Kamau Brathwaite (1930-2020); Kirk Douglas (1916-2020)

February 4, 2020

I just heard the news that Kamau Brathwaite has died, and I regret that I don’t have time to comment on this event. If you don’t know his writing, then put aside whatever you might be reading and get familiar with him.





February 5, 2020

Kirk Douglas (1916 – 2020)


A Retrospective List of Prominent L.A. Writers


George Hitchcock (1914-2010) was a poet, playwright, and painter who was fond of palindromes. He named his publication project KAYAK, in part, because of the droll pleasure of that word’s reversibility. Today’s date is a numerical palindrome, and it marks both the performance of Punxsutawney Phil and the Super Bowl contest, neither of which I have a bet on other than several thousand dollars of total indifference.

I remember a poetry reading hosted by Lee Rossi, to celebrate the publication of an issue of TSUNAMI magazine in 1989, that occurred on Super Bowl Sunday. Some academic poets had scheduled a reading for that day, too, in Los Angeles, but once they learned that they were up against Super Bowl, they flinched and cancelled. TSUNAMI’s reading went ahead as scheduled and provided a score of people with a lively alternative. For those equally restless comrades on 02/20/2020, I urge you to visit a bookstore and take along a print-out of this post.

*. *. *

Twenty-three years ago, the L.A. Weekly ran a feature-length article by David Ulin in which 80 writers were chosen as representative figures of literary accomplishment in Los Angeles. The list did not claim to be a selection of this city’s best novelists, poets, or non-fiction authors, although if you weren’t on it, it was hard not to view it from that perspective. Regardless, it did permit many of us working in Southern California to grasp the sheer volume of serious writing being done within this imaginary community. Some of these writers have died or moved elsewhere since this list appeared, but the majority of them are still alive and writing, and deserving of your scrutiny.

Alex Abella
Daniel Akst
Luis Alfaro
Luis Alfaro
Gioconda Bell
Leon Bing
Laurel Ann Bogen
T.C. Boyle
Ray Bradbury
Edward Bunker
Octavia E. Butler
Bebe Moore Campbell
Frank Chin
Killarney Clary
Wanda Coleman
Michael Connelly
Bernard Cooper
Dennis Cooper
Robert Crais
Mike Davis
Harriet Doerr
Carol Muske Dukes
Harlan Ellison
Steve Erickson
John Espey
Susan Faludi
Montserrat Fontes
Sesshu Foster
Cristina Garcia
Amy Gerstler
Mikal Gilmore
Jack Grapes
Richard Grossman
Eloise Klein Healy
Michelle Huneven
Tara Ison
Paul Krassner
Jim Kruose
Michael Lally
Gavin Lambert
A.J. Langguth
Russell Leong
Eddie Little
Sandra Tsing Loh
Bia Lowe
Lewis MacAdams
Ruben Martinez
Douglas Messerli
Jack Miles
Brian Moore
Tannick Murphy
Yxta Mata Murray
Joy Nicholson
Nicole Panter
Gary Phillips
Donald Rawley —
Richard Rayner
John Rechy
Henry Rollins
Mark Salzman
Greg Sarris
Lisa See
Carolyn See
Hubert Selby Jr.
Michele Serros
Clancy Sigal
Mona Simpson
April Smith
Jerry Stahl
Jervey Tervalon
Lawrence Thornton
Hector Tobar
Michael Tolkin
Michael Ventura
Diana Wagman
Amy Uyematsu
Bruce Wagner
Diane Ward
Benjamin Weissman
Terry Wolverton


Lawrence Thornton commented that in writing about historical and political events he hoped to “make people take notice. It may not change things, but it can shine a light on something people will not otherwise see.”

Michael Tolkin: “The price of being a novelists in Los Angeles is — and always has been — that basically you’re in exile. You don’t have to run away to a Greek island to get away from literary culture, because you’re already in L.A.”

Tara Ison: “The difference between writing screenplays and novels is that one is like fucking for money, and the other is making love with someone you truly care about. It’s not a moral judgement — screenwriting is an amazing art, but I don’t have the gift. I was a whore. I loved being a whore. I was a very sincere whore. For me, though, screenwriting was a job, while the novel was a revelation.”

Luis Alfaro: “Los Angeles is like a bunch of little border towns.”

When this list was published in the L.A. Weekly in 1997, the introductory remarks made no mention of the deaths earlier in the decade of Charles Bukowski and Leland Hickman. There were some peculiar omissions in the list: Joseph Hansen; Gail Wronsky; Ron Koertge; Paul Vangelisti; Kamau Daaood; Holly Prado; Dennis Phillips; Deena Metzger; Peter Levitt; David St. John; Harry Northup; Stephen Yenser; Timothy Steele; Suzanne Lummis; Michael C. Ford; Robert Mezey; Scott Wannberg. And the introduction should have at least cited the work of Susan Straight and Kate Braverman as context, just as now the work of Paul Beatty should inform L.A. writers working on this particular purlieu.

If the list were updated to include only living writers, a substantial number of poets and writers have emerged in Los Angeles in the past 20 years that could fill the roster with aplomb. A partial list would include Will Alexander; Harryette Mullen; Chuck Rosenthal; Cecilia Woloch; Maggie Nelson; Luis Rodriguez; Tony Barnstone; Nina Revoyr; Aimee Bender; Janet Fitch; Viet Thanh Nguyen; Peter Gadol; Anthony Seidman; Charles Harper Webb; Robin Coste Lewis; Salvador Plascencia; Percival Everett. Some other writers are quickly on their way to this list, including Alexis Rhone Fancher and Michelle Bitting.

For young writers wishing to be as equally known and respected, I would urge you not to get overwhelmed by the amount of reading your nightstand awaits. The books of the above writers are not going anywhere, and several of them meet the following standard: “The only book worth reading once is the one worth reading twice.” Let that guide you in your own writing, too.

The film (“1917”) and the Poem (Louis Simpson’s “The Runner”)

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The quartet of major awards recently won by Sam Mendes’s “1917” did not do it much good at the local box office. Linda and I attended a mid-afternoon screening at the Art Theater on the final day of its run, and we enjoyed the privilege of the one percent: a private screening. No one else was in the theater. The staff in the lobby, afterwards, commented that the attendance the first two weeks had been steady, even if not particularly spectacular. The final week of the film’s run reflected a depleted interest, although perhaps the ongoing impeachment trial proved to be more of a distraction than expected.

The film’s story concerns a pair of soldiers who are given a message to carry to the front lines, where a trap awaits a battalion of soldiers who believe they have the Germans on the run. One of the messengers, Tom Blake, has a brother in the battalion’s ranks, a coincidence that is meant to give the errand ad additional urgency. Blake’s companion, Will Schofield, and he set off through a trench-maze of weary, idle-feisty soldiers. Their hasty, zig-zag lurching almost causes a brawl when an accidental collision with another soldier flares into nasty resentment. Once the pair reach no man’s land, the macabre landscape turns surly with a pulverized barrenness. The German trenches, much better built and maintained than the English ones, prove to have a trip-wire in their tunneled out barracks, and the messengers barely escape the collapsing walls. That scene, I confess, almost made me laugh with its cinematic familiarity.

The turning point in the story occurs after a German plane is shot down, and the messengers rescue the pilot from the burning cockpit. Rather than being taken prisoner, the German pilot stabs Blake. Schofield shoots the pilot and cradles Blake in his arms as he slowly bleeds to death. The scene is extended enough so that one has time to ponder how Blake would have lived if he had not been distracted from his brother’s predicament; in spontaneously focusing on the plight of the burning pilot, Blake naively makes himself vulnerable. In contrast, Schofield’s suggestion to shoot the pilot instead of pulling him out of the plane would have enabled the messengers to move on with their mission and reach the front lines in time to stop the battalion from getting slaughtered. Perhaps the point of the scene was to make us admire how Blake has retained his sense of humanity amidst the carnage. In treating the German pilot as if he were a brother, Blake’s loses his life but gives Schofield a renewed sense of purpose to his efforts.

It was about this point in the film that I thought of Louis Simpson’s long, blank-verse poem, “The Runner,” in which a messenger named Dodd loses his sense of direction and panics, throwing away his rifle as he runs for his life. He is both scorned by his fellow soldiers and punished, and the poem recounts how he works his way back into his comrade’s respect. If given a choice between watching “1917” again and reading “The Runner” for perhaps the tenth time in my life, I would choose Simpson’s poem and I urge all of you who admire “1917” to look it up.

I wrote a fairly long article about Simpson’s “New and Selected” for the Hungry Mind Review back in the late 1980s, and it remains one of my favorite pieces from that period; I hope to reprint it someday in a book-length collection of my reviews.

For those who want to read a novel that catches much of the futile agony of World War I, I would recommend a novel by William Harry Harding, “Three Women and the River: The Englishman Who Forgot His Own Name.” Kirkus Reviews gave it a favorable notice, and I highly recommend it.


“Nolo Contendere”: A Side-Door Acquital

Thursday, January 30, 2020

As the Senate prepares for a vote of acquittal in President Trump’s impeachment trial, the refusal to call witnesses becomes essentially a plea of “nolo contendere.” In “acquitting,” the GOP admits that it cannot refute the claim that the President used public money, allotted for the defense of a country against the predations of a foreign power, as a means of attempting to extract information that would help his re-election campaign. The Senate of the U.S. Congress appears to have a “client,” the U.S. President, a rather unusual arrangement in a legal proceeding.

None of this should be surprising, just as Trump’s re-election by the Electoral College in 2020 should not catch anyone off-guard. Senator Diane Feinstein once again revealed her faux liberal inclinations by saying recently that she believed the voters in the upcoming election should decide whether Trump remains president. And what will she say when Trump’s opponent receives 70 million votes, “defeating” Trump by over 6,000,000 votes — and yet — yes, unbelievably yet — Trump remains president? How can a man loathed by a majority of the American public be reelected? Just watch. In terms of malfeasant corruption, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Well, hush money in all its various subtle iterations is nothing new in this president’s operations. That GOP senators could admit that Trump did commit the transgressions detailed in the House charges, but not convict him only shows that they are utterly beholden to those whose wealth ranks them in the top one tenth of one percent. No doubt this tiny sliver of people, who own almost as much wealth as one-half of the U.S. population, will find ways to “reward” those GOP senators for limiting their censure of the President to remarks that his attempted shake-down of the Ukrainian government was “inappropriate.” In fact, would any of us be shocked if we found out that GOP senators had called certain wealthy constituents and said, “I’ve been thinking about my impeachment vote. Would you do me a favor?”



It should be noted that the legal challenges involving the ratification of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) are intertwined with the struggle to forestall the imposition of a political tyrant on this country’s taxpayers.


Rainbo Records (R.I.P.) and Darnton’s “Communications Circuit”

Monday, January 27, 2020

Robert Darnton’s “communications circuit” has been the most influential concept I’ve encountered in the past two decades. I never have figured out why no one ever mentioned it to me while I was in graduate school (1997-2004). Darnton’s diagram had been around for some time by then; in fact, I just found an article by Adriaan van Der Well that was derived from a talk given in 2000, in Maine, entitled “The Communications Circuit Revisited.”


Given that UCSD’s Literature department emphasized its affiliations with Cultural Studies, it seems odd that Darnton was never mentioned. For that matter, the notion of “the history of the book” was never discussed either. Today’s news, though, that a legendary record-pressing plant in Los Angeles is shutting down operations is a last-minute addition to my lecture later today about print culture on West Coast after World War II.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Darnton’s diagram, I urge you to locate it with a quick search through your browser, and then go to the article on Rainbo Records:


My sorrow at this closure is ambivalent, for I was made aware of the environmental damage of vinyl record productions years ago. These records, however, still reverberate with my youthful recollections of having something beyond books with which to share imaginative, mind-expansive culture that also liberated one’s body.

Time to hum it again: “May the Circle Be Unbroken.” 45 rpm circles.

The rest of Los Angeles is “mourning” the death of basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter in a helicopter crash yesterday, the news of which stunned me briefly, too. (Long Beach activist had an acutely insightful twitter post about “collective mourning,” for which he apparently received considerable vituperation. Hang in there, James. I’m on your side!) I admire athletic contests as a domain of physical democracy in which talent usually matters more than the class privileges of birth. On the other hand, of course, discourses of gender and albeism erode that “democracy” of merit as pervasively as in politics. Nevertheless, Bryant’s death precludes the possibilities of a “second act” that might have been empowered by the accomplishments of his “first act” in unexpected ways, especially if he would have found ways to lead in rectifying his alleged behavior on July 1, 2003. I suspect that impact would have been felt by several million people in Southern California, none of whom (and that includes myself) ever saw him play his sport in person. Sexual education in matters of masculine prerogatives should have been his most lasting legacy, not his sports career. Although that was probably always a dim possibility, it now is almost completely foreclosed, unless his survivors reconcile themselves to that necessity.

As a final side-note, I suppose there is one parallel that can be drawn between the performance of an outstanding athlete and an influential writer. One quick indicator of a writer’s stature is whether her or his writing has a concordance. Emily Dickinson, I like to remind my students, has merited not only a concordance of her poems, but a concordance of her letters. In a similar manner, Kobe Bryant had a “map” made of every shot he took as a professional athlete.


Emily Dickinson made an extraordinarily high percentage of her three-point shots. In fact, she made them from the other half of the court.



The above link is in regards to a double body-blow to the vinyl renaissance.

“Velvet”: The Guardia Civil and ICE

Monday, January 20, 2020

Yesterday’s NYT Book Review devoted a full page to LORD OF ALL THE DEAD: A Nonfiction Novel by Javier Cercas (translated by Anne McLean). The review took note of how Franco’s tyrannical repression may have technically ended with his death in the mid-1970s, but Spanish society was only able to begin immersing itself in contemporary culture in subsequent decades because it subjected itself to what Norman Klein has described as “the social imaginary.” In this instance, Spain committed itself to complete silence about Franco’s “killing fields” and its vigilant brand of fascist rule.

Nowhere has the permeating intransigence of this silence been so palpable as in the delightful “Velvet,” which is the most charming soap opera I have ever watched. In fact, it’s the only soap opera I’ve ever watched, unless one counts “Project Runway” and “Mad Men” as soap operas; in point of face, “Velvet” has more than a slight echo of these American programs. The acting “Velvet” is superb, and on occasion the directing is as acutely alert to oblique angles as one could hope for. The story takes place over a long enough period of time that one sees the effects of age on the cast, and one finds oneself attracted to the characters as if to an hitherto unknown imaginary family of very distant cousins. The second half starts to drag, in terms of plot, and one could easily stop after the first two “seasons,” but by then one is hooked on the passions of the characters.

The story is set in Spain in the 1950s and 1960s. In not a single frame, however, does a member of the Guardia Civil appear, wearing his distinctive hat and carrying a submachine gun. My recollection is that they would patrol, at a minimum, in pairs, and they were still ubiquitous in the early 1970s. If anything, they seemed more on the alert, given the influx of hippie-type youth and the various leftist insurgencies of the late 1960s.

The erasure of the police state from “Velvet” remains a haunting image in and of itself. The show was apparently a major hit in Spain, before becoming internationally recognized, and surely critics in Spain must have taken note of this aporia. But perhaps not. If the scorn of the Frankfurt School for the seductive undertow of the culture industry is still accurate, then it is in such a show as “Velvet” that one can observe how willingly those engaged in commercial culture erase oppression and its consequences.

I wonder, therefore, what the equivalent might be forty years from now, if a “Velvet” type story — say of a social media company instead of a fashion house — were to be set in Los Angeles. It would probably not include any agents of ICE at work, with all the urgency of their commander-in-chief to “cleanse” American society. A novel is waiting to be written in 2050: “Lord of All the Departed…. And Refused.”

Post-Script: As noted in the NYT Book Review, Javier Cercas is also the author of “SOLDIERS OF SALAMIS,” first published in Spanish to considerable acclaim in 2001. Anne McLean also did the translation into English, and the book is available in a paperback edition.

Elizabeth Warren and the “Elephant in the Room”

January 15, 2020

NOT JUST AN ELEPHANT: Up to Our Asses in Elephant Dung

California voters begin casting ballots in less than a month. The one question that needs to be asked continues to be neglected; in fact, in last night’s debate in Iowa between Democratic candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren was the only one to bring up “the elephant in the room,” which is the aging population. At a phenomenal pace, the number of 70 year olds in the United States is escalating at a rate that would cause the Federal Reserve to panic, if inflation were equivalently soaring. The density of this shift is exacerbated by the fact that many of these Baby Boomers had their economic lives wiped out by the Great Recession.

The economic strangulation of the first increment of the Baby Boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1954) was not a sudden reversal of good fortune, however; rather, it can be traced to a stasis that was in full force a quarter-century ago. Read the following paragraph, which opened an article the Santa Monica Evening Outlook on Wednesday, July 19, 1995 (page B1):

“Raises will sink to historic lows in California next year, and employees will play a growing share of medical costs, according to an annual job survey, released Tuesday.”

The Great Recession was indeed devastating to the Baby Boom generation, but this was only the culmination of a sequence of “minor” recessions (1974; 1982; 1992-1997 — yes, in Los Angeles County the recession lasted that long — and much of the first half of the first decade of this century). In between these recessions, stagnant wage growth and constant job attrition combined to force all too many baby boomers to deplete their scant retirement accounts.

The result will show in about ten years, when 80 year olds need assisted living care and nursing home assistance; I assure you that the nation will turn its back on this cohort, and kick them to the sidewalk. How do I know this?
Four years ago, Bernie Sanders proposed a pittance of an increase in social security for aging baby boomers. In contrast, he offered young people a free college education. As far as I can tell, he has not learned anything from his failure to grasp the enormity of the problems faced by aging baby boomers.

Do I feel hopeless in the face of this economic repression?

Yes, because I didn’t see anyone on the stage last night who is capable of defeating the incumbent President. If nominated, Elizabeth Warren might well win the popular vote by an even wider margin than Hillary Clinton did, but she will lose the Electoral College because Trump will cheat, in ways similar to elections in 2000 and 2004, not to mention his own campaign in 2016. Cheating in the United States, unfortunately, carries minimal penalties. Did the Astros cheat in the World Series? Of course they did! Did they lose their World Series title? Ha-ha-ha-ha. Of course not. Instead of the MLB Commissioner vacating their title from the record books — leaving only the contestants’ names and an Astro-asterisk “Cheater” — and demanding the trophy back, he all but said that the trash can the Houston players banged on to transmit the stolen signs should be installed in the Astros’ Hall of Fame.

President Trump is, in fact, currently under indictment for an act of cheating committed well over a year before the ballots will be counted. The evidence is strong enough that it is likely he will only be saved by a packed jury, aka Senate Republicans whose loyalty sleeps soundly in the lair of stupendous corporate wealth.

President Trump: 2016-2024. The thought itself is beyond repulsive, and yet it points to the essence of the intertwined connivance at the heart of this country’s deceptive pretensions to self-governance. What is truly needed is a constitutional convention that mandates that the presidency is determined by total popular vote. Short of that, corporations will continue to control the Electoral College, and the hard-working citizens of this country will not share proportionately in the wealth that their knowledge and efforts make possible.

In the face of certain defeat, however, I refuse to surrender without some semblance of resistance. I will still vote, and I intend to cast my vote for Senator Warren in the California primary. I don’t intend to let Senator Sanders’s opinion that a woman can’t win the Presidency deter me. And I don’t blame her for not shaking his hand after the debate. On national TV, he called her a liar.

Even if a major miracle were to occur, and she were nominated and elected in November, the task she faces is more overwhelming than she realizes. It’s not a question of an “elephant in the room.” This country’s military-industrial complex is a mansion full of elephant dung. Any country as addicted to military prowess as this one will only free itself from this bondage when it comes to terms with the full costs of empire.

I suppose I sound like the kind of disputant that I dislike in Bernie Sanders’s approach to campaign rhetoric. His constant scolding, no matter how justifiable, wears thin very quickly. He is a doctor who has the right diagnosis, but absolutely no bedside manner whatsoever.

Mea culpa etiam.

Finally, if someone were to ask why Amy Klobuchar shouldn’t also be considered a woman who could defy Sanders’s prognostication, I would say that the Minnesota senator has no more chance than Walter Mondale did in 1984. Klobuchar is a younger version of Joe Biden, someone who is all too willing to let the military-industrial complex continue to prosper along with the credit card companies whose usury is enforced by a global system of weapons of mass destruction.

Part II

In case anyone thinks I am exaggerating the crisis for working people in this country, I would point to the following three articles to underline the urgency of supporting Warren’s policies.

“The stock market is near record highs, but working class Americans (often defined as those without college degrees) continue to struggle. If you’re only a high school graduate, or worse, a dropout, work no long pays. If the federal minimum wage in 1968 had kept up with inflation and productivity, it would now be $22 an hour. Instead, it’s $7.25.

“Who Killed the Knapp Family? — OPINION by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn
The New York TIMES, Sunday, January 12, 2020; Sunday Review: Ideas, Opinion, News Analysis; Page 4

*. *. *. *. *

“Wage inequality is surging in California — and not just on the coast. Here’s why”


*. *. *. *

“Report: Six Banks Reaped $18 Billion Last Year from Trump Tax Cuts”


The “V” in Valentine’s Day Stands for “Vote”

Tuesday, January 14, 2019

The “V” in Valentine’s Day stands for “Vote”

I am posting a notification about the upcoming “Writers Resist” event at Beyond Baroque on a TUESDAY as a means of reminding people that the upcoming Election Day, in California, will be on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

While I support such presentations as “Writers Resist,” the most useful way that writers can act as engaged citizens is to spread the word about California’s Voter Choice Act!

If you live in one of the following counties in California, you will receive a ballot in the mail 28 days before the upcoming primary election: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sacramento, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Tuolumne. Mark Valentine’s Day on your calendar. Will you may “like” two or three or even four candidates, you can vote for only one: so on Valentine’s Day, tell Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Amy Klobuchar that you love “love” their policy platforms by mailing in your ballot.

In other words, California primary voting will be underway less than a month from now!

I have to confess that it will seem odd not to go to a polling place on Election Day itself; I don’t know that I have ever mailed in a ballot. Since elections profoundly affect our public as well as private lives, I have always enjoyed the public aspect of voting. While the Voters Choice Act will, on a technical level, allow me to vote in person, it will no longer necessarily be at a place that I can walk to, another aspect I have always enjoyed about voting.

I do have one key question, though: how do we know that our ballot was delivered?

Did anyone consider an electronic confirmation? This is to say that every mailed ballot should have a scannable code on it, and when the local Registrar receives it, the ballot is scanned and a message is sent (via text message on a phone, or to an e-mail address) in which a voter receives a formal acknowledgement of the receipt of the ballot.

As far as I can tell, one of the needs for making this change has not been widely mentioned: the difficulty of getting workers for the polling stations. At a time of wide-spread employment, finding responsible individuals who can monitor polling stations on a 14 hour shift for relatively low pay is not that easy. The new approach will eliminate the time-consuming task of recruiting workers for an underpaid civic task.

For further information, go to:

For the California Primary, the following dates should be noted:
Last Day to Register to Vote Feb 18, 2020
New Citizen (sworn in after February 17, 2020) Voter Registration Period Feb 18 – Mar 3, 2020
Last Day to Request Vote-By-Mail Ballot Feb 25, 2020
Election Day (7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) Mar 3, 2020

Sunday, January 19, 2020, 1:00 – 4:00 PM
Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center
681 Venice Boulevard, Venice, CA
Admission free.

David St. John, Jim Natal, and Jan Wesley again will be presenting a contingent of raised literary voices on Sunday, January 19, 2020 from 1:00-4:00 PM. The venue remains Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice.

This year’s list of participating readers features many of Southern California’s finest upcoming and established poets and writers:
Doug Brown / Shonda Buchanan / Kate Gale / Brian Ingram / Dana Johnson / Casandra Lane / Suzanne Lummis / Sarah Maclay / Doug Manuel / Marsha de la O / Judith Pacht / Alicia Partnoy / Phil Taggart / Amy Uyematsu / David Ulin / Gail Wronsky

The initial Writers Resist reading was held in January, 2017, just prior to the inauguration of our current president. It was presented in conjunction with a national and international day of literary protest and attracted an overflow crowd of concerned citizens. It has been presented in Los Angeles annually in January since then.

Writers Resist is not affiliated with any political party. The focus of Writers Resist events is on the future, and how writers can be a unifying force for the protection of democracy. The only thing we “resist” is that which attacks or seeks to undermine those most basic principles as set forth in the United States Constitution.

In chaotic times like these people look to writers and poets for hope and inspiration. Writers Resist is our way of doing something to provoke positive change. Please join us. And then VOTE!

Follow Writers Resist Los Angeles on Twitter: @WritersResistLA
Find Writers Resist Los Angeles on Facebook:
Contact us via email: writersresistLA@gmail.com


Beth Ruscio and the Repertory of LA Poets

Saturday, January 11, 2020

I first saw Beth Ruscio act at the Padua Hills Theater Festival back in the early 1980s, when she performed in one of Leon Martell’s plays, Hoss Drawin’. Thirty years later, I was even more impressed by the poems she read during one of the early evening presentations at the Idyllwild Poetry Festival. Her maturation as a poet not only reflects a significant personal accretion, but perhaps marks the tipping point for a future anthology of Los Angeles-based poets. Just as it would be a fairly easy task to assemble an anthology of poets in New York City whose lives and writing are embedded in the visual arts world, an anthology of actress/actor-poets in Los Angeles would probably be the only one of its kind. Perhaps such an anthology should only — at least in the first decade of its iterations — be published in an on-line version, allowing the poets to change the work that represents them. In a sense, each poet would be allowed the pleasure of a personal repertory. Perhaps, in fact, an emphasis on selecting poems in varied combinations — the same way that an established theater company blends past favorites with premieres — would be one pragmatic way of continuing to deconstruct the inclination of canon formation to perpetuate itself with as little dialectical conflict as possible. As a poetics of anthology construction, a repertory derived from “plasticity” — a force-field that seems second-nature to this cluster of Southern California poets as a direct effect of their theatrical training — might also enable poets elsewhere to reimagine the palpitating imperative of a poem’s enveloped habitat.

In the meantime, Alexis Rhone Fancher has chosen three of Beth Ruscio’s poems to feature in the most recent issue of Cultural Weekly.

Beth Ruscio: Three Poems

Note on the Featured Poet: Beth Ruscio is the current winner of the Brick Road Poetry Prize, and her collection SPEAKING PARTS will be published in Spring, 2020. Her poetry has been Pushcart Prize nominated and won finalist honors for several prizes and awards, including The Wilder Prize, The Sunken Garden Prize, The Tupelo Quarterly Prize, The Ruth Stone Poetry Award, and The Two Sylvias Prize. Beth is also an accomplished award winning actress, and a mentor at Otis College of Art and Design.

POST-SCRIPT: That Beth Ruscio would have gravitated to the Padual Hills Theater Festival is not surprising, given that its founder, Murray Mednick, is both a poet and playwright. In fact, Mednick’s poetry was included in my anthology POETRY LOVES POETRY (1985) along with other L.A. poets who had theater as part of their artistic practice, including Laurel Ann Bogen; Suzanne Lummis; Lee Hickman; and Michael Lally.

Homo Erectus: exit, stage left; Homo sapiens: exit, stage right

The following article is the best summary I have recently encountered about the evolution from Australopithecines to Homo sapiens:

Twenty years of discoveries changing story of human evolution

Reading Brooks Roddan’s post, “The Last Writer In San Francisco,” (Monday, January 6, 2020) led me to think this morning about what it might be like to be the last writer, not just in San Francisco, but on the entire planet. I don’t mean creative writer. I mean a writer of any language.

Consider what the above article reports: about 130,000 years ago, the island of Java experienced climate change, and homo erectus faltered in adjusting to the new environment. Exit, stage left.

What if current planetary climate change leads to Homo sapiens exiting stage right, and artificial intelligence becomes the sole perpetrator and adjudicator of conscious logic? Robots totter forth as the only direct survivors of the Anthropocene’s protagonist. Would artificial intelligence invent its own alphabet to record its imaginative conjectures, and thereby begin engaging in altering ecosystems? Or would ambient computer codes become simply a tepid replication that functioned within the planet’s environment with about the same level of self-willed direction as amoeba?