Tag Archives: Woman’s Building

FEASTS by Holly Prado (1976)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

“to turn our gold into ordinary ground / the best possible solution”

Feasts_BookCover

One of the most tantalizing books I published when I was the literary editor, production manager, and distribution agent for Momentum Press back in the 1970s and 1980s was Holly Prado’s Feasts, which I published in 1976. It’s hard to believe that Feasts is forty years old. Even after all this time, however, it still remains a difficult book to classify. A prose poem novella? Autobiographical fiction? A feminist text that serves as an early example of the use of journal writing as a source of creative self-definition?

I believe that the book is one of the classic pieces of writing in American literature. Although the book is not in print, I have taught it in several graduate seminars at CSU Long Beach; one student summed up many reactions: “Where has this book been all my life?” One answer I give to that question is, “Looking for another publisher.”

FEASTS sold well in the two years after it was published, even though it did not receive many reviews. One of them, however, was in the Los Angeles Times, and I excerpt from it to give you some sense of the book’s impact at the time:

“An experimental novel about a twice-divorced, 36-year-old writer named Clare and her lovers and friends. What’s interesting here is that Prado is truly experimenting…. She splices together a life from fragments of scenes, sentences, dreams, memories … a vivid sense of Clare’s life…. Stylistically the book is worth examining because Prado breathes energy into the flat, half-truth of fiction by writing poetry. (She ) arranges words in breath patterns rather than in sentences … Prado uses the period, the comma, the strophe and antistrophe with a musical exactitude we’ve not heard for a long time.”

I suppose it is a bit of a fantasy to expect a book that has not been in print for over 30 years to appear in an annotated edition, and yet that is what this book needs and deserves. Without at least some commentary accompanying a reprint, a new generation of readers would probably not realize how important it is to go on-line and look up the Woman’s Building, the cultural center in Los Angeles that plays a major role in Feasts. Those who read this book without any awareness of the roman a clef quality of its social context will miss much of the ambience that it has to offer.

I would like to go on record as having made efforts to get Feasts reprinted. Specifically, I have twice approached the Feminist Press in New York City, and each time have failed to receive even the courtesy of a form rejection. The first time they claimed that they never received the copy of the book I sent for their consideration, but the second time I handed a photocopy of the book to the editor along with a return envelope. No response.

Perhaps there is some new feminist press out there that would be willing to undertake this project and include a long introduction and afterword. It is with this hope that I light a cake with 40 candles to celebrate my good fortune in having been its first publisher. I refuse to believe that such a marvelously intimate, tender and lyric piece of feminist affirmation will not be for sale again at Skylight Books.

The AWP will have a major bookfair as part of its annual convention, which opens at the Convention Center in Los Angeles starting tomorrow. In general, the book publishers that are part of the AWP trade show are far more conservative than they imagine themselves to be. The sad truth is that I am not expecting any publisher at that bookfair actually leaving town in anticipation of reading FEASTS and seriously considering taking it on as a reprint project. Nevertheless, I post this notice in the hope that someone still cares about keeping avant-garde feminist writing available to the generation that might well elect the first female president or the first openly Socialist president of the United States.

Review of Eloise Klein Healy’s ARTEMIS IN ECHO PARK

I first heard Eloise Klein Healy read her poetry at Immaculate Heart College, a Catholic college in Los Angeles that unflinchingly challenged the patriarchal hierarchy of that religion during the late 1960s. By the time I got to the campus around 1973 or 1974 to hear her read with Michael C. Ford, the nuns who taught there had already declared themselves to be free of the local bishop’s heavy hand. As a poet, Healy too was seeking alternative models of writing. At Immaculate Heart, Healy read a mix of poems, several of which were memorable enough on first hearing that I recognized them immediately when they appeared in her first collection, Building Some Changes (Beyond Baroque New Book, 1976). I included her in my first anthology, The Streets Inside: Ten Los Angeles Poets (Momentum Press, 1978), alongside Holly Prado, Deena Metzger, Kate Braverman, Jim Krusoe, Lee Hickman, and Harry E. Northup. Her poems have subsequently appeared in over a dozen anthologies, including Edward Field’s mass-market paperback, A Geography of Poets. Healy went on to devote a considerable amount of time to the Woman’s Building, all the while teaching at a variety of settings, including California State University, Northridge. In 2012, the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles selected her to serve as the first Poet Laureate of L.A.

Healy was among the small cluster of poets in Los Angeles who managed to be featured both in the Stand Up poetry anthologies edited by Charles Webb and to be part of the roster of Spoken Word performers recorded by New Alliance Records for which Harvey Kubernik served as producer.

You can find a selection of twenty poems from her books at:

http://www.eloisekleinhealy.com/read.html

Almost a quarter-century ago, I wrote a review of her collection, ARTEMIS IN ECHO PARK, that never found an editor willing to publish it. By the time I wrote this review, she had also appeared in my second anthology, Poetry Loves Poetry. I should emphasize that my comments on her poetry probably reflect my impatience with my own inability to bring a more lyrical touch to my poems than a dissatisfaction with her Healy’s verse. I present my review, though, without rewriting it. I would add only that her work has continued to mature, in the 20 years since I wrote this brief essay, both in its “ordinary wisdom” and in its formal dexterity. Her sestina, “Louganis,” which I first heard her read at the Idyllwild Poetry Festival, is memorable enough to make the task of memorizing it not anywhere near as daunting a task as learning to dive from a high board. It’s a 10, though it’s not the first time her poems have earned that mark.

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