Planet News

“For National Poetry Month 2015, we presented Dear Poet, a multimedia education project that invited young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors.” Via (This one is really great)

“Black women are all too often unseen in the national conversation about racial profiling, police brutality, and lethal force,” said Andrea J. Ritchie, co-author of the brief. “This brief begins to shine a light on the ways that Black women are policed in ways that are similar to other members of our communities – whether it’s police killings, “stop and frisk,” “broken windows policing,” or the “war on drugs.” It also pushes open the frame to include other forms and contexts of police violence – such as sexual assault by police, police abuse of pregnant women, profiling and abusive treatment of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and gender nonconforming Black women, and police brutality in the context of responses to violence – which bring Black women’s experiences into even sharper focus.”
#SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women

László Krasznahorkai won the Booker Prize! listen to the reading he gave at City Lights here

“In not finding ways to embody their passions for justice and beauty in forms solid enough to obstruct the flow of the world toward cheapness and deceit. The author’s raconteurial late style reaches its peaks, I think, in the huge, sprawling, self-indulgent character studies in Humboldt’s Gift and later, finally, in Ravelstein. Bellow’s gift is to have located Humboldt’s effort and failure securely within the context of the human comedy writ large. What an achievement!”
Norman Rush on listening to Saul Bellow read his work-you too can listen right here

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ZYZZYVA Celebrates 30th Anniversary

There’s another San Francisco institution celebrating a major anniversary in 2015. ZYZZYVA, a landmark literary journal dedicated to the best in contemporary arts and letters, elegantly curated with a distinct San Francisco feel.

City Lights stopped by the ZYZZYVA offices in Downtown San Francisco recently to chat with Laura Cogan, editor, and Oscar Villalon, managing editor, about the journal’s upcoming 30th Anniversary celebration on Friday, May 29 at on the 28th Floor of the Two Embarcadero Center in San Francisco. Watch the video below for that meeting.

More details about the event:

* A stellar roster of presenters and readers including Michael Krasny, Molly Giles, Hector Tobar, and Dean Rader.

* Light bites and drink from some of the Bay Area’s finest food and wine and beer purveyors, including Alta CA, Broadside Wines, Lagunitas Brewery, Bi-Rite, and La Mediterranee.

* A silent auction with opportunities to bid on exclusive experiences (such as lunch with ZYZZYVA‘s editors) and decadent treats and special items from City Lights, Green Apple Books, Litquake, Dandelion Chocolate, Lagunitas Brewery, and more.

About ZYZZYVA: For three decades, ZYZZYVA has served as a vital platform for the brightest contemporary writers and artists on the West Coast, across the country, and from around the globe. Along with publishing their highly acclaimed journal, ZYZZYVA also hosts and participates in nearly two dozen events each year, helping to keep the literary community at home thriving. As a small nonprofit, they couldn’t do it without you–their readers, artists, and donors. All proceeds from this special event support ZYZZYVA‘s work into the future.

If you can’t attend, but would like to contribute just the same, please visit the ZYZZYVA Support page:

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Surrealist Poetry Celebration: Kurt Seligmann, Nat Herz, Philip Lamantia, Will Alexander, Brian Lucas


by Garrett Caples

Currently up at the Weinstein Gallery is the first U.S. retrospective of surrealist painter Kurt Seligmann (1900-1962) in over 50 years: First Message from the Spirit World of the Object. On Friday, May 22, 2015, at 7 p.m., in celebration of this event, the gallery will host a surrealist poetry reading featuring contemporary poets Will Alexander and Brian Lucas, along with readings of the work of two poets personally associated with Seligmann: Philip Lamantia, read by co-editor of the Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia (UC Press, 2013), Andrew Joron; and Nat Herz, read by myself. As a teenage poet working for View magazine in New York City during World War II, Lamantia became good friends with Seligmann, bonding over their shared interest in alchemy. Nat Herz, meanwhile, met Seligmann around the same time and collaborated with him on a book of poems and drawings called Impossible Landscapes. Unpublished at the time, Impossible Landscapes only saw the light of day in 1999 as a privately printed art book. This reading will be the first live presentation of these poems; the exhibit also features all 12 of the drawings Seligmann made for the project.

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Planet News

“Zap became a sensation, not only when it was busted and tried for obscenity in 1969, but by serving as an inspirational example of the other paths that were available for those who had no desire to work for traditional publishers or galleries. Moscoso’s work — unlike that of his Zap brethren — wasn’t pessimistic; it was imbued with a sense of wonder and an eager willingness to follow any visual wandering that he could envisage which awarded it with the ability to appeal to a much wider audience.”
From the recently published Victor Moscoso exhibition catalog. We still have some limited edition Complete Zap Comix boxsets at City Lights…

“Nobody else is going to publish it! [Laughs.] I think it’s great to publish one’s own work. I never felt any vacillating about that whole thing. The first book of mine that was ever published, which was this book called Story, I published myself. It seems like a way to disseminate writing in a very efficient way. You can get it to all the people who you know are going to read it. There’s no fooling around. You can do it the way you want it done. Nobody ever tells you: change this or that, or I’m going to put this cover on your book. It’s all in your own hands. It’s now even to the extent that Angel Hair has turned into United Artists now, and we handle absolutely every level of the production of the books. We do everything. I prefer it.”
Susan Howe interviewing Bernadette Mayer on Pacifica Radio in 1979! Jacket2 transcribed the whole things and it’s fantastic…

“In January, the District of Columbia Public Library presented a 10-day series called “Orwellian America,” which included an all-day reading of 1984, a cyber-security workshop, and a panel discussion during which NSA whistleblower Kirk Wiebe informed the audience that “There’s an assault on the United States Constitution, and it’s real.” The Brooklyn Public Library has hosted several “cryptoparties” to teach people how to use privacy software. The San Jose Public Library is launching a pilot program to teach privacy literacy to patrons of all ages. “There’s a budding movement of librarians as privacy warriors,” Macrina said. “We’re seeing each other pick this up and getting more confidence in what we know and what we can bring to the privacy conversation: Namely, our background and relationship with local communities.””
Librarians versus the NSA (Mother Jones)

CONGRATS! You have an all male panel….

Fox News censors Picasso’s cubist boobs



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5 Questions with Emily Schultz

blondesWe are proud to welcome this Wednesday to City Lights Bookstore Emily Schultz, author of the acclaimed The Blondes: A Novel (from Thomas Dunne Books). Schultz’s new work has been praised by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Stephen King and she’ll be celebrating the book’s release with a special appearance by some alumni and the editor of Joyland Magazine. Emily took the time to answer our 5 questions and her answers are below.

Event: Wednesday, May 13 at 7PM. Emily Schultz celebrating the release of The Blondes with a special appearance by Joyland Magazine alumni Ruth Galm and Rachel Khong. Hosted by Kara Levy, San Francisco editor of Joyland Magazine.

About the Book: The Blondes is a hilarious and whipsmart novel where an epidemic of a rabies-like disease is carried only by blonde women, all of whom must go to great lengths to conceal their blondness.

Hazel Hayes is a grad student living in New York City. As the novel opens, she learns she is pregnant (from an affair with her married professor) at an apocalyptically bad time: random but deadly attacks on passers-by, all by blonde women, are terrorizing New Yorkers. Soon it becomes clear that the attacks are symptoms of a strange illness that is transforming blondes–whether CEOs, flight attendants, students or accountants–into rabid killers.

Emily Schultz’s beautifully realized novel is a mix of satire, thriller, and serious literary work. With echoes of Blindness and The Handmaid’s Tale amplified by a biting satiric wit, The Blondes is at once an examination of the complex relationships between women, and a merciless but giddily enjoyable portrait of what happens in a world where beauty is—literally—deadly.

“Reading The Blondes… Wow!”–Margaret Atwood

“Emily Schultz is my new hero.”–Stephen King

About the Author: Emily Schultz is the co-founder of the literary website Joyland: A Hub For Short Fiction. She is the author of the short story collection Black Coffee Night and the novels Heaven Is Small and Joyland.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

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5 Questions with Keith P. Feldman

shadow over palestineThis Tuesday at City Lights, Keith P. Feldman is at the bookstore celebrating and discussing his new book, A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America from University of Minnesota Press. Feldman’s new book brings a new, deeply informed, and transnational perspective to the decades and the cultural forces that have shaped sharply differing ideas of Israel’s standing with the United States—right up to the violent divisions of our day.

Event: Tuesday, May 12, 7PM at City Lights Bookstore. Keith P. Feldman discussing his new book A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America.

About the Book: Focusing on the period from 1960 to 1985, author Keith P. Feldman reveals the centrality of Israel and Palestine in postwar U.S. imperial culture. Some representations of the region were used to manufacture “commonsense” racial ideologies, underwriting the conviction that liberal democracy must coexist with racialized conditions of segregation, border policing, poverty, and the repression of dissent. Others animated vital critiques of these conditions, often forging robust if historically obscured border-crossing alternatives.

In this rich cultural history of the period, Feldman deftly analyzes how artists, intellectuals, and organizations—from the United Nations, the Black Panther Party, and the Association of Arab American University Graduates to James Baldwin, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Edward Said, and June Jordan—linked the unfulfilled promise of liberal democracy in the United States with the perpetuation of settler democracy in Israel and the possibility of Palestine’s decolonization.

In one of his last essays, published in 2003, Edward Said wrote, “In America, Palestine and Israel are regarded as local, not foreign policy, matters.” A Shadow over Palestine maps this jagged terrain on which this came to be, amid a wealth of robust alternatives, and the undeterred violence at home and abroad unleashed as a result of this special relationship.feldman

“In this remarkable work Keith P. Feldman shows us the prolific and intractable connections between the production of race in the United States and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, making a solid case for the relevance of Palestine to the ongoing assaults of racial capitalism in the United States. The tremendous result is no less than a reenvisioning of the antiracist and anti-imperialist solidarity of the past in the service of culling the potential solidarity of the future. A tour de force.”
Jasbir Puar, Rutgers University

About the Author: Keith P. Feldman is assistant professor of comparative ethnic studies and a core faculty member in the Program in Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Keith P. Feldman: I came for the first time just after graduating college. Having grown up reading Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs and Baraka, it felt like something of a pilgrimage. It wasn’t long before I was lost in the stacks. In the narrowness of the staircases and the walkways I remember sensing how compacted, how dense, how deeply sedimented the worlds of writing had become—like I’d approached something like the nucleus.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

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Planet News

New York Public Library patron portraits by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1944.

“She didn’t want to be put in a box, but she was clearly part of communities. She wanted to be acknowledged by her mentors—William Carlos Williams and Robert Duncan—but she didn’t want to live in their shadows. She was using and being aware of her femaleness as access, but not wanting to be just a girl, or the only girl with the boys, or the “feminist poet.” And yet, when she was the poetry editor for the Nation, she published more women than anyone had before.”
Rebecca Brown on resurrecting Denise Levertov (Via The Stranger)

“As a result of this trained self-censorship, at least in my experience, people in charge of literary events are used only to hearing the voices of men, so they simply don’t bother to make sure there is parity in the discussion. I don’t mean to suggest that it is women’s fault that they don’t wave their arms hard enough. The fault is in an absence, an absence of attention: the moderators just don’t notice that we are there.”
Ban Men From Literary Readings (via Jezebel)

“The same questions and problems continue to manifest themselves. I remember reading some Aristophanes play where the narrator is basically saying that the other playwrights who are so popular—the shit that’s getting all the acclaim—is just worthless commercial stuff. So even that idea is old—I’m real, they’re not real. That flipped me out, but it was also really soothing. All this angst, all this stuff we all feel, is just tied to making art. It’s so ancient. These discussions we’re having, people have been having them for a long time. Not that the work hasn’t changed—of course it has—but these fundamental things are the same. We’re still just humans creating.”
Paul Beatty on the eternal nature of The Sellout (via Paris Review)

PM: What’s this Seventeen magazine ruse?
MW: He published a couple of poems in the magazine under the assumed (yet familiar to Stanford fans) name of Francis Gildart. There were two poems accepted, but so far I’ve only seen proof that one of them was published. Subsequently, it was publicized in a small town paper in Arkansas that a local girl had published in the magazine, but that a local reader could not find trace of the poet. Looking at the poem it’s clearly Frank, and it turns out that he sent it there because they paid. There will be ephemera concerning this in Hidden Water.
Fable and fact—an editor’s perspective on the poetry and cult of Frank Stanford. (Bomb Magazine)


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5 Questions with Jim Nisbet

price of the ticketWe are proud to have Jim Nisbet back at City Lights this Thursday. It will be a celebration of the paperback release of Nisbet’s latest book of masterful, hard-boiled fiction, The Price of the Ticket (from Overlook Press). Jim’s answers to our five questions are below.

Event: Thursday, May 7th at 7:00PM. Jim Nisbet returns to City Lights Bookstore, reading from The Price of the Ticket. Cocktails served at 6:30PM. Reading starts at 7:00PM.

About the Book: Pauley’s done a few bad things in his life. He’s been around the block quite a few times, spending most of his life inside the block. But now, age 52, he’s got an honest job making high-class torture racks and other exquisite playthings for an S&M outfit in downtown San Francisco. His only real problem is he needs a new set of wheels and he’s going to pick one up today, a beat up Ford from one Martin Seam. Sometimes a ticket to Hell only costs $600 . . . nonrefundable, of course.

About the Author: Jim Nisbet is the author of twelve novels and five books of poetry. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, shortlisted for the Hammett Prize, and published in ten languages. Visit his website at:

Praise for Jim Nisbet:

“Nobody has Nisbet’s distinctive style, humor, and sheer craft . . . One of the finest masters of noir.”—Ken Bruen, author of The Guards

“Jim Nisbet has a voice so original . . . it might remind you of a younger Kurt Vonnegut.” —Chicago Tribune

“In the tradition of Jim Thompson and Damon Runyon, Nisbet is too good to miss. —San Francisco Chronicle

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Jim Nisbet: I can’t remember the first time I visited City Lights but, I assure you, it was a long time ago, probably in 1966.  But perhaps more to the point about how I feel about the place, let me tell you about a night in 1977 or ’78.

A friend and I were drinking in North Beach. It was about one in the morning, and we were hustling up Columbus to get to Gino and Carlo before closing. My friend had never been in San Francisco before, and even though he was a musician, he was a big reader (just kidding!), so I pointed out City Lights as we passed, with the promise that we’d visit during business hours. At the corner of Broadway, however, he was no longer with me. He’d stopped to browse the titles in the front-middle window. “Come on, man, we got time for one more!” But something had caught his eye, and he insisted I come back to see it. When I got there he pointed out my own book, Poems for A Lady, face-out and surrounded by the literature of the world.

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5 Questions with Greg Proops

smartest bookOn Thursday, May 21st, City Lights is proud to present an evening with internationally renowned comedian, SF Giants superfan, and smartest man in the world Greg Proops at the McRroskey Mattress Factory on Market St. (at Gough). The event will be co-presented with the good people at the Green Arcade. Mr. Proops will be celebrating his peerless and luminescent new book from Simon & Schuster, The Smartest Book in the World: A Lexicon of Literacy, a Rancorous Reportage, a Concise Curriculum of Cool.

The book is out right now – find it at your local independent bookshop. Greg answered our questions below!

Event: Thursday, May 21st at McRoskey Mattress Factory on the 3rd Floor (1687 Market St at Gough), co-presented by the Green Arcade. Doors open at 6:30PM and event starts at 7:00PM. Tickets are available at the door and are $10.00, or free with the purchase of the book.

About the Book: From the brazen, bold, and beloved comic and podcast star Greg Proops comes an electrifying, thought-provoking, and unrelenting collection of rapid-fire references, historical name-checking, Satchel Paige bon mots, and genuine wisdom.

The Smartest Book in the World is based on Proops’s sensational, iTunes Top 10 podcast that has been downloaded more than nine million times, in which his “bold, never-boring voice takes center stage” (The New York Times). The book is a rollicking reference guide to the most essential areas of knowledge in Proops’s universe, from the noteworthy names of the ancient world and baseball, to the movies you must see and the albums you must hear.

Complete with history’s juiciest tales and curious back-stories, Proops expounds on the merits of poetry and proper punctuation, delivering this wealth of information with his signature style and Proopsian panache. An off-beat and exuberant guide to everything, The Smartest Book in the World gives you everything you need to know to always be the smartest person in the room. Well, unless the Proopmaster is there, too.

About the Author: Greg Proops is an internationally renowned comedian, best known for starring on the hit improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? and for his popular award-winning podcast, The Smartest Man in the World, which Rolling Stone called “some of the boldest comedy on the podcasting frontier right now.” But Proops is also a fountain of historical knowledge, a wealth of pop culture trivia, and a generally charming know-it-all.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Greg Proops: My wife Jennifer Canaga, who illustrated this fine book, worked at City Lights for years. So I have been backstage and seen how they make the books. It is a scary process, it should be in black and white.

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