Bill Mohr Answers Three Questions Posed by Harry Northup

Almost mid-way through the final week of 2014, I’ve begun to consider the top ten personal surprises of the past 12 months. I certainly could not have foreseen a year ago, at this time, that Stuart Perkoff’s one-act jazz play, “Round About Midnite,” would be staged at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in October. Many people deserve profuse thanks for helping to make this happen, including Stuart Perkoff’s family as well as S.A. Griffin, who rose to the demands of an extreme emergency in helping to cast the play in the last two minutes and making the cast a viable ensemble with virtually no time to rehearse.

I also could not have foreseen that Zach Mann would have requested an article on Joseph Hansen (“Emotions Doesn’t Change Facts”) for the Los Angeles Review of Books and have been such a fine editor in the course of developing and revising this piece.

I imagine that Suzanne Lummis could not have foreseen that she would have a poem in the “New Yorker” magazine several weeks ago, which in turn allowed me to stretch my prosodic muscles in a way that I usually don’t get to in this blog. I have been gratified that this entry in my blog has probably been read by more people than any other entry.

I was also surprised that the event at the Church in Ocean Park at which I received the George Drury Smith Award proved to be such a resounding success. I want to thank again all of the people from the poetry community who turned out for this fundraiser and to offer me their congratulations. It was a pleasure to walk down Hill Street to the Church past the six-unit apartment complex I had lived in between 1973 and 1993. A few months earlier, it had been a much sadder walk, for Linda and I were attending the memorial service at the Church in Ocean Park for Wanda Coleman, who had died late in 2013. I still find myself surprised at the thought that she is gone. A much smaller, but equally fervent crowd gathered again at the Church on Thanksgiving weekend of 2014 to celebrate her poetry once more.

On a very personal level, my dear companion Cordelia died on October 28. I still miss her terribly. The sorrow I feel has truly surprised me, even though I anticipated the severity of her loss.

Finally, old friends continued to surprise me with the abundance of their respect and affection for my writing. Most recently, Harry Northup has posted my responses to three questions he posed to me several weeks ago. If you go to the link at the end of this brief posting, you will also probably find Michael C. Ford’s responses to the same three question. It’s an honor to share a featured spot with M.C. Ford on Harry Northup’s blog.

For those who don’t know Harry Northup as a poet or actor, I would recommend a Jonathan Demme or Martin Scorsese film festival on your home screening facility. Northup had a fine career as a character actor in both of these directors’ films. In the early 1980s, I published his three-volume-in-one book, Enough the Great Running Chapel. In the years since, he has been a driving force behind Cahuenga Press.

In the past half-dozen years, Northup’s poems have begun radiating an inner luminosity that can only be found in truly great poetry. That he achieves this variegated sheen without any self-indulgent rhetorical flourishes is rare indeed. It can only be attributed to a level of integrity as a poet that he shares with many of my other favorite Los Angeles poets. This is not to say that poets in other cities don’t possess an equal amount of resourceful stability when it comes to dealing with rejection by those who have a firm grip on the canonical. Nevertheless, Northup and his poet-spouse, Holly Prado, exemplify the willingness to accept the burden of being marginalized by our culture’s illiteracy with amazing cheerfulness. My thanks to both of them for many years of inspiration.

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