Category Archives: Photography

Biography Books Photography

L.A. Poets at Beyond Baroque, Summer, 1997

PREFACE: For some reason, my post “Paragraphs by Walter Lowenfels” is getting a surprising amount of attention. Most curious.

Sunday, November 22. 2020

In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected to the Presidency with less than 50 percent of the popular vote. When he failed to break 50 percent when he ran for re-election, it was in part because people were angry that he had broken his promises about job training programs for laid-off workers. That broken campaign promise, followed by the trade deals he negotiated that led to factories closing down in the United States, is one of the main reasons that we ended up with Trump for four years. The decision to concentrate on health care reform in 1993 instead of job training programs was his major political debacle. The Lewinsky scandal got more press, but Clinton’s famous comment to a potential voter in 1992 — “I feel your pain” — was just make-believe empathy. He didn’t give a shit about anyone other than Bill Clinton. He conned working people, and set them up to be conned by an even more audacious confidence man.

My first wife, Cathay Gleeson, and I had both lost our jobs by the mid-point of 1995. By that time, we had separated, and I ended up moving to San Diego two years later to begin studying for a Ph.D. at age 50. It seemed to many people at the time a very odd move, but many friends gathered at Beyond Baroque in the summer of 1997 to wish me farewell. Laurel Ann Bogen had written me when I was staying at Dorland Mountain Arts colony in the winter of 1997 and asked if I would still be around town long enough in the summer to drop by Beyond Baroque and see everyone before I left for San Diego.

Lea Ann Roddan took some pictures of the gathering, and I want to thank the Roddans for sending me the negative. These photographs are (c) Lea Ann Roddan and any permission to use them might be obtained from her in writing.

The people who appear in the following photographs include:
Brooks Roddan
Paul Vangelisti
Jim Krusoe
Fred Dewey
Laurel Ann Bogen
Suzanne Lummis
Michael C. Ford
Ellen Sander
Holly Prado
Cecilia Woloch
Phoebe MacAdams
Tim Reynolds
John Thomas
Philomene Long
Peter Levitt
Dick Barnes
John Harris
Jimm Cushing

Painting Photography

From Cult to Culture Reality Check: Three Artists at LBMA

Long Beach Museum of Art
2003 E. Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90803

On Exhibit – Now through April 21, 2019

The publicity for LBMA’s current exhibition focuses on the artists and the titles of their individual presentations. There is no hint of how the museum’s space is apportioned. On opening night, I was startled at the amount of space given to LeRoy Grannis’s photographs of surfing as an instance of utopia. Filling the entire bottom floor with images of youthful joy was perhaps the right curatorial decision in terms of luring visitors to this group show, but the juxtaposition with the other two artists on the top floor might well mute the viewers’ afterglow. On one hand, “Cult to Culture” is unusually unfamiliar. I don’t recall seeing anything quite as emotionally committed to the subject of surfing. While there are a few photographs that reveal the extraordinary pleasure of becoming totally absorbed into the ocean’s churning incantations, the majority of them implore us to stop and meditate on the intimate vulnerability of this sport.

Upstairs, the dystopia that was held at bay while surfing moved from a fringe obsession to a major cultural trope confronts viewers without any caution lights. Sandow Birk’s large-scale works take on the inner contradictions of the manifest destiny that culminated in the apotheosis of the surfboard. If his “Monumental” works depict the textual subversions of the alleged ideals of the political experiment called the United States, Marie Thibeault’s four large canvases, supplemented by a score of preparatory drawings, reveal the complex consequences of an industrialized society on some of our most familiar emblems of nature. In Thibeault’s tug-of-war between the intertwined girders and stanchions of industrial largesse and the need of animals such birds to find their way out of this maze, the apertures are ever shrinking. It is easier to be a climate change denier than an apocalypse denier. For one thing, the preponderance of evidence in favor of systematic collapse is all too believable. Somehow, though, Thibeault’s reminders of our actual ground conditions suggest that we might yet reverse course. If not quite justifiable optimism, her work aligns itself with Birk’s to ask us to work towards a restoration of a world that only seemed imagined in Grannis’s photographs. Somehow we must renew the primacy of pleasure as the most feasible potential access to a future equilibrium, if we are to motivate ourselves to undertake a daunting metamorphosis. It is in this dialectical reconciliation that visitors to this important group show will be rewarded for their own thoughtful commitment to the imagination.

Riparian Chaos Detail


As Is (Anthropocene Eggshell…)

As Is (Anthropocene Eggshell; or The Post-Pod Detritus Blues)

Anthropocene- 1999

Anthologies Autobiography Photography Poet Laureate

Bolinas Visitation: Ellen Sander’s HAWTHORNE (Finishing Line Press)

Bolinas Arrow - 1996

I have only visited Bolinas once, back in the summer of 1996; it was part of a five-day trip north that included a visit to UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. I was preparing for my time as a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute in the Fall, and wanted to take a look at the archives of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights. There was also an exhibit at the library; a fair-sized room presented, in well-secured glass cases, a representative collection of materials of Beat writers. In all of the placards explaining the Beat movement to the visitors, the only scenes mentioned were in the Bay Area and Greenwich Village. There was not a single citation of Venice West. It was typical of the period to obliterate Venice West from any account of the Beat movement during the mid-century.

When I finished my work at the library, I rode out to Bolinas with Ellen Sander, a poet who had lived there for many years. First known as the one of the first — if not the very first — significant female rock critic, Ellen Sander went on to become the poet laureate of Belfast, Maine a few years ago. Finishing Line Press published her account of her home in Bolias and its place in the artistic community: Hawthorne, A House in Bolinas.

Hawthorne, a House in Bolinas by Ellen Sander

I had first heard of Bolinas in the very early 1970s as a place where poets had taken refuge from the chaos of New York City. As the century wore on, the poetry traffic between Los Angeles and Bolinas was probably among the most unusual circulations in American literary history; the best anthology to contextualize this exchange is the one I worked on with Neeli Cherkovski, Cross-Strokes: Poetry between Los Angeles and San Francisco. No other book brings together poets who have shared the same eco-cultural domains as a matter of positive freedom. In addition to Ellen Sander, I am thinking of Joe Safdie (who moved from Los Angeles to Bolinas, and now has moved back down the coast — to San Diego), as well as Phoebe MacAdams Ozuna and Lewis MacAdams, who both eventually moved from Bolinas to Los Angeles.

Should you want a poet’s take on the Bolinas scene, you should definitely set aside time to read Kevin Opstedal’s article in Big Bridge, “Dreaming As One.”

It is an incredibly substantial and detailed account of a community of the famous (Robert Creeley, Bobbie Louise Hawkins; the Jefferson Airplane) and the obscure (Jack Boyce), all of whom made this backwater a major harbor of imagination’s counterpoints. Each of the eighteen segments has a set of photographs to give the reader some glimmer of the youthfulness of this scene.

There were other circulations north and south, too. About the same time that poets were moving to Bolinas from New York City, Stuart Z. Perkoff moved north and spent two productive years in Northern California. John Thomas, on the other hand, had moved back from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the late 1960s, though he did not then settle back in Venice, but in the Echo Park area, where he became friends with Charles Bukowski and mentored a young poet named Wanda Coleman. There is another anthology yet to be assembled, where the poets of Bolinas, who appeared in a collection entitled On the Mesa, edited by Joel Weishaus (City Lights, 1971) intermingle with those of Cross-Strokes.

Bolinas - Pink Flowers

Bolinas Mural

Ground Level Conditions Photography

Call Box Sunset

August 28, 2018

I taught fiction writing at Idyllwild Arts for 20 consecutive summers (1995-2014). One evening, on the way down towards Banning and Beaumont, I pulled to the side of the road and caught the last notch of the day’s switchbacks. I used a disposable camera to take this sequence; the third shot is probably the “best” in that the bolts that attach the sign to the pole (under the “e” and above the hyphen) play off against the red dot of the sun; and of course the call box itself is visible, too. The bottom to top diagonal goes way back as a compositional element, of course, and if it seems old-fashioned, so be it. I take it as a compliment.

Call Box Sunset-1

Call Box Sunset-2

Call Box Sunset-3


Cargo Ship: Auto Body Shop as Port of Departure

At the beginning of last month (the morning after Rod Bradley’s rooftop celebration of the Fourth of July), I took our 20 year old Oldsmobile in for a paint job. The car had become an eye-sore with its peeling paint, and the month before I had swung by a place recommended by Jim and Jose at Herb and Red’s Auto Repair. We had set up an appointment for its refurbishment, and with extra money coming in from teaching a summer course, this long delayed project was finally on the verge of happening. While waiting for the owner, Andy, to check on another job in progress, I wandered around his shop and checked out other cars that were being stored or worked on. An image that seemed like an outtake from the dream journals of Bruce Conner caught my eye, and and asked Andy if I could take a photo of the interior of one of the cars parked inside his shop. Go right ahead, he said.

The image has not been photoshopped or altered in any way. I took it with my cell-phone, which is an old “flip-top” model. In other words, a quite rudimentary casual device. I have heard that these telephones are so “old-fashioned” now that they have acquired a retro, hip popularity. In my case, I simply have been too busy to devote time to mastering the intricacies of a more advanced model.

Cargo - Andy's Paint Shop

“Cargo Ship” (c) copyright Bill Mohr, 2018.


A new review of HOLDOUTS (University of Iowa Press, 2011)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Beyond Baroque is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and there will be a gala fundraising event in early November to help it sustain its programming during the coming decade. As part of this year’s presentations, Quentin Ring asked me several months ago to help him organize a weekly seminar on Los Angeles poetry that would be led by a different poet each week. I led the first gathering on May 8th, and was followed by Will Alexander, Laurel Ann Bogen, Steve Reigns, Lynne Thompson, Amy Uyematsu, David St. John, and Patty Seyburn. One of the poets who attended this seminar, Tom Laichas, just sent me a link to his blog, which features an extended and very thoughtful review of my book on Los Angeles poetry that came out seven years ago. His blog, in general, is well worth a sustained perusal. In particular, there is a photograph of a suitcase in a Kansas field, with a two-story brick schoolhouse in the background, that is as evocative as any Proustian metaphor.

Reading Bill Mohr, Hold Outs: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance, 1948-1992

Biography Ground Level Conditions Photography Teaching

From a rooftop on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. — July 4

July 6, 2018

I worked as a fiction writing teacher at Idyllwild arts for twenty consecutive summers, starting in the mid-1990s. Several of my students went on to become published writers, including Sara Wintz and Julia Glassman. During the first fifteen or so years, during which I built the fiction writing class up from one session per summer to three sessions each summer, the first introduction to the students always took place on the first Sunday after the July 4th weekend. Then, with the shift to an earlier start of school years, the students gathered at the top of the mountain on the first Sunday before the July 4th celebration.

In my professional as well as personal life, Idyllwild is a significant part of the commitments I have made in my life. I cannot look at the July page of the calendar on my kitchen wall without thinking of that cycle of packing to leave and unpacking on my return, which always took more than a single day. The past couple years have brought me a new ritual: Linda and I gather on the third story rooftop of Rod and Tamiko’s home on Martin Luther King Boulevard, and we watch the fireworks jettison their transient glow on a scythe-swath perimeter of Los Angeles County. Other friends, including Olivier Bochettaz, join in. Olivier and Pauline had a child six months ago, and Luna is an exceptionally beautiful baby.

Rod J-4 one

Bochettaz Salute One

Bochettaz Salute Two

Bochettaz Salutre - Three

Rod J-4 two

Rod J-4 three

Rod J-4 four


Sleepover Parking

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Auto Sleepover

(on Ohio Street, between Sixth and Seventh Streets; two weeks ago)


Water Tower of Babel

Water Tower of Babel — Monday. May 7, 2018

Water Tower of Babel One

Water Tower of Babel Two

Water Tower of Babel - Three

Water Tower of Babel - Four