Full Moon over Long Beach

Monday, March 1, 2021

When the moon isn’t full, I sometimes walk outside at night in winter months and look for Orion. When I lived in Ocean Park forty years ago, the ambient light in Los Angeles was maybe only half of what it is now. Orion was so easy to see. Now I’m lucky if I can spot even a single star in that constellation.

However, the full moon still has a way of letting one release that nostalgia and live in the present tense of its glow. Alexis Rhone Fancher sent me a photograph last week of the full moon over Long Beach, as seen from the balcony of the apartment in San Pedro she shares with Jim Fancher. With her permission, I post this photograph.

(copyright 2021 Alexis Rhone Fancher. All rights reserved.)

Support your local bookstore and bakery!
2714 E 4th Street
Long Beach, CA 90814

Phone: (562) 588-7075
(Open Tuesday through Sunday)

2710 E 4th St, Long Beach, CA 90814
Hours: 8am – 1 p.m.
Wednesday through Sunday (Call to pre-order on Wed. and Thursday)
Menu: gustobread.com
Order: gustobread.shop
Phone: (562) 343-1881

Apologies and a Retraction: Not “Terrorists,” but Eugenics Collaborators

Sunday, February 28

If you don’t want to be called an “Eugenics Collaborator,” then wear a mask!

I have given some thought to my recent categorization of non-maskers as “virus terrorists” and I hope terrorists everywhere will forgive my appropriation of their hideous behavior. My bestowal on anti-maskers of the term they have worked so hard to give historical legitimacy should not have been casually handed out like a Golden Globe trophy.

In fact, the dismaying behavior of anti-maskers during the pandemic is closer to that of those who unfortunately connive and consort with any invasion of one’s community, e.g., people in France and Holland during World War II who were perfectly comfortable collaborating with the Nazis who had invaded their countries.

The covid virus is an enemy of all human beings on this planet, and anyone who voluntarily facilitates the transmission of this virus should more accurately be categorized as a collaborator; that term should be applied without hesitation to those who refuse to wear masks.

What is their motive, though? As I walked over to Page Against the Machine bookstore this afternoon, it occurred to me that the preference of right-wingers to challenge the wearing of masks is a reflection of “rugged individualism.” The strong — and only the strong — deserve to survive, The weak deserve to perish. It is a way to cull the herd.

As I was talking to the bookstore’s owner, Chris Giaco, our faces lit up as we simultaneously had the same idea: it’s not true that conservative Republicans don’t believe in science. They profoundly believe in it. It’s just that their science is called “eugenics.”

Chris and I had talked about how lovely it was to talk in person, face to face, and how the conversation we had just had about the politics of the pandemic never would led us to the realizations that we mutually hit upon if we had been texting each other. It was the kind of insight that happens with in person, instantaneous exchanges of words.

Thank you, Chris. If you live in Long Beach, please support his store, which is right next to Gusto Bakery!

2714 E 4th Street
Long Beach, CA 90814

Phone: (562) 588-7075
(Open Tuesday through Sunday)

If you don’t like being called a “virus terrorist,” then fuckin’ well wear a mask!

February 26, 2021

I have had it.

Truly fuckin’ had it.

What part of WEAR A MASK do people not understand? Over a year has gone by since the covid-19 virus began dismantling normal life in one country after another, and still people act as if they had total immunity from the consequences of their actions.

If you don’t wear a mask, as far as I’m concerned, you are no different than a person driving around in a car with gelignite in the trunk and back seat.

If you resent me saying this, you are no different from the person in Central Park who didn’t think that she should have to put her dog on a leash, and then when she is called out on it, plays the victim and acts as if she is being attacked. You are the guilty party here. I am wearing a mask. You are not.

I don’t care about what race or ethnicity you belong to, or what your gender identification or affiliation is. I don’t care if you are working-class or middle-class.

If I am walking along the sideway and you pedal up on your bicycle behind me and tell me to get out of your way, and I start to stumble off the sidewalk as I hurry not just to avoid being run down by you, but to avoid any possibility of being infected by the covid virus because you have decided that you are too special to wear a mask, then I am going to call you for what you are: a virus terrorist.

For over a year, I have been enduring the hateful behavior of young people who don’t believe that they need to change any of their daily routines in order to stop this virus from doing so much damage to my generation. And it is hate on their part. There is no other word for it. It is a hate crime not to wear a mask.

I may not be able to call the police to defend my right to walk outside and briefly escape from this endless house arrest without being being assaulted, but I am going to call this behavior for what it is: calculated, vicious contempt for my life and well-being. If you expect me to regard it in any other way, then you are totally and hopelessly clueless.

Lynne Thompson, the new Poet Laureate of Los Angeles

Wednesday night, February 24, 2021 — 9:30 p.m.

Suzanne Lummis just called me on the phone to announce that Lynne Thompson has been appointed the new Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. I am very delighted to learn this news. Last June, the W – E Bicoastal Poet of the Pandemic Poetry Reading Series featured her along with Laurel Ann Bogen and Alexis Rhone Fancher.

Here is my brief introduction for Lynne at that zoom reading:

“Lynne Thompson, who was born, raised, and thoroughly educated in Los Angeles, turns familial history into a poignant cross-examination of the politics of identity. Thompson’s documentary poetics enjoins the eminent domain of irony to accentuate and contextualize accounts of personal memory so that they remain viscerally pertinent to the always already festering crisis of this nation’s patrimony. Along with Bogen’s and Fancher’s poems, every future anthology of American poets will have to reckon with her writing. I present Lynne Thompson.”

Eloise Klein Healy, Luis J. Rodriguez, and Robin Coste Lewis were the previous laureates. I can’t think of a better successor than Lynne Thompson. I have been fortunate enough to hear Lynne read several times and cherish even more the memory of reading with her at an event organized by the Poet Laureate of West Hollywood, Kim Dower (“Route 66 through the Eyes of Poets” / Wednesday, April 25, 2018). In addition to Lynne, that event included such fine poets as Brendan Constantine, Elena Karina Byrne, Yvonne M. Estrada, and Laurel Ann Bogen.

Best of luck, Lynne. The poets of Los Angeles wholeheartedly support your appointment!

Dr. Gerald Perkoff, the Missouri Review, and Stuart Z. Perkoff

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

I happened to see a notice that the Missouri Review was offering a poetry prize named after Dr. Gerald Perkoff, whose name I instantly recognized as the editor of his brother’s volume of “Collected Poems.” I confess I was somewhat amused by the irony of an academic literary magazine with a poetry prize named after the brother of someone who dropped out of college before the first week of classes were over and who went on to be published in Donald Allen’s NEW AMERICAN POETRY in 1960. Stuart Z. Perkoff would most certainly have never submitted any poetry to the Missouri Review, and it’s probably the case that the editors there would not recognize any of Perkoff’s work, even the poem that Allen published in his anthology, “Feasts of Death, Feasts of Love.” That poem has, of course, the distinction of being the first long experimental poem about the Holocaust in American poetry. Even in Allen’s anthology, it was an outlier in its inclusion of several chunks of justified prose in the poem. No other poem in that poem so extensively intermingled both verse and prose.

The unusual disparity of this ensemble of cultural workers should not, however, distract us too much from this significance of the prize of the person whose memory it honors. I only wish that the entire context of Dr. Perkoff’s life and family were more visible. Here, for instance, is a link to an obituary for Dr. Gerald Perkoff. There is no mention of being predeceased by his brother, Stuart, ar that his brother Simon Perkoff is a noted jazz musician.

Such as that may be, anyone working on a cluster of poems that addresses themes of health and medicine should consider submitting the work to the Missouri Review.


Perkoff Prize

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is Dead; Long Live City Lights

Feb. 23, 2021 — Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919 – 2021)

Early this afternoon, I heard the news that Lawrence Ferlinghetti had died. I guess that Naomi Replansky will remain the oldest living American poet for at least a little longer.

Tributes to him will no doubt flourish as the obituaries trot out the familiar details, but the only important tribute has already been paid by those who cared the most about his most significant accomplishment, a bookstore that took up the 18th century model of also being a publisher. In the early months of the Pandemic, City Lights Bookstore held a fundraiser in hopes of stabilizing its chances of surviving the loss of its flow of daily customers. The fundraiser was so successful that the bookstore generated a minor endowment that will nurture it through at least the rest of this decade. In 2028, the store will turn 75 years old. It is not too early to plan on making that occasion a chance to reflect on the hundreds of thousands of copies of books that have found grateful readers thanks to this store’s visibility.

*. *. ********. *****. ****** ******

Soon after posting the above, I received a letter from Doren Robbins,who gave me permission to reprint it in my blog:

My 1958 edition of A Coney Island of the Mind (title deriving from Henry Miller’s Black Spring, as we know) is the first book of poems I bought. Eighteen years old.

That 1958 edition along with Dylan Thomas’s Collected Poems, 100 Poems by E.E. Cummings, Selected Poems by Langston Hughes, and the Selected of Edna St. Vincnt Millay along with an early translation of Baudelaire by George Dillon and Edna St. Vincent Millay, are my first books of poetry. Probably true of a lot of lucky poets (who are now) in their 70’s.

I was around eleven-years old when a younger salesman friend of my father, a guy named Wally Sussman, a jazz piano player, came through the front door excited and probably high into our TV room when we were sitting around after dinner and started spontaneously reading from A Coney Island of the Mind, I think it was “I am Waiting.” I’ll never forget it or couldn’t’ve anticipated what happened to me, but the visual performance of that scene is implanted and Pollocked into my memory.

LF was an important influence to me, alongside Ginsberg and Rukeyser. He could blend personal and social satire and dramatic observation and introspection as well as Villon, Petronius, or Nicanor Para or Henry Miller. And I sincerely regret never being published by City Lights, though from the 80’s till the early 2000’s whenever I sent him a book he always sent me a postcard with one of his paintings on it inviting me for espresso if I was in SF.

What a long, fertile, life full of personal and political meaning he had. Fortunately he is generally well-received.

I think Ferlinghetti would’ve laughed with a steady Anarchist sneer that I was unable to open your NY Times obituary because I had gone over the free limit, and had to go to National Public Radio (which sounds better than it is).


UC Writers Week — FREE AND ON-LINE (Feb. 13 – 20)

Thursday, February 11

UC Riverside Writers’ Week – 2021


Greg Kosmicki sent me a link ( https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2021/01/22/uc-riversides-44th-annual-writers-week-goes-virtual
about this festival a couple of weeks ago, and I want to thank him for reminding me of one of the most special occasions I had as a young writer. Well, I confess I didn’t feel that young in 1984. I would have been in my late thirties by then, and things were getting difficult for any poet who had cast his or her lot outside of the academy. If I had been “smart,” I would have parlayed my work as an editor and publisher of Momentum Press and the favorable notices my first full-length book of poems received in 1982 into acceptance at an MFA program and gotten busy having a “career.” I really loved living in Ocean Park, though. I had moved around so much when I was a child that finding a safe environment seemed to be a small miracle. Giving up my rent-controlled apartment to go study for two years with Greg Pape or Richard Shelton would have leaving behind a scene that I was still helping to define. The year after I read in the UC Writers’ Week, I published POETRY LOVES POETRY, which still is the best survey of what the scene was like in L.A. in the early 1980s. PLP depicted several of the most visible strands of L.A. poetry at the time that Dennis Cooper was running Beyond Baroque, including the early proponents of the stand up movement (Locklin, Koertge, Bogen, Webb, Coleman, Flanagan, Mohr) as well as the maverick avant-garde (Vangelisti, Phillips, Hickman, Ronk, Rasula). Cooper’s closest circle (Gerstler, Skelley, Trinidad) was also prominently featured. Soon after time PLP started circulating, the multi-cultural scenes in Los Angeles began to flourish, and later anthologies such as the ones edited by Suzanne Lummis began to reflect those incrementally expanding communities of poets. Throughout all the shifts, poets such as Harry Northup and Holly Prado plugged away, along with their younger colleagues in Cahuenga Press, Jim Cushing, Phoebe MacAdams Ozuna, and Cecilia Woloch.

In any case, I look back at having had a chance to read in Riverside at a festival featuring Ken Kesey as the headliner as one of my favorite mememories of that period.

Here is a list of some of the writers who have read or been honored at this festival in the past 44 years:

Daniel Alarcón; Margaret Atwood; Aimee Bender; Bonnie Bolling; Christopher Buckley; Brenda Cardenas; Victoria Chang; Wanda Coleman; Carolina De Robertis; Steve Erickson; Marilyn Chin, Rachel Cusk; Percival Everett; B.H. Fairchild; Janet Fitch; Katie Ford; Kate Gale; Frank X. Gaspar; Roxane Gay; Dagoberto Gilb; Patricia Hampl; David Hernandez; Juan Felipe Herrera; Garrett Hongo; Mark Jarman; Anna Journey; Douglas Kearney; Ken Kesey; Jamaica Kincaid; Christine Kitano; Chris Kraus; Li-Young Lee Alexander Long, Tom Lutz, Rubén Martínez, Bill Mohr, Walter Mosley; Michael Nava; Viet Thanh Nguyen; Jayne Ann Phillips; Darryl Pinckney; John Rechy; Nina Revoyr; Luis J. Rodriguez; Aimee Suzara; David Shields; Jerry Stahl; Susan Straight; Ray Suarez; Arthur Sze; Ngugi wa Thiong’o; Michael Tolkin; Quincy Troupe; Héctor Tobar; Amy Uyematsu; Diane Wakoski; Alison Benis White; Jacqueline Winspear; Gary Young.

You can find more details about this year’s festival at:


Lynn McGee’s “Bioluminescence Can Be Ours” (with music by Bill Parod)

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The revival of interest in blending music with poetry seems to be intensifying. On a popular culture level, of course, music and poetic lyrics found themselves enjoying an unusual amount of public admiration in the 1960s, a transnational moment that veered off into the subcultures of punk, hip-hop, and rap in subsequent decades. In turn, the poetics of those efforts influenced performance poetry and spoken word. In personal retrospect, one of the most interesting collages in the music-poetry mode was Liza Richardson’s post-midnight show in the early 1990s, “MAN IN THE MOON,” on KCRW, which complemented the Lollapalooza tours from 1991 to 1997.

More recently, along with video poetry, various publishing outlets have been encouraging and featuring collaborations between musicians and poets. One of the best of these efforts announced itself in my email earlier this morning:

Bioluminescence Can Be Ours

by Lynn McGee
with music by Bill Parod

*. *. *. *. *.

For more information on Lynn McGee:

TRACKS (2019)

Lynn McGee is the author of the poetry collection Tracks (Broadstone Books, 2019); Sober Cooking (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2016), and two award-winning poetry chapbooks: Heirloom Bulldog (Bright Hill Press, 2015) and Bonanza (Slapering Hol Press, 1997). Recent publications include Lascaux Review, Tampa Review and The Night Heron Barks. Poems by Lynn McGee have also appeared recently in Upstreet, Lavender Review, Stonewall’s Legacy (an anthology celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising), The American Journal of Poetry, Cordella Literary Magazine, Potomac Review, The American Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, Storyscape, In From the Margin and The New Guard (one poem a finalist and one a semi-finalist in the Knightville Contest judged by Donald Hall).

Links to Pura López-Colomé

Friday, January 29th, 2021

I noticed earlier today on Twitter that Ron Silliman posted a link to an article in the Los Angeles Review of Books on the poetry of Jose Emilio Pacheco with the one word comment, “Seriously.”


Just to balance the gender scales, though, I would like to cite once again the work of Pura López-Colomé, with whom I had the extraordinary honor of being on a panel with on one of my trips to Mexico during the past decade to read my poetry.




For those who are curious about poetry in Mexico, I recommend you start with an anthology from Shearsman Books: “Mexican Poetry Today: 20/20 Voices (a bilingual anthology), edited by Brandel France de Bravo.

The Freudian Body Politic (2016-2020)

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

I received an email the other day from the reclusive novelist Thomas Fuller, whose work I was introduced to by the poet-painter Brooks Roddan. Fuller feigned not to recognize the identity of “Individual No. 1,” claiming that someone named Mitch McConnell had been the actual president of the United States in the second half of the past decade. I sighed, of course. “Will no one rid me of these conspiracy theories?” was my first reaction, since I have heard variants on this proposition as punchlines to an assortment of jokes. As I wrote him back, though, a very brief consideration of his assessment of the nation’s political psyche with McConnell as the actual president led me to come up with the following trifecta:

The Freudian Body Politic.

Mitch McConnell — the ego — the (GOP) self presented to the public
Donald Trump — the Id — unleashed with paramount boorishness
GOP House and Senate — the superego — the conscience that alleges to keep the id and ego in balance

We witnessed on Tuesday, the 26th, how the superego’s flotation devices are intact. I predict a salvage operation, both terminable and interminable.