Thursday, January 08, 2009

Words to Live By

Poetry is the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself
William Hazlitt

Poetry must have something in it that is barbaric, vast and wild.
Denis Diderot

Poetry, whose material is language, is perhaps the most human and least worldly of the arts, the one in which the end product remains closest to the thought that inspired it.
Hannah Arendt

makes nothing happen.
It survives
in the valley of its saying.
Maxine Kumin

Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.
Dennis Gabor

Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.
Audre Lorde

To help kick off the poetic year, I would like to feature ACHIOTE PRESS

Achiote: a shrub or small tree indigenous to Central and South America. Introduced to the Pacific and Asia by the Spanish in the 17th century, Achiote now has firm transnational roots. Achiote produces pink flowers and red spiny seed pods. Peoples have used the seeds as a dye for clothing, arts and crafts, as body paint in times of war and celebration, as spice and coloring for food.

The editorial board named the press after the Achiote tree because they believe poetry has the very same powers to enrich our surroundings, inspire our passions, enhance our senses, and heal our wounds.
Achiote represents the unrepresentable, transnational, migratory, and adaptive. Achiote Press asks what it means to bear witness, to use adaptation as resistance, to cross borders, to map ourselves onto a dislocated world, to speak in exile, and to suffer diasporic hunger.

Achiote Press was founded in 2006. Every season, they publish two chapbooks: a single-author chapbook and a chap-journal featuring poetry, prose, essay, or translation by authors from diverse cultural and aesthetic backgrounds. In addition, we publish special project chapbooks, including chap-anthologies and collaborative work.

The press is not currently reading manuscripts. Please query if you would like to be considered your poetry or your artwork for a future issue.
Achiote Press is located in Berkeley, California.

Craig Perez, Editor

Jennifer Reimer, Editor
Jason Buchholz, Art Director

Ballast (excerpt below)

Ballast IV: Flung Out Like A Fag-End

The ships that sank never really stood
a chance; the captured in the holds, less.
In water, gravity numbed at the cost of oxygen
made their breaths catch for a taste
of weightlessness; space, centuries before
the Buzz became news. Odd, how we explore
the high and deep, rarely the middle - that belt
of rarefied air which balloons occupy, where
the brutal cargo would have avoided the fury
of waves. Battered, at worst, by hurricanes, there
was still the likelihood of a short period of calm
at the axis - a respite from evil winds - before
the centrifugal drag of the eye wall: a flutter of
freed bodies floating to the ends of the world
to feather new nests, a basket falling, an envelope
drifting, a fire augmenting the speed of migration
from Africa beyond a fast-fingered jazz solo, minus
the 500 years of insult: in the bodies, fire;
in the basket, gifts; in the envelope, odds on whether
the seeds of the scattered would have avoided Katrina
- the dancing wind that exposed the unchanging water
-borne illness of prejudice caught in the holds of
the ships that made it across the sky's reflection two
centuries before the eerie shimmer of a hot air balloon.

Ballast X: Final Cries

If the river cries blood, it is not the sun's
reflection rosy beneath a retiring light, it is
not riverside berries, betrayed by skins too gorged
to contain the sweetness of their juice. It is not
a dream. It is our forebears, battered and branded by gain-
seekers, dripping iron, rusting, as they hover tethered
in baskets strung to sun-shaped fabrics that consume
fire to rise above the desire for freedom. Their voices -
like them - know nothing of the borders to come, slip
between clouds to metamorphose into birdsong. They
inhabit the air, absorb its language by osmosis, observe
its scattering versatility - the way it hisses and dances.
Some escape, diving into the spaces where hurricanes are
sown, to learn the equations that govern pressure; how
the cold air is enough to make them pop like champagne
bottles on ice. The fliers bequeath the inheritance of falling
gracefully; a blessing for dancers, a curse in love. Yet
in the end the method matters little. The sea being mirror
to the blue of the skies, the ship is the genetic cousin
of the balloon - both anchored to the Xs of density,
surface area and flotation. The question is of ballast,
that which gives weight to the ship, balloon, story; and this
interpretation is a vessel to reclaim the history of love, a history
of hatred, discrimination, survival, science, music... language.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a writer of poetry, prose and articles, and author of the poetry chapbooks: eyes of a boy, lips of a man (1999) and M is for Madrigal (2004), a selection of seven jazz poems. A former associate writer-in-residence for BBC Radio 3, and writer-in-residence at California State University, Los Angeles, he is also the Senior Editor at flipped eye publishing - where he has overseen the production of four award-winning titles. Nii is the current International Writing Fellow at the University of Southampton and his debut novel, Tail of the Blue Bird, will be released in June 2009 by Jonathan Cape.

Cover art by Ketzia Schoneberg. Ketzia Schoneberg creates portraits of individuals of other species in order to show the viewer a mirror - an image of the earthy, biological and spiritual origins we share with other creatures. She does not sketch before beginning a painting; when entering the studio she doesn't know beforehand what her subject or palette will be. This approach keeps her work honest both technically and energetically. She uses live models and photographs as starting points for all of her work. Ketzia's educational background includes undergraduate work at the San Francisco Art Institute, art studies at Kibbutz Yavne in Israel, a BFA from San Francisco State University and graduate work at New Mexico State University. She has been showing her work nationally for over 15 years, and makes her home in Oregon. View more of Ketzia's work online at

Teaching Thinking

Hugo García Manríquez. Author of two books, No Oscuro Todavia, (2005), and Los Materiales (2008). His work has appeared in Mandorla, Damn the Caesars, New American Writing, and others. His translation of William Carlos Williams' poem, Paterson, will be published in Mexico next year.

Originally from Strasbourg, France, François Luong currently lives in San Francisco. Other work of his has appeared or is forthcoming in Cannibal, Parthenon West Review, New American Writing, Mirage #4/Period(ICAL), and elsewhere. He is also working on a translation into English of Chutes, Essais, Trafics by Rémi Froger and into French of Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists by A. Rawlings.

Evie Shockley is the author of A Half-Red Sea (2006) and two chapbooks,31 words * prose poems (2007) and The Gorgon Goddess (2001). Her poetry and critical pieces appear in numerous journals and anthologies, recently including Foursquare, The Southern Review, No Tell Motel, Ecotone, PMS: poemmemoirstory, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Mixed Blood, Center, and Jacket. She currently serves as co-guest editor (with Cathy Park Hong) of Jubilat. A Cave Canem graduate fellow and recipient of a Hedgebrook residency, Shockley teaches African American literature and creative writing at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

Roberto Harrison edits Crayon with Andrew Levy and the Bronze Skull Press chapbook series. Two full-length collections of his work appeared in 2006: Counter Daemons (Litmus) and Os (subpress). Elemental Song, a chapbook, also appeared in 2006 through Answer Tag Home Press. Recent work can be found in Chicago Review, Brooklyn Rail, Court Green, War & Peace 3: The Future, Cannot Exist, and string of small machines.

Cover art by Mary V. Marsh. Mary V. Marsh has exhibited paintings, drawings and artist books in many venues, including solo shows at the San Jose Museum of Art, Berkeley Art Center, and the San Francisco Public Library. She received an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1992. Old library books and checkout cards are reconstructed to explore memory, propaganda, and consumer society.

Lisa Alvarado

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