Beyond Baroque (Venice) and the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s (NYC): at the Far Turn of “Lineages”

Both Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, California and the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York City are well past their 50th anniversary celebrations at this point. In fact, it won’t be long before the Poetry Project will begin thinking of ways to mark its 60th anniversary. No doubt the New Year’s Day marathon reading that is held in the sanctuary of the church will give both its audience and participants a chance to reflect on the ways that the Poetry Project reflects the local scenes that constitute “the radical margin, the flagrant underground—a true gathering of the many counter-cultural lineages” associated with the Poetry Project. (The quotation is from the promotional material of the Poetry Project.)

I watched a fair portion of this year’s reading, and I did so last year, too. I can’t say that I heard much work that had much chance of being influential outside of its own purlieu. I did attend that reading in NYC when I was living in Long Island, and I enjoyed it enough back then to make me wish that Beyond Baroque would do something similar. However, I don’t see wha would be gained by making that effort. Beyond Baroque held an end of the year fund-raiser, and Quentin Ring recently reported that Beyond Baroque exceeded its goal of $40,000 by over thirty percent.

Mr. Ring also announced that a new series of interdisciplinary presentations is starting up at Beyond Baroque: “The Haircut.” There weren’t many details given except that it will include writers whose collaborative projects include poetry, film, music, and performance. The very recent death of Doug Knott (on December 23, 2022) becomes all the more sad when one considers that he would have been someone whose work would have been part of that series. So, too, would have Linda Albertano’s, who died just a few months ago.

The “lineages” of Beyond Baroque and the Poetry Project have a fairly large overlap if one were to create a Venn diagram of cultural work. The challenge for those who are interested in non-academic poets is to stay alert to the expanding overlap between “alternative” cultural centers who share the problem of surviving without an endowment to bolster their efforts through lean times. How many people at the Poetry Project and Beyond Baroque are equally familiar with the work of Doug Knott, Linda Albertano, AND Lewis Warsh.

Warsh is one of the crucial poets in the “lineages” of post-World War II American poetry, and yet I find few poets in the L.A. area who seem familiar with his work at all. Poet, editor, publisher, teacher: his contribution was extraordinary, and he deserves to be as remembered on the West Coast as I would like to think he would be at the Poetry Project. I have my doubts, though, how often the young poets at the Poetry Project are encouraged to read Warsh.

Barbara Henning Remembers Lewis Warsh

Unlike Beyond Baroque, the Poetry Project is quite limited in when it is able to present its programming at St. Mark’s. Beyond Baroque controls its performance space and art gallery seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year. The Poetry Project, on the other hand, has limited access to the space at St. Mark’s. I remember when I moved to Long Island midway through the first decade of this century and attended the Poetry Project, I was a bit shocked to realize that they had no weekend events at that time. Mondays and Wednesday evenings! That was it!

Since then, the reading series has shifted to three days a week, though two of the days are “biweekly”: “the weekly Wednesday Night Reading Series features nationally/internationally recognized poets as well as those of local renown. The biweekly Monday Night Reading Series serves as a forum for emerging poets as well as the open-mic readings. The biweekly Friday Night Reading Series provides space for poets and artists whose work is multidisciplinary.”

The “Curatorial Statement” for the Fall, 2022 programming at the Poetry Project is a fairly interesting statement, and I would recommend it for your perusal. The emphasis on “touch” is ultimately an anti-Platonic poetics, of course, and the curatorial statement stops short of addressing how that emphasis would affect poetry ability to sustain “knowledge.” It is only a “statement,” however, and not a manifesto, and in fact the statement is far more eloquent than most such gestures, especially given that its social context is self-described as a “courageous circus and madcap effort” in its New Year’s Day reading promotion.

Beyond Baroque should continue to savor its good fortune in having a founder such as George Drury Smith, as well as a plethora of advocates and reading series curators and workshop leaders over the years such as James Krusoe, Alexandra Garrett, John Harris, Joseph Hansen, Jack Skelley, Jocelyn Fisher, Jack Grapes, Bob Flanagan, Dennis Cooper, Dennis Phillips, Benjamin Weissman, Tosh German, Fred Dewey, Richard Modiano, Quentin Ring, Laurel Ann Bogen, and Doug Knott (who served as.a Trustee and President of its Board of Trustees).

The Beyond Baroque reading series schedule for the next two months can be found at:

Poetry Reading: Nathan McClain, Angela Peñaredondo, & Marci Vogel
Friday, January 13,
8:00 PM PDT
In person at Beyond Baroque and live on Youtube

Poetry Reading: Sandra Simonds, Rodrigo Toscano, Prageeta Sharma, & Harmony Holiday
Sunday, January 15,
8:00 PM PDT
In person at Beyond Baroque and live on Youtube
An in-person poetry reading at Beyond Baroque with authors Sandra Simonds, Rodrigo Toscano, Prageeta Sharma, & Harmony Holiday

Three Years Later: Tweets From Hell by Suzanne Lummis
Friday, January 20,
8:00 PM PDT
In person at Beyond Baroque and live on Youtube
In 2020, Suzanne Lummis presented to a large, enthusiastic Beyond Baroque audience the entirety of her COLA (City of Los Angeles) project, 71 transmissions of no more than 280 characters each that she received from the future, and a famous figure confined in a realm of the afterlife. Tweets from Hell. In a renewed installment on January 20, 2023, Suzanne will be presenting a limited number of Tweets from Hell made available in the form of a 19th-century political pamphlet designed by Liz Camfiord.

L.A. Book Launch: The Forbidden Lunchbox by Richard Modiano
Saturday, January 21,
2:00 PM PDT
Beyond Baroque is honored to welcome back Executive Director Emeritus, Richard Modiano, in celebration of Forbidden Lunchbox, a new collection of poetry published by Punk Hostage Press. The author will be joined by poets Iris Berry, Michael C. Ford, S.A. Griffin, & K.R. Morrison.

Divine Blue Light: Will Alexander & Kamau Daáood in Conversation
Saturday, January 21,
7:00 PM PDT
Beyond Baroque’s poet-in-residence Will Alexander presents his new poetry collection, Divine Blue Light (For John Coltrane) Pocket Poets Series No. 63–published by City Lights. To celebrate this publication, he will be joined in conversation by another of Los Angeles’ iconic literary legends: Kamau Daáood, poet, activist, and co-founder of The World Stage Performance Gallery.

A Poetry Reading with Eloise Klein Healy & Ron Koertge
Ron Koertge is Pasadena’s current poet laureate and Eloise Klein Healy was the first poet laureate of Los Angeles (in 2012).
Friday, January 27,
8:00 PM PDT

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