Tag Archives: Eric Morago

Anthologies Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Books

The “Beat, Not Beat” Anthology Reading at Beyond Baroque, May 20

(Brendan Constantine)

(Kennon B. Raines)

On Saturday afternoon, May 20, Beyond Baroque hosted a reading for the anthology of Beat and Beat-associated poets that was published last yearly Eric Morago’s Moontide Press. The anthology was primarily edited by Rich Ferguson, but three other poets also provided editorial guidance (Alexis Rhone Fancher, S.A. Griffin, and Kim Shuck). Most of the best-known poets in this anthology who were in the original contingent of Beat writing are dead (Bob Kaufman, Diane di Prima, Jack Hirschman, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti). Of those who read at the Six Gallery in 1955, only Gary Snyder is still with us. The roll call in this anthology of those who have passed also includes some of the most famous poets who have lived and worked in Los Angeles, such Wanda Coleman and Charles Bukowski. Ferguson’s anthology also features contemporary poets such as Douglas Kearney, Brendan Constantine, Kim Addonizio, Ellyn Maybe, Will Alexander, and former United States Poet Laureate Robert Hass.

I have to admit that the subtitle of this anthology continues to puzzle me. “Screwing on the Beat Tradition.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but “screwing on” is a phrasal verb that reeks of mid-20th century slang. If one were to imagine some hipster character in a play or novel set in 1962 recounting his sexual exploits, he might say, “My girlfriend and I were screwing on the couch when we heard someone breaking into the house next door.” I understand what the editors mean by the “Beat Tradition” part of the subtitle, but the screwing part remains opaque.

The reading at Beyond Baroque included several stand-out performances. Brendan Constantine’s poem, in particular, radiated an effusive wit and command of imaginative counterfactuals that was spellbinding. Perhaps it’s time for the County of Los Angeles to have a poet laureate, too, and I would be pleased to hear that Brendan had been selected for that honor at some point in the future. Another poet who stood out is also someone who will soon have her first book of poems published by MoonTide Press, Susan Hayden. Her poem, “She Said,” reminded me of Strindberg’s great one-act play, “The Stronger,” in how it used a monologue by another character to create a self-portrait of the narrator. Perhaps the most surprising revelation of the afternoon was the performance of Kennon B. Raines, who stood in for the late Linda Albertano by channeling the exuberant vibrations that still linger in Beyond Baroque’s reading space from Albertano’s years of performing there. I was completely unfamiliar with Raines’s work, and Ferguson and company deserve applause for bringing her into the fold. There was no question but that she deserved a place alongside some of the most senior poets on the scene, such as Harry E. Northup, Michael C. Ford. and Laurel Ann Bogen. Not far behind that trio in acclaimed longevity were other poets such as Sarah Maclay and Steve Abee. If the Beat Tradition continues to reverberate in California more than any other region in the United States, it is in part because of the efforts of a publisher such as Eric Morago, whose MoonTide Press is rapidly becoming a respected heir of the small press tradition in Los Angeles that was embodied by such projects as Paul Vangelisti and John McBride’s Red Hill Press, Dennis Cooper’s Little Caesar Press, Doug Messerli’s Sun & Moon, and my own Momentum Press. Social agitation was not far from the minds of those present, and Richard Modiano’s revisitation of the theme of revolution was especially stirring. I had never heard several of the poets in person before: in particular, it was gratifying to have a chance to meet Richard Loranger, whose work I have long been familiar with, and to applaud in person poets such as Nicelle Davis, Bob Branaman, Milo Martin, and Daniel Yaryan. I was not the only poet from Long Beach: Kevin Ridgeway joined me in the final group photograph, along with the fine musical duo, Petty Chavez, whose song about Eurydice concluded the afternoon’s enchantments.

I wish that Rich Ferguson has given himself permission to read an extended piece. Given his dual role as the book’s primary editor as well as continually in motion M.C. for the event, I would have thoroughly enjoyed hearing a reprise of the poem he read at the Los Angeles Public Library event that Lynne Thompson organized about eight months ago. My own reading of “Good Work, If You Can Find It” was a peculiar experience. I was about a fifth of the way through the poem when the audience decided it was over and began to applaud. Not just a few people, the whole crowd produced a solid seven-second burst of clapping. Well, who was I to argue with them? “It ain’t over, until it’s over,” said Yogi Berra, and this seemed to be a case in point. As a bit of balm, I deeply appreciated Eric Morago’s tribute to my influence on him as one of his teaches back when he was an undergraduate as well as a MFA student at CSULB.

Finally, a short comment about the missing in BEAT, NOT BEAT. Even though BEAT, NOT BEAT includes a couple hundred poets, it is rather astonishing to realize that poets such as William Witherup, Mary Leary, Michael Hannon, John Thomas, and Bruce Boyd were left out. Does not Eileen Aronson Ireland deserve a page, too? The omission of John Thomas is especially puzzling, given that his widow, Philomene Long, was included. (In fact, Philomene Long was represented by her twin sister, Penelope, at the BB reading.) Well, omissions are inevitable, I suppose, and I myself know the pang of retrospective regret. I can never forgive myself for leaving Scott Wannberg out of POETRY LOVES POETRY.

(Harry E. Northup)

(Richard Loranger)

(Petty Chavez)

Anthologies Books

DARK INK: An Anthology of Horror Poems

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Beyond Baroque presented over a dozen poets this past Saturday night who read poems they had contributed to a new anthology edited by Eric Morago. DARK INK is one of the best theme-oriented collections I have run across in the past decade, and I was especially impressed by the work of those who have yet to have a substantial volume of poems published. The best single rendition of a poem, in fact, was by a young poet I’d never encountered before, Nicole Connolly, whose “Self-Portrait as Exactly the Kind of Monster Men’s rights Activists Warn Each Other I Am” was delivered with a subtle, somber pleasure at what she saw in the full-length mirror. On my subsequent reading in the volume, her poem’s three dozen or so couplets seemed shorter on the page than it did when read out loud, though I don’t mean this comment to suggest that the poem dallied unnecessarily on any given image when she read it out loud. If anything, my attention Saturday evening was fully absorbed by its contraventions of patriarchal logic, and I would gladly have listened to an even longer version. Sonia Greenfield’s adaptation of Hemmingway’s “For Sale Baby Shoes Never Worn” was also a triumphant free solo climb of a sheer cliff of trauma, and the one poem in the volume that addressed that most transgressive use of horror, the endangered child. Armine Iknadossian’s “Vagina Dentata” also extended its metaphor with a dextrous plasticity right through its chilling last line: “a wedding band rolling down the marble hallway.”

It was perhaps no surprise that so many of the poems read on Saturday night had cinematic contexts. Frank O’Hara urged the mothers of America to let their kids go to the movies, and it would seem that permission was granted to see “The Sound of Music,” but that a whirlpool of turbulent fascination caused them to duck into another theater instead. However, the pleasure of this collection does not depend upon the reflected glory of the movie screen, and is more comprehensive in its cast of transgressive violence than might be expected for a book coming out of Los Angeles. Robin Axworthy and Terri Niccum, for instance, choose myth and legend in the form of Medusa and Lizzie Borden, with Niccum’s poem being one that wouldn’t be safe for a high school student to tote around as an unattributed, transcribed copy in her or his backpack on campus. The poem is deliciously dead serious, and gives an ax-sharp edge to Borden’s inner tribulations.

A fair number of L.A. veterans contributed some very fine poems: Michael C. Ford (“Sometimes We Provide for Ourselves Our Own Horror”); Laurel Ann Bogen (“Also Frankenstein”); Ron Koertge (“Dear Dracula”; “Mrs. Victor Frankenstein”), and Charles Harper Webb (“Night of the Lepus”) are among the liveliest poems in Morago’s anthology. Missing in action was Jack Grapes’s “The Count,” which is probably as close as any “horror” poem can get to deserving canonical status; and a poem from Edward Field’s collection, “Variety Photoplays” should probably have been included, even if it had required a royalty reprint fee. Not every poem, however, is as successful as it might have been. I would love to see Jennifer Lee Rossman reduce the number of her rhyming couplets by about 40 percent. “The Dog who Walked with Zombies” has more than enough wit to justify additional effort, and I hope she commits to doing so.

Morago’s Moontide Press is starting to become a welcome addition to a region that deserves to have more than Red Hen Press as its primary literary outlet. Moontide, of course, faces a much different retail environment than Red Hen did in its early years. The Borders bookstore chain, for instance, provided much more visibility as a outlet for regional projects a quarter-century ago. One wonders if Red Hen would be able to thrive to the extent it has if it were launching its first titles now.

As grim as the book distribution scene is, I urge you to get a copy of this volume (in which, in the interests of full disclosure, I do have a pair of poems). You will find in DARK INKS many more poems than I have listed that will give you reassurance of your powers to resist and endure, even as you grow more alert to the irony of human projections: “In this world, wild to kill / us all, some things are still too cute to be monsters.”


Eric Morago, Editor-in-Chief
Moon Tide Press #166
6745 Washington Avenue
Whitteri, CA 90601