Bodie or Bust

March 1, 2010

Poets of Bodie: Alexis Vergalla

Alexis Vergalla writes and lives in Seattle, WA.  Her first chapbook, Letters Through Glass, was published in 2009 by Finishing Line Press and her second chapbook, Experiments in Light and Ether, will be appearing on Dancing Girl Press in the summer of 2010.  She currently helps out with Poetry Northwest and volunteers at the Richard Hugo House.


For Bodie I am taking the turn of the century, from 1880ish to 1915.  I really love science at that point, mostly centered on ether and the abandonment of that theory (which I know way too much about by now).  For this project, though, I’m veering more into the medical field, taking the persona of a doctor entering town right as it crests and begins its demise.

I’ve never been to Bodie, and I’ve never really been to a ghost town.  A few dilapidated coal towns in Pennsylvania, but never an out and out ghost town; the closest I’ve been is Laramie, WY.  As I don’t really know ghost towns, but I do know the East, I’m going to have the doctor equally transported as I found myself while living in California for two years.  I look forward to learning all about setting bones, removing bullets and mine accidents.


Poets of Bodie: Cody Todd

Cody Todd is the author of the chapbook, To Frankenstein, My Father (2007, Proem Press). His poems have appeared in Hunger Mountain, the Konundrum Engine Literary Review, Lake Effect, Salt Hill and are forthcoming in the Columbia Review and the Denver Quarterly. He received an MFA from Western Michigan University and is currently a Virginia Middleton Fellow in the PhD program in English-Literature/Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. He is the Managing Editor and co-creator of the poetry journal, The Offending Adam (


For the project, I envisioned a Caucasian/Chicano mixed male named Santiago (Santee) Hopper. Fleeing notoriety in Fontana for stealing pieces of amusement park structures/city building statues and general ruin (refer to the Chapter Junkyard of Dreams about Fontana in Mike Davis’ City of Quartz), Santee has a Ryder van filled with this crap and is taking it to Bodie because he is convinced that his ego has regressed into a crucible that channels the century-and-a-half-old spirits of various Bodie miners and personae. It would also suffice to say that Santee is a total psychopath with an artistic and ontological vision he adheres to and would probably do more than risk his life for.

As for me, I have been to Bodie once when I was a child, so there is little to remember. I remember an allure to being in an actual “Ghost Town” but upon inhabiting so empty a place, I experienced a powerful dread and wanted to leave it as quickly as possible and never return. I am from Denver and have spent most of my life in Colorado and plan to do much of my critical work at USC on western literature post WW2.

Poets of Bodie: Adam Smith

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For the Bodie Poetry Project I have been assigned the persona of the Dandy, which I take some offense to as a term. I think part of the assignment of this role is tied to my love of alcohol, fucking, and swearing. Learning cards should be fun. And I look forward to shooting stuff.

I don’t know much about Bodie and haven’t done much writing, beyond literary analysis, in years. I love learning new things and look forward to researching the specifics of the era, my persona, and the peoples of the town. I’ve been drinking whisky lately as part of my research, but can’t seem to get into it. I may end up sticking to getting drunk on whisky as a simple conceptual understanding and draw from past experience about the subtle distinctions between the different kinds of drunkeness.

My idea of camping involves a hotel near some sort of wilderness. This would include any hotel in Las Vegas since the entire city is in the middle of the desert. I don’t have much experience with Ghost towns or living without contemporary amenities. I think I’ve been to Calico once or twice, and I’ve seen all of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns. I’m fairly fluid with the terms by which I approach things, with a tendency to give parity to everything I consider valuable.

Poets of Bodie: Eric Shonkwiler

Filed under: Uncategorized — nicelledavis @ 2:33 am

Eric Shonkwiler is a Midwestern transplant currently living in Riverside, CA.  He writes fiction, novels mostly, but has been known to write a poem or two.  He is editor-in-chief of CRATE Magazine, UCR’s graduate literary journal.  His writing can be found at Splinter Generation, Verdad Magazine, and Connotation Press.

The persona I’ll be taking on is Leslie Phillips, a boy of seventeen who entered Bodie in 1889.  He left home at fourteen, spending three years working his way west from St. Louis.  He crossed the wrong pair of miners in a saloon in Carson City, and was given directions to the already-fading town of Bodie instead of the growing Goldfield, Nevada.  Fiercely ignorant and with a sourceless sense of entitlement, Leslie burns his way through most work opportunities in an area and then does the same of the saloons before moving on.

Poets of Bodie: Elijah Mendoza

Elijah Rene Mendoza, a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of California, Riverside, was born and raised in Waco, Texas. His work has appeared in Askew Poetry Journal, Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, and is forthcoming in the New Mexico Poetry Review. He is the former poetry editor of CRATE literary journal. Some of his favorite authors are Richard Ford, W.B. Yeats, Jared Diamond, and Barbara Fields. Currently he teaches in the English Department at Baylor University, reads for 5th Wednesday Journal, and edits The Houston Literary Review.


I was born and raised here in Waco, Texas. I’m not sure if I’d call it home exactly, but it’s nice to be in a familiar place again. I’m primarily a formal poet though I often write in free verse. I’m passionate about social history and inequality, the Dallas Cowboys, prize fighting, the craft of writing in all genres, and self improvement. I have a particular interest in violence in Hispanic culture and also write about place.

I think the Bodie project is interesting because I typically write in first person and enjoy persona poems. I also have an active and continuing interest in history. I genuinely enjoy research and study, so writing about Bodie should give me the opportunity to do both.

Poets of Bodie: Matt Mauch

My persona is the Bodie weeds and perhaps other non-weed flora (“weed” being a subjective and opportunistic distinction in the end). When you think about it, many folks interact either with weeds or with others among the weeds. Weeds, as well—if you didn’t know—are essentially immortal (see: Mt. St. Helens), and, because they do not have the same sense of time as homo sapiens, are, in the limited perspective of homo sapiens, clairvoyant.


MATT MAUCH grew up in small Midwestern towns between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, in the snow and wind-chill belt. He is the author of Prayer Book (forthcoming from Lowbrow Press) and The Book of Modern Prayer (a limited-edition chapbook forthcoming from Palimpsest Press). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in DIAGRAM, The Journal, Willow Springs, The Squaw Valley Review, The Los Angeles Review, Sonora Review, and elsewhere. The editor of Poetry City, USA, Volume 1 (forthcoming from Lowbrow Press), Mauch teaches writing and literature in the AFA program at Normandale Community College, and also coordinates the reading series there. He holds an MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and lives in Minneapolis.

Poets of Bodie: Noel Mariano

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Noel Pabillo Mariano is an activist, poet, teacher, Kundiman Fellow and Los Angeles native. He holds a MFA in creative writing from UC Riverside where he helped produce and edit the first national “Coming Out Monologues” and is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. His writing can be found in Redactions, Connotation Press, 20 Miles Down and elsewhere. He currently serves as the nonfiction editor of Circumlocution Literary an online journal dedicated to showcasing work from young authors. For more information about arts activism, feel free to visit


For the project, I will be playing with persona and the different aspects of identity (claimed, gender, ethnic, etc. etc.). I will be writing a persona with a persona. I will be writing/assuming the identity of Dr. Percival John, Bodie’s doctor/mortician, since in the era presented, they were often the same thing. And well, I said a persona with a persona. So Dr. John has a hidden persona of Desiree Malone. This fits as my chapbook novella in verse was through the lens of a persona of a young girl dealing with her newly assumed identity as the sole child of her family. That, and I just retired as a performer in the Drag Burlesque group “House of Loca,” there are so many times I can twist my ankle wearing heels before I call it quits.

As for Bodie, I found the materials given to be a little heartbreaking. There’s something comforting about the idea of home and abandoned homes have always been lonely to me. This is why I get a little sad when I see abandoned cars on the side of the freeway. Personas are haunting because it brings up the idea of abandoning one’s self and identity for the sake of another. Ghost towns are left behind for the desire of something more. So I feel that they go hand in hand.

Poets of Bodie: Ruth Nolan

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_photo info: photo taken in National Cinder Cones Preserve, Mojave Desert, October, 2009 by Philip Helland


Mary Winnemuca Tate is in her late thirties, and is living alone in Bodie disgused as a man. She is 1/2 Paiute Indian, a distant cousin to the important Paiute Indian Sarah Winnemuca – later to be celebrated as a cultural leader in California and national history when interest and distinction in Native American culture is revived in the 20th century –  and 1/2 Anglo. Originally from a small tribe of northern Paiutes who made their home in the Mono Lake region, she was married at 16 to John Tate, a peaceful man who came alone to the Sierra west as a young adult, severing ties with his relatives in New England. Long living on the outskirts of society to avoid racism, Mary and John lived near Bridgeport on a ranch until their home was overrun by drunken, Indian-hating horse thieves and local miners. Mary was raped and tortured and the couple’s three children killed; the thieves took the family’s goods and burned the ranch down. John hanged himself two days later.

Realizing that her Paiute relatives have either moved to southern California many years ago to work on the southern Pacific Railroad, or been forced off their land into unknown lands in the Nevada desert by Anglo settlers and miners in the 20 years since she left home, Mary has come to Bodie in the year 1876, and is living disguised as a man. She has found work in the gold-bearing ore mines, and taken a room in a boarding house full of miners located on Green Street. It is her determination to try to find the men who destroyed her family, and to find subtle ways to murder them. And in the process, she is bent on earning her fortune in gold so she may spend her remaining days putting up bounty for law-breaking western men and help serve justice, especially the outlaws who have destroyed Indian tribes and villages, and shattered the lives of women and children. By 1890, having been well established in her mission, and drifting in and out of a fading Bodie, as she complete Mary is also a secret follower of Wovoka, the Paiute prophet who initiated the Ghost Dance for Indians nationwide in their last efforts to avoid genocide, circa late 1800’s.

Poets of Bodie: Charles Hood

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — nicelledavis @ 1:57 am

For the project I am representing the literal or metaphoric voice of manifest destiny, which is good, since whenever I meet a Native American I have a compelling urge to set his or her house on fire and to shoot any bison penned nearby. My first book followed John Wesley Powell on his 1869 descent of the Colorado River and the author photo for that book was taken at an abandoned 19th century mining town between Bisbee and Tombstone.

As far as Bodie itself, I have been there a few times; it is not quite the center of UFO magic for me as it is for Nicelle but I do feel at home in the Great Basin, and in a forthcoming book on California places, I wrote the Mono Lake chapter. I also have been an Artist in Residence at a place on the other edge of the Great Basin, the World War Two site of Wendover, on the Utah / Nevada border. In 25 years of travel in the American deserts, I never met a ghost town I didn’t like.

Poets of Bodie: Scott Hernandez

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Scott Hernandez was raised on a small farm in southern California. His Father is an old west history buff, and he visited Bodie as a child on one of the many family vacations. He fell in love with the town and its decayed state. He has visited and photographed many of old dusty places and what’s left of ghost towns of California. He looks forward to writing about Bodie and its Mexican and South American residents. Scott’s poems have appeared in Mosaic, Spectrum, The Red Wheel Barrow, Acentos, Cipactli, and the California Poetry collection. His new chapbook entitled “Placasos y Retablos” is out Fall 2010.

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