Saturday, August 19, 2017

K. Andrew Turner

Part of my motivation in doing this project is getting an opportunity to showcase the work of authors who I’ve worked alongside with and admired.  Andrew Turner is a Southern California author and publisher who has established himself firmly in the writing scene.  He and I have collaborated in several readings and I’ve had the privilege of seeing the many facets of his incredibly touching, personal poetry develop.  His work is incredibly rich, at times wildly funny and whimsical, and also capable of deep heartbreak and introspection.  Exploring a wide range subjects, from romantic longing, to pop culture, to family life to lgbt issues Andrew’s writing is wonderfully bold and complex.  On a personal level, Andrew is a great friend to me and to the poetry community in general.  For this shoot we decided to highlight Andrew's love of fantasy and magic in literature, something that he feels shows up in the character of his own writing.  I am very happy to have him as the feature for the month of August.  You can read one of his poems below. 

K. Andrew Turner writes queer, literary, and speculative prose and poetry. He teaches and mentors writers near Los Angeles. In 2013, he founded East Jasmine Review—an electronic literary journal. He was a semifinalist for the 2016 Luminaire Award, and his chapbook “Gymlationship” is now available on Amazon. You can find more at his website: www.kandrewturner.com







Morning Magic
by K. Andrew Turner

Grimoires, secret and full of splendor,
old and dusty tomes forbidding.
Raised my wand above their pages,
chanted there a moment. Waited.
Watching, saw a gruesome figure
stumble ‘round until it spied me.

Red eyes dark and mesmerizing
struck my heart with fearsome
pounding, pounding battering ram.
“Let me enter, mortal man
let me devour soul and skin
taste the sweet and sav’ry flesh”
said it to me that winter morn.

Strong, I tore my eyes from it’s gaze and
let the wounds upon my soul fade away.
Light, cerulean clean cleaved the figure
Then, I knew my soul was rent. The
worst of me gone forever there, that cold
December.

Thus, was rid of part of me
Shut the tome, the grimoire dark and still,
shuffled off to join the day, now free of
Shadow, free of Night and free of life.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eric Morago

For the month of July I had the pleasure to collaborate with Eric Morago, a well known poet in the Southern California writing scene and publisher of Moon Tide Press.  I've known and admired Eric's work for quite a while now.  I asked him to write a bit about about the theme of the photo shoot we did. You can read one of his poems below.  

"I have spent most of my life with my head down in a comic book—I gravitate to the heroics and drama of it all.  As I have grown into the poet I am today, I have tried to bring those same elements into my writing, drawing from pop culture and superheroes the way past generations of writers would allude to Greek gods and Shakespeare. 

What I have written above, while true, is also just fancy-speak for: I’m a geek.  I read comics and science fiction, I play old school video games, and—the icing on the geek-cake—I write poems, sometimes about those things.

The idea behind this shoot was to show me in my natural habitat.  A bookstore.  More importantly the comic book section of a bookstore.  I love spinner racks.  The first place I ever bought a comic book was in a bookstore with a spinner rack—an old bookstore that smelled of musty old paper and wood, the way a bookstore should.

If I ever became a famous celebrity with my own line of fragrance, it would be the scent of an old bookstore.  These photos could then appear in the ads of magazine pages like GQ, Maxim, and Wizard: The Guide to Comics.


That probably won’t happen though.  I mean, Wizard, has been out of print for over a decade now.  Besides, what could my fragrance be called—Page Turner?"

Eric Morago is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet who believes performance carries as much importance on the page as it does off. He is the author of What We Ache For and Feasting on Sky. Currently Eric hosts a monthly reading series, teaches writing workshops, and is editor-in-chief and publisher of Moon Tide Press. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. 









THOR LOSES HIS HAMMER
by Eric Morago

He staggers into my home tear-drink,
gold locks reeking of booze and puke,
snot dangling from his perfect nose.
I ask, What happened?

It’s gone, he says, I can’t find it.

He sits, sinks into the cushions,
cries more than any god should.
Loki? I suggest, quick to help.

First place I tried—beat him to a pulp
then ransacked the underworld.
Hela told me to check with the frost giants.
No luck there, either.

As he speaks he voice shakes
with so much loss I ache for him—
helplessly, like having to see a child
break, bawling over a popped balloon.

I brew us coffee.
He takes his mug in his large god hands,
thanks me and asks what he should do.

Can’t the dwarves just make another?

He says I don’t understand.
Tells me it was a gift from Odin—
the only hard proof of his father’s love.

But I do—years before my father left,
he gave me a watch I’d never wear,
but made promise to always keep.
Now it rests in a sleek black box,
tucked away in my bedside drawer.

Often I forget it’s there, except
on nights I can’t sleep when I hear
its faint ticking, and think to take it
from its grave, to feel the weight
of my father’s heart in my palm.

I want to tell Thor I understand,
but he has passed out on my couch,
curled into a muscular ball, snoring—
and I wonder,

if Thor cannot find his hammer,
how long before we feel his loss,
how long before we miss the thunder
from our skies.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Natalie Morales

In maintaining this blog one of the things I enjoy the most is getting a chance to write about each month's feature, how I know them and what makes them unique as people.  This month though I've decided to try something different and have asked June's second feature, Natalie Morales, to write a brief reflection on what the shoot we did meant to her and the symbolism behind it.  It's my hope that this glimpse into the writer's character and thought process adds another layer of dimension and individuality to these photographs.  A poem of hers appears below.  

"When I began to envision images that symbolize my poetry, I knew the setting would have to be intimate, complex, and introspective, as much of my poetry centers on the themes of love, lust, and loss. I often find myself writing from a place of compulsion rather than desire, motivated by a need to purge inner darkness and replace it with sunshine — or, at the very least, some sort of light.

The book collection you see is a physical embodiment my life. I’ve lugged it with me from room to room and home to home since childhood. It contains my education, family, friends, past lovers and future paramours, quarter-life crises, dreams, failures, obsessions, and the profound beauty that allows me to wake up each morning and believe, with only a little bit of doubt, that everything will be all right."

Natalie Morales began penning poems and short stories at the age of 10 and has published dozens of pieces in the two decades since. Her work is often focused on the themes of love, lust, and loss. Writing allows her to survive as an overly-sensitive female in a petroleum-based, masculine society. She is a fiction editor of Pomona Valley Review and teaches English at various community colleges.  







Nine Times I Found Myself in Pomona 
by Natalie Morales


1. Driving east during the sunset after a rain. 
2. A living room with one bong but no furniture. 
3. Swaying back and forth like a soused pendulum. 
4. If sex takes place but neither party is sober enough to remember, does it make a sound? 
5. Pink flower petals on freshly wet cement.
6. Waking up on a dead man's blue velvet couch. 
7. The art of losing, Ciceronian style. 
8. Not being able to find the elevator in the ivory towers of scholarship. 
9. Leaving.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cynthia Adam Prochaska

Writing has never come easy for me, and poetry in particular has always been greatly difficult. It is precisely because I’ve struggled so much that I hold the teachers who have helped me in such high regard. Cynthia Prochaska, June’s first feature, was the first poetry teacher I had in college, in the first poetry class I ever took. Many, many years ago I walked into a classroom with a satisfied sense of knowing what poetry was. In my backpack were probably a dog eared copy of some generic beat collection and no doubt a Bukowski title. I was eighteen and I knew that I was going to take the writing world by storm. Cynthia was patient. Thank God above she was patient.

Cynthia is a fantastic teacher, but perhaps more importantly she is a truly wonderful person. She has the very keen ability to encourage and promote natural talent in people while at the same time nudging them to push the boundaries past their own writing comfort zones. In that first class I learned that there was so, so much I needed to read and learn and relearn. She helped me understand that rewriting was a critical part of the process, despite how tediously arduous it might seem. I learned it was ok to be critical of my own work, and to how to listen to the voice of others when they read theirs.

I ended up taking several more classes with her. Poetry, fiction, literature, and in each class her unique style helped me grow as a writer. But I hadn’t read her writing. It wouldn’t be until years later that I first read one of her short stories in the Santa Monica Review. Cynthia’s writing is, for lack of a better term, spellbinding. Deeply personal yet wildly imaginative, touching, funny, and every bit as human as you’d expect from her. It has been almost two decades since I first walked into her class and still I continue to be impressed by her. She is a wonderful teacher, and a good friend.



Cynthia Adam Prochaska's fiction has appeared in the Santa Monica Review, the Florida Review, Angel's Flight, LA Fiction: Southland Writers Tell Southland Stories, and Literary Pasadena. In a previous life, she taught English and Writing at Mount San Antonio College.  A flash fiction story by her appears below.











L&M Auto Body
by Cynthia Adam Prochaska

The real trouble begins around two o'clock. People call the auto body shop where I am filling in for a week and want to know all kinds of things. When is my car going to be ready? When is Darla coming back? How much will it cost to remove a dent in my side door panel? How old are you? You sound like a little kid. Why don't you go ask the tech when my car will be ready? I don't know any of this stuff except the little kid part, my training consisting of the owner looking me over with a wink and saying, “You'll do. You'll do just fine.” Then he disappeared to play golf or something for the rest of the day.

So I sit in the office of L&M Auto Body in La Verne, California with grimy windows and the ever-present smell of grease and epoxy. The real secretary, who's out having her gall bladder removed, has a picture on her desk of a balding man with a comb-over and three buck-toothed kids. They are smiling by the side of a motor boat at what I think is a river, squinting into the sunlight wearing bathing suits and beach hats, so middle-of-the-road it is painful. I am home from college for summer tired of the heat of the Inland Valley.

I sit at a desk reading plays from an anthology since one of my professors said I needed to make myself a more serious actress. I read Arthur Miller and William Inge and pick up the phone in between. The desk chair's upholstery scratches my thigh and I shift to avoid the cracks in the vinyl. When I ask the repair guys when the cars will be ready, they look at me like jackals, so I try to ask as little as possible. Then I eat the lunch I packed, and I miss my boyfriend who is back on campus already, running on the beach and surfing.

After someone drops off a car, I start an Ibsen play that is so boring I would like to nail my hand to the desk, and Strindberg is even worse. That's when I decide to go into the garage and watch the techs pound out dents and spray primer on a car door. No one notices me until I accidentally kick a can of oil and it spills all over the floor and my shoes.

“You idiot,” one of the techs says.

My favorite navy shoes now reek of oil. One of the guys wipes the floor and curses me the entire time. I think I hear him say“pendeja” under his breath.

On Wednesday, the air conditioning stops working and I spend the day sweating through my white blouse and lying to people that their cars will be ready soon. The customers are so eager and angry, like it was me and not them who made them have a fender bender with a telephone pole. I wonder how Darla, the woman I am replacing, puts up with it. Her family starts to look a little less stupid.

When I go home, at the end of that sweaty day, all damp and shiny, my mother asks how the job is going.

“Two more days,” I tell her, the sting of chemicals still in my nostrils.

I put my feet up and watch a B movie-- something about two crazy sisters who are trying to kill each other. And then I think I have done worse jobs: bleaching down the Baskin Robbins at the end of the night when I was in high school and cleaning away the rancid ice cream. The smell is worse than you might know.

That night I replay in my head the voices of people calling me to ask me about their cars, hearing once again the tight vocal chords and vicious anger, the condescending way they call me “honey” and “darling” and then, when I have bad news, “bitch.” I wonder if they think this will make their car ready faster. I only have two days to find this out. Two days to hold their hands and try to be polite, two more days with only the great plays of the Western World to save me.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Thomas R. Thomas

If you are at all familiar with the Southern California poetry scene then you probably know Thomas R. Thomas, Tom. A tall, usually bearded guy, often found under a hat who makes an extra effort to attend readings in support of other writers and who has established himself as a distinct figure as both a poet and a publisher. Tom was one of the first people I met when I started becoming involved in poetry, he was around at readings, as a participant and as part of the audience, always encouraging the readers. His own poetry is sharp, beautiful and sometimes brutal, brief but always robust. Tom economizes when he writes, exploring the tanka and haiku forms, in a few lines he can quickly deliver emotional blows and narrate vivid passages. A native of Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley, his work often evokes the area’s unique character. It is after one of the geographical features of this area that he names his publishing venture, Arroyo Seco Press. Focusing on chapbooks by previously unpublished and upcoming authors Tom has given several poets the opportunity to present their work in print to a wider audience, I am proud to say my own chapbook Seaglass is an Arroyo Seco title. His own work has appeared in various publications, his books include Scorpio published by Carnival, Five Lines published by World Parade Books and Climbing Eternity by Weekly Weird Monthly. Arroyo Seco Press' newest book Seven Countries is available now and can be purchased from Amazon. You can read some of his work below.

Tom is a frank, sincere guy who seems to be always cheerful and always willing to offer a helping hand. I'm honored to call him a friend and to have him as the second feature for the month of May.






sweeping

you’re not just
pushing the dirt
you’re cleaning

one two three four
step right
one two three four step

at the back
of your head
plays take five

in slow tempo
as you dance
with the broom

one two three four step
she lays light
in your hands

one two three four
step right
one two three four step


Untitled Short Poems

-quiet moment
spare in the breeze
one in the earth


-the ground 
shakes the
quaking grass

a giant
shadow 
covers him

he cowers


-she lay quivering
in the grass

this smile
careens across
her lips

Saturday, May 13, 2017

T. Anders Carson

T. Anders Carson is a poet I have known and admired for some time now, so I'm very pleased to have him as the first feature for the month of May.  Trying something different I have asked a mutual friend, someone who has known and collaborated with Anders for some time, to write a few words about him.

Below you can read a poem Anders wrote about the day we did this photoshoot.  

T. Anders Carson has spent his lifetime wandering the planet and getting to know as many people as he can.  We are lucky in Southern California that Los Angeles is one of his favorite places to land.  He has become an important influence to so many of the poetry students in this area who come to the poetry events he can make it to.  His work developed out of a deep appreciation of the poets of this area, people like Gerald Locklin and Charles Bukowski.  His own work is often set in places as diverse as rural Canada, to India to New Orleans, but what every poem has in common is a fundamental and deep love for the humanity of everyone he writes about.

His books include I Knew It Would Come to This and A Different Shred of Skin.  Tonight, if he is not driving his kids to soccer practice or helping them with their homework, he is reading poetry to a group of people absolutely enthralled by his humor and intelligence.  
                                                           - John Brantingham 













You Can’t Hear the Freeway
by T. Anders Carson

In this park
but one dog owner
diligent
in picking up after
their pup’s business.

Across the street
a school at recess
children squealing with laughter;
games being attempted
friends joining in.
Not angry noises.

This is LA.

A couple of blocks over
and there is anger in that schoolyard
drug dealer cruises the street
looking for another customer.
A mini Monroe Doctrine
because this is mine
all of it.
I get it
but sometimes I don’t.

I know the cars on the freeway
are moving souls towards
their reflective destinies.
Clean cars,
so clean you can use
the three second rule
if you drop a crumb.

There are less crumbs being dropped.
Hands along freeway off ramps
asking for help
having served the flag
been kicked out of the circle
no one to call.
only heavens can heal.

Photos taken in an afternoon shoot
getting stuck in a tree
and having courage to laugh
at rudimentary fear
of heights.
Are you just going to sit there
or are you going to help,
my hopeful mantra
to get through
until noon. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Jo Scott-Coe

Jo Scott Coe, April’s second feature, is a remarkable educator and author.  I’ve known Jo some time now, originally through mutual friends and through SoCal’s writing scene, where she stood out as an author of uncompromisingly powerful, and at times emotionally challenging works of nonfiction.  In her writing Jo explores a range of human experience, from her own time spent in the classroom, to her reflections as an observer of some of the darker facets of humanity.  What really amazes me about Jo is her steadfast courage in exploring these “darker” sides of life (some of her work examines themes such as mass shootings, domestic violence and suicide) within the guidelines of nonfiction.  Whereas some writers might shy away from these themes, or only delve into them while shielded with the protective veil of “literary license”, Jo challenges the reader to face and reflect on some of the uncomfortable realities of our world.

Jo’s books, Listening to Kathy (Big Jacaranda Press) and Teacher at Point Blank (Aunt Lute), are both available for sale from Amazon. She has just finished a new book, titled MASS: A Sniper, a Father, and a Priest.

She is a fearless, sensitive, creative author of the not fictional, and I’m proud to say, a good friend.  










My Place for Misfits
by Jo Scott-Coe

An altar is a place to tend, wait, go to ground. I choose and arrange and sometimes switch the elements: wax and flame, loose coins or pins, torn paper, perhaps a flower, always faces. Not saints so much as allies—partners in commiseration, failure, a lost translation. There are always signs: Cracks in the gesso surface. Three holes in the back of the head. A missing arm. Sloppily formed plaster hands that were molded in the statue factory—a blob of paint over fishstick fingers—or too-perfect vampire eyes atop a stiff neck.

Here is my place for misfits, where the only certain symmetry is an opening for me at the table. Messages scribbled, returned to, read aloud, discarded. Not a sanctuary consecrated by anyone else. Not commanding an entire room. (An invitation, oddly, even to ignore.) Instead: askew, smuggled, an envelope of treasured space in plain sight, where there is also dust and rumpled carpet and a metal trash bin that needs to be emptied.

Such a space allows a quiet so different from silences I absorbed long ago—in closets, in wincing-light basement apartments, in discarded cardboard boxes out by somebody’s garage. Silences came from things that were done to me, said to me, shown to me by other children I thought must be friends simply because they were there. These were things I had no desire for or words for and didn’t know how to refuse or respond to, things that did not end me but made me feel ugly at my core for a very long time.

Around age ten, I made a small altar in my bedroom for the very first time. I set aside one surface of a vanity bureau that had no mirror anymore. I placed a small plastic statue of Mary there, with a blue prayer book I wore to the bone. There was or was not a votive. I remember a white doily. I understand now that this ritual was not piety but desperation—I was dying to telegraph elsewhere, to borrow whatever words I could find to reach out through the security of a space I marked as sacred.

I thought for a long time that I could make bad events go away if I recalled them as sins to repent for. That was the only way to name certain parts of my experience—by locating the fault in me. But I see how the making of that first little altar marked a parallel, simultaneous awareness that has endured in a healthier way. I feel the instinct now of that child I was, who wanted to orient herself to a clearer reality by setting up a physical space where she could imagine a different world. I understand how the altar was made for connections that could be chosen rather than inevitable, where a girl would no longer be done to, by others who must have been done to (and shown to, and told that), other children who were themselves smudged little creatures pawing for comfort wherever they could, and who did not know what they were doing.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Michaelsun Stonesweat Knapp

The first featured poet for the month of April is Michaelsun Stonesweat Knapp, of the Costanoan-Rumsen Carmel Band of Ohlone Indians.   Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Michaelsun as he has honed his craft and made quite a name for himself in the literary scene. His ease with words is matched by a keen eye for art, which makes him expertly suited to explore so many of our vast cultural spaces.  He is able to then link these worlds in his work with apparent ease, leaving the listener and the reader amazed.    


Michaelsun is an MFA candidate at the Institute of American Indian Arts, with a BA in English lit from CSU San Bernardino, and two AAs from Mount San Antonio College. Nominated for a 2016 Pushcart, and winner of the Muse Times Two Poetry Award, he is also a 2016 Periphery Poets Fellow, poetry editor for Mud City, and has curated the Claremont West Reading Series. He has published over 80 pieces across the United States and Internet, and his most recent publications are in the Yellow Medicine Review, and Red Ink.










Discovery Of Gold
Georgia Legislature. Following the Discovery of Gold, it Became Illegal for Cherokees to Mine Gold, Testify against White Men, or Hold Political Assembly. 1829.
                                Constable, John. Hadliegh Castle. 1829.

 -by Michaelsun Stonesweat Knapp

I was eight when we started
working on a thousand
square-foot addition
to our house. My dad brought in guys
he knew from his Chino
Y.A. Chaplainhood.
Guys who got out and stayed out
for a year he would bring by. One of them
was Julien. During an interruption
in digging by hand a sewer
trench beneath our house to the future
half, Julien saw me dunking
on the basketball hoop dad had gotten
me from a garage sale. I had lowered the rim
to 4 feet, low as it would go.

I couldn’t dribble, I couldn’t shoot.
I just held the ball and ran
and ran and leapt into the air,
slamming the ball through hoop
and chains. I’d hold on
long as I could, kicking,
imagining a crowd cheering on
my beautiful imagined body,
until fingers gave out
and small sneakers hit the driveway.
Then I’d do it again.
I was super-good at basketball.

Julien clapped for the ball. I couldn’t pass,
I couldn’t throw. I didn’t want to look
stupid either, so I carried the ball to him
and two-handed I handed it to him.
He squeezed the ball to test
the pressure, then he dribbled beautiful,
dribbled between his tall legs
and started shooting free throws
as if with cheat codes—to me:
the hoop still only four feet high.

I was super-good basketball.
I asked him how he did that.
He asked if I wanted to learn,
and I did, so he raised the hoop
to regulation height.

He showed me to hold
the ball, to be fluid and move,
how a dribble is so much more
than just a hand to strike with
an orange surface, and how
shooting the ball was more than pushing
a thing away. So I did, over and again,
until I was laying up balls like a flu,
hitting free throws as if I was Bruce Lee
and Cochise’s green Power Ranger baby.

I did that until I was old enough
to help with the addition.

After homework I dug ditches
until we filled them with sand
and rebar, pipes for water
over pipes for sewage, and screed it all with cement
and then we put up the walls
I picked up nails, and caulked
every, every seam, and some days
I saw my friends too. But first
came insulating and wiring
and more plumbing and dry wall
and picking up black screws.

My basketball paled and cracked
and flattened from the sun and years
and years and years
and years.

By the time I was 16, Julien had six
children from four different women,
and he was bringing back songs
and ceremonies, and I was fighting Bros
in their white, lifted, Ford F150s
for throwing soda cans at me
working their mouths around injun
the way they did with Skol
faggot or nigger. My dad tried to convince me
to quit fighting: if I was ever hurt,
what would all these Y.A. guys do
to these stupid mixed-up boys?

They loved me through their love for my dad.

Julien just broke up with his then girlfriend.
A seventh baby, and fifth woman. He couch
surfed, his checks garnished of everything,
no matter how much he tried to be there
for his girls, all seven   girls.
So when his old cell mate, Frankie, called my dad
saying Julien was spending time in his old territory
in east L.A., my dad called and sat down with Julien.
            ~                                              ~
Frankie had since moved to Texas,
started a company to make custom computers
for companies. He offered Julien a job
if he would leave the LAC, and would pay
enough Julien could afford his garnishments
and after a few months Julien would be even
able to afford to move his twins and their mother
out with him and his lighthouse of a smile.

But he would have to leave his tribe,
leave everything he’d worked for with them
behind and he’d have to abandon his other girls
which all he loved behind, with their mothers
whom wanted nothing anymore to do
with his wandering smile. Julien came around
to leaving everything behind, to sleep in a bed,
for Texas and the women who would have him.
            ~                                              ~
He recorded a C.D. of lullabies for all of his girls
for while he was gone. He packed up his Ford Torus,
and drove out from a Riverside couch to Texas.

We got a call that he’d died at one in the morning.

A drunk got on the 10 the wrong direction
doing 80. Killed Julien instantly. He never made the border.

At the funeral, my dad pulled every mother
Julien had made to the side, and told them
each to support the other. Put away all
dirt and teeth. Care for all of these girls,
these sisters.
            ~                                              ~
Frankie pulled me aside and told me
how Julien always loved me like a brother,
loved I never asked what he went to the Y.A. for.
Frankie told me all the ex-cons dad helped out
loved me for never asking after their pasts.
And yet Frankie said I needed to know Julien’s.
            ~                                              ~
Julien went into the Y.A. when he was 13.
He was part of a gang, and he tortured
other gang’s members–children, men
–in his boyhood bedroom. They called him Spike.
Bic lighters, four-inch galvanized steel nails.
A man who had a tongue roughly split by Julien
turned State’s Evidence. The longest part
of Julien’s trial was trotting out evidence,
photographed burns, cuts, tongues and eyes marred.

Julien was angry for a long time in the Y.A.
and earned himself years of extra time.

When my dad came to the Y.A.,
bringing ceremonies with him,
helped Julien to set down his rage.
Julien quit fighting, lifting weights,
and started playing basketball.
With good behavior, he bought
his extra time down and was free
at 25, seven years after
he was supposed to be released
            ~                                  ~
Frankie held my shoulders, said, you remember.
You always remember how much people can change.