Another Forum Reading

Benjamin Bac Sierra author of the novel Barrio Bushido and poet Athena Kashyap whose work has appeared in Noe Valley Voice, Spork, The Fourth River and many others will be reading this coming Monday, May 7  in Visual Arts 114.  There will also be standard reading fare — an open mic as well as food and drink and a raffle.  Hope to see you there.


Several Questions With Survival Guide’s Emily Whitehurst

by Ayo Khensu-Ra | 

And now somewhat of a departure for Forum and Boeotia. We have had live music at Forum events in the past but of course music isn’t our main focus. Still, music is a vital part of the arts and thus we present an interview with local musician Emily Whitehurst. Whitehurst was the lead singer of punk act Tsunami Bomb for many years. More recently she has been the lead vocalist of the band The Action Design and even more recently, she and Action Design guitarist Jaycen Mckissick started the two-piece known as Survival Guide. I interviewed her via email.

Ayo Khensu-Ra: I’m intrigued by the band bio on It says in part that you started Survival Guide “with a plan to have no real plan” how does that tie into the whole ethos of the band?

Emily Whitehurst: Our “plan to have no real plan” refers to the music style. We feel like, in past bands and musical projects, we’ve had to stay within the confines of the genre. In Survival Guide, we want to be able to write music that we like, whether our songs have opposing musical styles or not.

AK: How different has it been being a two-piece compared to your previous projects, has that changed the process of writing songs?

EW: It’s extremely different! In other projects, we both tended to be less involved  in writing the bodies of songs. I usually would write vocals last, and Jaycen would sprinkle fancy guitars over whatever was already written. In this project, we are both involved from beginning to end, which makes each song so much more meaningful to both of us.

AK: Your songs are very dense sonically, is that something you and Jaycen consciously set out to do? How big a part does recording play in writing songs?

EW: We definitely do not set out to make sonically dense songs. We follow that ethos you asked about in the first question! However, for some songs, we do like to make them as full as they can be for a 2-piece band. Recording and writing are practically one and the same for us. We record everything as we go along, and for us it’s a great way to be able to listen back on what we’re doing to decide whether we like it or not.

AK: How easy or difficult has it been to translate songs to the stage?

EW: It’s been pretty easy, actually! When we’re writing, we keep the live show in the back of our minds. We don’t want to add too many layers of instruments that we won’t be able to play all at once live.

AK: You’ve already put out a 7 inch and have another coming out soon, why have you chosen that route as opposed to an EP or a full-length?

EW: Firstly, we both love vinyl! We’re so glad to already have 2 vinyl releases in the works — for us, the vinyl/download combo is ideal. We teamed up with Side With Us Records, and we had a few songs ready for Hot Lather Machine, so we decided to put songs out into the world as soon as we could instead of keeping them for a larger collection. We loved the way the first 7″ worked out, so we decided to do it again for Wildcat. Currently, we’re hoping to get enough material together for a full-length next… but we do love releasing new songs… so we’ll see!

AK: The download for Hot Lather Machine included a bonus track, and a digital booklet which included a couple of recipes. I thought that was a nice touch, how did that idea come about?

EW: We thought it would be nice to include lots of extra bonus stuff with the vinyl. We know not everyone uses a turntable, so we figured if we were going to force people to buy a medium they don’t use, we should at least compensate them for it in some way. You only get the bonus materials (song included) if you order a vinyl, so that makes the purchase extra special. The idea for the recipes in particular came about because our favorite thing besides music is food and cooking/baking! We decided to share recipes and thought some people might enjoy trying them out.

AK: Forum is a literary magazine so what do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors, poets?

EW: I love reading different types of fiction — I usually try and switch it up between classic and contemporary. My favorite books are Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series, and I also love Kurt Vonnegut, Amy Tan, Mark Twain, Isabel Allende… any authors who write about adventure, foreign lands, and impossible situations. (I’m generally not into murder mysteries, war stories, or “chick-lit” type books, but I like pretty much everything else!)

AK: What is it in particular about His Dark Materials that draws you to that series?

EW: I love how the subject matter is so grandiose. People tend to categorize it as a Young Adult series, and it IS entertaining, but I love the way Pullman writes about such taboo subjects — science vs. religion, physical existence of the soul, what happens after death — all through the eyes and journey of a young girl. To me, he’s very brave. I think it will always be my favorite.

AK: How do you write lyrics? As there any particular method you use? Do you write with an eye to verses and choruses or is that something you work out later?

EW: My method starts with free writing. I take a feeling and write as much about it as I can in one giant paragraph. Then I go back through it and pick out what sounds either the most poetic or the most important to my theme. From there, I start building verses and choruses.

AK: When it comes to writing lyrics, do you think you are influenced particularly by other songwriters? Are you influenced by other types of writing?

EW: Usually, each song is influenced (at least a little) by whatever I’m listening to at the time. I can’t say I have a particular lyricist that I always look to for guidance. My writing style isn’t usually influenced by other types of writing, but sometimes my content is! I’ve written a few songs that draw imagery or subject matter from books I’m reading.

AK: Do you do any other kind of creative writing?

EW: No, not at the moment, but my husband and I are going to attempt to write a short screenplay soon. Wish me luck!

AK: Good luck! can you tell us anything about it?

EW: It’s a post-apocalyptic monologue. Pretty depressing!

AK: Anything else you’d like to share?

EW: If anyone is interested in following us online, just search “srvvlgd”.  We figured there are a lot of different survival guides in the world, but so far there’s only one srvvlgd.  And please come see us at a show!  Thank you!

Xochiquetzal Candelaria Reads at Rosenberg Library

On the Tuesday following the aforementioned open mic, Xochiquetzal Candelaria, CCSF English professor and poet did a reading in Rosenberg Library as part of Latino Heritage Month. Ms. Candelaria read clearly and vigouously, filling the room without being overpowering. She read pieces from her book Empire as well as some newer poems. Her poems contained a lot of intricacies, blends of things, images, ideas, invocations of the past. In the Q&A that followed the her reading, she discussed various things like imagery as a “gift to the audience,” how her book received its title and how she came to be a poet. There was a Poetry for the People connection there as Ms. Candelaria took part in the late June Jordan’s version of Poetry for the People at Cal. While I’m probably not doing the event justice, it really was a very interesting, absorbing event.

A tribute to “The Hitch”

by Michael Thomson | 

Christopher Hitchens (Apr 13, 1949-Dec 15, 2011)

In a short story I submitted to Forum, I jokingly paid tribute a writer and personal hero of mine, Christopher Hitchens, knowing that the dreadful day would eventually come when he would truly fall silent. Like a sick joke, cancer claimed his voice before it claimed his life. But in true heroic fashion, “Hitch” continued to work, critiquing and writing to the very end. All one has to do is pick up one of his books, or one of his countless essays or articles he has left behind and there it is, his sharp wit, infused into his command of language, framed in beautiful writing. Now that almost a week has passed, the sting yet to fade, what is there to say? Well for sure, regardless of what you thought of the man, one could say without fear of being branded a liar, that all of humanity has lost a voice of wisdom, beauty and reason. It took a day for the news to sink in, and when it did, I unexpectedly found myself choking back sobs for the loss of this man, a stranger to me, but someone I felt I somehow knew through his seismic works. It was something I had not done since the sobfest I had after my father passed. You are gone Hitch, and the world definitely feels a bit empty because of it. However, you live on in many minds, in the unapologetic way you championed truth and logic. Well done sir.

Michael Thomson is Forum’s Fiction Editor.

A Different Kind of Submission

The other day at the end of a class I started to talk to one of my classmates about Forum, specifically the concept of getting CCSF students from outside of Forum to share their literary experiences with Boeotia, to give voice as I discussed a bit in a post last week. The thing was I never actually got to my whole Forum/Boeotia pitch because said classmate seemed to be in a bit of a hurry and was out the door before I had barely mentioned Forum at all.

The whole incident is illustrative of something though — we often do have to go out and ask people to send us work. A lot of people don’t know about Forum and so every semester those of us on staff are dispatched to visit classrooms, post flyers, talk to literary or artistically-minded friends and do anything else we can to drum up submissions. And it works.  Honestly we get some fantastic stuff, but I’m convinced there’s still more out there.

Which leads me back to this idea of getting the perspectives of those of you who aren’t on the staff. It’s still a new idea that I’ve only begun to explore (though we did have a post from a non-staffer last spring), and there may be a lot of solicitation to come before it bears fruit but if you’re reading this and you’ve got thoughts to share on the literary world we’d like to hear from you. To be more precise, we would like your reviews, critiques, events you’ve been to or perhaps something more personal — what some piece of literature may have meant to you, the experience of hearing a favorite author read, unexpectedly meeting an author in Safeway or on Muni, that kind of thing. If interested, you can send prospective blog pieces to  Of course we can’t guarantee what is submitted will be posted. Blog submissions should  be somewhere in the 500-1000 word range. Regular submissions for the magazine itself can still go to

In the meantime, we’ll continue to offer our own explorations of all things literary.

by Ayo Khensu-Ra 

Rosenberg 304

by Ayo Khensu-Ra | 

I cringe at the sight of myself, especially on video, so it was quite by accident that I recently
came across a video of a Forum reading in Rosenberg Library’s room 304 I attended some time
last year. The spring semester in 2010 was my first stint with Forum and this is probably my
last. Seeing that video made me think about time, about the things that have changed and the
things that haven’t. In the room, among others, was one of my teachers, Alexandra Teague, one
of my future teachers, and fellow Forum staffer Katie Dalla who I’ve worked a lot with during
my time at Forum. There was also what was to me the notable absence of one of my classmates.

At the time I was in the midst of an unexpected interest new in poetry. To be honest, I didn’t have
much use for poetry for a long time but gradually, over what was probably a few years, my
interest grew and in the fall of 2009 I signed up for CCSF’s poetry creative writing class, English
35C/D taught by Ms. Teague. While I thought the class might be interesting, I didn’t expect to
love reading or writing poetry as much as I came to on those Tuesdays and Thursdays that fall
and spring — fall and spring because I and seven others took the class back-to-back semesters
over 2009 and 2010. I can only speak for myself but I think our teacher’s clear passion and
enthusiasm for the subject played a big part in the return of the eight of us — while the class
definitely was a class, it was also a lot of fun. In addition it was, for me, an introduction to a new
way to write which was very exciting.

Around the same time I was also drawn into the orbit of Forum. If English 35C/D was
fascinating and exciting, English 14 — the class that produces Forum — was perhaps not as
fun, was perhaps more of a grind, being a three-hour night class but was and is interesting
and rewarding. Naturally I was part of the group within the staff that reviewed the poetry
submissions we received. In addition, I was the blog editor, a role I must say I groped through
a bit. While there’s a lot one can do with a blog, I wasn’t sure just what to do. Most of the posts
were fairly official, information posts, some poetry from staff members, reviews and the like.
After a fall without English 14, Forum returned in the spring and so did I. There was a new blog
team — Joseph Ramelo and Jessica Mejia. Under their watch, there were a lot of changes to
the blog, redesigns and a new name; what had been merely the Forum blog became Boeotia.
Joseph — or Joe as we came to know him — and Jessica were also members of what proved to
be a thoroughly engaging poetry group along with Katie, last semester’s poetry editor, Jenna
Mendola and Sarah Woods. It was a joy to work with them.

I was recently in Rosenberg 304 again. Xochiquetzal Candelaria, who is teaching English 35C/
D this semester, read that day. I wondered what it would be like to take a poetry class again, how
much it would be like the last one. Ms. Teague is no longer at City College; some of those I took
her class with have also moved on. My missing classmate is now thousands of miles away. I’m
the only one from last semester’s poetry group still at Forum. There are of course still a lot of
great people at the magazine both new and returning, but things have inevitably changed as they
always do semester to semester, month to month, year to year.

I’ve been thinking about time as I said. I would have liked to done more with Boeotia by this
point in the semester — there’s not that much time left — but hopefully that will change as of
now. I see Boeotia as a voice for the staff of Forum among other things, so hopefully you’ll be
hearing from the rest of the staff a bit and not just me. In addition, you should be hearing a bit more from this blog in general — things you’ve seen before — reviews, the lowdown on Forum

related events etc. but also the literary stories of those of us at Forum and perhaps those of you
outside of Forum because, as the name implies, Forum isn’t some august institution that gives
a platform to only the anointed few — it’s a place for the CCSF community to be heard. Soon
Boeotia will be under the stewardship of someone else, but there is much to be blogged before
then so stay tuned.