Correspondence: Jill

by Jen Hofer


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mexico City


Dear Jill:

I woke up and called DK, who’d arrived after a red-eye; made a plan to meet for coffee. Finished R’s letter from last night (my metabolism makes this project a challenge; I’m useless at night, usually, when it comes to making sentences). I looked at my draft translations for the foster care therapy project and realized I have a lot to do before I can send them to DD for commentary. Prepared my talk for this afternoon, wondering if it’s even worth bringing images to project given the horrific technical difficulties of last night. Marveled as ever at how much more prep even a short talk takes than I imagine it should.

I showered and wished my red jeans fit me better than they do. I did some e-mail puttering and further planning for my talk today. I went downstairs and had coffee with JP from Berlin who says she’d like to translate my work into German. I called M to organize sound for the workshop DK didn’t even know he was supposed to facilitate until an hour prior. I ate breakfast: chilaquiles de mole and a quesadilla with quesillo and mushrooms (it sounds better than it actually was; the hotel food is merely adequate, annoying in a context where there is outrageously delicious food everywhere). Chatted for a while with R and JP and JT and planned for our workshop for tomorrow. Came upstairs to the room to finish preparing for talk this afternoon, which continued to take way longer than I’d imagined. Worked out some details of tomorrow’s readings. Became overwhelmed by the to-do list. It’s one of those days; how is it possible to have “one of those days” even while traveling in Mexico City?! Updated the Radical Pedagogies Skillshare page and sent out announcement via Facebook.

I went back to the street stand across from Pastelería Ideal on 16 de septiembre to buy another pair of fake Converse low-tops with zippers up the sides but apparently the pair the guy sold me yesterday was the last pair. Bought two pairs without zippers for less than the price of one pair of real Converse; when I don’t stock up on things I love, I always wish I had. Walked back to the hotel and got my stuff for the talk, then walked to Palacio de Minería to set up tech, which went perfectly without a glitch. The talk—myself, CG, AC, and moderated by RC—went excellently. I talked about translation challenges as sites of possibility, in work by DD and MM (no, I do not choose the writers I translated solely based on their having two of the same initial!), and then about how translation has affected my own practice in the daily news poems. Gave out the daily news tiny book I made as a tool for my workshop tomorrow (but made extra to give as gifts). There was a lively set of questions at the end, and it felt as if the conversation could

have gone on longer, which is how I like a public conversation to end.

Had lunch with folks from the festival at Cantina Los Leones—not La Mascota, which was where I used to go all the time when I lived here, but similar—where you buy two drinks and get a bunch of (very greasy but very delicious) food for free. Botanas, that food is called—snacks. Usually salty and spicy to make you want to drink more. Quesadillas de pollo, tostadas de pata (I can only handle about one bite of pickled pigs’ feet), tacos de cecina, sopa Azteca. I had two beers and realized that I can only handle one beer at lunch (which happens at 4:30 anyway so it’s almost beer-thirty); R and I made a pact to only allow each other one beer at lunch ever. As if!! Walked back to the hotel feeling bloated and tired (which may have to do with the beers or may have to do with 5 hours of sleep a night after a sleepless night before we arrived here); stopped at Café do Brasil for an espresso and sat looking at the light change against the facades of the buildings and felt better walking back to the hotel. Did more publicity for Radical Pedagogies conversations at Last Bookstore and got ready to go back to Palacio de Minería for this evening’s readings. ÓdelaB, whom I hadn’t seen in many years, was waiting for me at the beginning of the reading and it was phenomenal to give him a hug. Made plans to see him and B on Sunday and then worried that I’m filling the weekend with too many plans. Made more tiny books at the reading.

Went (in RC’s car) to the party MM threw in R’s and my honor, which was utterly lovely and soaked with tequila. She’d made Sephardic food (the name of which I can no longer recall) and had bought an amazing cake decorated with two cats that said “for Jen and Rob from Pancake and Cupcake.” Took a cab home with JS from Guatemala City whose work is fascinating and who will come to LA to film a documentary about Central American migrants. Walked the few blocks from Eje Central to the hotel and passed a line of workers running fiber- optic cable by hand—five or six guys pulling the cable by hand from manhole to manhole (what a word: manhole!). Went upstairs and collapsed into bed.

Surely many details—particularly details of the collisions of sight and sound and smell of these streets—are missing from this account.

Much love,



Thursday, June 7, 2012

Los Angeles


Dearest Jill:

I got up and made what we thought was the last of the coffee but I think there’s enough for Rob’s coffee later as well. I did the morning routine. I started the monumental task of tidying my desk; I’m already anxious in advance of travel though I know I’ll be elated to be in Houston once I’m there. I corresponded and attempted to respond to all the amazing love and felicitations coming my way from Facebook. It’s like a birthday only more substantive; it makes me feel crazy and happy! I realized if I left the house a little early I could stop at SuperKing and do some sorely-needed grocery shopping. I did the fastest shop I could muster and then drove through trafficky streets to Aurora’s where I picked up the camping gear we’d lent to Andrew for his trip to Joshua Tree. I drove into Boyle Heights, to the city-run free mulch pile and filled the bed of Rob’s truck with what I hoped was enough mulch for the parking strip between our sidewalk and the street. Sonal texted that she’d be late picking up the camping gear to borrow for her and K.’s trip to Utah so I stopped at Antigua on the way home to buy more coffee beans. I got home and started breaking down cardboard boxes for the mulching. Sonal arrived and I loaned her gear. I continued laying cardboard and mulch; I had exactly enough mulch, as it turned out. I finished just in time to meet Hana at Sunset Nursery in Silverlake. She helped me choose vegetables to buy: two kinds of chile, three kinds of heirloom tomato, a round yellow cucumber called apple cucumber, and three different kinds of kale (of course!). We drove home and had spinach soup and kale-cabbage-jícama salad on the front porch—the first time Hana had seen it since she lived in the trailer last summer. We aerated the soil in the bed by the laundry shed, added compost (an incredibly pleasing transformation) and planted most of the kale. Hana left and I kept on working—figured I’d do it today or never, and anyway need to plant now if I want to enjoy

homegrown veggies later in the summer. I ripped various tons of ice plant out of the second planting bed and attempted to aerate the soil, which had reverted to its semi-natural hard-as-stone and dry-as-desert state. I planted the rest of the veggies and watered and wished I had a week to spend getting the backyard into shape. I showered and sat down at the computer and began various correspondences. Had the intention of working on the Yépez translation but didn’t (story of my life!). I wrote responses to the draft web pages the fellow in Belgium sent me; he’s going to publish the talk I wrote for our “perishability” panel as a photo-essay in his online zine. We ate a very simple dinner— chicken in adobo sauce from Trader Joe’s (OMG!!! not homemade!!) on tortillas with lettuce and cilantro. Rob cut and dyed his hair and we watched videos on the Oakland Museum blog made by our friends Lucy and Alex while I collated books and his hair cooked. I nearly fell asleep while collating and collapsed into bed.

Simultaneity floats or sinks. Buoyant and leaden. All times at once, as Sonal said—vertically—columnar. Most phenomena are not mappable—perhaps nothing is? or not fully? all maps are interpretive strategies only? Yet I wonder: is all we make maps? All shapes are landscape documenting the distance between what we experience and what there is to be experienced? And at times, dominating that distance, which cannot be dominated. So much of what is made in the world declares “I am here,” “I am here,” “I am here.” What is the work that affirms “You are here?” or “We are here?”

Much love,



Jen Hofer is an LA-based poet, translator, interpreter, teacher, knitter, book-maker, public letter-writer, and urban cyclist. Recent books include one (Palm Press, 2009); sexoPUROsexoVELOZ and Septiembre, translations from Dolores Dorantes by Dolores Dorantes (Counterpath Press and Kenning Editions, 2008); The Route, with Patrick Durgin (Atelos, 2008); lip wolf, a translation of lobo de labio by Laura Solórzano (Action Books, 2007); and Sin puertas visibles: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Mexican Women (University of Pittsburgh Press and Ediciones Sin Nombre, 2003). Forthcoming books are poem sequences from the valley of death (Ponzipo) and Laws (Dusie Books), and translations of Myriam Moscona’s Ivory Black (Les Figues Press), and Alan Mills’ Síncopes (Piedra Santa). Recent writing appears in Aufgabe, Mandorla, Or, out of nothing, and Punto de partida. She teaches at CalArts, Goddard College, and Otis College, and works locally and nationally as a social justice interpreter.

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