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
Poetry, Poesie, Poesia
By James H. Miller
I have an undying respect for poetry translators. I’ve never had the patience or discipline to truly learn a foreign language myself. I tried Spanish so that I might read Cesar Vallejo in the original, attempted German because I thought Goethe was really rad, and then French for similar reasons—Rimbaud, you bad-ass!
I usually managed to earn a passing grade or better in these courses, but my actual knowledge of any foreign language amounts to funny vulgarities and swear words. So, if you’re like me (my sympathies if you are), those who translate poetry into English are crucial; whether it’s unearthing a master from Argentina, or showing us what, as O’Hara wrote, “the poets in Ghana are doing these days.” In recent years, we’ve been blessed with loads of groundbreaking translations from people like Edward Snow, Clare Cavanagh, and many other erudite guys and gals. I’d like to mention two translators that I’m personally grateful for: Michael Hofman and Jonathan Galassi.
First, Michael Hofman.
Michael Hofman was born in West Germany in 1957. Among other things (poet, free-lance writer), he’s an excellent translator and winner of countless awards. He most recently edited an anthology sensibly called Twentieth-Century German Poetry, which includes fine translations of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, Bertolt Brecht, and Paul Celan, along with many obscure others who’ve never, to my knowledge, been rendered into English so handsomely before. Continue reading Found in translation
Forks and Knives
by Kevin Sullivan
even over graveyards and cigarettes
past my field of vision,
out of my life
these thoughts, counterfeit nostalgia
which I’ve just entered
offer opportunities I’ve never had
(I never will, I can project
legions of fantasies between four walls)
life is a mixture of standstills,
resistance, and falling
the elements will swallow you happily
without fidgeting forks and knives
this ain’t no mecca
by Ayo Khensu-Ra
the line spreading out in the dark
drawing itself under the car past
denny’s and white castle, gas stations
huddling together under rough
bristles of an old gray blanket
Toyota van our walls
the prairie and marching rock
rising beyond the windows
slipping away toward the wide
with light like blood
of our palms
music booms out into the night
the van stands in another parking lot
and you talk about the pad of paper
you left at home, the gray-black
murmurings of your hands
the whisperings of your hands, of
ink and charcoal, of pad and pencil
day stumbles on to day, you say
how lovely the sunset is out past the bridge
past Land’s End, when the misty wall breaks
and the bounds of the world are again boundless.
I pick up a package of our things
papers calling like white sails from the sea
calling like the windy heights of home
and I know we’ll drive, ramps and
buildings sprawling out below, planes
drawing invisible lines in the sky
listen to echoes of announcements
wait in black chairs
listen for embraces
back to my van, back to Gilman
or farther and farther south
or to islands in the ocean
by Evan Jones
White mice, white
90 degree coat edges
below knees-I have
a history of
not trying to have
if you know what I mean.
never could get too
comfortable as they always seemed a little
too comfortable with
me, my flesh me,
and its theoretical, but still
What will I do
if and when
they should begin
in the next room
and every other
from now on?
you’ve already seen the stars in the southern sky
and still you burn
with the intensity of an ancient inferno
from the land of first life.
I want to fear lions, stalking through the darkness
at the edge of the firelight,
to sit with you, watching
the flames melt the moon,
under your stars
which sparkle with a luster
by any diamond ever mined.
by Cara Baker
by Brendan Winnans
I have inexhaustible cravings
For adventure for wanton vices that I have canoodled with in the dark.
And sometimes I find myself alone and bored
I wonder if I should open a fortune cookie, base my whole life around it,
and if it will then excite me, forcing me to destiny.
And I sometimes
wonder if ripened plums wonder why they share such alikeness
And I wonder if the juices of the self same plums can make up for nights
of gambling given up, fag ends gone unsmoked,
Because alongside the plums I too have wondered.
And I have wondered,
Because after longnights counting strokes with vices
Like unbridled lovers I have woken to morning
And in the morning
I have seen burning parrots
And I have seen where burning parrots go to lay their eggs.
I have climbed the branches of sleepy trees.
And sometimes I wonder where the wild birds go to fix their broken wings,
And whether birds in plum sauce taste different when they had no place to go.
I have had my tarot read and come up with
I have sold a bit of cocaine or rather split the bag.
I have dug into the mud expecting to get dirt under my fingernails,
And I bite them sometimes just to taste.
I listen to the radio when I am sad and walk around the changing world I keep in my head,
I wonder if I can be happy without a queen, without foghorns and fog.
I wonder if in a year I will reach across a table for some ketchup and put it on
Some chitinous bugs or some strange new concoction of taste I have never dared to yet try.
And I dare to ponder on this thing called hope, call myself a man
And let it grow.
by Karim Quesada
Yucatan, obscured by clouds,
Depicts a people’s roam.
Temples to the sky erupt,
Then jungle swallows stone.
Kings and priests of jaguar skin
Crave monumental grounds
Built by backs of glistening bones
While quetzal birdsong sounds
But all the strength and all the jade
Won’t save them from the cold
Of unseen foes, which white sails bade
That thirsts for host, not gold.
Empires crushed by fever while
Survivors left to roam;
Temples static, grand no longer:
Strangers swallow stone.