The Blog

One month a year isn’t enough for black people or women, but that’s no excuse not to celebrate Black History Month—even while our current administration cannot begin to understand its significance.

From Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou to W.E.B. Du Bois and James Baldwin (go watch I Am Not Your Negro, please), or more recently, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, there are simply too many greats to list.

Here are just a handful of Los Angeles-based favorites to add to your February reading list:

Courtesy of USC Press Room

Percival Everett

Currently a distinguished professor at USC, Percival Everett has written a children’s book and multiple novels as well as short story and poetry collections. An entry point to Everett is his metafictional novel Erasure (Graywolf Press, 2011) in which Everett deals with the pervasive ideas of race in writing and of writers.

Courtesy of Douglas Kearney

Douglas Kearney
Douglas Kearney, who currently teaches at CalArts, has published multiple poetry collections, most recently Patter (Red Hen Press, 2014)Kearney is someone not to miss in live readings around Los Angeles. Fittingly, he also published a collection of writing on poetics and performance entitled Mess and Mess and (Noemi Press, 2015).

Courtesy of LA Weekly

Natashia Deón
An attorney, law professor, and creator of the LA reading series Dirty Laundry LitNatashia Deón recently published her first novel, Grace (Counterpoint Press, 2016). Already receiving rave reviews, Grace follows the life of a fifteen-year-old runaway slave in the 1840s south.

Courtesy of Ashaki Jackson

Ashaki Jackson
The featured writer for Westwind‘s winter reading, Ashaki Jackson has recently published two chapbooks, Surveillance (Writ Large Press, 2016) and Language Lesson (MIEL, 2016) in addition to working as a social psychologist, a program evaluator, and with youth moving through the juvenile system. All proceeds for Surveillance benefit Black Youth Project 100, Say Her Name, Black Lives Matter, and Native Lives Matter; you can purchase the chapbook online here.

Courtesy of Dana Johnson

Dana Johnson
An associate professor at USC, Dana Johnson has published a novel, Elsewhere, California (Counterpoint Press, 2012), and the short story collections Break Any Woman Down (Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, University of Georgia, 2001) and In the Not Quite Dark (Counterpoint Press, 2016). Read “She Deserves Everything She Gets” in the Paris Review here.

Post by Erika Salazar

Are you as broke as we are? Round out the month of February with some free literary events in Los Angeles.

Reading from Fugue for a New Life

Courtesy of Eventbrite

February 21 at 6:30
Dinah Berland will be reading from her chapbook of poetry, Fugue for a New Life. These are her last few weeks as the writer-in-residence for Beach House so make sure to check her out while you still can. As part of her series, this will explore the theme of “poetry and the art of listening.” If you’re interested, make sure to reserve your seat for the event by emailing culture@smgov.net
Address: 415 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica, CA 90402

How to Be Depressed: Comedy Show and Book Release Party

Courtesy of Knock Knock publishing








February 23 at 7:30
If you’re in the mood to both laugh and get a new book, then this is the event for you! Join Dana Eagle at her comedy show and book release party for free, as long as you RSVP. Eddie Pepitone, Mark Eddie, Jackie Kashian, Tony Lama, and Amy Scribner are also part of the line-up before Eagle reads from her new book, How to be Depressed: A Guide.
Address: 135 North La Brea Ave

WeHo Reads: We Rise! We Read! We Arrive!

Courtesy of WeHo Reads: We Rise! We Read! We Arrive!

February 24 at 7:00pm
This event, sponsored by the City of West Hollywood, features four outstanding woman writers to celebrate Black History Month. Natashia Deón, Tananarive Due, Rachel M. Harper, and Attica Locke will all be there to speak about both their own works and those that have inspired them. Lisa Teasley will also be present to moderate the free event.
Address: 625 San Vincent Blvd

LAVA Sunday Salon

Courtesy of LAVA Sunday Salon

February 26 at 2:00pm
Suzanne Lummis will be hosting a series of readings about “Poem Noir.” If you were a big fan of the 40s and 50s Noir films, this is probably the reading for you. Wear comfortable shoes though since Lummis will only be introducing the style of poetry in the basement of the Grand Central Market before moving to the Bradbury Building for the actual readings.
Address: 317 South Broadway, LA


On January 25, Westwind hosted its winter reading at UCLA’s Fowler Museum with Los Angeles poet Ashaki M. Jackson and UCLA student Annakai Geshlider.

Here are two excerpts from the reading, Jackson’s “The Public Impresses Itself With Duplicity” and Geshlider’s “Text Messages.”



Post By Naiomi Desai

UCLA and Westwind alumna, Amaranth Borsuk is a poet, published author, and professor at University of Washington, Bothell, who focuses on the materiality of language and literature and questions of poetics: why we write the way we write.

Borsuk’s works include most recently Pomegranate Eater (Kore Press, 2016), Handiwork (Slope Editions, 2012), and two collaborative projects As We Know (Subito Press, 2014) and Between Page and Screen (Siglio Press, 2012; Springgun Press, 2016).

After Borsuk’s reading on Wednesday at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, Westwind poetry staffer Naiomi Desai sat down with Borsuk to discuss her views on literature and journey to becoming a contemporary poet.

Borsuk-PhotoCourtesy of Amaranth Borsuk

When was it that you realized that you wanted to pursue writing? What made you realize it?
From when I was a little kid, I always liked to write short stories, poetry; I thought I would make children’s books when I grew up and I used to like to draw these little books with characters… I always loved doing it but I didn’t fully know that I would go on to pursue it until I got to college. I had a really encouraging and important workshop with Olga Broumas. She sort of mentored me and I was writing all the time, inspired by her—poem after poem. Those workshops were just so important to establishing my love for contemporary poetry. 

What motivates you to keep writing?
When I transferred over to UCLA and got involved in the poetry community there, that was kind of an identity. It was nice to have that enclave within the larger campus and feel connected to other writers. It just felt really nourishing and to this day, that’s what I value in poetry, the sense that there’s a community of like-minded people who are thinking about and engaged with language in a really deep way. That’s what I look for in poetry.

Technology and poetry is such a new combination. How were you able to connect the two—something so modern with something that has existed for so long—together?
They are intimately connected by an etymological root. Whether you’re crafting poetry or working with technology, you’re coming back to that same root. Text comes from a root that means to weave or to fabricate. Inherent in text means both creation—weaving and destruction—and that same root gives us technology. So text and technology share that source. It feels very natural to me that they would be intertwined. There’s something about treating language as material that crosses between crafting a poem and working with technology. If you think about language, rather than as this transparent vehicle for the communication of ideas, as material, non-transparent, then language itself becomes a technology; something we’ve instrumentalized in many cases. Text and technology are very enmeshed from a core of things.

What would you advise aspiring writers?
Our role right now is to make language visible again, to make language palpable again. This has been the role for the poets of millennia. Language is not natural, it’s embedded in systems of power, social structure, creates hierarchies, and we need to keep drawing attention to the fact that language has this power over us. Find your own community, find the work that speaks to you and if you’re not finding it—make it. 

Where would you say language and literature might go in the future?
My hope for where language is going is a place of interrogation of the status quo, inclusiveness, dismantling of systems that are antiquated. I hope that language continues to make a place for itself in our lives. I don’t think literature is imperiled. Even though there’s tons of media to consume, there’s a reason that language has evolved over centuries, millennia, to allow us to communicate with one another. To a degree, the type of thinking of whether we breathe new life into language or we dismantle it, will continue. I do believe in the power of language and I do believe in personal expression.

Ever wish you could attend a holiday and a literary event… AT THE SAME TIME?
If so, you might enjoy these holiday and literary-themed events in the LA area:

Dickens Holiday Celebration
December 10 – 11, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Where: International Printing Museum


If you read A Christmas Carol every holiday season, the International Printing Museum’s Dickens Holiday Celebration may be the event for you.  You can enjoy vintage holiday music, meet characters from Dickens novels, print your own Victorian cards on antique presses from the 1850s, and even listen to “Mr. Charles Dickens himself” conduct an interactive reading of A Christmas Carol.  Admission is $25 for the day, but comes with a free historically accurate lunch.  BYOVC (bring your own Victorian costume).


Hanukkah Family Festival
When: December 18, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Where: Skirball Cultural Center


Photography Grant Mudford, Courtesy of Skirball Cultural Center

If you’re celebrating Hanukkah, you might enjoy the Hanukkah Family Festival at the Skirball Cultural Center.  The festival features musical performances from bands like Mostly Kosher, printmaking workshops where you can contribute to a community art installation, and special exhibitions like Noah’s Ark at the Skirball, a life-sized, interactive replica of the ark.  Literary visitors may especially enjoy the storytellers Nina Silver and Julia Garcia Combs as they bring the story of Hanukkah to life.  To top it all off, Zeidler’s Café will be serving up traditional Hanukkah dishes like latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts).  General admission is $12, but full-time students get in for $9!

Harry Potter Magical Holiday Ball
When: December 9, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Where: Barnes & Noble at The Grove


Courtesy of “Harry Potter Magical Holiday Ball at Barnes & Noble at The Grove” Facebook Page

If all you want this holiday season is to dress up like a wizard, the Harry Potter Magical Holiday Ball will be bloody brilliant.  Arrive in your Harry Potter costume or other holiday attire for music, dancing, themed crafts and activities.  It’s possible that no actual reading will happen at this event, but hey, after seven books (and this post) you’ve already put in your reading time!

Bonus: Though not technically part of the event, the escalators inside Barnes & Noble sort of look like the moving staircases in Hogwarts.


*Note:  If you’ve ever tried to track down a Kwanzaa event in LA, you may have found that the selection is narrow.  Still, here are two places you can look:

The California African American Museum usually holds Kwanzaa events around the holiday, though dates appear to be TBD.

The Kwanzaa Heritage Foundation puts on an annual Kwanzaa celebration in Leimert Park Village—hopefully details for this year’s festival are coming soon.

post by Tatianna Giron

Los Angeles is a cultural melting pot, representing an array of perspectives from diverse backgrounds. This cultural mishmash is reflected in the various poetic voices heard in the community, so put down your copies of T.S.Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Emily Dickinson, and remember to check out the amazing LA poets at your fingertips.



Courtesy of Luis J. Rodriguez

1. Luis J. Rodriguez
In addition to being the official Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Luis J. Rodriguez is a journalist, critic, community and urban peace activist, and youth and arts advocate. Rodriguez is recognized as a major contemporary figure in Chicano literature. He runs Tia Chucha’s Press, which promotes the works of upcoming and socially active poets. His work in various genres recounts his experience growing up with gang violence and drug addiction in Watts and East Los Angeles, like his poem, “The Concrete River.”



Courtesy of Library of Congress

2. Amy Uyematsu
Raised in Southern California by parents interned in American camps during World War II, Amy Uyematsu’s poems are influenced by the identity struggle of preserving her Japanese heritage amidst American culture. She won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize in 1992 for her first book of poetry, Thirty Miles from J-Town.  Her poems showcase the intersection of politics, mathematics, spirituality, and nature, as seen in her poem, “The Weight of Nothing.”



Courtesy of Poetry Foundation

3.Melissa Broder
A poet and essayist, Melissa Broder imbues her work with her experience with depression and anxiety. As one may deduce from her wryly titled collections of poems such as, So Sad Today, and When You Say One Thing and Mean Your Mother, Border talks about love, sex, mental illness, and childhood trauma with startling candidness and vulnerability. Her poem, “Rotten Sound,” from her recent collection, The Last Sext, won a Pushcart Prize. Read her poem, “Lunar Shatters,” to get a sense of Broder’s fantastical descriptions of lust and lost love.



Courtesy of EF Public Relations

4.Yasmin Monet Watkins
Yasmin Monet Watkins is an internationally touring spoken word poet and actress. She has competed in the National Poetry Slam in Cambridge, MA, representing the LA Damn Slam Poetry Team, and has taught LGBTQ+ youth in poetry workshops at the Models of Pride Conference. Her poems depict the intersection of race, sexuality, and religion. Her collection of poems, Love Without Limits: The Bylaws of Love, combines poetry and photography to convey the trials and tribulations of the queer community. One of her spoken word poems, “A Lesson in this Queer African-American Woman’s History,” can be found here.



Courtesy of Los Jackson

5.Douglas Kearney
As a poet and performer, Douglas Kearney experiments with a unique layout to his work—which he coins as “performative typography.” Kearney bridges the gap between themes such as politics, African-American culture, contemporary music, and fatherhood. He embraces the idea of one’s existence being defined by multiple identities, and depicts the contradictions between each as formative to one’s self. He has received a Whiting Writers Award and a Pushcart nomination. In 2007, he was named a Notable New American Poet by the Poetry Society of America. You can view his poem, “Áfrofuturism (Blanche says, ‘Meh’)” here.

uclaprotest4Love Trumps Hate Protest
Photo by Erika Salazar
          It’s officially one week since Election Day. At this point, most are ready for the last stage of grief: acceptance. However, we can accept the election results while in no way accepting the hate that proceeded and followed them.
          For Westwind our upcoming identity-themed zine seems perfectly timed. Due to last week’s news, we are extending the deadline for our submissions. We are so excited to publish your voices and make your identities, and your pride in them, known. Send your work to westwinducla@gmail.com.
         Here’s a list of spaces, UCLA and beyond, that also want to hear your words now more than ever. Get your voice out there.
1. Powell Library
Courtesy of Powell Library
After a librarian joined the open mic at the protest last Thursday, the UCLA Powell Library Facebook account posted a status naming Powell a safe space and asked students feeling “threatened, unsafe, or marginalized” to reach out to a librarian.
2. FEM Newsmagazine
Courtesy of FEM
UCLA’s feminist newsmagazine FEM also joined Thursday’s protest to follow up an editorial post written by their staff—a call for submissions and renewal of their mission statement to break down oppression, amplify marginalized voices, and celebrate feminist art.
3. Pen Center USA and The Rattling Wall
Courtesy of 
The Rattling Wall
On Thursday, Michelle Franke, executive director of Pen Center USA and founding editor of The Rattling Wall, posted a Facebook status: a reinvigorated call to arms on the necessity of literary journals and art. By Friday, it was official—The Rattling Wall will have an upcoming election-inspired issue, submissions due tomorrow.
4. Women’s Center for Creative Work
Courtesy of Women’s Center for Creative Work
The Women’s Center for Creative Work, or the WCCW, is a not-for-profit organization that hosts a workspace in Los Angeles, typically only accessible to members but now made free and open to all women during the month of November.
5. Jellyfish
Courtesy of Jellyfish Magazine
Post-election, Jellyfish Magazine took to Twitter. Instead of curating a special issue, the editors chose to open back up submissions and gear up for issue 14, ready for your “rants, slants…and goosebumps.”
Know of more literary spaces and outlets asking for your voice? Help us add to our list.

In many ways campus on Wednesday felt the same way it did after the school shooting last spring––quiet and empty and foreign. But then on Thursday, we watched people regroup and instead of the quick return to normalcy UCLA saw in June, students came together and rallied, attempting to understand a different reality, one unaligned with the progressive optimism of our Los Angeles bubble.

As we all recover from shock and denial and constantly being on the verge of the tears, remember that no matter what you’re feeling, it’s valid. Whether still in mourning or grabbing the megaphone or just plain afraid, we are here for you and want your voices––all of your voices––heard. Send us your writing and art and music and anything and everything, big and small, because now is such an important time to exercise your right and we are here to help.

uclahandsHands in Solidarity

uclaprotest2Love Trumps Hate at Kerckhoff

Photography by Erika Salazar


Whether you’re an out-of-state student or a lifetime LA resident, there are many places that have shaped local style and culture. This list may not have them all, but you should still be sure to check out them out.

The Smell

(Courtesy of thebait.shop on Instagram)

This DIY downtown concert venue has provided many LA residents with an all-ages space featuring $5 concerts since its opening in 1998. Even major cultural figures recognize its significance in the LA punk and music scene—Hedi Slimane photographed performers during the Smell’s recent benefit show. Score tickets to The Orwells on Nov. 21 while they’re available and see for yourself.

Address: 247 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012



(Courtesy of Business of Fashion)

Maxfield has defined LA style since 1969 with its West Coast interpretation of high-end and avant garde fashion. The store’s exterior is stark, sumptuous, sophisticated, and this same aesthetic is reflected in its selection of clothing—think Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann, and Dior. It’s not exactly the right place for someone on a college student’s budget, but you can bet we’ll be back in the next few years.

Address: 8825 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, CA 90069, with an additional location in Malibu.



(Courtesy of Nation’s Restaurant News)

Intelligentsia is undoubtedly a pioneer of third-wave coffee, or specialty coffee—made with careful attention paid to direct-trade sourcing, small-scale roasting, and precise preparation. Since the opening of its LA roasting works and its three nearby shops, Intelligentsia has changed the way we think about and consume coffee in our city. Having been bought out by Peet’s Coffee hasn’t affected Intelligentsia’s quality, but we’ll see if that changes in the years to come. Its espresso-based drinks are still some of the best in the city. Next time you go, try the whole-milk cappuccino.

Address: 1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291 is the closest location to campus, but other locations include Silver Lake and Pasadena.



(Courtesy of Sugarfish Sushi)

As one of the few places with high-quality sushi at a fair price, Sugarfish has changed the way we eat and appreciate sushi in LA. Its fish is fresh, but the fluffy, warm, loosely-packed rice and crispy toasted nori truly shine in Sugarfish’s nigiri and hand rolls. Try the Trust Me ($32, tip included), which features tuna sashimi, various nigiri, and a blue crab hand roll finale. There are fewer options for cut rolls here than many of us are used to (which you can get only if you choose to order à la carte), but what you’ll discover is much, much better.

Address: 11640 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049, plus nine other locations in and around Los Angeles.


Amoeba Music

(Courtesy of Discover Los Angeles)

You can’t miss Amoeba if you’re driving down Sunset. This building houses a massive collection of CDs and vinyl records and has served the needs of a very wide range of music lovers’ tastes since its opening in 2001. Aside from potential purchases, Amoeba also has live performances and signings—with Alicia Keys on Nov. 11, for example—as well as a place to sell your unwanted records.

Address: 6400 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028

Help us help you:
We want to publish your latest song, photo, video, poem, flash fiction, doodle from class, and more in our new blog series, “Friday Favorites.”
Check out our own Libby Hsieh’s “13.5 Million” for some inspiration and then email your original work to westwindarts@gmail.com.

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