The Last Bluebird
The invitation arrived to mixed emotions. Joy, at the prospect of a themed Bluebird reading, Cien minutos de recuerdos para Márquez / One hundred minutes of memories for Márquez. Desolation, realizing I’d not attended the majority of these memorable events and this one would be the last: Please join us for a 100-minute long reading of work inspired by Gabriel García Márquez, as told by 9 Los Ángeles storytellers, with short interludes accompanied by 1 Los Ángeles son jarocho.
As always, this final Bluebird Reading would happen at the cultural heartbeat of Northeast Los Angeles, Highland Park's Avenue 50 Studio.
The Avenue 50 Studio art gallery and centro cultural is LA’s best-kept secret. It shouldn’t be, but it is, owing to the pernicious strategy of the Los Angeles Times to define art and culture as only those activities happening in locations west of downtown, except for finding the best tacos and tortas in town, inevitably on the eastside. Then there’s the Grey Lady.
New York’s Times recently reported on DTLA as a new arts district without mentioning the words “Chicano” or “Mexican” in nearly 1400 words. The paper in 2013 produced a local color video piece that delighted in the pun of gentefication. (Click links in brown.)
The once reputable NY paper mentioned a couple of Boyle Heights galleries, started by east coast transplants, one of whom purchased a fixer-upper in Bel Air (the rich westside). Alluding to Boyle Heights’ heretofore cultural wasteland, the Manhattan Times calls the Boyle Heights communidad dangerous, writing:
That art space was an early outpost in Boyle Heights, a part of the district that still has an anything-goes feel. "It still has a dangerous quality — I kind of like that," Ms. Maccarone said. "I like that we spent a fortune on security.”
Let us put aside the pendejadas of cultural exclusionism to focus on ourselves, what we’ve had here, ya hace años. The first Bluebird came to Northeast Los Angeles’ cultural heart in August 2012. Already in place was La Palabra, the eastside’s longest-running continuous reading series. Nurturing the vibrant energies of the eastside poetry community, Bluebird and La Palabra attract poets from across the LA basin who come eager to join the Open Mic and share the work of Featured readers.
Owing to lassitude and familia events, over the years I’ve joined only a few of the always memorable, inescapably photogenic Sunday readings. Not until June 2013 would I attend my first Bluebird. The second-Sunday Bluebird reading series at Avenue 50 Studio, hosted by the indefatigable Jessica Ceballos, helped inform a photographic project I’ve pursued since the 1970s, a quest for the perfect photograph of a public speaker.
For me, a photograph of a person speaking or an artist reading their own work needs concrete elements and a large helping of the ineffable. There are technical images that illustrate a particular skill like handing a manuscript or using space, but even these need to contain the elements. For sure the foto must show a person making eye contact, their vocal apparatus in an eloquent moment with lips and mouth open forming words, a dynamic moment capturing a facial expression, mid-gesture with hand, arm, visual aid, or posture. The ineffable is the presenter’s presence, the use of the technology of their body, the eloquence of the instant, and the ambience of the event.
I’ve yet to capture that one foto, but I’ve come close. A lot depends on the performer--all presentations are performances--and the photographer's anticipation of the moment.
The last Bluebird produced some good exemplars that I’ve assembled into a short video MOS featuring, in order of appearance:
Mapache and Greg Hernandez, musicos.
Lilly Flor Del Valle, singer dancer.
Amanda Yates Garcia, the Oracle of Los Angeles with an opening incantation.
Iris De Anda
Gloria Enedina Alvarez
Visit Avenue50Studio.com to view the comprehensive listing of Bluebirds, La Palabras, and other literary events, here: http://www.avenue50studio.com/pages/lapalabra.shtml
In addition, click the links below for a sentimental journey through La Bloga’s coverage of Bluebirds:
http://readraza.com/bluebirdpoets1/ - Jun2013
http://readraza.com/bluebird1/ - Sep2013
http://readraza.com/14bluebirdjune/ - Jun2014
¡Adelante La Palabra!
Karineh Mahdessian's invitation to the November iteration of La Palabra promised a rare treat, two of Los Angeles' best poets, Luivette Resto and Jessica Ceballos, reading with Wyatt Underwood in his debut as a Featured La Palabra poet. Underwood is writing at least one poem a day in 2015 and shared some of his gems at the Avenue 50 Studio gathering.
Luivette Resto composes powerful work that never fails to enchant, often stuns her listeners with emotional and intellectual richness, as in her “Virgula” poem about relationships on a cusp. She's also incredibly funny when she wants to be.
Jessica Ceballos, in addition to her often experimental work, holds an elected post on the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, organizes Poesia Para La Gente taking poetry to non-traditional spaces, partners in Writ Large Press, and is a founder of the Hollywood Institute of Poetics. Of special note, Ceballos will host a landmark November 21 reading featuring poets laureate of Los Angeles and San Francisco, Luis J. Rodriguez and Alejandro Murguia.
La Palabra for November 2015 eschewed the conventional one-to-many seating, coming together in a community circle. Mahdessian describes the arrangement as a play upon the notion of returning full circle, as Luivette Resto was the former host of La Palabra and was making her first appearance in ages.
For the reader as well as a photographer, the circle presents challenges. Christine Jordan used all the space available to present an essay about a dance teacher who insisted she “sink,” prompting a series of knee-bending contortions endeavoring to comply. “Think” the teacher was saying. Jordan’s humor fit well with the manic light-heartedness of host Karineh Mahdessian.
Other performers elected to read from their chair, or standing in place. They include, in Mahdessian’s Facebook recap, “Rolland Vasin who poemed and ran, Christine Jordan who brought in dance and taught us to 'sink', Art Currim and his lovely music, Mauro Monteiro who welcomed my hug, Albie Preciado who shared and baked, Melinda Palacio who told of broken things, Alex Hohmann who spoke of the times, Hiroko Falkenstein who explained tanka and life, harry who shared another's work, and Fernando D. Castro who told of pinkies.”
It was a day for disabilities. Fernando's pinkie, Karineh's boot, and Palacio's surgical ankle scars. Here, Karineh and Melinda compare wounded extremities.
Open Microphone Readers
Top: Rolland Vasin, Mauro Monteiro. Bottom: Hiroko Falkenstein, Harry.
La Bloga's Melinda Palacio shares a poem about her now-healed shattered ankle.
Top: Alex Hohmann, Christine Jordan, Bottom: Fernando Castro, Albie Preciado
Host, Emcee, Karineh Mahdessian
The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
When the weather outside turns frightful, it’s time for Cocido
The Gluten-free Chicano's second-earliest memory of food grows out of visits to my grandmother’s home on Lawton Street in Redlands, California. My mother would go to visit her mother and as soon as I stepped down into the kitchen, gramma would sit me at the rough plank table, turn to her wood-burning stove and ladle out a steaming bowl of cocido. She kept of pot of cocido going every day.
Same thing when we went to visit little gramma--my mother's grandmother--at the Las Cuatro Milpas tortilleria on Mt. Vernon in San Bernardino. There was always a pot of cocido going, along with a guisado and beans, and the world's hottest chile salsa--the air around it made me cough.
“No, gramma, pica!” I would object as she crushed toasted chile japonés pods into the caldo. I don't remember her exact words but it was something about the picoso being good for a boy's growth, how it would keep me healthy and strong. Especially that chile japonés, and sometimes a chile piquín. She was right.
The other day, a doctor walked into a hospital room I was occupying and asked if he was in the wrong room, “I’m looking for a seventy-year old man,” he declared. I tell everyone I owe my youthful appearance and resilience to eating chile every day. A day without chile, my motto goes, is like a day without sunshine. Except when I was in the Army where there was no chile to speak of (Korean chile was insipid and had no bite), I've enchilared myself nearly every day of my life.
A week without cocido is somewhat similar. I never tire of the rich beef broth and soft-cooked vegetables of my favorite food. In the twenty-some years I worked in Vernon, California, I lunched on cocido two or three times a week. Diana’s on Pacific, Avila’s El Ranchito on Santa Fe, and Millan’s mariscos on Soto, all in Huntington Park, were in a race for the best non-homemade cocido in El Lay. For The Gluten-free Chicano, the measure of a Mexican restaurant is the quality of its cocido de res.
But homemade cocido is always the best, for three key reasons: First, cocido is easy to make. Second, you have left-overs. Third, left-over cocido tastes even better the second and third day.
Ingredients – These vary based upon what’s in the reefer. In this instance, The Gluten-free Chicano forgot the carrots and ear of corn.
Beef rib bones.
Celery stalks and the root end.
Tomato (fresh or canned).
Helotes (or frozen cobbettes).
Cook by feel--Have a sense of what you're doing and visualize the final product.
Use a large soup pot. Salt and pepper the meaty bones then brown them with sliced onion and diced garlic in a little olive oil.
Add your water (make two quarts or a gallon, depends on how many mouths you're feeding, or who is eating), a pinch each of salt and coarse ground black pepper, a handful (a cup) of dried garbanzos, the root end of a head of celery, the carrot ends, and bring to a boil.
Cover the pot, boil on medium to high flame for half an hour or longer. The wafting perfume of the broth will beckon household members to the kitchen and everyone can stand around and get hungry. It's the smell of home sweet home.
Cut the vegetables into spoon-size or slightly larger portions. Cut the cabbage in quarters.
Use the entire pepper and pull out the stem later.
Add the vegetables to the boiling soup stock. Cover and simmer on medium flame
an hour or longer, or until the meat falls off the bone. Add the corn on the cob in the last ten minutes if you like
a crispy bite, otherwise put the corn in along with the other vegetables.
This is medium flame, doesn't touch the bottom of the pot. This lets the soup cook at a leisurely pace that
intensifies and melds all the flavors to full wholesome richness.
Serve generous portions of vegetables and broth in large bowls.
Garnish with crushed chile japonés or chile piquín. Serve with lemon or
lime halves. Restaurants serve chopped onion and fresh cilantro, and
room-temperature rice. A spoonful of rice dipped into the
hot soup cools off the soup. If you're avoiding complex carbs, no rice.
Get a good quality tortilla de maíz. If possible, a tortilla made without guar gum or preservatives, just corn, lime, and water. For wheat-eaters, a freshly rolled tortilla de harina hot off the comal is a good option. Don't place flour tortillas against corn tortillas or you contaminate the gluten-free food.
A successful bowl of cocido leaves nothing but huesos and maybe a bit of cabbage stem.
Last week, La Bloga reviewed Jésus Salvador Treviño’s wonderland of a novel-in-forma-de-short stories Return to Arroyo Grande. This week, Arte Publico’s radio conecta, Houston Public Media’s Eric Ladau, spoke with Treviño about the book, and recorded the author reading passages from his work. Click the link below to listen to Treviño's engaging reading highlighting key parts of the plot.
On-line Floricanto November
Miguel Alberto Jr. Ochoa Garcia, Donny Jackson, Patricia Aguayo, Neeli Cherkovski, Jeanette Iskat
Cuando nadie como yo by Miguel Alberto Jr. Ochoa Garcia
41.52 by Donny Jackson
Mujer presente by Patricia Aguayo
Kevin Killian by Neeli Cherkovski
Fall by Jeanette Iskat
Cuando nadie como yo
Por Miguel Alberto Jr. Ochoa García
Sutil máquina, no llores, sé que todavía estás encendida. Se escuchan
tus gritos desde tu vientre blanco. ¿Quieres que te ponga nombre,
título? Ni dios puede hacer eso. No me mires, no desees mis dedos
ennegrecidos, no quieras conocer mis sueños, oh dulce pesadilla. No
me digas Dios, al que quieras orar por existencia, no me digas padre,
al que le quieras arrancar fortuna, no me nombres madre, de la que
quieras recibir caricias.
Eres tan solo una máquina, una cuadrada forma en la que pueden
existir mil galaxias; un planeta donde las imágenes rondan, se
reproducen y se mueren. Eres tan solo una maquinaria como existen
muchas, tan triste y vacía, como el reflejo del miedo.
Este huevo donde te han sumergido es una cápsula donde puedes
pensar en duendes morados, grandes horizontes azules o en cestos
con fruta en ellos. Todo es posible, quédate con eso. Mas no te quedes
conmigo, si me promueves a dios, te pondré mi nombre a la altura de
tus pies o a lado de tu cabeza, y entonces, diré que me perteneces,
que soy tu padre, tu creador.
Sutil máquina encendida, miedo de miedos, sujétate de un separador,
cierra el cuaderno y nunca te pierdas. Espera que el tiempo se acabe y
nadie como yo pueda escribir nada. Entonces no se diga que nadie te
quiere, sino que nadie podrá escribir su nombre en tu cuerpo.
Y así, hija mía, aunque yo no lo haya decidido, podrás llamarte “La
página en blanco” aunque solo tú lo pronuncies y nadie como yo,
By Donny Jackson
my baby boy, my baby boy
you make me look good
like a handsome bracelet on my wrist
like the jewels on my neck
should i start all over again
from conception to birth?
you are such a delight.
an eritrean lullaby
not one of them looked like a fiber until braided they were a noose
no one is a monster before they’ve seen one
how to grieve in metal
the monster they were looking for was not the one they got
although he was finally crawling on the ground they way they often saw him
he still looked like a terrorist when someone needed to catch the word
thrown into the air
his complexion is sticky
his hands are too scraped to remember injera
to bore into the ground and hide
no one around him looks like him except the enemy no one can identify
they have saved the afraid of their every day to be able to fight back
they live like a land mine
it is not his fault he resembles a nightmare
the why and final of firearms is that they are fast
is a silenced scream
he is not civilization or surrender
he did not hear the shot that drilled his prayers into the floor
they stomped his head when the gun made him a small enough insect
they walked away not knowing how much of him they carried in their stride
a reminder to people in these bus stations to wait
until they can travel to another
they used it
as a sledgehammer
it may be true they were trying to kill it and him at the same time
afraid to die alone
as mother’s milk
for a how a mob countries
this tender of plants
before he closes his eyes
one last time
asks of his blood
to seep below this moment
through to the black
from which all plants grow
and nurse a stalk
eager with fruit
that will outlive
all his witnesses
A former professor and psychotherapist, Donny Jackson holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, and works currently as a Executive Producer and director in unscripted television and film. In the written arts, Donny has enjoyed stints as an autobiography ghostwriter, playwright, and book critic, as well as speech writer for a diverse set of clients, from Blair Underwood to the Clinton White House. An award-winning poet (but only because of the $2 prize he won in a city-wide poetry contest at age eight), Donny has featured as a spoken word artist throughout southern California and the northeastern United States. His one man, multiple character spoken word show, One Man Shown, is returning to southern California in the summer of 2016.
By Patricia Aguayo
What is this renewed
and the Beginning
Death of a cycle
The awakening and
beginning for many of us.
I want to awaken and
I want to recognize the calling
of my path
And I want to honor it.
Share your thoughts
Share your theories….
better yet…manifest and weave
them with your female energy.
We have always been
present in root of
establishment through out
We are co-creators.
Birthing many civilizations,
religions, thoughts and
Many times standing behind
a man, beside a man or a few
By Neeli Cherkovski
Centuries full of words
And single letters
Line up on this cold evening
In San Francisco's
We are sure nothing will do
As well as our handsome
Fingers holding the paper
And looking for an island
The beautiful young men
Have their own space
Drinking red wine
Demanding nothing less
Than a pair of elder eyes
In this ancient grove
Is given by a breeze
We grew old here
And at nightfall
In the theater prone to joy
But we are wicked
As we turn the wheel
In their street side beds
Writing is prayer
On a medieval night
Imagine the play
And remember our plague
Find an island
In your hand as dawn crumbles
By the dangerous ocean
There are captains
with Frail tin lanterns
Where ribs of the island
Protrude -- here you see
Drops of blood
From those people we love
We will never bring them home
From where they sleep
The world has
1 trillion words
One word will do
As the sun slides
Over Twin Peaks
Only one cup is full
We must raise it
Moon finds form
And terrace fill
With young men
On one of the islands
You will glitter because
Time takes everything
And gives us the means
To seize comic love
And lovely wisdom
Until we turn to the waves
By Jeanette Iskat
The trees are full of webs, made by spiders as big as toads and the paths are lined in toads, wee as spiders. The new moon's dark light spills out, hiding everything but the slightly more there deep darkness of clouds. The stain of cold hits the bed, not quite shivery but holding the promise of autumn. There is a slight movement, the night rambling of a hunter in the grass, waiting, searching to add another small body to the offering pile. Thistles stand, towering but dead, holding only purpose as launching pads for the gyrations of locusts and grasshoppers, all of whom flee with maddened leaps at any felt step.
The memory of you jumps into my head, mad in motion, a fleeing insect. You leap fast and free, then stop frozen, all atremble and large with the hope that I won't notice you, obvious and bright green as you are. I come in close, to puzzle out your large eyes and impossibly bent limbs. I am distracted by the wind in the leaves, dancing them still on the trees and rustling the webs. You break free of my inattention and leap off madly, perhaps chasing that one early cicada who seems to have gotten the time wrong.
In my head, I circle the garden absentminded, shaped by sunflowers and the purple grapes, close now to becoming raisins on the vine, slapping at insects bent on taking all of my blood. I think of the approach of winter, how it will come fast and grey, with quiet spaces to be found between snow and wood, and the hermit in me smiles.
Jeanette Iskat is the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants, a watercolor painter and poet. She currently makes her home in rural New Mexico but misses the people and poetry of Los Angeles. You can find her art at https://www.facebook.com/JVIDA-Art-388057131370639/?fref=ts
Daniel Olivas in San Diego State Appearance