Category Archives: Small Press Publishing

The Large Economy of the Beautiful

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Phoebe MacAdams – The Large Economy of the Beautiful – Cahuenga Press (2016)

Cahuenga Press is a poets’ cooperative dedicated to publishing books by its four remaining poet-founders: James Cushing, Harry E. Northup, Holly Prado Northup, and Phoebe MacAdams. Founded in the very early 1990s, along with Cecilia Woloch and myself, it has published two dozen volumes of poetry. (Due to financial and time constraints, I dropped out after contributing typesetting time to the first two volumes.) Both Holly and Harry have been featured in my three most recent blog posts because of a poet-led campaign to raise money to assist them in recovering from a fire that obliterated much of their apartment. I have no doubt that the fire went beyond damaging their personal lives, but also caused grievous losses to their publishing project. I urge readers to go to Small Press Distribution’s on-line site and buy as many Cahuenga Press books as possible in order to help restore this project’s solvency.

I bought my copy of MacAdams’s most recent book several weeks ago at her house in Pasadena. She had given a reading to celebrate its publication to an appreciative audience in her backyard. Among the guests in attendance were Steve Anter and Steve Abee. It was a pleasure to hear her read her poems that afternoon. Her voice has a distinct timbre that serves both to soothe and reassure, as well as to remind us of how joyfully serious the present tense should be.

Although she has spent most of her adult life in California, first living in Bolinas, and then living in Ojai and Los Angeles, these poems reflect the influence of poets in New York City, such as Ted Berrigan, as well as poets who taught at Naropa in Boulder, Colorado. “Boulder,” in fact, is the title of the first poem in her first book, Sunday, from Tombouctou Books in Bolinas. The time she spent in Boulder largely resulted in prose poems, which is a form she should consider returning to. Few poets back then were interweaving the dream world and daily apprehension of contingent circumstances with the intrepid ease demonstrated by MacAdams, and young readers of poetry could well benefit from having more such models from her.

Each successive book from which MacAdams has chosen representative poems record a poet’s life as destiny. To write these poems required the work of paying close attention to the emotions lingering like scents within each task:

“The poems still look for the poet,
enter our lives naturally,
meandering and willing
to notice the blue flowers
carved out of inner space,
deep ordering that preserves.”
(“I Understand the Mystery of Scissors/In Feeling a Constant Longing”)

Ordinary Snake Dance remains my favorite of all of MacAdams’s books. and the poems she has selected from this collection deserve to be translated into many other languages. To speak to the moment of inspiration so that it transmits more than local knowledge is one of the primary tasks of lyric poetry. MacAdams modulates her voices (note the plural) so that we hear the knowledge of the many lives discovering the singular, and she does this with wit and compassion.

“All the roads lead home, and
all the roads leave home behind.”
(“About My Children Leaving Home”)

The individual book that benefits the most in this 240 page collection is Livelihood, which on its own as a stand-alone volume gained considerable traction by its focus on teaching and learning, but also risked being seen as a specialty book. In The Large Economy of the Beautiful, the flow of poetic vision from Ordinary Snake Dance buoys the ground level conditions of pedagogical challenges, routines, and rituals, and makes this summary of MacAdams’s life-long journey an authentic hybrid of spiritual enlightenment and deeply felt daily pleasure. MacAdams has lived in Los Angeles for well over 30 years at this point, and has made herself one of the essential poets of this city.

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

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

Bao Phi’s “THOUSAND STAR HOTEL”

Friday, July 21, 2017

In addition to Michael C. Ford’s publication reading on Sunday, which was announced on this blog earlier this week, I would like to mention the following pair of readings by a poet visiting from Minnesota, Bao Phi, who will be reading from his second book of poetry, THOUSAND STAR HOTEL from Coffee House Press.

http://coffeehousepress.org/shop/thousand-star-hotel/
http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/07/20/537580283/the-poet-bao-phi-on-creating-a-guidebook-for-young-asian-americans

BEYOND BAROQUE – 681 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA 90291 (310) 822-3006
22 July Saturday 6:00 PM
BAO PHI AND SCOTT KURASHIGE: A READING AND DISCUSSION
Bao Phi will read from his second book of poetry, Thousand Star Hotel and Scott Kurashige will read from his book The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How the Political Crisis Began in Detroit. FREE.

The Great Company — 1917 Bay St, Fl 2nd, Los Angeles, California 90021
23 July Sunday, 7:30 PM Doors, Show at 8 pm
Bao Phi: Thousand Star Hotel Book Release LA
Hosted by BEAU SIA
Bao Phi will be reading from his newly released book of poetry, Thousand Star Hotel, as part of his national book tour. Books for sale and author signing after. FREE and Open to the Public
NOTE: The entrance of The Great Company (where the reading will be held), is actually in an alley off of Wilson St. between Violet & Bay.

As for a notation on how I spent the day, I want to thank Amelie Frank, Janice Lee, Lynne Thompson, and Jessica Ceballos for their willingness to talk at length about the challenges of a life devoted to one’s own writing while at the same time helping other writers sustain their commitment to imaginative cultural work. Here are some links to their work.

https://www.tldrmagazine.com/single-post/2017/07/05/The-Wolf-Janice-Lee=
Janice Lee is the author of several books, including Damnation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013), Reconsolidation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2015), and The Sky Isn’t Blue (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016). After living for over 30 years in California, she will be moving to Portland, Oregon this summer to teach at Portland State University.

www.tldrmagazine.com
True Living; Documented Relentlessly – edited by Russell Jaffe.

JESSICA CEBALLOS:
http://www.jessicaceballos.com/about.html

AMELIE FRANK:
http://www.home.earthlink.net/~pero/ameliefrank.html

LYNNE THOMPSON:
Three Poems (from Cultural Weekly):
Hammer & Pick
Lost Spirits
White Flight: Los Angeles, 1961
https://www.culturalweekly.com/lynne-thompson-three-poems/

Bill Mohr – San Diego Reader: Three Poems
https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2017/jul/19/poetry-imperial-beach-remains-remote-intolerable/

And, last but not least, listen to a poem by Gerry Locklin being read on The Writer’s Almanac:

The Writer’s Almanac for July 21, 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.)

Five Editors Reading their Poetry at Papa Bach (1974)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bachy Magazine’s Initial Announcement (1971)

July 1, 2017

The Los Angeles Times once had a Sunday section called “Calendar” that carried articles on film, theater, visual art, music and dance. It also provided free listings for a wide variety of cultural events. The section was sustained by a fairly substantial amount of advertising, including the following announcement, which appeared sometime in the early fall of 1971. The owners of Papa Bach Books had decided to start a literary magazine, which they entitled Bachy, that would primarily focus on writers and artists who were not yet “discovered.” Their choice of the poetry editor certainly fulfilled that aspiration: I was 23 years old when Ted asked me if I would take on the task of being the poetry editor, and I had not yet had a poem accepted for publication. Not wanting to rely only on word-of-mouth, Ted took out an ad in the LA Times Sunday “Calendar.”
filename-1-25

The mail started to pour into the store, and I would sit in the rear loft at a desk in the late evening and go over manuscripts from writers who were just beginning the process of getting repeated rejections. In general, I wrote back a comment on at least one poem that every person sent. As an editorial apprentice, I found myself a better judge of other’s writing than of my own. Perhaps the fact that I exuded more confidence in that regard was the key factor in being asked to be the poetry editor of Bachy at such a young age. In many ways, I found myself making use of my training as an actor just as much as all the reading I had been doing on my own since I had turned 20. Reading a poem was like getting to know the character an actor wants to inhabit: what does the character want to do? Bad editors, like second-rate actors, are always engaged in a reductionist agenda in which they appropriate the other personality for their benefit. Good editors are akin to benevolent actors, in that they accentuate the potential of the character to discover something unexpected. At the same time, the task of the editor is more rigorous than the translator in being faithful to the character of the poem. It turned out that I was a much better editor than an actor, though learning what makes theater theatrical as I set about editing poetry was extremely helpful.

The first issue appeared in the summer of 1972, and led off with poems by Jack Hirschman. The bulk of the poems came from three places, all of which represented solicitations on my part. I included poems by the poets I had met at San Diego State (Jack W. Thomas; Bob Kuntz; Marianne Johnson; Dennis Ellman); poems from the Beyond Baroque Wednesday Night Workshop (Joseph Hansen; John Harris; Paul Vangelisti; Harry Northup; Ann Christie; Luis Campos; Lynn Shoemaker; and Phil Taylor); and poems by young poets who submitted work because I had visited Philip Levine at Fresno State and asked him to tell students about this new magazine (David St. John; Roberta Spear; Sam Pereira). There were other poets, too, I would never meet: Pedro Montez, Anna Hernandez, Beau Beausoleil, as well as poets who were hardly “undiscovered”: William Matthews, John Haines, A. G. Sobin, and Charles Bukowski.

The graphic on the front cover was borrowed from the bookmark that the store gave away with each purchase. The back cover on each of the first two issues simply continued the front cover. The spine of the first two issues featured the only exterior information about the magazine (Volume 1, No. 1; July, 1972; and Volume II, No. 1; July, 1973).

Bachy 1 - 1972

Bachy 2 - 1973

The highlight of the second issue was Leland Hickman’s opening sections of “Tiresias.” The first issue had proved to be more expensive than the owner of the store anticipated, in part because he spent too much on paper stock. It was very high quality stock, and was almost trying too hard to be impressive in its production values. The second issue cut back in size, but I was still able to include John Harris and Harry Northup, along with Lee Hickman. Lyn Lifshin had done a reading tour of the West Coast, and I accepted one of her poems after she read at the store. Unknown poets included Sandra Tanhauser; Rick Smith; Frances Thronson; Bonita Hearn; and Pedro Montez, with whom I lost contact after this issue. One of the poets was still an undergraduate: Jim Grabill was a senior at Bowling Green State University. I continued to publish him after I started Momentum magazine in 1974, and his book, ONE RIVER, was the first one I published in my Momentum Press project.

A Pair of Readings in Santa Monica and Long Beach

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Peace Press - 1

(Photograph by Dinah Berland)

Traffic on the 405 freeway yesterday was every bit as bad as one might dread. One of the major problems of living and working in Long Beach is that I am often a three hour round trip away from attending any reading, and the task of driving to and from a reading I am part of is hardly less dispiriting. The reading itself at the Peace Press exhibition at Arena One Gallery in Santa Monica was a genuine pleasure, however.

Dinah Berland, the curator of the reading, had proposed to have the poets read in reverse alphabetical order, but Julia Stein was unable to make the event, so I led off the reading with a couple of poems that I don’t read that often: “The Big World and the Small World” (from Penetralia, 1984), and “Terrorism: The View from Century City,” which was published in the L.A. Weekly in the late 1980s when Deborah Drooz was the poetry editor. Her acceptance of that poem remains one of the more gratifying moments in my writing life. I also read “Complexities,” which had been featured on the Santa Monica bus system in the late 1980s for their poetry on the buses program, and “Slow Shoes,” which was published in Thoughtful Outlaw. Memoirist Deborah Lott followed me with a profoundly moving account of being at the Ambassador Hotel the night that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Michael C. Ford, whose book of poems The World Is a Suburb of Los Angeles, stands out as one of the ten best books of poems I published through Momentum Press, read as mellifluously as ever. His voice never seems to age or in any way lose its ability to pivot on the precisely illuminating syllable. Dinah Berland, the organizer of the reading, read ekphrastic poems that were not as explicitly political as the writing of the first three readers, but which pointed to the essential presence of the stranger’s gaze as the fundamental acceptance that makes politics possible. The surprise of the afternoon was Rhiannon McGaven’s presentation. The vocalization of her poems illuminated the room with their undulating cadences. Not to be mistaken for a slam poet, McGaven’s poems feature a mature diction for someone so young, and it is most likely the case that her poems will swirl with grace on the page, too. It would seem that she has been on tour quite a bit, but this was my first hearing of her writing, and I look forward to reading her debut volume of poems.

Arena One - 1A

Arena One - 2A

(From left to right: Bob Zaugh, Rhiannon McGaven, Doborah Lott, Bill Mohr, Dinah Berland, Michael C. Ford)

(Photographs by Linda Fry)

Bob Zaugh, as one of the founding spokespeople and prime instigators of Peace Press as a social, cultural, and literary force in Los Angeles, opened and closed the reading with brief remarks, and he received much deserved applause for all of his commitment to making this entire exhibit as well as reading possible. The most heartfelt applause in the course of the afternoon was most certainly for Gary Tyler, whose release two months ago from Angola prison, after over 40 years incarceration for a murder that he did not commit, was facilitated by Peace Press. Gary spoke to a small group of the audience in the dispersed conversations after the poetry reading, and his calm eloquence was a privilege to witness. He will be speaking at length at Arena One on July 1st, the final day of the exhibit.

Managing to get back through even more daunting traffic on the way back to Long Beach, it turned out that we were not late to the late afternoon/early evening reading at Gatsby Books, where Suzanne Lummis, Elena Karina Byrne, Richard Garcia, Charles Harper Webb, and Cynthia A. Briano read their poems. The four best poems were Lummis’s “The Lost Poem,” which was incredibly hilarious, Byrne’s “Richard Tuttle Behind Richard Tuttle,” the title piece of Richard Garcia’s latest collection of prose poems, Porridge, and a poem by Briano whose title I can’t remember but which I did mention to her afterwards as a poem with a gorgeous logic to its images. Briano’s soprano voice gave her poems a vigorous lilt, but there was a deeper register to the poems that made me wish that they could be recorded both now and at some future point decades from now when age has deepened her register. If one could mix those tapes, one would have a duet worth listening to repeatedly. One of the poems that Webb read seemed to be a revision of an e-mail scam satire that I remember hearing in 2010 at the Avenue 50 gallery. It was funny then, and even funnier now, and should help his forthcoming book of poems rebound from the slough of Brain Camp.

Quartet - Gatsby - 1

(from left to right: Sean Richard Moor, Suzanne Lummis, Charles Harper Webb, Cynthia A. Briano, Richard Garcia, Elena Karina Byrne, and Bill Mohr)

Quartet Gatsby - 2

(Photographs at Gatsby by Linda Fry)

Robin Myers, Poet-Translator: CONFLATIONS/Almagama

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Robin Myers, Poet-Translator: CONFLATIONS/Almagam

“Si tengo con qué escribir, sé que voy a detenerme a poner atención, a buscar entender cómo las cosas que me rodean se hablan entre sí.” — Robin Myers

Undergraduate students in creative writing often ask me about attending a MFA program. Since I myself do not have a MFA and often find myself in opposition to the constricted poetics that has dominated the Association of Writing Programs the past half-century, I am hardly the best person to go to for advice. I certainly encourage students to get the training that they feel is most appropriate for their talents and career goals. It’s important, for instance, for students to realize that the MFA is essentially a union card. It entitles one to apprenticeship status in the “brain factory,” which is to say that a person with a MFA can get teaching work at a college. Many MFA students who have attended CSULB have gone on to teach in the region’s community colleges, and a few have even taught at the four-year schools. Not only do they teach, but they continue writing, and several have gone on to publish novels and a fair amount of poetry. The success of the students is not surprising, given the quality of the MFA faculty. The other three poets who teach in the MFA program at CSULB (in seniority order, Charles Harper Webb, Patty Seyburn, and David Hernandez) all have national reputations; the fiction faculty includes two writers who have won N.E.A. creative writing fellowships. A student would be very hard pressed to find a better creative writing faculty at a public college, or many private colleges for that matter.

Any there other options, though? While it does require both aptitude and courage, one option is to empower oneself with thorough knowledge of a second language and to work as a translator. One young American poet who has done that is Robin Myers, who lives and works in Mexico City. She does not have a M.F.A., but she has developed something far more beneficial in the past several years; she has found a community of poets in Mexico whose commitment and knowledge of the art of poetry have enabled her to grow as a poet. Ultimately, one of the weaknesses of MFA programs in general is that they create networks and not communities. In undertaking this alternative course of maturing as a writer, Robin Myers has made herself part of a community which her affirmation of, in turn, has embraced her creative work.

Myers has just had her first book of poems, CONFLATIONS/Almagam, published in a bilingual edition in Mexico. I had the privilege of reading many of the poems in this book two years ago when the manuscript was still being finalized, and this collection deserves to be recognized as a superb debut by a poet who has just turned 30 years old. While this book might be difficult to obtain in the United States, you can find an interview with her that was published yesterday in the Los Angeles Review of Books:
https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/a-sudden-taking-in-of-air-an-interview-with-poet-and-translator-robin-myers/

Her interviewer, Daniel Saldaña París, is an essayist, poet and novelist. Among Strange Victims was just published this month by Coffee House Press; it is his first novel to appear in the United States.

Here is the catalogue copy for Robin Myers’s book:

http://www.edicionesantilope.com
Amalgama / Conflations
Robin Myers
Amalgama, la palabra, está definida en el diccionario como la unión o mezcla de cosas de naturaleza contraria o distinta. Y eso es justamente Amalgama, el libro: un inventario que Robin Myers levanta para luego recordar no sólo las cosas en sí, sino la sensación de asombro al encontrarlas todas juntas. Con una sensibilidad poco común, la poeta observa el mundo y va recogiendo lo que encuentra para darle después un lugar a través del lenguaje. “Si tengo con qué escribir”, dice Myers, “sé que voy a detenerme a poner atención, a buscar entender cómo las cosas que me rodean se hablan entre sí”.