5.05.2005

this was the group of poets reading on the red line that I was part of -- also Keren, founder of writegrrl.

These are curated by Elena Byrne.

also check

LISTEN UP: "Chasing Poets on the Red Line" Hear or read the KCRW commentary
online. Go to www.kcrw.org, select "Arts & Culture", select "The Urban Man."

tho I didn't really talk to him, either

By GAYLE ANDERSON
April 20 - Breaking through the rush hour monotone, acclaimed
L.A.-based poets are riding the rails, lifting the heart, and inviting
Metro Rail riders to cherish the moment in celebration of National
Poetry Month in April.
The poets are staging live readings of poetry in the Metro Rail
system at rush hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on three Thursdays in
April.
The rush-hour readings are
part of Poetry in Motion, a
national arts program. At
Metro, the work of poets is
inscribed on placards and
Poet Steve Peterson is among group of poets on board Metro Red
Line April 14 for National Poetry Month readings.
PHOTOS: DENIZ DURMUS
Page 1 of 2 myMetro.net: Metro Report
5/4/2005 http://intranet1/mtanews_info/report/poetsOnBoard-2005.htm
placed aboard nearly 2,400
Metro buses, bringing poetry
to more than one million bus
riders a day.
Poetry in Motion L.A. has
staged rush-hour readings
during National Poetry
Month since its inception in
1999.
The month-long celebration
of National Poetry Month will
culminate in a staged
reading at 4 p.m., April 28,
in the courtyard adjacent to
the Metro Gold Line Mission
Station in South Pasadena.
Poets Richard Beban, George
Chacon, Michael C. Ford, Liz
González, Kaaren Kitchell,
Regina O’Melveny, and Elena Karina Byrne will read their work.
Admission is free for all readings.
Poet Keren
Taylor
at
Hollywood/Vine
Station.
At right, poet
Kate Soto on
board
Metro Red Line.
Poet Keren Taylor is among group of poets reading to waiting commuters at Pershing
Square Station.
I was meditating on the fear-based poetic vision of the Los Angeles regional writing powers that be [though there are a few anthologies I can think of not mentioned -- one was a multicultural one I was assigned in grad school which had mostly LA writers, ex. Aleda Rodriquez, Luis what's his face publishing a piece of his famous menior as a poem, etc.], as well as the fact that

I read Temblor at the same time I began reading Sun & Moon Press books, and my sense of literary Los Angeles has always included Douglas Messerli's editorial projects and a variety of innovative writers actually in southern california or originally from southern california. And so this, too, has informed my sense of not only the literary region, if such exists, but also by sense of the way that this particular place for poetry is inherently flawed. Plus, for eight of the nine years I've lives in LA, I've lived within a block or two of Sun & Moon Press.

I was thinking these thoughts while pruning grape vines. Put me off my scraping texture coating project. Seems one of our neighbors got a wild hair about cutting down greenery yesterday, cut down a tree that was on a property line (actually arguably belonging to neighbors), by pruning one side extremely, seems to have killed an eight foot high hedge, and asked us to kill some grape vines which were masking our admittedly ugly and to be replaced chain link and this VOID of a lawn which now makes our lawn look like Versailles. There is a related adventure about the abandoned house next door and two walls that are collapsing. Anyway, when I was at Abdenego's or whatever (name from Bible) reading last month, someone read Frost's walls poem, and of course I realized what a prick the neighbor was in that. So I first pruned back the grapes so that the grapes will grow (I don't know what kind they are) -- thinking perhaps Eileen Tabios can make us a bottle of "La FAyette Square 2005" -- and keeping long parts for grape vine wreaths -- thinking maybe the house will be visitable by the holidays for a cookie exchange, and that now that I don't have pinecones, maybe I can have grapevine wreaths for everyone, la la la.

Ron told me that I would have to try to get as much of the vines as possible off their side of OUR FENCE which I have attempted to do.

Now back to my real project, and thinking more about Douglas' intro to the PIP anthology.
[The PIP anthology and the importance of having read TEMBLOR -- in my case, while standing in a bookstore across Broadway from my dorm room at Columbia -- I think I only bought two or three copies. Add to trips to the hard-to-reach Upper East Side Books & Co., where they had the decencey to provide couches in this pre-B&N era, and standing and reading THE DEFENESTRATION OF PRAGUE in the beautiful former Doubleday? wonderful art nouveau interior? bookshop on Fifth Avenue -- two story windows! -- .]
Response to Douglas Messerli's introduction of the PIP Anthology of World Poetry: Intersections: Innovative Poetry in Southern California.

Douglas introduction correctly places the anthology among a group of anthologies of southern California poetry which have excluded almost all of the poets included in Douglas'.

He correctly notes what has come as a surprise to me -- that the leading curators of LA writing (not just poetry), as well as the anthologists, aren't very good curators. That is, they do not dream up innovative programs, bring more audience members than expected to a reading, or stretch beyond a very narrow view of what writing is in their presentations. They are not inclusive, wide-ranging, or terribly well-informed.

It is possible to know these curators and anthologists quite well -- to teach with them, be on panels at conferences with them (or, in fact, offer them plum spots on panels of my design), read with them in reading series, feature them in reading series, etc. -- and be totally "unknown" when it comes time to schedule a poetry festival, assemble an anthology, etc.

While this behaviour is quite inexcusable, in three cases, it derives from a desire not be made seem stupid, perhaps, or perhaps more than that, to be made to seem more "official" or knowledgable than is the case. It is this nervousness in the face of "public opinion" (actually quite a narrow audience in Los Angeles) that I decry, this wish to seem "comprehensive" without putting one's critical and professional touche on the line.

For example, one poetry curator, who is actually quite nutty, but sometimes in a good way, got her MFA later in life from a working-class state mfa program, and has one book out, seven years ago, which was not self-published. She is usualy to be spotting wearing a wool beret in a bright color matched to brightly-colored pumps. I like the poems in her book a lot. Her deal is presenting her LONG TERM students (many of which have been my students, for example) as potential poets with a heck of a lot to learn, a heck of a lot of private and public workshops to take. And *information* in these workshops -- actual insights about ways of writing -- are few and far between. It comes as no surprise that a great deal of money must be spent by students of this teacher to read in various venues she curates or readings she curates. Her vision of LA poetry is not a vision -- it is the LA poetry that she understands that is a good setting for her own and her own teaching practice. For this (self-referential) way of teaching guarantees good attendance at events, purchase of books, etc.

[Another poetry teacher who is an editor makes pages of journals available for purchase by students -- wanna be published -- see how easy it is?]

It is unfortunate that the "performance poets" of the city -- perhaps accustomed to this type of behaviour by ad hoc acting coaches? -- consider these types of poets and teachers to be "iconic" or -- because of the advertising / promotion / self promotion necessary to fill private workshops -- consider these poets and those they include in their readings and anthologies to be the ONLY poets in town.

Another popular curator who knows more about poetry has a vision of poetry focussed on old fashioned ideas like "vision," "persona," and Lorca's "duende." This psychological but not post-Kristevan approach to poetry is understandably difficult to apply to a wide range of poetries. A skewed and personal approach to poetry is of course what is wanted in one's own writing. This curator -- who is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic person who works very very hard & also is not trying to be a local poet in any way -- seemingly curates series by reputation and association. Thus, a recent pairing included James Ragan, not a good poet, but head of the USC MPW program, a decent old white guy raconteur, and Anne Waldman, a sometimes-on, sometimes-off but brilliant and important performer and writer who is head of Naropa. Should one feel left out of this cult of "eh" poets who self-promote well? Or, do these poets self-promote so much as make their audience, such as LA poetry curators and anthologists, feel less worthy than they are?

[I have written -- I don't know if here or not -- of the cult of Pushcart Prize nomination in local poetry introductions. Don't they realize almost everyone has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize? It is like including "Who's Who" Marquis guide inclusion in one's resume -- or a poetry.com related publication in one's biblio.]

The third and fourth curators run series at local music venues which garner large and enthusiastic audiences to their programs in other major cities. These venues here only feature local performance poets, and bring such small audiences, other writing-related programming is allowed "must be more popular there than here" the excuse for "what we have is really bad."

The cult of the open mike is quite a vicious cycle here -- but I think part of it is that this is a circle which actual information about poetry and ways to write is not available in a form that is palatable or affordable.

Whatever happened to the good free Beyond Baroque workshops? Ah, well.
Anthony A. Lee (www.anthonyalee.com)
Featured Poet

Wednesday, May 25, 8:00 p.m.

THE WORLD STAGE
4344 Degnan Boulevard | Los Angeles, CA 90008
(one block east of Crenshaw, north of Vernon between 43rd Place and 43rd Street)

Anthony A. Lee teaches African American history (and other subjects) at West Los Angeles College. His poems have been published in ONTHEBUS, The Homestead Review, Arts Dialogue, Warpland, and the 2003 anthology of the Valley Contemporary Poets (Sherman Oaks, CA). He is the winner of the Nat Turner Poetry Prize for 2003 (Cross Keys Press). Some of his translations of poems have been published in Táhirih: A Portrait in Poetry: Selected Poems of Qurratu’l-‘Ayn (Kalimát Press, 2004). His first book of poems was the winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award for 2005 (Lotus Press).



"Lee's poems are not quaint exercises in poetic form. They grab you by the throat
with their personal intensity, jostle your brain with their intellectual bravery, and
startle your heart with their spirit and insight."
-- Jack Grapes, editor, ONTHEBUS

"Every good narrative lyric means more than what it says, and these poems convert
experience into meaning even as they introduce us to new experiences. Deeply
felt, fresh, and wise, in these poems Lee teaches us new stories."
-- Catherine Daly, poet and author of DADADA

"A tender exploration, embracing both the heavy and the light. Done with such
patience and care, one cannot help but listen."
-- Ruth Forman, poet and author of
WE ARE THE YOUNG MAGICIANS and
RENAISSANCE

5.03.2005

Bell's palsy, er, maxims -- he says about writing poetry but they seem to be about poets:

1. Every poet is an experimentalist.

Hardly. But what does it mean to be an experimentalist? I for one think about the idea of the writing of poetry as a test for preconceived notions as the heart of "experiment." However, by turning toward critical theory and whatnot, I think it is a poet's responsibility to know / intend / (be able to) interpret / be able to read or float a decent reading of her own poetry. I'm not saying that poetry isn't "making it new," I'm saying that poetry -- even very open poetry -- is beyond experiment, is not just a test.

2. Learning to write is a simple process.

Learning to write is not a difficult process, but it is not process with an end (other than writings) or a unitary process, but many, many processes.

3. There is no one way to write and no right way to write.

4. The good stuff and the bad stuff are all part of the stuff. No good stuff without bad stuff.

Well, there is taking a risk, and there is the poet's responsibility to be able to tell the worst from the rest and the best from the rest in her own work, and there is the stuff and I would say only the best stuff is actually poetry.

5. Learn the rules, break the rules, make up new rules, break the new rules.

Why this focus on rules? Isn't the pleasure of poetry one beyond rules? Isn't only the beginning of learning to write poetry rule-bound? What is meant by "rules" here?

6. You do not learn from work like yours as much as you learn from work unlike yours.

You learn from your own work and you learn from the work of others, but you learn more if you try to learn, and that includes reading carefully, with understanding, and recognising the tasks of writing the other writings are putting before themselves.

7. Originality is a new amalgam of influences.

Well, actually, origin is about beginnings. While DNA is inescapable, it is possible to be original without reference to "positive" influence, but rather with negative capability or negative influence, i.e., I set out to write what hadn't been read by me before, or to be unlike x, etc.

8. Try to write poems at least one person in the room will hate.

Try to write poems without reference to people or rooms. Since most writing is performed in solitude, try not to hate your own writing or yourself too too much. You'll drive yourself nuts.

9. The I in the poem is not you but someone who knows a lot about you.

Uh. what???

10. Autobiography rots.

Uh. what???

11. A poem listens to itself as it goes.

It is true -- this is a big reason not to always write poems from the "top down" or "left to right."

12. It's not what one begins with that matters; it's the quality of attention paid to it thereafter.

Well, it is good if you start with something.

13. Language is subjective and relative, but it also overlaps; get on with it.

???

14. Every free verse writer must reinvent free verse.

15. Prose is prose because of what it includes; poetry is poetry because of what it leaves out.

What does poetry leave out? Poetry includes more than prose.

16. A short poem need not be small.

17. Rhyme and meter, too, can be experimental.

In what way? Can iambic pentameter in service of a narrative in plain syntax be experimental? Nope.

18. Poetry has content but is not strictly about its contents. A poem containing a tree may not be about a tree.

19. You need nothing more to write poems than bits of string and thread and some dust from under the bed.

Wow, and some lame masculine rhymes like "bed" and "thread." You need knowledge, practice, and awareness to write decent poems. Writing poems by happy accident take a lot of work -- to place yourself in the way of happenstance is not easy.

20. At heart, poetic beauty is tautological: it defines its terms and exhausts them.

21. The penalty for education is self-consciousness.

Why is consciousness a penalty? That seems very freudian to me.

22. What they say "there are no words for"--that's what poetry is for. Poetry uses words to go beyond words.

23. One does not learn by having a teacher do the work.

How does this reflect on Bell's ideas of influence earlier? I'm confused. Is he only talking about writing poetry in a workshop or in the "ghost of a workshop"?

24. The dictionary is beautiful; for some poets, it's enough.

Enough for -- what? Beautiful enough? Who are these poets?

25. Writing poetry is its own reward and needs no certification. Poetry, like water, seeks its own level.

This to me is two different ideas. "Writing poetry is its own reward" is an idea independent of quality. I think of older Americans not educated in writing, not having pursued a long term literary writing and reading practice, who write poems about their memories and thoughts for themselves and their families. Write poems in semi-isolation, and perhaps your family will appreciate them; they will certainly say they do. It is like making your "famous pot roast." Maybe your family is sort of sick of it, and it is kind of greasy, but they don't want to hurt your feelings. Maybe, being raised on your pot roast, they like it because it reminds them of something, but no one else would, and even your family might -- as food qua food -- prefer something else. Maybe your "famous pot roast" like your poems, are a lie. Or maybe you are an undiscovered "outsider" chef.

Poetry, like other stuff, does not seek anything. People seek things, like "levels" in a hierarchical view.

Also, the cream doesn't rise to the top if it is hydrogenized.

26. A finished poem is also the draft of a later poem.

No, but you can write the same poem over and over, and you can learn from old poems -- the poems themselves -- although it is more likely you learn from the act of writing them.

27. A poet sees the differences between his or her poems but a reader sees the similarities.

28. Poetry is a manifestation of more important things. On the one hand, it's poetry! On the other, it's just poetry.

29. Viewed in perspective, Parnassus is a very short mountain.

30. A good workshop continually signals that we are all in this together, teacher too.

Again, just pointing out that this isn't about writing poetry, but academic workshop poetry and what I like to call crap" but many would call more politely "the ghost of workshop poetry," "open mike poetry," "nonacademic workshop poetry," or "exercise poetry."

31. This Depression Era jingle could be about writing poetry: Use it up / wear it out / make it do / or do without.

32. Art is a way of life, not a career.

5.02.2005

May 3 -- 7:30 p.m. – Intersections: Innovative Poetry in Southern California
and the New Review of Literature, vol.2. no.2

at the Mountain Bar in LA's Chinatown

Publication party for a long-awaited anthology of Southland poetry, featuring some of the most interesting writing anywhere in the U.S. over the last thirty years. Edited by Douglas Messerli for his Green Integer Books, "Intersections" includes selections from the work of Will Alexander, David Antin, Rae Armantrout, Therese Bachand, Todd Baron, Guy Bennett, Franklin Bruno, Wanda Coleman, Robert Crosson, Catherine Daly, Barbara Maloutas, Deborah Meadows, Haryette Mullen, Martin Nakell, Dennis Phillips, Christopher Reiner, Martha Ronk, Joe Ross, Jerome Rothenberg, Mark Salerno, Standard Schaefer, John Thomas, Paul Vangelisti, and Diane Ward. Many of the featured writers will be on hand to sign copies of Intersections. Also, hot off the press, the fourth issue of New Review of Literature, featuring new work by Stacey Levine, R.M. Berry, Bruce Henricksen, Jorge Mirales, Cole Swenson, John Latta, Ralph Angel, Jaime Saenz, Diane Ward, and an interview with Richard Foreman.