One hundred years ago today

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Gwendolyn Brooks Image via university of illinois

Elegy For Miss Brooks
i.m Gwendolyn Brooks 1917-2000

“There’s nothing left
to say. You have done
your dance away —
to the place we never thought
would gather you

though somewhere we knew
how days grow shorn. Unbrittle,
brave, graceful yet laceless,
you struck the stone till you were
the stone, or the face

each dark rock hides, if only
from itself, somethin else. The water
wears over us —
headed home salt-ward.
We wade in your wake

& pray. Forever
bendable, you never did stoop
whenever sidewalks hard heart
met your dandelion wild.
You fought that white

head though.
A thankful while, the wind
our way blew.
Without you, we might not know
what wind must do

it too refuses to remain
unseen, keeps many names
Gust, bluster, hurricane
Bronzeville’s heavy Hawk
You swirl and save us

from standing still
unsailed. What the devil
are we without you?
I tuck your voice laced
tight, in these brown shoes”

— Kevin Young

(happy 100th gwendolyn brooks)

Shifting Tenses

AND THE NEWS keeps coming today —

I’ve been trying to get all the blogs caught up with upcoming projects. It’s been a bit of a logjam lately around here and so I hope to be getting back to some regular posting.

I’m happy to announce my new (and very first!) chapbook, “Shifting Tenses”  from the wonderful Writ Large Press, Founded in 2007 by Chiwan Choi, Peter Woods,  Judeth Oden Choi and Jessica Ceballos, the press’ mandate has been to publish, connect  and promote overlooked voices and communities across the region and beyond.  A limited number of copies will be available today at L.A. Zine Fest in downtown Los Angeles. 100% of the proceeds go to nonprofit/social justice organizations. 

If you’re not able to make it downtown,  you can still order it directly from Writ Large by clicking over  here.

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Voice (30)

Westside

“West Side” — image by Lynell George

Grocery on Venice Beach
by Denis Johnson 

Thank you salesperson I see your heart

quivering redly in its gossamer

I with this fiery  whirling atomic

symbol where I used to have a stomach

lighting my dead shoes

down the aisle

Briefly the gauzy but legible

future veils the place and is beheld

I can talk inside the mind

of my great-grandchild Oh unconceived

monster hurting your teeth on our dead Disneylands

we were here we touched this radioactive food

We didn’t have the claws and then something in our hearts sufficed

We didn’t have X-ray eyes we knew what was inside of everything

Descendants

I have paid and I have left

walked out of the little store onto a white beach

the light declining and lavender

walked past two women

as they knelt covered with gooseflesh

beside the Tarot dealer

past a man pretending to be a machine in a circle

of laughter

alongside but not too close

to people who no longer

live indoors or hide their thoughts

past the child

born in a towaway zone

the mother’s eyes like

a creek

numbers

and curses going by in the water

I leave you this record

of an invisible monstrosity and this

report of sadness

a semi-truck against the bruised roses

of sunset

emeralds in the velvet wound

the lights

of Malibu the cold

small lights

from –The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly — Poems Collected and New

Denis Johnson, 67

“Watching, Thinking, Listening, Assessing”

SOME NEWS:

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Excited to now officially report that I’ve been awarded the Huntington Library’s Alan Jutzi Fellowship to support the next leg of my research this summer in the Octavia E. Butler archive. I’m so grateful that she’s left so much of her story to learn from. Now looking forward to delving deeper.

It has been an honor to spend time in the archive and see a much more complex portrait of this Southern California native slide into view.

Stay tuned for more info about Butler here.

 

 

Poetics of Location

I’M MORE THAN a little tardy posting this but projects have been flying in and out the door,  and my fingers are trying their very best to keep up. But this afternoon from a couple of weeks back remains on my mind.

Mike Sonksen (AKA Mike the Poet) is a civic treasure. He’s one of those faces that float into view at almost every poetry event and almost every corner of town. He’s a many-generation native of Los Angeles and with that he’s taken a multilayered interest in the city. All of it is up for exploration and inquiry.

Mike is also known around the poetry scene for his indiosyncratic city tours — on foot, by bus, via Metro —  that have always featured the energy and of freestyle poetry and history. For as many years as I have known him, this was the very first time I had  been able to take part in one of the downtown walkabouts.  This round he featured otherIMG_9387 poets along the way, among them — Traci Akemi Kato-kiriyama, Rocío Carlos and F. Douglas Brown —  who paused to share observations or self-reflections about sense of place or considered their personal place within with ever-shifting landscape of Los Angeles.

Much of the day and night before, it had been storming. Uncharacteristic downpours for May. But by mid morning the rain eased and the clouds pushed back enough to give the sky depth and offer a poem itself. We walked up and down hills, stood on overpasses and beneath flowering jacaranda trees to listen to aural snapshots of the city. Tourists in our own town. Just as we finished for the day, the clouds gathered again and the rain made an encore. Polite enough, however, to wait until the very last word. It was as if Mike had arranged it. Not once did he appear worried that we’d rain out, have to run for cover. Not one minute. He knows better. He knows how to read not just the streets, but the skies and the promises they won’t break.

To read Mike’s latest about L.A. new poet laureate, Robin Coste Lewis, click here.