Tuesday, June 13, 2006

To read Bay Poetics is to once again feel that strange combination of excitement, envy, and caution that may be the condition of the Los Angeles writer. Maybe it’s called ambivalence. Stephanie Young has put together a compelling Bay Area anthology. It’s filled with favorite writers and many new-to-me poets. Youngsters alongside codgers, ellipticists alongside narratologists, dogs alongside cats, et cetera, et cetera. And yet: I already know that the Bay Area has an amazing writer’s culture; it has some of the best reading series in the country, a storied history, Small Press Distribution is based there; from my perch down in Southern California, the Bay Area looks like poet’s paradise; of course it’s going to produce excellent anthologies. It seems so unproblematic. The Southland on the other hand….

Every year, usually around the time of the Festival of Books, the Los Angeles Times publishes an article that attempts to debunk the myth of Los Angeles as an unliterary city. I love myths. They index real-world phenomena. And those perennial articles are a load of crap. Los Angeles isn’t a literary city. Never has been. The Festival of Books is an industry affair, a front for the newspaper book review. We had Zizek at a Santa Monica bookstore and less than twenty people showed up. The guy introducing him didn’t even know how to pronounce his name. I remember going to some of the readings Andrew Maxwell used to put on at Dawson’s Books a few years ago; I was embarrassed at some of the turnouts (as I’m sure Andrew was as well…most of the readings were excellent, and some of the turnouts were great; but you know, how do you apologize to a poet when she's flown in from across the country and only two people show up?)

So Southern California is not really a literary place, but it does have a literary history, and there are a ton of poets here (a few months ago Catherine Daly made a list of Southern California poets on her blog – she has since taken it down – but it numbered over 650). And it’s not as if we don’t have a plethora of reading series and salons and festivals; there’s the Last Sunday of the Month reading series at the Smell, Jen Hofer’s Moving Word film and poetry series, Jane Sprague’s Long Beach Notebook, the High Energy Constructs series, Douglas Messerli’s Green Integer Salons, the yearly experimental writing conferences at the Redcat, the new Middle Monday of the month reading series at the Coffee Fix, Beyond Baroque, the LA Lit podcast…but somehow the Southern California poetry scene does not cohere in the way the Bay Area seems to (maybe the Bay Area just seems coherent from my point-of-view, but I doubt it). (And I see that Bay Poetics was originally meant to be an issue of Jack Kimball's The East Village, following up on the LA/NY issue; of which, the LA section, compared to both the online New York section and the print Bay Area section, is not nearly as expansive and seems somewhat narrow in its selection). Los Angeles is certainly not on the top of the list for traveling readers. “What? So-and-so New York poet is reading in San Francisco? Can’t we get her to come and read in LA?” Well…

Part of the problem may be that Southern Californian poets don’t seem to like publicity, and New York and San Francisco seem to have literary genes built into their DNA; Angelenos live in the shadow of Hollywood; publicity in that context just seems crass, insincere. “After all, we have no coherent literary scene. You have to drive 45 minutes across town just to go to a reading.” There also has never been a really great anthology for the area. (Green Integer recently put out a good anthology, but it was justly criticized for having an average age of 56). And many Los Angeles writers are vehemently anti-provincial; the very mention of a Los Angeles or Southern California anthology makes some shudder. “What would we call it,” said a friend, “Freeway Poetics?” Said another: “I just don’t believe in articulating a poetics based on location, especially this location.” But precisely because a Los Angeles/Southern California poetry anthology would be so problematic may be reason enough to attempt one. I don’t know, maybe not. But I’d like to hear what others think.

Back to Bay Poetics: I love the way it begins, with Brenda Hillman’s brief poem; I love the arrangement, what Stephanie Young calls “the ecology between writers…like overlapping circles with some points and clusters around the edge,” so that Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy are right next to each other, and likewise A Tonalists Laura Moriarty and Brent Cunningham (a fie on alphabetization!); and I love reading work by writers like Dan Fisher, whom I’ve long known but never seen in print.

And oh yeah: the Jack Spicer excerpt on the back of the book is a nice touch; it's a relief to turn the book over and see poetry instead of blurbs.

7 comments:

Joseph said...

Here;s the list of 650+ Southern Californian poets (plus some additions) I found in cached page from C. Daly's blog:

a.k. toney
adam lowis
adolfo guzman-lopez
adrian aranciba
aleida rodriguez
alex m. frankel
alfie ebojo
alice pero
alicia partnoy
alicia vogl-saenz
allan jalon
Amarnath Ravva
ambika talwar
amde hamilton
amelie frank
amy gerstler
amy nolan
amy uyematsu
Andrea Carter Brown
andrew maxwell
andrew tyree
angel perales
angela mankiewicz
anita velez-mitchell
anna mortal
anne fleisher
anne silver
annette robinson
anthony lee
antonieta villamil
Antonio G. Ortiz
april jones
ara shirinyan
aram saroyan
arash saedinia
ariel robello
Arlene Stone
arthur vogelsang
artus mansoir
austin straus
b.d. love
b.h. fairchild
barbara maloutas
bart edelman
becky chickens
belinda reiser
ben porter lewis
ben trigg
benjamin weissman
bess kepp
beth amato
beth macilvaine
beth romans
beverly lafontaine
bill mohr (SD)
billiekai broughton
bob foster
bonnie hayslett
bowerbird intelligentleman
brandon backhaus
brandon cesmat
brenda petrakos
brendan constantine
bridget gray
bronwynn-rose
bruce arnold
bruce williams
bruna mori
buddy wakefield
c. frances "frankie" drayus
c. natale peditto
c. pete lee
c.e. chaffin
calvin bedient
carl "calokie" stilwell
carla vega
carlye archibeque
carmen vega
carol kent Ireland
carol lem
carol lewis
carol muske dukes
carol v. davis
carole luther
caron andregg
catherine daly
catherine spear
cathie sandstrom
cesar a. cruz
charles ardinger
charles bivens
charles harper webb
charlotte o'brien
cheryl samson
chief eagle eye
chris abani
Chris Reiner
chris tannahill
christian elder
christine palma
christopher buckley
chryss yost
chuck powell
cindy bailey
cindy love
claudia handler
cody chavez
conney williams
connie craig
consuelo flores
cornelius rex
craig cotter -- may have moved
crystal irby
crystal waterford
curtis baruth
dafydd makaharay
dana snow
daniel mcginn
daniel tiffany
david hernandez
david hideo maruyama
David L. Ulin
david navarro
david nordling
david oliveira
david st. john
deborah edler brown
Deborah Edler Brown
deborah meadows
dee black
deena metzger
denis mair
dennis cruz
Dennis Dorney
dennis phillips
derek mckown
derrick brown
devin cohee
diane dorman
diane ward
dina hardy
dinah berland
dj jedi
dj joe b.
dj lady sha
dj mikecheck
dogtown
don "kingfisher" campbell
Donas John
donn deedon
donna gebron
dorothy barresi
dorothy randall gray
doug knott
dr. madd vibe
drummer guy
dufflyn lammers
eitan kadosh
el rivera
elena karina byrne
elizabeth iannaci
ellyn maybe
elmo martin
eloise klein healy
eric brown
eric priestly
erica erdman
erika abbott
Eve La Salle Caram
Felice Picano
fernando castro
florence weinberger
frances dean "franceye" smith
frank rios
fred dewey
fred moten
fred voss
g. murray thomas
Gabriel Spera
gail wronsky
gannon daniels
garland lee thompson
gary justice
george drury smith
george macdonald
gerald locklin
Geraldine Kudaka
ghettospeare
gia scott heron
gina loring
ginger holguin
glenn bach
gloria vando
gretchen mattox
guy bennett
hal bogotch
hannibal tabu
harry northup
harryette mullen
heather long
henry morro
holaday mason
holly prado
hope alvarado
howard bilow
ian grant
imani tolliver
irene m. suico soriano
iris berry
isaac sundiata miller
jack bowman
jack brewer
jack grapes
jack skelly
jackson wheeler
jacqueline de angelis
jaimes palacio
james "the rebel poet"
james cushing
james maverick
james mcmichael
james ragan
jamie o'halloran
jan wesley
jane sprague
janet sager
janet sternberg
jawanza dumisani
jay alamares
jay walker
Jean Aldriedge
jeanette clough
jeanine jarrell
Jeanne M. Nichols
jeannie novak
jeff mcdaniel – no longer in LA
jen hofer
jennifer bowens
jennifer johns
jennifer tseng
jenny bates
jenny factor
jenoyne adams
jeremiah gilbert
jerry d. wylie
jerry garcia
jessica goodheart
jessica grande
jill the harp diva
jim bolt
jim carroll
jim doane
jim natal
jim ysidro
jin an wong
joan jobe smith
Joan La Bombard
joe smillie
john c. harrell
john fitzgerald
john gardiner
john harris
john menaghan
john thomas
john w. hart iii
jordan elsrably
joseph hansen
Joseph Thomas
joshua beatboxer silverstein
joy buckley
joy jones
juan delgado
judith pacht
judith rose
judith taylor
judy kronenfield
Julia stein
juliana mccarthy
julie andrews
julie bemis
june melby – in IA
justine bae
kaaren kitchell
kamau daaood
karen seeberg
kat carrido
kate gale
katerina canyon
katherine williams
kathleen lohr
katie o'loughlin
katie rydell
katya giritsky
keith meyers
keith niles
kelly morgan
Kenneth John Atchity
kennon b. raines
kenya mclaren
Keven Bellows
kevin lockridge
Killarney Clary
kita curry shantiris
kurt lehovic
lan duong
Lan Tran
lara kaapuni
larkin higgins
larry bridges
larry colker
larry jaffe
larry schultz
laughing larry
laurel ann bogen
lawrence berger
leah smillie
lee balan
lee mccarthy
lee rossi
lee sloka
leilani hall
leslie hanson
leslie maryanne neal
leslie monsour
levan d. hawkins
lewis macadams
leyda garcia
linda albertano
linda gamboa
linda j. albertano
lisa glatt
liz belile
liz gonzalez
lizzie wann
lori davis
lori mcginn
lorraine harrell
louise mathias
luigi ballerini
luis campos
luis rodriguez
lynne bronstein
lynne thompson
m. gwin wheatley
m.c. bruce
mack dennis
mack dennis
mani suri
manuel luna
manuel schwab
marcia arrieta
marcia cohee
marco vasquez
margaret wang
maria elena fernandez
marian j. mulroney
marie lecrivain
marilyn chin
marina borawick
marisela norte
marjorie becker
marjorie roberts
mark dixon
mark gonzalez
mark irwin
Mark Irwin
Mark McCloskey
mark pomeroy
mark salerno
mark schaefer
marsha de la o
martha ronk
martin laarakker
martin nakell
mary cahill
mary terragrossa
matthew niblock
maureen alsop
mauro monteiro
maurya simon
maya chinchilla
mayes brother marcos
mayes brother maurice
mayra morena
megan hardy
melissa fischer
mellonee houston blue
merilene murphy
mia o'brien
michael c ford
michael cirelli
michael datcher
michael lally
michael lenhart
michael m. mollett
michael paul
Michael Ryan
michele daugherty
michelle ben-hur
michelle pilar hamill
mifanwy kaiser
miguel sanchez
mike "the poet" sonsken
mike m. mollett
mike sprake
mike watt
mindy nettifee
mollie angelheart
molly bendall
mona jean
monica copeland
mr. poetik
mst muze
nafessa monroe
nan hunt
nancy scott campbell
neeli cherkovski
neil aitken
nelson gary
nichole morgan
nicole panter
nikki blak
nikki skies
nita donovan
Noelle Sickels
norm levine
Norma Almquist
orchid black
Otis O'Solomon
paddy campanero
pam ward
Pamala Karol
pano douvos
pat cohee
pat payne
patricio maya
patrick mooney
patty seyburn
paul body
paul calderon
paul koenig
paul lieber
paul mabon
paul suntup
paul trachtenberg
paul vangelisti
pedro derycz
peg dobreer
peggy aylesworth levine
peggy dobreer
percival everett
pete justus
peter coca
Peter Frank
peter j. harris
peter layton
Peter Serchuk
phil harmonic
phil taggert
phillip sparks
philomene long
phloe
phoebe macadams-ozuna
pleasant gehman
pocho joe
poetri
princess peter-raboff
q
r.a.c.
r.d. "raindog" armstrong
rachel kann
raelene smillie
rafael f.j. alvarado
ramon garcia
rand labelle
randall "tin ear" fleming
ratpack slim
ray lanthier
regina o'melveny
reina prado
renee m. carter
reverend dave
rex wilder
rhonda hardy
ric gentry
ricardo means ybarra
rich ferguson
Richard Anthony Dedeaux
richard beban
richard garcia
Richard Grossman
richard Modiano
rick lupert
rick noguchi
rick weinberger
rob neill
robert arroyo jr.
robert peters
robin gwynne
Roger Taus
roland poet x
roland vasin
ron dvorkin -- well, he really is the poet, not his son -- right?
ron frank
ron koertge
ron stark
Rondo Mieczkowski
Russell C. Leong
russell johnson
russell salomon
ruth forman
ruth judkowitz
ruth nolan
ruth wire
ruthie schwable
ryan oba
ryan tranquilla
S. L. Friedman
S. Pearl Sharp
s.a. griffin
sam skow
sarah maclay
sardonyx jade
scott katz
scott lee
scott wannberg
scott weible
sekou da misfit
sequoia mercer
sesshu foster
sharon smith-knight
shelley berger
shelly savren
sheri "sharose" niedelman
sherman pearl
sholeh wolpe
shondra buchanan
siel ju
sister yolanda
some adds to be re-alpha (well, really have to put this in order by surname)
sovereign sagelord
st. teresa stone
stan apps
standard schaefer -- in SF
stellasue lee
Stephanie borwn
stephanie hemphill
stephen shepherd
stephen yenser
steve abee
steve baratta
steve connell
steve goldman
steve justice
steve ramirez
stosh machek
sun yi
susan adhoot
susan mccabe
suzanne lummis
talaam acey
teka-lark lo
teresa willis
teri bat-sonia
terrie silverman
terry bat-sonia
Terry Borst
terry mccarty
terry stevenson
terry wolverton
thea iberall
thea monyee
theodis hayslett
thurston seaton
tianna brown
tiffany scott
tim murnane
timothy steele
tish eastman
todd baron
tom hardy
tom jessor
tommy o'riley
Tony Barnstone
tosh berman
tucker smallwood
ulli "blue" ryder
uncle don fanning
v. kali
vanessa vela
victor infante
victoria chang
victoria locke
viet le
viggo mortensen
vince garofalo
walter lew
wanda coleman
wanda van hoy
wayman barnes
weba garretson
wendy grosskopf
wild bill mahoney
will alexander
William fox
william mclain
willie sims
yunte huang
yvonne de la vega
Neil Aitken
Gwendolyn Alley
Douglas Anderson
Ralph Angel
Roger R. Angle
Samuel Appelbaum
Mary Armstrong
Kenneth John Atchity
Mark Axelrod
Dick Barnes
Heather Doran Barbieri
Catherine Henley Erickson
Rachelle Benveniste
Anita Susan Brenner
Lynne Bronstein
Steve De France
Samuel A. Eisenstein
Jo-Anne Cappeluti
R. S. Carlson
Elliot Fried
Millicent Borges Accardi
Lucia Galloway Dick
Dan Gerber
Timothy Green
Rafael Zepeda
Mitsuye Yamada
Paul Willis
Ian Randall Wilson
Anne F. Wittels
Murray E. Wolfe
Jerome rothenburg
steve kowit
Eleanor antin
david antin
K. Lorraine Graham
mark Wallace
Rae Armantrout
Anne Wilson
Michael Davidson
Maggie jaffee?
Harold Abromowitz
Matt Timmons
Franklin Bruno
Amar Ravva
Doug Kearney
Joseph Mosconi
Douglas Messerli
Aaron Kunin
Maggie Nelson
Christine Werthem
Janet Sarbanes
Vanessa Place
Matias Viegener

stan said...

Amar is on there twice.

Who are these poets with names like r.a.c. and q?

rodney k said...

I've always *wanted* to think of L.A. as a literary city, b/c L.A.--with its film industry, antic immigrant energies, enforced devotion to sprawl, etc.--feels like a much more 21st century place than San Francisco, which is a wonderful boutique of a city but a little too shielded from the harder truths of globalism. San Francisco's "the City," L.A. a zone or space.

I wonder if it really does come down to that cliche of geography. It just takes too damn long to drive anywhere in L.A., while Bay Area readings get fed by BART, carpools, and word of mouth that spreads more easily on a cramped penninsula.

I feel like it's a tougher, more sinewy thing to be a poet in L.A. It's easy here--you practically get an MFA with your MUNI pass--but when I think about the myth surrounding L.A. writers, there's always a kind of hardness, the sense of a fish simultaneously out of water and swimming upstream.

Set me straight if I'm wrong, or living too deep in myth. Great post. :)

P.S. if Stephanie could get a bunch of the Bay Poetics readers down there, you think people would come?

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joseph said...

I think hosting a Los Angeles Bay Poetics reading is a great idea. It might be a struggle to find a good place to hold the reading (Beyond Baroque requires 5 months advance notice...and I don't know if the Smell, the usual spot for out-of-town readers, would be the best place either) but I think we can come up with some alternatives. To be successful it would have to be centrally located; the readers would have to be selected from a cross-section of ages (not just the 35 or younger crowd); it would have to be well publicized; and we'd have to pull out the more established LA poets who don't usually go to alot of readings by the younger crowd. I envision a "weekend", maybe even more than one event, say a public reading, an episode of the LA Lit podcast, and maybe a salon/party.

stan said...

Sounds good to me!

Cinearte said...

www.poetix.com has a listing and a calendar of all the poetry venues in L.A. County as well as the locations. You'll might find that the Southern California diversity is bigger than you thought. Talking about diversity, www.poeticdiversity.org is a literary journal from L.A. that has a good cross-section of poetry that the city has to offer.