The “Headwaters / Manantiales” Reading / Art Tour

is proud to announce the publication of

The Headwaters of Nirvana / Los Manantiales del Nirvana:
Reassembled Poems

by Bill Mohr
(a bilingual edition translated by Jose Luis Rico and Robin Myers)

THE HEADWATERS OF NIRVANA / Los Manantiales del Nirvana is an expanded version of Pruebas Ocultas, a bilingual edition of Bill Mohr’s poems published in Mexico by Bonobos Editores. Both editions reflect the translators’ preferences; in selecting these poems, Jose Luis Rico and Robin Myers aspire to share their perspectives of a poet who is exceptionally difficult to classify. Touching on a multitude of tender as well as sardonic themes, Mohr’s poems are most often associated with a contumacious West Coast poetics centered in Los Angeles. While Mohr has vigorously championed his fellow poets since the early 1970s as an editor, publisher, critic, and literary historian, The Headwaters of Nirvana surpasses his other noteworthy achievements. Mohr now stands poised to claim an enduring place among the handful of American poets whose work will continue to be acknowledged on an international level. As Margarita Cuellar observed in selecting Pruebas Ocultas as one of the two dozen best books of poetry published in Mexico in 2015, “Si hay una palabra qui identifique sus textos esta podria ser ‘vitalidad’.”

The ”Headwaters / Manantiales” Tour

Long Beach Open Studio Tour
Painting by Linda Fry and Bill Mohr
Artist Co-Op Gallery, Studio #2
1330 Gladys Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90804
Saturday, October 20, Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 21; Noon – 2:30 p.m.

POETRY READING: New Unpublished Poems by Bill Mohr
Redondo Beach Public Library
Saturday, October 20 – 3 p.m.
(Reading with Elena Karina Byrne, Suzanne Lummis, and Gabriel Meyer)

Long Beach Open Studio Tour
Paintings by Linda Fry and Bill Mohr
Artist Co-Op Gallery, Studio #2
1330 Gladys Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90804
Saturday, October 27, Noon – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 28; Noon – 5:00 p.m.

Book Launch: The Headwaters of Nirvana / Los Manantiales del Nirvana
Bill Mohr (also featuring poet Paul Lieber)
Skylight Book Store
1818 N. Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
Sunday, October 21, 2018 – 5 p.m.

The Headwaters of Nirvana / Los Manantiales del Nirvana
Bill Mohr (also featuring poet Paul Lieber)
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Saturday, October 27, 2018 – 8 p.m.

Beyond Baroque
Gala 50th Anniversary Celebration
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Saturday, November 10, 2018 – 5 – 10 p.m.

Ventura Artists Union presents
Bill Mohr
Thursday Night Poetry Series
Hosted by Marsha de la O and Phil Taggart
EP Foster Library – Topping Room
651 E. Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001
Thursday, November 15, 2018; 7:30 p.m.

The Rapp Saloon Poetry Series
Hosted by Elena Secota
Bill Mohr’s The Headwaters of Nirvana
1436 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(with Beth Rusico and Leon Martell)
Friday, November 16, 2018 – 8:30 p.m.

Larry Colker (1947-2018)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Last night, at Beyond Baroque, many poets from around Los Angeles gathered to honor the memory of Larry Colker, a poet who ran the Coffee Cartel poetry readings in Redondo Beach for 20 years. It was an extraordinary service to the community, and Colker managed to keep a sense of gracious humor and genuine enthusiasm throughout the marathon of open readings that bolstered the attendance for the featured poets, which included Richard Garcia, Charles Harper Webb, and many others.

Larry had recently retired and moved back to North Carolina, but was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer, and died without most of us having much of a warning that he was mortally ill. Thanks to the efforts of poets such as Elena Karina Byrne and Brendan Constantine, we were able to have an evening for the community to mourn his loss and affirm our gratitude for the gift of his life to poetry.

Richard Modiano started the evening off by reminding everyone that Larry did more than lead the Coffee Cartel. He served with great distinction on the Board of Trustees of Beyond Baroque at a time when the Board was in need of devoted members, and one can see that Richard was all too aware of how no one but himself truly understood how much Larry’s contribution made a difference in getting Beyond Baroque that much closer to this anniversary year. Only someone in the day-to-day operations of a literary non-profit can know how one other person can determine whether an organization flourishes or merely survives. Because of Larry’s efforts, Beyond Baroque moved closer to flourishing.

Other noteworthy poets who participated in the evening were Suzanne Lummis, Beth Rusico, Cathi Sandstrom, and Michael C. Ford. Thanks to Alexis Rhone Fancher, and with her permission, here are some photographs of the event. In order, from the top photograph down: Richard Modiano, poet and Artistic Director, Beyond Baroque; Beth Rusico; Michael C. Ford; Cathi Sandstorm; and Suzanne Lummis at the podium with other poets. All photographs, copyright (c) Alexis Rhone Fancher, 2018.

Brendan Constantine was not able to make the event, so I started off my tribute by reading his blurb for Larry’s collection of poems, Amnesia and Wings:

“Sometimes thing just / end,” write Larry Colker, “but we name it / change.” In his new collection of poems, Amnesia and Wings, the poet has reinvented the ode, the ballad & the planet. it tuns out we never leave this world; it leaves us, touch by touch and thing by thing. But here are enchantments in the empty spaces if we would only look for them. We will never be made whole again but, “That’s not the point: enchantment, even for a day, / can make a whole life bearable.” — Brendan Constantine

I noted that the other two blurbs were written by Cecilia Woloch and Charles Harper Webb, both of whom were central to Larry’s experiences as a poet studying with other master poets at the Idyllwild Poetry Festival. Larry’s life as an audible presence in our community was hardly limited to Redondo Beach.

In one of the photographs below, Cathi Sandstorm can be seen reading one of Larry’s best poems. I told the audience last night that I had been reading that very poem earlier in the day and that I had heard Larry’s voice adding a line to the poem. Indeed, he is still present in our lives as working poets.

You can find “The Leap” at the following link:

Larry Colker: Four Poems

It was originally published in The Sun magazine.

Richard Moidano - Colker

Beth Rusico - Colker

Michael C Ford - Colker

Cathi Sandstrom - Colker

Colker - Group

Beyond Baroque’s Gala Bacchanal – November 10, 2018

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Tickets for the Beyond Baroque’s Gala Bacchanal on November 10 will go on sale next week! This celebration of Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary will be graced with the presence of poet Will Alexander, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Viggo Mortenson, an artist, poet and actor who has a rare understanding of Beyond Baroque’s contribution to the literary arts on the West Coast. Mortensen will receive the Alexandra Garrett Award for 2018.

Mark the date on your calendar to join us in Venice.

Boho Bach - CARD

If any reader of this blog knows individuals or a business willing to be a sponsor of this event, please do contact Quentin Ring or Richard Modiano at Beyond Baroque: (301) 822-3006.

You can also reach them at:

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

The Argonaut’s Obituary for Frank T. Rios

About three weeks ago, I posted a blog entry taking note of the passing of Frank T. Rios, one of Stuart Z. Perkoff’s most loyal companions. Since I am in the midst of trying to finish the final draft of an article on Venice West for Nancy Grace, who is editing a volume of essays on Beat writers and Beat culture, I will limit my entry today to a link to this fine obituary on Frank T. Rios by Kyle Knoll.

A Vessel for the Muse

Before I talked to Mr. Knoll, I opened Rios’s memoirs of a street poet at random and the poem I encountered was entitled, “vote.” If I can get permission, I am going to post it on this blog. It is one of the best “political” poems I have read and should be read by every political persuasion, especially since we are being continually reminded that this upcoming election is the “most important one ever.” So is the breakfast I will east in a half-hour.

At some point down the line, the poetry written by those associated with Venice West will become better known, making the complexity of the West Coast canon all the more intriguing.

“Origin” and “Bees”: The Latest (New Yorker) Installment of Official Verse Culture

Preface: Because people don’t tend to read blogs for contextualizing entries, a fair number of readers might assume that the following article reflects an all-out hostility to poetry that appears in The New Yorker. Before any reader makes that assumption, I would urge her or him to read my blog post (November 9, 2014) on Suzanne Lummis’s poem about Ophelia, which also was published in The New Yorker.

* * * * * *

“shall i uncover honey / where maggots are” – “The Kingfishers,” Charles Olson

In a recent issue of The New Yorker (Sept. 3rd), a poem entitled “Origin” (pages 52-53) begins:

“I was born inside a mourning dove.”

The poem poses a riddle, initially, since birth is a process by which a living creature separates from its gestating entity. It doesn’t prove to be an interesting riddle; rather, its pathos at the poem’s conclusion only serves to underline how far short its opening falls from matching even the effort of a popular song. “Jumping’ Jack Flash”‘s use of figurative language in its first line is far more intriguing. providing the reader with enough complexity to move with accelerating interest to the second line. (Though Keith Richards is credited with the music, it is Bill Wyman’s primary riff that underscores this impetuous metaphor of the British generation born during World War II.)

Katie Condon’s trope plays with the long-standing obsession of poets with dead animals, as well as the constant proximity of death to animal life. One could take this subject and turn it into a compelling poem, but it would require an artist who pays more attention to the use of her pronouns. “I” and “us” and “you” are sprinkled around this poem like garnishes on a plate of microwaved frozen food that do nothing to hide its high salt content. Did no reader of this poem before it was published suggest to Ms. Condon that she needs to review the relationship between these pronouns?

While fans of this kind of poem might view my comments are overly harsh, I want to remind them that far more strident attitudes towards Condon’s poetics are at work in contemporary verse. I can imagine many avant-garde poets (and their significant affiliates) sneering “Quietude” and viewing the sentiment of the poem as a kind of maggot that the Fly of Limited Imagination has graced the carcass of Tradition with. I’ll leave it to other blogs to argue that case, but I will say that if “Origin” is an example of what Ph.D. candidates in Literature and Creative Writing are producing these days, then academic poetry is truly taking a turn towards the banal.

In fairness to Ms. Condon, I am cutting and pasting the link to her website, which appears to provide links to other poems she’s had published. I am not in any rush to read them, but perhaps those who yearn for “success” as poets might want to hurry to her site to see what they should emulate.

I myself find Condon’s poem most useful as a reminder to visit William Blake’s “The Fly.”

“The Fly”

Little Fly
Thy summer’s play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush’d away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing;
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath;
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

In Condon’s poem, what is conspicuously missing is the “blind hand.”

As for the ending of Condon’s poem (“I am // as afraid as you.”, I jotted down a quatrain shortly after reading her poem:


No maggot is afraid.
The tiny egg, when laid,
Knows thickened, sated Fate
Will never make him wait.

Turning this critique on myself, I hope that anyone who finds my rejoinder as insufficient as I do quickly turns to someone who could have done a far better job: J.V. Cunningham. Just as I suggest that readers would be better off reading Blake than Condon, I do not pretend that my work is more deserving of sustained attention than those who have far surpassed my efforts.

Post-Script: Oddly enough, there is also a poem about “Bees” in the same issue, and the juxtaposition recalled a poet who would have viewed this pair of poems with utter disdain. As such, I have just now gone back to the beginning and inserted an epigraph.

Phil Alvin and John Hiatt: Guitar Mavens

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Years ago, John Hiatt recorded a song mocking the faux theatrics of those who destroyed their guitars on stage. What was once a gesture meant to italicize the collapse of high culture’s dominance (though far from complete control) of ideology had become a perfunctory gesture that bordered on self-indulgence. If you haven’t heard the song, “Perfectly Good Guitar” is waiting for your browser’s attention.

One person who never succumbed to the popular carnival act of disassembling a guitar on stage is the poet-songwriter-musical, Dave Alvin. Recently, his treasured guitar was stolen from his van when it was parked near where he was scheduled to perform. It’s a pleasure to report that Dave’s guitar was returned to him.

Miracle on Junipero: Blasters’ Phil Alvin’s stolen guitar is rescued

For those who wish to read some of Dave’s poetry, I recommend going to your nearest library that has a copy of POETRY LOVES POETRY, my 1985 anthology that also contained work by Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Wanda Coleman, Jim Krusoe, Laurel Ann Bogen, Ron Koertge, Suzanne Lummis, and Gerald Rocklin. Rocklin was one of Alvin’s teachers at CSU Long Beach, back when he was just starting out as a poet and musician. Alvin paid homage to Rocklin at his CSU Long Beach retirement party by attending the dinner and getting up and reading some of his work at the culminating tribute.

I have attended several shows over the years by Dave Alvin. I remember in particular one performance at the Belly Up Tavern, during which Alvin performed “Shenandoah,” dedicating it to a friend who had recently died, and “who had made it over the river.” His rendition of the song would suit me just fine when the time comes for me to be remembered.

As Is (Anthropocene Eggshell…)

As Is (Anthropocene Eggshell; or The Post-Pod Detritus Blues)

Anthropocene- 1999

Bolinas Visitation: Ellen Sander’s HAWTHORNE (Finishing Line Press)

Bolinas Arrow - 1996

I have only visited Bolinas once, back in the summer of 1996; it was part of a five-day trip north that included a visit to UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. I was preparing for my time as a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute in the Fall, and wanted to take a look at the archives of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights. There was also an exhibit at the library; a fair-sized room presented, in well-secured glass cases, a representative collection of materials of Beat writers. In all of the placards explaining the Beat movement to the visitors, the only scenes mentioned were in the Bay Area and Greenwich Village. There was not a single citation of Venice West. It was typical of the period to obliterate Venice West from any account of the Beat movement during the mid-century.

When I finished my work at the library, I rode out to Bolinas with Ellen Sander, a poet who had lived there for many years. First known as the one of the first — if not the very first — significant female rock critic, Ellen Sander went on to become the poet laureate of Belfast, Maine a few years ago. Finishing Line Press published her account of her home in Bolias and its place in the artistic community: Hawthorne, A House in Bolinas.

Hawthorne, a House in Bolinas by Ellen Sander

I had first heard of Bolinas in the very early 1970s as a place where poets had taken refuge from the chaos of New York City. As the century wore on, the poetry traffic between Los Angeles and Bolinas was probably among the most unusual circulations in American literary history; the best anthology to contextualize this exchange is the one I worked on with Neeli Cherkovski, Cross-Strokes: Poetry between Los Angeles and San Francisco. No other book brings together poets who have shared the same eco-cultural domains as a matter of positive freedom. In addition to Ellen Sander, I am thinking of Joe Safdie (who moved from Los Angeles to Bolinas, and now has moved back down the coast — to San Diego), as well as Phoebe MacAdams Ozuna and Lewis MacAdams, who both eventually moved from Bolinas to Los Angeles.

Should you want a poet’s take on the Bolinas scene, you should definitely set aside time to read Kevin Opstedal’s article in Big Bridge, “Dreaming As One.”

It is an incredibly substantial and detailed account of a community of the famous (Robert Creeley, Bobbie Louise Hawkins; the Jefferson Airplane) and the obscure (Jack Boyce), all of whom made this backwater a major harbor of imagination’s counterpoints. Each of the eighteen segments has a set of photographs to give the reader some glimmer of the youthfulness of this scene.

There were other circulations north and south, too. About the same time that poets were moving to Bolinas from New York City, Stuart Z. Perkoff moved north and spent two productive years in Northern California. John Thomas, on the other hand, had moved back from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the late 1960s, though he did not then settle back in Venice, but in the Echo Park area, where he became friends with Charles Bukowski and mentored a young poet named Wanda Coleman. There is another anthology yet to be assembled, where the poets of Bolinas, who appeared in a collection entitled On the Mesa, edited by Joel Weishaus (City Lights, 1971) intermingle with those of Cross-Strokes.

Bolinas - Pink Flowers

Bolinas Mural

Ron Silliman and Rae Armantrout Reading Together – San Diego/New York

One of the benefits of attending UCSD is that the reading series there is not the usual academic menu. I remember in particular readings by Rae Armantrout, Ron Padgett, Dennis Cooper, Edwin Torres, Elizabeth Alexander, Mary Jo Bang, Michael Heller, Kit Robinson, and Barrett Watten. Paul Naylor. I recollect, read a series of poems he had been working on about flowers and gardens, which he had started in the summer of 2001. There were daily entries, and when he got to September 11, the poem was very brief.

“There will never be enough flowers.”

I remember the sense of quiet beneath some ultimate quiet slithering through the room, then twanging like that distant string in one of Chekhov’s plays.

On another occasion, in San Diego, Ron Silliman and Rae Armantrout read together, though I remember the reading having Ron as the featured poet and he invited Rae to read a piece they had collaborated on. Joseph Ross gave the introduction, and then sat down in the front row next to the poet Stephen Cope, who would go on to edit a volume of George Oppen’s writings. I’m not sure if Ron’s blog had even started at this point, and Rae was still working as an adjunct professor at UCSD. I would have the good fortune to be her T.A. for one quarter before I graduated in 2004. All three of our lives have changed considerably since the evening of that reading.

I was inspired, in part, to run these photographs in my blog because I noticed recently that Ron and Rae are reading in New York in two months.

Thursday. October 18 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Rae Armantrout and Ron Silliman
Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House
58 W 10th Street, New York, NY

If you’re in the vicinity, and you’re old enough to realize that many poets younger than you might need a little reminder in the midst of their whirligig lives, then do the right thing, and make certain they don’t neglect this chance to hear two of America’s finest poets.

Ron-Rae-Joe Ross






Call Box Sunset

August 28, 2018

I taught fiction writing at Idyllwild Arts for 20 consecutive summers (1995-2014). One evening, on the way down towards Banning and Beaumont, I pulled to the side of the road and caught the last notch of the day’s switchbacks. I used a disposable camera to take this sequence; the third shot is probably the “best” in that the bolts that attach the sign to the pole (under the “e” and above the hyphen) play off against the red dot of the sun; and of course the call box itself is visible, too. The bottom to top diagonal goes way back as a compositional element, of course, and if it seems old-fashioned, so be it. I take it as a compliment.

Call Box Sunset-1

Call Box Sunset-2

Call Box Sunset-3