Visiting Northern Arizona University! :)

imgres-1So, this February, I was at Northern Arizona University. I had an excellent time–but gosh, it was my first reading after the election (I chose not to attend the AWP–more on that in another post). I was struck by how resilient and brave the students and the faculty at NAU are–but stunned that at a time when we should be celebrating and nurturing our best and brightest, we are forcing them to fight for their identities, their voices, and even their safety.

This is not an indictment of a school, or a locality–but a bigger problem we seem to have as a country–why do we distrust our young?  Why do we see them as competitors, as other–when they should be seen as our legacy? As a teacher, this simply befuddles me.

But, yes, the students at NAU, and the faculty, and the people I hung out with… I was treated with so much kindness and gratitude. And I return that. Thank you so much!

 

:)
Ryka

 

Matador Review Interview and a bit More

Hi All,

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So, yes, the Matador Review asked me to chat with them, and gosh, we covered so many things! I really enjoyed this interview because it covered some different ground, and I’m in a different place in my life–so it’s neat to see how my answers and thoughts are evolving and refining with time. The interview is here (http://www.matadorreview.com/ryka-aoki), and it there are also other excellent interviews, literature, and images.

I think a big difference between now and previous interviews is that I am a lot more alone than I was before, and am thinking much more on how community functions to cultivate its own artists. Not all artists can do it alone, and though they are admirable, being a self-sufficient warrior should not be a prerequisite to developing and thriving as an artist. There is room for all experiences.

Or there should be.

<3
Ryka

March 25 Story Slam

It is has been a very busy time! This afternoon, I am going to be part of this!

http://grandparkla.org/event/proud-story-slam/

Part of Grand Park’s ongoing PROUD Series celebrating LGBTQ L.A., the PROUD Story Slam  presents narratives about how Los Angeles connects us no matter who we are or whom we love. From L.A. gay rights pioneers to Angeleno trans comedians, hear amazing stories that transcend geography, generation, gender, race and background. Be prepared to laugh and perhaps even shed a tear.

Please come by! Thank you!!!!
Ryka

Lambda Lit Fest! March 10

I have been a little behind on the posts. But, Lambda Literary has been working very hard on its first literary festival, right here in Los Angeles. Today, I have the honor of sitting on a panel with Bernard CooperD’LoWendy C. OrtizClaudia Rodríguez and Terry Wolverton.

“In many ways, California has been the leader in the nation for LGBTQ rights, and Los Angeles has been one of the centers for this activism. This Lambda LitFest LA Panel brings together six luminary LA-based writers to express their definition of what is quintessentially LA. Each writer will share some of their work, and then they will discuss what defines the queer literary landscape of LA, how the long-standing history of queer folks in cinema/Hollywood has affected the writing and culture of Los Angeles, and how diversity has shaped our city and the LGBTQ movement. Moderated by Alex Espinoza and followed by a Q/A.”

The interesting thing about poems is one never misses the piece that has never been written. Yet once written, it can seem as it the world could never have existed without it. I think the same thing may go for this festival. It will become a vital, needed part of Los Angeles, and the Queer Literature community. <3 So honored to be part of it.

 

Much love, Ryka

Thank you so much to UMass

Last month I had the honor of visiting UMass Amherst to inaugurate their trans speakers series. I had a wonderful time speaking with different classes on issues of gender, postcolonialism, queer theory, and writing practice.

I watched the autumn leaves change. I had an impromptu sushi lunch, and met some awesome people!

Here’s the writeup for my reading/lecture. :) 

“Students and faculty attend talk with trans author-activist Ryka Aoki” from The Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Thank you so very much!

<3

Ryka

Being a Fiction Editor for The James Franco Review :)

I enjoyed being the guest fiction editor for Issue 8! Here’s my intro to the section. 

Take good care!
Ryka

Sept 15–Literary Death Match!

Well, it’s been a bit since I have updated. But I’ve been busy! This THURSDAY, Sept 15 I am taking part in Literary Death Match! I am looking forward to this so much! <3

Please come by!!!

READERS: 
* Jon Klassen, American Caldecott and British Kate Greenaway Medal-winning author of This is Not My Hat
* Nadja Spiegelman, graphic novelist, author of the new memoir I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This
Antonio Sacre
, performer and author of My Name is Cool: Stories from a Cuban-Irish-American Storyteller 
* Ryka Aoki
, poet and author of Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul (2016 Lambda Literary Finalist)

Where: Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd, LA (map)
When: show at 7:30pm sharp, doors at 6:30pm (afterdrinks after!)
Cost: FREE (join LDM’s mailing list for a reminder)

http://www.literarydeathmatch.com/upcoming-events/sept-15-at-hammer-museum.html

Day 3 Castaic 8:32PM: What Goes Around Goes Beyond. The Conference End.

And so it is over. The first I-5 DIY Queer Lit Conference concludes with a Filet-O-Fish at the Castaic McDonald’s. Wow.

I had thought to end the conference in Gorman, where I started. Kind of cyclical, right? But as I passed Gorman, I didn’t feel right about it. Too soon. So I drive until it is right. Castaic. If Gorman was the first place I felt “out” of LA, then Castaic is the first place I felt “back.”

That there is over 25 miles between them fascinates me. Is is both and neither the beginning and end of the trip. The 27.4 miles between Gorman and Castaic become queer in a queer conference, caught between everything I set out to do and everything with which I returned.

Something to think about. Something to explore.

That I am not where I started from also makes this place feel much less like a summation or culmination. This is just a place.  I am sitting on a chair.

I sit here, at this McDonald’s–the first one all conference with a working Wi-fi. I munch on my Filet-o-Fish.

I can feel the world exhale.

PS–thank you, everyone for joining me. <3

 

Day 3 Buttonwillow 5:45pm, then Tejon 6:49pm: A Strange Aroma at the Taco Bell Outlet.

5:45 pm Buttonwillow

Up until now, I have been faithfully stopping and writing at every stop I have made. I have tried to convey what I felt, to bring people into the conference. All along, I am aware I am the only one in this I-5 DIY Queer Literary Conference on the road, but the fact people have been reading these posts helps me feel a lot less silly about the whole enterprise. But today, as I was in Buttonwillow, I thought to myself, I have actually missed a lot of stops. I missed Gustine, Patterson, Westley. I missed Jayne. And even in the stops I went to, the reflections became highly highly personal. I am sure others will come with vastly different topics, points of focus, observations…

I pee at Buttonwillow rest stop and think–”darn, why am I back here, when I could have been someplace where I’ve not yet peed before?” But i think, “gee whiz, you are only one girl.” Yes. There will be next year, and this was the best I could do. I am beginning to tire, to be honest. The heat has been rough. The emotions have been rough. Not enough fresh vegetables. I am achy from the road and coffee has gotten to that point where it doubles back, bonks you on the head and says what do you think you are doing?

So, I am leaving many many many empty places unwritten stories to the next conference, next year, perhaps, with a few more people meeting and sharing on the road. I will be there, too, because I swear it has been so wonderful. To take a trip in this way, to take the road and make it home, even for this short while.

6:49 pm Tejon

So here I am at Tejon. Above me is the Grapevine, and over that all my favorite LA radio stations will be there. Jim Svejda on KUSC with his thoughtful pauses and quippy snarky comments about Mahler. Max and Marcellus passionately discussing something very unimportant about the Lakers. A pledge drive of some sort, just because. It is just over the Tejon Pass.

But some culture passes over the Gravevine. Politics, for example. For this is the Tejon Outlet Center, and it exists because the people here make a lot of money on road traffic and vehemently oppose the high speed rail that will bypass the area. It is a very slick looking place–far more urbane than Bravo Farms or Andersen’s. But then, one must think–is there any less artifice here?

Maybe the outlet will draw people. Maybe the outlet can be a train stop. But as far as I can tell, no one really asked for it. I mean it looks like an outlet center, at least in signage. But the outlets are peculiar? Seriously, I get putting a  Taco Bell in the Food Court, but to put in on the main marquee? Serious? Taco Bell Outlet? EWWW!!!!

Doesn’t anybody actually read this stuff?

But the outlet is not here because it is an outlet. It is here because of political expedience. It is here to give a somewhat friendly face to an otherwise unpopular viewpoint. (When you are backed up for miles in traffic on the I-5, a sign that says “Trains or Dams?” is funny in so many ways. Why, yes. I’ll take the dam, please. And can I have a side order of constipation with that? Are you kidding?)

I think of other things that don’t make sense. Some farmer has posted a “Another Farmer for Trump. Water for Farms and Families.” Huh? How did we get from here to there? It has a strange smell. What on earth was Ben Carson about? Or Carly Fiorina? Really, did anyone really think either would become president? But hey–person of color! Woman! We have them! Look! They are on the sign! But it wasn’t serious. It was just window dressing. It’s fake. No one cares. Here’s a Taco Bell Outlet.  Don’t think about it too much. Just eat.

I think of the political campaign right now, of what lies back over that hill–oh yeah, people around me having Bernie and Hillary debates. But what are they debating? I hardly ever hear discussions about policy. I hear people sounding like they are debating. But where’s the debate?  And there they go.

There’s that strange aroma again. Taco Bell Outlet!

As for poor Hillary and Bernie–what about their actual ideas? They don’t get addressed. The candidates themselves seem to have become proxies for people snarking at each other.  I think about our queer community, our own histories and stories. What looks like activism–is it activism? Is it really helping us? All of our battles, discussions, demonstrations. Which ones help us? And which ones are like this outlet–something no one really asked for, taking up space and diverting attention from thinking and planning and building something that could  really help get us out of this oppressive relentless heat?

 

 

 

Day 3 4:47PM: Lost Hills Love’s, Arby’s, and Forgetting My Own Poetry.

And, yes. Because I had to come back here. Lost Hills. I had not intended to come here. We had so many good times. I didn’t want them to end. Coming here was an acknowledgement it was over. And it’s over.

It’s over. Shit. I had intended to come here, triumphantly, with the road behind me and the newfound wisdom it had bestowed. I had intended to talk about the acceptance of what is unresolved. I had intended to write about the peace of resolution.

In other words, I had expected some kind of resolution on this return to Lost Hills. Whether I accept stopping, I accept moving on… All good. But not this.

The Love’s I enter seems a lot smaller that I remember. Everything is there, but bunched together. More rummagy. The hats with the Shiny bands are there. The fireball candy and beef jerky. All there. The audio books claiming “Like a Movie in Your Mind,” there. That stupid caterpillar toy with the thin fishing line that you can make crawl up your arm. Yes. It’s there. I remembered these things, and here they are.

But this is an Arby’s, not a Del Taco.  And there’s a Pilot across the highway, and I know we spent some time in there, too., and I realize there is, besides remembering and forgetting…acceptance and denial, motion and stillness–there is another type of memory. It’s a difficult poetic memory, where details are concentrated and crystallized and forced together with the heat and pressure of the soul.

And this makes the poems shine. It makes the writing sparkle, the scenes unforgettable.

But when we apply it to our own memories… Especially if we diminish ourselves before our pasts and our surroundings, which so many of us do. We begin to put all the good parts of ourselves, all the good parts of our histories and our memories into the relationship we have at hand. We concentrate all that good stuff and attribute it to the love we feel for that special person, those special moments, that special connection. It is so special, we give our relationship the greatest gift we think we have.

We turn our relationship into a poem.

And then what? Sometimes I look at the work I created, all shiny and sparkly, and glowing and I cannot believe it came from me. I refuse to believe it. It’s all the setting, it’s all the inspiration, It’s all the community. It’s all their stories. It’s all their brilliance. I just write shit down about it, but it’s all them.

And I do this to my own history. I cede my identity, my self-esteem. I put everything into the Love’s I am in infusing it with any literary magic I can offer. And then I forget my own role in the result.

But now, I come in here, and think–if it looks like this now, in the daylight–out of the photoshop poetry of my memory. If it is just this–then where the heck did that other stuff come from? It wasn’t a wrong memory. It wasn’t made up. Where did that magic come from?

It must have come from me.

Me. Wow. Me.

There were many good things about what we had. But not all the good things. There were many things I could not have done without her. But that goes both ways. I am a poet, a writer. I am also a pretty magical person, and kind of neat. Let’s remember all of that goes wherever you go, girl, and that’s yours to keep no matter what, K?

Okay. <3

I get into my beautiful Honda with my Arby’s version of the Diet Coke/lemonade I always make. Hey, maybe there was a bit of resolution here after all.

But I am not thinking of Lost Hills.

I am thinking of me.