Week Four / Reading One

by Michael Thomson

Last monday we had our first reading for the Spring 2012 issue of Forum. If you missed it, you missed a lot. If you were there, then you know how good it was. We started the evening by enjoying the wonderful guitar stylings of CCSF instructor Steve Mayer.

In addition to the many faces, new and familiar that showed up to read and listen to poetry, and fiction, we had in attendance Dean Ms. Bob Davis. You also may have recognized from our English department, professor Ellen Wall, and Louise Nayer, former Forum advisor and the author of Burned: A Memoir.

Between the readings we raffled off a couple gift certificates to Books Inc. as well as to a local movie theatre. Also in the raffle mix were books and a Fall 2011 copy of Forum. If you stuck around you would have enjoyed SF’s local beat poet Diamond Dave showing us how it’s done with a mic. A grand time was had by all! We at Forum would like to thank all who attended and helped us raise some funds for our next issue of Forum. Last but certainly not least we’d like to thank John and Jen, our advisors for their continuing support. Stay tuned here for our next reading.

Michael Thomson is Forum‘s General Editor
Mario, one of our fiction readers did some live sketches of the event — you may have seen them on Twitter  but if not, here they are.

“how to say RIP | for Deoni Jones” by Kaylo Grit

how to say RIP | for Deoni Jones (murdered at 22 years old in DC on February 2, 2012)

by Kaylo Griot     Saturday, February 4, 2012

Living in pieces
Of partial journalism
Buried wall posts
Google skimming

Living in pieces
Of memory
In minds
That could never
Forget what should
Never have to be
Remembered

I never knew you, Deoni,
But if I grew up a few miles away
We may have been friends
Maybe we met once on the red line
Waiting for the same train
Headed in the same direction

There’s nothing peaceful
In your death
Your final rest
Shouldn’t be anyway

You were still living
Living it up
Doing it up
And fabulous

There’s an eleven second
youtube video:
Man making his way
Across the intersection.
The DCPD say
It’s the guy
Who stabbed you

Is that true?
Was he the culprit,

The guy who weld the blade?

I think it’s bullshit
What they say.
I think it was the USA network
And all the other media outlets
Putting you down, leaving you out
And LGBT putting you last

I’m queer and questioning
Whether you knew
Before it happened
As legends always do
As legends always go

Did you see him coming?
Rushing you like newest wave
Of neo-nazi conservatism

Did you see your 22 years
Flashing before your eyes?
First the ones you never lived
Because of fear of worse than
Could imagine, the years
You thought of ending it
So many times.
Then the ones you lived
Despite fear of what’s imagined
The brutal hate to march through
Thick, condensed like an
Impossible heat.
Then the years to outlive you
The years you’ll never see.

I can only imagine
What you saw that night
The imagination produces
Glimpses of what your mind
Can comprehend
Or has seen before

We’ve seen it before
And I’m surprised I even heard
What happened

People who care say “So sad,” “RIP-rest in peace”

I say fuck that!
This isn’t sad
This attack doesn’t sadden me
This ripping away of life
Enrages me
Another flame added
To the burning wick
Burning down
To the ignition
Of a stick
Of dynamite

When will we explode?

“Contemplation” by Kaylo X.

Contemplation

by Kaylo X.

Nic Alea, published in the Fall issue of Forum, wanted to readdress an issue briefly
mentioned in our interview. Nic casually responded “Hopefully not for committing
suicide” to my question “What do you want to be known for?” I appreciated the candid
answer and felt it should be brought to the public forum as it is all too often ignored and
silenced. We met prior to the release party to discuss the matter. Before the conversation
Nic read me the poem “Queer Kids,” which is available to listen to and read here on
Boeotia. My reflection of our conversation follows:

Kaylo X.: Do you have friends/people who have committed suicide?

Nic Alea: Yes. Both contemplated and succeeded. More who have contemplated which is intense in of itself.

I’d rather do many things right now besides talk about suicide, which is why I am just
typing this (weeks after meeting with Nic for the discussion). But, who really does want
to talk about it? Isn’t that the status quo of our society anyway? Don’t talk about it. My
family didn’t when my sister attempted. It isn’t a time or memory I want to think about
and so I don’t. And we heal and move on. Or do we? I shared with Nic my story of my
family surviving my sister’s survival. I find things too dreadful to speak are the ones
most imperative to be spoken for everyone’s sake. If it has happened to you, chances are
it has happened to someone else.

We didn’t talk about it that night, but Nic knows and has helped me with my own
struggles with suicidal ideation. Both queer individuals, we are familiar with
the “subliminal” message that society teaches us: destroy yourself. Or at least: you
are not worthy of a “normal,” happy life because you are less than. The word queer,
although I and many claim it as an identity, literally means strange or abnormal…kind of
weird. As a kid it was difficult to embrace such an identity for myself because of fear of
being alienated, ostracized, or even excommunicated. I am not alone in the sort of fear
and anxiety “being in the closet” brings as countless people I have spoken to and stories I
have heard speak to the dreadful experience.

Nic’s poem tackles the programmed destruction ever so eloquently. It allows the reader
or audience to vividly imagine an act of suicide in real terms. This kind of writing is
activism. It raises awareness and addresses that our ideology is controlled by the media
which promotes a culture of fear, hostility, and misguided anger—the kind of culture that
harbors lynching. In our top down society one is typically forced to choose a place, a
role, an identity. If the identity threatens, destabilizes, then it risks being destroyed and
what more convenient a way than brainwashed self-destruction.

Nic spoke of children’s malleability and the violence that exists in our language for them
to pick up on. Children, without knowing the meaning of their words, say things to each other that they have heard from some media outlet, from their parents, or other people in
their environment. A radical organization led by Fred Phelps “preaches” a message of
hate and often times with very young children as part of their pickets. The message in
three words tells so much more: “God hates fags!” When one little girl was asked if she
knew what the words meant that she was shouting along to. Her response: “no.”

Our society is indifferent to suicide. We ignore people when they’re going through
depressions. Mental illness isn’t taken seriously. Suicide is often glorified, especially in
the case of celebrities. We see famous people reach epic stardom postmortem over and
over again. Is the work of celebs who committed suicide (accidentally or not) brilliant
because they killed themselves, or would they have found as much success living? It’s a
question Nic asked me at the end of our conversation on the topic. It brings me back to
the question I asked Nic in the beginning: “do you know anyone…? Don’t you? Even if
just Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, Romeo and Juliet, you’ve heard some tragic story
fiction or actual and so it must affect you. Each human life should matter to everyone as
we all exist together in this dimension of reality.

I recently heard news that hit me hard as such events do. A young, 22-year-old woman
was murdered in the nation’s capitol. I wrote a poem out of the anger washing over
me. The poem is called, “How to Say RIP | For Deoni Jones” and can be found here on
Boeotia as well.

Kaylo X. is Forum’s poetry editor.

“Queer Kids” by Nic Alea

Queer Kids

by Nic Alea

i wish i was open apothecary fluid solution
graced across your forehead,
i could have watched you grow
like the backbone to a raven,

a summertime storm brought raging
into square shaped bedroom,

grandfather clocks gone ancient
fox tails wrapped up in your gloves,

i do not know what you did to your hands
but your arms were all cut up

every inch open up
like you needed all the secrets to seep through,

shape shifter you,

you know, child,
it’s easy to rip open,

no intention of getting sewn back together
blind folded coffin and a stack of letters

to be burnt by the writer of your eulogy,
no one should have been at your funeral this young,

this year, this age, too young,
before queer could turn golden,

before faggot could turn reclamation,
before pink triangle was a prison symbol,

before it all,
you were gone before it all,

you were just a baby
with a key hole mouth,

spit on and shoved out,
stampede and a body full of live organs,

i saw a woman with all your names tattooed onto the back
of her legs, buzzer but no ink

just scarification of you and you and you,
and the way they preyed on your bodies

prayed like the forest was howling
your coming out story,

while they grew teeth
to rip at your throat,

often i didn’t know
often i couldn’t have told you that,

you are not safe just because it’s san francisco,
you are not safe even if you wrap your growing limbs

around the base of their violence,
i can’t summon anyone here to save you,

they need to rewrite the textbooks
with clean cursive and a method of action,

you were young with skeleton closet already
dust caught all up in your throat,

you weren’t taught in school
that there are others like you,

we weren’t taught in school
that there are others like us,

i wasn’t taught in school
that there are others like me,

they don’t teach the queer kids
how to be brave in school,

they teach the queer kids
how to hang themselves from
creaking rafters in their parents houses,

they teach the bullies how to sharpen
their weapons, vocal chords and

how to tie noose knots for
the soft part of your neck,

they need to rewrite the textbooks
to include all the invisibility,

they need to teach
that there is no reason to think

we are any different, they need to show us that
being bent isn’t an open invitation to get beat up,

because our hearts are still all full of blood,
doesn’t that account for anything?

i’m going to try to come to you
bearing thread and a pocket of thimbles,

i can’t promise you anything,
not even red roses to make your swollen lips smile

as you pull wilted hawk feathers
like the silence that’s still shoved down your throat.

Nic Alea is a poet, student of life, seeker, femmefag, gender witch, introvert, stone collector, feminist, crafter, always and never. nic co-hosts new poetry mission: the new shit show 2nd and 4th thursdays at viracocha sf.
Audio of “Queer Kids” can be found below.

Week Two

by Ayo Khensu-Ra

Yes, there was a week two. Several people have joined up and apparently we’re now fine on numbers so we get to keep doing this.

This week Jen taught the class and she announced the filling of a few of the key editing positions based on applications we completed last week. Several, like me, are returning for another semester with Forum — Michael Thomson the new general editor; one of the two managing editors Kat Cabral;  fiction editors Chanelle Loftness and Truc Nguyen. In addition, a new guy Howard Halverson is the other managing editor. Forum is also a club and the club officers also bear mentioning — president Tim St. Croix,  treasurer Steve Pineda and club rep Travis Jones.

So, it was down to business. Kyanne Rose, last semester’s managing editor stopped by to show a thing or two to the new managing editors,  submissions began to be distributed to be read by the staff, some looking into visiting classes in order to solicit submissions, some visited classes and put up more flyers. As you can tell, there are already a million things to do and to borrow a phrase from one of our previous general editors, we’re already behind  since we opened the semester with two Monday holidays in a row and hence didn’t have a class until the third week of the semester. At any rate, the crew seems energetic and well-motivated — onward!

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

City College of San Francisco's Literary Magazine