Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: Closet. Poets in NYC, On-line Floricanto

Discarded Dreams Raisin' Havoc in Sunless World

Review: Rudy Ch. Garcia. The Closet of Discarded Dreams. Santa Rosa, CA : Damnation Books, 2012.
ISBN: 9781615727551 1615727558

Michael Sedano

Fantasy fiction can be a wonderful money-maker for a publisher, perhaps authors, too: Alice in Wonderland; The Hobbit; The Magic Christian; Stranger in a Strange Land; Harry Potter. Megaclassics like these have likely sold enough paper copies to denude miles of forests.

For readers, fantasy fiction becomes a source of escapist pleasure, even if cultural gaps force readers to adjust to, or accept, entities like nannies, mad queens, runes, taking tea, dumping one’s kids in boarding schools, and the absence of people of color. An exception are Hobbits, described when we meet Bilbo Baggins as having curly brown hair and long clever brown fingers.

It’s a refreshing 21st century development that, particularly in the United States, fantasy and speculative fiction writers have begun to integrate fantasy universes with characters and story lines suited to attracting new readerships among gente looking to see something of themselves. For example, La Bloga recently reviewed Sabrina Vourvoulias’ INK. The novel tackles the politics of US skin colour racism head-on.

In a more subtle vein comes La Bloga founding bloguero Rudy Ch. Garcia’s masterfully wrought The Closet of Discarded Dreams.

Garcia’s central character doesn’t have a name; he’s the Chicano. While The Closet might be a metaphor for contemporary society and identity politics, the novel doesn’t force the implications upon anyone. There are key Chicana and Chicano characters—Laura the cantina owner, the four vatos in the caddy convertible—and a mixed bag of characters like Marilyn Norma Jean Monroe, Che Guevara, a leper, and nameless multiethnic tipas tipos like the Swedish nude volleyballers or a handful of cheerleaders.

Readers not grinding an ideological axe will adjust to, or accept, Garcia’s multicultural world as a matter of course because that’s the way the world is. The Closet isn’t universally multicultural. Indigenous gente, with one pitiful exception—an Apache youth roasted alive on a spit--don’t make it to this Westernized fantasy world.

The author skilfully maneuvers his reader out of a solidly objective frame. In the perfectly ambiguous world of The Closet, deprived of external points of reference, the reader must submit to the fantasy and go along with every gag.

The tactic mirrors The Chicano’s predicament. Like his characters, Garcia imprisons his readers in the dreamspace world of The Closet. Nothing is strange but everything is stranger. Seize on a concrete notion, like a floor, and sink down into a complexity of bodies and other discarded dream entities.

The inherent impossibility of writing dreams with lucid precision becomes a possibility, if the reader willingly gives in to the imagined texture of this dark yet illuminated space, especially if the reader allows herself himself the luxury of succumbing to the conceit that dreams come from people, and as readily as one is discarded, it can be picked up again and disappear from The Closet. A dream dies finally only when the dreamer expires.

Among the novel’s many pleasures is Garcia’s mastery of language and clever asides. As The Closet world begins to deteriorate—the agon of the novel—the discarded dreamfolk helplessly recognize their danger, “We didn’t need Chicken Little to know, not that anybody’d seen him in weeks.”

The author’s exceptionally adept at simile, as when The Chicano, impaled on grappling hooks, manages to slip them out “as easily as a wallet at a strip club, though with less pain.” Readers will chortle frequently as jokes like that zoom past.

The novel’s a wondrous tour de force, yet it comes with its share of growing pains typical of a first novel. Despite the author’s grammatical fluidity, he cannot write certain words, “fokking” for example, but he has no trouble giving himself a boner.

Worst element is the writer’s discomfort with multicultural expression, of all things. All the Spanish phrases and words are set in italic type. Damn. Is it the editor who mucked that up? The pinche italics stick out like mini Gojira’s flamethrower breath.

Told in the first person, The Closet of Discarded Dreams builds substantial uneasiness as The Closet nears collapse and the “secret” of The Chicano’s identity emerges. Garcia tosses in some false clues to lead astray readers who think they can predict how it will all resolve, or maybe come crashing down.

The Closet of Discarded Dreams comes from a small publisher out of Santa Rosa California. An independent bookseller should be able to order a hard copy, or secure a password to download the eBook version. The latter would be a less-than-satisfying choice. Like the megaclassics of fantasy literature, readers will find themselves eager to pass along their copy to friends and they to friends and so on until the book, dog-eared and broken-spined, finds itself back to the original owner, like a discarded dream renewed.

Rudy Garcia Reads from The Closet of Discarded Dreams

Visit the book’s website for a free sample from Chapter 1, and to click on links to hear the author reading his own stuff.

You can also view Garcia reading on video at Latinopia. For background on this Latinopia video, check out Rudy Garcia’s two-part report on the book tour: Part I, Part II.

Foto Ese
Poets Forum at Academy of American Poets

A dream I do not intend to discard is to take the perfect public speaker / reader photograph. I'm one of the camera-bearing people you see at readings. Last weekend my wife and I traveled to Manhattan's The New School for the Poets Forum.

My ideal spot is a front row seat, or as near to the lectern as I can get. When I cannot do that, I look for an open space in the rear, and mount a long lens on a tripod. Up close, I'll select either a 100mm lens or the standard 35~55mm lens.

Anne Waldman under the high spotlight.
Among the myriad challenges of my foto quest are lighting, movement, audience, and distractions. Among the latter I include my noisome shutter going snap, click, snap snap whirl snap. I use a consumer-level Canon camera that outputs a beautifully detailed 18 megapixel image but that dang thing is loud.

I gotta get me one of these professional cameras. Whisper quiet shutter.
Available light is my preference. At any rate, I avoid flash photography as much as I can--really eats battery life. One time during a Buckminster Fuller lecture, the ambient light was horribly dim so I fired off my flash almost 72 times, i.e. two 36-exposure rolls of Tri-X. An audience member across the vast auditorium stood during Q&A and loudly asked me to stop firing the danged flash. I did not, being on assignment from the Daily Trojan newspaper.

Brenda Shaughnessy, Mark bibbins, Mary Jo Bang from the fourth row with a normal lens.
Spotlighting is both friend and enemy. High overhead, the light creates awful contrast. White hot spots on noses and foreheads, deep shadows under cheeks and necks. Such light falls off quickly, often shoulders and hand/arm gestures off to the side dim into underexposure. Careful test exposures help get acceptable images, but sometimes Photoshop has to rescue a poor frame.

Local color detail, a panelist's speaking notes.
Digital equipment allows speed ratings as high as 3200. Normal for me is 800. The highly sensitive setting leads to electronic noise and blurry images when the subject moves too fast for the 1/30 second shutter speed I set in dim ambience.

Elizabeth Alexander, "Reconsidering Lucille Clifton" lecture. Normal lens from fifth row back. Always arrive early! The big fellow in the stripes obscured my view for most of the hour. When he crouched I got a relatively good image. Alexander read at Obama's first inauguration and recently edited Clifton's complete works collection.
The perfect reader image has the speaker making eye contact, mouth and eyes open in mid-speech, and a lively gesture. This necessitates attending to the flow of speech, anticipating an orotund expression or a dynamic moment. Click too soon or too late and the results come less than optimal. The key is expose a lot of frames.

Toi Derricotte leans into the microphone, covers her mouth to produce a less-than-satisfactory image. Lavalliere mics remove such distractions.
When I was shooting film, I exposed two or four frames for each speaker, and in a 36 exposure roll, I would expect to have 8 or ten good frames. Digital cameras and big megabyte chips allow a thousand or more exposures in a single session, so long as the battery holds out. Such digital generosity means I can produce dozens of effective images in a single speaker or panel. The more you click, the better likelihood of producing acceptable images.

Carl Phillips is difficult to photograph because his eye contact is exceedingly sparse. This is how he presents himself to his audience for most of his presentation.
Some of the images I captured in New York are sharp, colorful, and dynamic. Selecting the best ones for this foto essay has been a challenge. Some frames illustrate effective reading technique, while others capture a unique moment, or show a problem.

Juan Felipe Herrera is a photographer and has superb lens awareness. He holds gestures a bit longer to allow numerous good frames.
Victor Hernandez Cruz reads his poetry surprisingly low-key. In discussion mode he gets lively and gestures freely. Here he tells the audience about writing in his reptile-filled writing space to the music of coqui, horny frogs.
It's never enough to have a famous figure on frame. The image has to approach perfection. Eyes open, mouth saying something, dynamism. Every reader deserves a memorable portrait. With ample chip space, I'm at liberty to grab images that provide details and local color.

You can view and download high resolution portraits at http://readraza.com/nycpoetsforum. All are ©, so please use them for personal, non-commercial purposes.

The Academy of American Poets Sixth Annual Poets Forum attracts full houses. Poetry lives!

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto Penultimate October Tuesday
Abel Martinez, Elizabeth Cazessús, Terry McCarty, Iris De Anda, John Martinez

“We Are America”, Abel Martinez
“Lengua De Asfalto”, Elizabeth Cazessús
“Self-Deportation”, Terry Mccarty
“I DreAM”, Iris De Anda
“Kick A Mexican”, John Martinez

Abel Martinez

Dawn’s early light brings
The color to the top of our skin
We know who we are before
You know what we are.

We are the morning
Bright in the fields
Near a rusted out dream sedan
That carries my sisters and brothers
To the green rows of grapes,
and lettuce
To fill the belly of America.

We poured the concrete
That filled the sky
And stacked the masses
30 stories high
In every city that dreamed
Of Babylon.

You locked it tight
With a color guard
Protecting and
Possessing America.

We fix your cars
Made in China
And smoothed the idle
The barely audible whisper
Of dollars stolen in sweat
Translated into English;
And it hums into the stall
Of the American traffic jam.

Your lawns grew weeds
So we groomed them
Painted flowers into the landscape
And provoked the fertile
Seed to grow
So you can have your garden party
In the lap of the American Dream.

We are your poetas
Doctors and Lawyers.
Teachers stirring
Your child to dream higher.
We moved the stars for you
To explore beyond the
Zero you never knew.

We dreamed of a nation
To fight for,
In bunkers and foxholes
We crawled and shot
At people that looked like us
And died for people that
Don’t look like us.
We returned scarred and emotional
And deaf to the charms
Of leaders gone rogue
That Hitler would take
Over the world
That Korea would mark
The end of the world
Vietnam was
A police action
Iran has weapons
Of mass destruction.
The Taliban will destroy
Your way of life.

The imaginary
“Let freedom ring”

Let Freedom Ring
In the halls of the schools
In East Los, San Jo
El Paso.
The bleached out
Versions of truth
The lackadaisical curriculum
The libraries that
Exchanged our culture
For computers and DVD’s.

Hope Floats.

Let Freedom Ring
In the labor camps
Breeding abject
Poverty .
With bent backs
And burnt umber skin
Cracked by the sun
Yet every day
The memory snaps the body
Back into the motion
Of labor
In the fields.

Let freedom ring in the
Fruit canning factories
Packing our dreams
In a sweet syrupy brine.
In the small demure smiles
Of our women
Frozen to the cogs
In subzero factories
All across this land.

Let Freedom Ring
In Arizona where it is a crime
To be “Hispanic”
And the “trucha”
Seeps into your spine
Because if you are brown
You are worried
And if you are worried
You are guilty.

Let freedom ring
In Anaheim
As the police
Release attack dogs into crowds
Of Tias and tios,
Abuelos y abuelas
And little brown chamacos
Run scared as gunfire
Rips through the crowd:
The rockets red glare
And murders another
Latino in America


Que Viva America!
El Pais
From Canada
To the tip of Sur.

We are here
We have always been here
And we are not going anywhere
Despite the borders
The laws that divide
Skin from skin

Elizabeth Cazessús

Ya que olvides ese cielo

Y no puedas nombrar los testigos:

La piedra, la distancia, la arena

Bajo el sol de ese instante,

Y seas un habitante más del planeta

Despojado del desierto, la sal

Y el silencio,

Y no alcances el azul

que te robaron las palabras,

las pausas,

Y no puedas recordar a ese yo

Ni ese tú, sin el nosotros

entonces, sabrás que el tiempo

atrapó a los espejos

en esa lengua

de asfalto.

(Title inspired by Mitt Romney)
Terry McCarty

gonna leave the nation of hate

before it sends a 30-day notice

in the mail asking me



to be honest,

I'm with THEM

because they see

stars and rainbows

and cats and dogs

and men and men

and women and women

and men and women

all living together

not caring about what US say

gonna leave the nation of conditional love

(which isn't real love at all)

before the demagnetizer

enters my brain

and erases memories

of all those times

I didn't have to guess

what other people felt and thought--

I just knew

and they knew

I cared

no matter what

you can reach me on the other side

anytime you want

I'll throw you a tin can

with a long string

over the fence

so we can listen to each other speak

and be certain that

no one else is listening

to us

but us alone

I dreAM
Iris De Anda

spiral of life
keep rising
always surface
inside my skin

fractals of light
like sweat
tears &
through my pores

my yearning
mixed with
i remember

like floating oceans
amidst dimensions

Kick A Mexican
John Martinez

When you feel down,
No one seems to love you anymore,
When your dog is bored of you,
Your mother, dead from age,
Your mortgage, like a scorpion
In your pocket,
The mailman sighing
At your box
And your perception is,
That your flag
Has been trampled on...

Kick a Mexican.

Tell everybody
Miscalculated theories,
That we are a financial
Drain on America,
That we are too stupid
To even cut grass

Kick a Mexican

On the ground,
bowing to tie your shoes,
Kick him while cleaning
Your brother’s ass
In the convalescent home,
Kick him in the fields,
Where he prepares your plate
With dried branch hands,
Kick him even when
So often, he aspires to be you,
Blue eyed, red face, chapped lips,
Angry, confused,
Never wanting the truth…
I know you; I've taken your foot
And flipped you
To the ground

Go ahead, kick at me again.


“We Are America”, Abel Martinez
“Lengua De Asfalto”, Elizabeth Cazessús
“Self-Deportation”, Terry Mccarty
“I DreAM”, Iris De Anda
“Kick A Mexican”, John Martinez

Abel Martinez’s upbringing continues to inspire and direct his writing and his professional choices. Born in the West Side of Fresno, California; where poverty and violence collaborated against residents on a daily basis, Abel chose creative outlets rather than a destructive relationship with the gangs that existed in his world. Abel left the barrio years ago, but returns every day in his writings and in his work as a Social Work Supervisor; where he helps refugees find a home en Los Estados Unidos.
Abel continues to write poetry and has more recently had the honor of contributing to the Facebook page Poets Responding To SB 1070, as well as having the great honor of being published in the online journal, La Bloga on several occasions.

Terry McCarty was born on July 31, 1959 in Electra, Texas. He moved to Southern California in 1988. Terry began writing poetry in the summer of 1997. From 1998 To 1999, he was a member of the Midnight Special bookstore poetry workshop in Santa Monica. He has been a featured poet in several Southern California venues. Terry has also featured at readings in Las Vegas, NV, San Francisco, CA, Santa Cruz, CA, Berkeley, CA and Seattle, WA.

Terry has also appeared in Lynda and Lisa Larose’s the Poetry Spiral at Luna Sol Café (Los Angeles), Roni Walter’s Bakstreeet Cometri at the Comedy Store (West Hollywood) and last July's Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts reading at the Last Bookstore (Los Angeles)

Published in these anthologies:

Beyond The Valley Of The Contemporary Poets
(Vcp Press 2001 Edition)
So Luminous The
Wildflowers (Tebot Bach)
The Long Way Home: The
Best Of The Little Red Books Series 1998-2008
(Lummox Press)
Other Books Include:
I Saw It On Tv (Lummox Press)
20 Greatest Hits: Poems 1997-2004 (E-Book Available On Itunes And Amazon Kindle)
Imperfectionist (Meridien Pressworks)

Iris De Anda is a writer, activist, and practitioner of the healing arts. A native of Los Angeles she believes in the power of spoken word, poetry, storytelling, and dreams. Follow her story @ http://irisdeanda.typepad.com/la_writer_underground/

John Martinez. I studied Creative Writing at Fresno State University and have published poetry in El Tecolote, Red Trapeze and in The LA Weekly. Recently, I have posted poems on Poets Responding to SB1070 and this will be my 12th poem published in La Bloga. I have performed (as a musician/political activist, poet) with Teatro De La Tierra, Los Perros Del Pueblo and TROKA, a Poetry Ensemble, lead by poet Juan Felipe Herrera. I have toured with several cumbia/salsa bands throughout the Central Valley and in Los Angeles and I have just completed my book of Poems, PLACES. I have worked, for the last 17 years, as an Administrator for a Los Angeles law firm. I make my home in Upland, California with my beautiful wife, Rosa America and family. Lastly, I will be doing my first Feature Poetry Reading from my new Manuscript at Dave Romero’s Between The Bars, in Pomona, Ca., tomorrow night. Hope to see some LA Bloga readers there.

1 comment:

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Fascinating folks and compelling poetry! What a wonderful combo. Thanks so much, Mike and other Blogueros, for keeping us enlightened about our fellow Latina/o authors' work. Adelante todos! Also: I loved your book review of Rudy Ch. Garcia's book. Sounds totally poetic as well.