Cahuenga Press, 1991 / Interview with Harry Northup

I have no doubt that there are poets who have an accurate list of all the significant poetry readings they’ve taken part in. I have only intermittently kept track of such occasions. In recent years, sorting through my literary archive, I’ve run across flyers that remind me of occasions that need to be added to my list. Here is an example of such a flyer from 30 years ago, back in the very early days of Cahuenga Press. The six founding members were James Cushing, Phoebe MacAdams, Harry Northup, Holly Prado, Cecilia Woloch, and me. I was still living on Hill Street in Ocean Park, so the trip to the venue was conveniently brief. If I remember correctly, Michelle T. Clinton was at that reading and told me how much she liked an image in a poem I read that ended up being published in California Quarterly, which was being edited by John Brander. Time and money kept me from remaining an active member of Cahuenga Press, and not long after this reading I dropped out. Originally, when Cahuenga Press was founded, Holly Prado had proposed that my book be its first title, but I was reluctant to agree because my most recent work (in the late 1980s) was simply not as good as the poetry I had written between 1970 and 1985. I also feared how cavalier and self-serving it would seem to the other members of the group if they put out my book and then I couldn’t continue with the project until at least all of them had one of their own books also issued by Cahuenga Press. In the end, it was a good decision to forego being the lead-off publication, since indeed my personal life became too turbulent to make being part of a poets co-operative a practical option. In 1993, my marriage broke up and I lost the apartment I had lived in for 20 years; in 1994, my father died and my mother began a quarter-century campaign of demanding and absorbing more and more of my attention; and in 1995 I lost my typesetting job. Years later, Cahuenga Press generously offered me a chance to have a large collection of my poems come out under their aegis, but I turned out to be a prickly ingrate, and the book fell through cracks of my own making. Fortunately, we all eventually reconciled, and it gives me pleasure to find flyers of other events in which I read with Harry and Holly, such as the New Alliance event at Dutton’s Bookstore a few years after the Cahuenga event at the Sculpture Gardens.

Harry Northup was recently interviewed by David Garyan about his career as an actor as well as about being a poet and literary activist. Harry’s show at the MPTF, “Creative Chaos,” has been the kind of presentation of working poets in Los Angeles that I would have expected of an institution such as Beyond Baroque during the past 18 months. Considering the resources that each has available to support such activities, Harry’s activism is worthy of the highest praise. As a poet, too, Harry scours the patterns of conscious dailiness for the reticent symbols that lurk just at the edge of transformative articulation.


Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series: Harry Northup, Actor and Poet, interviewed by David Garyan


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