Category Archives: Books

Books

L.A. Times Obituary for Fred Dewey

Thursday, June 10, 2021

I just finished reading the obituary in the Los Angeles Times for Fred Dewey; and I was struck by how the institution that he worked for so long on behalf of was a living presence in the article. It was the rare kind of obituary that revealed as much about the loved one as the lover, for Dewey and Beyond Baroque were culturally “married” to each other; by artistic standards, in fact, in which a half-decade can appear to demarcate generational shifts in schools and movements, Dewey’s long tenure at Beyond Baroque was more enduring than anyone could have anticipated when he took over the organization at one of its weakest junctures.

The obituary is for the immediate public record. Still to come will be the memorial, an event that will be worth recording for the ways it will give depth to this first summation of a most unusual person.

https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2021-06-09/fred-dewey-former-executive-director-of-venices-beyond-baroque-dies-at-63

Books

“THE SPIGOT”: The Jade Plant’s Zodiac Sign (The Lizard)

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The drought is back in full force, as I feared it would be, but the plants in my yard are nevertheless thirsty. Unfortunately, the City of Long Beach will only pay to convert the yards of home owners (but no renters) to drought-friendly vegetation.

I was giving some water to one of the milkweed plants beside our house the other day and noticed a stationary lizard at the top of the jade plant. I tugged the hose so that the water could flow around the three-foot high avocado tree that is growing where the Indian Plum tree used to be, took the pictures below, and hurried to the spigot. By the time I got the water shut off and back to the jade plant, the lizard was gone.

“What’s your sign?” was a common, casual inquiry several decades ago. I have no predictions to offer, other than this might be the final conjunction of animal and plant with my own dailiness that I will ever record, or at least the last one until I manage to learn from meditation what my next poem needs to prepare me for.

THE SPIGOT

Books

San Pedro — Soundscapes 2021

For people who live outside of Southern California, the only way to fully comprehend the spindly quality. of City of Los Angeles’s cartography of coast-line appropriations is to focus on Venice and San Pedro. Did the City of Los Angeles want a beach within its political control? Annex Venice. Did the City of Los Angeles want a port? Annex San Pedro. It’s more complicated than that, of course, but for San Pedro the result has been a peculiar isolation. There are only two ways into San Pedro: the appropriately named Harbor Freeway. (the 710), or going through Long Beach and over the Vincent Thomas Bridge, which is the route I use.

The corner-pocket isolation has led to various local music scenes over the years. The best book I know that documents the punk music scene in San Pedro is “A WAILING OF A TOWN: An Oral History of Early San Pedro Punk and More 1977-1985” by Craig Ibarra. On the back cover, Gary Jacobelly is quoted in a mini-manifesto of a defiant paragraph: “There’s no legend to punk rock, we were all just doing it. … Pedro punk was practical punk. It wasn’t ‘legendary’ punk. We worked and paid our bills. …. We made noise, had fun, tried to live loud, but we kept our jobs. Pedro punk was workingman’s noise.”

In the years since, San Pedro has become known for an annual event of experimental sound. For those who couldn’t attend this past weekend’s performances and presentations, here are the links to the past and the present. “Underground” art continues to have its own cultural subterfuges, even as the internet would claim to make everything “available” to mass audiences. If you have a chance to attend next year, I would urge you to do so and hear the differences.

https://soundpedro.org/archives

http://www.soundpedro.org/audioscapes-2021

First half: soundpedro Artists’ Audioscapes
Andrew Mandinach, Andre Perim, BlackSunHighDesert,
Brandon Bollinger, Black Silk, Jeff Jacoby, Karena Massengill,
joshua elza breen-tucci, Martin Espino, Miser, Ricardo Tomasz,
Vedran Mehinovic, Ystalost, Andre Perim, Lucinda Trask & Sasha Mandel,
D A Ayer, Alexia Benson, Jose Trejo-Maya, Margo Harms, Michael Mersereau, FNORD!, Ashton S. Phillips, Ching Ching Cheng

Second half: SynthLab Audio+Video concert
Christina Wilson, Alex Miller, Jesse Nason, Cannibalistic Caterpillar,
Putney Swope, Loren Nerell, Qrux, Neo Kobe, univac,
Rychard Cooper, Cameron Johnston, Faraday Cage

soundpedro2021 Mascot of Ceremonies: wabi’sloppy

Books

Anne Olsen Daub — Recent Work at “The Loft” (Michael Stearns Studio) in San Pedro

Sunday, June 6, 2021

According to news reports, half of the adult residents of Los Angeles County are fully vaccinated, which means that L.A. County has roughly the same number of people fully vaccinated as meet that condition in the entire state of Ohio or New Jersey. There are other demographic and geographical disproportions that come to mind, too, as we consider that the combined populations of L.A. County and Riverside County are approximately equal to the total population of Ohio. For instance, the number of artists per 100,000 people in L.A. County is exponentially higher in L.A. County than Ohio.

The good news for artists about L.A.’s vaccination rate is that galleries are beginning to open up and present new shows. The Loft Studio in San Pedro held its “First Thursday” of the month open studio evening on Thursday, June 3, starting around 5 p.m. and going to 8 p.m.

In addition, I saw Michael Stearns recently at the Loft and he gave me an invitation to his first show since the pandemic broke out: Anne Olsen Daub’s “Recent Work.”

Here is her artistic statement, which Michael gave me permission to pass along in my blog:

“My modus operandi changes and is often based on random events and continuous agitation. Sometimes I start a painting or sculpture by jumping in spontaneously arranging shape, color and form until it spurs a direction or inspiration. Other times inspiration come more directly in the way of metaphors from fil, media, books life, etc. — that typically lead to a deeper meaning and understanding.

“My recent work in cardboard was inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins and evolved from there into The Land of Oz.

I wanted to create big, bold, colorful pieces.”

— Anne Olsen Daub

The reception for her show will be on SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 3 – 6 p.m.

The show will run from June 12 through July 17.

MICHAEL STEARNS STUDIO@ THE LOFT

401 S. Mesa Street, San Pedro, CA 90731 (562) 400-0544

www.michaelstearnsstudio.com

*. *. *. *. *

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/states-ranked-by-percentage-of-population-vaccinated-march-15.html

Books

Fred Dewey, R.I.P.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

I received an email last night from Brooks Roddan that Fred Dewey has died. Brooks has been in steady contact with Fred’s family, and I have no other details to provide other than Fred’s friends from his many years at Beyond Baroque have been in renewed contact with him since mid-April.

Fred Dewey was born in New York City and educated there and at Brown University. He became involved with Beyond Baroque in the early 1990s and was more or less the only person around in 1994 who was willing to undertake the ordeal of keeping it alive. Despite Beyond Baroque’s legendary status, the decade between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s was a grueling marathon for poets in particular. The second term of Ronald Reagan’s presidency followed by G.H.W. Bush’s single term of office reflected an imaginative malaise in American culture that made it extremely difficult for an independent arts organization without any endowment to survive, let alone flourish.

Dewey single-handedly undertook the resurrection of Beyond Baroque and began to build up the Board of Trustees, which teetered in its support of him by the late 1990s. Fred wanted to emphasize Beyond Baroque’s roots in the poetry communities of Los Angeles, and eventually he prevailed and worked as the artistic director until almost the end of the first decade of this century. It was due to Fred’s efforts that Beyond Baroque was able to get its lease on the Venice City Hall renewed for 25 years, an accomplishment that is easy to take for granted when one attends events there in the third decade of this century. The magnitude of Fred’s legacy in getting the lease renewed will probably only be appreciated by the next person who has to navigate the continued location of Beyond Baroque at the beginning of the next decade.

Dewey subsequently lived in Berlin and North Carolina while working on various writing projects of political theory and social contestation. He was one of the best read and most thoughtful observers of public intellectual life I have met in the past half-century. He was that rare person — a friend and ally of poets who was not a poet himself. Somehow, that made his generosity in helping poets be more visible outside the academy all the more astonishing.

Rest In Power, as they say these days, my valiant one.

(Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Venice, California; Summer, 1997: from left to right: Paul Vangelisti; Jim Krusoe; Fred Dewey.)

Books

A RILKE RECITAL – by Art Beck (Brunswick, ME: Shanti Publishing)

Tuesday, June 1, 2020

A few weeks ago, Harry Northup organized a reading by Los Angeles area poet of Rilke’s “The Duino Elegies” for a broadcast on the in-house video channel at the MPTF residence he has lived at the past couple years. His late spouse, the poet Holly Prado, and he had moved there after an electrical fire destroyed their apartment in East Hollywood. When the pandemic struck, Harry began making use of the facilities at MPTF to share his knowledge of poetry with the other residents.

Paul Vangelisti led off the occasion with an introduction to Rilke’s sequence of poems, which Paul has given me permission to include in my blog.

*. *. *

Note on Rilke’s “Elegies”

It was December of 1911. The thirty-six year old Rainer Maria Rilke had come to visit his indulgent friend and patron, Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis-Hohenlohe, who owned the castle at Duino, on the extreme northeast coast of Italy, near Trieste.

After great successes with the groundbreaking New Poems, in 1907 & 1908, and the autobiographical novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, in 1910, almost two years had passed in which Rilke wrote little poetry.

For a time the Princess left the poet alone at the castle and, as the legend goes, Rilke was wandering around the stormy cliffs when a voice rang through the winter gale. Filled with awe, Rilke took out his notebook and transcribed what he’d heard, becoming that night the opening lines of the first elegy: literally — Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic / orders? He would soon start work on the Elegies, only to complete the project some ten years later in Switzerland.

As my colleagues have probably discovered, these are difficult poems, as the language is an enthralling mix of the colloquial and philosophical. Curiously enough, the poems (particularly in Mitchell’s translation) are somehow harder to read aloud than to oneself. The verse line, as well as the syntax, is complex and demands very close attention. Also, the poet’s voice is perplexing, the pronouns constantly varying, the verses sometimes speaking to Rilke, sometimes speaking for him.

A few words here, per Harry’s request, about the angels or “Engels Ordnungen” [“angelic orders”] that mark these poems from the start. Rilke’s angels are higher beings – beings not in the sci-fi sense but in the philosophical or metaphysical sense – creatures who inhabit a more intense spiritual life of almost pure being, “that overwhelming existence,” rather than simple survival. Or beings, following Rilke, with a “more complete existence.” Like beauty itself which, in these poems, signals the beginning or “first touch” of terror.

According to noted translator Art Beck, some of the “Elegies“ have a “complexity of resonance and ambiguity that calls out for multiple interpretations. Perhaps ‘performance’ is a better word for what a ‘poetic’ translation of these poems demands. And if the objective is to enrich the English language, then there’s room for as many performances of Rilke as, say, interpretations of Bach. These might be as varied as Wanda Landowska’s, Glen Gould’s, Stefan Hussong’s and John Lewis’ – while remaining as recognizably Rilke as those versions remain essentially Bach.”

In a letter to an admirer, Rilke insisted, “The interpretation always rests with the reader and must be free and unlimited… the more meanings there is room for in images [such as the angels], the broader and more real they are.” To paraphrase Rilke within our context, once the poet publishes the poem, the meaning of the angels rests entirely with the reader.

=== Paul Vangelisti

May 14, 2021

*. *. *. *. *

The other readers included Phoebe MacAdams, James Cushing, Aram Saroyan, Richard Modiano, Garrett M. Brown, Bob Beitcher, Bill Mohr, Corinne Conley, and Marie Pal-Brown. Marie read the work in German, too, to give us some sense of its rhythmic underpinnings.

As Paul pointed out in his introduction, the poems are easier to read to oneself than out loud, but even so, one would have to summon a considerable degree of focused commitment to sit down and read each poem one after the other without any break. The experience of hearing “The Duino Elegies” as a continuous composition required one to empty out ordinary distractions to the same extent as needed to hear Mahler’s Symphony No. 8.

Perhaps a group reading would also be the best way to begin to appreciate the translations of Rilke’s poems by Art Beck in a book recently published by Shanti Arts in New Brunswick, Maine. Beck makes the sly comment at one point in his commentaries when he talks about poets as if they were baseball players involved in a trade: “in the deal of the century, Germany got Bukowski and the United States got Rilke.” What Beck is alluding to is not some variation on proprietary bragging rights but a contrast in the cultural capital of high and low culture, and I can see his point, even as I refuse to place one poet above or below another in “pure” versus “impure” categories.

I confess that I never felt particularly moved by Rilke’s poetry when I read Stephen Mitchell’s translations forty years ago. The poems seemed “precious,” at least in translation. Unlike when I read a French poet in translation, I have no access whatsoever to Rilke’s original poems in German, which is a bit of an irony since my last name is German. Beck’s translations are compelling in a way that probably seems peculiar, though I will risk saying it anyway and I would like to point to a specific poem in Beck’s “recital,” the poem that begins “But is there anything I could consecrate” (number XX in the first part of “SONNETS TO ORPHEUS”).

I have no idea of how vividly plastic the image of the horse is in Rilke’s original, but in Beck’s delineation that horse has only one equal, and that occurs in Hart Crane’s anomalous poem, “Eternity.” Now obviously in an ideal world a translator who knew both English and Hungarian, or English and Vietnamese, would benefit from some familiarity with German, but Beck’s rendition seems translucent enough in being a memorable poem in English that one would be justified in then rendering it into Hungarian or Vietnamese without fretting about its “faithfulness.” Instead, I want to emphasize how the images that Beck summons in his recital palpitate with plasticity, the three-dimensionality revolving in duration without which the emotional and intellectual aspects of the instantaneous cannot cohere. It is that which demands to be transmuted and becomes original in its turn.

“I seek the perfect imperfection,” a music producer once said of his recording process. It is most likely the case that that those who know German perfectly will find imperfections in Beck’s recital, but I want to testify that Beck’s volume is the first time I have ever whole-heartedly felt at east in Rilke’s company, and that the patina of superficial legend has been scrubbed off to reveal a poet without the pretense foisted by those who are easily over-awed.

You can order “ETUDES” from Shanti Arts Publishing at:

http://www.shantiarts.com

I also recommend taking a look at the following title:

http://shantiarts.co/uploads/files/vwxyz/VANVLIET_FLUENCY.html

— Bill Mohr
Long Beach, California
June 1, 2021

***************

Rilke Sonnets to Orpheus, First Part # XX. tr. Art Beck

Dir aber, Herr, o was weih ich dir, sag,
der das Ohr den Geschöpfen gelehrt?—
Mein Erinnern an einen Frühlingstag,
seinen Abend, in Rußland—, ein Pferd….

Herüber vom Dorf kam der Schimmel allein,
an der vorderen Fessel den Pflock,
um die Nacht auf den Wiesen allein zu sein;
wie schlug seiner Mähne Gelock

an den Hals im Takte des Übermuts,
bei dem grob gehemmten Galopp.
Wie sprangen die Quellen des Rossebluts!

Der fühlte die Weiten, und ob!
der sang und der hörte—, dein Sagenkreis
war in ihm geschlossen.
Sein Bild: ich weih’s.

But is there anything I could consecrate
to you – the Master who teaches all creatures
what it means to hear? My memory of a spring day,
its evening actually, in Russia – a horse…

From a village off some way, the white
horse came, dragging a fetter and stake
from his foreleg. His curled mane
wild to be alone on the meadow at night.

His neck twisting to follow the dance of that
crudely hampered gallop in time with
the pumping fountain of his stallion’s heart.

He sensed the open spaces and every bit
of him sang – and listened. Your myths
came full circle in him.
I offer: his image.

(Translation: Art Beck)

reprinted by permission

Books

“Over the Edge” — plus a new poem by Harry E. Northup

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Fifty years ago this coming autumn, I was appointed the first poetry editor of Bachy magazine and I remember immediately heading over to the Wednesday Night Workshop that Joseph Hansen and John Harris had started in the late 1960s at Beyond Baroque, when it was located on West Washington Boulevard. Papa Bach Bookstore, at that point, was probably better known than Beyond Baroque. It was certainly easier to locate, since Papa Bach was only a three minute amble across and down the street from the NuArt movie theater, which was within a stone’s throw of the Santa Monica Blvd. exit from the 405 freeway. The nearest movie theater to Beyond Baroque in 1971 was the Fox Venice, and that would have been a half-hour walk at night that no one nonchalantly undertook. Fortunately, I had a 100 cc Honda motorcycle that allowed me to get there.

One of the initial poets to catch my attention was Harry Northup, a working actor who first appeared in a pair of films by a young director who would become a legend: Martin Scorsese. In having a thirty year career as a supporting actor, Northup contributed grace notes to numerous films by exceptionally fine directors, such as Jonathan Demme, as well as sharing the screen with actresses such as Jody Foster (in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) and actors such as Robert DeNiro, He also played lead roles, and one of his best known starring performances is as the town sheriff in the cult classic, OVER THE EDGE, which was directed by Jonathan Kaplan.

The DVD Blu-Ray UK Edition will be released on May 31, 2021.

Here is the link to the DVD Blu-Ray Edition of “OVER THE EDGE”:
https://arrowfilms.com/product-detail/over-the-edge-arrow-store-exclusive-o-card-blu-ray/FCD2147?fbclid=IwAR0fm0ZeaIP7Y9s_BNsNsRzeoWYWq375c7t0gxpOoTt-5gogOHGlFSyCW

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over_the_Edge_(film)

Harry Northup is also a very admired poet whose book “ENOUGH THE GREAT RUNNING CHAPEL” was published by my Momentum Press in 1982. He is one of the L.A. poets who appeared in both of my Momentum Press anthologies, THE STREETS INSIDE: Ten Los Angeles Poets (1978) and POETRY LOVES POETRY (1985). Harry now lives at the retirement home known as MPTF in Thousand Oaks. His most recent half-dozen books have all been published by Cahuenga Press, a poets cooperative he founded with his late wife, the poet Holly Prado. The books are available from Small Press Distribution (spdbooks.com).

With his permission, I am presenting one of his recent poems.

In afternoon sunlight & shadow

To be without a woman, an excess
Imbalance; to live always in summer
When eyes meet & station slowly
With promise of a path not nourished

An acceptance, reluctantly closed
How can it when each sight evokes
The first touch & bodies bending near
To live among strangers, give respect

Hidden between small trees in red pots
The female face & shoulders burst
Into flame, a scarf furling around
Staying away from death’s image

Selfless love, turning away only
A robustness nestles in the image
Coolness shade, through the arch
Image removed, shield recedes

Roundness, a naked woman middle-age
She chose me, invited me in, gave me
Love, food & drink — All steps have mystery
With gate opened, guilt surrounds
Long wooden benches in afternoon silence

3 30 21

Harry E. Northup

Anthologies Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Books Painting Painting and Sculpture

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.)

Books

LINK to the latest “W – E Bicoastal Poets” Reading and Cahuenga Press

Monday, May 17, 2021

“W – E Reading Series and Cahuenga Press

I still have some grading to do, but final examinations last week more or less wrapped up the spring semester in terms of teaching students. Other matters remain on the table, though, since the administrators and faculty at CSULB don’t seem to be sharing on a simultaneous basis all the pertinent information about workload for faculty who are teaching in what is call “FERP” (Faculty Early Retirement Program). The outcome is that I’ve spent at least 40 hours the past couple weeks trying to get the information that should have been on the table from the very start.

The weekend involved a round-trip drive from Long Beach to Ramona on Saturday and Sunday, getting back to Long Beach on Sunday afternoon in time to give an introduction to Beth Ruscio on the zoom poetry series I have been working on as a co-host for its first several presentations. Lynn McGee was the one who came up with the concept for this series: to present poets from both sides of the continent. It’s been a pleasure to work with Lynn and Susana H. Case on this series, and I am turning over my slot to another poet. Originally, I was the only West Coast poet on the curatorial committee, but now there will be two poets on the West Coast (Carolyne Wright and Sandy Yannone) along with the founding poets on the East Coast. Along the way all of us realized that the program needed some “tech support” so that we could enjoy the show ourselves, and so we added Madeleine Barnes to the team.

I seem to have a habit of joining things to get them off the ground and then moving on. Back at the start of the final decade of the past century, I was a founding member of Cahuenga Press and did the typesetting for several of their titles. I was very squeezed for both money and time back then and I dropped out of the project, which is still publishing books thirty years later. For the record, the founding members were Holly Prado, Harry Northup, Phoebe MacAdams, James Cushing, Cecilia Woloch, and myself. I was the one who came up with the name of the press. Cecilia had her first two books of poem published by Cahuenga Press, and she subsequently won a NEA fellowship and had books published by Boa Editions.

After an electrical fire destroyed Holly and Harry’s apartment, they moved to the Motional Picture and Television Fund home, but still kept the press going. Harry has been producing a poetry show, “Creative Chaos,” at MPTF through zoom in the same spirit as the “W – E” series. This past Friday, I was part of a group reading of Rilke’s “The Duino Elegies.” I had never read that poem straight through, and it felt a bit like sitting through one of Mahler’s great symphonies, something so encompassing and lingering that it left one buoyantly subdued, reconciled to previously paradoxical conditions.

The readers of “The Duino Elegies” for Harry E. Northup’s program were Paul Vangelisti, Phoebe MacAdams, James Cushing, Aram Saroyan, Richard Modiano, Garrett M. Brown, Bob Beitcher, Bill Mohr, Corinne Conley, and Marie Pal-Brown. Marie read a portion of it in German, which surprised many of the listeners with its mellifluousness. Thank you, Harry, for continuing to be such. a stalwart advocate of poetry, as well as such a superb poet yourself.

Here’s the Link to yesterday’s show of the “W – E Series,” which was one of our very best ensembles.

Kim Addonizio, Suzanne Cleary, Gary Copeland Lilley and Beth Ruscio, the poets appearing for “W-E Poets of the Pandemic and Beyond,” hosted by Susana H. Case, Lynn McGee, William Mohr, and me, with tech support from Madeleine Barnes on Sunday, May 16

Books

The Thirtieth Anniversary of Leland Hickman’s Death

May 12, 2021

On May 12, 1991 Lee Hickman died. I remember that I was sitting at my desk in the apartment on Hill Street that I shared with my first wife, Cathay Gleeson, when Charles called and said that Lee’s struggle with AIDS was over. He asked me to write an obituary statement and send it out. I immediately got to work and soon after the Los Angeles Times more or less printed exactly what I wrote, though there was no byline.

I had first met Lee about twenty years before he died, and he became a mentor whose life I, in turn, affected. After I published his first book, GREAT SLAVE LAKE SUITE, and it was nominated by the Los Angeles Times as one of the five best books of poetry published in the nation in 1980, many people expected to see more increments of the six-volume project, TIRESIAS, that he had been working on since the mid-1960s.

Instead, he turned his energies primarily to editing. He told me once that my example of working as an editor and publisher had shown him a model of the cultural work that could be accomplished by a devoted individual. It was 40 years ago this coming September that I started working as the first poetry editor of BACHY magazine at Papa Bach Bookstore. When I left that magazine to start my own project, I suggested that John Harris take my place, and Harris in turn not only ended up buying the store, but appointing Leland Hickman as editor of BACHY. When BACKY ceased publication, Lee started BOXCAR magazine with Paul Vangelisti, and then launched TEMBLOR magazine as a solo project.

After Lee died, his poetry seemed to fall by the wayside, and I often worried that it would not get the continued attention it deserved. In the fifteen years after Lee died, my own life went through an economic and emotional ordeal that tested me to the limit. At one point, the best that I could do with a Ph.D. in Literature and all of my years of experience was a full-time job as an ESL teacher. In December, 2004, No one would even give me an interview for anything else. At age 57, I was being told that no one cared about what I had done or accomplished.

Perhaps it was a sign, though, that not all was lost. One day Linda and I went into NYC to visit Poets House, and I met Stephen Motika. We talked about Los Angeles poets, and I mentioned how much I still admired Lee Hickman’s poetry. By the end of the decade, I was helping Stephen edit a “Collected Poems,” which he co-published with Paul Vangelisti’s Seismicity Editions.

Lee’s poetry has continued to find enthusiastic readers. This past March, Stephen and I heard from Gordon Faylor, a poet and editor of the online publication Gauss PDF. He wrote that he had “recently acquired a copy of Leland Hickman’s Tiresias: The Collected Poems and adore it! Last year I was fortunate to find a copy of Hickman’s Great Slave Lake Suite, and so appreciate that Nightboat gathered all his work, which is otherwise so hard to find. I only wish he were better known—his writing is so astonishing and terrifying and beautiful.”

Thanks to the efforts of Gordon Faylor, as well as Quentin Ring at Beyond Baroque, one can now download a portion of a reading Lee gave at Beyond Baroque in 1984 (Barrett Watten also read that night).

Here is the link that will then allow you to download and listen to Lee reading his poetry.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1t-QgFyNFkkmBBsCee9oxQpxpbIwhcI2U/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1t-QgFyNFkkmBBsCee9oxQpxpbIwhcI2U/view?usp=sharing

And, of course, my profound thanks also go out on the occasion of this anniversary to Stephen Motika at Nightboat Books, as well as to Dennis Phillips and Paul Vangelisti, whose friendship in Lee in the final decade of his life made an enormous difference to him.