A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines

Review in "Alta"
Apr 12, 2021

In ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines, Sesshu Foster and Arturo Ernesto Romo imagine the City of Angels as it might have been.

"The ideas Foster and Romo are exploring start as diffuse snatches of political outrage, personal vignettes, and flights of dystopian whimsy bound in the fantastical history of an airship enterprise. And yet, as these various elements fold in upon one another, something complex takes shape: a feeling of wonder and joy at the beauty of human invention, which swirls up through the anxiety and dislocation that comes with collapsing ecosystems and the corrupting influence of capitalism to embed an idiosyncratic and deeply personal history of East Los Angeles."—Mark Haskell Smith

The "LA Times" interviews Sesshu Foster
Apr 11, 2021

Giant piles of books are found throughout Foster's home, but he's surviving the confinement by reading snippets from three he keeps on his nightstand: the anthology "African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song," Svetlana Alexievich's "The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II" and Donald Peattie’s "A Natural History of Western Trees."

“I’m trying to learn more about the trees that I see every day,” he says. “But this book is really fat, so I just read a bit here and there, about sycamores or white pines or oak trees or whatever it may be.”

Rain Taxi presents ELADATL
Apr 6, 2020

On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, Rain Taxi Review of Books presented celebrated poet and novelist Sesshu Foster and artist Arturo Ernesto Romo discussing their creation of the polyphonic and genre-busting Eladatl: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines (City Lights Books), a unique counter narrative "history" of East LA that gives voice to the underrepresented populations of that city. Joining them for this conversation was acclaimed novelist Karen Tei Yamashita. Book sales were provided by Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis.

Interview on "The Bookin" Podcast produced by Quail Ridge Bookstore
Apr 5, 2021

"Host Jason Jefferies is joined by Sesshu Foster and Arturo Ernesto Romo, authors of ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines, which is published by our friends at City Lights Books.  Topics of conversation include writing poetry vs. writing prose, City Lights Books, art installations, pirate radio, Area 51, chickens, krakens, and much more."

Excerpt on "n + 1"
Apr 5, 2021

A profile of Sesshu Foster and Arturo Romo in the Southern California News Group papers
Apr 3, 2021


"Everyone in East L.A., grew up in the rain shadow of Hollywood, where Hollywood is creating, for the imagination of the entire world, all kinds of narratives about superheroes and private detectives and policemen and romance or film noir," Sesshu Foster says. "It's this whole industry that is continuously streaming out these narratives, but, for those of us who grew up in East L.A., none of those narratives ever centrally dealt with the lives and experiences of the people here in the same town."

Recommended by "Alta"
Apr 1, 2021

"In this surrealist mashup constructed out of photographs, drawings, cataloged historical artifacts, and a variety of narratives, Foster and Romo present a detailed history of fictional events in which a coalition of air-travel supporters worked to promote the giant airships of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines and revolutionize society."—Alta Magazine

Excerpt on "Air/Light"
Mar 22, 2021
In "ZAD Manifesto" an excerpt from ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Transport Lines, novelist and poet Sesshu Foster and visual artist Arturo Ernesto Romo create a beautiful, frenzied, utopic vision of a Los Angeles that runs not on cars and buses but on airships. (And Los Angeles as a leader in public transit isn't as far-fetched as you might think...). And in so doing they give us Los Angeles at its best: a diverse, multilingual, multicultural community with a working class sensibility flying chaotically and energetically into the future. 
Riding the thin (air)line between science fiction, steampunk, and poetry, "ZAD Manifesto" uses explosive literary form to reconceptualize reality itself. Foster and Romo don't just present a counterfactual of what could have been; like all great literature, they help us imagine what could be.

Tom Bowden at Book Beat arrogantly recommends ELADATL!
Mar 19, 2021

Like Bolaño's The Savage Detectives, no matter how often an anecdote is related in ELADATL, the story remains, Roshomon-like, blurry around the edges, and its facts are not always the point. The story—such as it is—concerns ELADATL as (a) the name of a film in fund-raising status, (b) a military group in conflict with the (white-owned) zeppelins of Los Angeles, (c) an under-funded, semi-reliable transportation system for East LA-ers, who have no other way of getting back and forth to work, or (d) all of the above, none of the above, some of the above, perhaps simultaneously.

Like Burroughs's Naked Lunch, the premise of what ELADATL seems to be about in the first 50 pages, explodes into a collage of lists, "agent reports," photographs, notes, and narratives,—all more or less on the topic of the ELADATL from various viewpoints, times, and places. The energy level of the book is high as disparate voices describe eerie, suspenseful scenes, make comedic observations, and recount of historical crimes and atrocities. Recommended: experimental and accessible, briskly paced, with pointed humor throughout.

Publishers Weekly -- *Starred Review
Feb 4, 2021

"Poet Foster (Atomik Aztex) and artist Romo deliver a maddeningly accomplished inquiry into the secret history of East Los Angeles. Conceived as an investigation of the now-defunct airships that once ruled the skies of southern California, the novel begins with a broadcast from an airborne pirate radio station that's in search of the elusive Sky City and gets stranger from there. A fried-chicken enthusiast researches a mysterious ranch in the hills of El Sereno; a paranoid telephone operator wanders through a 'post-industrial wasteland'; an aerialist rappels up the city’s skyscrapers to witness a war between a zeppelin and an enormous papier-mâché kraken; and a team of agents—with unlikely monikers like Enrique Pico and Swirling Alhambra, the latter of whom is awarded Poet of the Universe, 'an illusory Dream job for dreamers'—reports from an apocalyptic downtown. In other sections (illuminated by Romo’s wondrous collages, doctored photographs, etchings, and mixed-media prints), Lee Harvey Oswald recites a dirty limerick, Ulysses S. Grant shares a recipe for pancakes, and Los Angeles is destroyed by 'Death Rays from Hair Balls from Outer Space.' And that's before the appendices, some 70 pages of evocative eyewitness interviews, adverts, and manifestoes. This is as much fun to read as it must have been to make."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

California Independent Booksellers Alliance-CALIBA panel on "Speculative Fiction"
Sep 10, 2020

Sesshu Foster presents ELADATL at about 31 minutes in. . . .

Interview with Sesshu Foster in Collidescope
Aug 9, 2020

Sesshu Foster discusses ELADATL:

ELADATL was intended to be a collaborative project between a group of artists and writers in East L.A. But they all dropped out! Even before we got anything done! Have you ever tried asking people to write for you? I had this idea that I would collectivize my writing process and invite the community in. But I think most people consider writing to be a lot of unrewarding toil, and rightly so. Anyway, the last ones standing were me and artist Arturo Ernesto Romo, though I was able finally to include pieces by a few friends, too. Arturo and I drove all over East L.A. for years, researching little known events, histories erased by gentrification, local mysteries and personalities. Some of that made it into the website ELA Guide, "your guide to walking and driving tours of East L.A.," though some of it, like our proposed interviews with musician Ruben Guevara, the murals of East L.A., and a Chinese history of East L.A., never made it onto the website. Besides driving all over the Eastside and interviewing people, Arturo and I organized magazine-format panel presentations at universities and community centers that he called "Recent Rupture Radio Hour" where we interviewed activists such as Rosalio Munoz, leader of the Chicano Moratorium in 1970 when 30,000 people marched in East L.A. against the Vietnam War, artists like Iraqi-American Rheim Alkhadi and Sandra de la Loza ("The Pocho Research Society"), and urban farmer Reies Rodriguez, always a favorite for his accounts of growing (and butchering) your own chickens and livestock. When the Smithsonian asked me to send them a poem about Latino-Asian American collaboration, I sent them a video Arturo and I made while driving around East L.A. about Guy Gabaldon, a Chicano orphan raised by Japanese Americans in Boyle Heights in East L.A., who used his homegrown Japanese skills to capture 1,500 Japanese troops single-handedly during the Battle of Saipan in World War 2. The main difference between ELADATL and Atomik Aztex, then, is that collaboration, based on this research, these performances and community interventions that Arturo and I improvised and conducted, with the participation of others.

Arturo Ernesto Romo interviewed in the LA TIMES
Jul 23, 2020

Arturo Ernesto Romo, co-creator of ELADATL, reconceives of new monuments to reflect Los Angeles's people and history.  "The incident at Sleepy Lagoon is born from a series of interrelated events," says Romo, who, like De la Loza, also creates work that engages the history of Los Angeles (albeit in fictionalized ways). "To reduce an incident like that down to an individual thing, it doesn't do justice to the way that any human experiences and events play out.

Interview with Sesshu Foster on PoetryLA
Feb 23, 2020

Los Angeles Artists Reinvent Their Roles in Gentrifying Communities -- "The Prospect"
Jul 8, 2018

Poor and working-class neighborhoods often view new art galleries as heralds of gentrification—but some artists have joined with residents to fight displacements and other disruptions. . . . Lincoln Heights, which is also experiencing the vigorous redevelopment and displacement of gentrification, is where you'll find Arturo Romo. Instead of installing work in a gallery or museum or attending art fairs, the visual artist is part of an expansive, fluid, and overlapping network of artists in Los Angeles that are redefining art as they fight to keep neighborhoods from being overwhelmed by development. For Romo, making art in a community is akin to watering a garden. "It's a way to belong to a place, not to own it," he says.

Article by Carribean Fragoza

Sesshu Foster discusses Arturo Ernesto Romo work for SF MOMA's "Open Space"
Feb 18, 2018

With his focus and attention turned outward on the landscape, I attached Romo's skills as a collaborator on a novel, The East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines (A History with Appendices), the storyline in part consisting of videos, altered photographs, audio transmissions, digital media, and other material created by him and only sporadically accessible online or during public performances. . . .

One red thread throughout the multiple performances, personas, and manifestations of Romo's practice over the years has been Romo's intention to abjure personal publicity and the fetish of the individual artist as creator. His publications and performances take place behind a Pessoa-curtain of heteronyms, as he operates most frequently as a collaborator or behind the scenes, sometimes through the "offices" of the anti-gentrification collective, the Northeast Los Angeles Alliance, engaging in neighborhood agitprop, street theater, organizing educational events and demonstrations. Romo’s artistic practice functions in the community, in part, as a rhizomatic, subcutaneous nerve.

Essay by Sesshu Foster

below: Arturo Ernesto Romo, Wiggle Jade and Cypress, 2012.

Arturo Ernesto Romo, Wiggle Jade and Cypress, 2012.

Interview with Arturo Ernesto Romo on the "Opposable Thumbs" podcast
Aug 14, 2017

Artist and public school arts educator Arturo Romo is our guest this week! We discuss public education, the joys of collaboration and creating life stability. Arturo moves the bones to shuffle and stack colonialism and decolonization.

A Los Angeles poet's revolution of everyday life -- AL JAZEERA
Sep 6, 2015

The project currently on Foster's mind is a multimedia, quasi-fictional history of East LA, which he’s compiling with his friend, artist Arturo Ernesto Romo-Santillano. Their research includes a lot of driving, walking, looking and talking, and so in March the three of us drove to Boyle Heights and parked in view of the Sears tower, an Art Deco complex slated for mixed-use redevelopment. We’d come to see the murals on the Estrada Courts, a grid of two-story public housing. "The Chicano movement always had artists as cultural ambassadors," Foster said, gesturing at some their creations.

Article by E. Tammy Kim