Holly Prado and 23 Other LA Poets: “How I Got Started”

June 25, 2019


Mariano Zaro has assembled a set of excerpts from his interviews with Los Angeles-based poets in which each one talks briefly about their first experiences of writing or reading poetry. Several of these poets were featured in my anthology, “POETRY LOVES POETRY” (Momentum Press, 1985): Holly Prado, Laurel Ann Bogen, Suzanne Lummis, Wanda Coleman, Jack Grapes, and Charles Harper Webb.

The other poets are Lynne Thompson, Gail Wronsky, Marsha de la O, Ellyn Maybe, Douglas Kearney, Luis J. Rodriguez, B.H. Fairchild, David St. John, Amy Uyematsu, Ramón García,, William Archila, Tony Barnstone, Brendan Constantine, Alicia Partnoy, Stephanie Brown, Javon Johnson, Chiwan Choi, and Sholeh Wolpé.

According to these literary self-portraits, many of the poets had their first linguistic alteration of reality at a very young age. At the age of seven, for instance, David St. John was already savoring the incantatory magic of Dylan Thomas’s verse. A few, such as Gail Wronsky, even began publishing in grade school. Others discovered a poem’s power to critique or mock social power while in high school.

Watch full interviews at www.Poetry.LA

I look forward to similar installments that add the recollections of L.A.’s first poet laureate, Eloise Klein Healy, as well as Cecilia Woloch, Aleida Rodriguez, Anthony Seidman, Marisela Norte, Paul Vangelisti, Mark Salerno, Brian Kim Stefans, Amy Gerstler, Dennis Phillips, Douglas Messerli, Gloria Edina Alvarez, David Shook, Carol Muske-Dukes, Harry Northup, Will Alexander, Harold Abramowitz, Kamau Da’ood, Deena Metzger, Ron Koertge, Gerry Locklin, Timothy Steele, Karen Kavorkian, Phoebe MacAdams Ozuna, Robin Coste Lewis, liz gonzalez, Sarah Maclay, Holiday Mason, Michael C. Ford, S.A. Griffin, David Hernandez, Fred Voss, and Joan Jobe Smith. And why not then move on to L.A. Periphery, with poets such as Patty Seyburn and Dennis Saleh from Orange County; Rae Armantrout, Michael Davidson, Jerome Rothenberg, and Joe Sadie in San Diego; and James Cushing and Robert Patrick Sullivan in San Luis Obispo?

At the book launch for Ed Smith’s PUNK ROCK IS COOL FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, I flipped though the rear section of POETRY LOVES POETRY, and counted the faces of those no longer living. Over a fourth of the contributors are dead, and another half-dozen have moved far away or no longer write poetry. Of those still living, I would dearly love to hear Jim Krusoe, Kate Braverman, Dennis Cooper, Martha Ronk, and Peter Levitt talk about how their perspectives on their origins as writers have shifted in the years since PLP was published. It is hard for me to think of this quintet as “old” writers, so I’ll settle for “resilient” this morning.

The first person to write me at William.BillMohr@gmail.com and identify the poet who remembers his first line of poetry (written in grade school) as “Winged avenger from the skies” will receive a small box of books that will include at least one important anthology of the past 50 years. Hint: this poet has become nationally famous working in another area of cultural endeavor. If you can name a poet in Ojai, California whose work you admire enough to have attended one of his or her readings, and can describe that reading in detail, a bonus book will be added to the box.

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