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 Half of my reading will be poems from The Headwaters of Nirvana, and half from new, unpublished or very recently published poetry.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?”

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.

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