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: 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: Kate Gale

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Dr. KATE GALE is Managing Editor of Red Hen Press, Editor of the Los Angeles Review and President of the American Composers Forum, LA.  She teaches in the Low Residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska in Poetry, Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction. She serves on the boards of A Room of Her Own Foundation, the School of Arts and Humanities of Claremont Graduate University and Poetry Society of America.  She is author of five books of poetry (her most recent, Mating Season, Tupelo Press), a novel Lake of Fire, and six librettos including Rio de Sangre, a libretto for an opera with composer Don Davis.  Her current projects include a co-written non-fiction book entitled Tameka vs. Susie Q, a creative non-fiction book Wild Horses, two new poetry collections, a co-written libretto, Paradises Lost with Ursula K. LeGuin with composer Stephen Taylor and a libretto adapted from Kindred by Octavia Butler with composer Billy Childs, a libretto based on The Inner Circle by T. C. Boyle, based on Dr. Kinsey’s life with composer Daniel Felsenfeld, and a libretto, After the Opera with composer Veronika Krauses. Articles, poems and fiction published in various literary journals and magazines, including: Gargoyle, Oberon, Cimarron Review, Rattle,The Brownstone Review, Georgia Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review,  Black Clock, Northeast Journal, Paterson Literary Review, Quarterly West, Poems & Plays and Eclipse. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.


For the project, I am I a crazed mother losing her sons as they go off to war and the town becomes depopulated, strange and blackened against the California skyline.  (In real life I am a crazed mother trying to get my children to move out of the house and regretting making the home such a fuzzy nest.) My writing of poetry and librettos has been somewhat confessional, sometimes persona, and sometimes just sheer narrative in the librettos.

As far as Bodie itself, I have not been there, although I used to visit mining towns in Arizona as a student, somehow in California I haven’t seen anything in twenty years because you have to work so hard to stay indoors, not Yosemite, the Norton Simon, Mono Lake, the Salton Sea, and not this Bodie place… but I will try to see it this summer on one of our road trips.  My favorite ghost town so far has been Tortilla Flats in Arizona  for all the wrong reasons maybe… people who loved me took me there, I don’t know if it is as cool or important as Bodie.

I am glad to be asked for this… I am not an expert on the American West but I am studying and living the human heart, and loss and soul consequences and trying to wonder about strands of connection.  Like Morrison I ask every day about the threads of quilt, and sometimes I think that in the American West, those threads were far riskier.

Poets of Bodie: Nicelle Davis

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Nicelle Davis lives in Southern California with her son J.J. Her poems are forthcoming in Broadsided, Front Range, FuseLit, Moulin Review, The New York Quarterly, Offending Adam, Picture Postcard Press, SLAB, Superficial Flesh, Transcurrent Literary Journal, and others. She’d like to acknowledge her poetry family at the University of California, Riverside and Antelope Valley Community College. She runs a free online poetry workshop at The Bees Knees.


Bodie is a home lost. This loss is preserved in the form of a park; Bodie is the Disneyland of loneliness. What a better place for poems to meet–to ride roller-coasters of  images? I wanted to face the dangers of loneliness head on–but I didn’t want to do it alone–and so I asked these amazing talents to come with me. They agreed to go and so the adventure begins.

I will be writing in the voice of Daniel Horner (first born of Bodie). His greatest desire is to be buried in Bodie, but the ground just won’t have him. He will see the rise and fall of his home. He will be force to walk away from the wreckage he loves more than himself.

Poets of Bodie: Jessi Cramer

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Jessi Sundell Cramer is a tattoo artist, playwright, screenwriter, poet and all around creative-type.  She has a Masters in screenwriting from UC Riverside and her plays have been performed from Washington DC to Santa Monica, California and points in between.  Critical work is forth-coming in Connotations Press.  Jessi grew up in Wyoming, fluttered about and now lives in Laramie for the time being.

Ghost towns are endlessly fascinating to me and the concept of West-ness has prodded my work for years.  My Bodie persona is a as-yet unnamed young female journalist at the turn of the century.   Raised the eldest of seven daughters on a Pennsylvania dairy farm, she refused to marry three suitors and when The Persistent Suitor became increasingly insistent, she ran away to Philadelphia to follow in the footsteps of her hero, reporter Nelly Bly.   My stubborn-sweet girl supports herself writing interest pieces for magazines and furnishing illustrations for magazines and books.  She came to Bodie to write about the gold rushes and discovered a far bigger freedom than she ever imagined beneath the desert sky.

Poets of Bodie: Ching-In Chen

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — nicelledavis @ 1:02 am

Ching-In Chen has lived in Riverside, California for the last three years (and will be moving this fall to Milwaukee to begin a PhD in Creative Writing).  She hearts street food, the zuihitsu & other “hijacked forms” and gets lost easily.  She is the author of The Heart’s Traffic (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press).  The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she is a Kundiman, Macondo and Lambda Fellow.   A community organizer, she has worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston.  She is a member of the Save Our Chinatown Committee, a grassroots organization working to preserve the archaelogical heritage of Riverside Chinatown and likes to writes poems using found text and objects.  You can find her at


I’m going to write about the Chinese population of Bodie, which fits one of my general obsessions (coolies).  Also, I think ghosts & buried cities are fascinating & I like to follow their trails.  The book I’m currently working on has a speculative shiny city and its twin as inspiration, the buried city of Riverside Chinatown. I’ve never been to Bodie, but I hope to visit soon in the upcoming months.

Thanks for having me & looking forward to your poems!

Poets of Bodie: Jackie Bang

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — nicelledavis @ 1:01 am

I am Jackie Bang of Bang Excavation. I am looking for answers to Epic Fail. I am a ghost town journalist time-traveler mosaic jigsaw-undercity writer. I intend to write ten taut and intertwined one page prosaic that catch the dead-goldtown of Bodie, as a metaphor for all dead gold-ghosts, and the death of towns in general. My pieces will cover ten year snippets of history from gold rush to desertion. My intent is to the catch the ghosts in the periphery of their stories, dancing in the half light of dusk, between the timbers and mine ceilings, the forgotten rotten spools of thread under abandoned porches. I’m coming for you Bodie.

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