I is there a los angeles poetry community? (you're damned skippy! special ellyn maybe edition)
<1>To Fred Dewey and Bill Mohr
And with apologies to our unmentioned, but much beloved Orange County Brethren
For those perplexed about the state
of Los Angeles poetry and wondering
whether an Angeleno is an Angeleno
(answer: yesóa lot more than
The O.C. is anything Orange County),
perhaps a third-generation daughter
of the orange groves, the Lockheed plant
and the full-service Mohawk gasoline station,
a child raised on milk from the Jessup Dairy
and the transistorized voice of Vin Scully
can deliver some 411 on the poetry of
the 213, the 818, the 310, the 323,
and the 626.
S.A. Griffin says there is a river
and that river is Frank T Rios,
the real-deal Venice Beat
who recalls when poetry
was banned in Venice in the 1950s,
who sidles along the Boardwalk
with our grandfather John Harris,
our bearded crone of many colors FrancEyE,
the late, limerick-prone Joseph Hansen,
heedless of the weather
mindful of the magnificent array of funky dogs
poetry sank its roots early and permanently
into the sand, the tar, the Graumanís concrete
watered by the cityís other river that meanders
from the north Valley headwaters, past the
Jessup cows, through Frankie Drayusí
beloved Se-PUL-Veda basin, Frogtown and
onward to where the giant ants play and the
singing Ďní dancing teenagers rumble,
all under the laconic, loving eye
of Lewis Macadams, he with the silent matinee
idolís face and his words anchoring all government
in Van Nuys. The riparian concourse
finds Rafael F.J. Alvarado, Christian Elder,
and Mauro Monteiroómaking like Huck, Jim,
and Mauro Monteiroódrifting south aboard a raft
toward Raindog territory, full-tilt Bukowskiville,
those other Sonnets of the Portugese.
Wait, this just in! Stan Chambers KTLA reporting
live from the redundant tar pits, where a volcano
is rariní to blow. Cue Tommy Lee Jones. Cue
Ann Heche. Oh, naw, wait, forget about itó
send the Teamsters home. Itís no volcano,
itís Scott Wannberg erupting with his usual
spontaneous overflow. Heís wearing the bold, red T-shirt
that reads ďMy grandparents went to Tintern Abbey
and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.Ē
Scott sings, ďThe lava and the T-shirt went dancing down the
Wilshire Blvd. of Love. O, the humanity!
The humanity made a collect call to your
Television, and the War got up and cooked
itself a grilled cheese sandwich.Ē
Scottís words descend upon
the Fairfax district like Godzilla
after heís spent waaaay too much time in Nelson
Garyís garage. The words send Mark Salerno
dashing down the Miracle Mile looking for
a good 70s disco reference. The words send
Richard Beban on another 50-city poetry
Tour. The words sell Brother Doug Knott
up the river in a steamboat. Donít trust his
deck of cards, Slick! The words try to yap
their into the ears of Michael C Ford,
who brushes them off his epauletsódonít
even think about messing with the hair.
Ask Carlye Archibeque what itís like when
the words get stuck in her throat. She threw
the coolest wedding ever in Angeleno
history, inviting all the Hollywood dead
to share in her joy. The bride wore black.
The best man wore fangs. And Brendan Constantine
made a cameo appearance in the role of the valet
from Sunset Blvd.
Somewhere on the other side of the Tar Pits,
Brother Mike Mollett is smearing himself with
mud and going walkabout. Steve Abee conducts
manic surveillance of Mikeís wanderings from
a badly disguised bus. Hereís the scary part:
Jack Brewer is driving. He has no steering wheel.
Why isnít Jack Grapes on the bus?
Richard Modiano rides shotgun, taking furtive
notes of Mikeís movements in kanakata for the record.
The record will show that Peter Layton wrote much,
taught many, but spoke little. The record will show
that the sorceress Marie Lecrivain and shapeshifter
Erica Erdman continue to cast a charmed circle
around the cityís poets, dispatching immaculate black cats<
to cozy up to any poet whose heart has hit the skids.
Occasionally, Erica goofs off and morphs into William
Burroughs. But I bring good news! Bob Fosterís
breakfast cereal has been returned to him at last
(and just in time, because Peggy Aylesworth
wants something crunchy in the ayem).
Alongside the Vermont onramp
to the southbound 101,Terry McCarty is
selling really, really big oranges. Look down
yonder at the hozy-gosy in the #4 lane, and
youíll see G. Murray Thomas trying to herd
a bunch of Jessup you-know-whats. And
here comes Bowerbird in overalls to milk them.
Here comes Kate Gale with fresh eggs to
make French toast. Here come Ron and Doug
Dvorkin to eat the first batchóextra syrup and
butter for my boy, please. Here comes Mark Savage
with an old Kodak Instamatic with those old
ice cube flash bulbs to get a happy father and son
portrait. Here comes the ghost of Kathleen Hietala
in every breath we take.
And what of Beyond Baroque? Originally, we were
going to call it Beyond Gothic, but the idea of
all those pasty poets looking like the lead singer of
The Cure was just . . . not L.A. poetry.
What L.A. Poetry is is the vision of Philomene Long,
carrying dozens of scarlet roses, inhaling once more
the scent of her husband John Thomas from
every errant petal. Itís the cityís three gracesó
Sarah Maclay, Jeanette Clough, Pam Wardó
performing panegyrics among the cacti in the
Huntington Gardens. Itís Beverly Lafontaineís voice.
Katherine Williamsí cello. Mani Suriís sartorial devotions.
Jim Natalís secret passwords. Jamie OíHalloranís throat.
Linda J. Albertanoís drums. Jeff Rocklinís power-chord tresses.
The American psychopomp that IS Vic Day.
Itís Richard Garcia in the trenches at Childrenís Hospital.
Itís Kaaren Kitchell festooned in sea foam on the shore of
an uncharted Greek isle. Itís Michael Lenhart putting his kids
first. Suzanne Lummisí historic hut of rocks. Teresa Willisí
ethereal decency. Matthew Niblock humming the gospel
that bleeds in his too, too human hands.
Itís Lee Rossi and Ray Lanthier leading
free weekly workshops. Itís Larry Colker and
Jim Doane setting the right example. Itís the sun rising
in Imani Tolliverís indestructible smile. Itís Laurel Ann
Bogenís yellow VW bug lugging pumpkins to decorate for
Halloween in Rat City. Itís Peter J. Harrisí voice interwoven
with the strains of ĎRound Midnight. Itís the justice in Gerry
Quickleyís eyes. Itís Kamau Daaoud keeping the doors and
the minds of The World Stage open. Itís an El Segundo blue
butterfly alighting in Thurston Seatonís hand.
Itís Neil Aitken on a new mission, not the Father Serra type.
Itís Gale Wronskyís earrings, Alicia Partnoyís screams,
Ron Koertgeís Mummy, Chris Abaniís cool,
Don Kingfisher Campbellís beard, Dave Nordlingís altitude,
Catherine Dalyís exquisitely parted flaxen hair,
Jawanza Dumisaniís spontaneously combusting scarecrow,
Deena Metzgerís Topanga Canyon wolves,
Jim Cushingís SRO events in SLO,
and Peter Coca singing at the top of his street vendorís voice,
ďLookiní good peacock!Ē
Itís Allen J. Friedman kicking our asses from the grave.
Itís David St. John inflating his lyre.
Itís Terry Stevenson peeking from behind a Joshua Tree
and hoping that we havenít noticed him in that brash
Hawaiian shirt. Itís another round of mojitos on Bart Edelman
and Rex Wilderís licked off all the salt again.
Itís B.H. Fairchild copping every award but the Pulitzer, thank you.
Itís Eloise Klein Healy rapping on possums.
Itís kissing a toad and discovering
youíve just frenched Gerald Locklin.
Itís Rick Weinberger helping to put away the chairs.
Itís Anne Silverís gloves planting 700 trees along Venice Blvd..
Itís Robert Arroyoís grief for his lost daughter. Itís the
Passion of Bob Flanagan and Viggo Mortensenís humility.
Itís Tucker Smallwood in country.
Itís a 21-gun salute for Jack Shafer.
Itís Orchid Black as the Naked Girl.
Itís Benjamin Weissman at the Armand Hammer.
Itís Terry Wolverton and the Womenís Building.
Itís how much we miss having Robert Wynne, Nicole Harvey,
and Jane Cassady around. Itís Michelle Ben-Hur aprowl in
a jungle cat print. Amy Gerstler? Requires no explanation.
Itís Florence Weinberger harrumphing with love.
Itís Jerry Garciaís largesse. Itís Merilene Murphy up late
with the hoot owls. Itís James Maverick and Christine Palma
infusing the air with our words.
Itís Alice Peroís flute. Aire Celesteís nomme de plume.
Itís Elizabeth Ianacci walking the tightrope in stilettos.
Itís Paris with Cecelia Woloch. Itís Ambika Talwarís paintings.
And itís the loversóMichael Datcher cradling Jenoyne Adams.
Uncle Don Fanning nuzzling Carol Kent Ireland.
Harry Northup singing peaens to the beauty of Holly Prado.
John FitzGerald and HťlŤne Cardona
wisely eschewing the spring water.
Wanda Coleman tending Austin Strausí weary feet.
Itís Phoebe Macadamsí book of flowers, in which the poems
are pressed between the pages to dry for posterity.
Itís Maria-Elena Fernandezí slow slow quick-quick slow,
Donna Gebron as the contemplative Madonna,
Carmen Vegaís character shoes,
and the mystique of Paddy Campaneroís bangs.
Itís Dennis Cruz as the Cityís sentinel,
Tess. Lotta and Theresa Antonia as the new guard,
Katerina Canyon as the Poet Laureate of Sunland Tujunga,
and Terrie Silverman as the millinerís muse.
Itís Alicia Vogl-Saenz not running with scissors.
Itís Willie Sims grinning like Baron Samedi and
Blakeslee Stevens incognito. Itís St. Teresa Stone stooped over
like a gleaner, working the fresh soil of language.
Itís Paul Vangelisti whose very name proffers the good word.
Itís Paul Lieber appearing Jesus Christ on ďThe X Files.Ē
And somewhere, Luis Campos designs another crossword
and Ralph Angel does the whole damned thing in ink.
What becomes the legend of Nan Hunt most?
Why isnít Nicole Panter a freeway mural yet?
Is Iris Berry sassing the teacher again?
What is UP with Elena Karina Byrneís naughty lips?
Which twin has the Charles Webb toni?
What color is Peggy Dobreerís horse?
Can Brooks Roddan milk some publicity from all this?
Can Holaday Mason plumb our Freudian depths in one hour?
Will I ever get to meet Carine Topal and get to tell her
that I worked for her ex-husband for over seven years?
Well, here are some of the answers.
Itís S.A. Griffinís electric blue pompadour and anything that
Sweet Lorraine is wearing. Itís Paul Koenigís capacity
to see worlds of meaning in a marble, a gumball, the firmament.
Itís Rachel Kaanís world, and we all just live in it.
Itís the ephemeral sweetness of Tekaís Fleshy Candy.
Itís Mindy Nettifeeís gutsiness, Debra Edler Brownís catsuit,
Stoch Machekís cigar-smoking muse, Wendy Grosskopfís hapless
husband being chased down the driveway by my 78-year-old father.
Itís Larry Jaffe from afar, and Brenda Petrakos and
E. Amato? There you are!
But what L.A. Poetry is, tonight, is 100 broadsheets for 100 poets.
Itís Ellyn Maybe, resplendent with her time in Europe, Prague
kindly returning her to us in the guise of the Endless Sibling Delight.
Itís Rick Lupert, fearless Macintosh artist, precision word jeweler,
and longtime Cobalt host, clearing his throat to tell us whoís on deck.
Itís our city, an affinity, a community that welcomes all newcomers
be they native geniuses like Claudia Handler or those who
know more about stemware than a caesura. Itís the dawn of
an exciting new Brickbat. Itís the lingering flavor of old Caffeine.
Itís Tom Ianniello and the Iguana Cafť, may it rest in peace.
It cannot be systemized, gentrified, socially climbed, or plowed
under by the politics of division. It reveres the hardworking and
snickers uproariously at the self-anointed. It cross-pollinates
too swiftly for any cliques to go the distance. It cannot be quantified,
and itís a damned tough thing to photograph. And Baby . . .
itís a bear to feed! You couldnít make it over in your own image
if you tried, because its one constant is change.
It is what it is, and I call it my home.