Tag Archives: Jim Krusoe

Peace Press Poetry Reading – June 17

Saturday, June 10, 2017

I was sitting at my desk this morning, reviewing some applications by writers who live outside of California for grants from the state they live in, and suddenly realized that I should double-check the date of the Peace Press poetry reading. I grabbed the catalogue for the art exhibition at the Arena One Gallery, and much to my surprise, the catalogue’s first page listed Saturday, June 10th, as the date of the reading. “Huh?” I thought. I was certain that the reading was on the 17th, but I’ve made mistakes about this kind of thing before, and so I quickly checked e-mails. According to every e-mail from Dinah Berland, the organizer of the reading, the date of this reading is Saturday, June 17th, a week from today. Her Facebook posting about this event also lists June 17.

The Poets and Poet-Publishers of Peace Press
Saturday, June 17
2 – 4 p.m.
Arena One Gallery
3026 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Readers: Dinah Berland, Michael C. Ford, Deborah Lott, Bill Mohr, Julia Stein, and Rhiannon McGavin.

THE ART OF THE COOKS OF PEACE PRESS is sponsored by the Ash Grove Music Foundation, and is partially underwritten by the Irene B. Wolt Lifetime Trust, and Anonymous. It should also be noted that this art exhibition came about in response to the multi-site exhibition project of the Getty Trust entitled “Pacific Standard Time.” According to the catalogue, “The Arts of the Cooks of Peace Press” was proposed too late in the organizational process of “PST” to be included in that project. Nevertheless, this exhibit demonstrates that the show continues to generate a legacy.

I myself have been invited to be part of this poetry reading not as a poet whose book was printed by Peace Press, but because as the editor and publisher of Momentum Press, I chose Peace Press to be the printer for three of my most important titles: Holly Prado’s Feasts, James Krusoe’s Small Pianos, and Leland Hickman’s Tiresias I:9:B Great Slave Lake Suite. Jim Krusoe might well have been the person who pointed me toward Peace Press, since he had had a chapbook entitled Ju-Ju printed at Peace Press at least a year before I hauled the paste-up board for Feasts to Culver City with the help of my Suzuki Twin-500 motorcycle. In the case of Holly’s book, I was a complete neophyte in terms of publishing, and without the reassuring assistance of the workers at Peace Press, especially Bob Zaugh and Bonnie Mettler, I never would have been able to bring out my first significant publication as an editor/publisher.

As recounted in HOLDOUTS: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance 1948-1882, the typesetting portion of producing these books was done at NewComp Graphics at Beyond Baroque, and both books were done on machines that had no memory discs to expedite revisions. It was a process of keystroke by keystroke composition, and given that both books were not by any means a standard-format for prose or poetry, it was an arduous challenge to get both books to the printer. Given these struggles and my ambitions to make the work of these poets known beyond Los Angeles, it was very important to me that both of these books look as good as possible; and to this day, I read the books not just for the resonant music of the text, but for the way that the poetry on the page was printed by Peace Press with such sympathetic care as to make it completely absorbable.

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(from left to right: Michael C. Ford; Dinah Berland; Bill Mohr

“Brazen” — Homage to Vin Scully’s Final Dodger Stadium Broadcast

Sunday, September 25, 2016

On the Occasion of Vin Scully’s Final Dodger Stadium Broadcast

Today opened with some very sad news for all baseball fans. Jose Fernandez, one of the most brilliant and joyful young pitchers in the game, died in a boating accident Clint Hurdle, the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, spoke of how inspiring Jose Fernandez was as a player and of how he will be missed by the entire game.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/09/25/pirates-manager-offers-deep-powerful-statement-on-jose-fernandezs-death/

Since today will mark the last broadcast from Dodger Stadium by Vin Scully, I wanted to pay tribute to him by reprinting in my blog a poem I wrote a quarter century ago, and which poet and editor Lee Rossi published in his magazine, Tsunami. I sent a copy of it to Vin Scully, and he responded with a handwritten note that I treasure as a highlight of my correspondence.

SLOW CURVE
for Vin Scully

“He’s taking a huge lead off second base.
There’s no other word for it but brazen –
that’s a great word, brazen – whatever
happened to brazen?” A great verb, too.
Brazen it out, the desire a veteran squeezes,
when his best pitches sprawl and he must depend
on location and luck. July’s road trip,
twelve games in ten days, interinanimates
August’s eight-game winning streak. I remember
Scully, in the fermenting middle of an inning,
suddenly talking about “The Brothers Karamazov,”
and not just a reference either. A couple
of sentences. It was very endearing,
as though Scully were saying to the few
who’d read it – I know you’re listening
because my voice comforts you, a small boy
crouching under bedcovers, a transistor radio
simmering next to your ear, the lesson
of anonymity and surprise: September, 1964,
Scully announces the Cardinals’ pinch hitter,
a kid called up from the minors two days before,
he hits a three-run homer and the Cardinals win
and no one hears from the kid again.
Sometimes I want a game to last all night.
I’m tempted to turn the radio off in the seventh
or eighth inning so I can wake and pick up
the paper, not knowing who came from behind
and who let another’s heroism spoil
in June’s truculent humidity, the drought of July
spinning into the resilience of August,
the chilly rains of April and September.
Oh extra innings and the ground rule double!
“He’s taking a huge lead off second base.” –
and I scramble back and skip out again,
taunting the catcher and shortstop of fate
and the future, knowing there’s only a few seasons
left to spit and slide, but I won’t quit,
aging as I am in a narrow bullpen,
fingering the red seams for that new pitch
that will redeem my summers in Salinas,
Butte and Albuquerque, the slow curve
that will bring me the brazen, blazin’ glory
I’ve dreamed of each night before sleep
whacks my next pitch deep to center field.

This issue of Tsunami also contained writing by Amy Uyematsu (an exceptionally fine poem entitled “The Woman Gaugin Chooses to Paint”); Richard Garcia (“Chickens Everywhere”); Tim Donnelly; Mary Armstrong; Lyn Lifshin; Charles Webb; and B.Z. Niditch. Leland Hickman, who had died on May 12, 1991, was the featured poet. Two of his poems, “Hay River” and “Blackwillow Daybreak,” were reprinted as the centerpiece of the issue.

It should be noted that I am posting this after the Dodgers came back from a 3-2 score in favor of the Colorado Rockies. With two outs in the ninth inning, Corey Seager summoned his inner Kirk Gibson as a way to honor Vin Scully and hit a home run to tie the score. Then, an inning later, Charlie Culberson hit his first home run of the entire 2016 season to win the game and clinch the division title for the Dodgers.

Post-Script added on October 2, 2016

Here is a link to Vin Scully’s tribute to his fans and his farewell address from San Francisco.

http://m.mlb.com/news/article/204697686/vin-scully-wraps-up-career-in-vintage-form/

“The Golden Age of Los Angeles Poetry” — Robert Kirsch on “THE STREETS INSIDE: Ten Los Angeles Poets”

TheStreetsInside

THE GOLDEN AGE OF LOS ANGELES POETY: The Streets Inside (1978)

The Streets Inside: Ten Los Angeles Poets (Santa Monica, CA: Momentum Press, 1978) was the first of three anthologies I either edited or co-edited in the past 40 years. While it was not the first book to group Los Angeles poets as a distinct ensemble in American poetry, The Streets Inside was, however, the first anthology of Los Angeles poets of any significant length. Earlier, very short projects of this sort included a collection called Poetry Los Angeles in 1958 that was scarcely bigger than an issue of a little magazine. A trio of Los Angeles poets, James Boyer May, Thomas McGrath, and Peter Yates, were the editors of that first Los Angeles anthology. According to World Cat, Poetry Los Angeles clocks in at 68 (unnumbered) pages. It is an interesting collection, however, if only because it reveals the fractures that existed in Los Angeles in the late 1950s. None of the poets in Venice West (such as Stuart Perkoff and Bruce Boyd) are included in Poetry Los Angeles.

Fourteen years later, Paul Vangelisti, Charles Bukoswki and Neeli Cherkovski partially rectified the omission of the Venice West poets from Poetry Los Angeles by including both Perkoff and John Thomas, who by that point had not only been part of the Venice West scene, but had also lived in San Francisco and then returned to Los Angeles. Although Anthology of L.A. Poets ended on the shelves of 90 libraries around the world, it didn’t attract much critical attention in Los Angeles, let alone elsewhere. In terms of local attention, I wrote one of the first reviews and published it in the second issue of Bachy magazine (July, 1973), and I recollect that a reporter named Jim Stingley wrote a series of articles for the Los Angeles Times in the spring of 1974 about “The Rise of L.A. Underground Poets” that cited that anthology. Unfortunately, Bukowski, Cherkovski, and Vangelisti’s anthology was not that much bigger than the volume published in 1958.

Over 250 pages of poetry in length, The Streets Inside implicitly made a claim about the significance of the “underground” poetry scenes in Los Angeles. In point of fact, my book featured fewer poets than Anthology of Los Angeles Poets, and therefore was a less representative sampling of the scene. In retrospect, it was an enormous error. to limit the anthology to ten poets. Perhaps I kept the number down because I was still editing Momentum magazine and I didn’t want the anthology to seem like a special issue of the magazine. The decision to have between 15 and 25 pages of work by each poet was one of the ways that I hoped to make the anthology distinct from the magazine.

It should also be noted that my desire to promote the poetry of Lee Hickman led to this large portfolio of each poet’s work. Without consciously copying Donald Allen’s New American Poetry, I placed the oldest poet first. Lee Hickman led off the book with five discrete poems from the manuscript I eventually published in 1980, Tiresias I:9:B Great Slave Lake Suite. Since Lee’s five long poems snagged 25 pages total, I could hardly have much smaller selections of poems by the other poets without distorting the sense of equivalency that was one of the central aspects of its self-identity.

Having Lee as the first of ten poets, however, helped solve the question of the rest of the order, for I wanted the poet who followed Lee to have a much quieter voice; few voices were speaking in the intricate yet subdued manner that had been achieved at that point by Jim Krusoe, whose second full-length book Small Pianos I published almost simultaneously with The Streets Inside. On a formal level, Jim’s writing also established just how unpredictable the Los Angeles scene could be in terms of a reader’s expectations. If opening The Streets Inside with Hickman’s highly oxygenated lyricism would startle many readers, then it should also be noted how truly unusual it was for an anthology forty years ago to follow up that bravura performance with poets who emphasized the prose poem. There is hardly any other anthology in the 1970s in which a significant number of the poets are represented by a substantial amount of prose poetry. In the selections of writing of Krusoe, Holly Prado, Deena Metzger, and Peter Levitt, the prose poem is an accepted variant of poetry. Of the first eight poets in the book, in fact, only Leland Hickman and Kate Ellen Braverman do not have any prose poetry.

A half-dozen anthologies of Los Angeles poets have appeared since The Streets Inside was published out of my bedroom apartment in Ocean Park, California (512 Hill St., Apt. 4). Many of them have received substantial praise from numerous reviewers and critics, but all of these subsequent anthologies are ultimately responses to the crucial “group show” of The Streets Inside. Robert Kirsch’s praise for this collection remains a clarion call to all subsequent projects involving Los Angeles poets.

“If Los Angeles were San Francisco, where these things are more readily recognized, what is happening in poetry here would long since have been hailed as a golden age. … This handsome and exciting anthology …… is a book worth pursing, even if difficult to find in your bookshop. If necessary, just send for it.” –
Robert Kirsch, Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1979

It should be noted that Kirsch was kind enough to put my mailing address in his review. The address was slightly inaccurate, but since I had lived there for a half-dozen years, the postman (an Atlanta Braves fan, as I recollect) unfailingly brought the letters requesting copies of the anthology straight to my mailbox. I therefore got some direct sense of how many people were reading Kirsch’s review and responding to it. I sold a couple dozen copies directly through mail orders and it sold very well at Papa Bach, Chatterton’s and several other independent stores.

Book Review: THE SLEEP GARDEN by Jim Krusoe

Sunday, January 31, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Sleep Garden — Jim Krusoe (Tin House, 2016)

It’s a rainy, blustery afternoon in Los Angeles County, but if you feel like stirring out of the house, ease on over to Diesel Books in Santa Monica, where Jim Krusoe will be reading from The Sleep Garden, his best novel yet, at 3 p.m. His first several published volumes of writing were poetry (History of the World; Small Pianos; Jungle Girl), and The Sleep Garden circles back to the scoured diction of that early work and brings his vision of life and afterlife to fruition. Given that an early meditation on the spondee of “rectum” adumbrates the irony of the characters’ exit, stage left, through the kitchen to their ultimate dissolution, it is a surprisingly and often humorous journey.

Krusoe’s control of tone in this existential fable is pitch-perfect. It begins with a mild echo of Beatrix Potter and Emily Dickinson all rolled into a delicate omelet of forestalled tragicomedy. The characters in The Sleep Garden have no doubt arrived at their current residence, The Burrow, with the same trepidation experienced by Dickinson’s anonymous narrator in “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” but the horses’ heads have been forgotten as they settled in, and life in this cloistered suburban complex has proved to be much the same as it was above ground. In fact, the characters seem to have picked up exactly where they might have left off in their previous condition, which is to say Viktor is just as obsessed with making money for the sake of playing that game, and Heather is still called upon and put upon by males who need a vocal prosthesis to accompany their masturbatory fantasies.

On one level, Krusoe has written an updated version of Sartre’s Huis Clos, except that the characters seems to be much more accommodating of each other. Well, most of them are accommodating. In a metatext that serves as the underside to the comic dalliances of the main cast, there is a set of “technicians” who keep the stage show afloat. They are the stage crew who are waiting for their own Godot to show up, and serve as a kind of slow-witted Brechtian chorus. No doubt there are operations manuals that the author had access to, but we as readers were spared that labor. That irony can work on the level of authorial excision is not the least tangy part of Krusoe’s jesting in the face of “Zero,” the sum of the game played mostly (if not entirely) in the minds of the novel’s characters.

It helps, of course, to have done enough reading so that one catches the allusions. The Captain’s “memory breaks like low waves against a distant shore in search of an answer. Break break break … nothing.” Given the eventual revelation of the funerary nature of the Burrow, it helps the immediate accumulation of hints for one to hear the opening syllables in that passage of Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar.” One doesn’t have to know this to remain entranced with the narrative, but the subtle coloring is otherwise lost.

Other references will be caught by most people without too much of an effort. Raymond, for instance, has a photograph from a sports magazine tacked up on his wall. The model in the picture is a woman in a swimsuit, and it’s not hard to attribute this clipped image to Sports Illustrated and its famous annual display of swimming attire. However, what no reader can possibly anticipate is the model’s metamorphosis into a post-modern Diogenes. As with so many other instances throughout The Sleep Garden, the aftertaste of the laugh is just as delicious as the first bite.

The audience for this novel will primarily be those who have not watched much television during the past forty years, but I mention this bifurcation because a fictional short-lived television show has a major role in the novel’s droll commentary on contemporary life, and the relationship of the characters in the novel to the characters in “Mellow Valley” constitutes one of the major mordant temblors of The Sleep Garden. Let not your ignorance of popular culture trivia dismay you, and do not fret if a show such as “Friends” does not evoke any specific image more than “Welcome Back, Kotter.” The predominance of the culture industry gets its comeuppance in this novel, but not in a vindictive manner. In this case, the spoiled child of popular culture spanks itself. It could be said, in fact, Horkheimer and Adorno might enjoy The Sleep Garden, though they might grouse afterwards that it let the culture industry off too easily.

Those two aside, most other readers will look forward to reading this novel a second and a third time. Ballerina Mouse is one of the most heartbreaking aging ingénues to ever undertake an existential rehearsal. Even very minor characters, such as the Vietnam veteran, Sgt. Moody, leave the reader with a haunting layer of the untold as being more brutal than anything that could be told.

The Sleep Garden awaits us all, Krusoe hints, no matter what endeavors we commit ourselves to. Some commitments are easier than others, however. Rather than worrying about your own personal failures in whatever you might have tried to do in your life, I would recommend the best therapy session that you will ever attend. By the end of reading this novel, you will be able to accept much that seemed too difficult to bear just a short time ago.

Bob Flanagan – On the 20th anniversary of his death

Photo (c) by Rod Bradley

Photo (c) by Rod Bradley

THE KID IS THE ULTIMATE MAN: Bob Flanagan (1952-1996) and Sheree Rose

Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of Bob Flanagan, although this post happening to appear today is the result of pure accident. The photograph of Flanagan accompanying this post is from a set taken by Rod Bradley at a publication event for issue number 11 of Bachy magazine at Papa Bach Bookstore in the mid-1970s; I spotted the CD Bradley had given me with the photographs at my office last week and took another peek at them over the holiday weekend, at which point I decided to start work on a long overdue tribute to Bob Flanagan and his artistic collaborator, Sheree Rose. When I looked up Bob’s dates to get an exact bearing on his chronology, I found the anniversary of his death to be rapidly approaching, so I redoubled my efforts. It should be noted, by the way, that the title of this post is a reference to the words on the cover of a book in the lower left hand corner of the photograph.

Flanagan began reading his poems around Southern California beginning in the mid-1970s, when he was still in his early 20s. In point of fact, I attended a festival of poets that included Flanagan in what had to have been his first reading in any venue that got public attention whatsoever. The “festival” took place in an unfinished, multi-story office building somewhere near downtown Los Angeles. I suppose it would be possible to dig through my archives and find the name of the hapless organizer and the exact address, but this was not an event that merits much more citation than Flanagan’s appearance, which stood out because of the contrast between his earnestness and the abundance of clichés in his poems. Flanagan was not born with a natural flair for vivid imagery. I distinctly remember listening to him read at that festival and thinking to myself that he had as little talent as any young poet I had ever heard. The old truism that talent is mostly hard work is certainly demonstrated in Flanagan’s case, for it was due to his determination to become a good writer that he matured into one of my favorite poets. In addition to his willingness to work very hard at becoming a better writer, he also had the advantage of being a member of the Beyond Baroque workshop, where poets such as Jim Krusoe and Jack Grapes continued his education in poetry outside of the academy.

I published some of his poetry in Momentum magazine and was impressed enough by his first book, “The Kid Is the Man” (Bombshelter Press, 1978) to write a review of it. It was the first formal public notice that Flanagan’s writing received. “The Kid Is the Man” contained all of the poems that Flanagan had made famous within several coteries at work in Los Angeles back then. “Love Is Still Possible” and “The Bukowski Poem” remain two of the earliest instances of poems that deserve to be in the Hall of Fame for the Stand Up school, a point to which I will return in a moment. Nor did Flanagan cease to write poetry even as he increasingly began to focus on music, theater, and performance art as outlets for his creative impishness and considerable wit, not to mention his legendary masochism. When it came time to choose his poems for Poetry Loves Poetry (1985), the work was all from the period after his first book was published and included another stand-up classic, “Fear of Poetry.” He went on to publish several collections, including “The Slave Sonnets” and a superb collaboration with David Trinidad, “A Taste of Honey.”

Given all of this poetry by Flanagan and the degree of his visible presence through frequent readings in Los Angeles, it is astonishing to realize that he is absent from all three editions of “Stand Up Poetry,” the first of which appeared in 1990 as a project co-edited by Charles Harper Webb and Suzanne Lummis. I suppose one has to take on faith the sincerity of the editors when one reads in the first slim volume (84 pages) that the 22 poets appearing in the book are merely representative of the Stand Up poetry movement and are not intended to be seen as the essential members of its first wave. However, Flanagan does not appear in either of the subsequent volumes, either. In fact, Flanagan is also absent from “Grand Passion,” which was also co-edited by Webb and Lummis, and which appeared in 1994, while Flanagan was still alive.

I find Flanagan’s absence from this evolving series of anthologies to be nothing short of astonishing, especially since Flanagan had a generous selection of poems in my anthology, “Poetry Loves Poetry,” which appeared in 1985 and which contained the poems of Webb and Lummis, too. In other words, his work was right there in front of them. Now it’s true that by 1990 Flanagan was primarily known as a performance artist, but he was still active as a poet. In fact, Flanagan was one of the primary poets who ran the Beyond Baroque poetry workshop between 1985 and 1995. Despite the way that his notoriety as a “Super-Masochist” began to overshadow his poetry, I certainly regarded Flanagan as worthy of consideration as a working poet in the early 1990s; and when I asked him to be a guest on my poetry video show, “Put Your Ears On,” he did not hesitate to accept. It turned out to be one of my most successful shows. We had a monitor on stage with a video of David Trinidad reading his lines from A Taste of Honey that alternated with Bob reading his lines live in the studio. His wit was on full display: when I asked him if he ever considered moving to NYC, where he had been born, he responded that he “preferred his creature comforts, and New York is mostly creatures.”

In addition, his poems in “Poetry Loves Poetry” were among the very best one in that anthology. “Fear of Poetry” remains a classic example of a metapoem that should be studied by every young poet. It should also be mentioned that Flanagan’s prominence within the poetry community in the mid-1980s because his lover and artistic collaborator Sheree Rose was a very fine photographer. When I decided that full-page photographs of the poets should be included in “Poetry Loves Poetry,” it was Sheree Rose who drew the assignment of persuading several dozen poets to relax enough to let their private masks become somewhat visible in a public portrait. She did a superb job and I hope some day that Beyond Baroque can have a retrospective of her work.

Finally, to square the paradoxical circle of his absence, I would also note that Flanagan studied at California State University, Long Beach, where Gerald Locklin taught for 40 years. Locklin and his colleague Charles Stetler are the poets known for using the title of Edward Field’s book, Stand Up, Friend, with Me, as the basis for a moniker to describe a kind of poetry that became increasingly popular in Southern California in the years after the Beat scenes in Los Angeles and San Francisco began a period of diminishing returns. Both Locklin and Stetler are in the first volume of Stand Up Poetry, along with another CSULB professor, Eliot Fried, whose poetry I had also published in the first issue of Bachy magazine in 1972.

The line-up of poets in the first volume of “Stand Up Poetry” (Red Wind Books, 1990) is very impressive: Laurel Ann Bogen, Charles Bukowski, Billy Collins, Wanda Coleman, Edward Field, Michael C. Ford, Elliot Fried, Manazar Gamboa, Jack Grapes, Eloise Klein Healy, Ron Koertge, Steve Kowit, Jim Krusoe, Gerald Locklin, Suzanne Lummis, Bill Mohr, Charles Stetler, Austin Straus, Charles Webb, and Ray Zepeda. There are also two poets named Ian Gregson and Viola Weinberg. That the poems of Bob Flanagan and Scott Wannberg should have been there in place of Gregson’s and Weinberg’s is obvious now.

The importance of Bob Flanagan’s writing and art and of his collaborations with Sheree Rose recently was recently confirmed by the acquisition of his archives by the University of Southern California. You can access information about that archive at:
http://one.usc.edu/bob-flanagan-and-sheree-rose-collection/

On the 20th anniversary of his death, I would urge those who are looking for material to analyze through the lens of disability theory or queer theory to consider visiting that archive and to get to work. In doing so, it would also be worth remembering that Flanagan is an exemplary Stand Up poet and one of the primary members of the original core group. Those of us who were here in the early and mid-1970s know the accuracy of that statement, even if editors who didn’t arrive in Los Angeles until the late 1970s prefer a version that might reflect a fear of being tainted by Flanagan’s transgressive art. In equally emphasizing his stature as a Stand Up poet, critics might also consider how his writing fits within the Confessional school of poetry, which is all too often viewed as a movement with no important contributors after 1980. How about someone taking on an article with a stark contrast: Sharon Olds versus Bob Flanagan. Now that would generate an incandescence worthy of the audacious risks that Flanagan took and lived to tell about, far longer – decades longer – than anyone ever suspected he would, even those of who feel very lucky to have heard him read his poetry or to offer up his body to the demons of pain. Suffering is not redemption, but it is hard to know what is worthy redeeming if one does not suffer to test those boundaries. Flanagan’s art and poetry offer us a chance to redraw our boundaries and set off anew.

Bob Flanagan’s Birthday Bash

Friday, December 27, 2013 — Bob Flanagan’s Birthday Bash

Last night an audience of about 40 people gathered at Beyond Baroque to celebrate the birthday of Bob Flanagan, poet, performance artist, and musician (1952-1996). Sheree Rose organized the event and introduced each presenter. George Drury Smith, the founder of Beyond Baroque, lead off by commenting that, in the 1980s, he had stopped attending events that honored people who had died. The AIDS crisis took too many of his friends for him to endure the extended mourning of public rituals, but Smith said that last night’s assembly helped him reevaluate his reluctance to participate in these kinds of tributes. In praising Flanagan for his consistent contributions as a workshop leader and a poetic presence in Beyond Baroque’s early days, Smith also reminded the audience of another important figure in the organization’s survival, Alexandra Garrett, who died 20 years ago this coming New Year’s Eve. Smith’s opening remarks were followed by readings of Bob’s poems by Harry Northup, Jim Cushing, Michael C. Ford, Jim Krusoe, myself, and S.A. Griffin, after which Jack Skelley performed a song (“It’s Fun to Be Dead”) that Bob and he had written while they were bandmates in a group called “Planet of Toys.” Sheree capped the evening off by reading a letter from a young gay man in England who also suffers from cystic fibrosis and has found in Bob’s life and art a way to give meaning to his indefatigable suffering. Sheree also screened a slide show of Bob’s performance as well as a portion of a video of one of his last readings. It was a bit odd to have so many male presenters, even though at least a third of the audience was female.

The evening once again raised for me the question of Bob’s inexplicable absence from any of the anthologies that have organized themselves around the notion of “Stand Up” poetry. Several of the poems read at last night’s event generated sustained laughter from the audience. I was surprised, in fact, at how funny the poems still were. “Fear of Poetry,” for instance, which I read from the POETRY LOVES POETRY anthology, required me to improvise at least three unanticipated pauses in the performance so as the let the laughter play out. Flanagan’s poems represent some of the most successful examples of “Stand Up” poetry in the movement’s earliest days. Perhaps the singular blend of eros and thanatos that permeates Bob’s writing made his poetry unwelcome in the milieu of middle-class aspirations that underlie “stand up” ‘s editorial preferences.

Beyond Baroque’s back yard featured one of the best parts of the evening, an exhibition of “Bobaloon,” a twenty-foot tall inflatable figure of Bob with a fiercely erect cock, pierced with the full regalia of priapic masochism. I believe it was Richard Howard who noted in an essay on the poetry of Edward Field that “Stand Up, Friend, with Me (the title of one of Field’s books, which lent itself out to the movement’s name) is a joke on the arousal of the phallus. Bob’s stand-up figure in the back yard served to remind us that any anthology that would title itself “Seriously Funny” seriously needs its editors to start reading up on those who got it all started.