NEKTON ENSEMBLES: X L.A. Poets (2021) / Ten L.A. Poets (1978)

April 29, 2021

I can’t quite remember why one of my student’s recent poems reminded me of the term “nekton” the other day. Years ago, I had applied the term to an analysis of Barbara Kingsolver’s ANIMAL DREAMS, and the word has resurfaced today to begin my brief commentary on a new anthology of Los Angeles-based poets. A “nekton” is the aggregate of creatures in a body of water that are capable of swimming independently of the current. This ecological gauge could also be used metaphorically. How many people or artists in any given community are capable of swimming (i.e. “thinking with their imaginations”) independently of the current? Whether the current bends to the right or left or barrels straight ahead is not the point. The challenge is to be able to swim upstream, against the current.

In the same poetic spirit, Linda Ravenswood has edited and published an anthology of ten poets who have located themselves not only in this particular city but contributing to the maturation of our concepts of gender-based identity. Ravenswood has chosen the term “mycorrhizal” as a way of embedding these cultural workers in her editorial poetics. I confess that I was not aware of the term, and if it is unfamiliar to readers, here is a quick link:

The “X” in her anthology could be interpreted as referring to both the number of poets in the anthology (ten) and the chromosomal identity of the poets (females pass on the X chromosome exclusively). The ten poets are The poets are Shonda Buchanan, Teresa Mei Chuc (Chúc Mỹ Tuệ), Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Arminé Iknadossian, Rachel Kann, Viva Padilla, Linda Ravenswood, Chelsea Rector, Luivette Resto, and Lynne Thompson.

This is not the first anthology of Los Angeles poets to specifically limit its presentation to ten poets. In 1978, I edited and published THE STREETS INSIDE: Ten Los Angeles Poets (Momentum Press). The book was reviewed in the Los Angeles Times by Robert Kirsch as a representative collection worthy of “the golden age of Los Angeles poetry.” My anthology had many flaws. For one thing, it should have included the work of Manager Gamboa and Wanda Coleman, not to mention another dozen Los Angeles poets (Paul Vangelisti, John Thomas, Ron Koertge, Jack Grapes, Charles Bukowski, Linda King, Joseph Hansen, John Harris, etc., etc.).

I have yet to get a copy of Ravenswood’s anthology, but I know the work of several of its contributors and it is likely to be a worthy successor to my first anthology, which has a used copy for sale (at the time of this posting) at:

(The book originally sold for $4.95.)

For a review of Ravenswood’s book by Terry Wolverton (author of INSURGENT MUSE), please go to:

Mycorrhizal Transmission: Review of X LA Poets, edited by Linda Ravenswood, Hinchas Press

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