Pabellón de Los Angeles
Something rare (at least for me) happened yesterday morning at the LA Pavillion: I took a book off a shelf and made a compulsive purchase based, basically, on one poem.
STILL LIFE WITH HALTER IN ITS HAND
Sometimes the words appear singly, or in severals,
thrilled to be invited. They leap toward one another
but once on the page they stare
blankly into space, where they're from,
or where they'd like to be.
The herd of actual horses stays bunched in the trees.
There are muffled sounds and little puffs
of dust when they stamp their feet.
The one I want comes forward
because of the apple and slips his face
through the halter.
We walk and observe crows on the wire
and the woman in pink curlers walking to the mailbox.
I think about the word transience
and imagine tracing the life of writing
in reverse, through its layers---
to rough letters on parchment,
to painted figures dancing across a wall,
drop back to plain red handprints
splayed inside the cave.
I'd like to come forward from there,
stop before the grammar's nailed down,
and find the moment there's a mind
and a hand out of sync. The hand fumbles
to note a sense the image can't evoke,
although whatever it is---loss, brevity---
suffuses every figure: person, horse, cloud, bird---
the language for abstracting heart's sorrow
apprehended, but not set down.
The author is Helen Wickes, who lives in Oakland, CA. The book is In Search of Landscape and the publisher (this is what prompted me to pick up the volume in the first place) is Sixteen Rivers Press. Here's their mission statement:
Sixteen Rivers Press is a shared-work, nonprofit poetry collective dedicated to providing an alternative publishing avenue for San Francisco Bay Area poets. Founded in 1999 by seven writers, the press is named for the sixteen rivers that flow into the San Francisco Bay.
I had to absent myself from the Pavillion at around 2 PM. I was asked to go across the street to the "Mexico I" room at the Hilton to, in essence, represent the NEA/L.A. delegation at a special luncheon for the winner of the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize, which is awarded to the best novel in the Spanish language every year. The 2009 winner was Mexican writer Cristina Rivera Garza.
I wasn't sure what to expect, but as luck would have it, I had the pleasure of sitting next to someone I had been encouraged to meet: David Unger. Here's an interesting essay he published online a couple of years ago at Guernica:
It’s a brisk October day in 1975. I’m 24, driving through Central Park with Gabriel García Márquez. As we wend our way through the park, and exit on Central Park West, I am utterly dumbstruck, afraid I’ll say something stupid to the man whose work, more than any other’s, inspired me to become a writer of fiction. García Márquez today, it hardly bears repeating, is secure in his reputation as one of the great writers of our time. He is the author of 100 Years of Solitude, which has sold 30 million copies in 35 languages; a new genre, magical realism, was spawned by this work. His bestselling Love in the Time of Cholera has been turned into a film, which opens this week in theaters. And he received the Nobel Prize for Literature, of course, in 1982. But in 1975, he is simply my idol.
More pics from today's photo gallery: