Category Archives: Books

Every Anti-Racist MUST Vote, Or the Tolerated Violence of Non-Racism Will Flourish

Friday, September 18, 2020

In the aftermath of the last election, one explanation for Trump’s victory was that racists had a motive for voting. Even the KKK liked the GOP’s candidate. No third party defections for the KKK! I am not, of course, painting every Trump supporter as a card-carrying member of the KKK. It remains true that not everyone who voted for Trump in 2016 was a racist, but the chiastic category was pretty much on the mark: “every racist who voted, voted for Trump.” That rule of thumb will hold on Election Day, 2020.

Trump did not win because of the racist vote, however. He won because people who would claim that “I am non-racist” voted for him. In order for Trump to be turned out of office, it is imperative that everyone who regards herself or himself as anti-racist vote, even if they are extremely disappointed by the outcome of the Democratic primaries. If you self-identify as anti-racist and fail to vote, you are no different than the “non-racist” who votes for Trump.

Unless every anti-racist votes, and is relentless in making certain that everyone else who regards herself or himself as anti-racist votes, then the “non-racist” votes will align with the racist vote once again, and those factions will carry the day; and Trump will be re-elected.

However, that will not mean the end of America as we knew it. To fantasize that America “as we knew it” was some kind of haven for idealistic norms as a social contract is to engage in self-delusion on a massive scale. The United States of America is a genocidal project of imperialist domination, but that portion of its history will come to seem like a “good cop” at work. If Trump is re-elected, you’ll get a chance to see a “rogue cop” in action, and Dirty Harry will seem like St. Francis of Assisi, in comparison.

Florence Howe (1929-2020): Feminist Publisher and Editor

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 (updated, Thursday, September 17, 2020)

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“I don’t think of publishing either as money making for the moment, or as noise making for the moment. I really think about publishing in relation to learning and consciousness over the long haul, and what is needed to make something that represents more accurately the world we live in.” — Florence Howe

https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-feminist-presss-chief-editor-fund-raiser-and-cheerleader/?bc_nonce=z6u01bvcrr9eb5aqr8nb8&cid=reg_wall_signup

quoted in “The Feminist Press’s Chief Editor, Fund Raiser, and Cheerleader” by Ellen K. Coughlin
NOVEMBER 14, 1990 — Chronicle of Higher Education

(cited in Harrison Smith’s obituary in The Washington Post:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/florence-howe-feminist-press-founder-and-womens-studies-champion-dies-at-91/2020/09/14/2d86f836-f694-11ea-be57-d00bb9bc632d_story.html )

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As founder of the Feminist Press, Florence Howe (1929-2020) made an extraordinary contribution to canonical discourse, and though her accomplishments were acknowledged in several lengthy obituaries, I would argue that they should have been longer and more detailed. In particular, more attention should have been paid to Howe’s work on the anthology, NO MORE MASKS (Anchor Books: Doubleday, Garden City, NY; 1973), which Howe co-edited with the poet Ellen Bass. While Donald Allen’s anthology from Grove Press (1960) has long been regarded as the preeminent collection of “underground” poetry after World War II, its paucity of women poets (a total of four, in fact) is exactly why Howe’s and Bass’s anthology was sorely needed.

In point of fact, though, NO MORE MASKS was not a singularity back when it first appeared. Los Angeles-based poet Ann Stanford, for instance, edited THE WOMEN POETS IN ENGLISH, which McGraw-Hill published in 1972. Stanford’s book, at 374 pages, was very close to being the same size as Howe’s and Bass’s, and I do wonder why Stanford is not included in NO MORE MASKS. Her exclusion, if it was deliberate, will hardly be regarded down the line as an act of encompassing sisterhood. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a neutral party in making this comment. Those of you who know HOLDOUTS: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance (University of Iowa, 2011) will recollect the esteem I have for her work. Nevertheless, in perusing the original volume this afternoon, I am struck more than ever with the implicit dialogue that is taking place in NO MORE MASKS. The women poets are talking to each other, and if the men don’t want to listen in, they are all the more impoverished in their patriarchal enclave.

NO MORE MASKS went on to be reprinted by Harper Perennial in an expansed edition (about twenty percent larger) twenty years after its first appearance, and its cumulative impact continues to be acknowledged. There was a tribute two years ago to this anthology at the Poets House in NYC, which included a panel featuring
Ellen Bass, Natalie Diaz, Marie Howe, Aracelis Girmay, Donna Masini, Saretta Morgan & Alicia Ostriker.

I send my condolences to Ellen Bass, especially.

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https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2020-09-16/florence-howe-feminist-press-dies

Advice to Undergraduate Essay Writers

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Years ago, sometime between 2001 and 2003, I was sitting in my office at UCSD, grading yet another first year essay in the equivalent of the “Great Books Program” for the Humanities program at Revelle College. The notes I am about to post came out of a realization I had back then. I wish to thank Professor Steve Cox for the chance he gave me to work in that program. I never would have come up with this particular piece of advice unless I had worked under him.

THE TITLE/THESIS SENTENCE “X” and “Y” COORDINATES
or, How I Learned to Pay Attention to the Subject Position

Look at the title of your essay.

Then circle the word that is the subject of your thesis sentence.

If the word in the subject position of the thesis sentence is not in the title, then the left and the right hand (so to speak) of your essay don’t know the meaning of the word “coordination.”

You’d be surprised how often a keyword in the title serves as the object (in the predicate part of the sentence), but the argumentative energy of the thesis will recoil most vigorously in the subject position. The primary keyword of your argument (not the heroine or hero of the story) should find its outlet in the subject position of the thesis sentence. THE CONSEQUENCES of that idea should be saved for the predicate.

Now, all rules get broken, and this one is no exception. However, what is the advantage to your argument in diminishing the stature of your main idea by having some nondescript word (“It” or “There…”) in the subject position.

The trick is remembering to put this into practice. It sounds easy and simple enough to check your title and thesis sentence, but in practice, it’s all too easy to forget.

Finally, it you truly want to know how well the argument in your paper is developing, simply look at the subjects of all 50 to 60 sentences in your five-page essay. IT IS LIKE A CHESS GAME. Each word in the subject position represents a move on the chess board. A good chess player is aware of the sequence of moves. Each move matters. What is the advantage of choosing this word (e.g., “retribution”) over another word as one discusses the penal system? At some point in your argument, that word might appear in the subject position of a sentence, but in which one of the several dozen sentences? The writer in control of her art as an essayist knows precisely in the essay when to use that word, and also when to deploy “reconciliation.”

Now the question is: what are looking for once you have assembled your sequence of words in the subject position, for indeed each one constitute a link in a chain. Well, what is it you are checking for?

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Post-script:

For a chance to hear a distinct critique of one of our system’s primary disaster zones, here is a link to Steve Cox addressing the logic behind wide-spread imprisonment in the United States:

LINK to Recording of Third W-E Reading

Monday, September 14

Lynn McGee, Susana H. Case, Carolyne Wright, and I wish to thank Allison Blevins, Tina Cane, Robin Myers, and Anthony Seidman for reading in our W – E Bicoastal Reading Series yesterday evening/afternoon. Their poems and translations of other poets were extraordinary, and anyone who wishes they could have caught the reading but founded themselves otherwise detained can view the entire occasion at the following link:

The next reading will be on Sunday, November 15th, and will feature Ellen Bass, and several other poets.

Third W – E Bicoastal Poetry Reading SUNDAY, 9/13

Saturday, September 12, 2020

I received an email from a reader of this blog the other day in which the poet expressed concern about the lack of recent posts. My apologies to anyone who has visited since September 1st, and not seen anything new. Teaching on-line is daunting, at least for those of us who want to provide an experience similar to being in the classroom. For reasons of profession discretion, I am unable to speak about other aspects at my job that have absorbed more time and energy than is usually extracted by my employment.

I have, in fact, had to give considerable attention to making a choice about how much longer I will continue to work full-time as a professor of literature and creative writing. “Not much longer” is the most recent preference. In point of fact, I will probably start teaching half-time starting a year from now.

In the meantime, Linda and I are enduring an onslaught of poisonous air that is unlike anything I have breathed for many years. By chance, we ordered an air filtering machine five days ago and it has arrived in time to get to work in our household. The air quality button glowed bright red immediately after it started working; it very briefly subsided to purple (“poor air quality”) after running for a half-hour, but within a minute burbled back to incandescent red. About an hour ago, I quickly darted out the front door to get the day’s mail and nearly gagged at the stench outside. The West Coast of the United States is undergoing a life-shortening ecological implosion.

In regards to “retirement,” I am allowed to work half-time for five years, which would mean that I could still teach at CSULB until the spring of 2026. After having my lungs and circulatory system bruised with this week’s task force of pollutants. we’ll see how close I get to that finish line.

Linda and I went to the studio yesterday to get some photographs for a project that is documenting the artists working at the Loft in San Pedro. I suggested to the photographers that an exhibit of the photographs (along with one recent work by each of the artists) might make an interesting show in the upstairs exhibition space. One of the hard parts for the Loft during this quarantine measures necessitated by the pandemic is that a very fine exhibit had just been hung before everything shut down. The show was hung with great care; it was kind of thing in which eye can feel how each piece is in exact parallel definition, no matter how large the incremental jump from one piece to the next. It is still on the walls, but it might well be a year from now before anyone sees the show.

Poetry is still available for its audiences, however. The W – E (West – East) series, founded by Lynn McGee and Susana H. Case, continues tomorrow afternoon.

Bill Mohr invites you to a scheduled Zoom poetry reading.

DATE AND Time: SUNDAY, September 13, 2020
4:00 PM Pacific Time

POETS
Tina Cane
Robin Myers
Allison Blevens
Anthony Seidman

If you wish to receive the link, please feel free to write me at William.BillMohr@gmail.com

I hope you can join us.

Five Poems by Mark Salerno

Sunday, August 29, 2020

According to the finding guide at the Archive for New Poetry at UCSD’s Special Collections in Geisel Library, I first responded to a letter from the poet Mark Salerno in 1985. My memories have grown imperfect, and at some point I hope to get down to San Diego to review that correspondence, which lasted almost 20 years. At this point, I only remember that he had arrived in Los Angeles too late for me to include him in POETRY LOVES POETRY, which is a shame since his poetry has gone on to become far more interesting than the work done by at least two-thirds of the poets in that anthology. I suppose that Mark would make that cut-off line slightly over three-quarters, if not four-fifths, but that’s not a matter for me to settle or to adjust. Mark Salerno’s poetry is right up there with the work of Paul Vangelisti, Martha Ronk, Lee Hickman, Dick Barnes, Lewis MacAdams, Amy Gerstler, Jack Grapes, Charles Bukowski, Ron Koertge, Gerald Locklin, Michael Lally, Laurel Ann Bogen, Kate Braverman, Suzanne Lummis, Wanda Coleman, Eloise Klein Healy, Jim Krusoe, Peter Schjeldahl, David Trinidad, and Dennis Cooper, even if his poems did not appear in PLP. The twenty poets I’ve just listed, by the way, constitute one-third of PLP’s roster; I’ll leave it to the reader to pick a quartet of poets to delete from that list in order to give Charles Harper Webb, Bob Flanagan, Michael C. Ford, and John Thomas a spot in the “starting line-up.” This ensemble of poets, along with Peter Levitt, Doren Robbins, Aleida Rodriguez, Bob Peters, Holly Prado, Harry E. Northup, Bob Crosson, and Jed Rasula, was just a fraction of “the scene”/”scenes” that Salerno found himself in as he was turning 30 years old.

Salerno returned back East after a couple years in Los Angeles, but was back in town “for the duration” by the early 1990s, when he started a magazine, ARSHILE, under the imprint of 96 Tears Press, which also published his first book, Hate. (“96 Tears” was the title of a hit song in 1966 by a garage band from Michigan that is still remembered fondly by those young enough to have savored its carnivalesque fantasy of an abandoned lover turning the tables; “Arshile,” of course, refers to the painter Gorky. All in all, a perfect little example of postmodern juxtaposition.) Salerno has gone on to have had several books of poems published, including Method (Figures Press, 2002) and Odalisque (Salt Publishing: Salt Modern Poets; 2007). A volume of “New and Selected Poems” is long overdue, but Salerno is my nomination for poet-in-residence at the Ovid-in-Internal-Exile of American poets. I am no longer a publisher, so I cannot rectify this situation, but perhaps I can entice the interest of some ambitious young publisher with a sample of Salerno’s poetry. Here, therefore, are the final five poems from Mark Salerno’s ODALISQUE, a book of poems that deserves to be right alongside Ted Berrigan’s THE SONNETS on every contemporary poet’s bookshelf.

In Hours

It ends in bra logic and failed transitive devices

just to advance from one headlong desire to another
notwithstanding our cooped up notions of a primary system

or tunnel vision flop sweat and shtick to save a fairy tale

it’s how we got canned under the regime of reason

the summer after Biggie got shot I gave up my process

because it faded me a little toward the sidelines

I was M. no longer significant in the general crackdown

for a no-talent peroxide blonde in go-go boots

she was brazen as nails to give credence to the world

insofar as cue lines amounted to the dream itself

sticking my damn neck out for whore talk at Steve Boardner’s
and shoring up fragments like all the other poor immigrants

or mouthing off to authority for an odalisque I was M. I was M.


Accessory

More wan beings in panoramas of their own imaginings

or mixing in with the breakfast crowd at Denny’s on Sunset
they came to the new world to get laid and freak out

in right light moments sordid greed and cheap vainglory

it was a way to be significant without recourse to the alphabet
when the double cross of seduction presented several aspects

a pile-on of widely held beliefs and plural identities

hence one grateful tether to rein her in and connect her

to the world of being under authority and castigation

along with all the other beauty school graduates roughed up
repeating the word free and killing time on the back seat

pretty soon it will all be in English or muffled under the money
the summer after I gave up my process to save a fairy tale
another summed up light in the general crackdown of desire.


Lights Out

A little roughed up and so mouthing off under authority

stranded between seeming and being in fact thrown off the squad

for a no-talent peroxide blonde in go-go boots as occurs

in the next decade of his life he becomes no longer significant

wondering what’s left of our lungs and the brightly colored air

she repeated the word free and told her soul to shut up

on faint scenes of life and numerous assorted fragments

while my part was cut down to a few lines at the end

from a synopsis that could have been found in the back pages of Tiger Beat
Barney’s Beanery Duke’s The Power House The Side Show El Carmen

flunky cops beauty school graduates despised scriveners and seduction

on mile-high heels tits out to here and a small-town history

insofar as being famous was an end in itself

notwithstanding stupid mistakes and the fall back position of blind preoccupation.


Lie to Me

It amounted to a salvage job but there you’re on your own
in twilight a few paces behind the bigshots at Fred Segal
memory that just has to jackhammer your brain for a while
as you wonder if you could ever be relevant again
suppose I didn’t care anymore about her hands or what she said

as though she were just another dumb odalisque on Hollywood Blvd.
new in town and working from a Polish blueprint and mistakes

to be the one who knows versus the one who learns as occurs

when the idolatry of reason got cashiered for fame itself

and the concomitant h.p. demands cue lines and a handful of ludes

it got headlong living below compass to shout oneself hoarse

like two-drink minimum poor immigrants and pie-eyed to be here
until one day it all blows up in your face

I was M. I was the hero this is my story.


Trouble No More

When thinking of his feelings he imagined it as carefree

having relearned risk management on the roof of Hollywood High
because he thought the years of tv light and reason were behind him
he went his own way and took his lumps for it end of story

in the movie the renegade cop resists the system and does good

by transforming the figurative and shoring up useless fragments

he was just seeing himself as unlucky he was playing the sap

if you step over the line once you get smacked you get canned

or sometimes you just find yourself over the line

he thought of himself as below compass and good to go
notwithstanding several aspects simultaneously and a lead pipe logic
immigrants beauty school graduates scriveners and the like

sentenced under The Pottery Barn Rule and mouthing off to authority
long after the point of speaking slowly and simple vocabulary.

All five poems reprinted by permission of Mark Salerno, who retains the rights to the poems.

Interlitq: the California Poets Issue (Part 1)

David Garyan is a poet who received his M.A. as well as his MFA degree at California State University Long Beach, and subsequently moved to Italy, where he is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna. Main Street Rag has published three of Garyan’s chapbooks, along with a full collection, (DISS)INFORMATION. A three-part poem, “Ravenna,” was published in Peter Robertson’s magazine, Interlitq:

David Garyan’s poem “Ravenna” published by Interlitq

Garyan is the guest co-editor of a special feature issue of Interlitq, concentrating on California poets.

http://www.interlitq.org/californiafeature1/index.php

The following twelve poets introduce the project, which has just been officially published:

Rae Armantrout
Bart Edelman
David Garyan
Suzanne Lummis
Glenna Luschei
Bill Mohr
D. A. Powell
Amy Uyematsu
Paul Vangelisti
Charles Harper Webb
Bruce Willard
Gail Wronsky

TABLE OF CONTENTS

RAE ARMANTROUT
“Fox”
“Reliable Sources”
“Running the Numbers”

BART EDELMAN
“Whistling to Trick the Wind”
“How I Came to You”
“Footnote”
“Anyone But Barrymore”

SUZANNE LUMMIS
“Those Poets Who Write About Loss”
“Why I am Not the Los Angeles River”

GLENNA LUSCHEI
“Mourning Doves”
“Daughter-in-Law”
“Calving”
“The Fifty-Two Year Cycle of the Aztec Caldnear Stone”

Bill Mohr
“The Predicate”
“Turn Lane”
“Breaking Camp”
“Morning Wood”

D.A. POWELL
“Lost Bible”
“Mike the Band”
“24 Hours from Tulsa”

AMY UYEMATSU
“The Suitcase”
“Winter Friend, the Pine”
“To Tell the Truth”

PAUL VANGELISTI
“Almost Dancing”
From “Liquid Prisoner” (VII)

CHARLES HARPER WEBB
“Good with Balloons”
”Old Love Letters Becme Space Junk”
“When He Grows Up”
“Polar Air Invades LA – The Six O’Clock News”
“Blurb”

BRUCE WILLARD
“Flight Song”
“Coming and Going”
“Unhinged”

GAIL WRONSKY
“The difference between a jaded vision and an honest one is a nightmare”
“Myself am Hell”
“The Non-Self”

Bill Youmans: The Best Person in My High School Class

August 25, 2020

It’s been over 20 years since Bill Youmans died. In the winter of 1999, I happened to be doing laundry at student housing at UCSD, and as I was waiting for clothes to finish drying, I spotted a loose section of the San Diego Union, and began to peruse it. The headline for his obituary spanned five three-inch columns at the top of page B-5: “Bill Youmans; public defender for the underdog.” The article noted that he had been the class valedictorian for Marian High School in 1965, and that he went on to study law at UC Berkeley, where he was a founding member of the Ecology Law Quarterly. He went on to become a public defender, arguing on behalf of some of the more reprehensible criminals to be brought into a courtroom. Youmans had the gift of advocating for the basic humanity of every person, no matter how heinous. In 1998 he was recognized as Public Defender of Year by the California Public Defenders Association.

He died on Feb. 23, 1999, and the memorial service took place a week after the obituary appeared. I didn’t see anyone I recognized, but the First Unitarian Universalist Church was packed. In addition to being survived by his spouse, he had three daughters and two sons, and I hope that all of them are still living. I also hope that they realize how much of an impact Laurens William Youmans had on the people with whom he generously shared his life.

My sister remembers him as an outfielder who literally ran through a fence in order to catch a fly ball. I remember him as someone who was already preparing to act in front of other from a very young age. He played the part of the “Gentleman Caller” in a production of “The Glass Menagerie” at Marian High School. I had done very little acting up to that point, and I still have no idea of how I ended up being cast as Tom in that play. Here is a photograph from that production. I don’t remember the last name of the woman who played the Mother, but I believe her first name was Virginia. Bill Youmans is rising from the table; in the role of Tom; I am catching Alana Milton as she plays Laura.

I hadn’t seen him since we graduated, 55 years ago, but the memory of his integrity and kindness continues to inspire me. It’s so easy to be a bully in this society and for people to admire those who engage in that kind of behavior. Tens of millions approve of such behavior to the extent that they are enthusiastic about re-electing a bully to be this nation’s president. “The United Bullies of America” — that’s what this country’s actual name is.

The other major obituaries in the Union that day were for Jose Quintero (age 74) ; Charles Bates (age 79); Lorin H. Tryon, Jr. (age 71); and Charles Blitzer (age 71).

Uanon: The “Deep State” of Literature

August 22, 2020

One of the best parts of studying for my Ph.D. in Literature at UCSD was taking a seminar on Caribbean novels and poems with Professor Winifred Woodhull, and getting a chance to examine that region’s cultural cartography as a result of being a major nexus of the “Black Atlantic.” It was in her seminar that I got the idea for looking at Hart Crane’s sheaf of poem, “Key West” in relationship to THE BRIDGE for the ways in which that shorter project both revealed and concealed the imperialist ideology at work in his major long poem. I went on to write that paper in John Carlos Rowe’s seminar. I was really lucky to be there at that particular moment in the program: Louis Montrose, Marcel Henaff, Michael Davidson, Donald Wesling, Kathryn Shevelow, and Page DuBois were all there, too (Rowe was a guest professor for one quarter; he taught at that time at UC Irvine, and then went to USC.) My guess is that Kamala Harris’s mix of Caribbean and Indian genealogy will probably generate a renewed interest in the presence of Indian immigrants in the Caribbean and their impact on that region.

The election itself is going to be a tight race, in part because I can see how Trump is going to use Harris to demonize the Democratic Party. Harris’s ambitions are no secret; after all, she formally ran for the office of President in 2019 and was a candidate listed on several primary ballots. With Biden’s appointment of her as his candidate for VP, he has all but said to the white supremacists who voted for Trump, “Hey, here’s your president in 2024.” Biden is a corporate centrist, but make no mistake about it. He has challenged Trump in an area that he has no reluctance to exploit, and Trump is going to play that card to roil his followers with fears of a female version of Obama being inaugurated by John Roberts in 2024. From Trump’s point of view, if you can’t find a Willie Horton, then find a former district attorney who can be used the same way.

These prediction was first passed on to me in a secret coded message from Uanon (parody intended). I suppose it should be UAnon, but I like the lower-case “a” better.

The Glory Year of Momentum Press

August 21, 2020

***********. Alicia Ostriker. — Leland Hickman — Len Roberts — Marine Robert Warden ************

In the last week of 1978, I published THE STREETS INSIDE: Ten Los Angeles Poets, an anthology that reflected the editorial influence of Leland Hickman. I often wish that I had aimed for a book of 200 pages with 30
poets, each averaging somewhere between five and ten pages. This might have diminished the presence of the prose poem and the long line poem in the anthology, but it would have been far more representative of the various scenes.

Don Gordon
James Krusoe
Ron Koertje
Doren Robbins
Paul Vangelisti
Dennis Phillips
Alvaro Cardona-Hine
Holly Prado
Harry Northup
Carol Lem
Frances Dean Smith
John Harris
Wanda Coleman
Manazar Gamboa
Bob Flanagan
Jack Grapes
Charles Bukowski
Gerald Locklin
Eliot Fried
Deena Metzger
Aleida Rodriguez
Exene Cervenka
John Doe
Peter Levitt
K. Curtis Lyle
Kate Braverman
Leland Hickman
Dennis Ellman
Bill Mohr
Eloise Klein Healy
Joseph Hansen
John Thomas
Stuart Z. Perkoff
William Pillin
Luis Campos
Gerda Penfold
Michael Andrews
David James
Martha Lifson

Of courses that’s 39 names, so having an anthology of 30 poets would have meant telling several of the above that she or he was being left out. Well, in that case, go for 40, and consider whether to include Tony Russo, William “Koki” Iwaomoto, Frank T. Rios, or Bill Margolis, or Estelle Gershgoren Novak.

Most of the poets I’ve named were largely associated with with several points-of-refraction: Papa Bach Bookstore; Beyond Baroque; Chatterton’s Bookstore; KPFK-FM; Woman’s Building.

If you’ve reviewed the above list, and not said to yourself, “Wait a minute! Where’s BERT MEYERS?”, then you are not yet familiar with that period of work in Los Angeles, for Bert’s name was who I heard another poet immediately mention right after a reading I attended at the Evergreen Theater when Ben Saltman’s name was mentioned. “Saltman’s good, but he’s not as good as Bert Meyers.”

In fact, should not Bert Meyers’s poem “THE DARK BIRDS” have opened this revised, retrospective anthology? Or for that matter, his poem about Los Angeles: “The world’s biggest ash-tray.”

And would Robert Peters not deserve to have been included, too?

So now we’re pushing beyond well beyond 40 poets. Indeed, this is the degree of poetic diversity within Los Angeles at the time. It is within the above context that Clayton Eshleman is editing Sulfur magazine in Los Angeles, and Dennis Cooper, Amy Gerstler, Jack Skelly, and David Trinidad launch the next generation of Los Angeles poets as they make Beyond Baroque a “must read” place for East Coast poets such as Tim Dlugos and Language poets such as Ron Silliman and Barrett Watten. Within two years, Dennis Cooper’s LITTLE CAESAR press would be putting out a volume of poems by Michael Lally, whose career as an actor never quite matched Harry Northup’s cinematic performances, but whose HOLLYWOOD MAGIC in 1982 provided the perfect maverick complement to Northup’s huge volume, ENOUGH THE GREAT RUNNING CHAPEL, which was highly praised by Los Angeles poet JAMES CUSHING.

And I have to admit that the above anthology would have been far more useful as an introduction to Los Angeles for poets who would be arriving very soon in town: Suzanne Lummis and Charles Harper Webb, in particular. Lummis and Webb would discover that a young poet who reviewed THE STREETS INSIDE in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Laurel Ann Bogen, was intent on making her mark on Los Angeles poetry, too, and would by the end of the next decade become known as one of its leading STAND UP POETS. Those poets would find support from a magazine in Long Beach, PEARL, edited by three women, including Joan Jobe Smith.

(Take another look at all the poets I’ve named, by the way, and ask yourself how many had received NEA Creative Writing grants at that point (1979). Three: Charles Bukowski, Deena Metzger, and Robert Peters. Hansen had received a grant, but it was for his prose.). The denial of a grant to Lee Hickman at this point remains a sore point with me.

I devoted most of 1979 to getting the next round of books ready for publication, and it turned out to be “glory year” of Momentum Press. Here are the four books I published in 1980, and the reviews they received. Leland Hickman’s poetry was republished by Nightboat Books, and Alicia Ostriker’s book remains in print, and is available on Kindle.

TIRESIAS I:9:B Great Slave Lake Suite – Leland Hickman
(Momentum Press, Bill Mohr, editor and publisher)

Nominated by the Los Angeles Times as one of the five best books of poetry published in the United States in 1980.

Great Slave Lake Suite is a book-length section of a longer poem, TIRESIAS, which Leland Hickman began writing in the mid-1960s. Parts of TIRESIAS first appeared in New American Writing, edited by Richard Howard; Beyond Baroque magazine (edited by George Drury Smith and Jim Krusoe), and Bachy and Momentum magazines, both edited by Bill Mohr. Leland Hickman’s poems had also appeared in Hudson Review and Trace magazine.

Great Slave Lake Suite combines, in a symphonic structure, narrative and meditations revolving around the author’s homosexuality from his childhood and his adult life, centering on a jonrey to the Great Slave Lake region of the Northwest Territories. Hickman’s ability to interweave a staggering variety of rhythms is hypnotically alluring.

Leland Hickman (1934-1991) was an editor as well as a poet. In addition to working on Bachy for its final nine issues, he also was the editor and publisher of Temblor magazine from 1985-1990. Temblor, which featured many poets aligned or associated with the “Language” movement” as well as maverick figures in the avant-garde, was “one of the most important magazines of its day,” according to Douglas Messerli. With the editorial assistance of Bill Mohr, Stephen Motika’s Nightboat Books published TIRESIAS: The Collected Poems of Leland Hickman in 2009.

For an article in French on Hickman’s poetry, see:
https://www.cairn.info/revue-francaise-d-etudes-americaines-2015-4-page-10.htm

REVIEWED IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES by Peter Clothier (October 5, 1980)

“(T)he “principle of identity” asserting the essential continuity between man and world, self and other…. is the deep romanticism of much poetry today – the search for the recovery of this principle. Thus, the continuity between self and world emerges as a major theme in L.A> poet Leland Hickman’s GSLA, a song of the self alternately confessional and prophetic, lyrical and bardic. The books guided by the loose, a-chronological thread of a personal history – childhood joys and trauma, boyhood games and adolescent awakening to homosexuality, brutal transition into young manhood and final growth to maturity. The intense, pain-and-love-ridden relationships with father, mother, friends and lovers form the core of work whose larger perspective is the endless variety of the California landscape and cityscape.

Hickman’s long poem moves readily from easy-going, sometimes painfully realistic narrative into passages of ecstatic, even hallucinatory incantation, and still others into quiet lyricism, through a remarkable range of emotional intensities. In an established American tradition, he works additively with language, image and rhythms, allowing them to build into a broad, coordinated tapestry, well-woven to the fullness of his vison. The potential for movement from “re” into “love,” from separation to identity is not only the theme but also the process of the book.”

“(Hickman) immerses his psyche in the melodic, the rhythmic and harmonic densities latent in his own natural language and mercilessly pursues them to reveal ‘the hidden’ in himself … The achievement I sense in it so far is that of a stylistically sure and emotionally complex poem whose tone and entire sonic movement feel totally natural and authentic, wiry but not strained, an exhilaratingly disciplined ‘open’ improvisation with scarcely a wasted move.” – Stephen Kessler, Bachy magazine

“The craft and intelligence which Hickman wields in forming this vivid work makes the publication of this book a vital event for poetry in America.” – Martin Nakell, SULFUR

“I bow to Hickman’s grueling and powerful honesty and ability to sustain an affirmation …. His monolithic drive is really quiet something to pull off today … the power of the kicking Coltrane-like stanza heaves… Hickman’s work on the father is undoubtedly the most thorough since Olson, less mythic, and much more open to background, especially child sexuality.” – Clayton Eshleman, POETRY NEWS

“He’s the real thing …. It’s a work of such vivid beauty, of such obsessive honesty that it srartles, illuniates another part of that shadowy scroll, Truth …. A stunning work.” – Laurel Delp, LA WEEKLY.

“I know of nothing else written today quite like Great Slave Lake Suite. It reminds m=one of Dylan Thomas or Gerard Manley Hopkins, sometimes, in the sound play of its diction. It is a “word-rain” that draws its own parallels to Beckett and Faulkner and that asks (but not in so many words) to be compared to the first edition of Leaves of Grass, the ambitiousness of which it mateches – in the breakthrough of its lines and eroticism of its mysticism.” – Rudy Kikel, GAY SUNSHINE

“One of the most ambitious poems of growth and sexual history ever attempted by an American poet … passages of overwhelming energy and beauty.” – Robert Peters, SMALL PRESS REVIEW

“(His) art requires considerable attention – both for its intense linguistic brilliance and for its moving courage. With relentless yet shifting rhythmic intensity, the Suite is sustained for 100 pages and leaves the reader exhausted, stunned and inspired… The voice in the poem is distinct, utterly personal in the best sense of the word…. The poet has put himself at the service of the poem, not the other way around, and as a consequence we (as readers) find ourselves inside a psyche which is taking us places we’ve never been before.” – Stephen Kessler, CONTACT II

“A first-rate work of poetry, real quality, and an attention to structure and resonance.” – John Rechy

HE MOTHER/CHILD PAPERS — Alicia Ostriker (Momentum Press, 1980)
This volume of poems established Alicia Ostriker as one of the rising figures in American feminist poetry. The Mother/Child Papers would subsequently be republished by Beacon Press in Boston and by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

“Alicia Ostiker’s The Mother/Child Papers describes, first, the birth and nuture of the author’s third child. Secondly, the book fall under the demonic shdow of the 1970 invasion of Cambodia and the 1975 evacuation of Phnom Penh. But on the third and most telling view, Otriker’s work details the achievement of a connection between personal history and public fact as both present themselves to a very intelligent and interesting writer … I would, in short, like to see more book-length journal work from Alicia Ostriker, who has important judgments and saving observations to draw from the richness of her life and mind.” — Mary Kinzie, AMERICAN POETRY REVIEW (July-August, 1981)

“Defense of motherhood is a plucky undertaking for a poet these days, perhaps; Ostriker’s joy in it, not as an institution, but as a generous human experience, provides a warm emotional center to the work.” – Peter Clothier, LOS ANGELES TIMES (Feb. 1, 1981)

COHOES THEATER – Len Roberts (Momentum Press, 1980)
HONORABLE MENTION – Eliiston Awards, 1981 (University of Cincinnati)

“Cohoes Theater proves Len Roberts to be a skilled crafman. Each poem is a hard honed unit like the house the poet built near the Delaware River. It is rare to find lines worked so tight and taut which do not betray the labor and time put in them …. Whether floating through the air or skinny-dipping in the quarry, or lost in the memories of Boney’s Grill, this poet has things to share. But, of couse, we all have stories; the few who tell them so well should be welcomed company.” – Louis McKee, Small Press Review

“What Len Roberts says is terribly important, and beautiful, and moving and original. He will last!” – Gerald Stern

“I read (Cohoes Theater) at one sitting, tranquil and interested in your own calm humanity…. Curiously tender and intelligent writing.” – Allen Ginsberg

After Momentum Press published Cohoes Theater, Len Roberts (1947-2007) went on to have another half-dozen full-length books published, including From the Dark; Black Wings; and Silent Singer: New and Selected Poems (University of Illinois Press, 2001).

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BEYOND THE STRAITS – Marine Robert Warden (Momentum Press, 1980)
“Warden took the time and effort to master literary craftsmanship before attempting this opus. His care results in poetry that can stand beside Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird and the work of Jakov Lind…. emerging as Mary Shelley wrote of her Frankenstein, “from that twilight zone between sleep and waking.” A section of erotic love-poems following the war-poems offers an appropriate counter-point.” – Robin Michelle Clifton, SAMISDAT