Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Going with the Flow.

Sometimes I think the researching is nearly as much fun as the writing. I'm working on my series of "Eve in L.A." poems and got to the section on the L.A. River and came across a great essay, written by a landscape architect. Am digging his writing as much as anything--now I just have to figure out how to steal--er, adapt--it to verse:
Though there is strong advocacy for the river's renewal and restoration, there is as yet little constituency for understanding the river as it is and as it will be in the future, for the infrastructural sublime, for the freakological, for the river as artifact. Certainly, it is unfair to compare our river to the popular Edenic conception of "river," with all its associated expectations and tidy bourgeois sentimentalities. Rather, we must reassess the very definition of "river," expanding our idea of "nature" to include the parrot, the shopping cart, the weed, the sludge mat, and the stormdrain apartment. We must develop new narratives and vocabularies for our vital urban freakologies for these are the ecologies of the future.
--David Fletcher, "Flood Control Freakology: Los Angles River Watershed" in The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles

He had me at "river as artifact," although, man, that part about the parrot (which roost all over my poems right now) is amazing stuff.

Next, I get to read about the gravel pits of the San Gabriel Valley: "Irwindale's 9.5 square miles are a hodgepodge of margins, non-places, and land not wanted by the neighboring cities of Duarte, Azusa, Baldwin Park, and El Monte" (Matthew Coolidge, "Margins in Our Midst: Gravel"). Can't you just hear the poetry?


  1. Had me at freakological. That's my new favorite word.

  2. I'm with Margaret. I love that word freakological.

    I can send you photos of the shopping carts embedded in the creek wall behind my house.

  3. Before 1985, when Heal-the-Bay successfully forced the city of Los Angeles to comply with the Clean Water Act of 1972, winter rainstorms routinely flooded sewage plants across the LA basin. Two or three days of steady rain, and untreated sewage from exotic locales like Hawaiian Gardens and Pico Rivera would be flushed from municipal holding tanks into the city streets and, then, into the Los Angeles River. This niagara of shit, after inundating the massive Hyperion Sewage Plant, would finally spill directly into Santa Monica Bay, and the winter Pacific, usually slate grey, would turn sickly verdigris from Palos Verdes to Point Dume. With every swell, surfers would taste this toxic cataract of human waste,

    Sweepings from butchers stalls, dung, guts, and blood, /

    Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud, /

    Dead cats and turnips-tops come tumbling down the flood.

  4. When I think of the "Los Angeles River" I have to admit that I think neither of poetry nor of artifacts but of brute force and skulduggery, of Big Bill Mulholland's DW&P hardcases prying water out of the Owens Valley and leases out of the hands of poor farmers and ranchers...the waste that ran down into the river might well be thought to include the waste of the hopes and lives of those whose water was taken to irrigate the dream of a great city in a desert...

  5. It was nice to meet you at Margaret's breakfast. That area you are looking into is actually a place of activity. You can also hike Fish Canyon when Vulcan Quarry opens it's doors to the public. Lots of controversy around this issue. (It's open today) April 4th

  6. "Stormdrain apartment" is complete in its visuals, too.

  7. That area of Irwindale reminds me of Gatsby's valley of ashes.