Mullen and Amram: Beyond Baroque’s 2019 Awards Salon

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A year ago, Beyond Baroque put on a very successful fundraiser as a culmination of its year-long 50th anniversary programming. At the behest of Laurel Ann Bogen, about two years earlier, I had joined the Board of Trustees to provide its hard-working members with access to institutional memory as well as very modest financial support. It’s a long haul from Long Beach to Venice, and I resigned from the Board of Trustees soon after that celebration. At that point, my mother had moved from Sunrise Assisted Living in Seal Beach to Bel Vista Healthcare, a skilled nursing facility, in Long Beach, to have remained on the Board of Trustees would have been impossible, given the level of attention she needed.

This year’s annual awards dinner was not held at the Church in Ocean Park in Santa Monica, but at The Santa Monica Bay Women’s Club
(1210 4th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401). Harryette Mullen received the George Drury Smith award; other honors were bestowed on Diane Luby Lane, Johanna Drucker, and Richard Modiano.

In honoring Mullen, Beyond Baroque invited her to read with Forrest Gander on Saturday, November 2. Her reading of a selection from her collection, Urban Tumbleweeds, which I reviewed in 2016, was far more memorable, and left me wishing she had read longer. I reviewed Mullen’s book back several years ago. Here is an excerpt:

“URBAN TUMBLEWEEDS”: The Signature Fragrance of Harryette Mullen
Thursday, August 11, 2016

That tanka serves as an example of how Mullen makes existence crackle with its original temporality of displacement. Nor do things yield easily in her imagination to the pressures of metamorphosis. Here is the one “preceding” the one above (you’ll understand the scare quotes soon):

A green streak swooshed across the sky
with a shower of brilliant blue sparks. A boulder
hurled from heaven breaking apart in earth’s air.

There is an asymmetrical, bristling energy fusing the disintegration of things in Mullen’s poems. It is not quite violence operating as an agent of a malevolent domain; rather, some alien subterfuge, awkwardly coming to age, is propelling the outer world that these tanka inhabit. Fortunately, Mullen’s tanka remind me to breathe deeply as a way of keeping my balance; perceive things as they are; and thereby dispel the seductive trance of nihilism. It may not be satori, but it’s close enough to do the job. Don’t expect a smooth ride, though: there’s an abrasive bounce to the inner gravity of Mullen’s peregrinations, and she spares no one in the journey, least of all herself.

*. *. *

Forrest Gander screened a pair of video poems at the end of his brief reading at Beyond Baroque. I first met him in Mexico, in 2017, at the FILA events (XXIV Feria Internacional del Libro Universitario) near Veracruz, and the energy he exuded down there propelled him with an exuberance that had considerably subsided by the time he read at Beyond Baroque. The video poems were lackluster, and both Mullen’s reading and her poetry provided more of a reward for the long drive from Long Beach. I certainly don’t regret the drive: Gander’s annotations on the ontological qualities of lichen were worth the effort in and of themselves, but the poem he read clearly derived its poetics from the work of Michael McClure. It was not clear to me that Gander is sufficiently aware of this derivation.

*. * *

As for the annual awards dinner, the company was great: it was delightful to see old friends (Harryette; Johanna; Gail; Molly; Daniel; Exene; Kim; Chuck; Liz; Suzanne; Brendan; Rick; Addie; Quentin; Emmitt; Richard; Diane; Amelie; Rex; Karen; Mariano; Andy; and Gloria). Several members of the board of trustees were there, too, ). I shared a table, sponsored by S.A. Griffin, with Laurel Ann; Leon; Beth; the late Nan Hunt’s daughter, whose name I didn’t catch; and Linda Fry. S.A. and I had a chance to talk about various archives and Venice West, and both of us gave each other some promising leads. The food was mediocre. Oh, well.

It was a nostalgic pleasure to have two poet-professors from both UCLA and USC (Steven Yenser and David St. John) presenting awards to Harryette Mullen and Richard Modiano, respectively), but the presenter who stole the show was a young poet named Jazmine, one of Get Lit’s discoveries. Her heartfelt tribute to Diane Luby Lane enthralled the entire audience with the poignancy of her lived experience. It should also be noted that a compressed version of Johanna Drucker’s contributions to the field of literature and imaginative writing made me more grateful than ever that she took the time to lead a contingent of young archivists in cataloguing 50,000 items at Beyond Baroque. All of us in Los Angeles who care about this city’s literary bequest owe her a lifetime achievement award, too!

Of the 150 or so people in attendance, less than 50 were still on hand when the best performance of the evening took place. Still invigorated with the “wonder” of being alive, David Amram, who will turn 89 in less than a week, glided around the stage as if he were only 48. His dexterity and aplomb made the handful still present wishing that someone had videotaped this moment. One other testimony could be so convincing as to the enduring influence of the Beat Generation.

Balance account: Parking cost $17; but Linda and I were rewarded for buying a $15 raffle ticket with a $100 dinner at Bottlefish Restaurant. When we returned to Long Beach at 11:00 p.m., I only had to park five blocks away from our residence: that in itself would have been the evening’s sufficient raffle prize.

The Trump Chess Game: Impeachment as a Speed Bump

In chess, there is a defensive move in which the piece called the castle moves sideways two squares and the piece designated as the king moves one square to the left (or right) of the Castle. It’s a move every beginning chess player learns in the first hour of studying the game.

I am a complete amateur when it comes to playing chess, and am even more of a political prognosticator; nevertheless, even though it’s extremely doubtful — infinitely so! — that my advice would prove efficacious, I cannot resist forecasting one possible outcome of an impeachment process now formally certified by a vote of the House of Representatives, and hereby put aside my personal animosity to President Donald Trump and offer him this advice in order to “castle” his career as a politician:

1.) Let them impeach you. Of course, you should fight them in a manner that makes Roy Cohn proud to have been your youthful mentor, but should a handful of sniveling GOP back-stabbers in the Senate end up betraying you, do NOT — under any circumstances — refuse to leave the White House. Do not tweet a firestorm of promises to make those who turned on you regret the day they were born, etc.

Let your silence speak for itself. You will get more attention from NOT tweeting than tweeting.

Don’t worry. This is only a 48 hour lull.

2.) The first Monday after leaving the White House, 4 a.m. — The tweets begin, reminding people that the 22nd amendment in no way stands between you and a return to the White House, especially since Pence has issued a complete and unconditional pardon for any and all transgressions you may have committed, including any casual sit-down meetings with underworld operatives (not that any ever did take place, but just in case….). The whole kit-and-caboodle! Impeachment is not a road block; but only a speed bump.

3.) Start writing your acceptance speech to be broadcast this coming summer from the GOP nominating convention. Think about it, Don. Who in the GOP would dare to claim the nomination or try to start a floor fight? It’s yours for the asking, not that you have to ask us. “(We) have no other choice.”)

4.) Play more golf than you’ve been able to the past three years.

5.) Fine tune your victory speech for Tuesday evening, November 3, 2020. Trust me, Donald, you will be re-elected in a landslide. (Definition of landslide: “the greatest, most extraordinary sympathy vote ever registered at the polls.”) Unfortunately, that sympathy vote will not translate into a substantial margin in the Electoral College, which you will win, 270-268. A cliffhanger of epic proportions, but one that the Supreme Court — in its almost unmatched wisdom — will decide in a manner that gives you an uninterrupted term in the White House.

6.) Just in case the House of Representatives remains in Democratic hands, don’t worry. That will only last two years. In 2022, you will have them groveling as the minority party they are destined to be for the remainder of this country’s history.

7.) Invite North Korea’s leaders to attend your inaugural parade, which will include so many soldiers in uniform that there will be no question that your inauguration will have the largest attendance of any president ever. It will be rumored by Fake News that the soldiers are there to forestall any possibility of martial law being declared in the week before your second term begins, but who would be so gullible as to believe that the Pentagon would actually be willing to turn its weaponry on the citizens who paid for its ammunition?

So this is a classic win-win situation, Don.

To sum up:

A.) If the Senate votes to acquit you, you will have proven yourself impervious, and you will be re-elected without breaking a sweat. Or at least you won’t have to work any harder in your re-election campaign than you have the past three years. I know it’s unfair that the greatest president this country has ever had should even have to hold a re-election rally, but remember how hard “W” had to work in 2004. As for your slogan, MAGA, I would recommend changing it to MAPA (“Make America Prosperous Again”). “Great” is too vague. It worked the first time around because we all know that the United States of America is the most powerful country in the world. We’re so powerful that second-rate countries such as Russia can be allowed to exert more global influence as a camouflage act for U.S. hegemony. We don’t want to world to feel that it’s a one-sided game. You’ve proven that “America First!” is more true than ever. “Great” — been there, done that.

For re-election, what is needed is a hint that the average working family can fantasize about a more prosperous future. Remember: you’re not a career politician. You’re a career bankrupt artist (aka “tax-allergic businessman”) whose only concern now is that working people become apprentices to prosperity.

B.) If the Senate betrays you, review my points above.

Above all, Don, you need to chill. Yeah, sure, the Democratic party is all giddy about the “facts” they are claiming to possess in regards to your phone call to the Ukraine. Let them yuck it up, because I assure you, Donny, that they are going to f–k it up. Impeachment is going to be their last hurrah.

Hey, Mr. President, you ever read that classic political novel, “THE LAST HURRAH”?

Oh… you say you haven’t read it.

That’s OK. Your opponent this coming autumn won’t have read it either. But for one of you, it’s the only title that will be thought of in the near future; and in the very distant near future, too.

*. *. *

As I have noted in an occasional blog, the comments section of this blog has always been turned off. However, if anyone ever wants to reach me, my e-mail address is

Brooks Roddan, for instance, just sent me the following message, which I am posting as a post-script to this blog entry.

“Ha ha and more ha ha, it’s all do dreadful that it’s dreadfully funny. I actually think part of your ’scenario’ could play out in that trump could resign with the quid pro quo understanding that Pence will pardon him, AND Rudy G should it come to that.

In another scenario, Trump pardons Michael Cohen who replaces Bill Barr as AG. Barr enters a witness protection program and testifies to Adam Schiff with complete legal immunity. The reuniting of Team Trump & Cohen pay hush money to those troublesome strippers and to all female Republican senators who may turn on him. The coup de grace? The pardon of Paul Manafort, who is then appointed Chairman of the Re-Elect Trump in 2020.”

— Brooks Roddan

And yet another punch to the local gut…

Monday, November 4, 2019

Yesterday afternoon, Linda and I went to a class on meditation taught by a yoga teacher at the Jewish Community Center in Long Beach. After the guided meditation in which she taught us a specific mode of focusing our breathing, she shared with us what had happened on Halloween night. She was standing on her porch, about to enter her house when she heard a car screech, and then several thuds.

In reading of the consequences of this incident, it seems as if an inordinate amount of violence has been imposed upon a very small segment of my day-to-day community this past week.

I don’t know what to say. The local interstices are quivering, uncertain of what will happen next, and who will be picked off.

No one ever told me that fate could be so insolent, or maybe I just didn’t believe them.

Emily Dickinson and the “Predation Risk” of the Literate Imagination

Biologist Victoria Braithwaite’s obituary in a press release from her home institution, Penn State University, noted that she “found that populations of the same species (of fish) differed in how they solved spatial problems, and that these differences were related to predation risk. In environments with more predators, fish exhibited higher-level cognitive mapping abilities than those that were not exposed to predators.”

Perhaps this correlation could also be applied to creative writers, in that literary communities are all too aware of how their feeding grounds are in danger.

On the other hand, the recent commentary by Brooks Roddan on MFA programs would also be pertinent. MFA programs all too often risk generating a complacent familiarity with the most feasible literary successes, and encourage students to stay within the bounds of fashionable versification. If the avant-garde is always already predatory in the service of an art form’s evolution, Roddan suggests that the game preserve of MFA programs tends to inculcate a complacent cartography that legitimates the spawning grounds of incest-laden literary DNA. (See “”; Tuesday, October 22, 2019; “October: Something I Woke Up Thinking About.”)

On further consideration, however, what if one were to consider the literary arena of publication a form of predation? In that case, if there is anyone who serves as a model for “predation aversion,” it might be Emily Dickinson; yet who can doubt that Emily Dickinson’s imagination displays cognitive mapping abilities of imagery and thematic complexity that make her best poems the equal of the most memorable passages by Shakespeare?

Unfortunately, the predators of critics have long found ways to demean her accomplishment.

In an article on this latest pop-culture mutation of Dickinson, Jennifer Schuessler note that “There was a warmer response among some scholars to “Wild Nights With Emily,” Madeleine Olnek’s irreverent, romantic comedy take, starring Molly Shannon. Based on the scholarship of Professor Smith, it features a committed, lifelong, lesbian relationship between Emily and Susan (as well as a rendition of the poem “Because I could not stop for Death” sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”).”

The missing context to the parenthetical information in that paragraph is how the choice of the tune actually reflects a sexist, patriarchal dismissal of Dickinson’s poetry. At the present moment, typing away, I cannot recall the specific name of the critic, but I recall the snide remark like the pinch of an unbandaged wound. “The problem with Emily Dickinson’s poems is that they can all be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

Critics with low levels of imaginative cognition cannot resist cheap shots meant to give their male colleagues a chance to smirk. It’s so much easier to make a joke, isn’t it, than to do the hard work of notating how in poem after poem, Dickinson’s capacity to wield the caesura is first-rate.

While those of us who appreciate Dickinson’s ear hope that all of the recent cinematic and theatrical attention leads to an increase in close readings of her work, the omission of the definitive general reading version of her poems from any of reviews of the popular culture productions is dismaying. Cristanne Miller’s work in foregrounding Dickinson’s fascicles is the single most important piece of scholarship in poetry done in my lifetime. Finally, with Miller’s assistance, the conversation about Dickinson’s poetry can begin to share the same point of view about the poems as their author possessed, at least in regards to their particular ensembles. Whereas the chronology of composition previously controlled in an overdetermined manner the intermingling of her themes, the precedence given to the fascicles in “HER POEMS AS SHE PRESERVED THEM” (Harvard University Press) now permits us to comprehend the lapidary vigor of this nation’s most relevant poet.

Joe Henry’s “The Gospel According to Water”; and Judee Sill

Twitter’s home page lists some motivations for becoming part of its domain: “Join the conversation.” But what if you are the subject of conversations, and have been “enjoined” as such?

And then it hit me: the canonical is that which cannot opt out of the literary conversation. At this point, Emily Dickinson cannot choose to not to be talked about.

Sometimes the conversation is about one’s influences, and sometimes it’s about those whose work you have influenced. (“A writer who does not teach other writers teaches no one.” — Walter Benjamin)

In reading Jon Pareles’s article on Joe Henry’s new album, “The Gospel According to Water,” a familiar aggregation assembles: Bob Dylan, Wallace Stevens, Tom Waits, John Prine, Miles Davis, Leonard Cohen, Buckminster Fuller, Randy Newman, James Joyce, Langston Hughes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Thelonious Monk, John Cage, Elvis Costello, Flannery O’Connor, Ray Charles, Lucinda Williams, Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Woodie Guthrie, T. Bone Burnette, Billy Strayhorn, Lonnie Johnson, and Rosanne Cash.

Aspirations to be as good as one’s models only infrequently achieve work halfway as distinct, but in this case I don’t think anyone should be surprised at the quality of the lyric quoted from Henry’s song, “The Fact of Love.”

But isn’t the point of a meaningful conversation to invoke a name that isn’t being spoken of that often? I wish, therefore, this morning to urge all of you to give a listen to Judee Sill’s “Jesus Was a Crossmaker.” Many, many years ago, when I was younger than my age hinted at, I saw her perform one evening, solo, on a piano, at the Church in the Ocean Park. It was one of the most inspiring performances by a singer-songwriter I have ever had the good fortune to be in the audience for: a small audience for an artist marked by Fate to stop singing far sooner than her admirers wanted her to.

The Much Deserved Triumph of the Expos/Nationals

November 2, 2019

Yesterday, a neighbor and I talked about the recent nearby slaughter at one of our neighbor’s houses. She said that she had been up sewing, and heard so many rapid “booms” that she figured that it had to be firecrackers.

On Halloween evening, we only gave away about two-thirds of the candy we had purchased to give to neighborhood children. At first, there seemed to be a fair number of parents bringing around their young families, but as dusk coagulated, the streets grew very quiet. Few were willing to take a risk when it was not necessary.

Well, it feels incumbent to find something to affirm, and at least one of my favorite consolations has bestowed its blessing on those who were braced for yet another predicate of defeat. (“Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League” was one of the most repeated jibes of mid-century baseball lore.)

Today, the Washington Nationals will celebrate their World Series championship with a parade in our nation’s capital, and though I won’t have time to watch this exuberant display of fantasized affiliation, and savor others’ unexpected joy as representative of my wish fulfillments, I am delighted that this team finally shook off a half-century of frustration. For those in Los Angeles County who bemoan the three full decades during which the Los Angeles Dodgers have not provided its resident fans with such an occasion, I say, “Tough luck. What a bunch of crybabies.” Let them recall the fifth game of a playoff series between the Dodgers and the predecessors of the Nationals, the Montreal Expos, in 1981. With the tying run on second base, and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Bob Welch relieved the Dodgers’ starting pitcher, Fernando Valenzuela, and stymied the Expos’ rally. So close to comprehending the nectar of a World Series (in which they, too, would probably have defeated the NY Yankees), and yet denied the slightest taste.

That particular game was played under brutal conditions: the day before, intermittent snow and wind chill had forced the game’s postponement. The next day was hardly better, and though I was cheering for Fernando and the Dodgers, I felt a pang in knowing how disappointed Montreal’s fans must have been. Of course, compared to having their extraordinary 1994 season short-circuited by a labor strike, the loss in 1981 was merely a prelude to extended melancholy. There are no parades for runners-up, and monuments to second place are as scarce as a metaphor at a convention of literalists.

It’s true that the loss of Montreal’s baseball franchise did not cause the city to implode the same way that Brooklyn collapsed after the Dodgers deserted that borough. After all, the Montreal Conadians have won two dozen Stanley Cups in the past 110 years, so it’s hardly a city without a diadem of championship flags at its arena. Nevertheless, Anthony Rendon’s home run in the fifth game against Clayton Kershaw, followed by Juan Soto, seemed like long overdue payback for Rick Monday’s ninth inning home run in the fifth game of the 1981 series.

Am I sorry to see a pitcher of Kershaw’s caliber falter in a big game once again? Naw. He’s just like Nolan Ryan, unable to win a clutch game when it most matters. In point of fact, in my own fantasy of matching up players from over the ages, I would choose Fernando Valenzuela to start, in an elimination game, over Clayton Kershaw any day. Maybe Kershaw attains the Hall of Fame, but Dodger fans who cherish the game’s aleatory poignancy will always honor Fernando as the first among equals, after the truly great, such as Koufax and Drysdale.

(Post-script: Soto is the single most exciting young player I’ve seen in many years. While I understand how Trout’s statistics justify the acclaim he has earned, he seems somewhat flat in terms of personal depth. Soto brings a gracefulness to his exuberance for the game that makes him a joy to watch. He plays as if nothing else could be so natural, whereas it is a truth universally acknowledged that one of the hardest tasks of physical coordination is to hit a round object with the sweet spot of another round object.)

The Rose Park Murders

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Rose Park Murders: “Atomized” Empathy amidst the Embers of Unease

Less than a month ago, a group of neighbors in Rose Park got together to complete an alley mural project started by Cody Lusby that celebrated the name of our neighborhood in Long Beach. Two days ago, a person or persons who have yet to be apprehended defaced that mural without even coming near it with a can of spray paint. While it’s true that the image of the roses on the alley’s walls will glow in the sunlight of the coming winter, and give us succor as we walk past them on our way home at twilight, the nearby blood stains will only seem to fade.

As I told people yesterday at CSU Long Beach about the murders that took place less than 200 yards from where Linda and I were asleep on Tuesday night, and how after waking up at 5:30 and learning of the brutal assassination of our neighbors, who had gathered for a birthday party, Linda and I were also informed that the fire in Simi Valley had necessitated her mother’s evacuation from her assisted residence apartment in Thousand Oaks, it seemed as if I were talking only to myself, when what I needed was time off from work to gather with my neighbors in Rose Park to reaffirm our determination to develop a network of support in times of crisis.

My words at work, reporting these events, seemed like embers, picked up by unusually cold Santa Ana winds, and hurtled forward towards some personal settlement of unease inhabited only by my consciousness of existential vulnerability. Gazing into the distance, I could detect smoldering wisps about to seethe into eruptions; to the rear, I dared not look. The thought of all the past vanishing so that none yet to be born would have the resources of cultural memory was too painful to endure. I am all too aware that these fires are merely the prelude to the devastation of an ineluctable earthquake, in which the precariousness of our most cherished rituals will be subject to a pulverizing exile.

The conflagration of gunfire is not just a single instance, of course. It was almost a year ago, in early November in fact, that a man walked into a bar in Thousand Oaks and opened fire on people just enjoying each other’s company. One of the women who escaped that gunfire lives with my sister-in-law. I had talked to her, while visiting my extended family, less than 48 hours before that catastrophe.

The L.A. Times quoted Ventura Fire Captain Steve Kaufmann, “You can see a lot of the water that’s coming from the ‘super scoopers’ is atomized because of the wind.” So, too, did what little empathy of others was expressed seem to evaporate before the words even left their lips.

I suppose that social indifference is other people’s way of reminding me to be stoic. I am happy to report that I have stabilized, again, at that nonchalance to any individual fate necessitated by the contingencies of dailiness, and am grateful for the tasks I can undertake to keep myself distracted. And, now, to turn to those tasks, which include making a final payment this morning from my the final funds of my mother’s closed bank account for the cost of her hospice care, not that she should owe much for having no one from the hospice company bother to swab her lips for six straight hours. If my sister and I had not been at my mother’s side, she would not even have had that small comfort. It’s odd to pay for neglectful care, but payment is expected and will be made. Let none expect any better.

The Deep State of the Culture Wars

“The University in Ruins”: A Retrospective Appreciation

Twenty odd years ago, I undertook a “career” change, although one could hardly call the decades I spent as an editor and independent publisher a “career.” If anything, “career” as a verb (taken over in contemporary usage by “careen”) would best describe my youthful adventures in West Coast poetry. That I ended up starting graduate school at age 49, with only a B.A. on my educational resume, and within twenty years managed to get promoted to full professor at CSU Long Beach is a very peculiar evolution.

In one of my first courses at UCSD, I read Bill Readings’ The University in Ruins, which was published posthumously. My recollection is that the manuscript had reached an almost final polish, but that he was still working on it when he was killed in a plane crash. If I had had a chance to give his penultimate draft a quick bit of advice, I would have urged him to point out to readers something that was probably all too obvious to him, but that most readers might not be aware of. Readings emphasized that the term “excellence,” which was the keyword at that time for the purpose of the university, no longer had any meaning. It was an empty term. My quibble had to do with his lack of its genealogy. “Excellence” can be traced back to Plato’s academy, which might seem like a negligible point, but in not mentioning it Readings misses a chance to show how long a shelf-life “excellence” has had; in fact, its expiration date would seem to have rubbed off its label, and only those who were paying attention would notice this lacunae.

Readings further argued that the State no longer had need of literature to provide a bulwark for its ideological work in sustaining the fiction of a nation. His points are exceptionally well argued, but I am no longer so certain of that severance. Has not the rhizomatic impetus of multiculturalism become an aggravating provocation to the racism of those who aspire to corporate hegemony? Indeed, the advocates of neo-fascist legitimation have made literature’s proliferating diversity an even more urgent target, especially in the favoritism they grant to STEM education.

The infrastructure of 21st century capitalism in the United States may no longer need novels and poems to sustain the self-reflecting mirror of its pragmatic metanarrative of national identity as the springboard of its global imperialism, but literature’s critique of canon formation still remains an elusive adversary. The educational bureaucrats who insist on minimizing the role that critical thinking and imaginative literacy should play in undergraduate education only serve to demonstrate the potential that the ability to encounter and analyze our “patrimony” of national literature still possesses as a mean of subverting the agenda of corporate tyrants.

The irrelevance of the humanities in general and literature in particular to economic “progress” has apparently not sunk in yet with advertisers, however. Perhaps a future issue of “WATCH YOUR TIME: The First Watch Magazine with Augmented Reality” will realize that using canonical literary quotations has no impact whatsoever on sales of new watches, but the brand names that signed off on the current issue’s must have believed that cultural capital still retains its allure. “Full fathom five thy father lies. Of his bones are coral made.” Such is the opening for Blancpain’s ecologically-primed ad for its Fifty Fathoms watch. Further pages in, we find:

“The best ideas are common property.” — Seneca

“There is no exquisite beauty … without some strangeness in the proportion.” — Edgar Allan Poe

What is now proved was once only imagined.” — William Blake

“I will go anywhere, provided it be forward.” — David Livingstone

The inclusion of Livingstone would seem to be the perfect touchstone for literature and empire still being capable of being collegial in this planetary transmogrification.

While I have no desire to own one of these watches, or to wear one under any circumstances, I have to compliment the editorial director for the way that Poe’s quotation invokes another line of Ariel’s song: “into something rich and strange.” Indeed, in the “sea-change” of this era, it is strange to see wealth simultaneously intent on erasing literary knowledge in the educations of its future employees, and yet still using literature to fashion the surface demarcations of its hierarchy’s status.

“Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counter-Culture” (PM Press; Australia)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

“If it’s not popular, it’s not culture.”
— Motto of the Popular Culture Association

Five years ago, the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) published an article I had written about Los Angeles-based novelist and poet, Joseph Hansen, who was one of the co-founders of the half-century old Beyond Baroque Poetry Workshop. I had written the article as a response to a request from one of its editors, Zach Mann, who had first become familiar with Hansen’s writing in one of my graduate seminars. The article remains an essential complement to the commentary in my literary history, HOLDOUTS: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance 1948-1992 (University of Iowa Press).

I am pleased to report that the article on Hansen will be reprinted in a volume to be published in December in Australia, “Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counter-Culture.” Here is the ordering information. One can purchase an e-Book version, too.

“Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture”
SKU: 9781629635248
Editors: Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 9781629635248
Published: 12/2019
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 x 10
Page count: 336
Subjects: History-Pop Culture/Literature-History and Criticism

Sticking It to the Man tracks the ways in which the changing politics and culture of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s were reflected in pulp and popular fiction in the United States, the UK, and Australia. Featuring more than three hundred full-color covers, the book includes in-depth author interviews, illustrated biographies, articles, and reviews from more than two dozen popular culture critics and scholars.”

“These are the novels that provided us with our guiltiest reading pleasures of the mid-to-late Twentieth Century. They are reviewed by the critics who understand them best, and who give us lively insights into the historical and social forces in play as they were being written.”
—Ann Bannon, author of The Beebo Brinker Chronicles

Tebot Bach Reading: Form and the Normal Informal

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The reading last night at Golden West went about as well as I could have hoped for. I had a chance to read a couple of fairly long poems, including the premiere reading of “The Upbringing of J. Alfred P.,” in which I got to “channel” the voice of Prufrock’s mother. The audience gathered for a group photograph afterwards, and I am grateful to each person’s attentive appreciation of my new work. After 40 minutes, I still had not read any poems from The Headwaters of Nirvana, copies of which — despite its neglect — found their way home in different hands than brought them to the reading.

I want to thank Alex Umlas and Mifanwy Kaiser in particular for giving me a chance to read at length. We talked about the chance that I might lead at Tebot Bach poetry workshop in January or early February, 2020. I read two poems that used the words “make up” in them, and was fortunate enough to have Shannon Phillips in the audience as they auditioned for a place in her upcoming project.

Golden West - Group Photo 2019