Category Archives: Los Angeles bookstores

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.

“Suddenly // we are within the sound that we have made…”

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ann Stanford, one of the Los Angeles poets whose work I quoted in Holdouts, has not appeared in any of the past half-dozen anthologies of Los Angeles poetry, even though her work has inspired many Los Angeles poets, including Harry Northup and Michael C. Ford. The title of today’s post comes from a poem by Stanford that Ford used as an epigraph in his 1977 chapbook, West Point, which recorded one of his many cross-country jaunts over the past half-century. I have dipped into this obscure publication for today’s title because I love her description of how consciousness itself both creates that liminal ripening of poetic sound and records the instant of enveloping transition. Embedded in attuned self-awareness, Ford is one of the very few poets who has an uncanny ability to sketch with accuracy on the palimpsest of nostalgia’s delicate aura. At the same time, his poetry has maintained its droll critique of American’s cultural proclivities, while not allowing us to indulge in the sentimentality of fantasy role reversal. “Would we really do much better if we were in charge?” The answer is yes, but Ford gently instructs us as to what it would require to attain that power. Perhaps the best place to study his suggestions is his 2014 recording from Hen House Studios, Look Each Other in the Ears. I believe that his volume of “Selected Poems 1970-1995, ” which was published by Amaranth Editions in 1998 under the title “Emergency Exits,” is also still available. That book did not include, however, any poems from West Point.

For a chance to hear Michael C. Ford read from his new book, set aside this coming Sunday afternoon and head to DTLA.

Sunday, July 23

4 PM

Michael C Ford’s Women Under The Influence
Book Launch & Signing.

Featuring readings by: S.A. Griffin, Mike Sonksen, Gail Wronsky, Jerry Garcia, Hannah Thompson-Garner, Paul Cummins & Surprise Guests!

$10 Admission includes Drinks.
No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Produced by Susan Hayden & Alexis Rhone Fancher @the gorgeous Fine Art Bookstore of Michael Delgado.

A.G. Geiger Fine Art Books
502 Chung King Court (at Hill Street)
Los Angeles, CA 90012

“His poems are alive and full of fresh phrases and words and insights… often dazzling bolts of images.” – Ann Stanford

“All the things I like in poems: original, serious, humous… a thrilling language-depth that only a true poet can achieve.” – Holly Prado

“Not only is he one of our premiere language artists, Ford is a writer who can bring to his readers a kaleidoscope of voices, all of which touch both the spirit and the heart.” – David St. John

“He’s one of the voices with an American sound of pure jazz.” — William Matthews

“Welcome to the work of a man who has devoted his life to poetry, who evidently, always knew the emergency exits. His is performance that is not sell-out entertainment. In his contagious, genuine enthusiasm, metaphorical intelligence, heartbreak and rebellion, he opens the sealed door to this poor world, a “Suburb of Los Angeles.” – Sharon Doubiago

Five Editors Reading their Poetry at Papa Bach (1974)

Shortly after the publication of Bachy’s second issue in the summer of 1973, I suggested to Ted Reidel that the late John Harris would be a superb poetry editor. John not only took on that position, but began coordinating the readings at Papa Bach Bookstore. One of the events he arranged in the early spring of 1974 was an evening that featured five editors of Los Angeles based literary magazines. The half-sheet of yellow paper that served as the press release and publicity flyer simply read:

(Five) 5 Editors Lay It on the Line at Papa Bach

Sunday, April 7 (1974)
11317 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles

Michael C. Ford (Sunset Palms Hotel)
John Harris (Bachy)
James Krusoe (Beyond Baroque)
William Mohr (Momentum)
Paul Vangelisti (Invisible City)

In the original announcement, the names of their magazines were not listed after their names, which is the reason the titles are in italics in the above list. At age 26, I was the youngest of these editors, though I confess that I didn’t let that fact diminish my self-confidence. The first issue had just come out, featuring a copy of the blueprint order form from my job at Larwin, an architectural firm I had worked out for two years along with an aspiring landscape architect named Steve Davis. The recession of 1974 had cost me my job, though I was hardly disconsolate at being able to stay home and work on my writing and editing instead of standing in front of a machine and feeding it sheet after sheet of light-sensitive paper.

I don’t believe that Michael, John, Jim, Paul, and myself thought of this evening as being particularly special, and yet in retrospect it amounted to an unusual gathering for any major city in the United States. How often did five editors of five memorable magazines ever read together at the same venue?

One of the DIY organizations that we launched at that time was Literary Publishers of Southern California (LPSC), which was an early attempt for form a book-distribution cooperative. We signed up for some tables at a book fair in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. Rod Bradley took several photographs of editors at the fair.

Papa Bach - LPSC Book Fair
John Harris (leaning over table); Michael C. Ford (standing behind table), and unknown attendees at book fair.

Papa Bach - MCFord - John Harris - LPSC
John Harris; Michael C. Ford, and unknown attendee at book fair.

Grapes - Mohr
Jack Grapes (lifting cup); Bill Mohr (with motorcycle helmet crooked under arm with box of books); in the background, Luis Campos?

All photographs (c) copyright Rod Bradley, 2017. Permission to reproduce must be obtained from the photographer.