California-based writer Amarnath Ravva has performed at LACMA, Machine Project, the MAK Center at the Schindler House, New Langton Arts, the Hammer Museum, USC, Pomona, CalArts, and the Sorbonne. In addition to his writing practice, he is a member of the site specific ambient music supergroup Ambient Force 3000 and for the past nine years he has helped run and curate events at Betalevel, a venue for social experimentation and hands-on culture located in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. He’s currently working on a book about Victorian era botanical expeditions called The Glass House.
KAYA PRESS, SPRING 2014
Blending myth with interviews and first-person narrative, American Canyon uses prose, documentary footage, and still photos to recount the fragmented and ever evolving story of one person’s apprehension of the ghosts of history. This narrative of a son’s love for his mother and the ritual he performs for her takes us from California to Rameswaram, the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. It is a meditation on the moments in history that placed him in front of a small bright fire, a lament for the continual loss of those who, by remembering, let us know who we are.
“Ravva unearths myths so gently and casually that history never becomes too grand. His story-filled days accrue power and a bit of magic by the end—my sense of “now” became poignantly unmoored.”
“A mesmerizing and elegiac meditation on identity, nationality, and desire. Ravva coils narratives of India and the American West in on each other, telling a family history that is both fragmented and tender. A phenomenal debut.”
“A complex reworking of memoir form, using the tools of poetry remelted, as in Vulcan’s forge, to slash away at the ghosts and ghouls of conventional prose usage. The new journalism, Ravva-style, stimulates the nerve endings with its alternately lush and spare renditions of some spectacular settings, William Kentridge or Gauguin or Florine Stettheimer should be in charge of the art direction when the movie, or opera, appears, but in the meantime sit back and enjoy the calm cool stylings of one of America’s finest young writers.”
“In this book words that are usually strangers to each other are invited into the same paragraph. They look at each other carefully and the cluster of English words seated politely and obediently around the Telugu makes room for them. Now a bit of chatter begins. The words like the way the atmosphere is charged by a free exchange of vocabulary. This is what is meant to happen in our world at its best.”
“American Canyon is a book like none I have encountered, an almost hallucinatory immediacy offered with rare generosity. Amar Ravva’s tapestry of East and West demonstrates the importance of remembering rituals and histories—those of both personal and social scale.”
amar at videopoetics.org
All videos & timelapses were shot by Amarnath Ravva in California, Sikkim, & Kerala. Website design and development by Amarnath Ravva.
AMERICAN CANYON READING
7:30pm Saturday, November 1, 2014
1716 West Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Amarnath Ravva will be reading from his debut book American Canyon at Stories Books and Cafe on November 1st. Come to this event to hear from Ravva’s experimental memoir, which employs a variety of multimedia and narrative techniques to convey his story.
Ravva will be joined by poet Brandon Som, winner of the 2012 Nightboat Award for his poetry collection Babel’s Moon from Tupelo Press.
AMERICAN CANYON READING
Green Apple Books and Music
7:00pm Tuesday, November 4, 2014
506 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118
In celebration of his debut book, Amarnath Ravva will be reading from American Canyon at Green Apple Books on November 4th. Come to hear excerpts from his compelling memoir, which combines documentary footage with myths and first-person narrative for a magical reading experience.
AMARNATH RAVVA & GIOVANNI SINGLETON READING THEIR WORK
The Poetry Center
HUM 512, San Francisco State University
4:30pm – 6:20pm Thursday, December 4, 2014
1600 Holloway Ave
San Francisco, California 94132
Amarnath Ravva will be reading from American Canyon, his debut book, at The Poetry Center @ San Francisco State University on December 4th. Joining him will be giovanni singleton, the founding editor of nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts, a journal committed to experimental work of the African Diaspora and other contested spaces. Her debut poetry collection Ascension, informed by the music and life of Alice Coltrane, received the 81st California Book Award Gold Medal. She was selected for the Poetry Society of America’s biennial New American Series, which recognizes recent first book poets.
South Asian Religions Remixed through Poetry and Music
USC Visions and Voices
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 : 7:30pm
University Park Campus
Bovard Auditorium (ADM)
Admission is free. Reservations required. RSVP at the link below beginning Thursday, March 27, at 9 a.m.
To RSVP, click here.
South Asian musicians and writers will come together to celebrate and investigate the rich diversity of South Asian spiritual influences. In Mughal courts, nightly mehfils brought performers together and elevated their collaborations to high art. This tradition will get a 21st-century update in a landmark evening featuring performances by internationally renowned diasporic South Asian artists including Sufi-influenced rock guitarist Salman Ahmad, vocalist and ten-string double-violin master Gingger Shankar, Mumbai-based dubstep DJ Bandish Projekt and hip hop artist and producer Brooklyn Shanti in collaboration with award-winning poets Kazim Ali, Tarfia Faizullah, Bhanu Kapil, and Amarnath Ravva.
KAYA PRESS 20th Anniversary Celebration
City Lights Bookstore
261 Columbus Avenue,
San Francisco, CA 94133
7:00 p.m., Thursday, April 17, 2014
City Lights celebrates the 20th year of Kaya Press with performances by
Sesshu Foster, author of the collection of prose poems about Los Angeles: City Terrace Field Manual
Gene Oishi, whose novel in stories Foxdrum Bebop is released in March 2014
Amarnath Ravva, whose experimental prose memoir American Canyon is being published in March 2014
Shailja Patel, author of the performance/poetry collection Migritude
ENTER THE POET: Kaya Press & Kundiman Party at AWP 2014
Nagomi Tea House
519 6th Ave. S. Suite 200,
Seattle, WA 98104
8-10:00 p.m., Friday, February 28, 2014
Kaya Press and Kundiman are joining forces at this year’s AWP Conference to bring you ENTER THE POET: Newly Published Writers Celebrate Bruce Lee — a reading and party featuring a diverse group of writers with new books in Seattle’s historic International District — Lee’s home turf. This party is also to celebrate Kaya Press’s 20th year of publishing innovative Asian Pacific American literature. Come for an incredible line-up of writers, drinks, Bruce Lee projections, and more!
For lineup and more info, go to Kaya Press
LUNAR NEW READ (WITH ANDREW LAM)
USC American Studies and Ethnicity Club
USC-University Park Campus
University Religious Center, Rm 108
Los Angeles, CA 90089
Wednesday, Feb 18, 2015 : 5:00-6:30pm
Celebrate Lunar New Year; 2015 is Year of the Sheep!
Join ASE USC American Studies and Ethnicity Club – ASE and USC APASS DESI Project for an evening of exploring Asian-American identity through literature, with renowned authors Andrew Lam and Amarnath Ravva!
Free Vietnamese and Indian dinner!
RSVP at email@example.com by noon 2/13
The event will be followed by a book signing. Cash and cards will be accepted.
BURIED HISTORIES: ASIAN AMERICAN TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITY AS AN ACT OF EXCAVATION
Association for Asian American Studies Conference
Saturday, April 25, 2015 : 9:45 – 11:15 AM
1710 Orrington Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201
Though the work of excavating and theorizing the past has long been the purview of scholars, what has been less frequently examined is how that past often quite literally persists into the present, often, whether metaphorically or quite literally under our feet. In his hybrid experimental prose text, American Canyon, writer Amarnath Ravva examines the complicated reckoning with transnational identity that resulted from his discovery that the suburban home he and his immigrant parents moved into in Northern California could have been built on top of the remains of a much older Native American community. The at times uneasy history of his family on that site in turn leads Ravva back to an examination of his own family history and cultural inheritance — and, more broadly, of the ways in which experiences of immigration often intersect with other pre-existing, frequently unexamined, histories.
Combining readings, multi-media performance, and scholarly discussion, this roundtable will showcase the multiplicity of ways in which professors are supplementing their scholarly work in order to engage in this complex task of excavating the buried or otherwise inaccessible histories which nevertheless continue to affect our present-day realities.
The roundtable will be facilitated by Vivek Bald, author of the award-winning book Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America. Also participating will be Viet Nguyen, whose forthcoming novel, The Sympathizer, has allowed him to use the techniques of fiction to further explore the workings of war, memory, and the complicated political loyalties that he has studied as a professor of Asian American literature. Andrew Leong’s award winning translation of Lament in the Night gives a peek into the lived realities of a first-generation Japanese immigrant experience that previously had been lost to English-language readers. Amarnath Ravva will present a multi-media presentation of his work from American Canyon. Falu Bakrania will look at the ways in which music can encapsulate a past that becomes a rallying point for resistance. Floyd Cheung explains how the radical leftist politics in the works of novelist, playwright, and provocateur HT Tsiang are embedded in a context that continues to percolate in the world today. Each of the people on this roundtable would be looking at the different ways in which the past intersects with the present — whether excavating forgotten past histories (using the lens of history or translation) or by actively trying to peel back those layers through video and photography, music, experimental prose, and fiction.
DON’T CALL IT LYRIC: INQUIRY, THE ESSAY, AND INDEPENDENCE
&Now 2015 at CALARTS Blast Radius: Writing and the Other Arts
March 25-28th, 2015
24700 McBean Parkway
Valencia, CA, 91355
Saturday March 28, 2015 11:30am – 1:00pm
Sharon Disney Lund Dance Theater
This is a reading by four essayists (some of them poets as well) whose prose work is not (and cannot be or will not be) assimilable by the term lyric essay. The blend of autobiography and analysis, of inquiry and observation and intellection, is embedded in the long tradition of essaying; and some of the most innovative and staunchly independent prose writing is happening now without recourse to lyric technique. The reading will be followed by an opportunity for discussion. What is the category of lyric essay doing and performing, in and out of the academy? What kind of essay is lyric? What kind of essay isn’t?
Brian Blanchfield is the author of two books of poetry—Not Even Then (University of California Press, 2014) and A Several World (Nightboat Books, 2014), recipient of the 2014 James Laughlin Award and named a longlist finalist for the 2014 National Book Award. His collection of essays, Onesheets, is forthcoming from Nightboat Books. Individual pieces from it have appeared in Brick, Guernica, NoMorePotlucks, and Conjunctions. He is a poetry editor for Fence and has taught at the University of Montana, Otis College of Art and Design, and Pratt Institute of Art, among other schools and universities and community centers. He lives in Tucson.
Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic, scholar, and creative nonfiction writer. She is the author of five books of nonfiction: The Argonauts, a work of autobiography/theory forthcoming from Graywolf Press in May 2015; a work of cultural, art, and literary criticism titled The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (Norton, 2011), which was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times; the cult classic Bluets (Wave Books, 2009); a memoir about her family, media spectacle, and sexual violence titled The Red Parts (Free Press, 2007); and a critical study titled Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (University of Iowa, 2007.) Her four books of poetry include Something Bright, Then Holes (Soft Skull Press, 2007), and Jane: A Murder (Soft Skull, 2005), a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. She has been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships. She currently teaches in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts and lives in Los Angeles.
Aisha Sabatini Sloan is the author of a collection of essays, The Fluency of Light: Coming of Age in a Theater of Black and White, published by the University of Iowa Press in 2013. Her essays have been named notable for the Best American Non-Required Reading and Best American Essays anthologies, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and published in Ninth Letter, Identity Theory, Michigan Quarterly Review, Terrain.org, Callaloo, The Southern Review, and Guernica. She has taught writing for the University of Arizona, Pima Community College, the University of Michigan’s New England Literature Program, and Carleton College. She is a contributing editor for Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics.
Amarnath Ravva has helped run and curate events at Betalevel, a venue for social experimentation and hands-on culture located in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, for the past 10 years. He is currently working on a book about Victorian era botanical expeditions called The Glass House. His first book, American Canyon, was published by Kaya Press in 2014.
Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park.
Taken in October 2012, this panorama is composed of 9 images shot with a Canon 5dmkII and a Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100mm lens. 75 1/4″ x 11″ at 300 dpi.
East Side of Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park.
Taken in October 2012, this panorama is composed of 7 images shot with a Canon 5dmkII and a Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100mm lens. 68 5/6″ x 11″ at 300 dpi.
Barcelona Rooftop, Spain.
Taken in June 2012, this panorama is composed of 18 images shot with a Canon 5dmkII and a Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100mm lens. 102 5/6″ x 10 4/5″ at 300 dpi.
Jaipur Skyline, Rajasthan, India.
Taken in January 2012, this panorama is composed of 12 images shot with a Canon 5dmkII and a Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100mm lens. 59 3/5″ x 11 5/6″ at 300 dpi.
PRESS FOR AMERICAN CANYON:
IMPRINT CULTURE LAB’S BOOK CLUB
Martin Wong, editor/co-founder of Giant Robot, shared his love for books and had this to say about American Canyon over at Imprint Culture Lab:
“I was handed a copy of Amarnath Ravva’s American Canyon straight from the publisher, who was shared that it was Kaya Press’s very first publication with color pages. And the pictures aren’t merely ornamental. They are rather necessary to complement the sparse narrative thread that was originally recorded on video in real time. Equal parts observation about a road trip to India, emotional reaction to doing the writer’s mother’s wishes, and exploration of memory and the present, the words are straightforward yet poetic, simple and sharp. While the cool tone can seem oddly detached for such a personal moment, the eyelid-peeling attention to detail reveals uncommon engagement and perhaps even an otherworldly view.”
REMIXING CULTURAL HERITAGE AND SPIRITUAL TRADITION FROM SOUTH ASIA TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The wonderful Lisa Napoli interviewed me about American Canyon for KCRW’s Which Way, LA. The full post is over at the KCRW blog.
LOST IN MEMORY – REVIEW BY HAWA ALLAN IN TRICYCLE MAGAZINE
Hawa Allan wrote an extensive review of American Canyon in the winter 2014 issue of Tricycle Magazine. She notes:
“Ravva eschews the hackneyed narrative device of the hyphenated American suspended between two worlds, lonely, liminal, and lost. Instead, he employs precise descriptions of what he sees and hears, devoid of any value judgment or express indication of belief or disbelief.
. . .
Yes, at times reading such accounts can seem like reading a recipe for some unknown dish. But by stripping these depictions bare of his interpretation, Ravva transforms ritual into poetry.”
THE IMPROBABLE, ISSUE #1 – JANUARY 2015. REVIEW BY EMILY BALLAINE OF GREEN APPLE BOOKS
American Canyon was reviewed by Emily Ballaine of Green Apple books for the inaugural issue of The Improbable, a monthly collection of reviews of books that resist easy categorization, books that “invite readers to see the world anew by reading word and image in provocative, unfamiliar ways.”
HYPHEN, ASIAN AMERICA UNABRIDGED – JANUARY 2015. REVIEW BY JOYCE CHEN
Joyce Chen, over at Hyphen Magazine, wrote a review focusing on the multimedia approach American Canyon takes, and notes that: “The resulting narrative—part-memoir, part-documentary, part-mythical exposition—is a fragmented collage in much the same way that Ravva professes to be a man of hybrid tradition and innovation himself. The content informs the form.”
LOST FOOTAGE FROM A DUAL PILGRIMAGE HOME – REVIEW BY RAGINI THAROOR SRINIVASAN IN THE MARGINS
Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan wrote a wonderful and complex critique of American Canyon for the Asian American Writer’s Workshop’s online magazine, The Margins. She notes:
This, to my mind, is the most fruitful way to read American Canyon: not as a text about the immigrant’s loss of an Indian homeland, but as a text about the writer-filmmaker’s loss of material footage, his laboriously and lovingly constructed archive, which is reduced once again to the memories it was supposed to replace. The Internet and mass-production of low-cost recording technologies have made witnesses of us all, so this is a loss to which the reader can easily relate: the missed candid; words unrecorded; videos languishing on phones that drop and shatter before they can be backed up.