Category Archives: Books

Johanna Drucker on Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary

Friday, April 6, 2017

George Drury Smith, the founder of Beyond Baroque, recently gave a talk there in which he shared a number of details of his life that had not been known even by people who worked with him back in the institution’s earliest days. Johanna Drucker, a professor at UCLA, has just had an article published in the Los Angeles Review of Books in which she reports on Smith’s talk and interweaves its details with a reevaluation of the notion of “provincialism.”

Fifty Years of Beyond Baroque: 1968–2018

One of the most important factors in Beyond Baroque’s growth and longevity was the ability of Smith to attract people to his idealistic yearning for a renewed avant-garde. Smith has frequently spoken of the disparity between his own hopes for literary experimentation on a large cultural scale and the preferences of other writers in the Los Angeles and the West Coast. His genius, in part, as a cultural worker was his uncanny ability to provide space for people such as Alexandra Garrett, Jim Krusoe, Manager Gamboa, and Dennis Cooper. Garrett founded the Beyond Baroque Library, which Drucker has led the way in cataloguing with the assistance of her students at UCLA. Krusoe began as a poet who was frequently acknowledged as the person most admired by a cross-section of L.A. poets,; he has subsequently become one of the most respected novelists in the United States. Gamboa went on from his position of leading Beyond Baroque to found community-based writing projects in East L.A. and Long Beach. A park near where I live in Long Beach has a cultural center named in his honor, with a poem on one of its exterior walls. Dennis Cooper has become of the leading gay writers of the past 75 years, and the way that writers rallied to his defense when the behemoths of technological ingenuity attempted to eradicate his writing was quite remarkable. In fact unprecedented. That Cooper triumphed against considerable odds was the cause of much quiet satisfaction.

One of the features of Beyond Baroque is the free poetry workshop that takes place on Wednesday nights. There will be another free workshop, last eight weeks, that will meet on Tuesday nights starting on May 8. This workshop will focus on Los Angeles poetry, and will include instruction as well as an opportunity for each participant to make her or his own contribution to this body of writing. Laurence Goldstein’s Poetry Los Angeles will serve as a common textbook and major reference point.

For details, go to Beyond Baroque’s website or call (310) 822-3006.

http://www.beyondbaroque.org

https://www.send2press.com/wire/beyond-baroque-to-mark-50th-anniversary-in-2018/

Kathryn McMahon — An Emergency Appeal

Monday, April 2, 2018

Kathryn McMahon, an old friend who is going to have a major operation, is in need of assistance during her period of recovery, and a former student of hers has started a GoFundMe campaign. Kathryn taught in what was then the Women’s Studies Department at CSU Long Beach for many years, though she had retired by the time I started my job in the Department of English.

Kathryn is probably best known as the founder of CAST (Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking), and it would be my hope that all of those who contribute to that organization at its annual fundraiser would now also contribute with equal generosity towards her recovery at this point in her life. Those of you who know of her life understand the unlikely context of her being the instigator of such an important project, and how it would behoove us to honor her for her extraordinary courage and determination.

https://www.gofundme.com/surgery4kathryn

Thank you in advance for helping her out.

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

My brother, Jim, sent me a photograph of his first grandchild, Mila, last Easter, and in moments of discouragement I have frequently looked at it and found myself smiling. By the time my youngest nephew, Mitchell, got married, she was beginning to walk, and this Easter Jim has sent me another photograph; this time, she needs far less support.

On this weekend on which Passover and Easter have intermingled, my family in its largest sense of the word sends you our wishes for a joyous Spring!

Mila First Easter

Mila Easter 2018

The Jackson Wheeler Poetry Reading Report

Friday, March 30, 2018

French Concrete One

Linda and I drove up to the Carnegie Arr Museum in Oxnard, California this past weekend for the reading with Vincent Mowry, a poet from Ojai who deserves to be much better known. The plan for the return trip was to stop by Linda’s sister house and relieve her of her care for Linda’s mother for a couple of days.

The reading went better than I ever could have expected. Almost 40 people showed up, which is over two dozen more than usually show up for readings in Los Angeles. I was especially grateful that several poets I knew as a youth showed up: Ricardo Means-Ybarra, Florence Weinberger, ellen, as well as their painter friend, Annie. The reading started with some earnest, intriguing work by a young poet, Sarah Krashefski, and then Marsha de la O introduced me with some very kind remarks.

I led off with “Big Band, Slow Dance,” and followed with “Why the Heart Does Not Develop Cancer”; I then read “The Eviction,” “Wrinkles,” “In the Ocean of Nothingness,” an untitled haiku that was recently published in Hummingbird, and a large section of “Scorpio in Transit,” which appeared in KYSO.

Vincent Mowry read several very fine poems, including one exquite poem that almost eerily served as a parallel vision to one of the poems I had read in the first half of the reading. I have almost never been combined with another poet in a reading whose work I don’t know ahead of time and found that we had much in common; somehow, though, it turned out that Vincent’s poetry had more in common with mine that either of us could ever have expected. His poem about a dream of swimming in the ocean took on the bleakness of Dickinson’s “without even a report of land / To justify despair” and broke through to another realm of vision, closer to that occasion she describes as being a vision of “morning’s nest.” Mowry’s poem about that vision was one of the best I have heard in recent years.

After the reading, neither Vincent nor I had any books for sale, so we mingled with the audience. The museum, though, made copies of Was I Asleep: New and Selected Poems by Jackson Wheeler available for purchase. The reading series is named in his honor, and he deserves it. Marsha read an extraordinary poem that Wheeler wrote about a visitation by his dead father, a World War II veteran, to his bedroom the night before leaving his Appalachian hometown. It’s as deeply moving and poignant as anything in Winesburg, Ohio. In other words, a classic poem. I have been reading Wheeler’s book since I returned, and certainly hope to review it by this summer.

By chance, in Oxnard the next morning, we happened to meet one of Linda’s oldest friend, Vicki, who was having breakfast with her companion, who turned out to a manager for a concrete delivery company. I told him that I had always liked those trucks and like many very young boys thought about driving one of them when I grew up. I mentioned to him that such a truck had recently been in my neighborhood to pour concrete for a roundabout at the intersection where we live, and I had taken photographs of its massive cylinder. When I showed him the photographs, he said, “That’s my company,” which turns out to be owned by a French family. In fact, he explained, the three dots inside the triangle represent the three generations of the family’s commitment to the company.

As Darwin pointed out, the success of any individual in an evolutionary scheme can be gauged by whether its offspring have offspring. It’s as true in poetry as it is in concrete. Here is to the names of the poets I have invoked in my lifetime of work being written in concrete along with their solemnly joyful affirmations of our shared journey.

Once again, thanks to Marsha and Phil for being kind enough to include me in this series.

French Concrete Two

Reading at the Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard

Friday, March 23, 2018 — Late in the evening

I had to give my students their mid-term exams this past week at CSULB, so it’s been a busy time of helping them prepare, and then giving the exams, which had to be revised to account for my different approach to the subject matter of each course this semester. Over the past dozen years, I’ve taught each one several times (English 474/574: Survey of 20th Century American Literature; and two sections of English 386: Survey of Poetry), and enjoy the books I am using, but I am beginning to feel my age. I can no longer easily teach three courses in one day, so I teach my section of 474/574 and one section of 386 on Mondays and Wednesday; and the other section of 386 on Tuesday-Thursday. Of course, it’s not the teaching that wears one down, but disproportionate committee work.

I wish I had had more time this week to publicize my reading tomorrow in Oxnard at the Carnegie Art Museum. Marsha and Phil are very kind to ask me to read my poetry there, especially considering that I have no books of poems to sell. Of course, I no longer dream as I did when I was young about getting another book of poems out. My chance for recognition as a poet — at least in this country — grows smaller every day. While the Glass Table collective has plans to issue a book of mine this coming fall under the What Books imprint, I doubt that more than a half-dozen people will buy a copy. I gave a reading at Beyond Baroque several months ago. Two people showed up. I gave a reading at Gatsby Books in Long Beach around that same time; only a half-dozen folding chairs were needed to seat the audience.

Thinking of these experiences only makes me more grateful for how I have been welcomed as a poet in Mexico the three times I have gone there to read. My primary encouragement these days comes from thinking of the efforts of Bonobos Editores and my translators in Mexico. My poems have also been translated into Japanese, Croatian, and Italian, as well as Spanish. Maybe I need to find someone to translate my poems into English, since the verse I write in this country seems like a foreign language to my fellow citizens. It’s a small miracle that the writers who make up the Glass Table Collective have been able to disregard the indifference that my poetry is treated with in this country.

I have to admit that I am exhausted, and it is hard to summon the energy that will be needed to make the drive from Long Beach to Oxnard. Spring break starts today, but all that means is that my wife’s siblings and my siblings expect me to use this “free time” to help care for Linda’s mother and then to address my mother’s needs.

Take a deep breath, Bill. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let it out slowly.

Set the alarm clock. I must get up early to finish several tasks before I start the lone drive to Oxnard. I will have to be up there by mid-afternoon, since if I leave any later than 2:00 p.m., I am not likely to be on time for the reading, for which I am the opening act. Out-of-print poets are usually relegated to the “warm up the audience slot” for the featured poet. I did so for Mark Salerno and Ellyn Maybe at Beyond Baroque several years ago; and for Dale Herd more recently.

Take a deep breath, Bill. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let it out slowly.

Onward.

Saturday, March 24 – William Mohr and Vincent Mowrey
6:00 p.m.
Poetry at the Carnegie Art Museum
The Jackson Wheeler Series 2018

424 South C Street, Oxnard
Host: Marsha de la O

costs $5 / members free

Candidates for the set list:

“Why the Heart Never Develops Cancer” — from Bittersweet Kaleidoscope (IF/SF Editions, 2006; out of print)

“The Eviction” — from Milk Magazine

“The Headwaters of Nirvana” — from Caliban on-line magazine

“Scorpio in the Summer” — from hidden proofs (Bombshelter Press, 1982; out of print)

“On the Poetry of the Barbarians” — from Bittersweet Kaleidoscope (IF/SF Editions, 2006; out of print)

“Wrinkles” — from Bittersweet Kaleidoscope (IF/SF Editions, 2006; out of print)

“In the Ocean of Nothingness” — from Bittersweet Kaleidoscope (IF/SF Editions, 2006; out of print)

“Untitled” poem from Hummingbird magazine

“Scorpio in Transit” from the new anthology from KYSO

“Gravestone Song” (unpublished)

Alexis Rhone Fancher on Margaret Tynes Fairley’s Poetry

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

“Don’t let the civility of a bygone century deceive you. Upon first reading, these poems to nature, gathered by season, highlight the surface transparency of Margaret Tynes Fairley’s work. All are beautifully crafted gems. All celebrate nature in her capricious glory. Yet on closer examination, each of these complex, exquisite poems contains facets somewhat off; the natural world, its order gone slightly awry. The human enters the equation, sometimes with joy, but often with heartbreak. Underneath the natural order: disorder. Even chaos. ‘The dark conspiracy of spruce.’ And below that, ‘a hint of insurrection;’ below that, a knowing calm. The earth’s pull, a centering, as the years swirl around the recurrent themes of birth, death, and renewal. Fairley, ‘dressed in motley,’ ‘playing the fool,’ delves into a nature so profound that it takes on and explores a chameleon persona – lover, sister, protector, and yes, beloved mother.

“Margaret Tynes Fairley transcends the centuries with poems lyrical yet terse and biting enough to satisfy the 21st century sensibilities in each of us.”

– Alexis Rhone Fancher, author of State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, poetry editor, Cultural Weekly

Both Alexis and I drove up from the South Bay area to Beyond Baroque this past Sunday to celebrate the publication of Fairley’s collection poems, The Years Wear the Seasons, by Bambaz Press. Alexis drove from San Pedro with the smoothest flow of traffic that one could hope for; and Linda and I were equally fortunate. All three of us were exceptionally impressed by the passionate renditions of Fairley’s poems by her granddaughter, Rose, who works as a nurse in North Carolina.

I was also pleased to meet Matthew Hetznecker, who had a book entitled A.S. for sale, which was published four years ago. I have just begun to read its quartet of short prose installations: “Loose Ends”; “Ties That Bind”; “Laced”; “Knots.” The titles seem reticent to admit the subtle rambunctiousness of Hetznecker’s notations. His writing reminds me of the kind of work that George Drury Smith was seeking — and having a hard time finding — when he started his literary magazine, Beyond Baroque, a half century ago. Sometimes one must wait a long time for the right antecedent to show up.

A Reading to Honor the Poetry of Margaret Tynes Fairley

Saturday, March 18, 2018

The Years Wear The Seasons - BLOG

A number of years ago, one of the poets I most admire, Robert Mezey, worked assiduously to get the poems of Virginia Hamilton Adair into wider circulation. Ants on the Melon, Adair’s debut collection, was published in 1996, when she was 83 years old.

The poet and editor Bambi Here, whose imprint is Bambaz Press, has just published a book worthy to be set alongside Adair’s volume. The Year Wears the Seasons, by Margaret Tynes Fairley (1902-1986) is a collection of poems that contains some of the most exquisite lyrical poems to have been written in the 20th century. In drawing upon the metrical traditions of English poetry, Fairley makes it look easy to write in this manner. What impresses me the most, in fact, is how Fairley could be said to ride her lines like a jockey who trusts her mount. Her touch on the reins is light, but precise.

There is indeed a tendency, especially on the part of inexperienced readers, to tense up when they hear the word “prosody.” Indeed, it is a word that can strike fear all too quickly into even experienced readers, as if the traditional use of meter transformed a reader into astronaut being dared to double-down on Hopkins’s sprung rhythm, and that some black hole of spondaic immersion hunches on its throne at the edge of a galaxy, waiting to pull you into its inescapable gravity.

Relax! Fairley has no desire to have you do anything other than begin to appreciate your own inner rhythms.

“The whole wide orchestra of earth gives sound
To each who tunes his fiddle simply
On his holy ground.”
(“Why Should We Seek to Do it All”)

No doubt this reassurance will not suffice, and there will be readers who first start reading Kay Ryan or Marilyn Hacker in hopes of making their prosodic muscles loose and nimble enough again to savor the swirl of Fairley’s dancing syllables. If you truly feel that ill at ease, however, I am not sure that any poet could accommodate your anxiety. At that point, I can only recommend that you go back to the best of Thomas Hardy or renew your acquaintance with that forgotten classic of English poetry, “The Listeners,” by Walter de la Mare.

For those who feel at home in reading a poet with subtle metrical dexterity that turns away all pretense about its use, however, then Fairley’s book has some memorable poems to share with you immediately: “The Question”; “Come look –“; and “Bodies Touch.” In particular, I would like to praise Fairley’s “Although Unasked,” which is a poem that deserves to be set aside the minor masterpiece of Janet Lewis’s marvelous “Baby Goat.” Rarely does metrical nuance embrace a set of images with so much forthright tenderness.

Only the new=born calf
Is real and intimate as hand.
He couldn’t wait for warmer days.
This was his hour, he learned to stand,
When other creatures shivered in some hole.
He had no time or chance to know
If there was room or even shelter from the cold.
The star that brands his knobby head
Is clear and soft and shining white;
Although, unasked, he came to birth
On this the coldest winter night.

On Sunday, March 19, starting at 12:30 p.m., Beyond Baroque will host a reading to celebrate the publication of The Year Wears the Seasons. Along with members of Fairley’s family, both Alexis Rhone Fancher and I plan on being there to read a few of her poems. We hope you can join us.

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

Websignature - two

— Bill Mohr

Past Lives: Poet, Editor, Publisher, Continuation School Teacher, and the Beat

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Although I am working on new poems and thinking about which of my past academic talks I should begin revising in hopes of publication, the challenge of setting aside time to make those endeavors my sole concern remains as complicated as ever. A year and a half ago, one of the members of Beyond Baroque’s Board of Trustees asked me to join the Board, a move that I can hardly afford to undertake on a financial level, let alone how much time that requires. Even during times when the GDP of the United States indicates the system’s general economic stability, non-profit arts organizations must negotiate and bargain with a culture that did not particularly want them to last more than a decade or two. To attain the half-century mark is no small achievement, but Beyond Baroque is hardly assured of a sufficient budget for its future programming.

This weekend has been one of the highlights of the spring season. Funded completely out of his own pocket, S.A. Griffin has organized a celebration of the Beat movement, which concludes tomorrow evening with a musical performance by David Amram. Yesterday afternoon, I gave a talk on Venice West, and then moderated a panel at which two of the original members of that community recalled their experiences in considerable detail. Frank T. Rios Joseph Patton, and Gayle Davis talked with each other in an honest manner about the glorious sense of freedom that Venice West exuded along with the eventual confinements of drug addiction. Paton acknowledged that Rios has pulled him out of addiction. Rios, in turn, credited the Poem with saving his life.

Fortunately, UCLA had sent out a camera and a one-man crew to record this conversation, so future scholars of Venice West will understand how much visual art mattered to this scene. It was a pleasure to hear the work of Don Martin and Saul White cited so frequently. I am not certain when the tape will be available for viewing, but I hope that someday it can be posted on-line so that scholars and students have easy access to it.

Oddly enough, Venice West often gets summed up by a quick reference to a handful of poets, and yet the conversation yesterday barely got around to discussing John Thomas, and William Margolis was not mentioned at all. Margolis, who was a close friend of Bob Kaufman’s when he lived in San Francisco, is hardly neglected this weekend, though. He is the subject of a documentary film by Don Rothenberg that will be shown today from 3:30 to 4:00 p.m. There will also be a discussion of the Beat and Buddhism with Marc Olmsted, who was also read with Steve Silberman and Tate Swindell in a segment on Gay Beat writing (4:30 – 6 p.m.).

Considering how skittish L.A. residents can be about a rain storm finally showing up after months of a renewed drought, the audiences have been surprisingly large enough to make this festival of the Beat a satisfying occasion and more than worth S.A. Griffin’s extended efforts in putting it all together. Paul Vangelisti, for instance, was supposed to be part of the panel on Venice West, but a dead battery kept him tethered at home. He told me, however, that 30 people had shown up for his reading with Neeli Cherkovski.
About three dozen poets will have read their poetry or talked about the Beat and the Neo-beat by the time David Amram gives a musical performance tomorrow night (Monday, at 9:30 p.m. I truly wish that I had enough time to have been at all the events of this festival. I regret especially not being able to attend the opening ceremonies featuring Frank T. Rios and George Herms, as well as the “Women of the Beat Generation Reading.” I would have loved to have heard Yama Lake, Larry Lake’s son, read, too, as well Marc Olmsted. In addition, Michael C. Ford and Will Alexander were giving talks.

One of the highlights of this festival, however, was probably the “Punk & Beat reading” by Linda J. ALbertano, Iris Berry, Jack Brewer, Michael Lane Bruner, S.A. Griffin, Doug Knott, and A. Razor. All I can say is that I want an extended encore presentation at a time that allows me to absorb the full ramifications of these lifetimes of contumacious poetics.

It was perhaps appropriate that I began the day by meeting with Pedro Paulo Araujo, who is working on a short animated film based on the final two stanzas of Leland Hickman’s poem, “The Hidden.” That poem was one of ten “Elements” that was published in Hickman’s Great Slave Lake Suite in 1980. I met with Pedro at 10:00 a.m. at Portfolio Coffeehouse in Long Beach to discuss Hickman’s poetry in general and that poem in particular. I gave him a copy of “Lee Sr. Falls to the Floor,” which Lee had written in the mid-1960s, as a means of providing some background for Lee’s life-long wrestling with the sudden death of his father. Pedro became interested in Lee’s poetry because his film company is working on digitizing the audio tapes of readings at Beyond Baroque. One recent tape he worked on was a reading Lee gave with Barrett Watten in 1984, on one of the coldest nights that anyone in Venice could recall. The audience was very small – maybe about eight people – and almost all of us at one point or another had to get up and walk around the read area of the folding chairs in order to warm up. We were bundled up in sweaters and jackets, but it wasn’t enough. Still, it was one of the best readings I ever attended.

Before heading off to my meeting with Pedro, I took a quick look at the first set of galleys for my forthcoming book from What Books. The typeface seems on the comfortable and familiar side, and perhaps that will work out for the best. The poems, which appear in both English and Spanish, are varied enough in their shapeliness that a more unusual typeface might prove distracting. I’ve waited a long time for this book and can’t wait to send my closest friends a copy.

Finally, I want to mention how much I appreciated seeing Carolyn Rios at yesterday’s event at Beyond Baroque. I worked with Carolyn’s students at Venice Continuation High School for several years (1989-1996). Most of the time I was an artist-in-residence funded by the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles. The CPITS (California Poets in the Schools) program had largely lost its impetus, at least in Southern California, by the mid-1980s, and I had turn to other sources for support in order to teach poetry to young people. Although I worked at other continuation high schools, too, Venice Continuation High holds a special place in my heart. I guess I have indeed aged, though. Carolyn at first did not recognize me, even though we were in Beyond Baroque’s lobby for several minutes before we happened to start talking to each other. On the other hand, until she took off her beret, I did not recognize her, either. Once memory had adjusted to present perception, though, we both felt as young as ever.

Caliban; KYSO; and Rae Armantrout

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Larry Smith has posted the latest edition of Caliban Chronicles, which is emphatically worth reading at this turning point in our country’s history. It is perhaps more than a little ironic that the heroic evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 is being recounted in a major film right now. One might watch this film and be lulled into believing that World War II settled the matter of fascist government as an acceptable form of civilized social rule once and for all. Not so. Like an insidious, implacable virus, fascism has returned. Do not be deceived by the seemingly benign familiarity of its current malefactors. They are intent on imposing a firm, remorseless dictatorship on the American people that will be every bit as ruthless as that exacted on the people of Iraq subsequent to the American invasion. The prisons for those who resist will be administered by the same rule-book. Unless we act now in a vigilant manner, our fate will approach a precipice that will allow very little room to maneuver. Acting now, though, is not a matter of all work and no celebration. Larry Smith calls for us to affirm a balance in our lives in which joy also has time to cavort.

http://calibanonline.com/newsletter/CC27.pdf

One of the very best magazines in the country right now, KYSO (Knock Your Socks Off) has just published its ninth issue. Clare MacQueen has kept this project going for five years now, and her roster of writers is growing more familiar with each issue. She is one of the five best editors to have emerged in the independent press movement in the past two decades. In particular, she has championed micro-fiction, transgressive poetry, and hybrids of those genres.

http://www.kysoflash.com/Issue9/IntroIssue9.aspx

Finally, it is a personal pleasure to post a link to an interview with Rae Armantrout, a poet born in the same year as I was (1947) and who also briefly studied with the same teacher I had at San Diego State University, Glover Davis. Rae Armantrout is indeed one of very best poets of the Baby Boomer generation, and I have long admired her work. I think back on a meal at a restaurant in Ocean Park I shared with Ron Silliman and Rae Ron had come down from San Francisco to give a talk and reding at Beyond Baroque, which was also attended by Lee Hickman. Ocean Park had not yet gentrified, and eating at a restaurant within walking distance of my apartment on Hill Street gave his weekend’s presentations a celebratory touch. There was a sense of lively humor, in part because my girlfriend at the time, Cathay, was not particularly interested in poetry and had no stake in literary jostling. She primarily read mysteries, and it was thanks to her that I began to read Raymond Chandler seriously. Oddly enough, I had read Ross MadDonald lin the mid-1970s, but skipped right back to my usual fare of novels without moving on to Chandler. Cathay, Ron, and Rae seemed both to enjoy Cathay’s push-back wit. As we ate our pasta, the discussion hardly hid the fact that Ron, Rae, and I were all ambitious for our work, although we did not necessarily expect any larger recognition than what we were then receiving.

We would not eat together again until Ron gave a reading in San Diego while I was a graduate student. We had by then achieved more acclaim, but Ron had not yet published The Alphabet; Rae was still working as an adjunct; and I was a teaching assistant over the age of 50, which is to say that the odds were heavily against me getting a tenure-track job. Rae was not that much more optimistic. A literary life is not feasible if one is easily discouraged or given to stultifying self-reproach.

In thinking fondly, therefore, with retrospective appreciation of that meal in Ocean Park, and all that Ron, Rae, and I have done since then (and how it has not been easy), I post this link of Rae being interviewed at the Library of Congress. All three of us are fortunate enough to still be ambitious for our work.

https://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=8254&loclr=eanw&t=1&cn=ZmxleGlibGVfcmVjc18y&refsrc=email&iid=a8fd3c7e38b04a4bacccf708210d7d22&uid=4831705987&nid=244+272699400

Steve Kowit — Solo Monk

Tuesday morning, February 6

Linda and I went down to San Diego this past weekend to be at the wedding of my youngest nephew, Mitchell. Aimee and he got married outdoors in February, which would have been taking a considerable chance if this had been twenty years ago. I noticed in the late 1990s, however, that rainfall had already begun declining in winter months in Southern California. The years that I spent in San Diego (1997-2004) were fairly dry, and I yearned for more rain then, as much as I do now. Last winter’s rainfall seems to have been an anomaly, and we are back in an even worse drought than before.

If it had rained, Mitchell and Aimee had already arranged for a tent to cover the area of the ceremony and the four dozen chairs for their families and friends. Both of Mitchell’s siblings were there with their spouses. His older sister led a prayer-invocation, and I was very moved by the special touches of Latino customs at marriages, including the lighting of a single candle from the flame of two candles; the lasso’s symbolic joining; and the exchange of coins as a pledge of providing each other the necessities in the course of the contingencies of a life together.

Earlier in the day, we had had lunch in Solana Beach with Bill Harding, the publisher of Oak Garden Press, and his poet-wife Penny. Bill has also worked as a musician, and he told us of having collaborated with the late poet Steve Kowit when he read his poem, “Solo Monk.” There is a video available if you do a quick search: Steve Kowit Solo Monk.

Thanks to the nation’s ability to get caught up in a sports event, the traffic back the next day was very light, and we scooted home without having to speed up in the least.