The MPTF Memorial Reading of Holly Prado’s “Word Rituals”

August 17, 2019

When my mother entered hospice on August 4th, my sister Joni decided to fly in from Israel and be with her during our mother’s final days, and I remain deeply appreciative of her efforts. It was the best possible gift that our mother could have received from her favorite child. Given the sudden immediacy of our mother’s accelerated decline, Joni was only able to book a flight that arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday, August 10th, which was also the date for Holly Prado’s memorial. Linda and I drove up to Woodland Hills in separate cars, since she was going to visit her mother after the service, while I needed to return to Long Beach to reconnoiter with Joni. Laurel Ann Bogen rode up with Linda, and back home with me. It’s tough not to leave a carbon footprint in Los Angeles, but we three did our best that day.

The afternoon’s gathering was very well attended. Well over a hundred people filled the Gianopolus Room at the retirement home facility provided by the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Additional chairs had to set up in the lobby to accommodate the crowd.

Harry Northup opened the memorial tribute to Holly Prado with a review of her life and writing. As a professional actor who has worked in films with some of the most important directors in the industry, Harry knows how to be convey nuances of emotion in a precisely articulate fashion. Every word he spoke conveyed the selflessness of his love for Holly and the life they shared.

A group reading of Holly Prado’s “Word Rituals” included the following poets and writers:

Alison Townsend
James Cushing
Phoebe MacAdams
Susan Hayden
Holiday Mason
Robert Forster
Sandra Cohen
S.A. Griffin
Cecilia Woloch
Laurel Ann Bogen
Sidney Higgins
Barbara Crane
Aram Saroyan
Kathleen Bevacqua
Judy Oberländer
Olivia Sanchez-Brown

The microphone wasn’t the best, and as someone who ended up sitting in the lobby (even though I had arrived well before the event), I appreciated the emphasis provided by S.A. Griffin, Laurel Ann Bogen, and Judy Oberlander. As might be expected, Michael C. Ford read superbly in providing a coda piece: “The World Series Is about Writing Poems.”

Some of the other poets also in attendance were Linda Albertano (with whom I shared my copy of These Mirrors Prove It during the reading of “Word Rituals”), Suzanne Lummis, Amelie Frank, Jack Grapes, Jerry Garcia, Doug Knott, Pegarty Long, Steve Goldman, Mark Rhodes, Carol Muske-Dukes, Jamie O’Halloran, Mark Savage, Lynne Bronstein, and Carine Topal.

My guess is that this was the first time many of the poets in the audience had heard “Word Rituals” read out loud. Holly Prado was always more interested in her most recent work, and her readings were not at all concerned with winning the applause of the audience through the presentation of well-known favorites. Holly made the same demand of an audience as she made of herself as an artist: experience this for the first time, even as it was unknown to me not that long ago. Suzanne Lummis made a comment to me, as she left the tribute, that she felt as if this was the first time that she had been to apprehend the convergences of her themes. Most certainly, I detected a blending of the Wordsworthian emphasis on the consciousness of a child and Beat rhythms subtly cadenced into prose poetry.

While Holly was a very good reader of her work, perhaps Suzanne’s comment is a reflection of the complexity of her poetry. One of the basic tests of a great song is that it has the flexibility to be a vehicle for more than the voice(s) of those who composed it. “Covering” a song is one of the pleasures of that endeavor. “Word Rituals” was the title poem of her CD/cassette release of “spoken word” produced b Harvey Robert Kubernik, and released by New Alliance Records, so it does stand as one of the more significant pieces in her large body of work. Hearing so many different voices intone it, though, gave it a radiance that left all present at the tribute with a renewed sense of language’s possibilities. The chorus seemed like a bursting forth of flowers from a garden that had long restrained itself, until it entered the springtime of eternity.