Category Archives: Poetry

The Restoration Flourishes: We are four-fifths of the Way to Helping Holly and Harry

Tuesday evening update:

The GoFundMe campaign to assist Holly Prado and Harry Northup has almost reached the $16,000 level of donations. The project is at the 80 percent mark. Over 170 people have contributed so far. If another forty or fifty people would make a small donation, we would all be able to savor the generosity of our community in helping two of our own recover from a devastating loss.

Once again, my thanks to all of you who have helped these old friends.

Tuesday morning, August 15, 2017

OVER HALFWAY TO THE GOAL OF HELPING HOLLY AND HARRY

Almost 150 people have responded to the GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help Holly Prado and Harry Northup recover from the fire that devastated their apartment recently. After only four days, almost $13,000 has been pledged to their support. We are only $7,000 away from completing this project. I realize that many of the people who have given have already asked their friends and artistic colleagues to contribute, too, so this final third of the fundraising will not be as easy as the initial push. Nevertheless, I believe there are still many people who would be willing to contribute if they knew about Holly’s and Harry’s plight. Both of them are poets who have responded with absolute imaginative integrity to Cary Nelson’s question at the end of Repression and Recovery: “What is the social value of a life devoted to poetry?”

Harry and Holly met in the mid-1970s, shortly after I had published Feasts, Holly’s novella of “autobiographical fiction.” According to Harry, he felt inspired to meet Holly after reading Feasts. They have been inseparable since then.

Should any of you need quick and easy links to send to people who may not be familiar with Harry’s and Holly’s writing, please avail yourself of the following:

(for Holly Prado)

https://www.culturalweekly.com/holly-prado-three-poems/

http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt3199q9f8/
http://www.worldcat.org/title/feasts/oclc/610178149&referer=brief_results

(for Harry Northup)

http://articles.latimes.com/1993-05-21/news/va-37959_1_harry-northup

http://timestimes3.blogspot.com/2014/03/for-my-love-sleeping-by-harry-e-northup.html?view=sidebar

http://www.worldcat.org/title/enough-the-great-running-chapel/oclc/8506024&referer=brief_results

GoFundMe for Two Beloved Poets — Holly Prado and Harry Northup

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A fire recently obliterated much of the apartment in which Los Angeles poets Holly Prado and Harry Northup have lived for the past several decades. I gather from the accounts of friends who have talked to them that the fire started in the middle of the night, and that the cause was a problem in the electrical wiring. I have also heard that they barely escaped with their lives. Several poets have launched a GoFundMe campaign in order to help them reestablish their household and modest furniture. Some things, such as their working library as poets, are irreplaceable, and perhaps when they are settled again, we can all bring some extra books over and help them in that regard, too.

In the meantime, practical assistance is needed. I gather that Holly, for instance, has lost all of her clothing. I would urge everyone who can make the slightest contribution to go to the GoFundMe site and help out. If you are unable to make a donation, then please post this notice on whatever social media you have access to.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-holly-prado-harry-northup

For those of you who do not know of Holly Prado and Harry Northup’s poetry and writing, I would recommend that you go to CahuengaPress.com and read their biographies, and then purchase through Small Press Distribution some of the very fine books this publishing co=operative has issues in the past 25 years.

Thank you. The community of poets in Los Angeles thanks you.

KYSO Flash — Issue Number Eight (Clare MacQueen, editor and publisher)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Issue number 8 of KYSO Flash is now available:
http://www.kysoflash.com/Issue8/ContentsIssue8.aspx

Clare MacQueen is one of the best editors now working in the United States. In many ways, she reminds me of the late Marvin Malone, editor of the Wormwood Review, in her ability to help writers find what most needs to be worked on in the next draft. She has an uncanny ability to see the alternative ways of configuring the material that the writer is focusing on, and I encourage anybody who is fortunate enough to get her detailed feedback to take advantage of her acute editorial imagination.

KYSO Flash is a prime example of how much publication on the internet has matured in the past 15 years. I remember glancing at a few on-line magazines back then, and laughing out loud at the drivel that was being self-published. One early exception that showed a shift in making use of the internet’s accessibility was Tarpaulin Sky, which demonstrated that editors working on the small press model of a literary magazine from the 20th century could reach an audience with stunning immediacy. By now, not only have many magazines such as Patty Seyburn’s Pool shifted from print to on-line, but we also see an older magazine that had a complete life span such as Larry Smith’s Caliban being vigorously resurrected on-line. MacQueen’s magazine achieves its particular distinction due to her commitment to short prose, which she divides into two sections in each issue, micro-fiction (up to 500 words) and flash fiction (from 500 to 1000 words). For those who might want to submit their writing to KYSO Flash, the word limit (1000 words) is a very strict rule, and it includes the title!

In addition to haibun and prose poetry, MacQueen also publishes lineated poetry, and in the past has given a “featured author” section to Alexis Rhone Fancher, whose new book, Enter Here, is also published by Clare MacQueen. Issue number eight’s featured author is John Olson, whose poetry I discovered a year and a half ago in Bird and Beckett Bookstore in San Francisco. Olson is one of the most overlooked poets in the United States, and I applaud MacQueen for giving his writing a substantial forum. In addition to several of Olson’s poems, issue eight includes an essay and an interview with him.

Along with Brooks Roddan’s blog at IF/SF Publications, Olson’s blog is one of the best around:
http://tillalala.blogspot.com

One feature of KYSO Flash that I am just now beginning to fully appreciate is the author index:
http://www.kysoflash.com/AuthorIndex.aspx
Kathleen McGookey’s pieces in issue number eight, for instance, are especially intriguing, and I wondered if I had somehow overlooked her work in earlier issues of KYSO, but when I went to the index I discovered that this is her first appearance in MacQueen’s magazine; I hope to see more of her work in future issues. In truth, this is the first time I have read McGookey’s writing, and she is now on my short list of writers whose books I need to catch up with. Other pieces that have caught my attention at the outset include Kim Hagerich’s “Bundle of Joy” and Nin Andrews’s “I Am a Depressed Orgasm.” It’s also a pleasure to see Gerard Sarnat’s writing included in this issue.

It should also be noted that Clare MacQueen contributes information to VIDA (http://www.vidaweb.org/about-vida/) and espouses its goals.
KF-8 contains works by a total of 65 contributors: 33 men (50.8%)and 32 women (49.2%).

Finally, here are the links to my writing in this issue:
http://www.kysoflash.com/Issue8/MohrScorpio.aspx
http://www.kysoflash.com/Issue8/MohrElixirs.aspx
http://www.kysoflash.com/Issue8/MohrReviewsFeasts.aspx

The Los Angeles-Minnesota Connection

Saturday, August 5, 2017

“Emerging Writers” Grants in Minnesota

In less than four weeks, I will have students asking, “So what did you do during your summer vacation, Professsor Mohr?” and I’ll respond that “vacation” will deserve yet another set of scare quotes. It’s been several decades since I had a summer off. This year, I had originally hoped to visit two former students in Croatia and spend a couple weeks reading and writing at an arts colony they founded a couple years ago near Pula, but the illness of one of Linda’s sisters impinged on those plans, and so we have stayed in Los Angeles County this summer. I ended up teaching a summer course in 20th century American literature in June and early July, during which time I began reviewing the applications of over 200 writers who live in Minnesota. As is well known to writers in California, Minnesota is the land of milk and honey in terms of literary support. Of course, we who labor at any art other than screenwriting in California tell ourselves that Minnesota has to bribe its writers to stay there. Unless an economic infrastructure provided some cultural largesse, why else would one endure those endless winters?

All envious kidding aside, I was very happy to serve on this panel because I have long felt a kinship with the literary community in Minnesota. I first noticed the editorial hospitality of Minnesota towards poets based in Los Angeles in The Lamp in the Spine, a magazine edited by Jim Moore and Trish Hampl in the 1970s. Their issues included work by Doren Robbins, Holly Prado, and Ameen Alwan. Subsequently, I visited The Loft in 1986 along with Doren Robbins to contribute to an two-day celebration of Tom McGrath’s poetry on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

Two hundred applications, each with an average of 20 pages of writing, is quite a pile to go through and comment on, so being on the panel turned out to be a major undertaking, but it was also very gratifying to see how much good work is being done in Minnesota by writers who have not yet published a substantial amount of work. The grants were for “emerging writers,” which meant that these applicants did not necessarily have to compete with those whose precocity had already allowed them to flourish. Many of the applicants whose work I read in the past couple months will not have to wait too long for a book to come out, however. I spotted at least two dozen manuscripts, in the samples of these portfolios, that will no doubt end up published or scheduled for publication by the end of this decade. For those not chosen for the award, please know that I read carefully, and I truly wish I could have doubled or tripled the number of awards. While a total of fourteen people were listed as winners, alternates, finalists, or deserving of honorable mention, there were at least a half-dozen others whose writing I found memorable. I wished, in fact, that I could have them as students in a workshop and watch their work grow even more compelling and intriguing.

The Loft has released the names of the writers selected by the panel for the “emerging writers” grants in 2017, and I will let its announcement speak for itself.

https://loft.amm.clockwork.net/_asset/4440d4/Winners-of-the-2017-Emerging-Writers-Grant.pdf

“Success is succession”: The Poetics of a Luthier

Friday, July 28, 2017

“Success is succession”: The Poetics of a Luthier
Bill Collings (August 9, 1948 – July 14, 2017

“Why did the sound of some guitars haunt me while others didn’t?” the luthier Bill Collings remembered asking himself as a young man.

One could ask the same question about poems, and inquire why more poets don’t take the tonal and thematic propensities of their writing more seriously. In poetry, the question that haunts is whether the poem not merely deserves but demands translation. This does not require that the poem be perfect. Imperfection will be inherent in the original, as it was in every guitar that was turned out by Bill Collings’s company, and then put to equally imperfect use by some of the best-known masters of songwriting, including Lyle Lovett, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Keith Richards.

The impact of acknowledging imperfection’s role in the process turns out to be one of the prime motivations for building guitars. “Can you pick the perfect piece of wood? …. Can you make it the perfect thickness?” Collings asks, knowing all too well what the response is. “No, but you can get really close. …. Success is succession, over and over and over, and it comes from failure. Failure, failure, failure — knowing that if you stop, you’re done.”

Bill Collings, Luthier

“Centered Recoils” — Caliban, Issue No. 28

Thursday, July 27, 2017

http://calibanonline.com/CO28/

Issue number 28 of Larry Smith’s CALIBAN magazine is now available on-line for reading. In particular, I would call attention to the quartet of questions posed in part five of Rob Cook’s “Elimination Recovery Entries”:

“Will artificial intelligence lead to awareness so powerful it can bring back everything that’s died? Do all sentient beings contain a code that can be recovered at any time, no matter how long ago they left? What will be done with the newly returned? What will be done to them (to us) when no one mental space is left in the universe?”

Sheila Murphy, Ivan Arguelles, Elizabeth Robinson, Jim Grabill, Carine Topal, and Simon Perchik are some of the poets who join with the visual artists in this issue in responding to these questions through a steadfast devotion to an organic imagination. My favorite collage pieces are Ellen Wilt’s “Unseen,” Angela Caporaso’s “Piante,” and Christine Kuhn’s mixed media pieces, especially “Roommates,” which reminds me of Alexej von Jawlensky’s work. The shadow presence of other artists can be seen in Ellene Glenn Moore’s three prose poems, each accompanied by the notation “after Joseph Albers.”

I, too, have a poem (“Centered Recoils”) that appears in this issue. I would note that my first attempt to answer the second of Cook’s question was a long prose poem entitled “The Resurrection” that was published in issue number nine of The Lamp in the Spine, a magazine edited by Jim Moore and Trish Hampl. Oddly enough, the first draft of the poem published in this issue of Caliban dates back to the period when I was working on that poem.

The Fifth Street Theater Poetry Festival (1980)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Four years after the Valentine’s Day reading at Beyond Baroque, the Fifth Street Theater hosted a poetry festival that paired poets who wrote in English and poets living in Los Angeles who wrote in another language. It was the first event I know of in this area that gave immigrant poetry an equal share of prominence in a reading series. This would seem to be the kind of thing that was recently cited by the new poet laureate of Los Angeles as her primary interest. In setting up programming, she may want to look at this early example, which was curated by Paul Vangelisti. I have reproduced the programming as listed on the original program, but have also broken the lists into clusters of poets as they would have been seen at that point.

Paul Vangelisti (co-editor; co=publisher: Invisible City/ Red Hill Press)
Martha Lifson (Martha Ronk)
John Thomas (deceased)
Robert Crosson (deceased)
Robert Peters (deceased)
Dennis Cooper (editor and publisher: Little Caesar Press; now lives elsewhere)
Ron Koertge
Bill Mohr (Momentum Press)
James Krusoe
Harry Northup
Holly Prado
Leland Hickman (deceased) (1934 – 1991)
Wanda Coleman (deceased)
Peter Levitt (now lives elsewhere)

Of the poets writing in other languages, here are links to the writing of the four best-known of them:

Chungmi Kim – Korean
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/chungmi-kim
http://www.beltwaypoetry.com/poetry/poets/names/kim-chungmi/
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52903/my-sin
http://washingtonart.com/beltway/kim.html

Richard Exner – German (1929-2008)
http://www.independent.com/news/2008/dec/24/richard-exner-1929—2008/

Alurista – Spanish/English (born: Alberto Baltazar Urista Heredia, 1947)
http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/alur3.html

XICANO DUENDE: A SELECT ANTHOLOGY by Alurista

Gina Valdes – Spanish / Nahuatl (born 1943)

Gina Valdés – Omens


https://www.asu.edu/brp/backlist/poetry/GVal1p.html
https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2010/may/05/poetry-english-con-salsa/

Banaj Basu – Bengali
Nguyensa – Vietnamese
Cao Dong Knanh — Vietnamese
Saebang Lee — Korean
P.D. Sharma – Creolese-English
New Caribbean Man: Poems 1972 -1976 (Carib House, 1981)
Yuri Lechtholz – Russian
Kev Mak — Russian

Fifth Street Poetry Festival - 1

Fifth Street Poetry Festival - 2

Austin Straus (1939-2017)

Thursday, July 20, 2017; 10:30 a.m.

I just received a call from Laurel Ann Bogen to inform me that the poet and book artist Austin Straus has died. Born in Brooklyn in 1939, Austin moved to Los Angeles in 1978, and immediately settled into an ongoing renaissance of poetry in Southern California. He was the founder and cohost of “The Poetry Connexion,” on KPFK-FM, from 1981 to 1996. His guests included many of the most prominent poets in Los Angeles.

His books of poetry include Laureate without a Country, Drunk with Light, and Intensifications. His late wife, the poet Wanda Coleman (1946-2013), and he collaborated on a sequence of poems celebrating their three decades of marriage, The Love Project: A Marriage Made in Poetry. His poems were reprinted in many anthologies, including “Poetry Loves Poetry,” Suzanne Lummis’sGrand Passion, Charles Harper Webb’s Stand Up Poetry, Steve Kowit’s The Maverick Poets, and Men in Our Time: An Anthology of Male Poetry in Contemporary America.

Austin considered himself to be primarily a book artist, and that work can be found in many collections, including Chapman College, Occidental College, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. However, his poems will also remain a steadfast part of the community of poets he joined almost forty years ago.

You can hear Austin reading some of his poems and being interviewed by Lois P. Jones on KPFK at:

Austin Straus on Poets Cafe

The poets who appeared in my anthology “Poetry Loves Poetry” (Momentum Press, 1985) who are now dead include:
Dick Barnes
Charles Bivins
Charles Bukowski
Wanda Coleman
Robert Crosson
John Harris
Bob Flanagan
Leland Hickman
Carol Lewis
Robert Peters
Peter Schneidre
Ed Smith
Austin Straus
John Thomas
Marine Robert Warden

The Stoner Park Poets Picnic (Part Two)

PICNIC - Big Group

A slight different arrangement than the previous group shot. If anyone recognizes the other people, please write me.

Just now, working on this post, I remember that there was another poet’s picnic about four years earlier. It was in a park on the east side of town, and I remember Eloise Klein Healy, Deena Metzger, and Lee Hickman being at it along with enough other people to play a baseball game. I also remember that while I was playing centerfield, I tore my pants diving for a fly ball; and one of the other poets lent me a t-shirt so that the rip wasn’t too revealing. At the Stoner Park picnic, we played some soccer, which had a sad ending. The poet Blake Latimer broke her ankle about a half-hour into the game, and had to go to the hospital for a cast.

Scott Wannberg - Carol Lewis

Julia Norstrand; Carol Lewis; Scott Wannberg

Carol Lewis was one of my favorite poets in the scene at the time. I don’t believe she ever had a full-length book of poetry published. She was a thoughtful presence in the early years of the Beyond Baroque poetry workshop, and had poems in my 1985 anthology, “Poetry Loves Poetry.”

PICNIC - TRIO - BEST

Dennis Cooper; David Trinidad; Rick Lawndale (on guitar)

Bill Mohr - Bookstore T-shirt - 1

Bill Mohr, wearing an “Intellectuals & Liars” bookstore t-shirt

Bill Mohr - Green Shirt - 1

(costume change)

PICNIC - Big Group

Blog copyright Bill Mohr (c) 2017

The Stoner Park Poets’ Picnic (1980)

The reading of “5 Editors” at Papa Bach in 1974 and the large group reading that took place on Valentine’s Day, 1976, at Beyond Baroque were definitive moments in the resurgence in the poetry scenes in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. By the late 1970s, another groundswell of poetry magazines based in Los Angeles caught the West Coast still off-guard. No one was expecting Los Angeles to be the home base for so many activist editors. By the end of the decade, yet more editors were showing up, and their work provided the basis for many subsequent scenes to understand how complicated any account of Los Angeles must inherently be.

Among the most important editors were Dennis Cooper and Jack Skelley. Cooper’s Little Caesar magazine and Little Caesar press easily rank in the top 50 of all small press projects in the period between 1960 and 1990. Skelley’s magazine, Barney, was one of the rare magazines that accomplished more in its four issue run than other magazines manage to do in a dozen issues. David Trinidad and Amy Gerstler also had significant, though brief, projects at this time, too. One summer day found this new generation gathered at Stoner Park, along with two of the older editors, for a picnic.

Here are some photographs, never before shared, of “L.A. poets in their youth.” All photographs in this post were taken by me, and are (c) Bill Mohr. Group photograph (c) Cathay Gleeson.

Jim Krusoe - PICNIC - 2

Jim Krusoe holding court on a picnic table. In the background, one can see Dennis Cooper, David Trinidad, and Jack Skelley. I believe the man sitting on the bench in the foreground is Marshall Davis.

Dennis Cooper - Breaking on Camera
“Breaking on Camera”: Dennis Cooper, wearing a “My Aim Is True” t-shirt

Scott Wannberg - 1

From left to right: Joe Safdie; Julia Norstrand; (unknown person); Scott Wannberg, in red T-shirt, “McGovern 72”). Joe Safdie, it should be noted, went on to edit a poetry magazine after he moved to Northern California.

Picnic GROUP - 1

Standing, from left: David Trinidad; unknown; Amy Gerstler; Manazar Gamboa; Dennis Cooper; Rick Lawndale (with guitar); Jack Skelley; other figures in the back row, unknown); front row; kneeling, Bill Mohr; and two unknown individuals.)