The Dog

By Aaron Howell

At night with jet-black fur, thick that hung down in waves the eye easily misses the dog standing behind the tall gate obscured by the hedge; or when upon entering the property he blends so perfectly into the shadows as he rests in the entryway where he often settles down to sleep with something between a sigh and a grunt, the simple acknowledgement of weary bones and the familiarity of years. He was a dog after all, and dogs his age possess a quiet and solemn air around them as the energy and exuberance of youth leave a resigned and dignified adult familiar with the world of enclosed spaces, leashes and scraps in his bowl after dinner. His owner counted seven years since the animal was a puppy, seven years of buried instincts and urges to hunt and run forced away within a city backyard. Seven years of living in the same home with the same family, the dog standing near the gate to the street, hearing and smelling the world outside, hungry, though these days he lay down more often with the now more familiar sigh and grunt of rest. The eye easily misses him blending into the darkness and shadows at night. That is until with the speed and ferocity of his nature he lets out a low growl – his only warning – then a dangerous bark and flash of teeth as he crouches to defend or attack, for he was a dog after all and a good one at that who stopped and wagged his tail upon recognizing your voice or scent, friend, man’s best friend …

[UPDATE 02/05/2016]

His owner loved the dog.  He brought the dog home at only a few months old, a puppy. His daughters kept asking for a dog every time they saw one, one wanted a Cocker Spaniel and the other a Dotson.  His owner came home with him,  already the size of a full-grown small dog with large paws and the promise of growth.  A boy dog too. After that very first night at home his owner knew the dog was going to be his, and his dog alone.  He purchased a puppy for the whole family he thought, and not just a dog for his daughters.  The girls were excited though a little skeptical, but the frown from his wife made him realize he got a dog for himself.  Maybe he needed another male in a house full of females, maybe he knew his daughter might get bored with walking and feeding the dog leaving it on his shoulders, or maybe he always wanted a dog. Regardless he came home with a jet-black puppy that the girls and his wife loved as part of the family, but a dog that became his partner, each in turn looking our for the other, forming a bond that made them friends, a pack.

That first year, while still a puppy the girls played with him, picked him up and let him sleep in their beds, often fighting for who got to hold him. Time passed, he grew into his paws and as his black fur grew longer so did his legs.  When they couldn’t pick him up anymore the girls began to lose interest. Still lovable, friendly and in many ways still a puppy he also became protective of his home and of himself. He learned the strength of his bite by chewing things around the house, and his speed by chasing the cat and catching toys that his family threw for him in the backyard. Not much smaller than the girls now he yelped and snapped at them if they pulled his hair or tried to pick him up by dragging him around. When walking him around the neighborhood he now pulled at his leash, and he as much walked you as you walked him.  His encounters with other dogs taught him to be wary.  Where at first curious, too many times he came across other dogs that growled and bit at him catching him by surprise, eventually teaching him to bark, growl and if necessary fight.  He became aggressive, strong and an unruly young male, and this further made the girls uninterested in him as he was difficult to control.  Instead a loving respect formed that often left him ignored.

L.A. the Blog: Poetry

Well, after a long hiatus of over a year and a few very extraordinary adventures (yes, love is an adventure and no I am not getting sentimental!) the blog returns.  Return of the blog!!  Not a movie but perhaps an intertextual allusion to a work of art that hopefully creates revulsion in the reader so when the following paragraphs of poetry alight on the eyes (yes like a metaphysical angel descending from heaven to earth) the beauty of the “plain” verse causes a sublime emotional reaction.  Of course what normally is considered doggerel when in contrast to a terror B Movie then becomes heavenly is either a paradox or ironic … don’t you think?

Honestly I just picked up David Foster Wallace’s “Consider The Lobster” and in an attempt to capture Wallace’s own malaise, I am both proving myself a narcissist, and full of low self-esteem.   Is he a genius?  Am I a genius?  Most likely I am just a tourist in this landscape of words, making this whole paragraph a metatextual reference.  By the way I am describing this poetry as “plain” verse, not Blank Verse, not Free Verse, but Plain Verse.  Love it or leave it.

Los Angeles

By Aaron Howell

Street corner
Sun overhead,
Hot like some circle of hell,
People sweating constantly
Dripping sweat

People everywhere –
Twenty-first century problems everywhere
And like the heat affecting perspiration
The porous streets sweat blood and tears:

SEE young teenage fanatics fantastically displayed in frantic poses,
Residual effects of fashion,
Fall through the “crack” rock and “needle” holes;

WATCH Business-rich-man with
Not-so-rich woman
Or partner
Or sex buddy
Or wife
Or Mercedes co-pilot dinner-date opera escort
Or vice-versa man is woman
Woman is man
This IS America;

HOW the fiendish heat of the young day
Prays for a cloud of rain in this desert
An oxymoron
Or the foolish wish of the hipster-hippy
Deemed idealist tree hugger
Happy except the businesswoman’s Mercedes runs on gas
And the opera is sold out;

WITH Red lights
Green lights
A worn-out mattress dragging a homeless person from nook
To sidewalk
To street corner
Confessing for GODsake
That it’s impossible to rest anywhere these days
The damn dogs won’t stop barking
They even managed speed limits on sirens
Flashing lights slow to a crawl
The law of too many drivers
Even animals drive cars these days
DAMN it all!

Street corner
The city smothers with its heat
It envelops and grasps
Helicopters overhead insure the no-escape policy
But if exposed for too long
It burns its reality into angels
Giving nausea like sunstroke.

Long-term residents of Los Angeles
All have dark tans and future cancer spots
Its lasting effect.

L.A. the Blog: Poems and Performances – ‘the WOMEN group’

On a weeknight a few months ago along Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park at the Sancho Art Gallery a group of mostly women poets fronted by musician and poet Dylan Doren performed in celebration of art, words and beats. It marked a beginning for these artists who gathered together for the first time as WOMEN. A month later in the neighborhood of Mt. Washington, Dylan arrived at a party with poetry and music, performing in his wake an eclectic mix of male and female poets exploring sound and meaning. Interestingly this event showcased an entirely different set of poets. One month later off a section of Hollywood Boulevard in the downtown club district, Dylan with a computer hooked up to a speaker gathered yet another group of WOMEN in the courtyard of an apartment building. Again the night vibrated with music and the exploration of life through stanzas, tropes and rhymes.

the WOMEN group poetry reading, Hollywood, CA -2012

the WOMEN group poetry reading, Hollywood, CA -2012

Before each event Dylan takes the time to find the right spot to hang a banner with a simple statement written on the front; a banner that these musicians and artist flock too wherever it goes up; a slightly esoteric but highly enigmatic statement defining a movement by these artists to produce, perform and distribute literary work; a banner hung always in full view of the performing artists for the audience to see, giving a name to the wealth of work coming from contributors. It simply reads the WOMEN group.

So who is the WOMEN group, and what exactly is the WOMEN group? In its beginning stages the question of who might be harder to describe than the what. The group is a “collective of poets and writers” in Dylan’s own words that currently publish chapbooks and host poetry readings around Los Angeles. If you want the “what” of it then there you go.

Describing the WOMEN group while sitting down to dinner at a local Hollywood Thai restaurant (one of this writer’s personally favorite spots, insert add here for Hoy-Ka Thai Noodle), Dylan in personal terms added his reasons for starting the group.

“[To] Collect poetry really,” Dylan said in between bites of noodles in solemn tones. “I think a lot of people write and don’t get their shit out there, and right now I just try to collect poems. I try to motivate people to submit so I can do the footwork and get their shit out there. It’s basically my love for poetry, but also fear of good poetry not getting out.”

When L.A. the Blog caught up with them in Hollywood to experience and share some of our own poetry, the night unfolded with a variety of styles about a myriad of subjects. The poets with a microphone and speaker often fighting the helicopter and traffic sounds coming off the Hollywood streets read four to six poems covering topics from friendship and family to sex, drugs and relationships; backlit by the overhead incandescent and integrated compact fluorescent lights of the apartments entryway with a small crowd of 10 or 12 people mostly artists and writers themselves; in a loose open-mic format that encouraged battle-hardened open-mic veterans, and gave overwhelming support to newer voices who recently joined the group or stepped forward from the audience. After the WOMEN read, one audience member stepped up and called his mom in an inspired happening leaving a message on her voicemail about standing up to participate at a poetry reading, and another joined in with a reading of his favorite William Carlos Williams’ poems. To end the night an acoustic guitar came out.

Each event they hold allows for this open-mic format, but just showing up and performing doesn’t make you part of the group, nor do members of the group strictly write poetry. “I’ve been writing for years and fell into music,” said Dylan explaining his own interest and inspiration in forming the group. “Recently I’ve stopped playing and making music to make the main focus [about] the words.” Many members of the group have played in bands or currently play in bands, or they paint visual art along with writing, or a like this author who recently joined the group they blog random and insightful things about Los Angeles.

The diversity of the members along with such a burgeoning art and music scene in the Silver Lake / Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, and Dylan’s own use of the word “collective” it seems possible the group might bring together all the various types of art – music, painting, sculpture, performance, film, theater, fashion, dance – especially since each poetry event seems to incorporate other art.

According to Dylan though this ain’t the case and the WOMEN group is not to be confused. “That’s another collective,” he said facetious and playful. “We’re a poetry collective.”

“I’m calling from two years ago in a lawn chair, / Sunrise, and sleeping dragon flies / In a wooded clearing, sonorous with incessant / Buzz of cricket and swallows tweeting— / Tents lined up in tribal tee-pee circles. / We were the last alive on earth. – excerpt from a long distance phone call by Tom Kelly, the Women group, Issue 1

As for the actual “who” of the WOMEN group – it currently lists in their first publication and online at their blog eight poets as members, all mostly unknown writers including Dylan himself: Tom Kelly, The Little Red Writer (obviously a pseudonym or penname), Jessica Bloom, Michael Nhat, Honey Gal Nobuddy (another penname we guess), Lina Carol and Nicole Baudouin.

Since the publication’s inception over the summer of 2012 with the WOMEN group, Issue 1, just describing them as eight poets is somewhat erroneous as some recent buzz from the publication and the successive poetry readings swelled the ranks of contributors.

“You know we started off as eight, and now we’re maybe double or more than that,” Dylan said while discussing membership and joining the group. “I have a lot of friends that do music that do poetry that do art so I have been asking them to contribute, or at the poetry readings people that attend they’ve never heard of the collective [but] now because of the event they’ve heard of it, and you know it goes to print. I go to a lot of open mics to talk about it. Now that the WOMEN group, Issue 1, is at three different bookstores people that pick up a copy or just look at it and read it have all the info on how to contact us, and hopefully if they contact us there’s a meeting date or I tell them meet us at a coffee shop, a bookstore or an open mic, or one of the WOMEN group readings.”

For membership in the group this idea of “meeting” holds a great importance. At the moment members are people who have met one another at some point or have met Dylan, and in fact to join the group you must know or have met someone from the group.

“I met every single member in different areas of life, or different parts of L.A,” said Dylan. “Some I’ve known for a long time, for years even, and some I’ve just met. One of the poets I met once before adding her into the WOMEN group. She was just a waitress at a diner and saw that I was writing and we spoke about writing, and we both found out we’re both poets, and exchanged information about open mics around town, and she sent me an email with her poem and it was in.”

Dylan Doren reading at a WOMEN group gathering in Hollywood, CA - 2012

Dylan Doren reading at a WOMEN group gathering in Hollywood, CA – 2012

So unlike most poetry publications where anyone submits and if the editor enjoys the poem they publish it, the WOMEN group requires the added step of taking the time to meet another member, or Dylan at a coffee shop, bookstore or poetry reading. A writer still needs to submit and the current editor Dylan must choose the work for publication, but for Dylan it’s essential that members meet.

“It’s just a set rule to make it more intimate, the group,” Dylan said after a moment of thought.” We do support writers, and writers from all different areas but our collective is meeting on a personal basis, we don’t have to hang out all the time, we don’t have to hang out ever, but we have to meet another member at least once, and since the group is growing in numbers it will be a lot easier.”

“the anarchic decision one makes / to valiantly jettison sagacity / to venture over the edge / how it must feel to really let go / to severe the tether of consequence / leap into the euphoric unknown with an eagles wingspan / trusting that which might annihilate you / like a blindfolded high diver / without any confirmation the pool is filled with water” – excerpt from the difference between “master bating” and “masturbating” by The Little Red Writer, the Women group, Issue 1

It is obvious at this point that the collective is a mix of males and females. With the name such a misnomer for describing the poets, and with the poems in the first collection focused on everything and anything including women, men and everything else, it would be a mistake to attribute the name to a topic the group writes about. The group isn’t GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) either as far as this writer can tell though I am sure some members are, nor does the group promote women’s issues, and the group isn’t interested in your dad.

Like so many young people these days growing up in a single-family home with their mom, or the women who daily struggle for equal rights around the world, the name is a tribute to these women.

“Yeah, I look up to a lot of women most of all my mother, single mother, hard worker, seven days a week for many years,” said Dylan. “She’s just an inspiration. A lot of my closest friends – women. It’s just a statement that we’re making. At first I was even thinking of making the group anonymous, like maybe only using last names or covering our faces, but I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Anonymous in the hope of creating gender blindness when reading the chapbook, or when they perform at readings. Anonymous so when experiencing the poem you don’t immediately assume that a female or male wrote the piece. In that way your mind doesn’t automatically fall into stereotypes and assumptions that change the words on the page. A somewhat pointed reminder that sexism and gender inequality still exist.

“Hopefully having males take the name WOMEN in time will give a bit to women’s lib,” said Dylan. “Or at least erase that line drawn in the sand.”

Still the WOMEN group is best described in terms of poetry, and to get a sense of the poems you need to read them (we won’t waste our time with scansion and interpretation). They are poets who come together under the banner as writers. “Yes, I already know of two of us that are writing novels and one a short story,” Dylan said when asked about other forms of literature the group might explore. “I look forward to publishing their works. But right now the main focus is to gather the poets for these chapbooks.”

“Like poker I lost every hand / Trying to make apples into oranges / They say we weren’t alone / They gave me a chip it was black / They said welcome back / In the rooms I spoke of my last relapse” – excerpt from Dylan Doren reading live at the WOMEN group, Hollywood, CA (see video below).

It seems that literary groups rarely pick their own name, and more often get prescribed to a style of writing prevalent at the time, or like the Beat Generation their sobriquet comes from one person, in the above case Jack Kerouac, in an interview or perhaps in a letter to a friend, the name used with no intention of it defining a generation, but nonetheless becoming the historical moniker of their literary movement. New Journalism is another example of this happenstance naming of a literary movement, this time taken from the title of a publication that Tom Wolfe curated and disseminated. The Fireside Poets another example who gained their name from the popularity of their poems, or the Black Mountain Poets who mostly attended a college of the same name, and lets not forget the humorous Martian Poets (who? Wikipedia swears they exist?).

For the WOMEN poets living and traveling the streets of Los Angeles in the second decade of the 21st century, the choosing of a name harks back to an earlier time when modernism raged in the streets of Paris, and Virginia Wolf played pranks on the British government with her own group of writers. When writing and bookstores created a community of publishing uncontrolled by the juggernaut of corporate capitalism. Where places like San Francisco, and Oxford birthed new movements and classic epics.

“I began reading more and more, finding poets from past generations, reading their works and researching to find out all I could about them and their journeys,” said Dylan in an email, one of our first communications back and forth discussing this article. More specifically when asked his influences he said, “Just history, the past, all poets that came before us, mostly dead now but, well, that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to gather all the living poets right now, get them down on paper, put them all together.”

Every writer in some form or another is influenced by past generations, and Dylan’s ideas are no different steeped in the tradition of independent expression and the romanticism of the written word. For this reason the publication remains strictly in print, you can’t find any of the poetry online and each poet must submit an original work. In no form can the poetry be published before. Add to this every writer’s instinct is to compare the new generation with past generations to fit the new into categorical reference so they can more easily make sense of the plethoric past so to dismiss or elevate certain writers above others, the need to define this L.A. movement exists.

“It doesn’t really matter the genre,” said Dylan when pressed about the significance of the WOMEN group when compared to other literary movements like the Beats. “Hopefully the time period, the era, the collective is remembered. I don’t care what it ends up being called because that’s just a name.”

“I like using a word, it’s called ‘sonic,’” Dylan said when asked what he would like his own poetry called. “I got it from Sonic Youth my favorite band, but it’s a different word to describe beauty. Some people say cool, some people use a whole bunch of words, I use sonic. That’s when you know I really like something. Sonic as fuck.”

So maybe Dylan and the rest of the poets won’t be remembered at all as the WOMEN group, but instead in Dylan’s own words as “sonic” due partly to this article being published, at least my ego hopes (who wouldn’t want to be the naming catalyst of a literary movement?).

Just recently in late November like clockwork, one month later, the poets gathered again for another reading. This time at the house of a new member who will be featured in the second issue. At the reading early January was announced as the date for the next publication, the WOMEN group, Issue 2. There will be a reading and release party at Alais Books East in the heart of Atwater Village. Please check the WOMEN group website for further information.

UPDATE 04/12/13: Find below some video of poets performing in Hollywood. Also the WOMEN group issue 2 is out!

UPDATE 5/09/13: We removed the video, also the WOMEN group is releasing their third issue this weekend May 11, 2013, at Alias Books East in Atwater Village, 3163 Glendale Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90039, 7 p.m.

L.A. the Blog Poetry: ‘Cover Letter’

Poster photographed on the corner of Grace Avenue and Franklin Avenue, in Hollywood, simply named “Pink Goats.”

To whom it may concern,

Educated and experienced with references.
Currently not working, a perfect fit with a
Strong skill set and all the necessary interpersonal
Technopacity, stuffed into file cabinets of first
Impressions labeled smiles and handshakes, and folded into
Organized years.

After a year of dedicated time spent interning
Within corporate walls within walls that
Subdivide halfway to the fluorescent sky,
With a lake view of mountain paradise
Flickering on the user-friendly Apple window of 1’s and 0’s,
In between data sets entered with 10 digits,
10 years later still interned with a new name:

Work hard like the tough get going,
Dedicated to hard work with abundant time
With a willingness for the above and beyond
Means always open and available, nights and
Weekends, in the hope for upwardly mobile
New identifications, advancing 401Ks and a parking spot
Personally surnamed.

Feel free to contact at anytime, thanks and hope all is well.


The Unemployed

L.A. the Blog: We Love It! Wine By the Glass, Stay Classy Los Angeles!

Copa wine by the glass display.

Wine by the glass is here!  Where wine in the box before never really caught on and gained the ire of many fancy wine connoisseurs, and the idea of a wine cooler only appealed to teenage girls but soon grew old and passe as they grew old and sophisticated women, wine by the glass holds the promise of a new marketing tool that will appeal to the upper crust of wine drinkers everywhere (or perhaps the 2010 World Wine Champion just has a back stock of there award-winning wine and needs to dump it quickly and cheaply before it turns to vinegar?).

Whatever the case the brand Copa now offers wine by the glass in cute plastic cups sealed like yogurt with a plastic snap lid.  Easy to drink in a car, while riding a bike down the road or while operating heavy machinery.  It is almost as if the display in the picture shown above got transported from some David Foster Wallace-like future, almost like it came straight from the Year of Copa Wine By the Glass.

The good news is you can get any of the fabulous types of wine such as a Pinot, a Merlot, a Cabernet or a Chardonnay for as low as $2.99.  Now I am sure you can get a cheap bottle of wine for close to the same price, but for how long?  With this new marketing ploy maybe this marks the end of cheap bottles and the introduction to expensive glasses, or are they cheap glasses?  Is that too many questions?

Anyway, if you are cruising the street and need a quick pick-me up then dip into your local store and grab a refreshing taste of the 2010 World Wine Champion.  Also of note Copa won the Dupont Packaging Award for Innovation Excellence with this nifty glass of wine.  So perhaps the glass is collectable.  Below find a few more pictures of this exciting development, or I am sure they will be next to the wine coolers in your local liquor store soon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

L.A. the Blog: Light Refraction In the Sky

Light Refraction In Sky

A mysterious and beautiful haze of light setup in the sky of downtown Los Angeles in the month of July, possibly alien invaders but more likely a refraction of light in the atmosphere.

It seems these days any strange occurrence in the sky brings forth new conspiracy theories.  Often observers of phenomena cry out aliens, or secret government projects, or scream the end of the world.  In the past maybe people saw the gods and angels when they viewed such phenomena.  While taking a work hiatus in downtown Los Angeles, after putting in 7-days straight, looking up in the sky this beautiful blue glimmer, similar to a rainbow in the form of a cloud greeted the eye, and what a fabulous and pretty sleep-derived hallucination above head came to mind first.  Unfortunately, once again working with a cell phone camera our photos don’t do justice to the phenomena, but to make up for our lack of technology we offer an explanation to the mystery.

No, the shimmer in the sky  wasn’t an inter-dimensional gate opened by an evil alien or demon race in an attempt to conquer our planet,  though if that was the case they might cancel work.  The beautiful blues with the slight shade of pink like a rainbow came from refracted light.  Unlike a rainbow the light didn’t reflect of water drops falling from the sky, but instead from ice crystals high up in the atmosphere.  The mysterious glimmer most likely was a circumhorizontal arc, but could also be a circumzenithal arc.  Both are phenomena produced by ice crystals and many call them ice halos.  If interested you can look at this site here, and if you scroll down you can get all the good information and science-type answers.  Another great site with information is Atmospheric Optics.  If you do visit this site search until you find the picture of the 44-degree parhelia, well worth the searching.  It is amazing the many beauties produced by this world and if we are lucky enough we might just get to experience.  Please find the better picture below.