The angels here
have pigeon’s wings
washed in sweat
the common salt
in a stew of cultures
singing asphalt songs
in the mist of seagulls
the San Andreas
a humble plate
– “Los Angeles” by Kamau Daáood (from The Coiled Serpent)
Tia Chucha’s latest publishing endeavor is an exciting anthology featuring a wide range of poetic voices. The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles will formally be released on April 15th, 2016. However, copies will be available at the upcoming AWP conference in LA. We will keep you posted on events and readings.
Co-edited by Neelanjana Banerjee, Daniel A. Olivas, and Ruben Rodriguez, the anthology is dedicate to three late writers of color whose work and spirit have inspired so many of us–Wanda Coleman, John Trudell, and Francisco X. Alarcon. Coiled Serpent opens with a brief and powerful introduction by our very own Poet Laureate, Luis J. Rodriguez, who reminds us that “Los Angeles is one of the richest cities in the United States and one of the poorest. What lies beneath all the seething are the social and economic gaps.”
This is an anthology that speaks (sin pelos en la lengua) from and about those gaps. Hollywood (the industry that fabricates and sells so many glittery myths of our city) knows nothing about the real LA revealed in these pages. As Rodriguez writes, this is “poetry that captures a city, a dreamscape, the shape of land and culture… from its underbelly and from among the unseen and unheard. These are artistic weapons in the social battles upturning what America is today and what it can be—toward a grander sense of belonging and inheritance.”
Spanning 355 pages, the anthology includes the work of many well-known and beloved Angelino writers, including work by Coleman and Trudell. There are too many authors to name here, but among the featured poets are Melinda Palacio, Holly Prado, Ruben Martinez, traci kato-kiriyama, Lynne Thompson, Amy Uyematsu, Peter Harris, liz gonzález, Dorothy Randall Gray, Chiwan Choi, Mike Sonken, Terry Wolverton, Antonieta Villamil, Luivette Resto, Thelma T. Reyna, Abel Salas, Iris De Anda, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Jessica Ceballos, Claudia Rodriguez, Erika Ayón, Alejandra Sanchez, and Jamie Asaye FitzGerald.
With shimmering scales made up of metaphor and verse, The Coiled Serpent slithers through the poetic landscapes of LA. It gives us an intimate welcome, “…please / leave your bags at the door / don’t carry what you don’t need / come in have a seat / because i want to confess to you/ everything…”(Ricardo Lira Acuña). It crosses continents in “Haze” by Tanzila Ahmed, “Today / Los Angeles smells like India, / Like heavy fog and survival trash burning / Like the thick air / of dawn and dusk.”
“The coiled serpent is connected to the earth, but also ready to spring, to strike, to defend or to protect,” Rodriguez tells us.
Everywhere the serpent goes, there are migrations and the honoring of migrants, like Iliana Carter’s powerful portrait of her Salvadorean grandmother, “a woman scorned, brutalized, / the fire that must have burned in her, / courage forged into black diamonds, / beat into shape by his violence / she fled with those dark stars inside her…” and in Karineh Mahdessian’s “Here”, a portrait of a father transplanting the most fragile of things, “He has traveled far / to arrive with packed dreams and two babies / Here / He breaks his knees / Bends his back / Callouses his hands / suns his cheeks…” Read Rest of Review Here