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A few weeks ago, I was wandering around Franklin Village used book club Counterpoint and stumbled upon a stack of serial novels and vintage romances. They ranged from mid-century love affairs to seventies sci-fi pseudo-epics and had some of the craziest, catchy names. I literally scanned through them all, in case a rogue title provided itself to make for a great gift or funny coffee table item. Believing there wouldn’t be anything fruitful, I neared the end and found one faded orange spined tale: A Cow Is Too Much Trouble In Los Angeles. Yes, A Cow Is Too Much Trouble In Los Angeles is a book I found and I had to buy it.
Near the beginning of the year, I met up with one of our contributors Alec Rojas for a drink at the lobby bar of The Roosevelt. The environment is an interesting juxtapositions of Los Angeleses: it’s gaudy and over the top while being classic and refined. It is filled with locals but also home to many confused crowds from Hollywood and Highland. The place is the kind of local destination that you won’t readily admit to visiting but has a certain magic to it that only the most hardcore of Angelenos will appreciate. It is a fascinating, conflicting local haunt.
The image of The Roosevelt felt particularly fitting for the meeting since Alec was relaying a copy of his new book, Foreign Waters. It’s a noir-ish sci-fi sketch of Los Angeles in the future, one that feels so familiar yet so foreign. It’s a tale of intoxication that may feel alien but stands parallel from the lifestyles many in the city now inhabit. Foreign Waters is the kind of read that makes you question what reality is and if you are doing it correctly.
Poetry is the most esoteric of the written forms. It can be unavailable and unfriendly, an unintentional riddle for willing readers and annoyed students to attempt decode. The sparse words are carved into their pages with little room for context or clues. The feeling of looking at a poem is much like staring at a monochromatic Rothko: where do you begin to decipher it’s meaning?
Angeleno Mandy Kahn‘s poetry is far from being difficult or burdensome. Like the California surrounding they originate from, they are light and airy, each with their own unique kindness. Instead of trying to push you away from herself and her subject—only giving you a squint into the matter—she embraces your presence, as if she is telling this poem to you, in this moment, in this perfect little place. Her new collection of poems—Math, Heaven, Time—may sound distant, alien, and even too sophisticated for anyone who isn’t a subscriber to Poetry Magazine yet it welcomes you with open arms.
In her new book of poems—Math, Heaven, Time—Mandy Kahn attempts to provide solutions to all of our problems. A poem called “How to Solve” answers many day-to-day, Angeleno quandaries. “Put tulips in the middle of the problem,” it starts. “Don’t clean if you can’t. Don’t eat / if you cannot bear the smell. Put tulips / on the table, beside the mail / and papers and coupons and trash.”
The poem continues on for a stanza, spreading itself across a little page. A poem called “Very Long Haiku” watches from across the gutter. There is also a poem called “Why There Are Dishes Growing Scales In My Wet Kitchen Sink” and one called “To the Couples Who Argue on Reality TV.” Likely the shortest poem is “No Bones,” a serious little analogy representative of her ability to fade into surroundings. It alludes to a self-aware shyness, a theme echoed in many of her poems, reiterating a keen observational outlook she has. Mandy’s poems are very much Mandy: understated, full of incredible wit, and lovely to encounter.