I have in my hot little fists the remarkable brand new anthology WIDE AWAKE: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond. Edited by Suzanne Lummis and including 112 poets representing every possible school of poetry, this book should be required reading if you live in Los Angeles, if you want to live in Los Angeles, if you used to live in Los Angeles and want to see what we are still up to, or any and all permutations of those variables. A very few (of the many) poets included are Eloise Klein Healy, Bill Mohr, Kate Gale, Dana Gioia, Luis J. Rodriguez, David St. John, Ron Koertge, B.H. Fairchild, Wanda Coleman and Brendan Constantine. It is available from Amazon.com for $18.00 (cheap at any price). Order it now and you won’t be disappointed.
As an aside, next weekend, April 18-19th at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (taking place at the University of Southern California) many of those poets will be on site and reading from the book (such as myself). I will be at the Poetry Stage at 10 a.m. on Saturday and afterwards I will be found womaning the fort at the Beyond Baroque Booth. Please drop by.
Made it to October, whew. It is all downhill now. As long as I have air conditioning and some decent tunes listen to and a pad of paper and pen (more like many pads of paper and pens), I’m good.
Once a month in my master class instead of our usual format, we choose a topic that the group agree they want study or learn more about. Today it was the Elegy.
While I steeled myself for the usual pain and suffering that went beyond understanding, I was startled by some contemporary elegiac poems, such as Sharon Olds’ poem for Ruth Stone (Suddenly) which crackled with life and humor. Or W.S.Merwin’s Elegy for a Walnut Tree, which unfolded with such serene intent that I knew could stand anything that the universe hurled at me if need be. And would endure.
Well, just checking in tonight.
Brief, I know. But I’ve got some writing to do.
A very curious sensation. Post Poem Depression. This afternoon I turned in the manuscript, All of the Above: New and Selected Poems, 1975-2015. I have worked on the project for about two and a half years. Choosing the “best of” from ten books, giving myself permission to finish or fix the poems that might have been published but still itched that they needed work. Noon-ish today I met with Kate Gale at Red Hen press to turn in the manuscript and discuss business. Suddenly I became awash in despair when I left the office. I have never had children so cannot attest to the accuracy of the emotion but Post Poem depression seems to be a lot like what I imagine Post Partum depression to be.
The book will be out in Spring 2016. Much work to still be done: setting up readings, getting radio jobs when it comes out. Yes, I’m happy but I’m also feeling sort of lost. 141 pages of New and Selected. Speaking of hills of beans……..
I’ve been avoiding blogging for awhile. Paranoid? Mmmmmm maybe. Wanting to keep to myself? Yeah that too. Possibly afraid that to write something on my site would jinx it in reality. Like what, you ask? OK here’s the big one:
My new book All of the Above, feels like both a celebration and the finalization of my poetry career. I push myself to work on it and finish it, but it is my fear that when I do, I might die. The book includes my best work from 1975-2015 — that is a heck of a lot of time writing poems. My poems are the only thing that I really have to show for myself in the world. No children, no family (except my brother’s family, my cousin and my nephew), a lot of books.
With the difficulty I have generating poems because of the copious amounts of psychiatric medications I must take to be able to live a relatively stable life, it is a very difficult, nearly impossible, birthing for each small nugget of verse to come into the world. Each one is a small miracle but carries no guarantee that there will be another poem to follow.
So this is the big looming fear: my sister was told many years ago that she would not live to be 60 years old. She therefore subconsciously decided to oblige her doctors and died two months before her 60th birthday.
I am her sister (or to be more precise, her half-sister) and fear that I will not write anymore after the book is published; that this is it, in a manner of speaking, and it spooks the hell out of me.
Meanwhile, I trudge on. Me and Sir Chumley of Amherst — meowing now for food and some Chumley love. And so it goes. Kitty cats always have precedence.
Rain Rain Rain Gods!! Let it pour. Tonight let all the junky cars be washed clean, the parched bulbs (planted with hope for spring) soak in their gratitude. O lush and gushy mud. O woosh of branch against my window. Thank you. For letting us be ourselves. Again.
OK, that’s better. I made it past number 13…(breathe)
I was born in downtown Los Angeles at California Hospital and have lived within 15 miles of that hospital I’d say my entire life. I’m not sure if that is an accomplishment to be proud of or not. On one hand I could be thought of as provincial, a rube-ette in a manner of speaking. If you happen to love L A… well, you might think something else. I spent a good part of my early life trying to leave my home. I attended Marlborough School for Girls in the Hancock Park section of L.A. and that experience along with the very very tight apron strings that my mother choked me on fueled the hope that I could make tracks asap and head for New York City.
I graduated from High School in 1967 at age 17 — the summer of love they called that summer — but if you only think of the social norms and conventions of the era in terms of the counterculture, you need to remember that the same state that brought peace love and flowers also brought Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the men that put them in power.
If I had been schooled at convent I could not have been more isolated than at that school. my classmates had had the best education money could buy. I came to the school from public school — my father was a physical education and drivers ed teacher / coach at Hamilton High School on the cusp of Culver City. And he was Jewish. Democrat.
The daughters of Richard Nixon had attended Marlborough, so had the daughters of Walt Disney, the Doheny’s, the 400, the Blue Book members of the Social Register all had gone there. When I began in the 10th grade most of the girls had known each other since grade school, cotillion or volunteer social groups. They were not cruel to me by any stretch of the imagination. It felt even worse: I was invisible.
How did I deal with it? Anorexia. Depression. The beginnings of the mental illness that had started after my sister (the scapegoat) had left the family and my mother could turn her attention on me. Still interested? More to come.