Tag Archives: George Drury Smith

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.)

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