Rad Women Read from Rad American Women A-Z: Celeste Chan reads “Y is for Yuri Kochiyama”

Celeste Chan dropped by City Lights for this week’s installment of our new “Rad Women reading Rad American Women A-Z” video project. We learned more about Celeste’s lifelong respect for the often overlooked Japanese American activist, Yuri Kochiyama, as well as the importance of creating alliances between unlikely communities and never shutting up.

This is the fifth video in the new blog series from City Lights where we ask women we admire to read their favorite entry of our New York Times-bestselling children’s book, Rad American Women A-Zand answer some questions about what it means to be a rad woman today. The book is authored by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl and published by City Lights/Sister Spit.

Celeste Chan is a hybrid artist, writer, and organizer. She is a queer student of experimentation, schooled by DIY and immigrant parents from Malaysia and the Bronx, NY. A Hedgebrook, Lambda, and VONA alumna, her writing can be found in Ada, As/Us Journal, cream city review, Feminist Wire, Glitterwolf, Hyphen, Matador, and Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices (Transgenre Press). Her experimental films have screened at CAAMFest, Digital Desperados, Entzaubert, Frameline, Heels on Wheels, Imperfectu, Leeds Queer Film Festival, MIX NYC, National Queer Arts Festival, Queeristan, and Vancouver Queer Film Festival, among others. Alongside KB Boyce, she co-directs Queer Rebels, a queer and trans people of color arts project. They have curated and shared work in the SF Bay Area, New York, Montreal, Mexico, Seoul, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Berlin, and beyond. For more info: www.celestechan.com and www.queerrebels.com.

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Friday Staff Pick: The Complete Stories

The Complete Stories

Clarice Lispector

Introduction by Benjamin Moser
Translated by Katrina Dodson

Long-awaited and beautifully translated, Lispector’s stories collected in their entirety read like an incantation commanding us into her charming and dreamy trance. Let each story bewitch you; there is simply no other way to experience this prose. —Recommended by Cassie, City Lights Books

Clarice Lispector’s The Complete Stories, 85 in all, are an epiphany, among the important books of this―or any―year

The recent publication by New Directions of five Lispector novels revealed to legions of new readers her darkness and dazzle. Now, for the first time in English, are all the stories that made her a Brazilian legend: from teenagers coming into awareness of their sexual and artistic powers to humdrum housewives whose lives are shattered by unexpected epiphanies to old people who don’t know what to do with themselves. Clarice’s stories take us through their lives―and ours.

From one of the greatest modern writers, these stories, gathered from the nine collections published during her lifetime, follow an unbroken time line of success as a writer, from her adolescence to her death bed.

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City Lights Bookstore Bestsellers for September 2015


1. City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology: 60th Anniversary Edition, edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (City Lights)


2. Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl (City Lights/Sister Spit)


3. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau)

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Remembering Richard O. Moore, Part One

by Garrett Caples

Richard-O-MooreWith the death of poet-filmmaker Richard O. Moore (1920-2015) this past March—two days before his second collection, Particulars of Place, was published by Omnidawn—American poetry lost the last surviving member of the original SF Renaissance, that group of anarchist poets centered around Kenneth Rexroth in the 1940s that also included Philip Lamantia, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Madeline Gleason, William Everson, James Broughton, and Thomas Parkinson. Those who knew Richard continue to mourn his death even as we celebrate his long and extraordinary life. Not the least extraordinary aspect of this life was the intensity of his devotion to writing poetry, even in blindness, virtually up to the day of his death. As a result, a number of poems post-date Particulars of Place, and he grouped these under the title In Passing, an understated pun reflecting his wry sense of humor as he observed himself in the process of dying. The following is, I believe, the last poem he completed:

After Tomorrow

Systemic failure and the death of time
are the companions of my every breath
—high rhetoric for an ordinary matter.
Their time used up, all systems end in death:
cells, circulations, pumps, and valves,
a bloodless recitation of the facts;
but that’s to miss the story of a life
before the inglorious dying of a heart,
time’s other side—depressions, illuminations,
a grand entrance, a grand jeté of love,
voyages from Byzantium east and west,
the bittersweet persuasions of the mind.
As this life leans into the rest of life,
time is the first to falter and give way.
Next, love’s attachments to the world.
The house is empty. No grief can penetrate
the deathly silence of the non-event.

So much of Richard dwells in this poem! His almost egoless calm in the face of impending death remains awe-inspiring, as does the virtuosity of these 17 lines, scored as deliberately as a Webern concerto. Sightless at this point, he was composing in compact units he could keep in memory until a member of his devoted Poetry Collective could transcribe his recitation. The sheer distillation of lines 9-12 represents the whole of a life in a flash and, ever the filmmaker, Richard delivers it in deft montage, collapsing time into eternity.

I mention all this because this coming month (October ’15) in the Bay Area, there are two significant events in the offing. On Friday, October 9, at 6:30 p.m., at the Mythos/Firehouse Gallery in Berkeley, there will be a celebration of the life and work of Richard O. Moore, featuring readings of his poetry by his friends Brenda Hillman and Paul Ebenkamp (co-editors of Moore’s first book, Writing the Silences (University of California Press, 2010) and Particulars of Place), and Garrett Caples (co-editor of Particulars of Place). Richard’s daughter Flinn Moore Rauck will also read and share recollections of her father. After the readings, there will be a screening of one of the rarer episodes from Richard’s famous USA: Poetry series: his rarely seen half-hour film of Robert Creeley! This is be-there-or-be-square terrain for the East Bay poetry crowd. David Reid will host and the gallery is asking for $10 at the door, but, in true Richard Moore anarchist spirit, no one will be turned away for lack of finds.

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Still from Moore’s “USA: Poetry” film series, this one of Robert Duncan reading his own work in his home c. 1965.

Also coming up on Saturday, October 25, from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m., on KQED TV, will be a retrospective of four public television films of Richard O. Moore. Watch this space for part 2 of “Remembering Richard O. Moore.”

Fri., October 9
Mythos Gallery
1790 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA

6:30 p.m.

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Rad Women read Rad American Women A-Z: Anisse Gross Reads “P Is for Patti Smith”

This week on the “Rad Women read Rad American Women A-Z” video series: we filmed Anisse Gross reading an entry about one of her longtime idols, Patti Smith. Anisse speaks about what kept her pursuing her dream of becoming a writer despite criticism from others and surprised us by bringing in something from her first Patti Smith concert.

This is the fourth video in the new series from City Lights where we ask women we admire to read their favorite entry of our New York Times-bestselling children’s book, Rad American Women A-Zand answer some questions about what it means to be a rad woman today. The book is authored by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl and published by City Lights/Sister Spit.

Anisse Gross is a writer and editor living in San Francisco where she is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Her work has been featured in TheNewYorker.com, Quartz, Lucky Peach, The Believer, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Weekly, The Brooklyn Quarterly, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.

Recently, Anisse wrote about City Lights Publishers’ 60th anniversary for Publishers Weekly. She also interviewed Thomas Page McBee for the The Rumpus last fall to discuss his memoir, Man Alive

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Friday Staff Pick: Future Days

Whatever you think you know of this era, even if you are conversant with both Amon Düül I and Amon Düül II, you will find much here you probably missed. An invaluable history, and an indispensable guide to further exploration. Wow. Really. Wow. —Recommended by Jeff, City Lights Books

A sweeping history of the men and women who transformed postwar Germany—and created a musical genre that revolutionized rock and roll and gave birth to hip-hop.

West Germany after World War II was a country in shock: estranged from its recent history, and adrift from the rest of Europe. But this orphaned landscape proved fertile ground for a generation of musicians who, from the 1960s onwards, would develop the strange and beautiful sounds that became known as Krautrock.

Eschewing the easy pleasures of rock and roll and the more substantive seductions of blues and jazz, they took their inspiration from elsewhere: the mysticism of the East; the fractured classicism of Stockhausen; the grinding repetition of industry; the dense forests of the Rhineland; the endless winding of Autobahns.

Faust, Neu!, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Amon Düül II, Can, Kraftwerk—the influence of these groups’ music on Western popular music is incalculable. They were key to the development of movements ranging from post-punk to electronica and hip-hop and have directly inspired artists as diverse as David Bowie, Talking Heads, and LCD Soundsystem.

Future Days is the brilliantly reported, deeply researched story of the groups that created Krautrock, and a social and cultural history of the Germany that challenged, inspired, and repelled them.

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Printers Ink Is the Greater Explosive: Pamphlet Publishing as Insurgent Art

By Greg Ruggiero

Howard Zinn once wrote that “perhaps the most important publication in the history of the United States was neither a book nor a periodical, but a pamphlet.” For Zinn, “the pamphlets of history are a perfect expression of the marriage of art and politics—their language is the language of the people, their cheapness makes them accessible to all, their content is revolutionary, demanding fundamental changes in society. Like all socially conscious art, they transcend the world of commerce, they transcend the orthodox, and so they are profoundly democratic.”

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City Lights pamphlets. Left to right: “Second April” by Bob Kaufman (1959), “Beat Zen Square Zen and Zen” by Alan W. Watts (1959), “To Protect and Serve Who?” by Mumia Abu-Jamal (2015), “Poem from Jail” by Ed Sanders (1963)

Over the past 60 years City Lights has sporadically contributed to the great tradition and insurgent art of pamphlet publishing by producing limited-edition staple-bound pamphlets brimming with politics, poetry and the search for enlightenment. While each release is indelibly marked with the literary and countercultural fingerprints of its moment, it is precisely their idiosyncrasies that make many of these texts shine. For example, in Beat Zen Square Zen and Zen (1959) Alan Watts writes:

If you really want to spend some years in a Japanese monastery, there is no earthly reason why you shouldn’t. Or if you want to spend your time hopping freight cars and digging Charlie Parker, it’s a free country.
In the landscape of Spring there is neither better nor worse;
The flowering branches grow naturally, some long, some short.

For some, simply marking a moment is of tantamount importance as the poem on the page. Consider Flowers and Bullets (1970) written by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko shortly after the U.S. National Guard shot and killed four unarmed students at Kent State University campus on May 4, 1970; Eagle Brief (1970) by Timothy Leary, a freedom poem left behind in his empty cell on the occasion of his successful escape from jail with the help of the Weather Underground; and Jean Genet’s May Day Speech, written in defense of the Black Panthers and Bobby Seale who were demonized by cops. All of these texts were published as pamphlets by City Lights Books.

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5 Questions with In Search of the Movement Author Benjamin Hedin

InSearchoftheMovementTonight, City Lights in conjunction with Radio Silence Magazine is proud to present Benjamin Hedin, author of In Search of the Movement: The Struggle for Civil Rights Then and Now, at City Lights Bookstore this Wednesday. Ben answered our 5 questions.

Event: Wednesday, September 23, 7:00pm at City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA. Radio Silence presents In Search of the Movement, published by City Lights.

About the Book: Published on the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery, Alabama marches, Ben Hedin analyzes the legacy of the Civil Rights movement, and illuminates the work that continues to be done today.

In March of 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands in an epic march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery, in what is often seen as the culminating moment of the Civil Rights movement. The Voting Rights Act was signed into law that year, and with Jim Crow eradicated, and schools being desegregated, the movement had supposedly come to an end. America would go on to record its story as an historic success.

Recently, however, the New York Times featured an article that described the reversion of Little Rock’s schools to all-black or all-white. The next day, the paper printed a story about a small town in Alabama where African Americans were being denied access to the polls. Massive demonstrations in cities across the country protest the killing of black men by police, while we celebrate a series of 50th-anniversary commemorations of the signature events of the Civil Rights movement. In such a time it is important to ask: In the last fifty years, has America progressed on matters of race, or are we stalled—or even moving backward?

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Rad Women read Rad American Women A-Z: Jewelle Gomez Reads “U Is for Ursula K. Le Guin”

This week for the “Rad Women Read Rad American Women A-Z” series, Jewelle Gomez talks lesbian vampire erotica and being unafraid to make yourself the center of your own universe. Jewelle chose to read the “U is for Ursula K. Le Guin” entry, another amazing woman who creates fantastic universes.

This is the third video in the new series from City Lights where we ask women we admire to read their favorite entry of our New York Times-bestselling children’s book, Rad American Women A-Zand answer some questions about what it means to be a rad woman today. The book is authored by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl and published by City Lights/Sister Spit.

Jewelle Gomez is a writer and activist and the author of the double Lambda Award-winning novel, The Gilda Stories from Firebrand Books. Her adaptation of the book for the stage Bones and Ash: A Gilda Story was performed by the Urban Bush Women theater company in 13 U.S. cities. She is the recipient of a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, two California Arts Council fellowships, and an Individual Artist Commission from the San Francisco Arts Commission. Her fiction, essays, criticism and poetry have appeared in numerous periodicals. Among them: The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Village Voice; Ms Magazine, ESSENCE Magazine, The Advocate, Callaloo, and Black Scholar. Her new projects include a comic novel about black activists of the 1960s as they face middle age titled Televised. An expanded 25th Anniversary edition of The Gilda Storiespublished by City Lights, will come out April 2016. 

For the other videos in the series so far, go here.

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Friday Staff Pick: Welcome to Braggsville

Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books

From the PEN/Faulkner finalist and critically acclaimed author of Hold It ‘Til It Hurts comes a dark and socially provocative Southern-fried comedy about four UC Berkeley students who stage a dramatic protest during a Civil War reenactment—a fierce, funny, tragic work from a bold new writer.

Welcome to Braggsville. The City that Love Built in the Heart of Georgia. Population 712

Born and raised in the heart of old Dixie, D’aron Davenport finds himself in unfamiliar territory his freshman year at UC Berkeley. Two thousand miles and a world away from his childhood, he is a small-town fish floundering in the depths of a large, hyper-liberal pond. Caught between the prosaic values of his rural hometown and the intellectualized multicultural cosmopolitanism of Berzerkeley, the nineteen-year-old white kid is uncertain about his place until one disastrous party brings him three idiosyncratic best friends: Louis, a “kung-fu comedian” from California; Candice, an earnest do-gooder claiming Native roots from Iowa; and Charlie, an introspective inner-city black teen from Chicago. They dub themselves the “4 Little Indians.”

But everything changes in the group’s alternative history class, when D’aron lets slip that his hometown hosts an annual Civil War reenactment, recently rebranded “Patriot Days.” His announcement is met with righteous indignation, and inspires Candice to suggest a “performative intervention” to protest the reenactment. Armed with youthful self-importance, makeshift slave costumes, righteous zeal, and their own misguided ideas about the South, the 4 Little Indians descend on Braggsville. Their journey through backwoods churches, backroom politics, Waffle Houses, and drunken family barbecues is uproarious to start, but will have devastating consequences.

With the keen wit of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and the deft argot of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, T. Geronimo Johnson has written an astonishing, razor-sharp satire. Using a panoply of styles and tones, from tragicomic to Southern Gothic, he skewers issues of class, race, intellectual and political chauvinism, Obamaism, social media, and much more.

A literary coming-of-age novel for a new generation, written with tremendous social insight and a unique, generous heart, Welcome to Braggsville reminds us of the promise and perils of youthful exuberance, while painting an indelible portrait of contemporary America.

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