Holly Prado (1938 – 2019)

Friday, June 14, 2019 — midmorning — I just got home from ordinary errands and heard the devastating news from my spouse Linda, who had been called only a few minutes earlier by Laurel Ann Bogen: Holly Prado died last night. In one of her poems, Holly invoked the presence of poets both living and dead as our most cherished companions in the imaginative journey. “Why go on without such a family?” The first time I read that line, I was immediately struck with the full force of its pertinent acuity. Holly was one of the Great Aunts in the family of poetry, nourishing so many of us with her poems, her prose, and her wise teaching. Our family of poets, especially in Southern California, has suffered an enormous loss.

Holly Prado was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1938, and graduated from Albion College in Michigan in 1960. She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s. In the middle of that decade, she started teaching English at Marshall High School, and also joined Alvaro Cardona-Hine’s poetry workshop. Her first published poem was in Apple magazine, a magazine I remember finding at Either/Or Bookstore in Hermosa Beach. It was well done poetry magazine for that time, with a kind of physical production that spoke of quiet craft rather than slick flash. That poem was also chosen by Paul Vangelisti, Neeli Cherry, and Charles Bukowski for their “An Anthology of L.A. Poets” (1972). Her first book of poetry was nothing breaks off at the edge (New Rivers Press).

In 1974, Prado resigned from her high school teaching position, and committed herself to a full-time life as a poet and teacher of creative writing. She was the first Southern California regional coordinator for the California Poets in the Schools program. She also started leading private workshops that put a special emphasis on journal writing. Her writing began to appear in a number of Los Angeles-based magazines, including several issues of Momentum, Bachy, Invisible City, Beyond Baroque, and Temblor. She was one of the ten poets featured in my first anthology, The Streets Inside (1978), and was also featured in POETRY LOVES POETRY (1985). She appeared in over a dozen other anthologies, including Suzanne Lummis’s GRAND PASSION and WIDE AWAKE.

In the mid-1970s, I published her novella-length piece of autobiographical fiction, FEASTS. Among its many memorable lines, one in particular has served as a kind of mantra in my life: “to turn our gold into ordinary ground, the best possible solution.” So much of the ground of Southern California poetry gleams with the radiant palimpsest of our poetry’s debt to her inspiring verse as well as long-time endeavors as a teacher. The family of poets in Los Angeles joins together in sending our mutual sympathy to her husband, the poet-actor Harry Northup, with whom she founded a poets publishing cooperative, Cahuenga Press, over a quarter-century ago. In addition to Holly and Harry, the founding members of that cooperative were Phoebe Ozuna, Jimm Cushing, Cecilia Woloch, and myself. I had the honor of typesetting Cahuenga’s first book, Holly Prado’s Specific Mysteries. Cahuenga Press also published her massive volume of selected poems, These Mirrors Prove It. In addition to writing poetry reviews for the Los Angeles Times, she had a compilation of “spoken word” entitled “Word Rituals,” produced by Harvey Kubernik, and released on the New Alliance record label.

Her literary archive is at the Archive for New Poetry at the Geisel Library, University of California, San Diego. The placement of her papers in the middle of the last decade proved to be a fortunate gift, for both Prado and Northup lost all of their possessions in a fire caused by an electrical problem in their apartment, in 2017. It was a mark of the affection the community possessed for these two remarkable poets that $20,000 was raised to help them get resettled. At the time of her death, Holly was living at the Motion Picture Retirement Home in Woodland Hills.

Holly Prado is survived by her husband, Harry Northup, and her stepson, Dylan Northup.