Hold-Outs: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance, 1948-1992

“Bill Mohr offers a textured, historically variable, and theoretically alert profile of a literary milieu that is hard to keep in focus in the first place—much like Los Angeles itself. Each chapter has a singular focus, contributing to the whole from an oblique perspective. Mohr’s attention to the sociopolitical dynamic of L.A. as urban landscape provides a welcome and at times sagacious backdrop.”—Jed Rasula, author, The American Poetry Wax Museum: Reality Effects, 1940–1990

“Mohr regularly brings clarity to intricate and convoluted cultural matters at the same time as he constructs useful frameworks for supporting the work of poets whose writing might otherwise go neglected. He continually finds importance in poems and in situations that he insightfully associates with a time and a place which he has summoned, with a sometimes miraculous attention to detail, from out of dusty pages and obscure documents. His in-depth knowledge of the poetry scene in Los Angeles, and the energy he brings to unearthing the post–World War II years in which that scene began to take shape, make his portrayals convincing on numerous levels, though his most important insight may be to remind us of the role poetry can play in galvanizing community awareness.”—Edward Brunner, author, Cold War Poetry

In Hold-Outs, Bill Mohr, long a figure on the Los Angeles poetry scene, reveals the complicated evolution of the literary landscape in a city famous for its production of corporate culture. Mohr’s multigenerational account of the role of the poet-editor-publisher in Los Angeles community formation is nothing less than a radiant mosaic of previously little-known details about an important center of American poetry. While explaining the important role of L.A. in contemporary American poetry, Mohr also explores the ideals and perils of the small press movement in the twentieth century, providing a new generation of literary activists with the knowledge that is needed to inspire their own redefinitions of the social value of alternative artistic practices.

Drawing on extensive archival research of original documents, Mohr argues that West Coast poets in general (and Los Angeles poets in particular) have been part of what can be called not so much a haven of more imaginatively inspired artists but, rather, a site of revisionist creativity. Revealed here are the personalities (including Stuart Perkoff, Wanda Coleman, Leland Hickman, Paul Vangelisti, Don Gordon, Suzanne Lummis, John Thomas, Ron Koertge, and Charles Bukowski, among others), the institutions, the publications, and the informal poetry groups that together formed a matrix that encouraged poetry to be written, performed, published, and acknowledged.

Hold-Outs is a stunning roadmap of the interwoven contexts of an ongoing cultural debate whose most important witnesses are finally being heard.