Category Archives: Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center

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Beyond Baroque — Sabrina Tasaroff’s Installation at the Huntington and Hammer

I have twice visited the Hammer Museum in the past month, both times shortly after a visit to the best dentist in the world, Dr. William Chin. I owe the good fortune of having a dentist worth a 30 mile drive through Los Angeles freeway traffic to the recommendation I got in the 1980s from my dear friends, Bob and Judy Chinello. So much of life is the odd chance meeting. My recollection is that I met Bob and Judy through Sandi Tanhouser, who had known them through her own job. One day in Ocean Park she went to vote and told me when she returned from the polls that she had bumped into friends who turned out to be living just down the street. Over the years, both Bob and Judy were among the handful (along with Brooks and Lea Ann Roddan) who encouraged me when things often looked bleakest, especially in the 1990s. I suppose it’s hard not to get sentimental in one’s old age, but I remember visiting Bob and Judy when they had moved to the San Fernando Valley and going out to the front yard to rake leaves and how it was one of the happiest moments of my life.

The first time I went to the “Made in L.A. 2020 (a version)” show I expected to see the installation created by Sabrina Tarasoff, but it turned out that her work is only at the Huntington Library. There is, however, a plaque on a wall at the top of a staircase that provides information about her project. The museum was more crowded than I expected it to be and there was a line to see one of the exhibits that was long enough to make me want to get on the road back to Long Beach before afternoon traffic got too dense.

The second time I went to the Hammer was this past week. This time it was Linda who had the dental appointment, and we dropped by the apartment of our long-time friend Laurel Ann Bogen, on the way to the Hammer and picked her up, too. On my first visit it had occurred to me to return with copies of several anthologies of Los Angeles poets that could help “frame” Tarasoff’s project. Linda took photographs of Laurel and me holding up anthologies along the plaque listing the Beyond Baroque project.

I was grateful that attendance was much lower the second time so that we could enjoy Brandon D. Landers’s paintings, which I want to visit for a third time. The three of us stood in front of one of them for several minutes, noticing how the man and the woman who were portrayed in the painting were not alone. There was a third figure who had been “painted over,” but whose clothing was still faintly visible under the layer of black paint. I need to spend yet more time with this painting to be able to write a proper appreciation, but it is worth a trip to the Hammer in and of itself to see it for yourself. I usually look at work first before I read any notes put on a museum’s walls, and I had already noticed the frequent appearance of wall sockets in Landers’s paintings when I read a comment on a wall plaque that Landers made in response to a question about them. “I am the outlet,” he said, or at least that’s the way I remember his quip.

We were also impressed with the large-scale paintings of MacArthur Park by Jill Mulled as well as the recreation of Nicola L.’s sculpture that was meant to be interactive, but which we had to refrain from coming into contact with due to the lingering pandemic. Her sculpture, with its inversion of interior and exterior points of view and participatory subjectivity, would earn my vote as my favorite piece except that I think the vote would better serve a living artist, such as Landers.

I have jury duty this coming week, so I will not be able to schedule a visit to the Huntington until I have that obligation cleared off the table.

“Five Anthologies at the Hammer” — Photograph by Linda C. Fry

(Part Two)

Sometimes an anniversary happens to coincide with the cycle of one’s ordinary appointments in such a way as to give the interruption of routine an almost jovial hint of coincidence’s blessing.

This past week marked the 20th anniversary of Linda and me getting married, and I did not want the occasion to be reduced to a dinner out on that evening, so I proposed that we get away from the filthy air of Long Beach on our anniversary and we drive up to Santa Monica to enjoy some fresh air on the beach and get to hear the sound of waves. (Long Beach, contrary to its name, has only a long embankment of sand as the actual figure of its name; the breakwater in the bay forestalls any meaningful surf, and the water is disgustingly foul.) I furthermore proposed that we spend the night at the hotel we spent the single night of our honeymoon at twenty years ago. I was still a grad student back then and had to hurry back to the campus from our wedding in Thousand Oaks to resume my job as a teaching assistant as well as grading papers; so one night was all that could be spared.

We first went to Bergamot Station, where we saw a couple of galleries still very much in business. The painting that impressed me the most was Steve Galloway’s. I am familiar with his work, but want to see more of it as soon as possible. We then went to the beach, my first visit there in quite some time. Whenever I am there, it’s hard for me not to reflect on all the years I lived in Ocean Park and how frequently I would walk down near the spot where we were enjoying the mild sun and breeze.

The Embassy Hotel on Third Street in Santa Monica is now named the Playhouse, and we enjoyed our stay there very much. About a quarter century ago the Minnesota poet Jim Moore (whose book WHAT THE BIRD SEES I published in 1978) came to Los Angeles to read his poetry and he asked me to find a hotel that was not the standard cubicle. I don’t remember how I found out about this place, but he told me that it was exactly what he had fantasized. It’s been refurbished since those years, but it still retains a European ambience.

Staying overnight also had the advantage that driving to Dr. Chin’s office was a matter of a half-dozen blocks, after which we headed to the Hammer.

This is one of the photographs that Linda took of the room. This morning, the words “The Storyteller’s Chair” came to me as I thought about putting the photograph into the blog. And so it is.

(All photographs in this blog post are by Linda C. Fry, who retains the copyright and who has given permission for her photographs to be used in this blog post.)

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Books Performance Poetry Poetry Readings

More BB Gala Photographs

Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary gala event managed to be as successful as it was due to a number of facilitators, one of whom was Mike Bonin, the Los Angeles Councilperson representing the 11th district. Mr. Bonin’s assistance enabled Beyond Baroque to hold the event outdoors, at night, under a tent put up on a public parking lot adjacent to SPARC and behind the Pacific Resident Theater. In celebrating this anniversary, one thing that was not mentioned was how much Mike Bonin’s predecessor, the late Bill Rosendahl, advocated for Beyond Baroque so that it could be assured of a home at the Venice City Hall well into the future. It was due to the hard work of Fred Dewey and Bill Rosendahl that Beyond Baroque was given a 25 year lease late in the last decade.

Mike Bonin - Gala
(Mike Bonin)

In addition to Exene Cervenka and John Doe, here are some other poets and musicians who contributed to an extraordinary evening of imaginative affirmation:

Will Alexander -- BB Gala 1
(Will Alexander)

Kamau - BB Gala 1
(Kamau Daáood)

Trio - BB Gala -3
(Dwight Trible; John Densmore; Bobby Bradford)

Trio - BB - 1
(standing, left to right: Kamau Daáood, reading his poetry; Dwight Tribble; Bobby Bradford; in rear, on drums, John Densmore)

Densmore Finishing Set
(John Densmore)

Matt Watt -- BB Gala 1
(Mike Watt, center stage)

Chris D
(Chris D. and Julie Christensen)

The entire evening, of course, would have been impossible for the founder of Beyond Baroque to imagine back in the late 1960s. The organization was surviving because of his devotion as well as the volunteer labor of Alexandra Garrett, Jim Krusoe, and Lynn Shoemaker, supplemented by a steady trickle of envelopes with $5.00 donations from readers of its early publications. One of the first items of the evening was the presentation of an award to Beyond Baroque’s founder, George Drury Smith.
GDS - BB Gala
(GSD, left)

Also, in attendance, were other people who have played significant roles in the emergence of several communities of poets in Southern California. Jack Skelley, for instance, is a poet, musician, and songwriter who ran the NewComp Graphic Center in the 1980s at Beyond Baroque, and organized a memorable series of musical events, under the title Beyond Barbecue. Jack performed a song, “Fun to be Dead,” he wrote with Bob Flanagan the following weekend during a retrospective gathering of poets associated with Beyond Baroque.

I am also including some photographs of those in attendance at the tables, some of whom would take the stage to make moving acceptance speeches. If there is not a close-up photograph of Viggo Mortensen on stage, for instance, it is simply because I did not want to intrude on him. His observation in his speech that he chose to work in Los Angeles when he was “unknown” because he had a “freedom to create” that he did not find available in New York City confirmed the long-held assessment of an earlier generation of poets who gathered at Beyond Baroque.

(foreground, l-r, Linda Fry; Pedro Arujo; Paul Vangelisti; sitting and standing behind Pedro Arujo are Viggo Mortensen and Exene Cervenka)

Jack S - BB Gala 1
(Jack Skelley)

Linda Fry-Pedro-Paul
(Linda Fry; Pedro Arujo; Paul Vangelisti)

Molly B - BB Gala
(Molly Bendall, center)

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Books Music Poetry Readings

Exene Cervenka and John Doe — Four Gala Photographs

Saturday, December 15, 2018

One of the highlights of the recent 50th anniversary gala celebration of Beyond Baroque was a brief reading by Exene Cervenka and John Doe of their poetry, as well as a performance of three of their songs as a finale for the entire event. I was sitting close enough to be able to share four photographs of these very special moments.

Once again, these two artists significantly contributed to the enduring success of Beyond Baroque. In point of fact, there would never have been a 50th anniversary celebration if the band X had not stepped up and done a fundraiser for Beyond Baroque in the mid-1980s. The institution would have folded then, and now be only a distant memory. Exene and John seem very modest about their contribution, but I will not by shy about saying it: they have my deepest admiration.

For those not familiar with anthologies of Los Angeles poets, by the way, I would mention that I included both Exene Cervenka and John Doe in “POETRY LOVES POETRY”: An Anthology of Los Angeles Poets (Santa Monica: Momentum Press, 1985). This anthology also included poems by Wanda Coleman, Kate Braverman, Laurel Ann Bogen, James Krusoe, Paul Vangelisti, Martha (Lifson) Ronk, Charles Bukowski, John Thomas, Dennis Phillips, Michael Lally, Ron Koertge, Aleida Rodriguez, Suzanne Lummis, Doren Robbins, Dennis Cooper, David Trinidad, Ed Smith, Michelle T. Clinton, Bob Flanagan, Jack Skelley, Holly Prado, Harry Northup, Peter Levitt, Leland Hickman, Bob Peters, Peter Schjeldahl, Max Benavidez, Peter Schneider, Austin Straus, Murray Mednick, Dave Alvin, and many others.

Exene Reading Her Poetry

John - Exene - Poetry - 2

John and Exene - Poetry

Exene - John singing

(c) copyright Bill Mohr 2018

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Translation

The 50th Anniversary of Eshleman’s Vallejo Translations

Friday, December 14, 2018

I recently sent George Drury Smith a Christmas card in which I mentioned how the celebration of Beyond Baroque’s 50 anniversary seemed to suspend the event in mid-flight. With the gala planned for November, the entire year slowed down so that the actual coming-of-age fluttered in a variation of Zeno’s Paradox. Now that the celebration is over, the significance of being a half-century old is finally sinking in, I told George, and all of us who were part of its growth are now able to focus on the next increment without the constant drone of nostalgic trumpets.

At the same time, we should take note of other anniversaries that have been neglected: Clayton Eshleman’s translation of Cesar Vallejo’s “Poemas Humanos” appeared 50 years, and it deserved a major celebration. Perhaps there was a conference somewhere in which a group of papers devoted themselves to the importance of Eshleman’s work as a translator of Vallejo, and if that is the case, I would be happy to take note of it in this blog. Somehow, though, I don’t hear anywhere near the buzz that should exist. His book had an impact on poetry in the 1970s that is hard to imagine any contemporary volume of poetry managing to achieve.

Eshleman continued to work on his translations of Vallejo’s poetry for several decades, and perhaps the subsequent volumes have superseded the original installation and obscured its clarion vitality. Any young poet who is just beginning to read outside of American poetry written in English needs to dig up the Grove Press volume, however, and spend some time pondering how this was the book that enabled many of the late 20th century poets she or he admires to break through the syntactical predictability of post-William Carlos Williams free verse.

Let’s hear a rowdy round of deeply appreciative applause for Mr. Clayton Eshleman.

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Books

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.

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Poetry

Beyond Baroque’s Gala Bacchanal – November 10, 2018

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Tickets for the Beyond Baroque’s Gala Bacchanal on November 10 will go on sale next week! This celebration of Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary will be graced with the presence of poet Will Alexander, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Viggo Mortenson, an artist, poet and actor who has a rare understanding of Beyond Baroque’s contribution to the literary arts on the West Coast. Mortensen will receive the Alexandra Garrett Award for 2018.

Mark the date on your calendar to join us in Venice.

Boho Bach - CARD

If any reader of this blog knows individuals or a business willing to be a sponsor of this event, please do contact Quentin Ring or Richard Modiano at Beyond Baroque: (301) 822-3006.

You can also reach them at:

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291