Beth Ruscio and the Repertory of LA Poets

Saturday, January 11, 2020

I first saw Beth Ruscio act at the Padua Hills Theater Festival back in the early 1980s, when she performed in one of Leon Martell’s plays, Hoss Drawin’. Thirty years later, I was even more impressed by the poems she read during one of the early evening presentations at the Idyllwild Poetry Festival. Her maturation as a poet not only reflects a significant personal accretion, but perhaps marks the tipping point for a future anthology of Los Angeles-based poets. Just as it would be a fairly easy task to assemble an anthology of poets in New York City whose lives and writing are embedded in the visual arts world, an anthology of actress/actor-poets in Los Angeles would probably be the only one of its kind. Perhaps such an anthology should only — at least in the first decade of its iterations — be published in an on-line version, allowing the poets to change the work that represents them. In a sense, each poet would be allowed the pleasure of a personal repertory. Perhaps, in fact, an emphasis on selecting poems in varied combinations — the same way that an established theater company blends past favorites with premieres — would be one pragmatic way of continuing to deconstruct the inclination of canon formation to perpetuate itself with as little dialectical conflict as possible. As a poetics of anthology construction, a repertory derived from “plasticity” — a force-field that seems second-nature to this cluster of Southern California poets as a direct effect of their theatrical training — might also enable poets elsewhere to reimagine the palpitating imperative of a poem’s enveloped habitat.

In the meantime, Alexis Rhone Fancher has chosen three of Beth Ruscio’s poems to feature in the most recent issue of Cultural Weekly.

Beth Ruscio: Three Poems

Note on the Featured Poet: Beth Ruscio is the current winner of the Brick Road Poetry Prize, and her collection SPEAKING PARTS will be published in Spring, 2020. Her poetry has been Pushcart Prize nominated and won finalist honors for several prizes and awards, including The Wilder Prize, The Sunken Garden Prize, The Tupelo Quarterly Prize, The Ruth Stone Poetry Award, and The Two Sylvias Prize. Beth is also an accomplished award winning actress, and a mentor at Otis College of Art and Design.

POST-SCRIPT: That Beth Ruscio would have gravitated to the Padual Hills Theater Festival is not surprising, given that its founder, Murray Mednick, is both a poet and playwright. In fact, Mednick’s poetry was included in my anthology POETRY LOVES POETRY (1985) along with other L.A. poets who had theater as part of their artistic practice, including Laurel Ann Bogen; Suzanne Lummis; Lee Hickman; and Michael Lally.