Initial Gala Report and Tour Info

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I have a fair amount of driving time ahead of me the next three days, and will post a report on the “tour” when I get back. In the meantime, I want to send out a vigorous “thank you” to everyone who attended or supported the Beyond Baroque Gala Celebration this past Saturday. It was an extraordinary gathering: Will Alexander, Kamau Daaood, John Densmore, Viggo Mortensen, Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Julie Christianson, and Chris D. I also want to thank the artists who donated work for the silent auction. The first standing ovation, though, went to George Drury Smith, who founded Beyond Baroque in 1968. As a fundraiser, the event was the most successful ever held in Beyond Baroque’s history. While the legendary concert in the mid-1980s by the band X that raised over $10,000 will never lose its luster because the fundraiser saved the organization from folding, this event will also be savored because it was not done out of fear and desperation, but rather as a testament to the ongoing maturation of a cultural institution. I am not at this point free to reveal the amount of money raised, but I assure everyone that the Board of Trustees is almost giddy as it looks forward to its next meeting. I hope to post some photographs of the event in the near future.

I made a breakthrough yesterday in how to handle some of the documentary materials for a sequence of poems I am working on, “The Winnowing of ’47,” and hope to have a solid draft of the project finished by the end of my sabbatical. I do wish to thank CSU Long Beach for this one semester sabbatical, which has also enabled me to imagine what it would be like to be “retired,” and able to devote myself entire to my artistic projects.

This past Tuesday, KCET broadcast its show on Venice as part of the “Lost Los Angeles” series, and considering how little time and money the producers had to assemble this documentary, I thought they did a superb job. The inclusion of the long tracking shot that is supposedly at the U.S.-Mexican border (but uses Venice as its set) was a lovely touch; the multitude of factors that made Venice an intriguing cynosure for the Beat poets in mid-century included the presence of an African-American neighborhood within its purview. Other factors affecting the use to which “the slum by the sea” was put to use included the impact of oil production on Venice. I wish some of the photographs of the artists had been identified: Charley Newman, Stuart Perkoff, Wallace Berman. Many viewers will never have heard of these names before. I also wish that a cover of the paperback edition of The Holy Barbarians and Donald Allen’s New American Poetry could have been shown, since those books were important vehicles for making Venice West more visible.

Well, I must get ready for my brief tour. As if the case whenever I head out, I feel nervous about the traffic. With luck, I will write you again in a few days.

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
1436 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Bill Mohr with Beth Rusico and Leon Martell)
Friday, November 16, 2018 – 8:30 p.m.

BEYOND BAROQUE
Southern California Poetry Festival
Saturday, November 17, 2018
4:30-6:30pm – ReVerse: Beyond Baroque in Retrospect
A reading and discussion focused on the poems and poets shaped by Beyond Baroque over 50 years. Bill Mohr, Laurel Ann Bogen, Pam Ward, Dennis Phillips, Suzanne Lummis, and S.A. Griffin share memories of Beyond Baroque and read poems by Wanda Coleman, Dennis Cooper, Michelle Serros, David Trinidad, Bob Flanagan, Michelle T. Clinton, Akilah Oliver, Paul Vangelisti, and many more.

Venice West Spotlighted on KCET’s “Lost Los Angeles”

Sunday, November 11, 2018

KCET has been producing and broadcasting a series of shows on “Lost Los Angeles,” the third season of which will feature programs on Yosemite and the deserts to the east of the County of Los Angeles. Several weeks ago, I was interviewed for two hours about Venice West by the producer of an upcoming show on Venice that will also examine Venice’s origins as the real estate fantasy of Abbot Kinney at the beginning of the last century, and how real estate has become the only game in its vicinity in this decade.

I have no idea how much of the footage KCET will use from the interviews it did at Beyond Baroque with Richard Modiano, George Drury Smith, and me, but I am certain the program will be worth viewing. Here are the broadcast times:

Tuesday, November 13, 8:30 PM PT
Wednesday, November 14, 1:30 AM PT
Wednesday, November 14, 11:30 AM PT
Thursday, November 15, 5:30 AM
Thursday, November 15, 12:30 PM
Saturday, November 17, 2:30 PM

KCETLINK
Saturday, November 17, 6:30 PM

Beyond Baroque Gala Celebration Schedule – TONIGHT!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Due to the extraordinarily devastating fires in both Northern and Southern California, as well as the recent massacre at the Borderline Grill, this will be a more somber event than I anticipated a mere week ago. Nevertheless, the affirmation of our community of writers is taking place as scheduled.

Beyond Baroque
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

Beyond Gala: Bohemian Bacchanal Schedule

5:00 – Doors Open

5:30-6:30 Beyond Art Auction in the Theatre, Reception in Poet’s Courtyard

5:30 – Performers Arrive

6:00 Emcee Hosts, Fernando Pullum Community Arts CenterBand arrive

6:45 Procession to Beyond Gala: Bohemian Bacchanal Tent led by Fernando Pullum Community Arts Band

(Silent Auction and Raffle in tent is open)

7:00 Welcome with poets (hosts) Brendan Constantine and Puma Perl

Councilman Mike Bonin

7:15 Dinner
Dinner music by Lisa Finnie, Host of the Dylan Hour, 88.5 (Puma)
(Dinner is buffet, two bars, fine wines, and a coffee cart)

7:45 Award Presentation

George Drury Smith, Beyond Baroque Founder, introduced by William Mohr

Viggo Mortensen, Alexandra Garrett For Service, introduced by S.A. Griffin

Will Alexander, Lifetime Achievement in Poetry, introduced by Kamau Daood

8:00 Performances

Froglab with Mike Watt, Joe Baiza and Brian Christopherson – guitar, electric bass, drums

John Doe & Exene Cervenaka – Read

Bobby Bradford (trumpet) and Lester McFarland (Bass)
Dwight Trible (with Bobby, Lester backing)

All Sing Happy Birthday to Beyond Baroque and George Drury Smith with Cake

Eliza Duran, Carlos Segovia Scholarship Winner in partnership with Get Lit – poet

Chris Desjardins and Julie Christensen,
with Divine Horsemen guitarist Peter Andrus

John Densmore – reading with handeld drum

John Doe and Exene Cervenka – music, close the show

Beyond Baroque’s Gala Celebration Week

Friday, November 9, 2018

Around a dozen years ago, I told the artistic director of Beyond Baroque that the institution needed to do something to celebrate its upcoming 40th anniversary. I had returned to Los Angeles County in 2006 to take up my teaching post at CSU Long Beach, and was happy that Beyond Baroque was still managing to survive. In the five year stretch between 2003 and 2008, for instance, there would have been little point to anniversary party. The place was barely keeping its doors open. Twice during that period I arrived at 681 Venice Blvd. on the last day a grant application was due, and worked until midnight to help Fred Dewey get the grant to the post office in time. Twice, we arrived at the post office to get in line for the postmark with less than ten minutes to spare. I was hardly the only one that had to endure demands from its artistic director for assistance made necessary by his improvised planning, but I remember the second time as being especially exasperating. I had told him the first time, “Don’t ever do this to me again.” And of course, he did. Needless to say, there was no special observance of Beyond Baroque’s 40th anniversary, but the place did manage to hobble along until Richard Modiano took over in this decade, and things began to improve; Beyond Baroque is now poised to take a much deserved bow as one of the most deserving cultural resources of Los Angeles.

On Saturday, November 10th, there will be a sold-out gala celebration of Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary. Its founder, George Drury Smith, will be honored along with Viggo Mortensen, and John Doe and Exene Cervenka (who met at Beyond Baroque’s workshop) will perform together. In addition to the banquet on Saturday to be held in an outdoor tent in the parking lot beside the SPARC building, other events and honors include:

Thursday, November 8, 2018 – 7:30 at Beyond Baroque – “Beyond Mr. Smith”
The premiere screening of Peter Fitzgerald Adams’ documentary about George Drury Smith. It also includes a discussion of Beyond Baroque’s early days moderated by Richard, and featuring George, Exene Cervenka and Jim Krusoe.

Friday, November 16 – Beyond Baroque Proclamation Day at Los Angeles City Hall.

An official proclamation honoring Beyond Baroque will be made at the Los Angeles City Hall on Friday, November 16. The proclamation will be made at 11 am.

November 16,17, 18 – Southern California Poetry Festival

Nov.16 – 8 pm – Anne Waldman & Will Alexander
Anne and Will will read together in celebration of his lifetime achievement award. They’ll be joined by Janice Lee and Justin Desmangles.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2426449977582707/

Nov.17 – 4:30 pm – Beyond Baroque in Retrospect.
Bill Mohr and Laurel Ann Bogen will be joined by Amy Gerstler, Dennis Phillips, Suzanne Lummis, and S.A. Griffin. They’ll discuss they’ll read from the work of some of the key poets – including their own – to make Beyond Baroque their home over the years. It will be followed by a potluck.

https://www.facebook.com/events/193570338204455/

Nov. 17 – 8 pm – Kimiko Hahn, Morgan Parker, and Vanessa Viillareal
The second edition of the New Series. Three poets read work that Beyond Barqoue commissioned specially for the festival.

https://www.facebook.com/events/287707972074254/

American Massacres: From Pittsburgh to Thousand Oaks

Thursday night, November 8, 2018

It’s been a week since I’ve posted on my blog, and some things have changed, and others keep somersaulting in the same predictable arc.

Linda and I drove up to Santa Paula this past weekend to attend the wedding of her niece, Sarah, and her beloved, Margaret. The event was held in a large, open space adjacent to the cottages in which the vineyard’s workers live. Well over 100 people from both sides of the couple’s families attended, ranging from Linda’s nephews (Mason and Luca) to the son-in-law of Linda’s sister, Karen (who is Sarah’s mother. In the late evening, we drove back towards Thousand Oaks and stayed at a motel on Thousand Oaks Blvd. The next morning we visited Linda’s sister, Sharon, and her mother, Noreen, who live in a house that is also occupied by a young student from France named Margot. We chatted briefly before the student left for her Sunday morning jaunt.

The traffic on the way home was heavy, and we were quite tired when we arrived back in Long Beach. In addition to dealing with wet bedding from Rupert’s decision to urinate on our bed to express his displeasure at our absence, we also had to address the fact that we had been rear-ended on the way to the wedding, and it turned out that the other party had a “coverage problem,” according to the person at the second company who called us in response to our inquiries.

This morning, I woke up early to learn that a massacre had taken place at a bar that was less than 1000 yards from the motel where Linda and I had slept on Saturday night. When I called Sharon around 7:30, it turned out that she had been awake for five hours. At 2:30 a.m., Margot had knocked on the front door and rung the door bell until the noise roused Sharon from her sleep. Margot had gone dancing at the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks and had been in the bar when the shooting began. She had gone there before she was heading back to France to celebrate the holidays with her family on Friday, and her friends had wanted to see her before she left. In escaping from the bar, she left behind her purse with her keys and cell phone, and was unable to make her way back to her residence until 2:30 a.m.

President Trump wrote in a tweet that he had been “fully briefed” about the massacre, and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in honor of the victims. “God bless all of the victims and families of the victims.” That is the sum total of his public leadership in response to the latest massacre, which follows all too closely on the devastating murders at a Pittsburgh synagogue by an anti-semitic follower of President Trump who seems to have felt empowered by the innuendoes of Trump’s rhetoric. The tepid, boilerplate response of the Commander-in-Chief is hardly of a caliber that will persuade the mentally ill in our society to refrain from acting out their pathological scenarios of revenge. “God bless all of the victims….” What the living hell is that supposed to mean, Mr. President? What does trotting out words that you don’t actually believe in accomplish for any victim? To start with, put a number on “all” in that statement. My guess is that you don’t have a clue.

Linda and I have spent a considerable amount of time in Thousand Oaks during the past two decades. In fact, we were married in Sharon’s backyard on May 19, 2001. Somehow, the airplanes that flew into the twin towers in NYC a few months later seem to have obliterated more than just an architectural landmark. The still billowing dust has corroded the capacity of this country to breathe the truth without choking on it.

The haze seems unlikely to grow less hazardous.

I mentioned at the start that some things have “changed.” The Democrats may have retaken control of the House of Representatives, but that political shift is just a twitch. Yes, there are 100 women in the House of Representatives. Yes, one of them is the first lesbian Native American. Yes, the state of Maine has its first woman governor. Ask those who died at the Borderline Bar how much difference these “changes” will make in forestalling the spread of this epidemic of violence. They know all too well the extent of our indifference to their fate.

Part Two: The Massacre at a Pittsburgh Synagogue

Sunday, October 28, 2018

In the past week, several packages containing potentially explosive materials were mailed to prominent political figures, all of whom were associated with the Democratic political party. On Saturday, a gunman entered a synagogue and murdered eleven Jews.

It is Sunday morning, 9:52 a.m., in Long Beach, CA. I look outside a side window of the house my wife and I rent. It is still slightly damp and chilly outside, and there is little traffic. It seems like an “ordinary” Sunday in my neighborhood, and I suppose that many of my fellow citizens will find a way in the coming weeks and months to absorb the news of this massacre in Pittsburg and somehow relegate it to the status of an “aberration” in the American social fabric. I’m afraid it is inherently part of this country’s social DNA; if this is a democracy, its normality can only be described as “differently abled.”

I think back to various points during the presidential campaign of 2016, and how Trump as a candidate cultivated those who promoted violence against those with whom one disagrees. For instance, “Mr. Trump praised his New Hampshire state co-chairman, State Representative Al Baldasaro, who said recently that Mrs. Clinton deserved to face a firing squad over the F.B.I.’s investigation of her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.” This is not fake news, just as Trump’s suggestion that those who support the Second Amendment should take matters into their own hands, should Hilary Clinton be elected. The failure of the Secret Service to release a transcript of its interrogation of Mr. Trump on suspicion of threatening the life of a presidential candidate is a dismal reflection of how little power citizens have in moderating civic life and discourse. We had a right to such a transcript. Where were the Russian hackers when we needed them?

Trump cannot disclaim responsibility for generating a virulent pathology of antagonistic moods, although he began to do so before the yellow tape around the synagogue had been taken down. He blamed the incident on the victims themselves, in claiming that they should have had an armed guard at their place of worship. Among a multitude of other things Trump misses, he fails to note that it is his manipulation of ideological fanaticism that has fanned the embers of anti-semitic hostility and permitted their volatility to incandesce.

“Climate change” will have to find a way to become plural in its encompassing of the political ecology, if we are to have any hope of tampering down this conflagration of hideous animus.

Rupert Bellies Up to the Bar

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

For reasons probably related to Rupert’s long residency in alleys, before he took up hanging around our house, Rupert prefers to drink out of outdoor water station such as garden watering canisters. Now afflicted with kidney disease, he often scratches at the door to be let out for a drink.

He is such a handsome cat. I will miss him very much when he eventually succumbs to his disease. Not as much as I miss Cordelia, but I will miss him. In the meantime, I treasure his presence.

Rupert Drinking One

Rupert Drinking Two

Rupert Drinking Three

Rupert Oval

The ALOUD Debacle at the LA Public Library

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Transparency Not Allowed: The Prerogatives of Power and the Los Angeles Public Library

Personnel decisions are notoriously opaque, and the “rules of engagement” mandate systematic closure to the process of hiring and firing. I have served on search committees at CSULB, for instance, and am not permitted to speak about that experience, even in utmost private confidence, let alone in a public forum. Given this systematic social practice, I doubt that anyone connected with Mr. Ken Brecher at the Library Foundation is going to break ranks and maker herself or himself a pariah open to legal action by disclosing details about the decision to fire the founders of the Aloud program at the DTLA Public Library.

No doubt the individuals at the Library Foundation in Los Angeles are wishing that a thousand prominent writers, artists, and cultural workers would treat the decision to fire Louise Steinman and Maureen Moore from the ALOUD series of public events at the DTLA Public Library as an occasion similar to the ones in which the announcement is posted: “The family requests privacy at this moment.” The protest of the Library Foundation’s insular administration, however, has only become more adamant, especially after the hiring of Jessica Strand to be Director of Public Programming less than two months after Steinman and Moore were inexplicably discharged. It’s hard to believe that an adequate job search was conducted in such a short time.

Thanks to Terry Wolverton and Phoebe Ozuna, I have received a summary of the events and the public actions taken by people in the literary community for whom I have the utmost respect. Many of these people have labored for decades to nurture a literary environment in Los Angeles, and some have done so with great personal sacrifice. I am unaware of any similar effort made by Mr. Ken Brecher. I appreciate the immediate permission granted at the end of their document to disseminate this information and hope that others will join me in signing their petition and urging others to join them.

bit.ly/aloudpetition

Dear Friends and Supporters of ALOUD,

We wanted to update you on events in the wake of the August 27, 2018 firings of Louise Steinman and Maureen Moore from the ALOUD series by the Library Foundation. Thank you again for your involvement in signing the petition. Many of you have also taken the time to write individually to the Foundation and to rescind your membership in the Library Associates; we appreciate your efforts.

Thursday, September 12
The Petition in Support of ALOUD is delivered to Gwen Miller, the Chair of the Library Foundation Board, and to the Mayor’s office. At the time it contained over 800 signatures of writers, readers and other members of the literary community. The number of signers is now up to 994. To date, the Library Foundation has never acknowledged the Petition. Neither has the Mayor’s Office, any of the 15 City Councilmembers, or the City Librarian.

Thursday, September 12-Monday September 16
The Los Angeles Times,Los Angeles Downtown Newsand Madeline Brand’s “Press Play” on KCRW all report on the Petition protest.

Tuesday, September 17
Protests greet the opening event on ALOUD’s fall season. Armed guards escort protestors from the building. This was documented on Facebook by Adolfo Guzman-Lopez and others. Following that event, guards are present at each event, events are no longer live-streamed, and the audience is no longer permitted to ask live questions.

Thursday, October 4
Rigoberto Gonzalez publishes “What is Happening at ALOUD?” in The Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-jc-aloud-gonzalez-20181004-story.html
He describes the bizarre experience of conducting a conversation with author Tommy Orange during the second ALOUD event of the fall season. Neither he nor Orange were given an advance notice of the personnel changes at the Library Foundation. He particularly notes his disturbance at the visible presence of armed guards.

Thursday, October 11
The Library Foundation issues a statement on public programming
https://mailchi.mp/1022cc43e7e8/reservation-reminder-lost-found-at-the-movies-on-485225?e=976003b067&fbclid=IwAR3lRwhHTe4h1vntvakmTgLM82Myo8p9Y66nDZHBCQLpBxrLRjzk3nHx_iU
The statement does not address the firings or the petition, and does not respond to the petition signers’ requests for transparency or a voice in its future literary programming.

Tuesday, October 16
Adam Leipzig publishes an investigative piece, “What Happened at ALOUD?” in Cultural Weekly.He attempts to get to the bottom of many unanswered questions, but the Foundation remains impenetrable. https://www.culturalweekly.com/what-happened-at-aloud/

Tuesday, October 16
Protestors stage another action, outside the library, before an ALOUD event. They point out issues of gender and age discrimination in the firings of Steinman and Moore.

Wednesday, October 17
The Library Foundation announces the hiring of Jessica Strand, as new Director of Public Programs. Ms. Strand has spent the past decade in New York. https://www.culturalweekly.com/library-foundation-appoints-jessica-strand-director-public-programs/

Wednesday, October 17
Author and academic Rubén Martínez publishes an Open Letter to Foundation President Ken Brecher, calling upon him to resign for mismanagement of this matter. Initially posted on Facebook, his letter was published the following day on the blog of the Los Angeles Review of Bookshttps://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/essays/open-letter-ken-brecher-president-library-foundation-los-angeles/

Thursday, October 18
Daniel Hernandez, writing for LA Taco, decries the plan to hire an out-of-towner to curate programming at the library. https://www.lataco.com/drama-at-the-library-prominent-l-a-writers-slam-foundation-for-hiring-new-director-from-new-york/?fbclid=IwAR2S-kbcgEKuJO1bsH8eAD76Yp9kdLVu4lp4QGIMz6HYe-X6hPERYfCa8ks

Thursday, October 25
Founder of Community Arts Resources (CARS) and CicLAVia, Aaron Paley publishes an Op-Ed, “Speaking Up for ALOUD at the Central Library” in The Los Angeles Times.http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-paley-aloud-library-20181025-story.html?fbclid=IwAR3BJkxpofiCiwM1Wo4rBc0iELHM1gD23AsqnJu_EigfQsIkPoEyN9a4g8s

The Library Foundation, a private nonprofit entity with a mission of providing financial support to the Los Angeles Public Library, demonstrates through its actions and silences that it feels no accountability to the public or to the Los Angeles literary community. This ad hoc committee is continuing to explore ways to call the Foundation to account, and your continued assistance with this is much appreciated. There is a Foundation Board meeting on November 1, the first since the firings. If anyone has contacts with Board members or with the Foundation’s funders, we would love to know that.

Other things you can do:

• Keep sending out the petition link and urging people to share it. It is bit.ly/aloudpetition .
• Feel free to share this email since it is one-stop source of info about what’s happened.
• Write a short letter to the editor at The Los Angeles Timesor comment online in response to Aaron Paley’s Op-Ed.
• Use the hatchtag #WeAreAloud.

Sincerely,

David Ulin and Hector Tobar, spokespersons
Donna Frazier, Lynell George, Reed Johnson, Terry Wolverton
Ad Hoc Committee in Support of ALOUD

On Painting, Poetry, and My Old Age (Part Two)

About two dozen people showed up at Beyond Baroque on Saturday night to hear Paul Lieber and me read from our books. Chuck Rosenthal led off the evening with a section from a chapter of his novel-in-progress about Trotsky’s murder. He said that this novel was going to be his only work done in the manner of “realism.” As such, the scene he conjured up of duck hunting was exquisitely rendered. Paul Lieber followed with a set of ten poems from his poignant new collection, Interrupted by the Sea; and Karen Kevorkian read from a work-in-progress that exquisitely explored the oscillations of our diverging desires for happiness and pleasure. The air conditioning wasn’t on, and the room had gotten stuffy, so as the evening’s final reader I imposed a brief break on the proceedings to open up the doors and let the audience stretch its legs; then I read eight poems, and talked a bit about my work-in-progress, “The Winnowing of ’47.” When I mentioned that it would probably be my last sustained work as a poet, I could feel a slight stir of surprise in the room, and I suppose I should have clarified the remark. I will certainly not stop writing poetry, but I will be giving renewed attention to my scholarship. If I am given enough longevity, I have at least ten articles on poets that got started as conference papers and need substantial revision. I wish to thank Nancy Grace for her recent support and guidance as I worked on I have, for instance, in the very final stages of an article on the Venice West poetry for a MLA volume on “Teaching the Beat,” edited by Nancy Grace.

As for the work-in-progress, I had hoped to read “Groundprints,” a new piece that I had just finished the day before, but the the length of the evening’s reading precluded a longer piece.

As for finding an outlet for my imaginative energy, here is some very preliminary work. I read a comment by an artist a few years ago that one spends the first decade of one’s career “just pushing the paint around the canvas to see what it can do.” That I will not have a career is fine with me. I would not ever describe my life as a poet as possessing the traits of a career, so this seems like a good way to assure that the poetry I have written will not career into late acclaim. (“Career” once was a widely used variant for “careen,” but that usage started fading around 1920.)

When Fate Has No Mercy

(“When Fate Has No Mercy”)

Mercy (two)

(“The Quiet Retribution”)

On Painting, Poetry, and My Old Age (Part One)

Korean - I love you

Hye Sook Park returned from South Korea last week, and Linda and I were able to show the studio space we are going to sublet in San Pedro at The Loft. Someone had told us that the building was not earthquake reinforced, but unless the square blocks spaced several feet apart that gird each side of the building have been glued there for ornamental purposes only, it looks as if it will hold up enough in all but the worst smack-downs. So much of a building’s survival depends on the ground on which it is built that it is a bit of a crap shoot, no matter how much reinforcement you instill in a structure. Back in the mid-1990s, the major earthquake on MLK, Jr., holiday wiped out several buildings in the prosperous neighborhood of northern Santa Monica, whereas the much more working people environs of Ocean Park fared very well. It was mainly the firmer ground of Ocean Park that made the difference.

We went out for lunch together and talked about painting and the commitment it involves. Hye Sook said that my paintings might surprise me in their ability to attract an audience. Perhaps if I had chosen visual art rather than language as a primary means of imaginative work back when I was 20 years old, I might have a larger audience than I do now, but I doubt it. When one starts out poor, ugly, and not particularly gifted in terms of intellect, one should consider oneself lucky to have gotten as far as I have. (Recently, someone commented on social media on my physical appearance, “Not so pretty.” Things have changed much since I was elected “Ugliest Man on Campus” back in Fall, 1964.) It’s highly unlikely that painting would have had a different outcome than poetry. In my case, just as it seems I ended up writing poetry so that I could enjoy the full perplexities of reading it, I would guess that my attempts at painting will primarily end up expanding my capacity to read paintings by those who have devoted their entire lives to that art.

Towards the end of the meal, Hye Sook showed Linda and me a hand gesture that has become popular in Korea, and she says that it has caught on among the fans of a major Korean pop band. When I took out my cell-phone to take a picture of my hand making that gesture, our waitress came by to pick up our empty bowls and plates. She saw me taking a “selfie” of my hand. “I wish I had my flip phone back,” she said.

I wish we had print culture back.

Beyond Baroque — Mohr and Lieber — 10/27/18

Friday, October 26, 2018

I will be reading tomorrow night (Saturday, October 27) at Beyond Baroque at 8 p.m., with Paul Lieber. Half of my reading will be poems from The Headwaters of Nirvana, and half from new, unpublished or very recently published poetry.

The poet I am sharing the bill with represents a growing subset in Los Angeles-based poetry: the actor-poet. Back in the mid-1970s, the only two such hybrids I knew were Harry Northup and Jack Grapes. In his best-known book of poems from the period, Grapes specifically played to blend of artistic practice by titling the collection, Breaking on Camera. Grapes went on to write and star in a play, “Circle of Will,” which was one of the best plays I ever saw in Los Angeles. Other poets also acted: Suzanne Lummis, for instance, performed with subtle flair back in a couple of plays at a small theater in Hollywood, and she has used her thespian talents as part of a poetry performing troupe, Nearly Fatal Women, which also features Laurel Ann Bogen and Linda Albertano.

Michael Lally moved here in the late 19870s, and accentuated his desire to be known as a serious poet who was also working in the industry with a handsome volume featuring him on the cover in a hipster pose. Hollywood Magic‘s choice of costume for his cover portrait, a leather jacket that seemed to italicize Lally’s cheekbones, was a retro gesture at a time that the punk music scene in Los Angeles was beginning to emerge from the underground of Slash magazine.

The poet-musician-songwriter has an equal presence in Southern California, too: John Doe, Exene Cervenka and Dave Alvin were all featured in my anthology, “Poetry Loves Poetry” (1985). Both John and Exene are going to be featured performers at Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary celebration on November 10th, along with another actor who is also a visual artist and poet himself, Viggo Mortensen.

Lieber has a considerable number of industry credits; in fact, his Wikipedia entry concentrates on that aspect of his career. His presence as a poet at Skylight, though, was not any more dramatic than it needed to be. He gave his poems the alertness they deserved, without any unnecessary oscillation. I look forward to hearing them again on Saturday, and hope you can join us.

If you want to hear Paul in conversation with some other poets, then go to his website, which will give you access to some of the shows he has done on his KPFK program, “Why Poetry?”

http://paullieber.com/html/radio.htm

Post-Script: I recently had the pleasure of working with Paul Vangelisti on a production of a twenty-minute monologue I wrote, “The Aging Comedian as Letter N.” Paul is a poet-translator-editor-publisher who also was a producer of radio drama, “Theater of the Ear,” for ten years at KPFK. He has a new broadcast medium now, Radio Magra, and he asked me to consider whether I wanted to perform the monologue or if we should try to find a professional actor. As we refined the piece through several rehearsals, Paul decided that I was doing a decent enough job that we would stick with my performance. We only did one take, and I look forward to hearing how it sounds on the airwaves.