Category Archives: Poetry

Bill Mohr Reads at the Malibu Library, Feb. 2

CAAFEINATED VERSE

Ricardo Means Ybarra has invited me to be the featured poet at this coming Saturday’s edition of “Caffeinated Verse” at the Malibu Library. Ricardo and I first met many years ago when we were working in the California Poets-in-the-Schools program, and I hadn’t seen him in quite some time until about a year ago. One memory during that long separation always remained vivid: a gathering in a house somewhere in Los Angeles in which Jack Gilbert commented on a set of poems that had been written by a variety of L.A. poets. Of all the poets in the room, Ricardo’s poem was the one he admired the most. That was back in the mid-1990s; after which I lived in San Diego and Idyllwild, as well as Lynbrook, New York and my current abode. An invitation to read at the Carnegie Museum in Oxnard led to a brief reunion with Ricardo, and I am looking forward to reading in his curve of the coastline.

Whether PCH will be open either heading north from the Beach Cities or south from Oxnard is open to question, however. Late last week, a rainstorm was predicted for the day of the reading, but the storm is now a four-day sequence, with one inch of rain predicted for Friday and Saturday. I recommend consulting www.wunderground.com and sigalert.

Caffeinated Verse
Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Malibu Library
23519 W. Civc Center Way
Malibu, CA 90265
(310) 456-6438

“The Soccer Players” — 1:00 minute long

Sunday, January 26, 2019

Over a quarter-century ago, New Alliance Records was releasing a considerable number of recordings of poets under the category of “Spoken Word.” I have no idea of how many copies ever sold, though I saw that label’s releases of “Vehemence” in such outlets as Tower Records on Sunset Blvd., and I still see a few copies available on the internet’s bazaar. Harvey Kubernik was a record producer who somehow convinced SST records that his projects could at least cover their costs, and perhaps they did. In addition to solo projects, he put together a number of “anthologies” of spoken word, one of which was a concept album of pieces that took exactly one minute to read. Laurel Ann Bogen, Kathi Martin, Eloise Klein Healy, and Charles Harper Webb were among the contributors to this project. My piece was entitled “The Soccer Players.” I have been working on my archives, in order to place them at a library, and ran across this recording, which I think was made in 1994.

A Poet in His Youth: Reading in NYC; October, 1977

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In the course of editing Momentum magazine in the mid-1970s, I began to realize that a new anthology of Los Angeles poets was needed to reflect the growing scenes. I took it upon myself to test this material out “on the road,” first with a reading in Boulder, Colorado, and then with a reading at Bragr Times Bookstore in NYC, in late October, 1977. At both places I read the work of Leland Hickman, Jim Krusoe, Peter Levitt, Holly Prado, Harry Northup, Dennis Ellman, Eloise Klein Healy, and Sandi Tanhauser, the last of whom read with me in Boulder, Colorado. The anthology I eventually put together was The Streets Inside: Ten Los Angeles Poets (1978). It was officially published at the very end of December, 1978, and there was a party at my apartment in Ocean Park which was more crowded than I ever anticipated. I believe that it was at that party that Jim Krusoe met Michael Silverblatt for the first time.

Four months later, Robert Kirsch ran a review in the LA Times that called my anthology indicative of a “golden age” in Los Angeles poetry. Other reviews by Robert Peters, Stephen Kessler, and Laurel Ann Bogen soon appeared. I realized as time went by that I really should have

Here are some photographs of me reading in NYC, taken by Reavis Hilz-Ward.

Bragr Times - 3

Bragr Times - 1

Bragr Times - 2

Catch-up Links to William Archila; Alexis Rhone Fancher; Alex Umlas

Saturday, January 5, 2019

I am happy to report that Eileen Aronson Ireland I are beginning to collate the poems that will go into her first book of poems. Eileen is one of the last surviving members of the Venice West poetry scene that included Stuart Perkoff, John Thomas, Frank T. Rios, Tony Scibella, Bruce Boyd, Bonnie Bratton, and Lawrence Lipton. We hope that the book will be out in the Fall of 2019 from IF/SF Books, and that it will enable those who are thinking of assembling a comprehensive anthology of Los Angeles poets to grasp how large a volume will be required. There has not yet been an anthology of L.A. poets that include the work of William Pillin, Gene Frumkin, and Alvaro Cardona-Hine along with the above poets. Perhaps it will have to be an electronic book, or at least one in which the a supplementary set of texts can be accessed through various links. My hope is that such a book appears by 2025.

In the meantime, Suzanne Lummis’s anthology, Wide Awake, does a very fine job of giving a sense of the L.A. scenes between 1978 and this mid-decade, and I would urge my readers to consult that anthology as a means of creating a context for the following links.

Alexis Rhone Fancher

http://www.theamericanjournalofpoetry.com/v6-fancher.html

“There are worse things than a dead kid,” I think, by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Anna As War Zone (a sister poem)

https://thepangolinreview.wixsite.com/mypoetrysite/1st-edition-results

http://www.glass-poetry.com/journal/2019/january/fancher-body.html

The last listed link to Fancher’s poetry features “My Body Is a Map of Scars.”

* * *

William Archila

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/william-archila

https://m.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/william-archila

* * * *

Alex Umlas

October 8-14, 2018: Poetry from Alexandra Umlas, Debbie Hall and Angele Ellis

Post-MFA Links for the New Year: Indicia Magazine; and David Garyan

January 2, 2019

Contrary to the steadfast beliefs of AWP, MFA poetry programs have not necessarily been the best thing for the health of American poetry in the past three decades. (Let us remember once again how FEW such academic programs existed in 1980 in the United States. In point of fact, it was the “small press” movement that truly invigorated American poetry in the 1970s.) Nevertheless, MFA programs in the past four decades have enabled many young poets to gain some basic training in versification.

The program at the university where I teach, primarily in the Literature section, has begun to produce graduates who flourish after receiving their MFA degrees. Jax NTP has had several poems published in Caliban magazine, for instance, which I regard as one of the best magazines around. Eric Morago has taken over the editorship of Moontide Press, and edited and published a significant anthology of genre-oriented poetry entitled Dark Ink. The Whittier Art Museum hosted its publication reading, and there will be a follow-up event at Beyond Baroque on Feb. 9th. His next major project will be a volume of poems by Alex Umlas, who is one of the best of the new poets working within traditional forms.

In the brief time that 2019 has been the operative year, I have received additional notices that I want to pass on to you as links. A.J. Urquidi and Marcus Clayton, both recent graduates of CSULB’s MFA program, have edited and published the fifth issue of their magazine, Indicia. Their actual titles are “executive editors,” which is probably a smart move on their parts in terms of keeping the magazine going. Anyone who tries this kind of venture single-handed these days had better need very little sleep. To assist them, Urquidi and Clayton have appointed two CSULB alumni, Jax NTP and Toren Wallace as poetry editors. The collaboration of these editors with the fiction editor, Marissa Branson, has been unusually acute.

The issue opens with “Rising” by Laura Rivera Rodriguez, which deserves to be quoted in its entirety, but since I am a lazy blogger, I would rather reiterate that it is the perfect poem to lead the issue off than retype lines that would probably end up with too many typos. The quality is maintained as one works one’s way into the issue. Each poem could make a strong case for its desirability by editors of other magazines. I certainly would have seriously considered the following poems for publication in Momentum back in the days when I edited a poetry magazine: Rachel Sandle’s “What to Do If”; and Laura Dolphin’s scathing redaction of the National Football League’s “Concussion Protocol. In addition, Allegra Armstrong’s willingness to risk sentimentality caught me off guard, and made her “List of Things I know How to Cook” a tender, brief account of fate’s whimsicality. Vincent Hao’s four-page poem, “Variation on the Paradoxical Vase, Faces Turned Apart” is like a large, glowing painting of a mother-son relationship. Short (very short!) poems by Rose Knapp and Darren C. Demure prove to be concurrently effusive in their ability to act as performative acts, the very focus called for in the issue’s epigraph by John L. Austin. It’s not just the poetry, however, that sustains one’s attention in this issue.

The art work by xiang is impressively committed to finding the nanosecond that can’t be disturbed without shifting the tonal range of its interior’s outburst. The other visual artist is equally deft. Bill Wolak’s pair of pieces, including “As Silk Glides Quivering through the Wind,” will make you wish you had enlarged versions framed on your bedroom wall.

In the interests of full disclosure, two of the professors in the MFA program at CSULB, Patty Seyburn and myself, have poems in this issue, but I would be impressed by the work the editors selected regardless of that inclusion. You can judge for yourself by taking a look at the issue in its entirety:

https://e.issuu.com/anonymous-embed.html?u=indicialit&d=indicia_issue_3_1

Finally, I have received a link from another of CSULB’s MFA graduates, David Garyan, who has both an essay and a 20 page poem in an issue of the American Journal of Poetry.

https://theamericanjournalofpoetry.com/v6-garyan_essay.html

https://theamericanjournalofpoetry.com/v6-garyan.html

I hope the current students, who are studying in 2018-2019 with Patty Seyburn and Charles Harper Webb, are inspired by these accomplishments and that they plan on emulating their elders in the early years of the coming decade.

“Paragraphs” by Walter Lowenfels

Thursday, December 27, 2018

One of the most important literary magazines of the period between 1950 and 1970 was James Boyer May’s TRACE, edited and published in Los Angeles. One of its contributors is largely forgotten today, though he was a poet whose literary “career” was similar to George Oppen’s, in that both had a significant period during which they devoted themselves to radical political activity rather than give precedence to writing poems.

Here are some links to background information to Lowenfels, who deserves to have more scholarship done on his work with the same degree of thoroughness as Michael Davidson and Stephen Cope addressed the poetry and notebooks of George Open in recent decades. In fact, this new scholar’s initial work will be somewhat easier because that person can easily and directly access much of Lowenfels’s work thanks to the Upenn website; there is no excuse for scholars not to begin to embed his work more prominently in their critiques of 20th century American literature.

http://wap.mlb.com/pit/news/article/20181214301867134/

http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Lowenfels.php

http://www.pennilesspress.co.uk/prose/walter_lowenfels.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Lowenfels

The following material was first printed in issues 33 and 35 of TRACE magazine.

“Paragraphs” by Walter Lowenfels

A poem comes from a new misreading of history.

You have to write quickly these days. Otherwise your style changes and your particular theme loses itself.

What does Gautier’s “arcana of daily travail” mean? That you
have to get closer to the point where the poem writes itself automatically.

For me poems have been a way of living rather than a way
of literature. It was only when I quit thinking that poems were actually possible that I began to make them.

Something in every poem escapes the moment it has been created
– the underlying totality the poet carries with him. On the other hand—something is added – the totality the reader carries with him. When the two are close to one you have the minimum basis for a poem.

The poem ought to be read to end the instant it begins.

The poem has to get worse and worse. Only so it gets better and better. As the grass of the world goes deader, the grass of the poem goes whiter.

* * *

PARAGRAPHS by Walter Lowenfels

I don’t agree with anybody, and the only way I can indicate it is
a poem.

Tomorrow’s poem is still an exile from a land we are trying to find.

That a poem ends is just as mysterious as that it begins.

If it can be said in half the words, it is twice as good.

We have to live poems to make poems…

If you take dancing seriously, a poet is a man without a tongue,
shouting at an audience without ears.

(issue 35)

Best Books of Poetry 2018: Short List

Sunday, December 23, 2018

At the end of yesterday’s post, I listed the half-dozen books by poets that I would recommend from the shelves of 2018’s publications. Not everybody has enough time, however, especially during the holidays, to peruse an article, so I am providing the “short list” version today, with best wishes for the holiday week! Once again, I would emphasize that not a single one of the books on my list of favorites yesterday made any list by other critics. The politics of book reviewing appears to be just as fragmented as our political landscape. Today, I am expanding my initial list to a total of ten titles, which does reflect some overlapping, discrete preferences.

TOP HONORS TO:
If This Is Paradise, Why Are We Still Driving by Brendan Lorber (Subplot)

(and in authorial alphabetical order)
Wobble by Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan)
Feeld by jos Charles (Milkweed)
Strata
by Ewa Chrusciel (Omnidawn)
Shell Game by Jordan Davis (Edge Books)
City of the Future by Sesshu Foster (Kaya Press)
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (Penguin)
Ghost Of by Siana Khoi Nguyen (Omnidawn)
Wade in the Water – Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf)
Sidebend World by Charles Harper Webb (University of Pittsburgh)

Of course, one is always trying to catch up with one’s stack of book to read. The particular book I am most looking forward to reading in the near future is Like by A. E. Stallings (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), and hope to review it sometime in January, 2019. Its absence from the above list should not be taken as an indication of its likely quality. Unfortunately, though, I am not on any book reviewing list, and do not receive any free copies of books.

THE HEFTY FAVORITES:
In many ways, it’s unfair to compare huge collections of poetry with individual collections under 120 pages. I am, therefore, picking two large volumes I would highly recommend separate from shorter collections.
Another Way to Play: Poems 1960-2017 by Michael Lally (Seven Stories)
Monument: Poems New and Selected by Natasha Trethewey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Note: A few weeks ago, I posted a review of Webb’s book, and for those wishing to read additional commentary on it, here are some links:

http://www.zyzzyva.org/2018/11/19/walking-a-loose-rope-sidebend-world-by-charles-harper-webb/

Sidebend World by Charles Harper Webb

https://muse.jhu.edu/book/60511

Postscript: I certain wish the companies that control keyboard instructions would not require me to correct their decisions about what I want to appear on the screen. When I type Mr. Lorber’s last name, I would like it to remain Lorber, and not suddenly appear as Lobber. In the same manner, when I type “Sidebend World,” I would prefer that “Sidebend” not to show up on the screen as “Sideband”! I suppose I should be grateful that Mr. Lorber and Mr. Webb did not each decide on the other’s titles, so that I had to correct the following “suggestion: “Sideband World” by Brendan Lobber.

More BB Gala Photographs

Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary gala event managed to be as successful as it was due to a number of facilitators, one of whom was Mike Bonin, the Los Angeles Councilperson representing the 11th district. Mr. Bonin’s assistance enabled Beyond Baroque to hold the event outdoors, at night, under a tent put up on a public parking lot adjacent to SPARC and behind the Pacific Resident Theater. In celebrating this anniversary, one thing that was not mentioned was how much Mike Bonin’s predecessor, the late Bill Rosendahl, advocated for Beyond Baroque so that it could be assured of a home at the Venice City Hall well into the future. It was due to the hard work of Fred Dewey and Bill Rosendahl that Beyond Baroque was given a 25 year lease late in the last decade.

Mike Bonin - Gala
(Mike Bonin)

In addition to Exene Cervenka and John Doe, here are some other poets and musicians who contributed to an extraordinary evening of imaginative affirmation:

Will Alexander -- BB Gala 1
(Will Alexander)

Kamau - BB Gala 1
(Kamau Daáood)

Trio - BB Gala -3
(Dwight Trible; John Densmore; Bobby Bradford)

Trio - BB - 1
(standing, left to right: Kamau Daáood, reading his poetry; Dwight Tribble; Bobby Bradford; in rear, on drums, John Densmore)

Densmore Finishing Set
(John Densmore)

Matt Watt -- BB Gala 1
(Mike Watt, center stage)

Chris D
(Chris D. and Julie Christensen)

The entire evening, of course, would have been impossible for the founder of Beyond Baroque to imagine back in the late 1960s. The organization was surviving because of his devotion as well as the volunteer labor of Alexandra Garrett, Jim Krusoe, and Lynn Shoemaker, supplemented by a steady trickle of envelopes with $5.00 donations from readers of its early publications. One of the first items of the evening was the presentation of an award to Beyond Baroque’s founder, George Drury Smith.
GDS - BB Gala
(GSD, left)

Also, in attendance, were other people who have played significant roles in the emergence of several communities of poets in Southern California. Jack Skelley, for instance, is a poet, musician, and songwriter who ran the NewComp Graphic Center in the 1980s at Beyond Baroque, and organized a memorable series of musical events, under the title Beyond Barbecue. Jack performed a song, “Fun to be Dead,” he wrote with Bob Flanagan the following weekend during a retrospective gathering of poets associated with Beyond Baroque.

I am also including some photographs of those in attendance at the tables, some of whom would take the stage to make moving acceptance speeches. If there is not a close-up photograph of Viggo Mortensen on stage, for instance, it is simply because I did not want to intrude on him. His observation in his speech that he chose to work in Los Angeles when he was “unknown” because he had a “freedom to create” that he did not find available in New York City confirmed the long-held assessment of an earlier generation of poets who gathered at Beyond Baroque.

Pedro-Paul-Viggo-Exene
(foreground, l-r, Linda Fry; Pedro Arujo; Paul Vangelisti; sitting and standing behind Pedro Arujo are Viggo Mortensen and Exene Cervenka)

Jack S - BB Gala 1
(Jack Skelley)

Linda Fry-Pedro-Paul
(Linda Fry; Pedro Arujo; Paul Vangelisti)

Molly B - BB Gala
(Molly Bendall, center)

Stefano Strazzabosco — Translations from “Bittersweet Kaleidoscope”

October 3, 2018

Stefano Strazzabosco, an Italian poet who lives in Mexico City, wrote a letter this past week while I was out of town to let me know that five of my poems, which he has translated into Italian, has now also been published in a literary magazine, L’IMMAGINAZIONE (307 — settembre-ottobre 2018). I wish to thank Stefano for his support of my writing, and especially for taking the time to write a note about my poetry to accompany his translations.

“Queste poesie danno conto del tono insieme colloquiale e alto del suo stile, che anche lessi- calmente ama mescolare la lingua quotidiana con termini che di tanto in tanto ne spezzano la fluidità, facendola impennare. Allo stesso modo, i dati della realtà concreta e quotidiana – un ami- co malato terminale, una colazione a base di avena, un interrogatorio, un gatto, etc. – vengo- no fatti lievitare fino a assumere un valore che trascende le occasioni senza rinnegarle, anzi: cercando al loro interno quel segno che le tra- sforma in esempi di un vissuto personale che di- viene esistenziale, paradigmatico, comune. Vengono così agitate anche le grandi questioni su cui ci interroghiamo: il senso del nostro esse- re nel mondo, la malattia, la morte, la scrittura al cospetto dell’ignoto, l’amicizia, l’amore. Non si tratta, però, di trasportare questi temi su un pia- no metafisico, quanto piuttosto di trovare al loro interno la cerniera che li fa ruotare su più piani, come prismi verbali. Chiaro che in questo modo, partendo dall’osservazione, arrivando fino a San Tommaso, più di qualcosa si perde per strada, e altro vi si aggiunge. Da qui la sottile ironia che avvolge questi prismi irregolari che affascinano per la loro concretezza, ma che durano per il lo- ro contenuto impalpabile.”

Bill Mohr è poeta, critico, saggista. Insegna alla California State University e vive a Long Beach con sua moglie Linda Fry.

(nota di Stefano Strazzabosco)

Beyond Baroque’s Gala Bacchanal – November 10, 2018

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Tickets for the Beyond Baroque’s Gala Bacchanal on November 10 will go on sale next week! This celebration of Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary will be graced with the presence of poet Will Alexander, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Viggo Mortenson, an artist, poet and actor who has a rare understanding of Beyond Baroque’s contribution to the literary arts on the West Coast. Mortensen will receive the Alexandra Garrett Award for 2018.

Mark the date on your calendar to join us in Venice.

Boho Bach - CARD

If any reader of this blog knows individuals or a business willing to be a sponsor of this event, please do contact Quentin Ring or Richard Modiano at Beyond Baroque: (301) 822-3006.

You can also reach them at:
Quentin@beyondbaroque.org
Richard@beyondbaroque.org

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291