30 October 2011


It's been a long week, and one during which I haven't been able to keep away from the news. I feel kind of like I did when the earthquake struck Fukushima and sent all that nuclear radiation all over Japan - which will soon wash up on Western shores - except this is here at home so the headache I have now is a bit more potent. Reading, watching and following the news as well as participating in the events the narratives are being created out of has made for a very long five days since Tuesday.

This article provides a really good summary of some of the goings-on thus far.

The plaza is re-occupied. Meetings continue amidst various levels of noise. At last night's general strike meeting, there were plenty of helicopters buzzing overhead (news? cops? medics?) but today it was relatively quiet around the Radical Poetry Reading on the plaza steps.

One of the things I love most about the occupation is how little money comes into play there. You can - and many folks do - spend hours just talking to people or hanging out, or working, or playing. All without spending money. There is free food for anyone at the occupation; there is access to art supplies, books, conversation and information; there is physical and emotional support, even acupuncture. Above all, it's a space where you can have all sorts of interactions with people that normally would not occur unless you were in a controlled space of some sort: either one you pay to enter to have an experience (cafe, bar, theater) or the designated home of someone you know (for dinner, a party, book group, other things people do). Not only have I spent a minimal amount of money this week - since instead of meeting friends for coffee or whatever we've been getting together to organize - but I've also interacted with an even broader scope of people than usual outside of my Mills-Temescal-Mills loop of "normal" life, like activists, artists, educators and Lawyers Guild members. The plaza, which simultaneously belongs to everyone and to no one, offers anyone with an interest the chance to engage. 

Today it was poetry that this group I found myself in was coming together around, but it could have been anything. Some are drawn to the children's village, to the medics' tent, to the meditation circle. To screenprinting shirts and posters to get the word out, to bike repair, to the people's mic in the amphitheater. These are independent circles but there is a lot of overlap. Especially between the medics and the poets. (And what does that say about the life-sustaining power of poetry?)

Yet no matter my joy, inertia, and optimism, at the end of the day, I am barricaded by questions rolling around in my brain. Where do the "free" silkscreened t-shirts and the paper for the (kickass) Occupy Oakland posters 

You can see the Hella Occupy Oakland poster in my closet. And yes, I was Twiggy for Halloween.
come from? I think it's amazing that memorabililia/propaganda (with excellent design, at that) is being given out for free, but I was pained when I overheard, regarding Oakland General Strike-stenciled shirts, "Sure, they're free! But we just ran out; if you want one, go get a pack at Walgreens." I know we can't all afford organic cotton. And none of us have time to scour thrift stores for plain jersey. (Besides, even Goodwill is more expensive than Walgreens.) But the most powerful way we can vote on a day-to-day basis is with our dollars, and I don't want to feed the corporations we're trying to starve, not even under the guise of a revolution. 

That was an argument, and I'm not sure where to go from here. 

Totally open to suggestions. Please.
The element of chance emerging from interactions does indicate a different kind of future. It indicates a future in which we can all live with less fear. If there's anything I've learned in the past week, it's that when shit hits the fan, and you've been tear-gassed at a non-violent protest, the odds are next to impeccable that somebody will pick you up and carry you out of the mess, even if the only way I know this is from word of mouth.

26 October 2011

43% of Americans agree with the Occupy Wall Street movement (CBS)

For the second day in a row I wake up to helicopters. This time so close that they drown out the ever-present whoosh of the BART train. Are these about Obama's fundraising visit to the Bay Area, and if so, why are they on this side of the bridge? Or are they making their way up here from downtown with the rest of the wreckage from Oscar Grant Plaza? It's early enough for me to still be curious what the mainstream media is making of yesterday's actions.

I started feeling really panicked when I heard big noises going off. The violence and tumultous coralling I saw downtown yesterday was enough to make me doubt my esophagus' viability - if I'd had food in my stomach I would have thrown up when I saw the fighting that broke out between 7th and 8th streets and Clay.

I have the feeling now that "if you didn't get teargassed, you weren't there", but - wimpy as it is - I didn't stay to get teargassed with my friends. When I started hearing the canisters burst and seeing people running, I bolted to BART, though I had to go two blocks farther north to get to an open station entrance. I was already late to meet my friend Jeff in the city to see our friend's band play at the Rickshaw Stop.

The show was good. I've been bopping to Van's tunes since I was fifteen and he was playing at Painted Sky, and they always inspire some stomping and yelling along with the chorus. Waters rocks harder than Port O'Brien - I got to headbang with my little bit of hair that's growing last night - but the highlight of the show was definitely the Port O'Brien standard Pigeon Hold, which was totally appropriate for the time and place.

Jeff and I were preoccupied the whole time, though, by the images and footage of cops in full riot gear tear-gassing our friends and neighbors coming in via text messages and Twitter feed.

Yesterday people who work downtown were advised not to go to work, though by the time I got down there in the late afternoon there were plenty of people in cafes, including spectators inside Starbucks watching the march from the library - where the occupation reconvened after being kicked out of Frank Ogawa Plaza - go by. I was watiting for the moment when the Starbucks windows got smashed, but it didn't happen.

Like hopeful zombies, people kept marching on and on and on, around and around and around in a snake march that kept either sidestepping or just plain overwhelming the corral of hundreds of police brought in from around the state working overtime, armed with a $700,000 sound cannon, teargassing the shit out of civilians and firing rubber bullets in response to? or provoking the shooting of paintballs. The scary thing was not knowing where it was okay - legal? safe? - to be, and where was not.

All the while, I'm considering, What is the goal of this protest?

It's to retake the plaza in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.

I'm considering, Why retake the plaza? Why the plaza and not somewhere else?

They raided Snow Park, too.

I'm considering who it was who decided it was that plaza that would be occupied in the first place.

I'm remembering that it was the result of a series of community meetings.

I'm considering and remembering these things while experiencing the cognitive dissonance that ensues when you go from an actively resisting space to a tranquil triumph of capitalism, i.e. while sitting down to steaming fish and chicken tacos in the Mission with Jeff. The salty tortilla chips and seven kinds of salsa calmed some of the churning in my stomach that had been building since I first saw the cops in riot gear getting off the bus at 14th and Broadway and increased exponentially when I saw the garbage collectors en masse at Frank Ogawa - renamed for the purposes of the occupation Oscar Grant - Plaza doing the dirty work of cleaning up the wreckages of the destroyed tent city, but didn't resolve the sense that I should not have left my city. Sucks to be part of the 99%. Sucks to be a cop. But how sweet to be on the receiving end of one of last night's token chants, You're sexy! You're cute! Take off your riot suit!

When I post my photos, I want to say, This is what a police state looks like, but I am afraid to offend any governing bodies.

In China, "occupy" is now a banned search term.

Which is really what this whole uprising is against, when it boils down to it.

All forthcoming decisions regarding the occupation have been, and continue to be, made by a general assembly. Anyone can attend and everyone is welcome. The next one convenes this evening at 6 PM at 14th and Broadway.

24 October 2011

we have places to keep going with our bodies in the night

i did not expect to be interested but i am

i did not begin again i just began

to practice the art of staying in motion in a world that is always threatening to stun us into stasis

this is not a poem, this is a place with a train running through it

people should have a billion choices

what is the point beyond the act of pointing?

if you enjoy it you understand it

our default survival modes create awkward contradictions

i fell in love with you a little, but i'm sure that happens all the time

if this seems circular it's because it is

other people's (gertrude stein, joan retallack, my colleagues) words / my experiences / between decadent moments cops are kicking folks out from under overpasses

18 October 2011

the time is now

"Let us show the animal that we all have within us, the one that bucks for peace and fucking."
-David Buuck, Army of Lovers, written in collaboration with Juliana Spahr, read in solidarity with Occupy Oakland

"The only thing we have to do for each other is to say it as it is."
-Inger Christensen, It

13 October 2011

why we write

Talking about his photo blog, which documents the homeless in the United Stateas, Linh Dinh talks about poetry.

"Poetry is too slow for this culture."

"By definition, a writer or artist must work in isolation. He must be removed from the world as he writes, paints or whatever, but a writer must also be among other people so he can have something to write about."

"You asked about the media. Well, the media is all about getting stuff. It’s about having all of your natural and unnatural appetites fulfilled. It’s about whooping it up, partying, fucking, and spending, but real life is not anything like that. Well, you might have a few highlights here and there, fondly remembered, but most of the time, it’s incredibly hard just to get by."

"As an artist, you’re always a kind of vulture when you’re around people, you’re always trying to make use of what they say, how they look or who they are, and since art is always subjective, a kind of distortion, you’re always deforming people to suit your purposes. Although art is always, in this sense, an exploitation, it is also a kind of tribute, and hence, of love. Sometimes I can barely stand how magnificent and beautiful people are."

"American cities are outlawing sleeping or camping in public. In many places, dumpster diving is also illegal. One should remember that during the 1929 Depression, much food was destroyed even as the nation starved! In Hawaii, Santa Cruz, and elsewhere, you can’t sleep in your own car, and in San Francisco, you can’t even sit on the sidewalk. These cosmetic measures are designed to mask our accelerating economic collapse."

Which is why we take our poetry to the streets.

And make poems for people, not magazines. 

(Thanks, Mom, for the pictures of me doing Poem Machine!)

11 October 2011


Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street has come to Oakland.

We have the hashtags #occupyoakland and #hellaoccupy on Twitter, a Facebook page, a website and a blog. Tumblr's active, too.

Even Huffington Post is all over this shit.

Of course, it's hard to say just what's going on without actually being there. When I went to the general assembly briefly with Cheena and Jose (P.S.: I'm on tumblr, too, sometimes) before their reading at Litquake in the City with Kate yesterday, I was happy to see tons of people I know - mostly poets, but also artists, musicians, students, farmers' market workers and teachers, as well as tons of people I don't know but would have liked to talk with. I'm going to go back tomorrow before class.

And for anyone who's thinking about getting off their ass, and getting out there, anywhere, here's a practical packing list for protesters courtesy of Matador.

09 October 2011


Issue #2 of The Sunshine Chronicles is out and about! This season's theme is Self-Sufficiency, revolving loosely around the idea that communication is a renewable resource.

As always, it includes a surf report, a loose collection of anecdotes and a sweet recipe.

08 October 2011


Frequency of poetic moments increasing.

Heidi and I were driving home from workshop in her sexy green Mustang-that-is-not-a-Mustang-whose-make-and-model-I-can-never-remember and stopped in the turn lane at 51st and Shattuck and a guy in an equally sexy but blue Ford was stopped in the opposite turn lane. We were singing and dancing and chatting and even waving at him but somehow he failed to notice the complementary cars and the fact that both of their drivers were wearing black beanies.

I am in love with my workspace.

Literally up to my knees (practically my thighs, actually; all of my semester's books aren't shown here) in experimental literature.