Tag Archives: Pearl Harbor Day

Paul Vangelisti’s Tribute to Holly Prado (December 7, 2019)

Wednesday, December 10th, 2019

Paul Vangelisti attended two memorials this past weekend. On Saturday, December 7th, a tribute and memorial for the artist and teacher Don Suggs was held on the campus of UCLA. Having collaborated with Suggs and Martha Ronk on several books, as well as co-editing various magazine projects with him, Paul first spoke at his gathering, attended by well over 400 people; he then drove to Beyond Baroque, where he guided the memorial for Holly Prado back to the early 1970s.

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HOLLY’S MEMORIAL

I’m not very fond of memorials but Holly’s passing not only left me desolate, it was an indelible loss. If I can put it somewhat coldly, above all else Holly’s career was, no, is a touchstone for what it means to be an artist in Los Angeles, not the kindest and most welcoming place for anything outside of Hollywood’s Dream Factory. A place where, in Gore Vidal’s words, we “do well what should not be done at all.” And stepping even further back from this moment, I can’t help but consider today’s date, December 7. Pearl Harbor Day. That day in 1941 when the country changed, the West Coast came into prominence as the new focus of the American century and the American empire. The day my father, who’d just enlisted months before, was stationed near San Francisco, where he would, in a few years, meet my mother who’d immigrated there from Italy not long before.
Maybe memory, however byzantine and merciful, might be useful. I first met Holly in 1971 at the workshop Alvaro Cardona-Hine taught out of his house in North Hollywood. Alvaro had taken over from Gene Frumkin some years earlier, when Frumkin moved to New Mexico. Frumkin originally was part of a group, going back to fifties, that met at Tom McGrath’s place in Frogtown. Present at Alvaro’s that night were Barbara Hughes, Ameen Alwan, Rosella Pace, Sid Gershgoren and, of course, Holly, probably the youngest of the poets there. I was visiting to solicit work for a forthcoming Los Angeles anthology that Charles Bukowski, Neeli Cherkovski and I were editing,
One Saturday afternoon, we three met at Bukowski’s apartment to start puttting the anthology together. Bukowski had collected work by poets he knew and I did the same. We exchanged piles of manuscripts and sat in Bukowski’s small living room drinking beer and reading. It soon became obvious from the sighs and groans coming from Hank that he wasn’t at all pleased. Nor was I entirely happy with what I was reading, much too narrative and prosaic for my taste. Neeli fidgeted and I pretended to read carefully (both of us then in our mid-twenties), waiting for Bukowski to take the lead. When he finished, Bukowski stood up and took a few steps to the kitchen table where his typewriter sat, and dumped the entire bundle of poems into the wastebasket under the table. I took the bundle he had given me and did likewise. Bukowski then announced that we had made real progress and ought to get down to some serious drinking. Almost two hours and a couple of six-packs later, Bukowski went to the wastebasket and pulled out the manuscripts, and we began one by one discussing the poets and their poems.
Published by our respective presses, Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns and the Red Hill Press, the Anthology of L.A. Poets came out in 1972, the first book of its kind on the scene. Bukowski had brought the following to the venture: Gerda Penfold, Charles Stetler, Linda King, Gerald Locklin, Steve Richmond, Ron Koertge, John Thomas and himself and Neeli. I advocated William Pillin, Jack Hirschman, Robert Peters, Tony Russo, Stuart Perkoff, myself and three of the poets from Alvaro’s workshop, Ameen Alwan, Rosella Pace and Holly. The page right after Bukowski’s group of poems and just before Bob Peters’s – I can’t for the life of me recall how we decided on the order – ran two poems of Holly’s. First, “the garden”:

rilke has said that
each man will take with him
from the earth
one word that he loves most

I have been thinking all evening
just in case
and can’t go beyond
lizard

And then came this piece, “the forest covered with the moon,” still one of my favorite poems of Holly’s:

rocks at the edge of the fire
warm enough for my feet
you choose the right piece of wood
every time

the trout from the hidden stream
had a stripe of gold on his belly
we loved him
ate him without feeling sorry

it will rain all night
but we don’t know that yet.

— Paul Vangelisti