[Read] ➻ City Terrace Field Manual: Field Manual ➸ Sesshu Foster – Transportjobsite.co.uk


  • Paperback
  • 176 pages
  • City Terrace Field Manual: Field Manual
  • Sesshu Foster
  • English
  • 03 October 2019
  • 9781885030191

10 thoughts on “City Terrace Field Manual: Field Manual

  1. says:

    acquired via the coolest methods: book swap with author!

    from my first grazings, it's likely I'll put this on my list for students to choose their required book from in the fall.

    love the mix of poetry, history, memoir, with newsclips, magazine quotes, other source texts.


  2. says:

    Two things seem to matter most in Sesshu Foster’s poems. 1) The lives and grisly deaths (the fate, really) of the people he has known and loved in his community in East LA. 2) The making of a writerly presence -- the figure and voice of “Sesshu Foster the writer,” beyond the historical instances of Sesshu Foster the person in time.

    Amongst other things, this book is an unabashed -- resolute, joyful even -- catalog of violences. Disfigurements, dismemberments, attacks, horrible death upon death, descriptions of car crashes, shootings and beatings, gruesome workplace accidents, plus all the miraculous near-misses, constitute perhaps the core subject driving this work. Not a celebration of the violence, and yet, the persona narrator that presides over these accounts unfolds the devastation with relish, with an air of hard-boiled wonder, so that the accounts snowball together into a kind of blunted amazement that anyone at all has lived to sing these tales, let alone he himself.  It is a book of bloodied, mangled wonderment. If history is a rosary of innumerable and outrageous violences, culture is figured in Foster’s book as an incredible gift of survival, emergent wisdom, and precarious connection for which he gives thanks from within his context of proliferating insufficiencies, performing writerliness as character, always from within the community.

    The range of tone and music in this Sesshu Foster voice is limited by its adherences to the community, and yet it presses at the edges of what’s plausible in its context, pulling in manic and surreal Nerudan gestures of dislocation and ecstasy, and establishing an other-wordly strangeness by pressing the language of damage, of rending flesh, of blows, of collisions, of bent steel and broken bodies, into rapturous grooves. Foster provisionally wields language as narrative most of the time, but he does so in order to create a world of meaning by accumulating a reservoir of characters, settings, and typical scenarios. I think he uses the anecdotal material to deepen the grooves of concern he wants to feel into. The book does not follow a temporal arc. The miniplots of City Terrace Field Manual are cyclical, thematic, repetitive, reinforced by ebbtides of miniature stories, lyrical breakdowns, and intermittent surreal riffs of psychosis candy. It pretty much always feels crystal clear to me that this work is dedicated in service to the community, even when it is breaking down into more chthonic layers of linguistic play. I sense that this work is continuously performing celebration and mourning on behalf of its subjects, their preciousness in the writer’s eyes, his deep solidarity with them, mulling through triumphs and losses. It does not feel that this work is serving the mysteries of language, for example, or some other aesthetic ideal, or stepping into an exploratory space that forfends decisions or commitments in the world in order to discover new ways of registering meaning. Sesshu Foster overtly characterizes his persona narrator  as a love-driven figure devoted to very specific beloved people and places above all else. This persona narrator is a performance of the writer “Sesshu,” who we are made to imagine in back of the poems. In back of the quiet observant boy, or the reckless lucky kid, or the trenchant activist adult who sometimes appear embroiled as characters, as points-of-view within them, there is another made character persona voicing the work. All the poems seem to be equally dedicated to a host of characters, and to the meaning of their lives in place, in City Terrace. The agreement of self-portraiture and felt intention within the work as a whole combine to generate an aura of deep integrity and authenticity around the performance of voice.

    I felt that this work shows a lot of respect for character. For the patience and faith, courage implicit in any continuous effort to keep showing up for others amidst adversities. This respect for character seems to orient the voice and vision of City Terrace Field Manual. For example, the poem on pg. 157 that begins “I never got anywhere by skill, talent…” This poem nails down the deep values that inform Foster’s work. To have not gotten lucky in the cards that are dealt, not running on smarts, or good looks, or carelessly acting out. Nothing for free, nothing taken for granted, but rather, “If I was the one who slept in your arms, it was because I was the one who waited. If you were watching out for me, it was because I was the one who was faithful.”  And even good luck itself is not taken for granted, such as when “Rebar two or three feet high failed to impale me on all sides” (169). In this case as elsewhere, this good luck is not some patrimony, not tied to the “lucky Chinese coins with holes useless in my pocket,” received from his deadbeat white father, but a wonder, a miracle of his survival.


  3. says:

    I actually really liked this collection. It's true that many of them are difficult to decipher, and that a huge number of them rely on inside references to City Terrace itself and to the author's experiences. And they are very, very abstract. Do not expect traditional poetry. A few of them were baffling enough that I had to skim and move on. But when you really look at some of them, there's so much to find, although it will take some work. They are clearly carefully crafted, full of really powerful metaphors or just creative imagery and description. As long as you go in with an open mind and a dedication to figuring these poems out, you'll find something to like in here.


  4. says:

    "In 1911 I was brought from Veracruz in a bundle, but was erased by measles. In 1921 I returned by way of Mazatlan and was removed by tuberculosis in a back room. In 1924 I staged a comeback and rerouted through Yuma, then was scalded by gas mains. In 1936 I managed to crawl up from Boyle Heights, only to be buried in an underground cave-in during construction of sewer lines. I appeared briefly in 1938, but got potshot by a security guard near the railroad tracks. I revived on Bunker Hill in 1949 in a state so enfeebled by age I died in a furnished room of natural causes. I gave up immigration for the time being, and did not affix my name to papers."


  5. says:

    Sesshu Foster's 167 illuminating and harrowing prose poems are in the tradition of Sherwood Anderson, Edgar Lee Masters and Jean Toomer, but City Terrace isn't Winesburg, Ohio, Spoon River, or even rural Georgia, it's East L.A. Foster captures the hardships and tragedies of the place, but also its dignity and resilience, often with humor, and always with compassion and intelligence. I am personally grateful for the profound lived insights of this book.


  6. says:

    This book is an amazing collection of prose poems that capture the momentum and energy of the city. It stays close to the voices from his childhood in City Terrace, but each poem usually has one or two lines that drive to the universal nature of his experiences.


  7. says:

    Like all of Foster's work this transcends its classification (prose poetry), a relentless series of powerful pieces about East L.A., growing up there, dying there, failing there. As good an urban book as I have ever read.


  8. says:

    freestyle poetry, captures east los angeles to a tee.


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About the Author: Sesshu Foster

Sesshu Foster is an American poet. He has taught composition and literature in East LA since 1985, and has also taught at the University of Iowa, the California Institute of the Arts, the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Jack Kerouac School's Summer Writing Program. He was in residence at California State University, Los Angeles.

Awards:
2010 American Book Award for World Ball Notebook
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