The Stoner Park Poets’ Picnic (1980)

The reading of “5 Editors” at Papa Bach in 1974 and the large group reading that took place on Valentine’s Day, 1976, at Beyond Baroque were definitive moments in the resurgence in the poetry scenes in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. By the late 1970s, another groundswell of poetry magazines based in Los Angeles caught the West Coast still off-guard. No one was expecting Los Angeles to be the home base for so many activist editors. By the end of the decade, yet more editors were showing up, and their work provided the basis for many subsequent scenes to understand how complicated any account of Los Angeles must inherently be.

Among the most important editors were Dennis Cooper and Jack Skelley. Cooper’s Little Caesar magazine and Little Caesar press easily rank in the top 50 of all small press projects in the period between 1960 and 1990. Skelley’s magazine, Barney, was one of the rare magazines that accomplished more in its four issue run than other magazines manage to do in a dozen issues. David Trinidad and Amy Gerstler also had significant, though brief, projects at this time, too. One summer day found this new generation gathered at Stoner Park, along with two of the older editors, for a picnic.

Here are some photographs, never before shared, of “L.A. poets in their youth.” All photographs in this post were taken by me, and are (c) Bill Mohr. Group photograph (c) Cathay Gleeson.

Jim Krusoe - PICNIC - 2

Jim Krusoe holding court on a picnic table. In the background, one can see Dennis Cooper, David Trinidad, and Jack Skelley. I believe the man sitting on the bench in the foreground is Marshall Davis.

Dennis Cooper - Breaking on Camera
“Breaking on Camera”: Dennis Cooper, wearing a “My Aim Is True” t-shirt

Scott Wannberg - 1

From left to right: Joe Safdie; Julia Norstrand; (unknown person); Scott Wannberg, in red T-shirt, “McGovern 72”). Joe Safdie, it should be noted, went on to edit a poetry magazine after he moved to Northern California.

Picnic GROUP - 1

Standing, from left: David Trinidad; unknown; Amy Gerstler; Manazar Gamboa; Dennis Cooper; Rick Lawndale (with guitar); Jack Skelley; other figures in the back row, unknown); front row; kneeling, Bill Mohr; and two unknown individuals.)