Dearest A,

It’s been weeks since last you wrote.  I read your letter to the soft noise of a Seinfeld rerun, the canned laughter of studio audience members who probably relayed the episode to work colleagues the morning following the taping.  Then, they stopped talking.  My roommate was thumb-mashing the Diet Coke-stuck buttons of an old model cell phone at the time.  Everything is now touch-screened, you know.  Interfaced.  If you cradle an iPhone long enough, its supposed to warm your hands.

Yours,

B

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Dear A,

Billy Collins, I read in a recent interview, said “A poem is the most intimate form of communication, in that it is one person communicating to another person.  Nothing else you read is addressed in such a personal way, except maybe for the letter, but then that’s not something that the whole world is reading.”

What’s weird is that I could swear I’ve heard lines from my letter in the mouths of complete strangers. Well, complete strangers to me.  How long do you know someone before they’re not strange to you anymore?  It’s strange to think of who you’ve been speaking to, strange that I’m not embarrassed.

Should I be?

Write back,

B

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Dear A,

Someone said Elizabeth Bishop was coming to Los Angeles next Thursday.  Then they corrected themselves — “in a way.”  I laughed, and tried to imagine Elizabeth Bishop as a zombie.  She’d maybe sit onstage, crumple and eat each poem after its reading.  Honestly, I don’t think I’d have the heart to jam a wooden stake into Elizabeth Bishop’s brain.  Could you even read for an hour like that without getting sick?

She’d be one hundred years old this year.  I say “she’d be” as though we ever stop being what we are.

Please write,

B

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Hello A,

Bishop, in a letter to a friend, once wrote “I sort of see you surrounded by fine-tooth combs, sandpaper, nail files, pots of varnish, etc. — with heaps of used commas and semicolons hand, and little useless phrases taken out of their contexts and dying all over the floor.”  I wouldn’t know what to say you were surrounded by anymore — a romantic might say you’re surrounded by ocean water, washing bottle caps and the sharp music of pelicans ashore.  Wait, do pelicans sing?

My point is that people write letters all the time.  See?

B

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A,

Space.  Not the clusters-of-stars or orbit space, but space is the reason we write letters, right?  To close space, pull two people closer?  I like to imagine letters bridge a certain chasm we may not normally possess the tools or materials to close.  My hands splinter at the thought of wooden planks, nails, a sledgehammer.  But what about when one of us needs space?  What then?

Or maybe letters are the closest we’ve come to actually touching the departed again, the closest we’ve come to speaking with ghosts.

I think I’m haunted.

B

According to the AP, some members of the Swedish Academy that awards the Nobel Prize for Literature have alleged that other members are biased towards European writers and against American ones. Supporters of this allegation point to the fact that, of the last twenty Nobel Laureates for Literature, only one was an American while fourteen were from the European continent. They blame American literature’s overly “insular” quality as a result of a shortage of translated literature in the American mass market as the cause of this discrepancy.

Okay, yeah, fourteen out of twenty is a lot. But I think it is worth remembering that Europe is made up of more than one country; while “America” refers to the United States. Is it really fair to compare a continent to a country? Three of the fourteen European wins went to the United Kingdom – if there’s a bias here, I’d say it was in favor of the United Kingdom!

It’s interesting that they are saying that the problem with Americans is our lack of translated literature. If that’s a problem, we’re in good company – out of that same glorious twenty, a full eight of the Laureates wrote in English. The second most common language used was German – with only three occurrences out of the twenty.

Maybe when more translated works start winning, there will be a higher demand for them in the American market.

Next time the Nobel committee wants to find its way into a blog or two, maybe they should do so without weakly accusing each other of biases.

If someone were to tell you to write a 100-page script in one month, you’d probably think he or she is joking. But for the tens of thousands of people participating in Script Frenzy, this task is no joke. Script Frenzy is a free, international online event in which anyone and everyone in the world is invited to write 100 pages of an original script in just the month of April. Participants create an account on the Script Frenzy website and starting April 1st, they can update their page count and work till it climbs to 100.

Why would anyone surrender themselves to such a daunting task as furiously scribbling as much material as what normally takes months or even years? For the million dollar prize of course! Not. Script Frenzy, just like its partner NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), does not award cash prizes for the many people who complete the challenge of writing the 100-page script. Instead, prizes include “happiness. Creative juices. Pride. Laughter. Bragging rights. A brand-new script.” In addition to these wonderful prizes, the Script Frenzy website comes equipped with a forum for participants to share their thoughts and build a community of old and new screenwriters, playwrights, authors— just people searching for an adventurous month full of creativity.

This is the place where one can hold another’s hand in the effort to give birth to that 100-page creation all in one month’s time. What better way is there to get your story out than alongside ten thousand other struggling writers in the international Script Frenzy!

To participate, create a Script Frenzy account and begin writing!

For those of you who are already experiencing the foreboding sense of pressure that is soon to come in the form of midterms and assignments later on in the Spring quarter, the Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection exhibition at LACMA may very well be one of the perfect ways to relax and decompress.

The collection features photography, paintings, videos, and even audio from artists ranging from the 1960s to the present.  I myself have always been somewhat sceptical about modern art (the very idea of signing a ceramic toilet bowl and calling it modern art, for instance, vexes me), but at the same time I must confess that I have been converted during my brief three hour tour of the exhibit in late March.  The displays were all aesthetically pleasing and, in some cases, remarkably provocative.  The collection also does not require the viewer to necessarily possess the professional eye of an artist in order to fully appreciate its merits; one could derive pleasure even from casual viewing.

The exhibition is on display till July 4, 2011.  Tickets cost $10, and free parking is available right across the street.

I recently received an email from the Autry National Center (which is basically a museum about cowboys, indiads, and pioneer women or something like that) about a screening of The Magnificent Seven. Usually their emails are about bead artwork and butter-churning trends among Navajo women and are wholly uninteresting, but a Spaghetti Western based off of the Japanese classic Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa sounded like a winner.

Featuring the likes of Yul Brynner (can you say The King and I?) Charles Bronson, and Steve McQueen, this movie is evidently brimming with masculine gunslinging action. I really would have liked to have been able to go, but I will unfortunately have to be working parts of UCLA’s Bruin Day (come check out the Westwind table).

Finally, the Autry, as hokey as it sounds, might actually be cool. It’s in or by Griffith Park and so if you’re a hipster you can go head on over to Los Feliz, Silverlake, or Echo Park immediately afterward and eat something vegan.

Follow this link to see the event info.

Well, we all know that I love a good art installation. And this one is no exception. Advertised in LA Weekly, the artist known as Terry Allen is offering a Western take on the “patron saint of artistic madness, Antonin Artaud“. And what does that mean? Well, it means that this artist now is showing the latest, fully developed version of “Ghost Ship Rodez: The Momo Chronicles,” the project about the French playwright and theater revolutionary.

A Texas native, Allen graduated from the Chouinard Art Institute (in LA) in the 60’s, inspired by theories of artistic abandon. As a result, madness and art are familiar themes in Allen’s work, but the real surprise in “Ghost Ship Rodez” is how his most characteristic environment — a broad “Western” space that includes the Texas panhandle, New Mexico, California and Mexico — fit his peculiar vision of Artaud’s descent into the most unstable period of his life and career.

So check out this unique homage to this French playwright at the L.A. Louver until April 16th!

Panda Bear–a.k.a. Noah Lennox–the central member, with Avey Tare, of Animal Collective–the king of electro-pop drone, and washes of ambient synesthesia, the creator of cumulus cloud stupor-rock–has finally leaked his new album, Tomboy, to NPR. This is just days before the official release of his much delayed, years-in-the-making sequel to his last solo album, Person Pitch, named one of the top five albums of the twenty-first century’s debut decade by, among other taste-makers, Pitchfork and HRO. The album was originally slated to come out near the end of 2010, then in February, and is now due to hit stores on April 12.

Listen to it here.

This is an album best heard on some sort of transcendental medication–be it chemical or internal–in a dark room at the border of consciousness, all at once, without break or distraction or disturbance. It’s the sound of an increasing detachment, climaxing towards complete absurdist dissociation and unmooring, and followed by a downward spiral of increasing chaos but decreasing care, or even perception–the sound of a mind losing itself and searching so hard that it can’t really find anything after. This is the sound of the space between fuzzy warbles over soft shades ad a self-induced vegetative state as a mode of a final escape, a means of last resort. It’s an oddly comfy but eerie piece–not a collection of tracks, but a progression of frames that lay out the same moment through the lens of a changing spectator–not even a creator, an artist, or a maker, but a watcher of his skin-sack’s obsessions that turn out to be idle hobbies. And then it gives up in holiness bangs and whimpers.

Fans of Panda Bear will not be able to help but love this album–I think it’s a much more honest and powerful, more cohesive and timeless piece than Person Pitch, though Person Pitch has all the melodia and track-based perfection that first attracts people to Panda Bear. If you’ve already heard his work, prepare to see (and I mean see–this is very visual noise) this wordsmith of timbre transform into a conduit of aura-rock. If you’re unfamiliar with his previous oeuvre, I suggest looking up Person Pitch’s songs first, most notably Bros, Comfy in Nautica, Take Pills, and, well, every single other track on the album. But they work individually, and may be less initially overwhelming than an aalbum that, though it has a track named Drone, could have called each and every one that same thing.

image of Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs

Unless you are Emily Dickinson (the alleged solitary genius) or Thomas Pynchon who has barely revealed his face to the light of day, you are a writer looking for people to write with. College is a breeding ground for creative minds and although writing professors give great feedback, it’s the time you share with your fellow writing peers that will really help you find your voice and make connections for the future.

Writing groups on campus have appeared and disappeared throughout the years. For two years, I have been the president of the Society of Poetry, a group of poets that got together for workshopping during the first year and then slowly became an events oriented group. I am soon to graduate, however, and I have not yet seen a new group of writers emerge to keep the UCLA scene cohesive and active through readings, workshops, etc.

You too can be a leader in your writing community and gain valuable support from campus in order to throw events or reserve venues. What would Surrealism be without Breton or other leaders who sought to maintain the movements in conversation and action.

The benefits of creating a group through UCLA is that you get free venues, audiovisual equipment, promotion, and funding. It is a good way to practice before you starts attempting to create movements  in the real world.

Here are some things should be kept in mind when creating your own literary group on campus:

1. Do you want it to be exclusive or inclusive? Exclusive groups are only public to certain people, inclusive groups will send mass emails and have ways in which strangers can engage in the group activities. The quality or ‘high brow’ of your organization may be more difficult to control with the inclusion of strangers, but it may also draw attention of some geniuses that you might not have met otherwise.

2. Do you want to make it a workshop , an events organization, a culture group or all three? Depending on the enthusiasm of your group members, you might be able to exploit all three, but more likely than not, it will be a tiresome task for one person to juggle all three aspects of these outings, which leads me to the next point.

3. Do you have people willing to really help you manage the group? I was the sole leader of Society of Poetry for two years and frankly, it was very limiting when it came to administrative affairs…the group might have been a lot more consistent if I had different people checking and answering emails, making sure that the information on the site was current, taking care of venue reservations and paperwork, and finding out new ideas for outings. In other words: Delegate, Delegate, Delegate and you will be able to do more.

4. Make sure all the paperwork has been done and in a timely fashion!!!! You need to fill out paperwork in order to begin your group, so follow the deadlines. Follow the instructions carefully. You also need two more signatories to support your group, so find those people who believe in your project to co-sign. Everything from funding to reservations needs paperwork.

5. Advertise! You can’t be shy. Send email blasts through your department and people will start finding you. The best way to advertise, though, is by throwing events that make a name for your organization. In no time, people will be contacting you near and far to be part of your group.

6. Know what you’re talking about. People will respect you as a leader if they feel they can learn something from you. Keep updated on literature related news and keep people informed.

7. It’s about the people. Find ways to reach people through email lists, facebook groups, blogs, and make announcements in class to tell them about your new projects. Presence in part of the illusion of success and legitimacy…don’t tell anyone I said that.

New Group Registration begins April 4!!!
For more information, visit your bible of student groups: http://www.studentactivities.ucla.edu/

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Laura V. Rivera

Okorafor's book is among those being considered for this year's Best Novel Nebula Award.

The Oscars and Grammys may be over, but those of us invested in seeing our favorite art and artists win the recognition they deserve can still look forward to this year’s various literary award ceremonies. Among those ceremonies is the Nebula Awards, which along with the Hugos are some of the most important to be given to works of science-fiction, fantasy and speculative literature.

The Nebulas have been awarded each year since 1965 by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, an organization of authors who’ve published genre fiction in the form of novels, short stories, screenplays and more. The first novel to receive a Nebula? Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Nominees for the 2010 Nebula Awards were announced in an official press release on Feb. 22, and voting officially closed Wednesday. While there are outstanding nominations in six different categories – short story, novelette, novella, novel, dramatic presentation and young adult – here are the novels you might want to check out before the winners are announced on May 21:

The Native Star by M.K. Hobson is a fantasy work with zombies, warlocks and steampunk technology set in Reconstruction-era America.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin is the first book in a trilogy about a young woman who must compete with her cousins’ political machinations for control of her violent homeland.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal might find fans among devoted readers of Austen. Set in an alternative Regency era, Kowal’s book involves a young woman seeking magical tutelage from a Byronic older gentleman.

Echo by Jack McDevitt is actually the fifth entry in a sci-fi series about an investigation into the truth of Earth’s past and future. Sort of Indiana Jones meets Sherlock Holmes meets spaceships.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor is truly a work of speculative fiction, with elements of fantasy and the supernatural combining to buttress a coming-of-age story set in post-apocalyptic Africa.

Blackout and All Clear are two novels by Connie Willis published back-to-back, but considered one long work. They follow three historians from 2060 Oxford who travel back in time to study World War II. Of course they are trapped there and must then find their way back home.

All six best novel nominees may be found in local book stores, on Amazon.com and in ebook format. And if you’re going to be in Washington, D.C. from May 19-22, you might consider dropping in on Nebula Awards Weekend to find out which novel will pick up the prize.

So, if you ever had followed the Westwind blog, you will notice that there hasn’t be a new post since January. But be on the lookout: the blog is back.

At the same time, we’ll shortly be introducing an entirely revamped main Westwind website, mostly thanks to the hard work of senior art editor, Brian Armstrong. And to go along with the new site, we have a new URL (although it currently leads to the old site).

Avoiding the lengthy and confusing strings of HTMLs and words that comprised our two previous URLs, the new one is much simpler and more direct:

westwind.ucla.edu

While this post tends towards announcements like a church bulletin board, you can look forward to future posts, which will cover all the same great arts news, coverage, and pontificating, both local and universal.

And don’t forget to submit.

This really has nothing to do with the changes listed above, but check out this interesting article from 2002 featuring our very own Boris Dralyuk.