zocalo * poetry

A week or so ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with Colette, the director of the Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine.  She’s the author of a collection of poems published the University of Chicago Press, and she co-founded the Casa Romantica Poetry Reading Series, where I read a few years ago, thanks to the hospitality of Michelle Mitchell-Foust and her friends. 

The Casa is located in oceanside San Clemente, not far from San Juan Capistrano of the famous mission swallows.  Sand-swept streets slope down to the Pacific with views of the ocean at every azure turn.  In the mission-style Casa, a chandelier portico opens onto a black-and-silver moonlit sea at night … an upside-down mirror… or the unsilvered reverse side called “tain.” 

With the archivist-historian at my side in the darkness (or was I blinded by the floodlights over the back garden?), I walked onto the portico at the Casa, where the glistening nocturnal surf mingled with invisible shore wind in the palm trees.  I can’t remember whether the Santa Ana winds were blowing then….I think Joan Didion said the Santa Ana winds gave the sea a glossy, surreal – feverish – appearance.

Anyway, as I was walking on the U. C. Irvine campus, the sound of wind in their tall eucalyptus reminded me of (1) the sound of rain like dry lima beans stirred in a bowl, and (2) the nocturnal surf mingled with wind in unseen leaves.

There’s a diminutive Maya Lin sculpture – black polished granite water scupture, very beautiful – I visited before, and enjoy returning to observe.  Thin sheets of water emerge from Lin’s delicate hand-drawn curve in the stone with a lyric, calming effect… transparencies in poetry.  

“To fly, we need resistance,” Maya Lin once wrote.    

Colette and I were delighted to meet each other, and I was sorry to have missed poet Jericho Brown’s reading a few days prior.  Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, distinguished professor & Kenyan  novelist, is on sabbatical this year.  I think Claudia Rankine also read as a part of their series recently.  

Colette is featuring my poetry in her publication, Zócalo Public Square.  Zócalo refers to the old historic heart of Mexico City ~ I love this!

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