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.