Thursday, December 27, 2007

Daphne and Jim

Slow in the world L.A. poetry.

In other news...we'll be doing a third printing of Laurel Snyder's Daphne and Jim next week. We just sold out...again. She's going to be signing copies for us at AWP on Saturday from 1-2. This will likely be the last run. There's been talk about possibly doing a limited edition version, something super high quality. Purely speculative at this point. She's been amazing to work with over the last couple of years. Her full length collection The Myth of Simple Machines came out a couple of months ago from No Tell Books. You should by it.

Friday, December 21, 2007


I went to Skylight Books for the first time yesterday. Nice bookstore, with a good amount of journals and magazines. I picked up the new Conjunctions. The thing is beast, coming in at over 450 pages. About half of is dedicated to an aviary theme (birds are very in right now), the other half being a John Ashbery tribute. I've got through about 50 pages so far, mostly fiction, and am impressed with the work (although the long Anne Waldman poem is a struggle). I can't come close to imagining putting together an issue that large. We struggle with 70 pages.

Yesterday was also cause for minor celebration, I wrote the first draft of the last of the Dot-to-Dot, Oregon poems (John Day Fossil Beds). That makes 50 poems. Currently 31 are complete, 4 or so are really close, and the others are the others. 7 have been either been published or are pending (here are 2). I'm hoping to everything done by June. The most exciting part is knowing that I finally get to write about something other than Oregon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

You Know When Portland is Officially the Place You Belong...

...when it rains in Los Angeles and you get homesick.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Ears Are Still Ringing

Beside the weather, the best thing about L.A. has to be the amount of stuff to do on a daily basis. I just returned from the Les Savy Fav show tonight, literally 100 steps from our front door at the El Rey Theater (amazing show, if you ever get the chance to see them...). This afternoon we went to the farmer's market in Silver Lake (there are multiple farmer's markets every day of the week. And we're talking good stuff, i.e., local, organic, beautiful quality. Not to mention the one today had an amazing pupusa stand). A couple nights ago we went to see some improve at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater (only $5-). Last night I went to some photo exhibit at Von Dutch (my buddy Toby who I went to college with, is a artist in residency with them. I've been a there a few times deserves a post of it's own).

While a lot of it requires $$$ and a traffic riddled car ride, the options are wonderfully novel.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Public Transportation

Because gas costs what it does and because I can't park downtown for less than $6- a day, I take the bus to and from work everyday. The 20 or 720 takes you on a straight shot down Wilshire into downtown. I pass through some interesting areas like Alvarado Street and Koreatown. The bus is kind of the opposite of a popularity contest, meaning that it's not so much who you want to sit next to, rather who you really don't want to sit next to. And trust me when I say that there are some crazy motherfuckers riding L.A. Public Transit. Everybody says "Well you must get some interesting material." Using that line of reasoning, it's easier to understand Bukowski.

The interesting thing for me is personal. I'm usually the only white dude on the bus. The experience is so far removed from anything one can experience in Portland, and one of the main reasons that we came here. I'm sure this all comes off as very naive, but for the majority of my life I've lived in places like Portland, Flagstaff, the suburbs of San Fransisco, the O.C. and Honolulu. And even though I've traveled fairly extensively, the concept of being the minority has never been part of my day to day life (except for being Jewish, which is fairly easily hidden. And in L.A. it's anything but a minority, more yamulchas around here than churches!). I think it's important. I enjoy it.

I also need to apologize to the L.A. Public Library. After spending an ample amount of time there over the course of the last week, I have found a rather extensive poetry selection. I will not apologize in regards to my comment about the abundance of rancid, stinky, snoring folks there. My original assertion was correct.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


It seems as if normal life is upon us. Routine is here. For the first 6 weeks or so, we were so bright eyed, everything was so exotic. But now we're working, grocery shopping, paying bills. etc. All in all, I think we like L.A. more than we thought we would (don't worry Portland, we still love you).

The amount of poetry events has dwindled lately. When I first got here, it seemed as if there was an interesting reading almost every night. Now it's hard to find one a week. It's likely due to this time of year, Christmas, etc. Hopefully things will pick back up after New Year's.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

L.A. Public Library

Been hanging out at the L.A. Public Library between shifts. If appears as if the person in charge of the poetry section died in 1952 and was never replaced. A decent array of anthologies and essays, but not much else. Zzyzyva and The Threepenny Review make up the contemporary small press literary journal section. But the library makes up for any shortage of poetry with an ample amount of dirty men obscenely snoring away on the comfy chairs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


After 3 wonderful months of unemployment, I am back in the saddle again, waiting tables at a fancy restaurant in downtown L.A. I'm only working lunches and have the weekends off, so it doesn't get much better.

Downtown is kind of interesting, and a place no one ever talks about when L.A. comes up. There seems to be a big revival going on down there, tons of new construction-lofts, restaurants, shops, theaters, etc. Up until recently it's been fairly sketchy, a huge homeless population. It's a straight bus ride down Wilshire for me, so it's easy and I get a new part of town to explore.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Coming Along

Momentum has been gaining as far as the L.A. issue goes. More and more submissions coming in.

This week we took poems from William Archila, Caley O'Dwyer and Leslie Harrison. I was in touch with Wanda Coleman, and will likely be sitting down to do the interview in a month's time.

In other rained two made us homesick. But don't worry about us the sun has reappeared and the temperature is back in the 70s.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Going Hollywood, Con't

While I can't really say that I'm a star yet, the wheels definitely seem to be in motion.

The name of the movie is "3 Days Gone." I'm not sure if it's going to be released in theaters or not, but my guess would be that it might be a straight to DVD kind of thing. The shoot was at the The Mint, a rock club on Pico. The first three hours involved me sitting around, grazing off of the craft service table (a little disappointing, mostly just heaps of candy and chips, Red Bulls and Cokes), talking with the four other extras, and eavesdropping on the producer's conversations. The ad that I responded to said that we were going to be in a scene acting as patrons of strip club. But to the disappointment of both myself and my fellow male extras, the scenes with the strippers were shot without our involvement (although the trailer they were hanging out in was right next to where we were waiting). After a couple of hours the director and his underlings lined us up, huddled, pointed, conversed and decided. 3 extras were taken for one scene, another (Jonathon) and myself for a later scene. I sat around some more. Our scene ended up being the last one shot last night. Jonathon and I stood on the corner outside of the club. I was smoking a cigarette (literally the first one I had even inhaled in over 10 years). The star of the movie runs over to us, shows us a picture of girl that he's looking for, we say we haven't seen her, then he runs off. 5 takes in 2 minutes. I was done. The director said that the scene was definitely going to make it in.

All in all I have to say it was a good experience. Everybody was really nice, there were no big egos, and in a year or so when the movie comes out I'll have something to bore every person that ever walk in to our house with.

I took my big earnings for the day and went out to dinner with Claire at Pizzeria Mozza, Mario Batali's place on Melrose. The food was good, maybe not great. But Danny Devito, Rhea Perlman, and Jamie Kennedy were all there. So that was pretty cool and really rounded out my Hollywood day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Going Hollywood

To insure that my L.A. experience will be complete by the end of spring and it's time to go home...I got myself a extra role in some low budget movie. The shoot is tomorrow afternoon at some bar on Pico. I'll report back tomorrow night.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Workshop Redux

I'm in a workshop for the first time in since grad school. Months ago (after deciding that we would move down here in the fall) I responded to a listing on Craigslist, something like, "post MFA poet looking to begin weekly workshop", etc. I responded by saying that I wasn't around, but would be in a few months, can I look contact you then. I met with them for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I liked them, I guess they liked me, and today I went for the first time. It's a group of 5 (six with me), all women, all well accomplished, meeting every Saturday.

Dot-to-Dot, Oregon, is about 18 months old now. I've become so close to some of the poems, that I feel I can no longer see them for what they are. I got some really terrific feedback today on my Astoria poem. It's nice to actually talk about poetry, beyond "yes" and "no" for a change.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Writers and Turkeys

Tomorrow will be my first Thanksgiving spent with my entire family since I was 20 years old. There will be 13 people at my parents house. Claire and I are doing the turkey (a 18 pounder). We butterfly it, than roast it super hot, the fat drips down into the dressing (challah and sausage) below. Mmmm. And it takes less than two hours to cook.

Things are starting to happen with the L.A. issue. We got a story from Aram Saroyan and poems from Charles Harper Webb, Caley O'Dwyer and Christopher Davidson. I just got word from Tony Barnstone who promised sonnets. He also is helping to spread the word. Unsolicited poems and stories are coming in. Still hoping to get work from Martha Ronk, David St. John and Kevin Moffitt.

Nicholas Reading's chapbook is at the printers and should be back by tonight. They're on sale now for only $5- on our website.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bad Times

A majority of editors these day (myself included) seem to have listened to their mothers too closely when they said "if you don't have anything nice to say..." It's rare that I print anything negative. But the Red Hen reading I went to last night was brutal. It was listed as "Red Hen Press presents a release party and reading for Soft Skull Press's new anthology, Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry."

I like Soft Skull Press and a lot of their authors (I didn't know how they were connected with Red Hen), so I thought it might be worth checking out. Apparently the editors of the anthology asked Kate Gale (editor of Red Hen) to work on a collaboration. Gale asked Terry Wolverton to work with her on the project. So the reading was loosely based on the poem that the two had in the anthology. As far as I know there wasn't anyone there from Soft Skull.

1st off, the venue was horrible, a coffee shop, with tons of background noise, an inoperable mike, and street noise off Sepulveda coming through the open doors. Gale introduced Wolverton who read a few pieces out of the anthology--her own piece, a Kerouac/Ginsberg collaboration, a couple of others. The audience was made up of a large group of her students from Writer's at Work (a workshop series she created). The reading was patronizing in a way I had never experienced. Her over animated reading of the poems, her introduction of Kerouac, her stopping mid poem to tell a worker that his actions were distracting, were all very off putting. The next reader was a former student of Gale's, Jamey Hecht. Red Hen is publishing his first book of poetry (does something seem wrong about that?). The book is 5o sonnets based on the Zaprunder films. In and of itself, the concept could be interesting, but he combined the film with his fervent theories of the JFK assassination. The poems were over the top, theatrical, smug, ridiculous. Many poems written with Kennedy as the speaker. By the time that the next reader came on we were spent. We listened to his first poem as he walked through the audience screaming and then walked out (something I can't ever remember doing before).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hammer Series

I heard Terrance Hayes read last night as part of the Hammer Series. I first learned of Hayes after reading his poem "The Same City," which is about as good as anything I've read in a while. The venue seemed kind of off to me. He read in the movie theater of the Hammer Museum. The room is pink all over, with the these long, thin fluorescent lights all around. Around 300 seats, which around 50 were full (likely the most beautiful poetry listening crowd I have ever seen, mostly UCLA students). It seemed a little too dark (even with the lights) and stuffy in mood.

Stephen Yenser did the long introduction. It began kind of slapstick, as he hunted for his notes for minutes (at one point leaving the stage and theater to go try to find them). But as soon as he started speaking the tone went directly to academic, comparing Hayes to Marianne Moore (it was her birthday yesterday). It went on endlessly. Even though Hayes teaches at Carnegie Mellon I would not consider him an academic poet and as soon as he got on stage the mood shifted. Hayes is engaging, with the kind of voice that I wish came out of my mouth when I read my work. But he wasn't prepared either, thumbing through his books and papers for the whole reading, having no real idea of what he was going to read next. I like him and his poems for the most part, but something about the night was off for me and I never quite engaged myself fully.

The best part of the night came when I went to Tom Bergins for the first time. $6- dollar Irish Coffees is a deal in this town. The bar is the kind of place I can see myself returning to all too often. I sat and watched the Ducks blow their season.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Luna Park Review

It doesn't get much better than this.

In other news:

Today in L.A.: 82 degrees and cloudless.
Today in PDX: 53 degrees and raining.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Burnside at Wordstock

I flew in late last night from PDX after a non-stop weekend. Things were hectic, but everything went extraordinarily well. Mountain Writer's donated part of there stage to us (thank you Sandra Williams) , allowing us to bring a large number of our writers, including: Alberto Rios, Linda Bierds, Robyn Art, Carlos Reyes (reading Emma Howell's poetry), Pauls Toutonghi, Michele Glazer, Rebecca Loudon, BT Shaw, and many more. The readings were great and well attended (over 50 people at a 10:30 am on Sunday!!). Bill held things down at the booth with help from Regina, Virginia and Alisha. After the cost of the table we even netted enough profit to afford two burritos, a tank of gas and a few cups of coffee.

Just got word from Paul Guest that he's accepted our offer to judge next year's poetry chapbook contest. Last year's winner (Nicolas Reading, The Party in Question) is just about ready. I'll go to the printer tomorrow and do a proof, with hopes of having a final product some time next week.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Try As I Might...

...I just can't seem to dislike, discredit, etc., Davy Rothbart and Found Magazine. I went to their show tonight at Largo on Fairfax and tried once again, but I give up, it's never going to happen. He's too sincere, too honest. I believe he was crying on stage tonight toward the end of the show while reading one of his favorite finds. It was also a good show, kept me laughing throughout (he must be doing a lot of things right, it was standing room only with a $10- cover and a $15- minimum on drinks), as he read new and old piece from the issues and books and a new short story about his deaf mother (who has often been featured in his This American Life pieces). His brother Peter also played a few songs that he had written inspired by various found pieces.

I suppose on the basest of levels it's just envy. Such a simple idea, such a good aesthetic, so well executed. So successful. They're about half way through their tour and it's certainly worth checking out (as are his This American Life contributions) if they come close to you.

Monday, November 5, 2007


On Friday I fly back to Portland for this year's Wordstock book festival. This year will be a little different from the previous two. In addition to our table at the bookfair we're running a number of readings. Linda Bierds, Alberto Rios, Robyn Art, Pauls Toutonghi, Carlos Reyes reading Emma Howell's work, and many more. In additional, I'll be reading with poet Tung-Hui Hu. The complete schedule is here. All the readings are free once you pay the $5- to get into the bookfair. The money goes to the Community of Writers. If you're in Portland I hope to see you there.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Halloween on Santa Monica Blvd

I heard it said that there were 300,000 people there on Wednesday night and I don't doubt it. I met some friends there at about 5:00. At that point the roads were blocked off, there were hundreds of cops, but hardly anyone out and about. By the time we left (or tried to leave) at 11:00 it was complete mayhem. There was so many people on the street that it took us about an hour just to get off Santa Monica Blvd. But the mood was supremely festive, nearly everyone was drunk, and the costumes were amazing. My favorite was buddy Toby's quadriplegic friend who had made a pirate ship to fit over his wheelchair. He of course was the pirate.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We had a our first confirmed star sighting last night, Mindy Kaling, who plays Kelly on the "The Office." I was devouring "The Bronx" sandwich (pastrami, chopped liver and coleslaw on rye) and Claire was attempting to get through the "Canter's Fairfax" (pastrami, corned beef and coleslaw on rye) when her and her boyfriend (?) sat down across from us. We kind of giggled.

Claire has her second stage at Lucques tonight. Suzanne Goin is amazing chef (she won the James Beard Award in 2006) whose work Claire respects and admires. It would be a dream job for her. My fingers remained crossed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


On Sunday morning I received an E-mail inviting me to a reading that same night. (Maybe this is working). It was in this cool little dark bar, Good Luck, on the Corner of Hollywood and Sunset (the Jim Beams were $7- a pop, ouch). It was the 3rd anniversary of the readings (they're every 2 months). Martha Ronk, David Marriott, Wendy C. Ortiz and Andrea Quaid were the readers. Martha Ronk was my favorite of the bunch. She read from her last two books Vertigo and In a Landscape of Having to Repeat. I had only read her in journals, so hearing 10-15 poems was a nice treat. She had a idea in one of the poems from Vertigo that hasn't been able to escape me, something to the effect of how we go about our day creating these little rituals, therefore mourning our own lives. One of the reasons I'm down here in L.A. is to escape those rituals. Everything in Portland had become so predictable, what time I woke up, where I ate my lunch, where I walked the dog, etc. Even though I've only been here 9 days now, I see myself trying to create new ones. I must fight. Anyway...I had a really nice conversation with Martha and hope to be able to get a poem or two from her for the issue.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


We went to see A.J. Jacobs read from and discuss his new book The Year of Living Biblically yesterday at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. I've yet to read the book, but it's certainly an interesting premise. I really enjoyed The Know-It-All, his previous book, which chronicles the year in which he sets out read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A-Z. After I read it, I e-mailed him hoping (illogically) that he might have something for us. We went back and forth a few times, I sent him the lasted copy, he said some nice things, then said he just didn't have anything and was busy finishing up his novel and maybe ask again in the future.

What impresses me most about Jacobs is his willingness to commit to these projects. For the last year and half I've been working on my next collection of poems, tenatively titled, Dot-to-Dot, Oregon. I've traveled the whole state of Oregon (just about, sorry southeast corner), going to every city and town with a population over 3,000 or so. The goal is to have 50 or so poems that are centered in these places. So far about 20 are done, 25 are various stages of revision and 5 have yet to be written. And while I amassed a few thousand miles of my truck and spent about 3 weeks worth of time on numerous trips, day to day I usually spend about an hour working on the poems. This compared to Jacobs who not only spends the time to write the novel, but spends a year (at least for the last 2 novels) being the novel.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dorianne Laux... last night at USC. Of course it was wonderful. She read from Facts About the Moon and Awake, which was just re-released from Eastern Washington Press. There were also a couple of new poems and a couple I had never heard. The highlight for me being "Bakersfield," a poem (with her typical beauty and sadness) about a teenage affair. Dorianne was raised in San Diego and spent a few years living in L.A. Unfortunately her reading the night before, at Casa Romantica in San Clemente, was canceled because of the fire. She introduced me to a couple of her former students from U of O who have made L.A. their home.

USC is the biggest and busiest campus I've ever seen. Trying to park and find the library where the reading was held was crazy in itself. But the buildings are beautiful (not to mention the students) and the juxtaposition of the school with the surrounding neighborhood is interesting.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


This was the view today looking south from Venice Beach. Today was cloudless, what you see in this picture is the eerie smoke from the Santiago Canyon fires blowing out towards the ocean.

On Monday, my sister who lives in Valencia, was evacuated. She had time to pack Jack (my nine month old nephew) in the car, grab some baby stuff and a few pictures. Luckily the fire just missed and she's back at home.

My parents live in Lake Forest, still in the house I grew up in. On their way home from work last night they could see a line of fire above Foothill Ranch, seven or so miles away. Although they and the house were in no immediate danger, they are certainly rattled. Everything outside of the house everything is covered in soot and ash. While talking with my Mom this morning she was continually coughing. Modjeska Canyon is just to the east. I took my wife hiking there a couple weeks ago, reveling in the nostaglia of my youth. As a teenager, the forest there was a well needed escape from suburbia. Plenty of joints and cans of beer consumed on those trails. It's still on fire. Very sad.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Getting Settled In

We finally moved into our apartment over the weekend. The DSL will be hooked up later this week, so the frequency of posting should increase dramatically.

Living in the middle of L.A. is staggeringly surreal, we talk about how long it will take for the surroundings to become "normal." Everything is absurd in the most entertaining way imaginable. There is valet parking at the IHOP two block away. The eavesdropping here is without equal--movie deals, t.v. plots, record labels, on and on. While eating lunch yesterday I listened to some guy describing his script of a Steve Perry bio-pic. It seems as if L.A. is not for loners, collaboration is everywhere.

Dorianne Laux reads this Thursday at USC, 4:30. I'll be there, if you're down here, you should be there too.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Call for Submissions

We are now accepting submissions for issue 4.1., our L.A. issue. We need poetry, short fiction, essays and artwork. Work should either be from writers/artists who live in Los Angeles or use imagery from the city. The issue will feature a new interview with the unofficial Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Wanda Coleman. The deadline for submitting is April 30th, with publication set for July 1. Poets should submit 3-5 poems as a single Word file, fiction and non-fiction writers should submit one piece up 2500 words, artists can send either jpegs or pdfs (B&W only). Please include a short bio with the submission. Submissions should be send to submissions at burnsidereview dot org. Please contact me with any questions or go to our website (link below).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Burnside on Burnside

Well not quite, but one block off (our apartment). Cool little one bedroom on Wilshire and Dunsmuir. We move in next week. Can walk to LACMA, Farmer's Marker and tons of killer restaurants (including Pinks!). Missed the David St. John reading last night. Should have another chance to see him.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Amazing Aimee Bender...

...judges this year's fiction chapbook prize. A UCI grad, she's now teaching at USC. Her newest collection, Willful Creatures, helps to create a new set of myths, using simple and poignant storytelling.

This year's winner receives $200- and 25 copies of their chapbook. The contest is in full swing and runs through December 31st.

Last year's winner, Leslie Jamison, will be sitting with us at this year's AWP. She'll be signing copies of The Wintering Barn, on Saturday, February 2nd, from 12-1.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Beginning

The view from Highway 101 going north. The nice thing about traffic being there's time for pictures. Spent the day driving around West Hollywood and the area around the Farmer's Market looking for an apartment. Nothing yet. The day wasn't a total loss, had some great Pastrami at Langer's and my wife thinks she saw Tina Yothers at the Coffee Bean on Sunset.

On Wednesday night I saw Joel Brouwer and Christian Wiman read at Casa Romantica in San Clemente. This venue is by far the most "romantic" ever. An old open Spanish building, sitting on the cliffs over looking the ocean. You can actually hear waves breaking behind you as the poets read. White walls, old wooden ceilings. Incredible. First time seeing either read. Really enjoyed Brouwer. The poems from his second book, Centuries (prose poems all 100 words long), are my favorite. I had read some of Wiman's work, but had never heard him. His voice and cadence certainly match his poetry. Collier Nogues (contributor to issue 3.1) was there. Dorianne Laux (fellow Oregonian and Burnside Review favorite) reads there next month.