Tag Archives: Beyond Baroque

Eliot Katz’s Unofficial Study Guide for “Tweets from Hell”

January 2, 2020

As a way of prepping for Suzanne Lummis’s world debut presentation of “Tweets from Hell” at Beyond Baroque tomorrow evening (Friday, January 3; 8 p.m.), I would recommend as an unofficial study guide the long excerpt from Eliot Katz’s manuscript in progress, which has just been published in Dispatches from the Poetry Wars:

Excerpts from President Predator: Poems for the Trump Years 

For those in the NYC area, Katz will reading with NY State Poet Laureate Alicia Ostriker and Colorado-based poet Jim Cohn (www.poetspath.com) at the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery, near Houston, NYC) on Monday evening, January 27, from 6-7:30 p.m. More information about this reading is posted on the Calendar section of www.bowerypoetry.com.

Carol Ellis reads from LOST AND LOCAL at Beyond Baroque

Beyond Baroque was founded by George Drury Smith a half-century ago as a publishing project. When the initial issue of its magazine faltered, the building that housed the printing equipment also became a refuge for a poetry workshop and other improvised cultural events. The magazine regrouped, and eventually achieved a substantial circulation in a newsprint version. In the mid-1970s, stand-alone collections of poetry were published by poets such as Maxine Chernoff and K. Curtis Lyle, as well as Eloise Klein Healy, who would go on to become L.A.’s first poet laureate. In the century’s final decade, under Fred Dewey’s direction, a series of books appeared by poets such as Eve Wood. Earlier this decade, Los Angeles poet Henry Morro inaugurated a new series of Beyond Baroque books, directed by a collective committee, under the imprint of the Pacific Poetry Series.

The most recent selection is Carol Ellis’s LOST AND LOCAL, which will be officially published with a debut reading on Saturday, December 14th at Beyond Baroque, at 8 p.m. Ellis received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa with a dissertation on James Wright. She subsequently taught at several colleges in California, and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Her writing has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Comstock Review, The Cincinnati Review, Saranac Review, and Cider Press Review; her chapbooks are HELLO (Two Plum Press, 2018), and I Want a Job (Finishing Line Press, 2014). I wrote a review of the latter title, which appeared in

Suzanne Lummis, one of the major editorial advocates of Southern California and West Coast poetry as well as a nationally recognized poet, just sent me the book’s back cover material, which I reprint with her permission.

CAROL ELLIS — LOST AND LOCAL

“Leaving the theater I stand outside in a dark of black lipstick the world wears when everyone leaves.”

Language like this–savory, sensuous, and ripe with the unexpected–is among Carol Ellis’ strengths, along with an intelligence that converts the ordinary into the wild and strange. They pour from her, these poems, not in the form of stories, narrative, but in a profusion of responses to the world, the seen, the experienced and the imagined.

“Thunder. The dogs bark. The gods are angry say those who believe in gods. The gods are always angry or out in the back alley by the dumpster smoking cigarettes.”

Reader, think of Carol Ellis’ poems this way: it’s like stepping into the realm of dreams, but dreams wittier and more sumptuous than those that favor most of us each night.

*. *. *. *. * *

Carol Ellis’ Lost and Local possesses a lyrical acuity that is absolving and redemptive. She sees experience as a channel to catharsis. In poem after poem there’s a memorable humanity, a capacious, intelligent concentration immersed in the essential qualities of daily living. How rare it is to read a poet so exceedingly self-aware. These poems record those moments when we catch a glimpse of a world from which all the usual epithets have been stripped away. – David Biespiel

“Glowing with fervent sagacity, Carol Ellis’s LOST AND LOCAL reclaims the buoyant continuity of daily life as one of the prime affirmations enshrined in poignant poetic endeavors. The graceful rhythms of her prose poems, in particular, quietly extract a knowledge of the local’s meridians as all that seeks solace in our memories and encounters. LOST AND LOCAL is the rare book in which the cartography of the poems will inspire readers to find enough seclusion to read out loud to themselves, for what better way is there to absorb the amplitude of Ellis’s recitation — as intimate as it is shy, and eager to impart its watchwords.” — Bill Mohr

FROM MY BLOG, OVER THREE YEARS AGO:

Thursday, September 15, 2016: I WANT A JOB – Carol Ellis (Finishing Line Press, 2014)

“Post-Flaneur Poet”: “I Want a Job” by Carol Ellis

Back when I was just getting this blog underway, in the late spring of 2013, I wrote a brief comment on Oriana Ivy’s prize-winning chapbook, April Snow (Thursday, June 20). Finishing Line Press did a very handsome job on the printing of Ms. Ivy’s collection, and I have over a half-dozen other chapbooks from the same press with production values at least within the same range as April Snow. One has to wonder what happened to their sense of pride in the dismal job done on Carol Ellis’s very fine collection, I WANT A JOB. The printing looks no better than photocopying done on a machine that is running low on toner, and the small type only increases the text’s smudgy quality. Ellis deserved a far more substantial effort put into the publication of her writing.

Ellis, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, was born in Detroit and educated at the University of Iowa. After getting a Ph.D., with a dissertation on James Wright, she has (in her own words) “been around the academic block.” In punching the adjunct second-hand clock, with all of its constrictions on one’s own time to write, she somehow has enabled her imagination to sustain itself; the variety of tones in the poems and prose poems in her first book suggests that this collection barely serves as a representative presentation of that self-determination.

Chapbooks tend to be fallible collections; they all too often present a false sense of familiarity with the featured poet. In Ellis’s collection, one has a sense of three or four poems missing between each individual selection. I have never read a full-length manuscript by Ellis, so I confess that this is sheer guesswork, but rarely have encountered a first chapbook of poems that hinted at a substantial reservoir of other work awaiting revelation. As for the form of that undisclosed work, it is an equal guess as to how much of it might be prose poetry. Of the 25 poems in I WANT A JOB, 15 are prose poems, but Ellis is at ease in both arrangements, so the 60-40 proportion remains at the level of conjectural contingency. One could argue that the collection opens and closes with a prose poem; that simply reflects mathematical odds.

The poems in the second half of I WANT A JOB are especially noteworthy, and one in particular glows like a lyric translated from some obscure language into yet another language, before finding its unexpectedly perfected by this manumission from a long meditation. “First It Was Hot and Then It Was Dark” is not at all a typical poem, and part of its aura of tender supplication derives from the candid depiction of existential solitude in many of the accompanying poems. “Hot/Dark,” however, can more than stand on its own merits; it shimmers with tones of both restraint and an overflowing suffusion of the completely incomplete.

All this time trying hard to be alive,
the earth famously gone. Nothing to think
because one was thinking.
First it was hot and then it was dark.
She took off her sweater, turned on a light,
thought past the point of thinking.
Was there ever such a world repeated,
the entire place entirely too interesting
and entirely too forgotten?

This is one of those occasions in reading a collection of poems where one can do little else but put the book down, walk away, and challenge oneself to answer that question. A good place to begin would be to work on translating it into another language, for surely such a distillation of human consciousness can only be fully apprehended if reflected in the mirror of another concise diction and syntax.

Most likely, in fact, readers will find themselves putting this book aside after reading two or three pieces and giving themselves a chance to absorb sudden little bursts of sideways illumination. Ellis’s poetry is different enough from the fashion show of American poetry that it will take several readings to begin absorbing its whispered defiance of a lifetime of erasure. Ellis quotes James Tate’s poem, “Consumed”: “you are the stranger who gets stranger by the hour” in a poem entitled “Leaving Portland.” Ellis savors this transmogrification as a chance to help the reader apprehend the undercurrents of daily life, of how the visits to a plant nursery (“Getting Around Women”) or library (“The Book of Dad”) or bookstore (“Divinia Comedia”) or farmer’s market (“Repetition”) contain the rebuke of forestalled epiphanies. Her strategy is not that of a flaneur, however, for she is only too aware of how others thoughtlessly diminish one’s efforts to nourish the compassion of simple dignity (“Whore, Driving”).

In not flinching when confronted with this depleting pattern, this poet exhibits more courage than she will ever be given credit for. She’s not the only one, of course, of whom this can be said, but she is one of the few poets who understands the full measure of the imbalance.
“my future appears in leaves – the goodbye that does not think – the end of thinking – so I try to think more now – in the short space remaining – in the space allowed – but rather think about the sun and how right now it has the frightening power of a god – never underestimate a god – pray for mercy – gather nerve as one gathers flowers – the chuckling frogs – tucked into steep sides and the hard ache of a tall bird coming to find them.”
(”Frog Chuckle”)

Nostalgic Reckoning: Viggo Mortensen, Poet and Photographer

Monday, February 19, 2019 —- Nostalgic Reckoning: Viggo Mortensen, Poet and Photographer

Linda and I saw “Green Book” at the Art Theater last night, and were very impressed with the acting and the screenwriting. While the entire ensemble of actors in the film was superb, the two lead actors held our attention throughout what might have been a tedious biopic. The film seemed closer to an hour and a half, rather than its actual running time, and that is a more of an accomplishment than one might guess.

I had never seen Mortensen in a film before, so it was a pleasure to see just how fine an actor he is. Once again, I wish to thank him for being part of the Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary celebration, during which his books were featured at BB’s bookstore. I have been savoring two of them, “Canciones de invierno / Winter Songs” and “Ramas para un Nido.” The latter is a survey of his exquisite work as a photographer; in the former, on page 31, is a poem called “Hillside” / “La Cuesta.” It is one of the best short lyrics I have read in many months, and deserves memorizing in both English and Spanish. If I had some easy way of getting permission to include the entire poem in this blog, I would do so, for it is a poem that deserves to be much better known. Mortensen, it should be noted, did the translations himself.

If memory serves me correctly, the last actor to be nominated for an Academy Award who was also a writer was Sam Shepard, who won a Pulitzer Prize for playwrighting, but deserved it more than once. Mortensen’s volume of photographs concludes with a comment by Shepard, on a page by itself: “I feel like I’ve never had a home, you know? I feel related to the country, this country, and yet I don’t know exactly where I fit in… There’s always this kind of nostalgia for a place, a place where you can reckon with yourself.” In both his poems and photographs, Mortensen makes himself sincerely vulnerable to an intense nostalgic reckoning with himself as a disguised nomad.

“Canciones de Invierno / Winter Songs,” which constitutes a selection of poems written between 1989 of 2010, can be obtained by writing to Perceval Press, 1223 Wilshire Blvd., Suite F, Santa Monica, CA 90403. www.percevalpress.com

Venice West Spotlighted on KCET’s “Lost Los Angeles”

Sunday, November 11, 2018

KCET has been producing and broadcasting a series of shows on “Lost Los Angeles,” the third season of which will feature programs on Yosemite and the deserts to the east of the County of Los Angeles. Several weeks ago, I was interviewed for two hours about Venice West by the producer of an upcoming show on Venice that will also examine Venice’s origins as the real estate fantasy of Abbot Kinney at the beginning of the last century, and how real estate has become the only game in its vicinity in this decade.

I have no idea how much of the footage KCET will use from the interviews it did at Beyond Baroque with Richard Modiano, George Drury Smith, and me, but I am certain the program will be worth viewing. Here are the broadcast times:

Tuesday, November 13, 8:30 PM PT
Wednesday, November 14, 1:30 AM PT
Wednesday, November 14, 11:30 AM PT
Thursday, November 15, 5:30 AM
Thursday, November 15, 12:30 PM
Saturday, November 17, 2:30 PM

KCETLINK
Saturday, November 17, 6:30 PM

Beyond Baroque’s Gala Celebration Week

Friday, November 9, 2018

Around a dozen years ago, I told the artistic director of Beyond Baroque that the institution needed to do something to celebrate its upcoming 40th anniversary. I had returned to Los Angeles County in 2006 to take up my teaching post at CSU Long Beach, and was happy that Beyond Baroque was still managing to survive. In the five year stretch between 2003 and 2008, for instance, there would have been little point to anniversary party. The place was barely keeping its doors open. Twice during that period I arrived at 681 Venice Blvd. on the last day a grant application was due, and worked until midnight to help Fred Dewey get the grant to the post office in time. Twice, we arrived at the post office to get in line for the postmark with less than ten minutes to spare. I was hardly the only one that had to endure demands from its artistic director for assistance made necessary by his improvised planning, but I remember the second time as being especially exasperating. I had told him the first time, “Don’t ever do this to me again.” And of course, he did. Needless to say, there was no special observance of Beyond Baroque’s 40th anniversary, but the place did manage to hobble along until Richard Modiano took over in this decade, and things began to improve; Beyond Baroque is now poised to take a much deserved bow as one of the most deserving cultural resources of Los Angeles.

On Saturday, November 10th, there will be a sold-out gala celebration of Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary. Its founder, George Drury Smith, will be honored along with Viggo Mortensen, and John Doe and Exene Cervenka (who met at Beyond Baroque’s workshop) will perform together. In addition to the banquet on Saturday to be held in an outdoor tent in the parking lot beside the SPARC building, other events and honors include:

Thursday, November 8, 2018 – 7:30 at Beyond Baroque – “Beyond Mr. Smith”
The premiere screening of Peter Fitzgerald Adams’ documentary about George Drury Smith. It also includes a discussion of Beyond Baroque’s early days moderated by Richard, and featuring George, Exene Cervenka and Jim Krusoe.

Friday, November 16 – Beyond Baroque Proclamation Day at Los Angeles City Hall.

An official proclamation honoring Beyond Baroque will be made at the Los Angeles City Hall on Friday, November 16. The proclamation will be made at 11 am.

November 16,17, 18 – Southern California Poetry Festival

Nov.16 – 8 pm – Anne Waldman & Will Alexander
Anne and Will will read together in celebration of his lifetime achievement award. They’ll be joined by Janice Lee and Justin Desmangles.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2426449977582707/

Nov.17 – 4:30 pm – Beyond Baroque in Retrospect.
Bill Mohr and Laurel Ann Bogen will be joined by Amy Gerstler, Dennis Phillips, Suzanne Lummis, and S.A. Griffin. They’ll discuss they’ll read from the work of some of the key poets – including their own – to make Beyond Baroque their home over the years. It will be followed by a potluck.

https://www.facebook.com/events/193570338204455/

Nov. 17 – 8 pm – Kimiko Hahn, Morgan Parker, and Vanessa Viillareal
The second edition of the New Series. Three poets read work that Beyond Barqoue commissioned specially for the festival.

https://www.facebook.com/events/287707972074254/

Beyond Baroque in 1998: The 30th Anniversary Rededication Candlelight Walk (Photographs)

Beyond Baroque in 1998

Twenty years ago, Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, California celebrated its 30th anniversary. Founded in a storefront on West Washington Blvd. by George Drury Smith as the headquarters for his nascent publishing project, Beyond Baroque magazine, the project had spawned a weekly poetry workshop, free and open to the public, that still meets on Wednesday evening, a reading series that has featured some of the most famous poets in the United States (Philip Levine, Mark Strand, John Ashbery, Amy Gerstler) as well as fiction writers, such as Charles Baxter. Under the direction of Alexandra Garrett, Beyond Baroque cultivated a superb library of small press publications, and it still operates a bookstore that can provide any young writer with a chance to peruse books not easily found at Barnes and Noble.

Beyond Baroque will be celebrating its 50th anniversary on November 10th with an extraordinary evening of featured artists, but before I write in this blog about this upcoming event, I first want to share with you some photographs I took of the evening on which poets recommitted themselves to this project. The president and artistic director of Beyond Baroque at that time, Fred Dewey, and I had come up with the idea of holding a brief pilgrimage to mark the 30th anniversary, and so we gathered at the Old Venice City Hall, lit some candles and walked up to West Washington, which now goes by the name of Abbott Kinney.

CandleWalk - BB30

The storefront in which Beyond Baroque operated was the first floor of one of the taller buildings on West Washington. The lot to the south was empty and used only in a minimal manner as a boat building and repair lot; it is occupied by a popular specialty. restaurant, Lemonade. This first picture focuses on George Drury Smith, and it appears that he is gazing offstage at road taken, and retaken, mulling over the changes on Venice Blvd. as we made the 12 minute walk. Just over his shoulder is Harry Northup, and he is facing Frances Dean Smith, one of the first members of the Wednesday night poetry workshop, founded by John Harris and Joseph Hansen.

GDS - BB - 30

This next photograph features John Harris, wearing a blue cap; he is obviously enjoying the company of Barry Simons, who gave several memorable readings at The Bridge on the other side of town in the early 1970s; since Frances Dean Smith could hardly afford the services of a babysitter in the early to mid-1960s, she often brought her daughter, Marina Bukowski, to this very room to listen to poets who now regard Ellyn Maybe (dark hair, blue pullover), the only one of this quartet still alive, as a writer who has truly honored their legacy with her vivacious poetry.

Haris - FDS - BB30

Holly Prado and Harry Northup, who met as a result of Harry reading FEASTS, the first major success I had with Momentum Press in the 1970s, are talking with George Drury Smith in the next photograph.

Holly - Harry - GDS - BB30

Ellyn and Frances again:

Ellyn - FSM -- BB30

John Thomas and Philomene Long drove from the Old Venice City Hall to the original site. John Thomas’s eponymous first book of poem had an extraordinary influence on the first generation of Beyond Baroque workshop poets.

John - Philomene - BB30

David James, on the far left, read his poems on a Friday evening in 1974 with me as the other featured poet. It must be said that David’s poems were far better received than mine were, as they should have been Although he eventually concentrated on film criticism, his poems are still a crucial contribution to my second anthology, “Poetry Loves Poetry” (1985).

David James - BB30

And now for some “cameo” photographs of other poets in attendance:

BB - 30 - CAMEO-1

BB - 30 - CAMEO2

BB -30 - CAMEO3

(All photographs (c) copyright Bill Mohr. Permission required to reproduce or disseminate these photographs in a form or medium.)

Beyond Baroque Celebrates the Deep State of the Beat Mind

Sunday, March 4, 2018

BEYOND BEAT at BEYOND BAROQUE: “It’s not a generation. It’s a state of mind.” — Diane Di Prima

I drove up to Venice yesterday afternoon to attend George Drury Smith’s talk about his life before he founded Beyond Baroque in 1968. There was also a meeting of a half-dozen members of the Board of Trustees to discuss a major event in November. When I walked into the main lobby, the first thing I saw was a flyer for this coming week’s celebration of Beat inspired poetry, music, and art. Organized by S.A. Griffin, who was one of the editors of The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, “Beyond Beat” is a five-day crash course in a literary movement that is well over 60 years old. Contrary to the claims of the Language and post-avant poets, Beat poetics is still an active principle in contemporary American poetry and therefore constitutes the eldest surviving movement of literate consciousness in the United States.

The entire program can be found at:
https://carmabum.blogspot.com/

“Beyond Beat” starts on Thursday, March 8 and runs through Monday, March 12th. Poets, performers, and presenters include Frank T. Rios, Will Alexander, Phoebe MacAdams, Paul Vangelisti, Brian Chidester, David Amran, Linda J. Albertao, Jack Brewer, Eve Brandstein, Pegarty Long, Laurel Ann Bogen, Rich Ferguson, Lorraine Perrotta, Michael C. Ford, Marc Olmsted, Gayle Davis, Joseph Patton, and Neeli Cherkovski.

I will be giving a talk on Venice West on Saturday, March 10, at 1:00 p.m. and moderating a panel from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Beyond Baroque
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

Beyond Beat: March 8 – 12, 2018
Organized by S.A. Griffin

The Los Angeles-Minnesota Connection

Saturday, August 5, 2017

“Emerging Writers” Grants in Minnesota

In less than four weeks, I will have students asking, “So what did you do during your summer vacation, Professsor Mohr?” and I’ll respond that “vacation” will deserve yet another set of scare quotes. It’s been several decades since I had a summer off. This year, I had originally hoped to visit two former students in Croatia and spend a couple weeks reading and writing at an arts colony they founded a couple years ago near Pula, but the illness of one of Linda’s sisters impinged on those plans, and so we have stayed in Los Angeles County this summer. I ended up teaching a summer course in 20th century American literature in June and early July, during which time I began reviewing the applications of over 200 writers who live in Minnesota. As is well known to writers in California, Minnesota is the land of milk and honey in terms of literary support. Of course, we who labor at any art other than screenwriting in California tell ourselves that Minnesota has to bribe its writers to stay there. Unless an economic infrastructure provided some cultural largesse, why else would one endure those endless winters?

All envious kidding aside, I was very happy to serve on this panel because I have long felt a kinship with the literary community in Minnesota. I first noticed the editorial hospitality of Minnesota towards poets based in Los Angeles in The Lamp in the Spine, a magazine edited by Jim Moore and Trish Hampl in the 1970s. Their issues included work by Doren Robbins, Holly Prado, and Ameen Alwan. Subsequently, I visited The Loft in 1986 along with Doren Robbins to contribute to an two-day celebration of Tom McGrath’s poetry on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

Two hundred applications, each with an average of 20 pages of writing, is quite a pile to go through and comment on, so being on the panel turned out to be a major undertaking, but it was also very gratifying to see how much good work is being done in Minnesota by writers who have not yet published a substantial amount of work. The grants were for “emerging writers,” which meant that these applicants did not necessarily have to compete with those whose precocity had already allowed them to flourish. Many of the applicants whose work I read in the past couple months will not have to wait too long for a book to come out, however. I spotted at least two dozen manuscripts, in the samples of these portfolios, that will no doubt end up published or scheduled for publication by the end of this decade. For those not chosen for the award, please know that I read carefully, and I truly wish I could have doubled or tripled the number of awards. While a total of fourteen people were listed as winners, alternates, finalists, or deserving of honorable mention, there were at least a half-dozen others whose writing I found memorable. I wished, in fact, that I could have them as students in a workshop and watch their work grow even more compelling and intriguing.

The Loft has released the names of the writers selected by the panel for the “emerging writers” grants in 2017, and I will let its announcement speak for itself.

https://loft.amm.clockwork.net/_asset/4440d4/Winners-of-the-2017-Emerging-Writers-Grant.pdf

Backlit by Blackness: Kerry James Marshall’s “Mastry” at MOCA

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Backlit by Blackness: Kerry James Marshall’s “Mastry” at MOCA

A couple of weeks ago, Hye Sook Park reported that Kerry James Marshall’s retrospective exhibition at MOCA was a must-see event. Even before her enthusiastic commentary, in fact, I had made a note in my memory’s calendar of the closing date of his show, which grew ever closer as the month has gone by. Getting time to see his show has not been easy: my teaching work glided straight from the end of the spring semester into the summer session course I am teaching without the slightest pause.

Two days ago, on Friday, we might have headed north, but on Thursday the place where my mother is being cared wrote me and said that her doctor would be visiting her on Friday; since I had never talked to him face-to-face in the past eight months, that priority cancelled any other possibility. We did drive up to Beyond Baroque that evening, though, and heard David St. John read from The Last Troubadour, and Christopher Merrill read an account of his long friendship with Agha Shahid Ali. As always, it’s a long trip from Long Beach to Beyond Baroque, but this time it was truly worth it. David is one of this country’s very best poets, and Christopher’s recollections made Ali a living presence in the room. I would have liked to have heard Christopher read some of his poems, too, but his choice to read a single piece made it all the more memorable.

On Saturday, with a rare empty square on the kitchen calendar, we saddled up and headed north. Marshall’s show is easily worth more than one visit, and I hope to return before it closes, if only to spend more time with an unframed painting from 2003 entitled “7 a.m. Sunday Morning.” Before I briefly talk about that painting, I want to list several pieces that impressed me almost as much: “Beach Towel”; “Slow Dance”; “Red (If They Come In the Morning”; “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein”; “School of Beauty, School of Culture”; “Heirlooms & Accessories”; “Chalk Up Another One”; “Fingerwag”; and “The Actor Hezekiah Washington as Julian Carlton Taliesen Murderer of the Flank Lloyd Wright Family.” If I have not included the housing project paintings in this list, it is only because they have already drawn more than sufficient critical attention.

The scale of Marshall’s work is often startling in its acute depictions of personal identity within the encompassing hemispheres of economic and racial confinements. Circling in a room of fermenting ordinariness, the figures in “Slow Dance” are both holding tight to each other’s poignant desires for more than has been allotted them, and grateful that at least they have each other for the moment. It more honestly addresses the romantic plight of marginal individuals, no matter what their race, than any painting I have ever absorbed into my memory.

The room the dancers inhabit is exactly what could have been foreseen by anyone who looks closely at the furniture of an engagement scene in a cheap restaurant. Even if one imagines the couple looking back at each other, and then unclasping to reach for a celebratory sip of their drinks, one would hardly expect either one to feel more comfortable in the minimally padded chairs the restaurant has provided them. Their fond ebullience is as much a performance meant for themselves as the onlookers they are posing for. The mise-en-scene of the restaurant extends to the smallest details of an urban backyard: the pink flip-flops being worn by the sunbather in “Beach Towel,” for instance. Equally pertinent in scope, one should not overlook the oversized earrings of “Fingerwag.” Marshall has a profound ability to augment his excavation of that which the ideological normative would prefer not to be present at all.

Jed Rasula mentions the contrast between “the politics in the poem, and the politics of the poem” in his intriguing study of American poetry anthologies. One could use the same distinction to talk about Marshall’s work, too, since in his case the politics in a painting such as “Red (If They Come in the Morning” are equally about the cultural politics of abstract painting and its reluctance to accept work done in that domain by African-American painters.

The street scene depicted in “Sunday Morning, 7 a.m.” has no overt politics, and yet the speeding white car that the running child seems to avoid by not much than a second and a half can hardly be separated from the more obvious repression cited in “Chalk Up Another One.” The adults in the post-dawn background stay safely on the sidewalk with its immediate access to the liquor store. The child has other comforts in mind. What might await that young man is hinted at in the right hand portion of the painting, in which Marshall’s synaesthetic handling of urban light portends some future visitation. Softened by a prismatic uncertainty, as if a late spring day will fulfill its potential for revelation, one can almost hear Whitman’s pure contralto sing the organ loft of some unanticipated destiny. Redemption is not an option, so don’t get carried away with hope, this light suggests. On the other hand, there is no reason to settle for mere survival of one’s ideals.

This show will be up through next weekend. As hard pressed for time as you might be, make every effort to catch this show. I agree with Christopher Knight’s concluding assessment in the LA Times: “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” is the first time in a long time that MOCA’s exhibition program has felt essential. Don’t miss it.”

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-kerry-james-marshall-moca-20170320-htmlstory.html

The Poetry of Sunset Strip; John Harris Memorial

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I came down with a bad head cold this past Friday evening, and was still sufficiently ill on Monday to have to cancel that day’s classes. One other unfortunate consequence of my illness is that I had to miss the memorial service for John Harris at Beyond Baroque this past Saturday. Even though I wasn’t there, however, I found an example of his impact on the larger community of poets, musicians, and artists as I tried to do a bit of research for a paper I’m working on about the early days of punk rock music in Los Angeles. Chris D., who edited an anthology in the mid-70s entitled Bongo Chalice, recollects seeing the first issue of Slash magazine in — you guessed it — Papa Bach Bookstore in 1977. It was completely John’s store by that point, and his choices shaped the entire zeitgeist that the store palpitated. I took a look at the clock on Saturday as I read Chris D.’s assessment of the store as “bohemian”: it was a few minutes past 5:00 p.m., and John’s memorial service would have been just wrapping up. I heard from Michael C. Ford a couple days ago that George Drury Smith spoke at the gathering and said that while Joseph Hansen provided the intellectual edge to the early days of the Wednesday night poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque, John Harris as its co-founder was the heart of the gathering. He was also its designated driver, in that Joe Hansen was like Ray Bradbury and refused to own or drive a car, and had held out against driving ever since coming of age in Los Angeles. If John had not provided Joe with a ride to the workshop, I doubt it would ever have sustained itself.

I suppose I should be grateful that my indisposition at least waited until Friday to make itself felt. Several weeks ago, Kim Dower, the poet laureate of West Hollywood, asked me to read with a half-dozen other poets at the West Hollywood Public Library and to write something on the theme of Sunset Strip, 1967. The reading was scheduled for Thursday, April 6, and by the morning of the day before I still hadn’t written anything. With only 36 hours left before the reading was to begin, I sat down and got to work on a sonnet, which I had to complete by mid-morning so that I could leave for campus. I got it done and was pleased enough with the effor that I dedicated it to Laurence Goldstein, whose Poetry Los Angeles is the best book around on the theme of this city as an omphalos of poetic inspiration.

The reading went very well and all the poets enjoyed reading with one of the most glamorous backdrops that any of us could ask for. I had no idea that we would be provided such as shimmering setting. I was delighted to see Audri Phillips in the audience, and the esteemed music critic Steve Hochman came up afterwards and introduced himself. There was some awkwardness at the end as the poets headed off to a small get-together about who could be there. If someone named Halley (who seemed as if she possessed a tender poetic spirit) is reading this, my profound apologies for your discomfort.

Group shot : https://www.flickr.com/photos/weho/33832596251/in/album-72157679206949583/

All photos: www.flickr.com/photos/weho/albums/72157679206949583