“Just Temporarily Alive”: The Transmission Poetry of Jack Grapes and the Stand Up School of Los Angeles Poets

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March 16, 2016

In the past couple months, I have posted entries on two poets who were left out of STAND UP POETRY, an anthology edited by Charles Harper Webb that appeared in a trio of editions between 1992 and 2002. Both Bob Flanagan and Scott Wannberg were inexplicably absent from any edition of STAND UP POETRY. However, there is little to gain from a prolonged belaboring of the gaps in any given project, and I would now rather devote today’s post to a consideration of the writing of Jack Grapes, a poet who is a quintessential member of the Stand Up school. To limit him to that “school,” however would be an error. Here, in fact, to introduce my article that was appended to his collection, THE NAKED EYE, is my blurb for his most recent book:

“One of Los Angeles’ most accomplished poets must certainly be Jack Grapes. Though often linked with the “Stand Up” school, Grapes’ poems are far more willing to engage with themes that are imbued with morbidity and desolation. He does so through his stalwart commitment to a mordantly comic legibility within the larger cultural discourse. The poetry in his recent books make it demonstrably clear that he has an almost instinctual ability—akin to that of a master actor—to shape dramatic metaphors into the enduring substance of a “local habitation and a name.” He fulfills the role of masterful mentorship through a body of work that would serve to inspire anyone who might take up the challenge of writing poetry in the coming decades. The scope of his work, however, will prove to be the most daunting aspect to anyone who decides to make a foray into his extraordinary complex assemblage of poems. He has not made it easy for anyone to grasp the full meaning of his artistic journey. His staggering panoply of accomplishments has an integrity that younger poets have yet to understand as one of his crucial virtues.” —Bill Mohr, author of HOLDOUTS: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance 1948-1992 (University of Iowa Press, 2011)

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