Long Beach Open Studio Tour

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


For those who do drive to the Long Beach Museum of Art this coming weekend or the following one, I would check out a few of score of artist studios that will be open for a drop-in visit.

A list of all the studios and their addresses, with links to the artists’ work, can be found at the above website. This annual event launched itself this past weekend with studios in the Bixby Knolls area welcoming guests, but the studios most proximate to where I live are opening their doors this weekend, with a follow-up welcome being extended on October 27 and 28.

My spouse, Linda, will be showing her work at the Co-Op, at 1330 Gladys Avenue, Long Beach.

I would also recommend the work of Tina Burnight, Carol Roemer, Marka Burns, and Molly Schleps.

There is an extraordinary amount of painting and sculpture being produced in Long Beach. I may soon defect from poetry! “Why Should I Not Be a Painter?” might serve both as an homage and a manifesto!

Post-Script: For information on two additional artists (Cynthia K. Evans and Peter Zokosky) who are having their opening reception on Saturday, October 20. Their show runs through Dec. 21. For more information:

Get lost in the strange and beautiful paintings of these two contemporary artists on Saturday

A Major Debut and a Pair of Retrospectives at LBMA

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Long Beach Museum of Art had an official opening last evening for one of the best exhibitions of the year, featuring three artists at various stages of their careers. Substantial selections of their work will be up for view for the remainder of the year, with their shows all simultaneously closing at the end of the first week of 2019. Two of the artists, Narcisso Martinez and Jane Brucker, already had had their shows available for public viewing in the previous two weeks, but last night – as the first storm of the rainy season sneaked up on Southern California — John Sonsini’s portaits of day laborers officially opened, too, and every gallery of the museum is now filled with work that deserves your immediate attention.

The youngest artist, in particular, confronts us with a fact that Marxist theory won’t let us ignore, no matter how much we might want to pretend otherwise: “One cannot tell from the taste of the oats the conditions under which it was grown.” Working with the very materials handled and hauled by hands who have done the labor to bring us the food we eat, Martinez portrays field workers caught in the nets of harvest’s toil. It is important to emphasize that Martinez does not sentimentalize their exploitation. Regardless of whether their faces are enclosed by an improvised “hazmat” suit of baseball cap and bandana, or whether we can see them eating their midday meal, sitting on the ground at the end of a row, these individuals radiate a defiant optimism.

Some of the work on exhibit at LBMA by Martinez has been shown at other venues in recent months. Three large portraits. done in charcoal, of women, including one of his mother, have been on view at a gallery at CSULB, where Martinez received his MFA last spring, as well as at the cultural center of Mexico’s embassy across the street from MacArthur Park two months ago. Using his signature canvas material of “reclaimed produce cardboard,” Martinez’s newest piece, “Always Fresh,” is on the scale of a mural (doing a quick foot shuffle, I estimate it to be just shy of 20 feet in length; as to its height, my guess is around six feet). Its central figure is framed within an oval, as if to imprint upon the viewer’s privilege of consumption a medallion commemorating the anonymity through which the pleasures of hunger are sated. On the right side of this oval, workers have paused to eat a meal themselves, while on the left they are at work sorting the gathered harvest.

One particular detail stands out in Martinez’s use of cardboard that foregrounds the elusiveness of the economic transmission. Flattened out, the cardboard boxes retain the gaps and slots that enable the loaded boxes to be lifted and stacked for shipping, as well as to provide some aeration for the bottom layers of produce. In their literal figuration, these openings also figuratively serve as lenses to our own aporias, the blank spaces of our knowledge of the working conditions of this absolutely necessary labor.

The gap between labor, in which the dispossessed give of themselves with little remuneration, and those who come into possession of the harvest, is emphasized by the presentation of fruits and vegetables in the form of small canvases with images of various kinds of apples, as well as very small canvases (perhaps two inches by two inches) of blueberries. There is no sense that a flngerprint of any sort can be found on this produce. “Always Fresh,” in this case, is meant to ironically mimic the marketing erasure of those who make the most profit from the delivery of the food.

In this exhibition, we are fortunate to be given a chance to witness the emergence of a major new artist. At some point in the next decade, you will find Martinez’s work being exhibited alongside the work of such L.A.-based artists as Mark Bradford, whose “Pickett’s Charge” at the Hirschhorn is one of the most outstanding large-scale pieces I have seen in recent years.

Downstairs from Martinez’s single-room exhibition, another artist has several rooms of portraits of day-laborers, each still young enough to suggest that something unexpected might still occur in their lives, and old enough for the artist to detect the particular vulnerability that has already been wounded beyond any hope of ever being healed. With strident brushstrokes and a generous mesh of colors suitable for day laborers’ clothing, John Sonsini’s depictions of men isolated on an archipelago of economic and emotional dependency sustain our curiosity without ever becoming egregiously voyeuristic. However minimal the resources that these men might be able to call upon for help in getting through their lives with some measure of self-respect, the portraits deflect the uselessness of any temptation to feel sorry for them or to change the conditions of their lives without first making accommodations for the need for our lives to alter to a similar degree.

In Sonsini’s paintings, one absorbs the immediacy of their compositional duration: something has woken up and gazed out at a world previously asleep. The choice to remain in one world or the other seems to be weighing not only on the minds of those depicted, but in the extended trajectory of each enfolded blur of color grasped, then set aside for further meditation.

The retrospective of Jane Brucker’s work offers us a different meditation. She is quietly insistent on the temporality of preservation. One long table top, at least as long as Martinez’s mural contains a panoply of ordinary possessions delicately juxtaposed, as if in a procession towards some equally humble monument, some supplication with a whispered “amen.” Thread spools, chess pieces, eyeglass lenses without the temples, rosary beads, tiny cases of lipstick, forks and spoons that would only seem large if held by the hand of a two-year-old: all these things and much besides spreads out with one intent – to slow us down. Brucker’s exhibition, entitled “Fragile Thoughts,” reveals how little hold we have on that which can stir the strongest feelings in those who survive us.

Her “Memorial Project,” deservedly receives a very large room in which we are asked to ponder how what we are wearing as we visit the museum might well be turned into a work of art. Bruker has taken shirts and other clothes that form – and inform – the front part of the human body, the part where the heart and our breath is thought of in the most intimate fashion – and made that cloth that which embraces the canvas of the “painting.” There were one or two, in particular, that were palpably still extensions of the people who wore it. One sleeve of a shirt was folded in a manner that left its buttons in an open position so as to suggest a chevron. In looking at it, I could almost hear a voice recite John Keats’s poem, “This living hand,….”

All of this work is awaiting your perusal, the sooner the better. Perhaps I will see you there, for I certainly intend to visit it more than once in the coming months.

Long Beach Museum of Art
2300 E. Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90803

(562) 439-2119

Open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Stefano Strazzabosco — Translations from “Bittersweet Kaleidoscope”

October 3, 2018

Stefano Strazzabosco, an Italian poet who lives in Mexico City, wrote a letter this past week while I was out of town to let me know that five of my poems, which he has translated into Italian, has now also been published in a literary magazine, L’IMMAGINAZIONE (307 — settembre-ottobre 2018). I wish to thank Stefano for his support of my writing, and especially for taking the time to write a note about my poetry to accompany his translations.

“Queste poesie danno conto del tono insieme colloquiale e alto del suo stile, che anche lessi- calmente ama mescolare la lingua quotidiana con termini che di tanto in tanto ne spezzano la fluidità, facendola impennare. Allo stesso modo, i dati della realtà concreta e quotidiana – un ami- co malato terminale, una colazione a base di avena, un interrogatorio, un gatto, etc. – vengo- no fatti lievitare fino a assumere un valore che trascende le occasioni senza rinnegarle, anzi: cercando al loro interno quel segno che le tra- sforma in esempi di un vissuto personale che di- viene esistenziale, paradigmatico, comune. Vengono così agitate anche le grandi questioni su cui ci interroghiamo: il senso del nostro esse- re nel mondo, la malattia, la morte, la scrittura al cospetto dell’ignoto, l’amicizia, l’amore. Non si tratta, però, di trasportare questi temi su un pia- no metafisico, quanto piuttosto di trovare al loro interno la cerniera che li fa ruotare su più piani, come prismi verbali. Chiaro che in questo modo, partendo dall’osservazione, arrivando fino a San Tommaso, più di qualcosa si perde per strada, e altro vi si aggiunge. Da qui la sottile ironia che avvolge questi prismi irregolari che affascinano per la loro concretezza, ma che durano per il lo- ro contenuto impalpabile.”

Bill Mohr è poeta, critico, saggista. Insegna alla California State University e vive a Long Beach con sua moglie Linda Fry.

(nota di Stefano Strazzabosco)

Beyond Baroque Gala Tickets Now on Sale

Friday, September 21, 2018

Gala Tickets Now on Sale

Tickets to Beyond Baroque’s Gala 50th Anniversary Celebration are now on sale.


If you want to know why you should splurge for an evening out in Los Angeles — in other words, what are you getting for your money besides knowing that you are supporting a nationally recognized literary arts center — then I urge you to take a peek at the page Beyond Baroque has set up about this event:


Tickets for the table I am sponsoring — the PapaBachanalia Table — are now sold out. While there is still room at other tables, I wouldn’t wait too long to decide about attending. There will not be an encore event. I remember when Marie Ponsot read at Beyond Baroque, so many people showed up for the first show that she agreed to do a 10:00 p.m. reading, too.

The 50th Gala evening starts at 5 p.m., and will roll straight through at 10:00 p.m., at which point we will all go home and savor our luck at having been at a very special occasion.

See you there!

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 p.ml – 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.