R. Zamora Linmark and Sesshu Foster

Yesterday evening I co-hosted with Jessica Wickens the Small Press Traffic’s Experimental Fiction reading, which meant that yesterday afternoon I was scrambling for online material and dredging my blog to write some lovely introductions for R. Zamora Linmark and Sesshu Foster, both of whom I’ve admired for various reasons and therefore was very happy to be introducing. Of course, months ago, I found Foster’s City Terrace Field Manual quite belatedly, more than a decade after it was first published, and then it subsequently blew my mind (previous blog post is here), as I have been invested in finding API authors (primarily poets or cross-genre authors who do poetry) whose work subverts the expectations for ethnic writers and our handling of artifact, language, and narrative. In case you haven’t noticed, I am writing from a position of fan-girl-ism for a couple of my (Flip/API) literary role models.

That said, Zack Linmark’s work has always been there for me to comb through finely, emulate and build upon. Because I know his work almost really very well, seeing him read/perform in SF again is like seeing an old friend again. So the vocabulary test and book report chapters from Rolling the R’s which he read last night were very lively; he jumped straight into personae, which was the pidgin speaking middle school students. Certainly, part of what’s “entertaining” about his performance is that we find hilarious (or at least humorous) those misuses of proper English, whether they are deliberate or not. I think on the part of his characters, the misuse is deliberate, as they are constantly told by their teachers that pidgin is not allowed; it is not the language of academic work. By extension, what the teachers mean to say is that pidgin is not the language that will enable you to succeed in life, with success being defined by their teachers (not their families and loved ones). This reminds me of a section of Lee A. Tonouchi’s Living Pidgin: a litany of “If you speak pidgin, you no can _____.”

In the meantime, back to Linmark, in his characters’ families, and with their loved ones and social networks, they have fathers beating the shit out of their mothers, they are coming into sexual knowledge and learning about love. Even a middle school girl who’s coming to enjoy intercourse with her boyfriend knows that not even love is forever, which we learn about her through her book report of Judy Blume’s Forever. She’s written this book report in pidgin.

Sesshu Foster’s reading, his work, I am still trying to figure out what to do about it in my head. He briefly discussed how working on different writing projects differs, and regarding his very soon forthcoming World Ball Notebook, he’s gathered fragments, postcards, etc. and I can only imagine he’s crafted them into some kind of overarching narrative involving literal and figurative ball game. Still, with some of his fragments, I’d think I was starting to get the image, then what follows is some non sequitur that maybe isn’t so non sequitur. One of his fragments I keep thinking of: the man on the phone with this woman, who is also in the next room, and the miscommunication here is that it seems neither know they are in adjacent rooms. So as he tells her on the phone to hold on, because he has to respond to the woman next door, she is on the phone, indignant at being put aside by him. The end image: biting into a hotdog, that salt and hot and (maybe) wet. Yo, what did I miss there?

Also very much of note for the evening was Jaime Cortez‘s Neo-Benshi performance with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which Cortez has recast with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, visiting the White House together.

So I had a blast yesterday evening, for apart from their readings was all of the nice social time, shop talk, and some future event planning (!) Oscar and I got to have with Zack and Sesshu. Lysley Tenorio was also in attendance, so it was nice to catch up with him as well. I’d hoped to see more of the Fil Am’s and API community folks in attendance, but a couple of things: first, Zack had a number of events in the area, including YBCA on 9/27 and SFSU on 9/29, both events I understand were well attended. As well, Stephen Hong Sohn down at Stanford hosted an event for him. And as well, Joël Barraquiel Tan had a performance with Kularts at the Bayanihan Center yesterday evening.

So there goes that. Finally, here’s this lovely fan girl picture with Sesshu Foster (L) and R. Zamora Linmark (R) and their latest books, ATOMIK AZTEX and The Evolution of a Sigh:

4 thoughts on “R. Zamora Linmark and Sesshu Foster

  1. NOTES: Reading at CCAC SF October 3, 2008

    1. I don’t know.
    2. I was driving a Prius that could go nearly 400 miles on one tank of gas. I went 2 and 1/2 tanks.
    3. Dropped mom off at Santa Maria, at her brother Jim’s house. Nobody was home. Jim (age 80) had surgery for tumor on his spine on Tuesday. Mom’s there to help with Jim and his wife Rachel, who has Alzheimer’s. Since no one was there, I bought us both lunch at Santa Maria burgers on Broadway. I noticed paperback murder mysteries scattered piled in the house, American killer detective fiction. Mom likes British cottage murder mysteries.
    4. “Vandenburg [Air Force Base] sure made this area boom,” mom said.
    5. “There used to be nothing out here on this side of town,” I said.
    6. “Call us and let us know how it’s going,” I said.
    7. Jim Agawa’s address is… Curryer.
    8. Bad traffic rush hour through San Jose to South San Francisco, Burlinggame, SF airport.
    9. Whenever I go into the Bay Area I feel I am descending into a massive NIGHT pit of the Past. Dad was born there, his parents lived most of their lives in Alameda and Vallejo. I spent ten years there. Jack London was an oyster pirate there and made a career as one of the highest paid writers of his time; in the days of the Barbary Coast, Jack London invented himself as the prototypical American writer pioneering the territory for Hemingway, Kerouac, and generations of male authors.
    10. Jack London square has a jazz club and…
    11. Never again to do certain things. Never again to jump the fence at Aptos community college pool and swim at night with Zoose and Dolores.
    12. It’s too late to write some of those stories.
    13. NIGHT pit of the past, everybody says San Francisco is changed and ruined now.
    14. Now people are talking Portland; Paul mentioned it.
    15. Music. Maybe too much music. Played loud.
    16. In San Mateo, I recalled fleeing south on 101 thru traffic with a couple strippers in black cadillac after a cancelled “outcall,” (“it’s a set-up,”
    the stripper who drove past the address we’d been given on a dead-end street said peering at the apparently vacant house and she made an abrupt U-turn, as a car pulled out behind us and the chase was on) we were chased by a couple guys in a sedan, one of whom was long-haired and had a fire-melted face that was bright red when he was screaming at us. “Next time!” he shrieked, cussing, at us as they swerved as if to broadside us. But we were dodging thru traffic and if they were going to shoot at us they could have shot at us. “I’d call that a warning,” one of the women, maybe Randy, said.
    17. Now I think about real estate, the economy. I flicked the radio from FM station to station, checking out local offerings. Ended up on KPFA, Marxists discussing the Wall Street crash & proposed bailout. “That’s the contradiction embraced by the center-Left,” one was saying, “when they talk about Main Street, they’re trying to make capitalism work for working people, but it just can’t be done.” Yeah, I thought loud enough to reverb in my brain, there’s no contradiction in just standing off to the side and saying we should just Overthrow the Capitalist System! No contradiction there! The whole time thinking I might never arrive on time because it was taking more than an hour to get from San Jose to SF and if it took over 2 hours I’d be late. Traffic was totally coagulated and clotted; L.A. traffic is wonderful by comparison.
    18. Arterioscloerotic Bay Area traffic is the current thing. KPFA broadcasting from the NIGHT pit of the past.
    19. My soul was like a little ghost of King Kong climbing the radio tower into the NIGHT of the past.
    20. I like how those Marxists talking give electric shocks to my soul in the warm hills of NIGHT.
    21. In real life it was late afternoon. Sometimes it’s always late afternoon.
    22. I navigated by superpowers of special brainwaves that come to me from the NIGHT of the past. (I had forgotten to bring anything that had the address of the venue, CCAC or directions or even the actual time and date. But the hell with actual real details and facts. I am getting messages from the cold WATERS of the past.) I exited an offramp that said Civic Center, and turned south, found 16th, left east on 16th till I got near CCAC. Parked right nearby. I arrived on time, in spite of traffic,
    in spite of not bringing information or directions, in spite of everything.
    23. I was half hour early, which is over AN HOUR early at least, on Poetry Time. I said hello to Oscar and Barbara Jane Reyes and Dana from SPT. Oscar is Barbara’s partner (two poets); they said they were all fans. I asked Dana what she wanted me to read. I got M&M’s from a machine and sat in the big hangar of CCAC’s main building at empty table and sorted thru some pieces to read. By the time I went back to the auditoreum lobby SPT had set up the book table and drinks and they offered me beer or wine; I slurped a Tecate while shaking hands with Zach Linmark
    and Jaime Cortez. Matthew Zapruder introduced himself, and we said we’d hike together and check on his friend Anthony McCann the next time he was in L.A. He said he’d recently moved to SF. (I made no mention that SF was stuck in the NIGHT pit of the past for me. I had already picked out the pieces that I was going to read, and I was hoping if that went well, it would appear to all concerned that I was actually in the PRESENT. Piss on the big NIGHT of the past, I had to do something NOW.)
    24. Gloria Frym introduced herself, short story author published by City Lights, from Bronx originally and recently Berkeley, I guess. We talked with Barbara Jane about facebook. “We finally meet! It’s interesting to see who’s on it and who’s not, who’s lonely and who’s not,” Gloria said. Facebook is something out of the NIGHT of the future, I suggested.
    25. …read first. She was blonde and she read poems about, or for, her husband. They were “on their honeymoon.”
    26. Leni Zumas read the title story from her book. She was a good reader. She has thick dark hair and dark eyes. Her story was about… She teaches at… college, NYC…
    27. Zach Linmark read poems from his latest two collections of poetry and ROLLING THE R’S, his popular novel (prose poems in the fashion of HOUSE ON MANGO STREET). I expected him to be a standout reader and he was, his piece about gay middle schoolers breaking out into inappropriate pidgin had the audience of maybe 50 or so howling.
    28. I read the pieces that I had read a week earlier at the benefit for Ave. 50 gallery. I made sure to mention City Lights and also (seconded with the actual details by Matt Zapruder from the audience) the STATE OF THE UNION anthology reading hosted by Wave Press at Pegasus books in the East Bay on Tuesday, where Barbara Jane said she was also reading. I told them I couldn’t hang around the Bay Area till Tuesday. Gotta make it to the present.
    29. Jaime Cortez read a “benchi” piece about Obama being given a tour
    of the White House by Hillary Clinton, against the projected background of perfectly synched clips of the 60s black white racial issue movie, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER with sidney poitier & katheryn hepburn, who Jaime Cortez called “the Women’s Vote.” It was hilarious.
    30. Niether of my two elder daughters came to the reading tho they were apparently both in the Bay Area at the time. We weren’t told that Ume had flown in from Alaska. We didn’t know Marina was driving up from Santa Barbara. We were all apparently driving around the Bay Area at the same time veiled behind dark COLD curtains of the past.
    31. When Zach heard I was leaving immediately for points south, Monterey (tho I was considering just driving straight back to L.A.) he tried to think of Justin Chin or somebody I could stay with on their couch. I thanked him, “thanks anyway, I’ll be all right,” and got in the Prius and headed out into the NIGHT. It started to rain. Everything was wet, ripply, dark and bleary with lights shining through my weariness with the COLD waters of the bay on my left like the PAST.
    32. I had only gotten a $100 check for the reading and realized I’d been too busy to check on the numbers of the situation and the check wouldn’t cover my expenses. It barely covered gas for the Prius at 900 miles. I had been going on information or messages I had gotten from the PAST and the dark COLD WATERS had pissed on my leg and had given me messed up information. I realized I could not do that again.
    33. I was thirsty.
    34. Traffic was brisk south on 280. I was doing 80 when the CHP pulled over a VW bug who sped past me doing 90 or 100. Better not to drive back to L.A. without stopping.
    35. Fog and scattered drizzles on windy 17 over the mountains to Santa Cruz, what’s open around here at midnight? Saturn Cafe vegeterian restaurant open till 3 AM, lower Pacific with crowds of vagrant teens milling everywhere, I waited twenty minutes in their noise for a seat and ate reading Zach’s poetry book.
    36. …
    37. Motels at NIGHT.

    Sesshu Foster

  2. Yep, quite a trip.

    It was good to see the Tecate in your hand. It made me feel like I didn’t have to act so formal.

    Good reading. Definitely let me know when you start doing events for World Ball Notebook.

  3. I too am bummed.

    This fall, perhaps more than any other, has made me wish I could be in five places at one time!

    *le sigh*

    Thanks for the updates, Barbara!

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