Writer Juanita E. Mantz is able to boil down and succinctly connect her formative years as a punk rock high school dropout to her work as a public defender in her debut book out August 10th. The book has a title as long as old diplodocus’ tail because it is in fact quite a tale. Mantz employs her upbringing in the book to underline the empathy and fight that she sharpened over the course of her life to defend those cast to the side, or worse, trapped in a legal system built to imprison and keep the poor impoverished. Her book serves as the perfect introduction to her many talents, including some works of her poetry. See the trailer with a reading by Juanita from the book above.
Joel Huschle’s forthcoming book on Bamboo Dart Press is out on July 25th. Check out the trailer below featuring a new song by the singer and one of the songwriters of WCKR SPGT. The book, available for preorder direct from Bamboo Dart Press, is an amalgam of all the Huschle worlds of fabulism that have made him one of my favorite writers. The book surprises at every turn and is truly a work of art. Check out the trailer for the book below featuring one of Joel’s songs.
Words Become Ashes- An Offering, Cindy Rinne’s new book on Bamboo Dart Press combines her poetry and her fiberverse artwork into a sharp little book. Full color pictures of her stitched work compliment her writing as a truly satisfying and comprehensive whole. Not to simplify the book, but the fire that engulfed and took away Rinne’s home has served as a spiritual reawakening. The quiet of that devastation has revealed new shoots and undergrowth that emerges in the book, growing on the lattice of experience and knowledge. Rinne has had a number of books published, and we are thrilled to be one of the limbs bearing the fruit of her labor. Below is an interview that I conducted with Rinne in preparation for the publication of the book.
Your poetry is an interesting marriage of the magical/spiritual realm and natural world, where the two meet and where the twain exists. You hit this marriage dead on in your poem Riding The Wind where you write that you dance between worlds. As a reader was am taken aback by an ephemeral poem that quickly introduces a polar bear from out of nowhere, or the voicing of a raven as a coda to another piece in the book.
Riding the Wind visuals arrived during a shamanic journey. The polar bear was a surprise. I went along for the ride to see where the voyage would take me. The poem came from what I experienced. The first line As I stand, turn, and fluff the pillows, is from a prompt to take the last line of a poem from a book I just read. I have vintage pillowcases given to me. This became my canvas. I decided to include part of the poem on the art. Text as texture. I don’t include text often. It is a strong element and needs to become a part of the whole. The poem is written in two columns to be read across or vertically. Words from each column appear on the art. I add text in my own hand so it is unique. I am in this poem as ritual is important to me as are the spiritual meanings of animals, plants, etc. I also don’t know a lot about my ancestors. The moths joined the artwork near the end of stitching. Like the raven speaking in another poem, all are linked. Nighttime and the moon are a theme in the art in this book. Finding the richness of the dark.
As Mark and I get longer in the tooth with Bamboo Dart Press, a pattern is emerging of authors whose work we issue work in other artistic realms. I think of Kendall Johnson’s paintings, Meg Pokrass’ poetry, Allen Callaci’s singing, etc. Your thread work is incredible and is woven throughout this book. The gown you made Apology (Page 27 of the book, will insert picture here) is a huge tell of your writing style.
Apology a wall sculpture was designed and created at a residency in Joshua Tree, CA. This dress of beautiful, rich colors had holes and tears. I repaired them by hand. Mending became part of the art. I also hand-stitched the larger shapes onto the padded dress while watching the sun set over the desert. My writing like my art is a collage of gathered fragments. Reflects how I think with various unrelated thoughts flowing through my mind. My perception is a dance between worlds as I believe the spiritual and natural realms exist together. I write of ancient / present and of many cultures. My fiber collages contain past / present fabrics from around the world. Sometimes I have a small remnant of something rare and it is one shot whether printmaking, embroidery, or machine stitching. I hold my breath and give it a try.
Dear Exploration is a beautiful, autobiographical poem (I am assuming) which succinctly captures age, aging and the act of letting go in a stark and concrete manner. The book almost floats into the ether at points but is then brought right down to earth in pieces like this.
Dear Exploration, is autobiographical. I found this object in the ashes of my house in 2003. This book is about trauma, facing it, and ways to put the pieces of life back together. What does your body need? I long for ashen trauma to transmute into music. Throughout the book are experiences and objects that are mine. These intermingle with the magical / spiritual realm.
As with the placement of poems like Dear Exploration at particular points in the book, photos of your thread work appear throughout the book. Do you start these pieces with a finished concept in hand or patchwork as you work? There is incredibly detailed work at play in some of these pieces.
I collect a lot of possible fabrics for each piece like a palette of paints. One or two fabrics start the color wave. I decide the artwork’s size. Then start cutting and placing the pieces together on my design wall. Add and take away like editing a poem. I might have a fabric for years before it finds the right home. I paint with fabric and draw with thread. Creating fiber art takes a lot of time, but I love what I do.
You self-describe what you do as Fiberverse, did this come to you early when you started matching verse and fiber media?
It took me five years to decide on Fiberverse. It is not easy to describe what I create in one word. I made long lists of words and combined them in different ways. This one seemed the best. People seem to connect and understand.
Collaborating is something that seems to come natural for you, in your previous chapbook Mapless you worked with Nikia Chaney, how was that project born?
When Nikia Chaney and I get together, creative sparks fly. Mapless was born from a challenge we gave ourselves. We decided to write and do a piece of art-a-day for a couple of weeks. I came up with the Ghost Fish story. I made drawings, tapestries, and bean bags. Nikia created digital images. She wrote in response to the story. Our writing styles are different, but they work together like the different textures in my art. When we put our images on her kitchen table, we easily found pairs (did I say I work organically?). She fused our images together for the book. Later, I had a solo show of my fiber art and drawings for Mapless and we read from the book at the reception!
Cindy Rinne is celebrating the release of her Bamboo Dart Press book as well as her collaborative book with Toti O’Brien with a reading this Saturday July 10th from 6-9pm at The Metro Gallery located at 119 w. 2nd St. in Pomona
Megan Siebe is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and arranger from Omaha, Nebraska. She’s cut her teeth as a member of bands such as Simon Joyner & the Ghosts, The David Nance Group, Cursive, Sean Pratt & the Sweats, The Jim Schroeder Sextet, and many others, touring nearly non-stop for the last decade. She’s also written string arrangements for albums by Refrigerator, John Davis, the Renderers, Dennis Callaci, L. Eugene Methe, Justin Townes Earle, and Anna McClellan. But all the while she was writing her own intimate, finely-crafted songs. Shrimper and Grapefruit are proud to join forces to release Megan’s astonishing debut LP Swaying Steady. Here is the first track from the record:
I remember being in Omaha for a week one summer, the windows were screened and opened the entire time. Fireflies. It sounded like this record by Megan Siebe. Low hums, no hurry breezes, music everywhere. Siebe’s delivery is disarming. She is singing songs about breaking up, about roads gone wrong or soured folk in such a matter of fact and steady voice that the depths she is singing of are like those of a veteran doctor, a seen it all and that’s just the way it is reporter. Previously, her playing, her voice call to my addled mind John Bonham or Dewey Redman – easy to not even hear her in the recordings that she has done because it supports the players or other songwriters. She did whatever needed to be done for the sake of the song. What a revelation then to hear her in full bloom under the lit limes, with such a stellar song cycle as what she has written on Swaying Steady.
The debut record is available for preorder as the stand alone LP or the deluxe version limited to 100 copies that includes this screen-printed, hand-sewn outer sleeve bag lovingly made by Siebe. I have turned mine into a pillow to rest my head on & cry all them lies away when I can’t get to sleep.
Kendall Johnson is a multi-talented artist whose work in his favored mediums (writing and painting) is a reflection of the work that he has done for decades in the real world. It is a huge tell that he is a man that has rushed into the worst of situations to offer help, both as a firefighter and as a trauma psychotherapist. These occupations did not come by chance. His new book on Bamboo Dart Press, Black Box Poetics, touches on his experiences in these realms, but also of his time served during the Vietnam War. He has previously written a number of books that serve as texts for the varying trauma timelines. How to deal head on in just days out from the worst physical forms of trauma, for those that are in the midst of a crisis, or those in recovery.
There are those that flirt with darkness, dance and romance with the idea of it. Ken has been deep in the thickets and sees no phoney Johnny Deppisized Keith Richards skull ring joy in it, but sees a way out of it. His is an incredibly empathetic heart and calm voice that comes back from the depths of things not to show his battle scars, but to show that there is indeed a path out of the most sorrowful and hopeless of places. In the stories he recounts here, there is not always salvation, and there are not tinted ever afters, but there is a case made for redemption.
Your book “Black Box Poetics” is one you mentioned you never wanted to write because of the weight of the subjects. Many of your previous books offer concrete solutions or at least methods of helping those that have been exposed to trauma where this one is a more contemplative and internal look at events you have been called to in an attempt to help the survivors of varying traumas. What was the catalyst to share these stories?
I retired from trauma and crisis consultation, and don’t have to worry about gaining a reputation for breaking confidence, that code of silence that protects individuals and agencies from unscrupulous professionals from telling stories outside of the clinic. I don’t do that in my writing or speaking. I change names, gender, situation, time and place to disguise who I am talking about. Always have. But when I was practicing it was important not to appear as if I was breaking trust. Now appearance is less of an issue, though I still go out of my way to protect my people.
The military folks have an old saying: “no battle plan survives the first shot fired.” I stand in awe of the complexity, ferocity and randomness of the world, and the capacity of humans to deny it. I’m in equal awe of the human capacity to endure, to persevere in the face of obstacle and setback. These are the things about the situations I encountered that I find so compelling, and that I hope to convey.
Your writing is not histrionic, and there is a deep humanity in your framing of these stories. There seems to me to be a very distinct outline in the sequence of these stories where light slowly starts to pin hole the darkness as the reader moves through the book. Was there a lot of thought put into the pacing of these stories, the reveals about yourself?
I truly feel I have as much a duty to protect my readers from the toxic impact of many of the situations that I encountered and now relate. I remember doing a trauma survey of counselors for whom I provided consultation in L.A. after the combination of civil disorder/fire/flooding/earthquake from 91-94, and in NYC/DC following 9/11. My counselors, who listened to victims after these events, showed as many or more trauma symptoms than the victims they helped. Same with reporters in the UK. There is plenty of misery in the world. The point of discussing it, no matter how interesting, is to talk about it in a manner that minimizes the effects of hearing about it, and at the same time try to make sense of it and to find redemptive value in the listening.
Pomona artist Father Bill Moore’s appearance towards the books end is such a succinct and beautiful piece of writing and quietly captures who he was. Knowing about the two of you outside of this book, I wonder what that relationship was like or the conversations you had outside of those that appear in the book
I’d like to think that Fr. Bill took me on as a special project, in his mentoring me. In retrospect, I doubt he would agree that it was mentoring. He’d probably insist it was the other way around. He would talk to me about what I was trying to do in my painting, and give me positive and constructive feedback if I insisted. He’d listen to my adventures in the consultation incidents when I’d return, and I would find myself talking about how the elements of my art reflected the truths of the world I’d been exposed to. He’d let me connect the dots. And he would talk to me about his life, his internal questions, not his answers.
You collaborated with fellow Bamboo Dart Press writer John Brantingham on the book A Sublime And Tragic Dance: Robert Oppenheimer & the Manhattan Project, your paintings married to his writing. Collaboration and working with others has been a thread in your professional life as well as your creative life. For the solitary work that you do, it appears that you try to interact and collaborate with others in so much that it allows in regard to your writing and painting. Were the paintings done in tandem with that book? Do you have paintings you work with in tandem with your own writing?
John, his wife Ann, and I met during a meeting of his writing group the San Gabriel Valley Literature Festival one night in my gallery in the downstairs of the dA Center in Pomona. I had my Fragments exhibit up, where I was experimenting with trying to reclaim lost Vietnam memories. I had written excerpts from some of my various stories and poems that I’d gleaned retrospectively and paired with the art work. He invited me to read. One day he and Ann were in my studio looking at work and we found ourselves confessing a mutual interest in Oppenheimer and his very convoluted, contradictory life and personality. After our book of ekphrastic poems influenced by the art, we’ve continued the collaboration. I’ve also been working with another writer, Kate Flannery. Collaboration helps me see the things I am blind to, gain words for things I need to clarify, and discover new perspectives and directions. In the same way, my own paintings are an important tool in opening my own inner doors.
Much of your poetry has a reportage aspect to it in the same way that your texts for teachers and professionals do. There are a lot of facts, figures, noted physical spaces in the work of your poems. I know in talking to you that you are a revisionist in your writing, working to fine tune your written work. I wonder how this method comes into play with your painting, if there is room for such editing and deleting in how you realize on canvas.
Ha! What a terrific and insightful question! Revision is what I do best, and what I do most of. I’ve learned that not selling a painting early is a blessing, as most of the best of my work happens after a second, third, or fourth repainting. I just can’t make deep sense of an image right away. Paintings, my own or others, reveal themselves slowly, just like stories under revision. Being older holds possibilities in a similar way, and you have the chance to develop an appreciative understanding. Instead of saying “I wish that hadn’t happened,” or “I wish I’d done this or that differently,” you get to re-understand what did happen, and like good wine, a lot of things get better as they age. You get the opportunity to roll things around until the more important sense of them appears.
Allen Callaci is a singer & songwriter in the band Refrigerator, but his love predating singing was writing. I know this because he was about ten years old and I was six when we started making comic books out of lined notebook paper and staples together. His last book Louder Than Good-bye just won an eLit Book Award. That book featured a thumbnail sketch of his new Bamboo Dart Press book 17 & Life. It is a mediation on the life of a girl he went to Upland Junior High School with whose life was extinguished when she was seventeen but whose soul and thoughtfulness in her short life has remained alive for so many that knew her, even if ever fleetingly. Her relationship with Callaci was the fleeting kind. A brand of decency and sweetness that is seldom seen in junior high home rooms nor public school hallways. The book underlines the possibility and loss that are not just taken away from so many of us in one fell swoop, but continue to call, widening out like them slow circles around stones throw in a river.
I may be biased, you know, about what a watermark this book is, so let me say in my defense that he and I have scratched and thrown away so much of each others work in our thousands of collaborations together that I can argue the point that when he presented the finished manuscript of “17 & Life” to me it was a note perfect piece of writing. He has deepened his initial sketch of the story which was expanded in part by Buzzsaw sending Allen some photographs he took that were an echo of Callaci’s writing and appear in the book. Slow circles, thrown stones, lined notebook paper, staples, wishes. “17 & Life” is out today.
17 & Life began life as a much shorter blog piece that you wrote. What made you return to it and expand upon your original piece?
The piece began as the bookend to an ebook collection of blogs I had written over a three year period on the passing of pop culture icons such as David Foster Wallace, Tom Petty and Mary Tyler Moore called “Louder Than Good-Bye” through Pelekinesis. The remembrances I wrote were not standard obituaries but the personal connections I felt to these artists.
Pelekinesis publisher Mark Givens suggested this collection of blogs should begin with a reflection on the first time that I had to confront grief and loss. Mark’s suggestion paved the way to a string of late nights spent writing and rewriting and being frozen at the keys as I thought back and processed the tragic murder of Anna.
That introduction was later finetuned again into a blog for Kevin Powell’s BK Nation that was published shortly after the release of “Louder Than Good-Bye”.
The final phase of this evolution was put into motion when you reached out to me right after the original piece appeared and said “this is one of the best things you’ve written. You really need to expand this.”
Being 4 years younger than you and only vaguely remember these events and how they affected our household originally, but do recall it shook you when our folks moved a few years after the events in the book just a block from where Anna & her car were found.
In the late 80s/early 90s we moved with our mom and stepdad to a recently developed planned community in Northern Upland. I was out walking with my friend Pat Jankiewicz, who attended Upland High School with Anna, and he pointed to the lot across the street where a housing tract was currently under construction and paused before saying “It’s still gives me chills whenever I walk by,” he said, “That’s where they buried Anna Marie.” I looked towards where he was pointing and felt It all come crashing back.
A few blocks west from where Pat and I stood was the Lucky’s grocery store whose parking lot where police had located Anna’s mother’s station wagon a few days after her murder.
I only knew Anna for two brief years via a shared homeroom in Junior High. Yet I feel like I never came completely to terms with her sudden and tragic loss until just now. They say writing is therapeutic, This felt like a cross between a confession and an exorcism.
The sanctity of life is honored by not mentioning the killer’s name in the book, not really touching upon him. Where the few details of interactions you had with Anna are used to platform her spirit. It reminds me of friends of Dad’s or Mom’s that want to speak to one of us of their memory when we are in their company. Have you been in touch with her family?
The one concrete rule I gave myself from the very beginning of writing this was not to waste a single drop of ink on the murderer. I’m not really a fan of the true crime drama genre save for a few exceptions such as Capote’s In Cold Blood. I think it’s a genre that at its worst sensationalizes and glamorizes murderers or at best unintentionally immortalizes them as it pushes the victims and their families to the background. I wanted the book to be a meditation and requiem of Anna.
Anna and I shared a home room for two years at the ruthless and unforgiving purgatory that went by the name of Upland Jr. High. We were from different worlds. She was one of the most beautiful and popular girls at UJH. And I was a retainer-fitted, Marvel comic book loving, KISS T-shirt wearing misfit. But everyday in homeroom she never failed to seek me out, make small talk and maybe occasionally jibe me about not being a more devoted Catholic (she volunteered at her church every weekend). These seem like small, simple gestures on the surface but to a 12 year old outcast they were like a ray of light breaking through the clouds across a brutal landscape.
About 6 months ago I heard from Anna’s niece who had come across the original blog online and reached out to me via social media telling me she was really moved by the piece and had shared it with her family who said it really captured Anna. I was so elated to hear that my message in a bottle had reached them and more importantly that they warmly embraced it. I really can’t convey how much that blessing meant to me.
The photographs in the book by Buzzsaw are an integral piece of the narrative. The two of you have known each other for over thirty five years and have in fact collaborated before on his projects. What was it like for him to collaborate on your lead?
Yes, we have known each other since way back in Junior college. The interesting thing about this collaboration was how unplanned and organic it was. Buzzsaw read the original piece and sent me some photos that he said were inspired by it. I was blown away by the haunting images he sent. The way they enrich the text is incredible. I was disappointed that his pics came after the piece was initially published but I filed the images away for a year or more thinking maybe someday the text and his images would connect somehow, some way.
A few years later you and Mark approached me about possibly putting something together for Bamboo Press and it felt like this was the place it was always destined to be. My philosophy towards the arts has always been things will surface when and where they’re meant to surface (or never surface at all in some cases).
You have written two books about harrowingly personal experiences, one that happened to you in your first book Heart Like a Starfish, and one that marked you as a teenager. Do you have plans to write a third novel of non-fiction?
After two non-fiction works that were pretty intense and draining to write my plan is to venture out into the daylight for the next piece I write which is tentatively titled “Silver Maria” and will be a warmly, comic piece of fiction based on our unruly Sicilian grandmother. She was so completely outrageous, abrasive and full of life that I find myself having to dial her down a bit rather than embellish her. I have to say its been pretty refreshing to be grinning madly as I tap into the keyboard and a most welcome change.
Kendall Johnson is not only a storied author of a number of books as a trauma psychotherapist, but a poet and a painter as well. His new book Black Box Poetics out on Bamboo Dart Press on June 10th veers from his more formal books and delves into the personal. Here is the trailer featuring an introduction to the world of the book written by Kendall along with his work as a painter that accompanies the script. Black Box Poetics is a fascinating read and the trailer serves as a spot on introduction into the world of a true artist.
We are warming up our vocals with the dude from Greta Van Fleet and our bon mot abilities (you should hear my hilarious joke about Eric Clapton’s vaccinated feet. Spoiler alert: Just because they are vaccinated, doesn’t mean they don’t have chlamydia!) as we prepare for a mini Refrigerator tour of radio stations over the next month. If that goes well, we will practice once or twice and play some live shows. Can’t wait for the off color neon drink tickets and broken down tour bus outside of some awesome blossom Chili’s in Fumbruck, Ohio…
What better place to start our radio tour than at our favorite radio station, KSPC? Right, there is no better place to start, and well, to stay. Dennis will be sitting in with the legendary Erica Tyron on Wednesday May 26th from 4pm-6pm (PST) on her new Pop Up Smile Shop show. Erica would never tell you this, but as the GM at KSPC for decades, she has been laser like in keeping the station from the hands of the man that ask questions such as “Why do we need terrestrial radio?” and “How can we, as an academic pillar, monetize this bullshit noise your DJ’s keep playing?”. The station remains vibrant against the forces from all corners and it will be a treat to be there once more. Oh, and she is a top drawer spinner of sound. Listen to the station live now!
The next stop is San Pedro, where members of Refrigerator will be chatting with Mike Watt on the Watt From Pedro show. That is the next place we would travel to on a regular tour as we would want to make our way out of The IE and dance around the greater Los Angeles area without playing a proper show in the city. Allen, he is the sweet one in the band, will be joined by the sassiest member of the band, Chris Jones. It isn’t on a radio dial, but I hear you can find it on your phone or your computer starting June 1st. Mike Watt? He can play bass over the contacts in my computer and it will come out sounding like Jimmy Scott! You won’t want to miss where the two cutest members of the band will land for our third radio stop, Daniel & Mark will be hitting morning zoo land in mid June. Wet tea stained shirt contests? Absolutely daft mate!
Jean Smith is my favorite kind of artist. A writer, a performer, a painter whose art in whatever medium she comes to me in never fails to move me. It was nearly thirty years ago that I first met Jean outside of Munchies in Pomona for a Mecca Normal show we played together. How wonderful that between then and now Refrigerator and Mecca Normal have played a myriad of shows together, and that when we couldn’t work in the same arena during the past year, we found a method around that. Jean was kind enough to listen to the new Refrigerator record and take the time to paint the cover art for it based on the album title and what she heard. Now that painting can be yours. Visit eBay to place a bid on the painting. Jean has added an additional painting to the cadre for the winner, check out the listing. Proceeds from the sale will go towards her Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change that she is in the midst of getting off the ground. A true artist is one that dreams big and then takes small steps and huge leaps to get to that place. Let all the assholes cocktail around Jeff Koons. My water well is built next to where folks cure their own canvases and create something for the future. Jean Smith has always done that, and continues to do that without a parachute.
Note: the deluxe edition of the LP is almost sold out & won’t be back. The regular LP edition is widely available.