Category Archives: Books

Don’t Kid Yourself: The Mural Attack Alert

Saturday, April 13, 2019

I just tweeted: “The whitewashing of this mural was NOT an accident, but a deliberate, vicious attack on an artist depicting an extraordinarily important moment in women’s sports.” I will now elaborate.

In this blog, I try to maintain a relatively calm, thoughtful tone that is civil and respectful, but my patience with those who behavior is deplorable has reached a boiling point with this latest attack on cultural work. Do not kid yourself. The blotting out of this mural was a direct, intentional assault on women, both in the artistic and athletic domain. For the California Department of Transportation to claim that they cannot determine who bears the responsibility for this act is a despicable act of bureaucratic cowardice in which misogynistic behavior is protected as if it were an endangered species.

Think about it, folks. If this were a mural by Edward Ruscha depicting Kirk Gibson’s World Series home run in 1988, do you really think it would have been obliterated without anyone saying a thing? Do you honestly believe that an all-male work crew would happily wield their rollers and mush on whitewash right over Vin Scully’s face in the broadcast booth as he mouths the words, “In a year of the improbable, the impossible has happened”? Give me a fuckin’ break. Patriarchal hypocrisy just farted in our faces.

I have the good fortune to recollect that I witnessed both the start and finish of the first Women’s Marathon at the 1984 Olympics. It is one of my most treasured memories. My first wife, Cathay, who was on a running team when she served in the U.S. Army, and I went to Santa Monica College early one morning to witness the start of the race; and we then drove to the USC Coliseum to witness its finish. Somewhere, in an archival box, I have some photographs I took at that event, and I will post them as soon as I can find them.

In the meantime, I want to say that I regard this action as no different than having someone physically assault me. There is no amount of money that can make up for this insult to women artists and women athletes. It is not an isolated action, but directly connected to the forces in our society that are passing “fetal heartbeat” anti-abortion bills.

We’ve seen these kinds of characters before, both in daily life and in the history of fascist activism. “Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meine Browning!” (Hans Johst) Do not pretend that the same forces are not at work in this present example. “When I see a mural depicting feminist empowerment, I fill my bucket with whitewash.”

I urge all of us to send both notes of solidarity (as well as any economic support we can offer) to Judy Baca’s S.P.A.R.C.

The Social and Public Art Resource Center
685 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

This organization, which is located next to Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, is leading the effort to restore the mural. Spark the resistance!

UPCOMING EVENTS: The Nintendo Generation and “Queer Futurity”

Thursday, April 11, 2019

I would like to call attention to a pair of upcoming literary events. On Saturday, April 13, Aleida Rodriguez is reading at Beyond Baroque, in Venice, California. On Thursday, April 18, at 4 p.m., Cherrie Moraga will be giving the annual Helena Maria Viramontes lecture at CSULLB at the University Theater at 4:00 p.m. Rodriguez was the first editor and publisher to publish Moraga’s poetry, though at the time she was still using her birth name (Lawrence). By chance, my poetry also appears in that issue of rara avis magazine.

Among the younger writers for whom the poetry of Rodriguez and the plays of Moraga provide the context of continuity, Monica Teresa Ortiz has had a chapbook published recently that deserves your attention. Autobiography of a Semiromantic Anarchist, which was the winner of the Host Publications Chapbook Prize, consists of two sections of prose poems, “the waiting room” and “sanctuary.” While each of these titles emphasizes the spatial setting, it is the temporal factor in this collection of poetry that proves to be the most revealing.

Ortiz regards herself as the Nintendo Generation, those born in or after the video game “Donkey Kong” debuted in 1981. Although I doubt she has any interest in pursuing the topic, I believe she could write a intriguing personal essay on the topic. As someone born at the start of the Baby Boom generation, I can vouch for how her descriptive term is an accurate delineation of a cultural shift that became best known as the Millennial Generation, after first being dubbed “Gen X.”

Ortiz’s score of prose poems in this chapbook most directly reflect the “survival” aspect of video games, which feature a narrative that tests the ability of a protagonist to withstand the sudden imposition of a hostile environment. Eros and Thanatos grapple like sweaty wrestlers in her poetry. “We fuck under the conditions of economic collapse and climate change.” While most of her generation cohort expresses its “outrage if (they) can be clever in under 240 characters,” Ortiz has chosen the less visible social medium of prose poetry. Autobiography of a Semiromantic Anarchist deserves to be retweeted about until the crisis she speaks of becomes the topic of urgent, massive action. In particular, I would call your attention to the final note in the post-script to the main portion of her book: “But I already told you: a queer futurity is the best bomb shelter we could build.” By that, I assume she means that there would be no bombs being built that we would need.a shelter from. In Ortiz’s writing, readers can find a worthy successor to the unwavering challenge posed by Don Gordon’s poetry of protest.

L.A. Times Book Festival: 2019’s Poetry Parade

The L.A. Times Book Fair will feature many of the best known fiction writers and poets in the United States, including Joyce Carol Oates and T.C. Boyle. The one panel I wish I could find the time to attend features Lynell George and William Deverell, and I would urge you to try to get a ticket to the panel, if you are planning to spend time at the Festival this year.

Of the poets who are scheduled to read, my favorite is Rae Armantrout, and I am delighted to see that she was accorded a slot on the poetry stage. Other poets include Terrance Hayes, Kathy Fagan, Laura-Anne Bosselaar, Lynne Thompson, Ilya Kaminsky, Robin Coste Lewis, Carl Philips, Marilyn Chin, Brendan Constantine, Charles Harper Webb, Carol Muske-Dukes, Sonia Greenfield, Michelle Bitting, Claudia Keelan, Chase Twichell, Elena Karina Byrne, Kim Dower, Victoria Chang, and Kevin Prufar.

It’s an odd list of prominent figures, in which something is definitely “off.” I can’t really imagine an anthology that would be able to make this assemblage a cohesive ensemble. This line-up is the kind of thing that gives “eclectic” a bad name. I am quite certain I’m not alone in being able to think of two or three dozen poets in Los Angeles whose combined readings would make for a more interesting program, one in which a stronger influence of the past century’s avant-garde poets would be more audible.

Perhaps the problem is the time allotment for each poet. Once a decision is made in which each poet is asked to read for a brief time, a festival presentation will accelerate towards a “talent show” compendium. Why not instead give each poet at least a half-hour, which would include a three-minute introduction by another poet, and make the entire afternoon of poetry no longer than three to four hours? A program that started with Robin Coste Lewis, and then presented Terrance Hayes, Lynne Thompson, Michelle Bitting, Rae Armantrout, Marilyn Chin, Kathy Fagan, and finished with Carl Phillips would be much closer to being a delectable festival’s outpouring than the “eat and run” quality of the current surplus. A follow-up afternoon that began Carol Muske-Dukes, and then featured Kim Dower, Victoria Chang, Brendan Constantine, Elena Karina Byrne, Charles Harper Webb, Laura-Ann Bosselaar, and Claudia Keelan would be more than worth attending, too. A selective tightening up of the scheduled program would boost the overall timbre of its contiguity.

As it stands, though, I will be elsewhere next weekend. Aleida Rodriguez, one of the poets I published in MOMENTUM magazine in the mid-1970s, was awarded a COLA grant in 2018, and is giving a featured reading at Beyond Baroque on Saturday evening. One can hardly blame me for wanting to spend time at a place where I have read or lectured over a score of times. I’ve never been asked to read, even briefly, at the LA Times Book Festival, in large part because I haven’t had a book out that’s been available for Small World Books to sell at its nearby booth after the reading. Having a book come out this past fall, however, doesn’t seem to have made much difference.

I’ll grant you that HEADWATERS OF NIRVANA hasn’t met with the same acclaim that its forerunner of a bilingual edition in Mexico received, in which both translators wrote substantial comments on my poetry as an introduction or back cover material. I remain a distinctive outsider in the United States. In Mexico, PRUEBAS OCULTAS was listed by a panel of poet-critics as one of the two dozen best books of poetry published in mid-decade.

In contrast, not one of the above poets in this year’s LA Times festival knows more than a small fraction of my poetry, or would be able to assess in a meaningful, accurate way the literary worth of my poetry. Now while that is a justifiable reason for leaving me out, I suspect that it is also one that would not be admitted by some of these poets without nonplussed hesitation, or awkward, unconvincing denials.

Free Solo: Climb at Your Own Risk

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Free Attic Door One

Free Solo One

Year Three: A Piñata Intifada

Saturday, April 6, 2019

In the third year of an almost unendurable insult to one’s intelligence, a local birthday commemorates his arrival and departure from Los Angeles.

Trump Pinata Back-Up

The AWP Book Report

AWP Trip

A significant percentage of the people who stopped at Brooks Roddan’s table were writers who knew of my work, either as an editor, poet, or teacher. I confess that I did not recognize Martin Mitchell, who is now a MFA student at George Mason University, as a former student. “Professor Mohr,” he said. “And the blood-smell begins to fulminate.” Ah! One of my favorite lines by Charles Bukowski (“The Souls of Dead Animals”). Now there’s a student who knows how to warm the cockles of an old professor’s heart.

One of the first arrivals I talked to was Harold Abramowiz, whose writing is representative of the best efforts of post-Language poets to push the avant-garde in provocatively encompassing directions. I regret that I don’t precisely remember his companion’s name, whose very presence seemed to betoken an equally engaged poetics. Other poets knew me as editor: Maw Shein Win and Tim Donnelly, for instance, who are pictured above with me; Maw is holding a copy of CROSS-STROKES, an anthology for which I also did the cover design.

Two people who were completely unexpected included Bill Tremblay and Irene Smith Landsman. I had never met either of them before, but at least I knew of Tremblay enough to inform him immediately of my recognition of his work. The most unexpected person was a woman who identified herself by saying that she was the daughter of Frances Dean Smith (aka “FrancEye”). The only daughter I had ever met was Marina Bukowski, who was the only child of Charles Bukowski. Decades ago, I had heard that FrancEye had been married before she moved to Los Angeles, but I never expected to meet any of her other children. At some point, with that person’s permission, I may share details of our conversation.

Other drop-by visitors included Tanya Ho Kong, who promised to send me a reminder of tonight’s event at the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles:

Friday, April 5th, 2019
@ 6:30 PM @ Korean Cultural Center
5505 Wilshire BLvd ( free parking! Amazing Korean appetizers (yes!)
Bilingual (Korean/English) POETRY Reading with:
Mark Irwin, Suzanne Lummis, Lisa Segal, Kelly Grace Thomas, Conney D. Williams, Hack Hee Kang, Jun C. Kim,
Quentin Ring & Tanya Ko Hong

I went to only one reading connected with AWP, in large part because I was staying with the family of wife’s niece, Laura, in Milwaukee, which is at the far reaches of Portland’s very efficient light-rail system. Laura’s spouse, Dave, very graciously gave me lifts in his car to and from the rail station, but I could hardly ask him to do that late in the evening, so I headed back to the home base fairly early. I did catch short readings by Kit Robinson and Jennifer Bartlett at Passages Bookstore on Thursday night, and felt fortunate that they led off the long list of readers and that I was able to meet David Abel, the power of the store, before the reading started. Kit was in as fine a form as ever: along with Rae Armantrout and Ron Silliman, he is one of a handful of truly superb poets of the Baby Boom generation. Jennifer Bartlett read a poem entitled “All Things Are Illuminated by Water,” which was no sooner finished than I wanted to hear it again and again.

Here is a list of some of the books I acquired in my brief tour of the AWP Book Fair:


here the sun’s for real: selected poems — Jose Eugenio Sanchez (translated by Anna Rosenwong) — (Bloomington, Indiana: Autumn Hill, 2018)

How to Write an Earthquake (Comment Ecrire et Quoi Ecrire): Sixteen Haitian Writers Respond (Autumn Hill, 2011)

Whiteness of Bone — Gloria Mindock (Glenview, IL: Glass Lyre Press, 2016)

Rainstorm over the Alphabet: Poems 1990-2000 — Bill Tremblay (Lynx House Press, 2001)

An Indigo Scent After the Rain — James Grabill (Lynx House Press, 2003)

Pet Sounds — Stephanie Young (New York: Nightboat Books, 2019)

What I Knew — Eleni Sikelianos — (New York: Nightboat Books, 2019)

Crosslight for Youngbird – Asiya Wadud (New York, Nightboat Books, 2018)

Thought Balloon — Kit Robinson (New York: Roof Books, 2019)

Leaves of Class — Kit Robinson (Tucson: Chex, 2017)

Lucifer: A Hagiography — Philip Memmer (Sandpoint, Idaho: Lost Horse Press, 2009)

Mouth & Fruit — Chryss Lost (Santa Barbara: Gunpowder Press, 2014)

Instead of Sadness — Catherine Abbey Hodges (Santa Barbara: Gunpowder Press, 2015)

Float — David Abel (Tucson: Chex, 2012)

The Paul Bunyan Ballroom – Bud Backen (Allston, MA: Nixes Mate, 2017)

Contraband of Hoopoe — Ewa Chrusciel (Richmond, CA: Omnidawn, 2014)

Of Annunciations — Ewa Chrusciel (Oakland, CA: Omnidawn, 2017)


Old Rendering Plant — Wolfgang Hilbig (San Francisco, Two Lines Press, 2017)

The Devil’s Water — Richard Wirick (El Segundo, CA: Ekstasis Editions America, 2018)


Robert Frost in Russia — F.D. Reeve (Brookline, MA: Zephyr, 2001)

“Metaphors Be With You”: AWP and Beyond Baroque

April 3, 2019

The AWP in Portland did not get off to a good start. The line for book fair exhibitors to get their admission badges so that they could set up their tables moved very slowly on Wednesday afternoon. As I trudged forward to a handful of computer stations, I thought about a message a few months from the AWP that announced the appointment of a new book fair director, who would be “mentored” by another person. That was reassuring, without a doubt. When you’re on an airplane, the statement you most want to hear is that the pilot is going to be mentored by someone in the air traffic control tower at your destination.

I worked the IF SF Publishing table at the rim of the main rectangle of tables and booths, though “booth” is a bit of a stretch to describe an exhibition space with only a back curtain and two extra folding tables to reinforce one’s visibility. Most of those in attendance were searching for potential publishers, and the saturation level of both writers and publishers generated a literary consciousness similar to a mud flow generated by a heavy rain storm after fire season. People oozed down the aisles, rarely pausing to read a book. I don’t believe that a single person picked up a single book published by Brooks Roddan and read a single paragraph. Maybe the social noise squelched their ability to absorb anything that wasn’t already pre-digested through familiarity.

The only thing that managed to snag people’s attention to our table was not a book, but a T-shirt produced by Beyond Baroque that appropriates the late Peter Schneider’s bot mot: “Metaphors be with you.” Several times I heard people walking by suddenly exclaim, “Oh, I’ve got to get this for (name of friend or relative),” and they would slide to the embankment of the mud flow. I sold a half-dozen T-shirts, and raised $120 for Beyond Baroque. This success was largely due to a decision made on the second day to drape the t-shirts over the front of the table, instead of having them hang half-hidden on a hip-high horizontal pole behind our table.

Occasionally I walked around the book fair, and noticed that the exhibits in the center aisles seemed to have attendees pausing long enough to buy some books, so the book fair was hardly a complete fiasco for everyone. It would be interesting to know exactly how much money was taken in by all the presses at the Book Fair, and to compare that figure with the total cost of attending the book fair. I have my doubts that many of the exhibitors actually make a profit for all their efforts given that one must take into account the cost of producing the books as well as shipping them.

My most recent publisher, What Books, had a well-stocked table at the center section of the Book Fair, which I gather from one of may companion tables, the Author’s Alliance, is only bestowed on those who have attended five or more AWP conventions. I am grateful for the assiduity of What Books, since my book was on display throughout the convention and even managed to sell several copies. They also had a lovely broadside, with a color imprint of work by the artist Gronk atop the poem, “The Restoration.”

Perhaps one major problem with the “book fair” is that it is actually a hybrid. An extraordinary number of the tables dedicate themselves to MFA programs at various colleges. They are essentially recruiting stations for an upcoming niche market, and they are the ones who benefit the most from the presence of the independent (aka “small”) presses among which they are seeded. The AWP convention in Portland was only the second one I have ever attended, and I was fairly busy at the first one (in Los Angeles) because the MFA program had decided to get a table in hopes of boosting our visibility in a saturated system. It was only during this second exposure to what I have long regarded with suspicion that I realized how the MFA programs exploit the cultural capital of the independent presses without giving much in return. “Join our MFA program and gain access to publication,” is the implicit premise of this annual enterprise, which erases any distinction between those publishers operating without institutional support and those based in the same academic domains as the MFA programs themselves.

Beyond Baroque’s artistic director, Quentin Ring, attended the convention, but the decision not to have a table there was one I concurred with. Beyond Baroque has lasted more than a half-century because it has stood for a poetics willing to take risks not approved within the academy. There’s no point to pretending otherwise, and anyone who would need AWP to become aware of Beyond Baroque is not someone who would particularly benefit from its programming and workshops.

On the last day, I closed up shop fairly early and walked the aisles. In my next post, I will mention and briefly discuss some of the books I found.

In the meantime, I have a busy second half of the week: on Thursday night, the Loft in San Pedro has a group show at its upstairs gallery that will include work by Linda and me; and I will give a brief reading at the Malibu Public Library on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. This reading is the make-up event for the postponed reading in mid-winter.

Robin Myers: Poet in Mexico City

Tuesday morning, March 26

I am heading up to Portland today for the AWP conference with more than the usual mixed emotions. Many of the poets I most care about will not be there, though I noticed that Alicia Ostriker and Marilyn Nelson are scheduled to be part of panels. Rae Armantrout will also be part of at least one reading, and I hope to catch that event. Passages Bookstore seems to the one off-site gathering nexus that will be most deserving of my attendance.

For those I happen to talk to at AWP and who glance at my blog out of curiosity, I would call your attention to the work of Robin Myers, a poet and translator who lives in Mexico City. Her books will be difficult to get, since they are all published in other countries, such as Argentina and Spain, but if you have a friend there who would be willing to purchase and mail them to you, you would know that you have a valiant and authentic friend. She is one of the very best of the “younger” poets whose work demonstrates why the key question remains: “Is the poem you are reading worth the effort of translating into another language?”

Amalgama / Conflations — (Mexico City, Mexico: Antilope, 2016)
lo demás — (Buenos Aires: Zindo and Gafuri, 2016); and
Tener (Having) — (Buenos Aires: Audisea, 2017)

“Lyric Poetry Is Dead”: The Flourishing Obituary of Ezequiel Zaidenwerg

Friday, March 22, 2019

(translated by Robin Myers; drawing by Carmen Amengual)
Cardboard House Press /

THERE ARE GODS HERE TOO: Readings of Heraclitus — Michael Kincaid
The Buffalo Commons Press, 2008
(P.O. Box 525, Dickinson, North Dakota 58602-0525

Kenneth Rexroth’s “Thou Salt Not Kill: A Memorial to Dylan Thomas” is not cited as often as it should be. It certainly does not appear in many anthologies, despite its precedence to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” as a major, mid-century jeremiad. I have no idea of whether the Argentinian poet Ezequiel Zaidenwerg is familiar with Rexroth’s scathing indictment of American culture, but those who find themselves entranced with Zaidenwerg’s book-length poem should dig up Rexroth’s rant and note the insidious violence attributed to Thomas’s death. If lyric poetry is dead, it is a corpse with the aura of the continuous present tense, at least in the palimpsestual shroud in which Zaidenwerg has wrapped it; its death still seems painfully recent. If such were not the case, the appropriation and adaptation of twentieth century texts (Eva Peron’s autopsy; Che Guevera’s corpse) would not shimmer in these poems as if propelled by some inward, still palpitating vision. Zaidenwerg has descried a dystopia epic, and the bruises, amputations, beheadings, assassinations, and massacres of civilized history are all too visible, however. “Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse” is not the advice to be found on lyric poetry’s tomb.

On the whole, the “death” of lyric poetry, in this fourteen part, book-length poem, reminds of Abel Gance’s cinematic call-to-arms, “Now is the time for the resurrection of all myths in light.” Orpheus, Odysseus, and the Sybil at Cumae, as well as Lot in the Book of Genesis, all contribute to an extended eulogy of narratives, each meant to remind us — the few who find ourselves willing to show up for a public memorial — of how resilient these archetypes remain, even if the form of imaginative conveyance has become a negligible art.

Zaidenwerg’s title, which gets repeated as the opening gambit of many sections, is most certainly not meant to stir up any lingering traces of nostalgia. The irony, of course, is primarily operating in the translator’s domain, for it is translation that operates with a Janus mask. Zaidenwerg’s book, and Myers’s translation deserve to be the focus of the following question: Is a translator a writer inherently committed to a conservative avant-garde?

Given the absence of any significant presence of avant-garde writers at the upcoming AWP convention, I don’t expect to have many conversations in Portland that take on this question by first quoting from Michael Kincaid’s THERE ARE GODS HERE TOO: Readings of Heraclitus (Buffalo Commons Press, 2008). This book should be on the shelf of every poet who wants to produce a body of work worthy someday of being translated. Kincaid, who is a very fine poet himself — perhaps the best “unknown” poet in the United States, exemplifies the positive response to my question in taking on this pre-Socratic poet as an avant-garde visionary of paradoxes’ mutability:

“What is cold warms, warmth cools, moisture dries, the parched moistens.

“Fire lives the death of air; air lives the death of fire. Water lives the death of earth, earth that of water.

“But it is death for spirits to become water, and death for water to become earth. But water is born of earth, and spirit of water.”

(page 37)

Footnote: As is the case all too often with something first read 50 years ago, Gance’s proclamation turned out to be a lengthier statement. It can be found at the start of an essay by Martin M. Winkler:

“The Hidden” — A film inspired by Lee Hickman’s poem

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Back in 1980, I published Leland Hickman’s first collection of poems, “TIRESIAS I:9:B Great Slave Lake Suite.” He read several of the poems in that book, in 1984, at Beyond Baroque, on an evening that included Barrett Watten. A recording of a portion of one of those poems, “The Hidden,” was recently used by Pedro Paulo Araujo and other filmmakers to generate an animated film, which is now available for viewing on-line. The film was first screened at Beyond Baroque as part of its 50th anniversary celebration.

Hickman went on to edit ten issue of TEMBLOR magazine, one of the most noteworthy literary projects of that period. His Collected Poems were eventually published by Stephen Motika’s Nightboat Books and Paul Vangelisti’s Otis Books/Seismicity Editions. Hickman’s archives are at the ANP Collection at the University of California, San Diego.

Here is the link to “The Hidden”: