Produced in Los Angeles, Air/Light Podcast brings you literature from a Southern California perspective. We feature conversations and interviews with the best of contemporary literature in California and beyond.
This is the official podcast of Air/Light, an online literary journal published by the English Department at the University of Southern California. We showcase both traditional and innovative works. We are firmly of the West Coast, but also national, international. We mean to look out expansively from this place rather than to gaze narrowly back at it, to express a West Coast aesthetic, a West Coast sensibility, and direct that lens onto the world.
If you like what you hear, check out the magazine online at https://airlightmagazine.org/.
Episode 13: Vickie Vértiz and Alex Espinoza
Release Date: 12/21/2021
We’re thrilled to welcome two powerhouses of Los Angeles literature onto The Air/Light Podcast. Vickie Vértiz and Alex Espinoza were both born and raised in Los Angeles, and they also make the city, its people, and its communities the center of their poetry and fiction. Vickie and Alex use their writing as both a means of artistic expression and as a process of social justice, helping to redraw the cognitive maps of Los Angeles, to orient them toward a more equal city and society. Vickie and Alex are public writers in the sense that they do so much more than write: they are also teachers, activists, and organizers.
Episode 12: Lilliam Rivera and Mark Haber
Release Date: 11/22/2021
We are thrilled and delighted to have Lilliam Rivera and Mark Haber join us. Lilliam’s story, “The Undercurrent,” was published in Issue 1 of Air/Light and Mark’s story “Tegucigalpa” published in Issue 3.
In this wide ranging conversation, I talked to Lilliam and Mark about how they create characters, horror and genre fiction, literary influences, sacrifices to Slender Man, and, of course, books.
Episode 11: Michiko Theurer and Jonathan Leal
Release Date: 11/04/2021
Michiko Theurer and Jonathan Leal discuss their collaborative music and essay, “Reach.” Michi and Jonathan are both musicians, scholars, and writers whose work examines issues of community, collaboration, and the legacies of colonialism in American music and culture. I spoke with Michi and Jonathan about music, writing, working together virtually, and much more.
Episode 10: bridgette bianca and MICHAEL CHANG
Release Date: 10/14/2021
In this episode, we host a conversation between two outstanding poets: bridgette bianca and MICHAEL CHANG.
bridgette experiments with poetic form, deploying radical enjambment and extended metaphors to powerful effect. She writes poetry that is direct and forceful; she doesn’t hold back. The same could be said of MICHAEL’s poems that deploy wild, all-caps disjunction to evoke abrasive, uncomfortable scenes of public and private sociality. And yet, both bridgette and MICHAEL write poems that are incredibly subtle and even intimate. Bridgette and MICHAEL’s poetry pushes the art of poetry forward, even as they each use poetry as a vehicle to investigate their own lived experience. In our conversation, we discussed how poets relate to an audience, the role of poetry communities, workshop, revision, and much, much more.
Episode 9: Diane Mehta and Jordan Smith
Release Date: 10/01/2021
We host a conversation with two incredible poets: Diane Mehta and Jordan Smith, whose poems were published in Air/Light Issue 3.
Diane was a student at Union College, where Jordan teaches, and even though they were never in the classroom together the resonance between their work is obvious. Both are poets of the particular, of the moment; the world around them provides entryways into deep memories both personal and historical. Diane and Jordan write poems that bend time and space and the ancient world is a constant presence in the now–in Jordan’s poem “Good Morning,” burnt coffee in Schenectady sits alongside the ferry to Piraeus in classical Athens. Tree trimming, in Diane’s “Rock Garden,” connects us to the Iliad and the blood sacrifices of early religion.
Episode 8: Victoria Chang
Release Date: 01/13/2021
Victoria Chang’s poems encapsulate something that makes poetry unique among literature: they capture a fleeting moment and render it into a form that’s frozen in time yet dynamic. Her work is precise, with an attention to detail at a granular level; at the same time, Chang’s poetry casts a view on the larger, more universal qualities of a subject. Chang’s lemons and peaches are both singular pieces of fruit while also pointing us toward greater symbolic resonances. Impermanence and the ephemerality of material objects–including the body–are persistent themes throughout her writing. Chang’s poetry deftly balances two opposing registers of scale, the micro and the macro, the particular and the universal, the individual and the collective. In Chang’s poems, there’s an inbuilt tension that makes them exciting, energetic, open, and present.
Episode 7: Pam Houston
Release Date: 01/06/2021
Pam Houston writes about nature and the environment the way that Dickens writes about London or Tolstoy writes military history–not as an object in and of itself but as a terrain for understanding the human condition. Houston is a pivotal figure in feminist and environmental writing, and a master of the short story, novel, and essay form. From her first, acclaimed book of short stories Cowboys are My Weakness, across novels such as Contents May Have Shifted and Sight Hound, and up to the essays gathered in her recent memoir Deep Creek, Houston portrays women and men in perilous situations, whether it’s from the natural, social, or emotional environment.
Episode 6: Julia Cowlishaw
Release Date: 12/10/2020
Vroman’s in Pasadena and Book Soup in West Hollywood are two of Southern California’s most iconic bookstores. Though they’re in very different communities, each one plays a central role in the life of the city. Which is why, in late September, Vroman’s sent a shudder through the world of Southern California’s readers when the 126 year old bookstore announced it was at risk of closing due to the effects of the pandemic. In an extraordinary bit of outreach, Vroman’s asked its community to shop early and often for the holidays and to recommend the store by word of mouth. The situation has since stabilized, but the risk remains.
Episode 5: Mary Williams
Release Date: 12/02/2020
Since it opened in 1996, Skylight Books has become a fixture in the Los Feliz and a center of the neighborhood’s literary community by hosting readings, book clubs, and launch parties. In the second installment of our “Art of Bookselling” podcast series, Air/Light’s Claire Robertson talks to Mary Williams, the general manager of Skylight. Mary tells us about her favorite book of the year, comfort book buying in the run-up to the first lockdown, and how their customers are helping support the store throughout the pandemic.
Episode 4: Josh Spencer
Release Date: 11/25/2020
If literature is an ecosystem, then bookstores are its foundation. They’re where literature intersects with community. They introduce people to new and idiosyncratic books while hosting events to support authors. Through it all, they serve as neighborhood community centers for readers and book lovers.
But the pandemic has been hard on independent bookstores. Many have had to make direct appeals to their customers through GoFundMe and other crowdsourced campaigns. Local bookstores are facing what Dorany Pineda of the Los Angeles Times calls an “existential crossroads.”
Episode 3: Mónica de la Torre and Alex Balgiu
Release Date: 11/18/2020
In this episode of the Air/Light Podcast, we’re interviewing Mónica de la Torre and Alex Balgiu, the editors of the new anthology, Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979, out now from Primary Information press.
Concrete poetry was one of the most important post-war avant-garde literary movements. It was truly international in scope, with major practitioners and groups located in Brazil, Argentina, Western Europe, the Soviet Bloc countries, and North America. Across the globe, concrete poets created art objects composed of words, letters, colors, and typefaces, in which graphic space plays a central role in both design and meaning.
Episode 2: Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Release Date: 10/30/2020
With the election coming up in a few days, we here at Air/Light wanted to help you not make a choice, but to make the right choice. We’re thrilled to present a conversation with Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, a writer, artist, and co-founder of the Los Angeles Tenants Union. Tracy’s Two Evils voting guide is informed, impeccably researched, opinionated, and unabashedly radical. And hilarious. You’ll LOL as you burn with righteous rage. Tracy’s guide, and our interview with her, will make you want to get out there and vote and also join the LA Tenants Union, your local mutual aid network, your local labor struggle, and just take to the streets to demand justice. We hope you enjoy the conversation!
Episode 1: Andre Tyson and Douglas Kearney
Release Date: 10/26/2020
As the first installment of the Air/Light Podcast, we’re thrilled to present a conversation between choreographer Andre Tyson and Douglas Kearney about their performance, Code~dIsSoNaNcE~REVERIE.