Two Crucial Los Angeles Poetry Readings in 1976 and 1980 (Part One)

July 11, 2017

A PAIR OF READINGS (1976 and 1980) — PART ONE

Along with Papa Bach Bookstore and Chatterton’s, Beyond Baroque became known for its variety of poetry readings as well as other events in the mid-1970s. At one point, I proposed to Jim Krusoe that Beyond Baroque hold an evening in which poets would read their favorite children’s stories. I believe that I read “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse.” The success of that evening led to other “special theme” nights.

One of the most important readings in the mid-70s was the “cover” evening in which poets read other poets. I use “cover” in the same sense that musicians will do a “cover” of a song. We all agreed that we would not read any of our own poems. Towards the end of the long evening, though, Jack Grapes couldn’t resist the temptation to underline the punch line of his own classic stand-up metapoem: “I Like My Own Poems Best.” The audience reaction was a mixture of sighs of disappointment (rather like a crowd at a baseball game seeing a perfect game ruined in the bottom of the eight inning by a bloop single) and laughs conceding the piquant irony of Grapes’s audacious prank. The list of poets who read at this event gives a quick census of the diverse communities beginning to emerge in the mid-1970s. One would note that it is hardly the homogenous community that the new poet laureate of Los Angeles fantasizes as being the poetry scene in Los Angeles at that time.

Friday, February 13, 1976 – Beyond Baroque
“An Old Fashioned Valentine: Poets reading their favorite poems by other poets.
Ameen Alwan, Georgia Alwan, Michael Andrews, Kate Braverman, Wanda Coleman, Dennis Ellman, Michael C. Ford, Jack Grapes, Joseph Hansen, John Harris, Eloise Healy, Leland Hickman, Dennis Holt, James Krusoe, Peter Levitt, K. Curtis Lyle, William Mohr, Harry E. Northup, Holly Prado, Frances Dean Smith, Otis Smith, Paul Vangelisti.

Beyond Baroque , 8:00 p.m.

Joseph Hansen
John Harris
Frances Dean Smith
Leland Hickman
Ameen Alwan
Georgia Alwan
Harry Northup
Holly Prado
Michael C. Ford
Jack Grapes
Eloise Klein Healy
James Krusoe
Dennis Holt
K. Curtis Lyle
Otis Smith
Paul Vangelisti
Wanda Coleman
Michael Andrews
Dennis Ellman
Bill Mohr
Peter Levitt
Kate Braverman

Indeed, the extent to which other voices besides those of white males were beginning to be heard and given formal recognition can be found in a poetry reading series that was held at the Fifth Street Theater just a few years after this Valentine’s Day reading.