México: Política y Poética

Modern and Contemporary Works on Paper and Animations

By Katie Dalla, Forum Poetry Editor

It’s not often that an art exhibit representing a country goes to the extent of actually showcasing remains of its own citizens.

No, nobody’s limbs were severed and put on a podium, but Teresa Margolles’ vibrant yet grotesque 2003 piece, Papeles, brings you bodily fluids in a surprisingly beautiful arrangement.

The piece takes up a whole wall and displays large rectangular sheets containing streaked patterns of brown and yellow hues that, juxtaposed together, bring to mind the splendor of a moth’s wings. But the beauty is met with an equal amount of repulsion: Margolles used the post- autopsy water from the victims of narcoviolencia—or those individuals that experienced the fatal repercussions of drug trafficking. The water came right from the Mexico City morgue.

Each paper represents an individual portrait of a person and their remaining traces of life. You can’t help but feel a bit tricked — your first feeling is sheer warmth from the luminosity and size of the work, but as you step in closer to read the details, you immediately get a lump in your throat and feel the need to back away slowly, frantically searching for mutual glances of horror from the other onlookers. Margolles’ bold statement effectively demands a reaction to an ongoing issue that has caused so many deaths and so much strife in Mexico. She also gives an odd vibrance to each portrait as she has, in fact, captured their final essence, and in the most direct way possible, Margolles brings a part of Mexico to you.

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“Forks and Knives” by Kevin Sullivan

Forks and Knives

by Kevin Sullivan

feeling romantic
even over graveyards and cigarettes
past my field of vision,
out of my life
these thoughts, counterfeit nostalgia

quiet bedrooms
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

Curious George Saves the Day

by Joseph Ramelo

“Now they were right in the center of town. There was so much to see that George did not know where to look first.” (from Curious George Takes A Job)

This weekend, the starving student and Bank of America customer that I am paid a visit to the Contemporary Jewish Museum for its “Curious George Saves the Day” exhibit, which runs through March 13. Through the Museums On Us program, on certain weekends you can get into certain museums for free, and this past weekend I decided that my free museum visit would be to the CJM.

I was excited the first time, last month, that I saw the streetlight banner ads for this exhibit waving throughout downtown San Francisco. In addition to the fact that the Curious George books were among my favorites (I can distinctly remember first coming across them in the library of my elementary school when I was in the first grade), Margaret and H.A. Rey are key literary figures. In the literary community, children’s books authors don’t always get the kind of recognition that their mainstream peers do, unless they are staples such as Lewis Carroll and Laura Ingalls Wilder. (In fact, the work of both Wilder and the Reys are nearly contemporaneous.) Also complicating matters is when the authors are also the illustrators. Are the authors staples of literature or art? The Reys took as much care with their drawings as they did with their prose. For example, Margaret had once explained the challenge of writing for children: that she had a very limited vocabulary to choose from because the target audience wasn’t yet accustomed to using a wide variety of verbs and adjectives. Personally, I would conclude that the Reys are key literary figures, if not heroes, for mastering this unique narrative structure. Continue reading

Weekend events at the Free University

This weekend, the Free University of San Francisco is offering classes taught by such local luminaries such as Matt Gonzalez, the former San Francisco Supervisor and mayoral candidate, and San Francisco Poet Laureate Diane di Prima. As you can tell by the name, these classes are free, as well as open to the public. Here’s more information from Kwame Opoku-Duku, Forum‘s Managing Editor for the spring 2011 issue:

Alan Kaufman and Diane Di Prima are both literary icons in San Francisco and throughout the U.S. (and probably beyond).  The event is taking place at on Saturday at Viracocha, at 998 Valencia St.

Kaufman starts his lecture on Kerouac, Thelonious Monk and Jackson Pollack at 11:30 am downstairs. His lecture will go until 1:30pm.

Di Prima begins her lecture entitled “Vision and the Visionary Poet” at 2pm upstairs. She is scheduled to speak until 4pm.

These are the literary aspects of the Free University of San Francisco but there is much more going on to satisfy all of your political, musical and artistic desires.

Calling All Writers and Artists…

Submit your work to:

Forum

City College’s Literary Magazine

At: citylitjournal@gmail.com

Forum was established in 1937 and features the work of students, faculty, staff, and Alumni.

Please send us your best stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, and artwork and be a part of the Bay Area’s thriving literary community. Please include a quick bio, state your connection to City College, and label your work by genre. Images must be at least 300 Dpi. Hard copy submissions can be dropped off/sent to J. Brych at Batmale 564. Deadline is :

February 15, 2011.

Copies of past issues are available at the City College Bookstore and in the English Department (5th floor Batmale Hall). Only $6.00 while supplies last!

You may also view the flyer as a pdf by clicking the link below:

submissionflyerforum

Aubrey, Maturin and HMS Surprise

by Forum editor

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.

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Porter Gulch Review

by Ayo Khensu-Ra

Porter Gulch Review is a literary journal out of Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz County. Like Forum and other college-based literary magazines it is assembled by students. It features poetry and fiction, drama, critiques/reviews interspersed with photographs and other forms of visual art.

The magazine is mostly black and white. The design is very clean and modern with the authors’ names placed vertically near the margins of the pages; titles are in gray above standard black print. On some of the pages, writings share space and overlap with pictures Much of the visual art is very striking and compliments the written material very well. Much of the written material itself is also very good, covers a wide range of subjects and experiences as well as a range of styles and techniques.

The poetry and fiction is followed by a series of critiques concerning selected submissions to the magazine as well as book reviews. Both sections are written by students in the class that produces PGR. The quality varies a bit in these two subsections though overall, the reviews and critiques are interesting. Overall Porter Gulch Review is a nicely put together, with a lot of quality fiction, poetry, photographs and artwork and is well worth a read.

Issues back to 1999 are available as PDFs on Cabrillo College’s website.

Raymond Carver: Treading on Sacred Ground

by Evan Jones

I grew up reading the stories of Raymond Carver. I have my mother to thank for the introduction and my own good sense to thank for aiding me in maintaining the relationship. I loved the “real life” subject matter and blue-collar characters of carver’s stories, stories that were set in places where such people would believably live, many times smaller towns and cities in the Pacific Northwest or sometimes ones local to my own native Northern California. Almost everything about Carver’s stories seemed somewhat familiar, like they could be about people you knew. I think that’s one reason why they were so hard to put down. The other was that the only thing you often had to reach for in the stories, or at least think about, was the stories meaning to you, which should probably be important to you when you like a story in the first place.

Carver never tells you specifically what or how to feel about his stories and definitely never seems to try and lead the reader to any one conclusion or any such nonsense like that. The stories simply read like slices of people’s lives, just that the slices are carefully selected for the real events that occur in them, events which catalyze some change or revelation in or from the characters. It’s this style, which would later be dubbed by some as minimalism, which contributes to the common (at least for me) effect of the pause after finishing one of Carver’s stories, a lingering moment where you know that some profound connection has been made between your mind and the story because of the sincerity of the feeling you are experiencing, but you still must wait for the waves of the story to catch up and roll over you for a few moments while you try absorb or grasp just exactly what that revelation may be. I love that feeling. It is what really hooked me on Carver’s writing. You can imagine my alarm upon finding out that that feeling may have been caused just as much by the editing of someone else, as Carver’s own writing.

Two new books out recently, Carol Sklenicka’s “Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life”, and “Carver: Collected Stories”, a comprehensive anthology of Carver’s work from several different collections of stories, including his breakout collection, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”, but also including the unedited version of this book, which was originally titled “Beginners”, shed new light on the results of the influences upon Carver’s writing, channeled both indirectly through Carver himself, and much more overtly through Carver’s editor, Gordon Lish.

By all accounts; in Sklenicka’s book as well as in the obviously apparent differences between the previously published “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”, and the never before published original version, “Beginners” in the new collection, Carver’s editor Gordon Lish, certainly seems to be a heavy handed one. It may have been this way since the beginning. In 1972, Lish changed the title of the second of Carver’s stories to be published by Esquire (which he also profoundly edited the content of) from a more beckoning “Are These Actual Miles?” to much more benign “What Is It?” Carver, eager to be published in a major magazine, accepted the changes. He reassured himself and others by saying that “a major magazine publication was worth the compromise.” This however, may have been the establishment of Lish’s upper-handed power over Carver which would dictate the nature of their relationship for years to come.

Was Gordon Lish a good editor? Well, he was at the very least, a successful one. Lish held the fiction editor position at Esquire magazine for 7 years, and then later a senior editor position at the publishing company Alfred A. Knopf for almost 30. Perhaps his success went to his head a bit and contributed to his tendency for taking liberties with the writing, and writers under his control. After all, Lish is the one who wrote a piece entitled “How I Got To Be a Big Shot Editor” and is said to have bragged that Carver was “his creature”. What appears on the back jacket of “Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?”(1976), Carver’s first published book of stories, is not Raymond Carver’s photograph but Gordon Lish’s name.

Sklenicka’s own account of the changes in Carver’s third collection of stories, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” (1981), is nothing short of heartbreaking. There were, she says, three versions. The first version was the manuscript that Carver submitted. It was titled “So Much Water So Close to Home.” The second was the manuscript that Lish initially sent back. This is where he changed the name of the story “Beginners” to “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” and of course that became the new title of the book. Although this alarmed Carver, he still signed a legally binding contract with this version as the premise in 1980. Soon after however, a third version, and the version most readers now know, arrived on Carver’s desk. Now even the differences between the contracted version and this latest version “astounded” him. “He had urged Lish to take a pencil to the stories,” Sklenicka writes. “He had not expected . . . a meat cleaver.” According to the poet Tess Gallagher, Carver’s most recent wife, Lish refused over the phone to restore the earlier version and the rest is as they say, history.

Only now, history is being re-written. The truths are finally surfacing, helped in no small way by these two very welcome books which are serving as long overdue correctives. One need only glance at the stories in “Beginners” and the ones in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” in the new “Collected Stories” to see the most obvious changes. The prose in “Beginners” consists of more concentrated blocks of narration interspersed with dialogue while in “What We Talk About,” much of both of these are simply…gone. In many cases, the man who is rumored not to have allowed editors to change his own work gutted Carver’s, and on this subject Sklenicka voices her own opinion in “A Writer’s Life” quite clearly, calling Lish’s editing of Carver “a usurpation.” He imposed his own style on Carver’s stories, and the so-called minimalism with which Carver is credited with, minimalism being a good thing or not, must have rested heavily and undeservedly on Carver. I for one hope that the weight upon him has lifted somewhat for his sake, rest his soul. Now all that is left, is for Carver fans to compare the different versions, edited and unedited, and make their own conclusions as this then becomes a very personal realm for Carver fans, and I being one of these, a place wherein I cannot and will not delve in print.

City College of San Francisco's Literary Magazine