Sunday, August 12, 2007

giving credit where it's due

A response I received from Stan Apps regarding some earlier comments I made about what I might term the "human resource" problem of contemporary innovative poetry (which might be summarized as "how do people get interested in these things?" and "how can we keep getting people interested in these things?") reminded me that a lot of my east coast friends may have a less than complete picture of what's going on in the L.A. poetry community outside of the various university programs.

Rather than my attempting to summarize all that, which I couldn't possibly do, I'd like to give the credit where it belongs to those folks who helped Lorraine and me figure out what was happening in that so much more cosmopolitan city to the north of ours.

Stan himself (just now moved to Tampa, sadly for us all) was the first person we met, after he and his co-hosts invited Lorraine and I to read in a Sunday night reading series at L.A.' s infamous The Smell. He picked us up at the train station and went with us to lunch, then we spent the afternoon before the reading at the Getty Museum. At that first event we met his co-hosts Jane Sprague and Ara Shirinyan, both of whom run fantastic small presses that publish a lot of worthwhile books.

We met many other people through that event and on several following trips that we took to L.A. Catherine Daly helped set up a reading for Tom Orange, Lorraine and me at the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, a performance venue with a great small press library currently being run by Fred Dewey. Earlier in the day Catherine had taken all three of us to the LaBrea tar pits, where ancient L.A. area poets were thrown after bad performances. Catherine runs a small press too, and I've been consistently impressed by the range and quality of poetry books being published in L.A.

It was the night of the Beyond Baroque event that we met Joseph Mosconi, a poet who has since become a very good friend, and who has graciously put us up on a number of L.A. trips. It's hard to describe how great it's been spending time with Joseph and his partner Rita Gonzalez and getting to know about their involvement in the worlds of literature and art. They are the editors of the soon-to-be-published first issue of Area Sneaks, a journal devoted to the intersections between poetry and the visual arts.

Mathew Timmons, one of the co-organizers of the Betalevel events, has also invited us to read and be part of various L.A. events. As with all these other people, Matt's energy for coordinating performances and publishing literary magazines ( most recently Fold Appropriate Text, edited in conjunction with Stan Apps) is both impressive and welcoming. Courtesy of Matt's organizing efforts, we're headed next weekend to Berkeley to give a reading at Pegasus Books.

We've met (or seen again, if we knew them already) lots of other poets in L.A. as well: Mark Salerno, Diane Ward, Aaron Kunin, Deborah Meadows, Harold Abramowitz, Stephanie Rioux, Will Alexander and quite a few others.

On our last trip I finally met Teresa Carmody and Vanessa Place, whose Les Figues Press is another of the L.A. poetry outfits that's really producing fine books. Teresa has recently become co-host of the reading series at The Smell.

That's quite a roll call of talent and effort, and all told, it adds up to a really vibrant poetry scene that's become a crucial aspect of my life as a writer in Southern California.

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