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THE BIG SMOKE | Poems by Adrian Matejka | Penguin (2013)

April 23rd, 2014

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“A chunky, chilling, fondly researched reminder of what life was like for one of the greatest boxers in the run-up to the American Century and its opening decades. In Jack Johnson’s imagined voice, Adrian Matejka retells the Big Smoke’s story straight, slant and sweet. A Velcro read.”
– Al Young

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A finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in Poetry—a collection that examines the myth and history of the prizefighter Jack Johnson.
 
The legendary Jack Johnson (1878–1946) was a true American creation. The child of emancipated slaves, he overcame the violent segregationism of Jim Crow, challenging white boxers—and white America—to become the first African American heavyweight world champion. The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka’s third work of poetry, follows the fighter’s journey from poverty to the most coveted title in sports through the multi-layered voices of Johnson and the white women he brazenly loved. Matejka’s book is part historic reclamation and part interrogation of Johnson’s complicated legacy, one that often misremembers the magnetic man behind the myth.

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Button-Play-32x32 Watch and listen to Adrian Matejka read from The Big Smoke at the 2013 National Book Awards.

Poems by Adrian Matejka
[pronounced Ma-TEE-ka]

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MOUTH & FRUIT | Poems by Chryss Yost | Gunpowder Press (2014)

April 23rd, 2014

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ISBN 978-0-9916651-1-2
80 pages
$15
Gunpowder Press, Santa Barbara

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Mouth & Fruit—what a hearty debut! If ever there lived a hands-on poet, her name is Chryss Yost. Wired with feeling and touch, reverie and thought, anger and hunger, these sleek poems dart, dive, sizzle, and sometimes sting. The subtle California sea the gifted poet swims and feeds upon (and feeds) feels as vast as her appetite for life. Birth, death, growth, horticulture, baking, dining, mothering, love, lust; the inseparable spiritual and sensual realms—Chryss Yost’s lush language and imagery ferry us to each destination for keeps, no been-there-done-that.
– Al Young,
California’s poet laureate emeritus

Chryss Yost’s poems are like the coastal light of California, so brightly made you almost miss the grief between the lines. “I sit on your patio, alone,” she writes. “My empty glass as heavy as a gun, / My satin straps and clasps not yet undone.” She admits the shadow self into the western glow, which makes it truer, more fully lived. There’s a classical clarity in lines like dry white wine: “We are renewed, to wonder which came first: / that flow of water or this endless thirst?” This is poetry of warm intelligence, sensuality and grace. A marvelous debut.
—David Mason

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magnifying_glass_icon Chryss Yost, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate

Santa Barbara’s newest Poet Laureate, and former [Santa Barbara] City College student (2003-2005), Chryss Yost enjoys an apple and reads a few of her poems from her book entitled “Mouth & Fruit” on Sunday, April 20. Yost became the Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara in April of 2013, and will keep that title until 2015. | Courtesy of The Channels, Santa Barbara City College

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The 2014 Pulitzer Prize

April 14th, 2014

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2014 Pulitzers

Click here

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THE SKY BETWEEN THE LEAVES: Film reviews, essays & interviews (1992-2012) by David Walsh

March 15th, 2014

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“For film lovers hungry for feedback chewier than the gossip-flavored crackle-and-pop of what corporate media serve up.”
– Al Young 

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A review from Uruguay of David Walsh’s The Sky Between the Leaves

“The Permanent Revolution in Film Criticism”
By Marcelo Arias Souto
19 February 2014

This review originally appeared February 9 in Spanish, in a somewhat longer version, on the author’s blog. Souto’s comment reflects a growing and welcome interest in filmmaking and film criticism that takes social life, and the problems of wide layers of the population, more seriously.

Some critics have been able to do something more than make a serious and sharp analysis of cinema: they have elaborated their own cinematographic language, challenging, and at times even transforming, not only the viewer’s perception of what he sees on screen, but also his vision of the world, the connection between the reality of a film—necessarily a construction or a representation—and the reality that transpires outside of it. The first that come to my mind are André Bazin, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Manny Farber, Andrew Sarris and Serge Daney.

In the last 30 years or so, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Jim Hoberman, Kent Jones and Adrian Martin have done significant work, and perhaps deserve to be a part of this celebrated list. But in many respects, the most important contemporary film critic is David Walsh. Arts editor of the World Socialist Web Site (www.wsws.org), where he writes about film from a Marxist perspective, Walsh is the cultural journalist who best explores the relation of cinema with the world in which we live. There is no other writer today displaying such a profound historical understanding when reviewing a particular film or a director’s career in general, on the basis of the political, economic and cultural context.

Since I discovered his work, I realized that Walsh was not a mere commentator, but a film thinker: someone with the vocation to develop a personal theory of the history and aesthetics of cinema, with a tone and a way of writing that challenges both the trivial preferences of the most unthinking entertainment journalists, but also the trends and figures appreciated by the most sophisticated moviegoers and critics. As a Marxist, Walsh conducts his work as a means to oppose the existing social order and its culture, to demand that his colleagues not be so indulgent either toward the more conventional cinema or that which introduces itself as its alternative. And his conviction and well-argued passion, his rebellion against any type of cliché, create the sensation of pleasure and the liberating effect that I had found before (or would find later) in the writings of Bazin, Truffaut, Farber, Sarris or Daney.

I experienced the same feelings reading The Sky Between the Leaves, a collection of his film reviews, essays and interviews with directors and colleagues, made between 1992 and 2012. Most pieces of this anthology were posted on the World Socialist Web Site, launched in February of 1998 by the International Committee of the Fourth International. But it also contains articles written between 1992 and 1996, which appeared in newspapers published by the Workers League, the predecessor organization of the Socialist Equality Party.

The book was published in November 2013 and a Spanish translation has yet be produced. But those who know English and prefer to read it in its original version can get it from Amazon or through Mehring Books. At this address, there is also a special site dedicated to the book’s publication where one can see an interview with its author and also read some sections of this work.

As a summary of Walsh’s thought and work, The Sky Between the Leaves confirms his ability to explore every film with an almost scientific meticulousness, stripped of hyperbole and arbitrariness. Walsh is not an aesthetic theorist, he does not focus on the ontology of the image, as Bazin did. Nor is he a stylist as a writer, he has not Farber’s innovative prose. And perhaps he doesn’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of film history of some of his most eminent colleagues. But he does have a historical and social perspective that allows him to think about cinema with greater depth than any critic I know, past or present. He also communicates his ideas with a fluid writing style, which mixes the usual severity of his evaluations with sparks of wit and humor.

The book has an introduction in which Walsh describes his personal and political trajectory over the last two decades, his ideological vision, and his conception of cinema. He reveals that the title of his book comes from Breton’s poem In the beautiful half-light of 1934, which he interprets as “a reference to the attempt to see through the immediate obstructions to a brighter and broader reality.”

After the prologue, the book is structured in four chapters. The first one brings together reviews of Riff-Raff (1991) by Ken Loach, Naked (1993) by Mike Leigh, Through the Olive Trees (1994) by Abbas Kiarostami, A Borrowed Life (1994) by Wu Nienjen, The Thin Red Line (1998) by Terrence Malick, Platform (2000) by Jia Zhangke, Yi Yi (2000) by Edward Yang, Waltz with Bashir (2008) by Ari Folman and A Separation (2011), by Asghar Farhadi, among a long list.

This section also includes an examination of classic films, screened in restored versions, such as Luchino Visconti’s Senso (1954), Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). The second part of the book offers the coverage of some festivals (Toronto, Vancouver, Buenos Aires). The third chapter has interviews with critics Andrew Sarris and Robin Wood, and filmmakers Abbas Kiarostami, Jia Zhangke and Mike Leigh.

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Poets ADAM DAVID MILLER and AL YOUNG at the Albany Library, Tuesday March 11, 2014. 7-9pm

March 8th, 2014

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” … The audience is attentive, well-read, and engaged, and does not flee after the featured reading is over; during the open mic, you might look up from your sonnet to see Maxine Hong Kingston smiling and nodding at your words. Really.”

Poetry at the Albany Library

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1247 Marin Ave, Albany, CA 94706
Get directions

March 11, 2014
7 to 9pm
Second Tuesdays featured poets & open mic

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Al & Adam Livermore Arts Ctr 2007 magnifying_glass_icon
Adam David Miller
and Al Young

ADM Reading

ADAM DAVID MILLER will read new and selected writings, from his latest collection of poetry, The Sky is a Page: New and Selected Poems (2010), and his memoir Ticket to Exile (Heyday, 2007) and its sequel.

Ticket to Exile, about life in the Jim Crow South and Miller’s forced flight North at age 19, is in part a tribute to his mother and community left behind. It was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award and 2008 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. The Sky Is A Page reflects Miller’s NEH Fellowship in West Africa and other travels. Its “West African Woman Casts Her Shadow” won the Artists’ Embassy International Dancing Poetry Contest.

Forever Afternoon won the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. Miller also edited Dices, or Black Bones (Houghton-Mifflin, 1970), collected works by then-emerging poets like Al Young, Ishmael Reed, and Lucille Clifton, won the California Teachers Association Award for Best Anthology.

Since 1948 Miller has served the Bay Area as writer, teacher, editor, publisher, and radio, television, theater producer. As part of the Berkeley Arts Commision, he coordinated the Addison Street “Poetry Walk.” He has read and lectured throughout the country and abroad. In 2011 he returned to the state of his birth and exile to speak at the University of South Carolina’s Black History Month program.

Miller has received the Berkeley Poetry Festival Lifetime Achievement Award and the PEN-Oakland Lifetime Achievement Award. Adam David Miller, whose circumstances and talents have already destined him to live several lifetimes in one, is now a nonagenarian with even more of life to share.

Get the feel of an Adam David Miller reading at Vimeo’s “Touch of a Poet’

“Adam David Miller snugly pushes feeling to thought the way song combines music and words … The Sky Is a Page to be turned again and again with wonder and joy.
— Al Young

“From Point Reyes to Jamaica to Africa … with stops along the physical and mental timelines, The Sky is a Page unfolds with the patience of cartography mapping the realm of human emotion and thought.”
— Indigo Moor

from ‘West African Woman Casts Her Shadow’

Your rhythm feeds us, makes the cycle of our days
Our seasons
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In the many tongues, pimpim-pimpim
Pimpim-pimpim, lift and smash
Look up
Stride your way into the sun

Walk a fine, my Mother, walkafine

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AL YOUNG’s many books reflect most all genres and styles: poetry, fiction, essay, screenplay, musical memoir. He has received American Book Awards for the poetry collection The Sound of Dreams Remembered and for Bodies and Soul: Musical Memoirs. His poetry and prose have been translated into over a dozen languages.

From 2005 through 2008 Young served as California’s Poet Laureate. On his appointment, he told the L. A. Times, My philosophy many years ago changed from getting to giving, and that shift has brought about just a lot of wonderful things. It feels good bringing poetry into people’s lives.”

Other honors include NEA, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Fellowships, the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence, and the 2011 Thomas Wolfe Award. In 2012, on the first Friday of each month, Young broadcasted an original poem for KQED Public Radio’s The California Report.

As current Visiting Scholar at California College of the Arts, San Francisco, Young teaches imaginative writing and creativity. His latest book of poetry, Offline Love, is almost ready for the presses.

AlYoung.org

from ‘Living in the Deep West’
In memory of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013)

SoCal and what you called the Deep West keel
over without you and your defiant signifying.
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xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxAnything but quiet or quaint,
your pictures in wall-painted language (sliced
between canyons and summits and ridges) stick
to the ribs and to the heart half-free or caged.
Concrete streets and freeways couldn’t always go
the distance or reach the intimacy you loved.
What was a Watts-born woman to do but learn
to boogaloo? Or sail the desert? Or walk the sea?

2nd Tuesday Albany Library

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Albany Library
1247 Marin Avenue
Albany, CA 94706

For additional information, call 510-526-3720

Sponsored by Friends of the Albany Library. Wheelchair accessible.
ASL interpreter provided with 7 working days notice
(510-526-3720 or TTY 510-663-0660)

Produced by Catherine Taylor

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for the Alameda County Library, Albany

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