Lawrence Lipton Tape Archive of Venice West at USC

Friday, May 17, 2019

“The Lost Sounds of Venice West”

I first heard of Lawrence Lipton’s archives when I read John Maynard’s VENICE WEST, the first monograph to study the emergence of a Beat-influenced community of poets and artists in Southern California. Lipton was a poet, novelist, and cultural commentator who became most famous for a best-selling, non-fiction book, The Holy Barbarians (1959). His literary archive ended up being divided between two institutions: UCLA, which has most of his manuscripts and correspondence; and USC (the University of Southern California), which has had a trove of ever more fragile, reel-to-reel tape recordings in its special collection vaults for several decade. The correspondence at UCLA, especially the exchange of letters between Kenneth Rexroth and Lipton, is essential background reading for anyone working on West Coast poetry at mid-century. The tape recordings provide an even more compelling survey of the cultural environment of Southern California at that time.

For scholars, as well as afficianandoes of the Venice West scene, the wonderful news is that many of the most pertinent tapes have been digitized and are now available for listening on-line. Bill Dotson’s article about this archival development and our expanded access to this material will give you a better idea of its importance than anything I have time to write at the present moment.

Here is a link to “The Lost Sounds of Venice West,” Bill Dotson’s announcement:

You can explore / browse / listen to the collection from this page here:

In addition to Bill Dotson, I especially want to acknowledge the work done by Claude Zachary, special collections librarian at USC, for their support of this project.

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