Tag Archives: Leland Hickman

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.

Amy King — “The Missing Museum”

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Missing Museum — Amy King (Tarpaulin Sky, 2016)

“The strange rain outside awakens
the strange rain within.”
Amy King

“RAIN RAIN TIRESIAS BLIND WORD-RAIN
inside clouds black wrap me rain
Tiresias witchman shapeshifter shaman
Leland Hickman (TIRESIAS, I:1) (circa 1966)

I first met Amy King when I was teaching English as a Second Language at Nassau Community College for two years. After I finished my Ph.D. at UCSD in 2004, I was unable to find any substantial teaching jobs in California. The economy had disintegrated to the point where voters turned the governor out of office, and elected a movie star to replace him. Linda and I moved to Long Island, New York and rented a couple rooms upstairs in a huge brick house owned by Lenny Durso, an old friend from the glory days of Los Angeles independent bookstores. Lenny had been the last of the original three owners of Intellectuals & Liars Bookstore in Santa Monica to run up the white flag. The store went out of business in 1979, and Lenny returned to New York, where he eventually started what amounted to an extension program at Nassau Community College. He offered me a full-time job teaching, and assisting him, at the English Language Institute (as it titled itself). Linda and I arrived in September, 2004 the day before classes started.

Except for Lenny, no one in ELI was directly affiliated with Nassau Community College. Those who taught at ELI were non-adjunct adjunct faculty, if that term makes any sense. What it meant in effect was that I taught at NCC, but was not a member of any union, nor was I eligible to join any union. I was teaching 18 hours a week, plus working 20 hours of desk job assignments for Lenny. Every once a while, I would wander over to the building where the English Department was located. One afternoon, I noticed a flyer for a reading by two of the English Department faculty, one of whom was Amy King, and I was fortunate enough to adjust my work schedule so that I could attend. I had no idea what kind of poet she was eager, but I starved to hear some work read live. She read from her first book of poems, Antidotes for an Alibi (2005). Her publisher, Blazevox, went on to issue two more titles, I’m the Man Who Loves You (2007) and Slaves to do These Things (2009).

At the reading for her first book back in 2005, I was impressed with her astute flippancy. In using a word that has almost nothing but negative connotations, I want to emphasize a touch of appropriation. Whatever else might be said about her poetics, I noticed from my first hearing a sense of a poet “playing for the whole casino.” This is an expression I use to demarcate the difference between those in contemporary poetry who are hard at work at the nickel, dime, and quarter slot machines, and those who are playing for nothing less than to take over the casino and ultimately change the house rules. Amy King’s flippancy radiates from her askance gaze at the disjuncture of gender roles and social power, in all of their cultural and political ramifications. She demands a meritocracy that glistens with the body’s head-on grappling with exaltations; nor are the inner coils of poignant yearning to surmount, and be surmounted, in turn, by the touch of another, of any less urgency. King believes whole-heartedly in the efficacy of a poem as a resistant object of personal recourse. If nothing else avails itself, the poem’s temporary embrace has the power to suffice, and enable one to endure. This existential gesture is underlined in King’s use of Samuel Beckett’s mantra: “I can’t go on. I will go on.” Not blindly go on, however: King’s “strange rain” empowers the kind of self-assigned shape-shifting invoked in Leland Hickman’s Tiresias, and takes it several steps further.

Her latest volume, The Missing Museum, is an uneven collection, which is not necessarily surprising. King is not interested in the predictable, or in hewing to strategies that she is comfortable with. It would seem as if she would prefer to make each poem recalibrate the horizon lines of life’s contingent absurdities. “Horizon lines” plural: not simply the one in front of you, but to the side, behind, and underneath, as well as the illusion of an apex. “Pussy Riot Rush Hour” swivels on a tour of all those perspectives.

Just write. Stop worrying.
Twitch from the corporate fondle,
bake a cake for the women in prison,
go to the bank when no one’s looking
to discover what you don’t want there.
You know all of this, so why do I ask?
I’m asking because you need to hear
again and then some how you’re not
above anything, how you are not
nothing but the roar of clouds overhead,
the din of a bodega at let-out hour,
the smell of a smile unwashed
and the compression of panties beneath
too-tight tights drawn to impress
the boss into a holiday off. What we
won’t do for a little piece of ourselves,
for a shiny glimmer of heaven behind
the stacks of computer boxes and books
that tell us nothing of literature. ….

In instructing the reader as well as herself, she models the tempestuous conditions for writers embedded in the post-avant. King has unflinchingly propelled herself along the river of a huge canyon of contemporary poetics: on one side, John Ashbery and the alignments of various New York School poets, and on the other the Language poets. Coming of age as a poet well after the publication of In the American Tree, King’s poems exemplify the flippancy needed to survive the travail of daily life.

Perhaps, though, flippancy has a page limit. The pair of five-page poems in The Missing Museum need a more intricate argument to sustain their length. It’s gratifying to see her interest in poems longer than the usual academic set-point, but both the rhythms and images need more complexity in their mutual undulations. The shortcomings of the longer poems, however, do not detract from the distinctive verve of her best work, which especially shines in the final section, “Sorry the Sex Is so Bloody.” I would recommend that anyone unfamiliar with King’s poems begin, in fact, with two poems from that section: “A Woman Is an Act” and “Your Heart, The Weight of Art,” and then read “We Will Never Fully Recover” and “Drive By,” which appear in earlier sections. This quartet of poems will help the reader liberate herself from unsuspected impositions of language’s possibilities, and enable her to find a new footing in her own life. Each of us needs to be more thoughtfully flippant, and Amy King shows us how well it can be done.

In readymade life sexual dimensions hold against us,
Could not map us out of eleven dimensions.
They would just go on forever, smudging the details down,
wearing us the fuck, most pleasantly, out.
(“The Stars Are Calling, Skin Sacks”)