Picasso's "Guernica" for what felt like ten solid minutes.  Two guards flanked each side of the iconic painting, of course, but we had it for ourselves for a good chunk of time before the mob eventually arrived.  Needless to say, the experience was incredible and will live with me for as long as I can conjure up memories.  

It didn't take long standing there before my mind returned to Eduardo Galeano's piece called "Guernica" from his book Mirrors, a tale that is as relevant today as ever.  Read or re-read it here in Spanish and/or here in English.  When considering the tragedy of Guernica, one must also think about Fernando Arrabal's play of the same name about a Basque couple caught in the air raids.  Absurd and funny even, but it makes a vicious criticism on the war machine and its conspirators, and the tragedy they inflict on the innocent.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I was recently invited to a Halloween party with the clear and stern stipulation: "No costume.  No entry."  One of my best friends just moved into his new place and wants to host the party this year.  So here I am, I have nearly three months to beat my brain for the perfect costume.  I've never been good at putting together clever costumes.  I've always envied the those who arrive to the party with costumes that have everyone laughing, touching (what's it made out of?), or cringing with fear or disgust.  

"Hey man, did you rent your costume?  It looks professional."  

"No I sewed it myself."  

"No way.  You're a genius!  I can't wait to see what you make next year.  Let me hug you--you're awesome.  The allusion your work is making is so esoteric but yet so pop-y."

And this is where I roll my eyes, mumbling: "you think you're so cool with your cool fabrics and protruding appendages and fully functional touch-screen chest monitor.  Whatever."

Every year I tell myself this will be the year you win "most original costume."  But every year I fail miserably, resorting to wearing a silly wig or sporting a fading tuxedo t-shirt or painting half my face one color and the other half another color that draws obvious metaphors.  Last year I wanted to be this but the glue burned my skin and I nearly had to spend the night in the emergency room.  Kidding.  So what will it be? to paraphrase Hamlet.  How shall I rise like the phoenix to join the celebrated annals of Halloween costume revelry?  

Let the countdown begin.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dinner with Henry Miller (1979)

Questionable Italian dishes, wine, and an engaging bio of Miller's hero, Blaise Cendrars.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

5 Entries

I'm nearly finished re-reading Salvador Plascencia's The People of Paper.  I might be using it in the classroom this semester.  It's great to revisit the cast of characters who rise together to protect El Monte, California from the omniscient Saturn.  Characters like Federico de La Fe, Little Merced, Froggy, Baby Nostradamus, and others.  The characters are memorable, each for the most part, wrestling with sadness or loss in some way.  If you'd like to read a summary of the novel, go here.  In light of the recent NSA scandal, the all-knowing Saturn in the novel has taken on a different meaning for me as a reader and a citizen.  As EMF (El Monte Flores) struggles to regain its autonomy or self-determination from Saturn, members of the crew protect themselves by shielding their homes with lead walls or learning to mask their thoughts in order to thwart Saturn's mission for total control.  They also use other ingenious ways to disguise their livelihoods from the eye in the sky.  It's all out war in El Monte, and the people with flowers in their hands are making headway!  

In my new book The Yearning Feed, I include a quote from Bernadette Mayer's Midwinter Day to open the collection.  Midwinter Day was instrumental in providing me with a process for a longer collage poem I put together in the book called "The Xoco Letters."  Midwinter Day is a book-length poem in six parts that takes the reader through an entire day, including dreams and the act of emerging from them.  Pretty cool, que no?  I read somewhere that Bernadette Mayer rehearsed for the project by sketching through shorter periods of time to exercise the mind to better capture the different levels of consciousness we operate with on a daily basis.  Totally different in subject matter, "The Xoco Letters" is about the U.S./Mexico border and the dangers the desert poses for the clandestine, in addition to the waterways such as the New River and the All-American canal that have claimed the lives of some of those attempting to enter this country from across the southern border.  The New River continues to be an open sore for the Mexicali and Imperial County region though there have been significant moves to alleviate the environmental dangers of the notorious New River on both sides of the border.   Numerous talks and tours by various environmental agencies, governmental promises, etc. have been issued throughout the years, but it continues to flow and empty its chemicals and pathogens into the Salton Sea.  Locally, the people have fought hard to address the issue, organizing cleanups and soliciting larger agencies for support, and with the relatively new New River Wetlands Project, the toxicity of the river seems to be decreasing.  I was also happy to read about California's AB 407 via the Imperial Valley Press:

"AB 407 passed the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials on a vote of 6-    
0. AB 407 entails the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to establish and administer the “New River Watershed Water Quality, Public Health, and River Parkway Development Program” to coordinate the funding and implementation of the recommendations from the New River Improvement Project Strategic Plan."

There have also been significant efforts to educate children about the matter, offering school tours to visit the New River Wetlands Project.  I have a strong feeling that a group of brilliant scientists and civic leaders will emerge from this next generation of Imperial Valley students who will ultimately solve the problem that this river poses with their beautiful minds and commitment to the environment and human rights--building on, of course, what has already been established by the warriors in the Valley currently fighting the good fight.

Some of the most impactful images I have seen in my life are of people floating down the New River in hopes to enter the country from Mexico, knowing what that river contains and the health risks associated with it.

Back to Bernadette Mayer: here's a Bernadette Mayer poem called "The Tragic Condition of the Statue of Liberty."  And here's an interesting roundtable discussion about the poem including Anne Waldman, Julia Bloch, Katie Price, hosted by Al Filreis.

I've also been reading Guillermo Gomez-Pena's Warrior for Gringostroika.  The energy and scope of his writings (I've never seen his performances en vivo) always excite me

Finally, a great place to read about latin@ literature is at The Hispanic Reader.  I totally want to read Patricia Engel's and Tim Z. Hernandez's new books.