Category Archives: Forum Magazine

Fundraiser for Forum (2/4/2012)

Tomorrow, Saturday, February 4 —

Join us for a night of live music, readings, and dancing as we celebrate our latest edition of Forum!

Magazines hot off the press will be available to purchase for $10 as well as raffled off throughout the night and contributors will each receive a free copy of the magazine. Well-known authors will read from their latest works before the mic is opened to the public to read poetry, sings songs, chant wisdom…anything, really!

Featured readers will be:

Seth Harwood

Sarah Page

Kwame Opoku-Duku

Marc Kockinos

Paul Roccanova

Josef Aukee

Bethany Rose

There will also be an open mic and music from local band Rival Parties, DJs and as well as live jazz to kick off the evening. The event is also a fundraiser to benefit Forum*,  a $7 donation is suggested but not mandatory. Things get underway at 6:00 pm at N.I.P. at 17th & Capp (Look for the wooden door that says “NIP;” Please enter/exit discreetly).

*this is not an official class/club/magazine event

Week One

by Ayo Khensu-Ra

Well this is embarrassing. I scheduled this post for tonight without actually writing the post and thus it went up without there being much any text. Why is it a post for last Friday when it’s clearly Tuesday? Long story but in mostly unrelated news last night was the first night of class for English 14, the class that produces Forum. It was all very familiar and also different in some unexpected ways. As is typical for just about any class, we went over the syllabus, discussed what would we would be doing in class and we took part in an introductory exercise. That was all expected but on the other hand, there were a number of Fourmites who, like me, were back for another round. On some level I’d thought it would be nice to see some familiar faces but I had no  idea I would be as happy as I was to see my “old” classmates (it’s not like it has been that long since we’ve been classmates) and our faculty advisors Jen Sullivan Brych and John Isles.

There were also new people and it was nice meeting them. There are issues however — in such tight budgetary times, there’s little leeway for classes without sufficient enrollment and unfortunately that may be English 14. So if you’re a City College student and have any interest in publishing, in assembling a literary magazine or if you’re a former Forum staffer ready to come back into the fold, we could really use you. Class meets Mondays at 5:30 in ARTX 265.

And as the ‘Week One’ at the top of the page might indicate, this is the first in what I hope will be a regular feature here on Boeotia —  a weekly chronicle of the goings on in class, a look behind the scenes…that is assuming there’s a class to write about. Sorry, I’m ending on a bit of a downer.

Aubrey, Maturin and HMS Surprise

HMS Surprise is the third in Patrick O’Brian’s popular and well regarded series of Aubrey/Maturin novels. The series is centered around the lives of  Royal Navy captain Jack Aubrey and his close friend naval surgeon and intelligence operative Dr. Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic War era. HMS Surprise was the first book in the series I had read and I found the opening a little jarring. It wasn’t that it wasn’t well written it was more a matter of its style. O’Brian was well known for his attention to period detail and period language. This attention to language extends to the the way in which the books are written and in fact, the narrator’s voice is strongly reminiscent of that time; there is something decidedly old-fashioned about O’Brian’s prose. Also jarring was the rather domestic bent of the early chapters. The novel opens with a somewhat technical meeting of elements of the British Admiralty and goes on to relate Aubrey’s efforts to get out of debt and marry his sweetheart as well as Maturin’s thoughts about the woman he is in love with.

As I said, that early part of the book was well written but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, far less action-oriented. Nonetheless I continued. The tone changes somewhat when Aubrey takes command of a sailing frigate — the eponymous HMS Surprise. At this point the narrative becomes immersed in the compressed world of a ship at sea. Aubrey has orders to transport a British envoy to Asia and the voyage that results that is at the heart of the book. It is a long and sometimes difficult trip, one that O’Brian uses to touch on any number of aspects of early 19th Century life — O’Brian’s extreme erudition concerning his subject matter  is clear and his portrayal of that time is completely convincing. HMS Surprise isn’t just a naval or adventure novel but something far more expansive…it is a book that takes in a whole world, a stunning array of places and topics — from rigging and naval gunnery to sloths to life in the streets of Bombay to overland trade between Europe and Asia.

The reader of course sees much of this through the eyes of Aubrey and Maturin and the characters are very well drawn. Characterization runs through the narrative, in subtle and more obvious ways. By the latter part of the book, I felt as if I knew them as I had begun to know the world they lived in. Something which is reflected in the novel when Aubrey talks to the hands just before they engage the French. He addresses them like old friends and by this time, they are, having been together for thousands of miles. In a similar way, I felt as if I’d come to know those characters having experienced that same journey through the page.

Above all, the book was beautifully written. The language is often poetic and beyond the fine details, it is O’Brian’s sublime prose that brings the world of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin alive. From a simple description of a street at night:

“nothing but a row of doorways stretching on for ever under the moon, quite unearthly, strange, inhuman, deserted, and inimical.”

To how routine on Surprise:

“obliterated both the beginning of the voyage and its end, it obliterated even time, so that it seemed normal to all hands that they should travel endlessly over this infinite and wholly empty sea, watching the sun diminish and the moon increase.”

Some critics have likened O’Brian to a Homer of the sea and while such a statement may seem outlandish, O’Brian’s descriptions of the battle between Surprise and French ship-of-the-line Marengo would be at right at  home in the Iliad. One scene describes in perfect clarity the moment before Marengo fires on Surprise, contrasting that last instant of normalcy with what happens after:

“The crash of the broadside, and of the bow-gun, and of the twenty shot hitting her, come in one breath — an extreme violence of noise. He saw the wheel disintegrate…and forward there was screaming.”

There is great energy to O’Brian’s prose and it conveys action especially well, putting across the hurry, the confusion, of the battle:

“The third broadside merged into the fourth: the firing was continuous now, and Stourton and the midshipmen ran up and down the line, pointing, heaving, translating their captain’s hoarse barks into directed fire — a tempest of chain.”

And when Surprise shows her teeth against the Marengo it’s hard not to get caught up in the elation of the men:

“…but at this range not a shot flew wide. The powder-boys ran, the cartridges came up in a racing stream, the gun-crews cheered like maniacs, stripped to the waist, pouring with sweat, taking their sweet revenge…”

Ultimately I found HMS Surprise an excellent introduction to the Aubrey/Maturin series. There ware references to the two previous novels but they were adequately explained and don’t get in the way of narrative. Then novel is a rich mix of historical color, nautical detail, and clear, interesting characterization. By the time I reached the final page, the unease I felt at the beginning of the book was long forgotten — a fantastic read.

by Ayo Khensu-Ra

A Poetry For The People Open Mic

by Ayo Khensu-Ra | 

Timeliness is important and frankly Boeotia hasn’t been quite as timely this past semester as might be desirable. There are plenty of literary events around City College and San Francisco each semester and though some time has passed, this post and the next chronicle a couple of those events in an effort to stay connected with what’s going on around CCSF and the larger literary community.

On Friday, Sept. 23rd the Poetry for the People Club held an open mic at the Reading Garden between Cloud Hall and the Science Building. Around noon I made my way from wherever I was, around Cloud Hall to the stairs that lead up the north side of the hill on which the two buildings. It was warm and sunny but I was anxious. Just why that was is hard to explain…for whatever reason I get that way before events, before seeing people, even people I know. The strangest part was I had felt much the same thing in almost the same place two years ago.

Not to repeat myself — I wrote about some of this in my first post of Fall 2011 — but I had creative writing poetry in Cloud Hall in 2009 and I’ve accumulated a lot of memories on campus since then — hanging out before and after class, attending a reading at the poetry garden, the my fellow students and I sitting on the grass, reading on the last day. Class was around that time and as I walked up, I was very much reminded of times before class and what was almost the same feeling of anxiety. Class itself — our discussions, the reading and writing of poetry — was almost always great but the minutes before were often more nerve-wracking.

Folding chairs were arrayed between the flagpole and the trees. There was indeed a microphone along with a pair of speakers, the chairs were filled. I sat across the plaza on one of the cement benches in front of the Science Building, my mind still humming with those memories. The event was just getting started and I listened, trying to juggle the present and the past. Antonio Mims and Fourm’s Kaylo X. emceed. Poetry for the People has a long history at City College and so it shouldn’t be surprising that several Forum staffers have also taken Poetry for the People including Katie Dalla the Poetry for the People Club president (who contributed to this post) and myself so you may hear a thing or two about Poetry for the People on this blog.

I sat jotting down notes, the voices reverberating through the speakers. Very gradually I was drawn out of my past, my anxiety into the stories, the thoughts, the words of those who were reading. The readers covered all sorts of subjects — social and political issues, the personal, love, death. The titles of some of the poems may give some sense of that range — Tatiana Lyulkin read a poem called “Black Pride,” Zhayra Palma read one called “Subways,” Kaylo read “Last Night Troy Davis Was Murdered” and “Move,” Gabrielle Wilson-Sealy read “Cop Watch” and “Open,” Miguel Navarro read “Don’t Go” and Katie read “Recipe for Disaster” and “We Met in a Dance.”

There were many others. The participants were lively, engaging and without pretension. As the name Poetry for the People might suggest, they were just ordinary people sharing thoughts and feelings, their own poems or poems that meant something to them. There was no distinction between audience and reading. Some were confident in front of the mic, some less so but it was clear they all had something to say and the poems they read reflected that. They were not dry or academic but reflective of inner states, of very human things and because of that often had the transcendent qualities of the best poetry. By the end of the open mic, I’d forgotten my anxiety in the experience of listening, in the conversation between reader and listener.


        
Photos courtesy of the Poetry for the People Club

It Takes One to Solitaire

By Ellie MacBride | 

It’s a Tuesday.  I only know this because my cat knocked over a glass of water on my nightstand, waking me from a dream in which I ate six bacon cheeseburgers before walking a red carpet at some Jewish Film Festival.  I’m not Jewish.  I disregard the diverging rivers of stale tap to look at my phone.  It’s noon on a Tuesday.  I could have gotten a few more hours in if it weren’t for that damn cat.  I call her some name as if she understands me or even knows how to take offense, and she jumps on the bed to spoon.  I scoop her up like an infant and throw her across the room Shaken Baby-style, and she slides across the floor on her overgrown nails before darting into the closet.

I spend about twelve minutes looking at the ceiling and wondering when my motivation will come to shift my legs to the left and let them fall onto the hardwood floor.  I think about what I might do once my feet make contact. Go to the kitchen and fix a bowl of cereal perhaps?  How full is my bladder?  Should I go to the bathroom and then get cereal?  Or maybe condense my tasks and pee in the shower?  I’m suddenly overwhelmed with options and resort to staring at the ceiling some more.

It’s 12:45 and my bladder has decided my first plan of action.  I slide out of bed much like the spilled water’s journey from the nightstand to the floor and pick myself up to piss.  The cat follows me in and we pee in unison, which slightly grosses me out but I’m too lazy to really care.  I sing “Happy Birthday” while washing my hands; it’s not my birthday but somewhere I learned that the duration of the song is how long you’re supposed to wash your hands.  I don’t do this often; sometimes I hum “The Macarena” instead.

I spend another five minutes looking at myself in the mirror.  Do I look older than yesterday?  Am I aging faster just thinking about it?  I’m twenty-two years old but if I pretend I’m looking at another person rather than a mirror, I see my forty-six year old mother.  People say we look similar.  I think my mother is beautiful but I still tell those people to shove it.

“Laura, you can’t eat pickles for breakfast every day,” I hear her say somewhere in the crevices of my memory.

Suddenly, I crave pickles.  I sneak into the kitchen as if I don’t live alone, and mark another task done: pickles for breakfast.  I suck the juice out of a big fat one and sit on the windowsill.  Bikes wind by, picketers protest mattresses, and the same homeless man urinates in the alley below for the third day straight.

My phone rings some tone similar to that of a techno Christmas Carol and I regret answering immediately.

“Hi, is this Laura?” the mysterious voice interrogates.

“No, sorry, this is Ellie,” I try to save myself from affirmation of myself.

You see, if someone’s to ask me if I’m Laura, I’m not.  This is actually one of the reasons I started to go by “Ellie” three years ago.  People from my past might accidentally call me “Laura,” but if someone from my present does, it probably means I owe them money.   I think everyone should be whom they want to be and not whom their parents thought they might have looked like covered in placenta, three minutes after meeting them.

“Is Laura there?” the voice persists.

“No, she left awhile ago,” I existentially declare, before pressing the “End call” button as hard as I can—the cell phone equivalent of hanging up a receiver is not as powerful.  Stupid technology; it’s made it harder to express anger tele-communicatively.  Where’s that cat? I wonder.

It’s 3:30, and somehow I’ve wasted two hours on Facebook, looking at profile pictures of friends and relatives twice removed.  I’ve deleted these people twice, yet I still end up practicing the art of contemporary stalking.

“My, how the time goes,” I sigh, as seven o’clock sneaks up on me as if trying to cure my nonexistent hiccups.  I reacquaint myself with the ceiling and project the movie of my life onto it.

What a boring piece of crap!  The titles are in Helvetica and I’m in Hell.  I fast-forward to the credits and confirm that it was in fact Robert De Niro playing my father, and yes, I think he did a better job.

Something about Robert De Niro’s mole reminds me that I have somewhere to be and so I go to my closet and dig out my fishnets.  Every now and then, I dress up like a hooker and sell cigarettes and lollypops out of a tray to drunken club goers.  I almost get off on the fact that people think it’s a despicable job, and find amusement in the eclectic array of irrelevant business cards and catcalls I receive.  I just purr and tell them to tip me because it’s my birthday.

Unfortunately, people only like birthdays when they’re their own.

I get home around 3am, slightly tipsy, thanks to the bartender who I sold a $4 pack of Skittles to.  I take off most of my clothes and stumble into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water, not because I want to, but because my last piss could have lit a Vegas street sign.  I raise my blinds and hopefully a neighbor or two as well, due to my shrinking ensemble.

I attack my bed like a flying squirrel…or some similar animal as determined and unable to fly and fall into a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors I couldn’t name.  Before I’m asleep, I awake.

It’s a Tuesday.  I only know this because my cat knocked over a glass of water from my nightstand, waking me from a dream in which I dressed up as a sexy bellhop and sold random novelty items from a tray.

Ellie MacBride is Forum’s general editor.

Brainwash and Buses

Most of the Forum crew rolled up to Brainwash around the same time Sunday (November 20th) night. It was dark and cool out and Brainwash looked warm and welcoming…though it didn’t necessarily like a place a reading was about to take place. The cafe was full of patrons and some of them were clustered around (or on) the small stage where the reading would be and the mic wasn’t set up. Ellie went to see to the microphone, our fiction editor Michael cleared people from the stage area. Kat brought sweets.

Ellie served as emcee once again and Forum contributor Monty Heying led off, reading from a short story. He was followed in no particular order (because I don’t quite remember the order) by John Isles, one of our faculty advisers who read some of his poetry, Real Lapalme, another contributor read two of his poems from the last issue. Assistant fiction editor Chanelle was reluctant to read but was eventually persuaded to share an excerpt from a piece of short fiction. I read a poem by a friend then a few of my own, poetry editor Alison read a couple of poems and a nonfiction piece (also transit themed).

I had mentioned the event to my dad Ra-Ta and he decided to attend and decided to share a rather rousing rendition of a two of his own raps (he didn’t even need the mic). Michael read a couple of poems, Ellie introduced herself and read a piece about riding the 22 then another guy with observations about seating on the bus (yes, another bus-themed item).

Ellie was outside being interviewed by the Guardsman so I somehow ended up behind the mic to bring the festivities to an end. Thus the night came to a close. It was a small reading but it was lively and spirited and a lot of fun. A big thanks of course to Brainwash and to everyone who came out or just stuck around and listened.

by Ayo Khensu-Ra

Results! (The Sinister Symposium)

By Ellie MacBride | 

For those of you who missed it, last night (October 23rd) was a great turn-out! Jazz guys ran late, Joseph Lease was falling asleep on a big purple chair, and I was freaking out…but that was just the beginning! By the time the reading started, it flowed like a soda fountain and ran smooth as a Mission low-rider. Kwame was the first featured reader, followed by Seth Harwood (who brought in an incredible CD collection (Seal, Old Dirty Bastard, all the classics…) and stack of notebooks to give away.) The night continued with a beat-influenced young poet named Paul Roccanova and ended with poet Joseph Lease, who had requested to go last and even got an encore!

Our open mic started with Loren Bell, a teacher at CCSF, who read three incredible poems (one of his own) while being accompanied by Steve and Craig on guitar and bass. The night continued with a few wonderful poems by Ayo, short story by Kyanne, even shorter story by me, a few vignettes by Dillon Petrillo, and a special guest appearance by Terry Richardson, who actually just ended up being my friend Alex Greenburg, the only one who wore a costume. There were complimentary chips (provided by Kwame) and refreshments available by donation all night.

The space was intimate, vibrantly decorated, kinda kitschy, and perfect for our reading and we were so lucky to be offered it at no charge. We auctioned off a couple Forums, and ended up making ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS on the dot, which is great considering we pretty much spent NO money!

Ellie MacBride is Forum’s general editor.