Cross-Strokes: Different Cities, Same Folks

FRIDAY, June 21, 2013

Cross-Strokes: Different Cities, Same Folks

About three years Paul Vangelisti asked if I would be interested in co-editing, with Neeli Cherkovski, an anthology of poets who have lived in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Both Neeli and I had already edited or co-edited anthologies of Los Angeles poets and Neeli has written several books on poets associated with either Los Angeles or San Francisco. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but a quick telephone conversation established that we would be very comfortable working together on the book, for which I suggested the provisional title of CROSS-STROKES. We had a fair number of conversations on the telephone during the first several months as well as an extended meeting at a coffee house in San Francisco over a year ago and managed to get a manuscript into rough shape by mid-2012. Unfortunately, the project has languished the past nine months. The delay in finalizing the manuscript is primarily due to my employment at a “teaching-intensive” state college. I was delighted to be in touch with Neeli again this morning, however, and to be reviewing representative poems by some of the poets we’ll be including.

When Paul first approached me about this book, I had just finished a 120,000 word draft of HOLDOUTS: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance 1948-1992 and was beginning the process of deleting one out of every four pages. Since Paul had published a section of the manuscript in NEW REVIEW OF LITERATURE, he was familiar with several of my arguments, including the notion that the divisive sibling rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles is more of a journalistic mirage than most folks familiar with West Coast literature are willing to concede. It makes for lively dinner table talk, but almost never does such a conversation address the question of what it means that all of the following poets have been active as poets in both Northern and Southern California:

Bruce Boyd

Tim Donnelly

Sharon Doubiago

Richard Garcia

Jack Hirschman

Lenore Kandel

Stephen Kessler

Lewis MacAdams

Phoebe MacAdams

Nate Mackey

William Margolis

David Meltzer

John Montgomery

Harold Norse

Kevin Opstedal

Stuart Z. Perkoff

Tim Reynolds

Kenneth Rexroth

Doren Robbins

Joe Safdie

Aram Saroyan

Standard Schaefer

John Thomas

Paul Vangelisti

Maw Shein Win

 

The migration of poets between both cities, in fact, defies the usual expectations. The ratio of poets to total population is much higher in San Francisco, which would tend to suggest that poets prefer Northern California. However, a surprising number of poets who started in Los Angeles, and then spent time up north, have ended up returning to Southern California. Here’s the breakdown of a few of the poets we’re hoping to include in our book and their movement between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

STARTED IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AND ENDED UP IN LOS ANGELES:

Bruce Boyd, William Margolis, Lewis MacAdams, Phoebe MacAdams, Richard Garcia, Aram Saroyan, and Tim Reynolds

 

STARTED IN LOS ANGELES, WENT TO NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AND RETURNED TO LOS ANGELES/SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA:

John Thomas, Stuart Z. Perkoff, Joe Safdie, Scott Wannberg

 

STARTED IN LOS ANGELES AND ENDED UP IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA:

Jack Hirschman, Stephen Kessler, Lenore Kandel, Nate Mackey, Harold Norse, Doren Robbins, David Meltzer

Both Neeli and I hope that the book helps breaks down some of the provincial assumptions that adhere to the notion of regional poetry when it is applied to the West Coast. In a certain way, though, the instigating filter of dual residence for this anthology is just an excuse for us to put together an anthology of poets that Ron Silliman has termed “neglecterinos.” Ask yourself: When was the last time you saw an anthology with a half-dozen of the above poets in it? How many anthologies do you own with even three of the above poets in it? Except for anthologies edited by poets living in Los Angeles at the time their projects were published, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry is the only volume published after Don Allen’s that comes to mind. Allen’s book included Boyd, Perkoff and Meltzer.

Neeli and I are looking forward to sorting through the manuscripts we’ve been collecting and finishing our work by the end of the summer. With luck, Otis Books/Seismicity Editions will have the volume in print by next Spring.