December 2009


The Electronic Literature Organization and Brown University’s Literary Arts Program invite submissions to the Electronic Literature Organization 2010 Conference to be held from June 3-6, 2010 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA celebrating Robert Coover.

Deadline for Submissions: January 15, 2009
Send to: elo.ai@eliterature.org
Notification of Acceptance: February 25, 2010
PLEASE NOTE: We will still aim to receive full papers by May 1, 2010.

For more details, please keep checking the website:
http://ai.eliterature.org

We welcome:

  • Proposals for critical/academic papers relating to the topics and themes set out on the site. Submit an abstract – about 300 words, 500 word maximum – with title and brief bio (indicating affiliation, if any).
  • Proposals for performative or artistic presentations, including readings and artist talks. Submit a description and or artist statement – totaling about 300 words, 500 word maximum – and include a brief bio (indicating affiliation, if any).
  • ‘Panel’ proposals – about 300 words, 500 word maximum – but note that these will be folded into ‘Seeded’ sessions. (More on this soon.)
  • Proposals for the Arts Program which will focus on installable work. Submit a description and or artist’s statement – totaling about 300 words, 500 word maximum – and include a brief bio (indicating affiliation, if any).

Alternative, innovative proposals through which we will attempt to diversify the format of the conference. Submit a description of about 300 words, 500 word maximum.

NB. If you send illustrative, digitized AV materials, either keep these (byte-wise) small and short, or send us links.

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It’s strange to me that the same month that sees the publication of Tiresias: The Collected Poems of Leland Hickman would also see the poems of Nora May French in book form.

I came across French in the first few days of my research into Los Angeles poetry, trying to track down publications in the UC libraries and so forth, but found them hard to come by. Dana Gioia included some poems of hers in his anthology (co-edited with Chryss Yost and Jack Hicks) called California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present, but otherwise she doesn’t appear in too many contemporary anthologies (such as the excellent volumes of 19th Century Poetry from the Library of America).

French wasn’t terribly prolific, and she died at the age of 26; about 100 pages of this collection is of her poetry, the rest being a long biographical essay, several remembrances and miscellaneous reviews of her work, many of which were more concerned with her dramatic death by suicide than the quality of the poetry.

I’m not sure that too many readers today will find her poetry exceptional, at least those that don’t have at least some fondness for writers like A.E. Housman and the poets of the Nineties (Lionel Johnson, Ernest Dowson, etc), or poetry by women of the early part of the century, such as Sara Teasdale and Edna St. Vincent Millay. (John Wilkinson has written a really nice essay about John Wieners particular fondness for women poets such as Teasdale, but I don’t think French makes an appearance in that. It appears in his excellent collection The Lyric Touch.)

She couldn’t be considered an “early Modernist,” and even a much older writer like Edwin Arlington Robinson makes her seem old-fashioned, but this isn’t suprising considering the rather provincial nature of Los Angeles at the time (population around 300, 000). She moved to San Francisco and eventually Carmel in the last year of her life, though did spend a year studying painting in New York.

I actually enjoy trying to puzzle through these occasionally cramped, overwrought verses, and I think she compares favorably to more fluid writers in her circle such as George Sterling. She had that urge for gem-like porfection that Pound admired in Theophile Gautier, which is not something I see in a lot of early American poetry. If anyone I’d compare her to, it would be someone like Sylvia Plath, as, indeed, she was quite obsessed by death in her last years, and her poems are incredibly economical, with really very little time to spare on the niceties of literary ornament.

This very short one is metrically a little daring for her, as she preferred standard ballad meters for most of her work.

Vivisection

We saw unpitying skill
In curious hands put living flesh apart,
Till, bare and terrible, the tiny heart
Pulsed, and was still.

We saw Grief’s sudden knife
Strip through the pleasant flesh of soul-disguise—
Lay for a second’s space before our eyes
A naked life.

Kind of has a Thomas Eakins (i.e. The Gross Clinic) element to it, but also reminds me of certain Plath poems such as “Morning Song” that seem ambivalent about the relative values of birth and death. There was, apparently, a number of light, humorous poems of French’s that were destroyed by her family after her death as they didn’t seem “poetic” enough, which is too bad since she often seems rather humorless in the poems that remain. The few humorous poems in this collection are very good.

The publisher, Hippocampus Press, is mostly known for work in the H.P. Loveraft vein; I think French got on her list due to her friendship with George Sterling and the appreciation of her work by Clark Ashton Smith. Below is the press copy:

Nora May French (1881-1907) is an enigmatic and ethereal figure in American poetry and in the poetry of California. Born in Aurora, New York, she came to Los Angeles with her family when she was a little girl, and in the course of her brief and tragic life she lived and wrote more intensely than many who live a full span of years. Her poetry possesses its own kind of cosmic consciousness, aligning it with the work of Clark Ashton Smith and her friend George Sterling. Its delicacy and pathos render it an imperishable monument to the throbbing emotions and aesthetic sensitivity of the woman who, although beloved by all in Sterling’s Bohemian circle, suffered keenly from her own love affairs and committed suicide in November 1907. Now, more than a hundred years after her passing, her poems have been gathered in this volume for the first time. The book includes an extensive biographical and critical introduction by Donald Sidney-Fryer, tributes to French by her contemporaries and by later admirers, and a selection of reviews.

Nora May French published no books in her lifetime, but her Poems were assembled in 1910 by George Sterling and others. That volume, however, was incomplete, and many fugitive poems have been added by Donald Sidney-Fryer and Alan Gullette, two of the leading authorities on California poetry and the poetry of fantasy and terror.

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A sequel to an earlier group of Los Angeles PDFs. My apologies for the occasional crappiness of some of these scans, but I’m often using books with delicate or really restricting binding.


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Bob Flanagan, The Kid is the Man
(Bomb Shelter Press, 1978)

Early poems by an artist better known for his extremely masochistic performance work, written around the time when he was hanging out at Beyond Baroque with the Little Caesar crowd. I posted a later collaboration of Flanagan and David Trinidad, A Taste of Honey, elsewhere on this blog.

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Abandoned Latitudes, by Robert Crosson, John Thomas and Paul Vangelisti
(Red Hill Press, 1983)

This is a very excellent and various collection of writing by the three authors. Crosson is an under-appreciated Los Angeles poet who writes in a sort of fictional quilt style, which is to say, it is very much “collage” work but based on his own skewed narrative imagination. Selections of his Daybooks were recently published by Otis Books/Seismicity Editions.

Paul Vangelisti, of course, was the editor of Invisible City, an important journal of poetry from the seventies and eighties (among other several other excellent editing and translation ventures before and since) and is a prolific poet whose selected poems, Embarrassment of Survival, appeared in 2001. Here is an interesting video of his recent interview with Ezra Pound’s daughter, Mary de Rachewiltz.

I posted a collection of John Thomas’s poetry elsewhere in this blog. This “unfinished” prose sequence is by turns beautiful and harrowing, sounding at times like Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia and George Bataille’s The Story of the Eye. It also reminds me a bit of that Jack Nicholson movie Five Easy Pieces, though I don’t know why — I guess I keep expecting Toni Basil to appear suddenly in it.


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William J. Margolis, The Anteroom of Hell
(Inferno Press, 1957)

These poems can seem, at times, like a parody of typical “Beat” poetry of the time; as the title of the book suggests, it is full of visionary, stream-of-consciousness condemnations of conformity and modern life, as well as lofty, faintly archaic paeans to love. There’s more than a bit of Gregory Corso and Arthur Rimbaud traipsing around these pages, though without the humor; Jim Morrison probably read this as a teen.

It’s actually a pretty enjoyable read, especially given the historical context, as the author was a key figure in the Venice West scene and a occasional collaborator with Wallace Berman on Semina. The book itself is a beautifully printed, which might come through in the .pdf, or not.

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Guy de Cointet, A Few Drawings
(1975)

I posted a video of Guy de Cointet’s theater on Youtube. There are actually several great resources about this French-born Los Angeles artist on the web, such as here and here and here and here, as well as a cache of .pdf reprints of various essays and reviews about his work. I also posted a photo and brief intro to his work elsewhere.

This collection of “drawings,” which are really more like concrete or visual poems and are quite hilarious, confirms for me the rightness of calling de Cointet a “poet” (even if, in this time of conceptual literature, I hardly have to break a sweat to make that argument). A full list of his compelling, but extremely expensive to procure, publications can be seen here.

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Dennis Cooper, The Missing Men
(Am Here Books/Immediate Editions, 1981)

A really beautiful, simply but elegantly produced collection of early poems and very short fictions by the well-known author Dennis Cooper. Cooper’s own website suggests that all of the issues of his seminal journal Little Caesar appear online in pdf form, but this turns out not to be the case, though I do love the first page of the first issue which lays out their editorial philosophy:

In Paris ten year old boys clutching well worn copies of Apollonaire’s ALCOOLS put their hands over their mouths in amazement before paintings by Renoir and Monet. Bruce Lee movies close in three days. This could happen here.

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Peter Levitt, Running Grass
(Eidolon Editions. 1979)

I don’t know much about Peter Levitt, but found his poems in a couple of Bill Mohr anthologies and appreciated them for their quietness, formal integrity and detail. From what I know, he is living in the Bay area now, but certainly lived a great portion of his younger years in L.A. This book has a nice, short introduction by Robert Creeley.

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Stuart Perkoff, Love is the Silence
(Red Hill Press, 1975)

Ah, Stuart Perkoff… probably the most well-known of the many poets in Los Angeles who never fully realized their talent (Nora May French being the first). He figures prominently in Lawrence Lipton’s The Holy Barbarians (several photographs of him appear in the appendix, along with the likes of Los Angeles residents Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth… haha, that’s another story), as well as in the later, very interesting scholarly study of the Los Angeles arts scene in the sixties, Venice West: The Beat Generation in Southern California, by John Arthur Maynard.

Even better, though, is that he is the one Los Angeles poet to appear in Donald Allen’s New American Poetry in 1960, and his collected poems, Voices of the Lady, was published by the National Poetry Foundation in 1998, though now appears out of print.

This selection was made by Perkoff and Paul Vangelisti a few years before Perkoff’s death. Like the poetry of Margolis, it might seem a bit dated in style, but in fact, after a few reads, Perkoff’s distinct personality, which is not lacking humor or irony, and the sureness and playfulness of his formal talents come through. Olson was a big fan, and in some ways, he’s kind of like the West Coast Paul Blackburn.

I really enjoy this book for the image it gives me of some aspects of life at Venice Beach in that time of oil derricks, “jazz canto” and extensive drug use — by turns “existential” in its despair but cosmic, infused with a giddy, bohemian light. (Well, I’ll give describing his poetry another shot later.)

Phivos Delphis, Modern Greek Poems
Translated by James Boyer May (Villiers Publications, 1954)

Just throwing this up for you James Boyer May fans. I don’t know much about the poet he is translating, but though these “versions” are a bit archaic and stiff sounding, they fit together another piece of the puzzle of this nearly unknown poet. I put his Selected Poems: 1950-1955 on this blog earlier.

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Here’s a clip from a performance by the artist/writer Guy de Cointet, who I mention in my roundup of Los Angeles poets. It’s almost impossible to find work by de Cointet in print — any help in this area would be much appreciated!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAawW3tFVwc

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gdc_halvedpainting

gdc_srummel

This page has some photos from his other performances.

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This has been on the billboard for the past several months. I knew I’d find an image of it on Google. Better than having Zac Efron staring at me in my jammies.

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Los Angeles Poetry I
(Villiers Publications Ltd., London: 1958)
Edited by James Boyer May, Thomas McGrath and Peter Yates.

This is the representative collection by what I loosely call the HUAC generation — both McGrath and Edwin Rolfe (who doesn’t appear here) were either fired or blacklisted due to their political views, and others in the collection were affected by McCarthy-era madness. An interesting study and anthology of this group of poets (though not including the avant-garde or non-political ones) is Poets of the Non-Existent City: Los Angeles in the McCarthy Era, by Estelle Gershgoren Novak.

Included in this collection is a weird, Joycean poem by the eccentric Philadelphia writer Gil Orlovitz (who frequented Hollywood as an a screenwriter; CA Conrad is a big fan, and you can read about him on Conrad’s blog), poems by surreal, experimental photographer Edmund Teske, a large slab of McGrath’s Letter to an Imaginary Friend devoted to the pleasures of sex, early work by the well-known poet and teacher Ann Stanford, and spare, compelling work by Josephine Ain, who doesn’t seem to have written much but whose name appears frequently in the literature on the period.

Other poets include: Melissa Blake, Guy Daniels, Gene Frumkin, Sid Gershgoren, Stanley Kiesel, Bert Meyers, William Pillin, Lawrence P. Spingam, Zack Walsh, Mel Weisburd, Peter Yates, Curtis Zahn — I don’t know much about these poets except that Bert Meyers has a collected poems titled In a Dybbuk’s Raincoat.

This anthology is a testament to the impact of the Thomas McGrath, who lived here for ten years, on the Los Angeles poetry world, since nothing of comparable scope was published for a few decades.

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James Boyer May, Selected Poems 1950-1955
(Inferno Press: San Francisco, 1955)

I’m quite mystified by James Boyer May. He’s best known as the editor of Trace, a small press journal that reviewed and charted the progress of small press journals worldwide. A chapter of the book Mavericks: Nine Independent Publishers is devoted to him (along with the likes of James McLaughlin and John Martin), though I haven’t read it yet.

The idiom in these poems is unlike anything I’ve come across in American poetry, though it does have a strange resemblance to certain British poets such as those associated with “Cambridge” writing — a high tone that is open to vulgarities, a careful, tradition-wary metrical precision, a moral earnestness, a syntactic and lexicographical density, even a tendency toward Hopkins-esque word-clusters — though May was born and raised in Los Angeles. “Incredibly, ideals of bomb-feared noons — / here, violent blooms should scintillate, / men supplicate annihilative plans.” (from “Ossia”).

May, due to his connection with Villiers (see above), helped Ginsberg publish the first edition of Howl in the UK, which in turn led to the books being confiscated in mail on the way back.

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John Thomas, Epopoeia and The Decay of Satire
(The Red Hill Press: Los Angeles & Fairfax, 1976)

Now here’s a difficult case: an undeniably excellent poet who died in prison, serving a sentence for having molested his daughter; a poet whose early work seems to show a visionary breadth and bounding imagination, but who barely published any new poems (or republished, times over, older poems) during the latter part of his life; and a poet Charles Bukowski called “the best unread poet in America” whose style synthesized elements of the most opaque of Olson’s Maximus poems or the collage aesthetic of the Tennis Court Oath (but who was also, at times, sexually frank, morally unambiguous in his amorality, and could tell a good story, like a West Venice West Georges Battaille).

Outside of this small group (most of which also appear in his first collection, called John Thomas), Thomas published a chapbook of poems called Nevertheless in 1990, and contributed to the excellent volume Abandoned Latitudes (with Paul Vangelisti and Robert Crosson) in 1983. A good, if not probing, obituary was published in the UK Independent; a much more detailed, and harrowing, account of his personality by his daughter, Gabrielle Idlet, appeared a little later in the LA Weekly.

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Michelle T. Clinton, High Blood /Pressure
(West End Press: Los Angeles, 1986)

I don’t know much about Michelle T. Clinton — there’s almost nothing on the internet about her — except that she doesn’t live in Los Angeles anymore, and that she has a second volume of poetry, Good Sense & The Faithless, also from West End Press (1994). She’s also recorded a spoken word cassette called “Black Angeles” (1988) with Wanda Coleman, who writes that Clinton’s poems are “exorcisms — the rootings out of racism and sexism.”

I thought of her as a sort of female Etheridge Knight at first, as some of the poems reminded me of Knight’s “Hard Rock Returns To Prison From The Hospital For The Criminal Insane,” with its anecdotal focus on the most hidden parts of society, occasional use of Black English, and somewhat nihilistic underlying philosophy. But Clinton’s poetry is far more interesting — less “literary” (following through on that distrust of the “literary” that runs through much of Los Angeles poetry) though formally quite precise and refined. These poems, unsettling as they can be (and funny also) are packed with an amazing energy, frankness and skill, not to mention searing anger.

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Bob Flanagan and David Trinidad, A Taste of Honey
(Cold Calm Press: Los Angeles, 1990)

Bob Flanagan is best known as a performance artist, cystic fibrosis sufferer, and subject of the documentary Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (view his Super Cystic Fibrosis Song for a taste of that). David Trinidad is best known as David Trinidad, well-known New York poet. But in their younger years they were hanging out at Beyond Baroque with Dennis Cooper, Amy Gerstler and the teenaged Kim Rosenfield and publishing with Cooper’s press Little Caesar (follow the link for full issues).

This is a really enjoyable little volume — 12 poems of 36 lines each, and in iambic pentameter! It has some of the crazed feel of the Berrigan/Padgett collaborations but with a distinctly LA setting. The formal constraint gets you trying to read the poems as monologues (in the manner of, say, Browning), and brings them to a level that Flanagan, in his short, difficult life, was able to achieve in his solo poems (but more on that later).

The cover image, a combined portrait of the two authors, looks a little to me like David Carradine.

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reading-747268

CREDIT Launch! & Conceptual Lit Reading! in Los Angeles!
Outpost for Contemporary Art
presented by General Projects, Blanc Press and Insert Press
Saturday December 19, 2009 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
1268 N. Ave 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042 (323) 982-9461

Do you sometimes wonder: “What the heck is Conceptual Writing!?” Some amazing new fad sweeping the nation? Some bland thing a bunch of dudes thought up in a bar as a joke? The new genre of infomercials after the tragic death of Ron Popeil? All this and so much more?!!

After a string of conferences, events, publications, etc–Conceptual Poetry and its Others conference at University of Arizona Poetry Center, May 29-31, 2008; Flarf vs. Conceptual Writing! at The Whitney, April 17, 2009; Conceptual Writing! & Its Environs, The Uferhallen, Berlin, May 1, 2009; a portfolio of Flarf and Conceptual Writing! in Poetry Magazine, July/August, 2009–Conceptual Writing! has arrived in LA, only to find that it’s already there!? Los Angeles!? Conceptual Writing!

Discover Conceptual Writing! and so much more as you encounter the Conceptual Writing! of Harold Abramowitz, Joseph Mosconi, Bruna Mori, Vanessa Place, Ara Shirinyan, Brian Kim Stefans, Mathew Timmons and Christine Wertheim at the Conceptual Lit Reading! & CREDIT Launch! in Los Angeles! at Outpost for Contemporary Art in Highland Park on Saturday December 19, 2009 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. presented by General Projects, Blanc Press and Insert Press.

Come celebrate the release of Mathew Timmons’ CREDIT, an 800 page, large format, full color, hardbound book published by Blanc Press and retailing for $199.99 which the author himself lacks the cash or credit to purchase. Come also to celebrate Conceptual Writing! in Los Angeles! with the wonderful Conceptual Writing! of Harold Abramowitz, Joseph Mosconi, Bruna Mori, Vanessa Place, Ara Shirinyan, Brian Kim Stefans, Mathew Timmons and Christine Wertheim at the CREDIT Launch! & Conceptual Lit Reading! in Los Angeles! at Outpost for Contemporary Art in Highland Park on Saturday December 19, 2009 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. presented by General Projects, Blanc Press and Insert Press.

For more information about this event, please contact: laliterature [at[ gmail [dot[ com

Information About the Artists

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9780982264515

You’re invited to a publication party for
Tiresias: The Collected Poems of Leland Hickman
published by Nightboat Books & Otis Books/Seismicity Editions

with brief readings by Bill Mohr, Stephen Motika & Martha Ronk

Saturday, December 12, 5-7pm
Arundel Books
8380 Beverly Blvd, 3 blocks east of La Cienega Bl.
Phone: 323-852-9852

Los Angeles poet and editor LELAND HICKMAN (1934-1991) was the author of two collections of poetry: Great Slave Lake Suite (1980), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and Lee Sr. Falls to the Floor (1991). He was the editor of the poetry journal Temblor, which ran for 10 issues during the 1980s. This new volume collects all of the poems published during Hickman’s life as well as previously unpublished pieces. The volume, edited by Stephen Motika, features a preface by Dennis Phillips and an afterword by Bill Mohr.

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