Category Archives: Poetry

“Echolocation” in CALIBAN #27

“Echolocation,” a portion of my long poem “Barely Holding Distant Things Apart,” has just been published in issue #27 of CALIBAN magazine, edited by Larry Smith. While a print version of the title poem appeared in ASYLUM magazine, edited by Greg Boyd, the video version that includes the collaboration with sculptor Mineko Grimmer, is available on-line. Other contributors to this new issue of CALIBAN include Anthony Seidman, James Grabill, Ray Gonzalez, Cathie Sandstrom, Jeff Harrison, Guy R. Beining, Andrew Joron, Timothy Liu, Karen Garthe, Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Gerald Vizenor, and George Kalamaras.

http://calibanonline.com/27/

The Poetry of Sunset Strip; John Harris Memorial

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I came down with a bad head cold this past Friday evening, and was still sufficiently ill on Monday to have to cancel that day’s classes. One other unfortunate consequence of my illness is that I had to miss the memorial service for John Harris at Beyond Baroque this past Saturday. Even though I wasn’t there, however, I found an example of his impact on the larger community of poets, musicians, and artists as I tried to do a bit of research for a paper I’m working on about the early days of punk rock music in Los Angeles. Chris D., who edited an anthology in the mid-70s entitled Bongo Chalice, recollects seeing the first issue of Slash magazine in — you guessed it — Papa Bach Bookstore in 1977. It was completely John’s store by that point, and his choices shaped the entire zeitgeist that the store palpitated. I took a look at the clock on Saturday as I read Chris D.’s assessment of the store as “bohemian”: it was a few minutes past 5:00 p.m., and John’s memorial service would have been just wrapping up. I heard from Michael C. Ford a couple days ago that George Drury Smith spoke at the gathering and said that while Joseph Hansen provided the intellectual edge to the early days of the Wednesday night poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque, John Harris as its co-founder was the heart of the gathering. He was also its designated driver, in that Joe Hansen was like Ray Bradbury and refused to own or drive a car, and had held out against driving ever since coming of age in Los Angeles. If John had not provided Joe with a ride to the workshop, I doubt it would ever have sustained itself.

I suppose I should be grateful that my indisposition at least waited until Friday to make itself felt. Several weeks ago, Kim Dower, the poet laureate of West Hollywood, asked me to read with a half-dozen other poets at the West Hollywood Public Library and to write something on the theme of Sunset Strip, 1967. The reading was scheduled for Thursday, April 6, and by the morning of the day before I still hadn’t written anything. With only 36 hours left before the reading was to begin, I sat down and got to work on a sonnet, which I had to complete by mid-morning so that I could leave for campus. I got it done and was pleased enough with the effor that I dedicated it to Laurence Goldstein, whose Poetry Los Angeles is the best book around on the theme of this city as an omphalos of poetic inspiration.

The reading went very well and all the poets enjoyed reading with one of the most glamorous backdrops that any of us could ask for. I had no idea that we would be provided such as shimmering setting. I was delighted to see Audri Phillips in the audience, and the esteemed music critic Steve Hochman came up afterwards and introduced himself. There was some awkwardness at the end as the poets headed off to a small get-together about who could be there. If someone named Halley (who seemed as if she possessed a tender poetic spirit) is reading this, my profound apologies for your discomfort.

Group shot : https://www.flickr.com/photos/weho/33832596251/in/album-72157679206949583/

All photos: www.flickr.com/photos/weho/albums/72157679206949583

“From a Secret Location….”

Saturday, April 1, 2017

More Secret Locations

About: From Book to Web

Momentum

I began working on a literary history of some of the communities of poets in Los Angeles County in the mid-1990s. I had no realization whatsoever how long this account and accompanying contextual analysis would take to complete. As I worked on the initial outline, however, worrying about the publication date was a luxury I could not afford, for it was primarily a project motivated by dire circumstances. After many years of making a living as a typesetter, I was unemployed and had no likelihood of ever finding work again in that occupation. One evening, in mid-November, 1995, I spotted a flyer on a lobby counter at Beyond Baroque. The Getty Research Institute was requesting applications from scholars and cultural workers who would contribute to a year-long seminar on Los Angeles. I set to work on a proposal that I spend two months doing research on the poets in Venice West, and turned it in on the last day of the application date. In mid-Spring, I received a special delivery notice that I had received one of the visiting scholar awards. It was a radical shift in my life, in that it led to a decision to engage in graduate study at UC San Diego, starting in 1997.

The first few years that I was in grad school were impatiently devoted to doing the coursework for a Ph.D., during which time I felt encouraged by the publication of A Secret Location on the Lower East Side. It was the kind of book that emanated a lifetime of passionate involvement in the underground publication of poetry in the two decades after Donald Allen’s anthology first appeared, and it bespoke the necessity of my own project, which I saw as a spoke on the Great Wheel of this compendium by authors/archivists, Steven Clay and Rodney Phillips. At the many points at which I felt discouraged, I thought of their book as proof that Holdouts was more than individual nostalgia for what L.A. Times book critic Robert Kirsch had called the “golden age” of Los Angeles poetry.

As was the case with Holdouts, in which I had to leave out vast amounts of information, A Secret Location was merely the first major sifting of the period under examination (1960-1980). In making the entire original book available for anyone with a computer and internet access to read, Steven Clay and Rodney Phillips have performed an extraordinary act of scholarly generosity. They have taken the project further, though, and added entries for other notable magazines and small press outfits, such as Abraxas, Extensions, Luna Bisonte Prods, New American Writing, Oink, Streets and Roads, Sugar Mountain, the, Tooth of Time Review, Grist, Long News in the Short Century, Sunshine, Unmuzzled Ox, Search for Tomorrow, and Tansy.

For those who missed the post a few days back, you can also listen to David Wilk’s recently posted interview with me as a way of hearing about some of the books that are mentioned in the checklist on this very personal instance of a Secret Location.

David Wilk interviews poet and publisher Bill Mohr

Greg Kosmicki: “Whenever I Peel an Orange”

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Greg Kosmicki: Whenever I Peel an Orange”

Greg Kosmicki sent me a link to a video made of his poem “Whenever I Peel an Orange.” In watching it, I noticed how certain images lingered in my imagination even as the words of the poem moved on in a quiet pas de deux the visual layering on the screen.
Kosmicki’s poem is a meditation on mortality in the midst of the collaborative community of a shared workplace. It is a “portrait” poem, both a compassionate tribute to and acknowledgement of a deceased co-worker for whom there was no retirement party. His last day on the job is no different than any other; his evanescence is a set of phone calls from his spouse, in which tests for a lesion swirl lead incrementally to more and more serious medical interventions, all of which prove futile. The poem makes the peeling of an orange a kind of cenotaph in remembrance of this man, whose revelation of his son’s problem proves to be the kind of resistance that conservative people are prone to and yet that makes complete sense upon reflection. One of the ways Kosmicki’s poems has the tart juice its central symbol suggests is in the implication of this story within a story. The co-worker’s son keeps getting his car towed because he won’t get a parking sticker for the complex he lives at. That his son resists the change of the bureaucratic demand to secure permission to park at a place that he is already paying for makes sense to those of us who have to endure the impediments of tasks imposed simply to keep our lives busy. The father, too, the poem recounts, resisted changes on the job, and the spiral of the orange peel comes to stand for the DNA helix of contumacious integrity. The poem was originally published in Rattle magazine.

The lingering of the images as I read the poem reminded me of my recent visit to a book I had looked at a couple of years ago, Imagination by Mary Warnock. Although Warnock at one point suggests that the co-habitation of images is something that happens without any particular strain (one drives a car, for instance, in her example, and thinks of other images while absorbing and reacting to the images arriving through the windows of the car), in any encounter requiring the full circumference of the imagination, a kind of smudging must take place. If I imagine Kosmicki’s co-worker pinning the spiral of his orange peel to the side of his work cubicle, it has the underlayer of the image of the skinned fur of a hunted animal nailed to a barn wall. And I continue to meditate on this image as the video swirls off into other images, all of which I am coiled within as the poem peels itself. I don’t peel the poem. The poem peels me.

The Surprise Guests of the Vacant Storefront Reading (Long Beach, 2012)

March 3, 2017

Greg Kosmicki and Greg Kuzma: The Surprise Guests of the Vacant Storefront Reading

Greg Kosmicki, the editor and publisher of Backwaters Press, contacted me the other day to forward a half-dozen photographs of a reading that took place in Long Beach back in 2012. Nicole Street, who was then a MFA student at CSULB, had located a vacant storefront that was willing to open its premises for a one-day festival of painters and poets. The poets who read included Greg Kuzma, Laurel Ann Bogen, Gerry Locklin, and myself, as well as Greg Kosmicki. Visual artists included Kelsey Livingston, Walter Gajewski, and Linda Fry.

It was a memorable pleasure to meet and read with Greg Kosmicki and Greg Kuzma. I had first heard of Kuzma back in the early 1970s. His magazine, Pebble, was one of my favorites of that period, and it was hard not to be impressed by his early success in getting his poems published. His commitment to writing and editing seemed so palpable to me that I was baffled in the early 1980s as to what had become of him. I didn’t hear of him anymore, but the stillness didn’t seem explicable. It turned out that his brother had been killed in an automobile accident in 1977, and that this horrendous intervention had deflected his literary production for quite some time. But all I knew back then was that he seemed to have disappeared as an active poet and I just assumed by the late 1980s and early 1990s that I would never meet him. To end up reading with him in Long Beach, California did not seem to be worth taking even a 1,000 to 1 bet on.

Of course, there are more than a few people a half-century ago who would have given similar odds on me still writing as I approach the age of 70. Just to get to this age and still be devoted to the art seems like a minor triumph. And trust me that the devotion is all that keeps me going. There are no publishing houses in this country interested in my poetry other than ones that require the poet to put up some of the financing for the book; and the other usual rejections keep piling up: this past week I received a notification from the administrative portion of CSULB that made it very clear how little I am appreciated there. Unlike the Academy Awards, there was no flub involved in that message. If it weren’t for a publisher in Mexico, I would indeed have little to show for my efforts the past ten years.

Vacant Storefront - 6It is at a moment such as this one that the arrival of a photograph depicting the unexpected is most appreciated. (From left to right: G. Murray Thomas; Linda Delmont; Bill Mohr; Nicole Street; Gerald Locklin; Greg Kuzma; Greg Kosmicki.)

Tom Lux’s Audience

Saturday, February 18, 2017

As many poets born between 1940 and 1955 have noticed, the number of people writing poetry in the United States has increased enormously since they first started publishing their writing. In the late 1960s, the protests against the Vietnam War included poetry as a popular part of the counter-culture’s resistance. Only a small proportion of those young poets, however, were still writing in the late 1970s. In contrast, there are perhaps as many as 40,000 people who currently regard poetry as their primary means of creative cultural work; and while it is frequently claimed that the only people who read poetry are those who write it, that simply is not the case. Tom Lux, for instance, was a poet who actually collected royalties from his book sales, and no poet reaches that point of popularity without attracting the attention of serious readers.

For poets who were born after 1960 or 1985, however, the abundance of poets in the United States has a drawback, in that what might be regarded as a surplus of talent makes the crescent edge of older poets harder to detect and calibrate. Compounding this diffusion, I find this pair of generations all too often ends up depending too much on a narrow cluster of initial friends within the poetry world to guide their reading. Or at least that’s the only explanation I can come up with when I consider what I have found in the wake of learning about Tom Lux’s death. Karina Borowicz, for instance, has a blog entry (dated September 23, 2015) in which she describes a reading by Lux when he was on tour promoting his most recent collection, To the Left of Time. Borowiz leads off her commentary by saying that “I went to see Thomas Lux read the other night at Smith College. I haven’t read much Lux before and I don’t know much about him, so I didn’t know what to expect.” Her appreciative commentary after the reading sums up fairly well the effect that Tom Lux’s poetry had on thousands of people, and I would assume that she has passed on her discovery of Lux’s vital imagination to her friends.

It does seem odd to me that a mid-life poet whose poetics fall within a fairly familiar terrain would not have read much Lux. It seems as odd, in fact, as it would be if I ran into a mainstream musician who said she or he didn’t know much about Ry Cooder. I would give that person a quizzical look. “Surely, you’re joking?”

Nevertheless, Borowicz herself is a poet worth paying attention to. In the process of getting her poems published in over three dozen well known poetry magazines, she has won several distinctive prizes and citations. You can find her poem “September Tomatoes” at the Poetry Foundation website as well as other work at http://contrarymagazine.com/two-poems-by-karina-borowicz/.

Her blog entry on Tom Lux’s reading is at:

https://karinaborowicz.com/2015/09/23/poetry-reading-review-thomas-lux/

Thomas Lux (1946 – 2017)

TOM LUX (December 10, 1946 – February 5, 2017)

Larry Goldstein was in town this past week, and we had lunch together at the Long Beach Museum of Art, where the upstairs gallery currently features some superb photographs of the Long Beach port. On our way to the museum, as I drove on Seventh Street, Larry mentioned that the Cortland Review was dedicating its next issue to the late Thomas Lux. I hadn’t heard that Tom had died, and I was as grateful for the slow traffic, as for the street’s familiarity. To have been told the same news on the 90 freeway last Friday night, as rain sliced down, might have had a different outcome, for the 90’s lane markers at night are very faint to begin with, and I struggled to detect exactly which lane I was traversing.

I first met Tom back in the early 1990s, when he was on a Southern California reading tour. He started at the Chateau Marmont on a weekend, headed over to Loyola Marymount at the start of the school week, and ended up at California State University Long Beach, by which time we ended up playing pool in the Student Union after his reading. I remember how surprised Tom was when I showed up at the second reading with a copy of Tarantulas on a Lifebuoy. He probably thought at that point that he had met everyone who had a copy of that early book. Not quite, I told him. Contrary to popular allegations from an individual he used to know in New York City, there were more than a handful of astute readers in Los Angeles.

Tom was a superb reader, and his poems fit perfectly into the Stand Up school that Charles Harper Webb was beginning to promote. Indeed, he unquestionably deserved his place in the second edition. He returned to the Los Angeles area in the late 1990s; along with Naomi Shihab Nye, he was the first poet-in-residence at the Idyllwild Poetry Festival. Idyllwild was the last place I saw him, in large part because my life as a scholar has diverted my creative energies outside of the contemporary poetry nexus. It was over a decade ago that we last wrote each other. His poems have been a constant presence in my teaching, though.

Thomas Lux radiated a multi-dimensional love of poetry that went beyond anything I have ever encountered in all but a few other people. If it seems that he is present now in my memory’s eye as a living presence, reciting lines of poetry by Hart Crane or Theodore Roethke to illustrate his point, then it is a measure of how much his invisible companionship has meant to me the past dozen years.

This sense of personal loss extends to Charles Harper Webb, one of my fellow poets at CSULB. I asked if he would be willing to contribute to this blog post about Tom Lux’s writing and presence in our lives and he immediately sent the following eulogy:

“I was beyond bummed to hear of the death of Tom Lux, one of the truly good guys in American poetry. Just last December, I sent him my new book of essays on poetry, and he promised to send me a copy of the collection of Bill Knott’s poems which he’d just finished editing. It never crossed my mind that I’d never see, or even e-mail him again. Since we lived on opposite sides of the country, I didn’t see him much; but he was my friend, and a world-class ally in the fight for clear, entertaining poetry. I love Tom’s poems. I wish I’d written them. Every virtue that I praise in my essays, his poetry exemplifies. Wit, passion, impropriety, brilliance of metaphor and conception—he gave it all to the world in clear, concise language that sounds like no one else. Because there was no one else like him. It’s our good fortune that, although his body’s gone, his voice still sings out of his books, loud and quirky, brave and clear.”

The Collected Poems of Tom Lux will be a book worth waiting for, and the second half of Charles’s assessment would be a spot on blurb for that book. In that kind of volume, it is a common practice to include an index of titles as well as first lines. I would recommend including an index of last lines, too, in that book as a way of giving young poets one more axis of inspiration. I have seen many determined and talented young poets emerging in the past twenty years, but few have the gift of Tom Lux’s quirky, encompassing, comic sense of poignant elucidation.

If I were to take part in a memorial reading, I would be hard pressed to choose which one of his poems to read. “Refrigerator, 1957” would probably be my choice, though given its popularity, someone else would probably have read it by the time I got to the podium. It is certainly one of the best poems to have first appeared in The New Yorker magazine.

https://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/thomas-lux/refrigerator-1957/
https://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/thomas-lux/refrigerator-1957/
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1997/07/28/refrigerator-1957
http://happopoemouse.blogspot.com/2013/11/number-326-thomas-lux-refrigerator-1957.html

And for a view of that poem “across the pond,” go to:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/16/selected-poems-1986-to-2012-thomas-lux-review

One of the better articles I’ve found on his poetry can be found at:
http://www.cerisepress.com/01/01/life-on-a-piecemeal-planet-god-particles-by-thomas-lux/view-all

https://www.pshares.org/issues/winter-1998-99/about-thomas-lux-profile
Issue 77 / Winter 1998-99 – Stuart Dischell
http://www.news.gatech.edu/2017/02/07/campus-atlanta-communities-mourn-loss-thomas-lux-director-poetrytech
https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2017/02/thomas-lux-obituary/516354/
http://www.dailyo.in/voices/tom-lux-death-poet-poetry-eulogy-tribute-vijay-seshadri/story/1/15523.html

Correct Crowd Count: 2,500,000 join U.S. Women’s Marches (“Super Callow Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious”)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

OVER TWO MILLION MARCH IN CONTUMACIOUS CELEBRATION OF FEMINIST IDEALS

Yesterday’s marches of protest against the FBI-assisted ascendancy of Donald Trump were vigorously attended throughout the nation, in large part because enormous numbers of people were willing to give up their hard-earned personal time to affirm the feminist movement. The rallies in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Oakland attracted hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people. No one will have to stand at a press conference today and exaggerate the number of marchers in order to massage the egos of its organizers.

Once again, the ability of social media to mobilize a movement far exceeded expectations. When Teresa Shook first proposed a Women’s March on her Facebook page soon after Election Day. she certainly didn’t stretch out on a couch and immediately begin fantasizing about speaking on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of protestors in Washington, D.C. And yet, yesterday, she found herself in a line-up of social activists and cultural workers who spoke to a crowd much larger than the one that witnessed Trump’s clamp-down taking of the presidential oath of office the day before.

In an update, over six hours after the original posting of today’s entry, I wish to correct the crowd count. The total number of marchers was over two million people in the United States alone. I am struck by how the mass media refuse to acknowledge breaking this “glass ceiling” of numerical defiance. My own original impression from media reports was that the total attendance at all of the marches exceeded one million, but that is a vast underestimate. It’s one thing to top the one million figure for any given one-day public event. Two million is exponentially more massive. The scale of this “stand your ground” message to Trump, in fact, is on the ominous side of predictions. The attendance seems closer to the number of people who might turn out for an anti-war rally. Indeed, the fear that Trump is already drawing up invasion plans in hopes that a war will “unify” the country is more than amply justified. It should be noted that it was not just the largest cities, such as Los Angeles, that featured enormous crowds proportionate to their population. Smaller urban areas such as San Jose, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Atlanta also had significantly attended rallies.

I was not impressed with the coverage of the mainstream media. I happened to watch a bit of the march on the L.A. Times link to the ABC news, and noticed Maxwell’s rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” erased him from the screen. In fact, a kind of misogynistic voyeurism seemed to take over the control booth. Rather than show Maxwell singing, the camera panned across the dispersal of the crowd, as if to diminish the meaning of Bush’s lyrics. What was really disturbing was how the camera awkwardly swooped across the crowd to find signs with the word “pussy” on them. It was as if the control booth of the ABC network was being directed by young teenage boys who couldn’t get enough of seeing a “forbidden word” being bandied about. What must have attracted them even more was that one sign had a set of curves suggesting the inner and outer lips of a woman’s genitals. That the camera would linger on this sign together with a nearby one on a green board that also featured the word “pussy” in large letters seemed not to be a moment of transgressive affirmation, but rather an attempt to reduce feminist protest to an essentialist taunt.

At least Aja Monet’s performance of her poem, “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter,” was spared this imposition of male scopic power. Monet, a performance poet who won a major slam contest at a very young age, attended Sarah Lawrence College for her B.A. and has a MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. The poem she read is the title poem of her most recent collection of poetry. That a poet would be asked to be part of this protest and perform on the main stage is hardly a surprise, though. Writers Resist, an informal collective of protest readings by writers the week before the inauguration, was one of the major preliminary groundswells of protest against the outrageous plutocracy that Trump has assembled as his administrative bureaucracy of American government.

I believe it was in a column by Steve Lopez, the L.A. Times columnist, that I saw a protest sign with the best comment of the day: “Super Callow Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious.” My compliments to the Palimpsest-in-Chief.

President Trump took note of the demonstrations, but seemed to overlook their impetus. “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” he tweeted.

Excuse me, Mr. President, but they did vote. That is why you lost the popular vote by a margin equal to the entire number of voters in Arizona. Losing the popular vote has consequences. It means that you failed to win the respect of the electorate, and the daily disrespect has just begun.

Media coverage post-script: As Larry Goldstein noted in an e-mail today, at least CNN refused to act as if it were Fox News light and roll over in accepting Sean Spicer’s outrageous exaggerations about the size of the inaugural attendance. See the following article in the NY Times for a scientific report on the crowd size of these events.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/22/us/politics/womens-march-trump-crowd-estimates.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Mike Sonksen’s review of “CROSS-STROKES”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lana Turner, issue number 9
“A Reunion Party of Sorts,” by Mike Sonksen – January 16, 2017

Lana Turner Journal has just published Mike Sonksen’s comprehensive review of Cross-Strokes: Poetry between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the anthology which Neeli Cherkovski and I devoted half a decade to co-editing. Sonksen meticulously acknowledges every contributor to the anthology and provides representative sample of their poems. In a way that I am sure he is not aware of, he has followed the instructions on the permissions form that we had to negotiate with New Directions. No poet was to get a larger billing in any advertisement we would take out. This is to say that we were not allowed to promote the book by putting Kenneth Rexroth’s and Nate Mackey’s names in big type and Kevin Opstedal and Sharon Doubiago in small type. Not that Neeli and I would have ever done otherwise!

The next reviewer should have a much easier task, should she or he be willing to “collaborate” with Mike the Poet, as Sonksen is also known as. This is to say that a follow-up review might well benefit from focusing on a comparison of Cross-Strokes with other “regional” anthologies, including those that do not acknowledge themselves as such. It always amuses me to see anthologies that assume they present a national survey of American poetry, but have far less than ten percent of their contributors based in California.

Here is the link to Mike Sonksen’s review:
http://www.lanaturnerjournal.com/blog/a-reunion-party-of-poets

One very gratifying aspect of the roster of poets Cherkovski and I were able to assemble was their compatibility. If one were to try to put together a chronological anthology, the task might prove to be overwhelming. Consider trying to assemble a volume of poets born in the 1940s, a project that would probably fracture almost at the onset as poets or their executors point-blank rebuffed being associated by juxtaposition with figures inimical to their hopes for the art. Such an anthology, however, is probably needed if one is to understand how “post-modernism” pushed away from the massive influence of Donald Allen’s anthology, The New American Poetry. Maybe the most important part of this potential anthology would be not the poems, but essays at the end in which the poets address their “generation(s)” within that decade’s outset. The time to begin requesting these essays is the next four years, while the surviving remnant of American poets born in the 1940s will still be fairly substantial. This will not hold up indefinitely; after all, we were forced to pause and consider the inexorable attrition of our ranks this past year with the deaths of two poets, Ted Greenwald and Ray DiPalma, who first appeared together in an anthology back in 1985. In many ways, that year marked a turning point in American poetry. Three major anthologies appeared in 1985: In the American Tree, edited by Ron Silliman; “Poetry Loves Poetry,” edited by Bill Mohr; and The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, edited by David Bottoms and David Smith. The Morrow Anthology represented the first indication of the rapid growth of MFA programs in the United States since 1980, while Silliman’s and my anthologies presented a case for writing that centered itself on other questions of poetry’s social value other than academic legitimacy.

I did not ever meet Ray DiPalma, though I certainly remember the first anthology in which I saw his work: Quickly Aging Here, edited by Geoff Hewitt. DiPalma appeared frequently in Invisible City magazine, edited by Paul Vangelisti and John McBride, and continued to be published by Vangelisti throughout the rest of his life. One of DiPalma’s other long-time supporters and allies was Michael Lally, who has posted his recollections on his blog, “Lally’s Alley.” According to Lally, there will be a memorial for DiPalma on Wednesday, February 15, at the School of Visual Arts Gallery from 6 – 8 p.m. (601 West 26th Street).
http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2016/12/ray-dipalma-rip-by-michael-lally.html

I heard Ted Greenwald read several times over the decades. The first time was at a bookstore called Intellectuals & Liars, which was located near the corner of 11th Street and Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. It was an odd pairing: he read with Kate Braverman, who left the reading grumbling about Greenwald’s lack of personal narrative. Although I had published Kate’s first book, Milk Run, a couple of years earlier and was very pleased that she went to become a successful novelist, I was more impressed and intrigued that night with Greenwald’s work, and I was excited when he read in Los Angeles again, at Beyond Baroque, shortly after Dennis Cooper took over the reading series. It was a quarter century before I saw read again, at St. Mark’s with Lyn Hejinian. He was as on key as ever, and his “voice” (which almost always seems like an illusory concept to me) was as pitch-perfect to his vision as it had been when I first heard it.

That I am hardly alone in my profound admiration for Greenwald’s poetry was reflected in the line-up of poets who spoke at his memorial service at St. Mark’s Poetry Project back on September 16, which included Alan Bernheimer, Charles Bernstein, Alan Davies, John Godfrey, Erica Hunt, Michael Lally, Ron Padgett, Kit Robinson, Patricia Spears Jones, Stacy Szymaszek, Chris Tysh, Lewis Warsh, Barrett Watten, and Terence Winch

Rattle magazine, issue 54: Runner-up poems for annual contest

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Issue Number 54 of Rattle magazine arrived several weeks ago, and I first read the section of poems that the editors nominated for the runner-up prize in their annual poetry contest. Of the ten poems they selected, not one convinced me that it deserved a second place award; a third place award, maybe, but not second place. The problem in the quartet of poems by Ellen Bass, C. Wade Bentley, Rhina P. Espaillat, and Emily Ransdell is largely in their endings. I admire Espaillat’s poem, in particular, for the persuasive dexterity of its trochees in the second stanza, but the very last line of the poem is an easy exit, and the poem’s finish falters. Ransdell’s ending almost convinces, but leans too heavily on the image’s potential symbolic intonation. Slightly more figurative language might well have pushed Ransdell’s poem over the finish line for a silver medal. For the first two-thirds of its narrative, Bass’s poem might well be the best of the ten that the editors selected, but the ending left me wanting a return to the present tense. The look back, in lingering indefinitely as the conclusion to the poem, seemed to verge on evasiveness. Perhaps this is the first poem of a sequence of poems, in which case the ending would suffice. My vote will go, therefore, to C. Wade Bentley’s “Spin,” which was the more successful of a pair of poems with complementary concerns about absence and presence. The other poem was by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, which was composed in alternating lines in a kind of musical round of scientific inquiry and the intimate curiosity of one’s mortal reproduction. Jendrzejewski’s poem was a more than worthy effort and deserves publication, but not a prize, although she may well garner substantial awards in the future.