Stephanie Young from her Small Press Traffic Reading Earlier this Spring

Of late, xpoetics posts have arrived slow as molasses as my grandmother used to say. It's been a busy spring and now already, a busy summer. I was out of town the first weekend of June when Stephanie Young and Stephen Motika rocked the Small Press Traffic kasbah. Stephanie and Stephen have agreed to share some of their work, and here we begin with Stephanie's delicious excerpt from AVE VIA.

from AVE VIA

At the beginning of this century Caroline Bergvall collated the first three lines of Dante’s Inferno as translated into English and archived in the British Library through May 2000. You’ve heard this before. In the middle of the journey of the first decade of this new century, high-risk adjustable rate mortgages were aggressively marketed to those who could least afford them. It’s a familiar story. In 2011 the foreclosure rate in Oakland was more than double the national average. That year I couldn’t write any poems. Not one. No music. That year the rental market in San Francisco spiked by 10-20%. I wrote in sentences instead. That one. These. This isn’t an argument about form. 90% of foreclosures in Oakland fell in 3 zip codes: 94601, 94603, 94605. The oldest and most diverse. Primarily low and moderate income. Latino and African-American. The neighborhood known as. Formerly. Owner occupied. It’s well known. Common, current, habitual, ordinary, it came in waves. In 2012 Oakland rents went up by 11%. I woke to find we could no longer afford to live in the neighborhood where we continued to live, in a large, slowly disintegrating house where the cost of rent had not increased since 2003, a situation that could not last forever. That had. For now. I was lucky. The vacancy rate was 1.7%. I was hardly in exile. Nothing about our situation had changed. For a long time. 94609. We could no longer afford to live there. And yet we did. In a shadowy wood. Plus a yard and shed. A sort of cloud hung over verse. I worked with it, in the classroom. In the shadow of. A transit village. I couldn’t write any poems. Student loan surpassed credit card debt. 70% of all faculty were adjunct. You’ve heard this before. This isn’t an argument about form. I forgot how. I had gone astray. Bewildered, lost, way off course. We lived there. We continued to. Not one. No music. Nothing about our situation had changed. But it did feel strange. The situation had. Around us. Feelings. I didn’t know how to go forward, and couldn’t find my way back. The awkward adolescence of middle age. The first phase entered construction. The right path appeared not anywhere. “damages of the profession.” In a slowly disintegrating house. A situation that could not last forever. Real estate bloggers named it the most exciting city. Forbes. A tech cluster. It’s well known. Common, current, habitual, ordinary, it came in waves. Along the way I attended Keith Hennessy’s Turbulence (a dance about the economy). I turned 39. I was lucky. On 36th Street between Webster and Telegraph. Ave. Awe, ave, welcome, as the century picked up, took shape faster, farewell, adieu, 11%, 12, the house across the street went for $500,000, backed up against the freeway, I moved towards the collected lines of Bervall’s poem, Dante’s, Via, iced coffee, I was hardly in exile but it did feel strange, something moved me there, within the lines, the neighborhood, as improvisational structure, as age would have it, I moved within the situation of the poem, a fine wide street, instrumentation, the awkward adolescence of middle age, the action of coming to, a familiar story, from its language, with a certain shape in mind, a dance about the economy, “wherein” “for” might crescendo for a while, slowly overtaken by the idea of wood. Hardwood floors. We lived there. We couldn’t. We did. I imagined the points of this compositional score in the shape of a pentagram. A passage of entrance or exit. I was thinking of work by Pauline Oliveros. That music. Later I realized I’d mistaken one shape for another.


With reverence or from the Old Norse kept in check, frightened, restrained, disciplined, fit




In the manner or way of a grandfather, bird, bird,

A formal expression of greeting

Birds, small birds


In the journey of our life

And in the hour of our death


Ave acuatica

Ave cantor

Ave de corral

Ave del paraiso


Ave marina

Ave migratoria

Ave de paso

Ave pasajera

Ave rapaz

Ave de rapina


Ave zancuda

















San Pablo




the trees that lined them then

the pre-wood trees


the avenues

in pre-dawn light


I awoke to find


three cranes


on every side, a hospital

a hospital complex


more than 600 workers hidden from view

and a new 478-space parking garage


water flowing underground





within a forest dark

within 30 days





I found that I had strayed into The Forest, an American horror film, The Forest, a Portuguese film, The Forest, an Australian film, The Forest, a Cambodian film, the Forest, an Indian film.


I woke in wonder in literature sunless and dusky—an 1871 play, a 1903 novel—


The Forest.



Stephanie Young lives and works in Oakland. Her books of poetry are Picture Palace and Telling the Future Off. URSULA of UNIVERSITY is forthcoming from Krupskaya. She is a founding and managing editor of Deep Oakland, and co-edited, with Juliana Spahr, A Megaphone: Some Enactments, Some Numbers, and Some Essays about the Continued Usefulness of Crotchless-pans-and-a-machine-gun Feminism

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