By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I'm sure your mailbox has been bombarded by poets who felt stripped of their dignity. Too bad. In today's society, most poetry reads like an inside joke between grad students. Why, however, didn't Mr. Bernhard even mention the performance-poetry clubs that take place Monday through Sunday in L.A.? We aren't hard to find, dude -- try the L.A. Weekly listings. Two weeks ago, a poetry show at Fais Do-Do drew 200 people and was favorably reviewed in your own paper. Bernhard's article was like reading a story about movies that only addressed Hollywood and spared not a line for the legion of independent filmmakers. Oh well, we'll have our day, even if Bernhard won't hear about it.
The real reason Americans don't read poetry is simple: For the much greater part, it is, chronically and unforgivably, NO FUN. Our poets, in general, lack energy, flamboyance, vision and passion (at least as these relate to the work they produce), and are short on a strong commitment to everyday experience. The poetry being published and sold is, for the most part, self-conscious and inhibited. Our poetry needs to take advantage of, and express, our multitude of cultures and sensibilities. It should be both Timothy Steele and Charles Bukowski, Wallace Stevens and Carl Sandburg, Richard Wilbur and Wanda Coleman . . .
Congratulations to the L.A. Weekly for having the courage to run a cover story on the notoriously unpopular subject of reading poetry. And to Brendan Bernhard for writing such an honest and straightforward account of the subject. Thank you. We poetry readers (who aren't poetry writers) are much more plentiful than the media give us credit for.
I'd like to suggest a way of looking at the activity of reading poetry that may have particular appeal for Angelenos steeped in a hedonistic culture of excess. Rather than view it as a frustratingly inscrutable waste of time, consider poetry a guilty pleasure -- a deeply sensual indulgence, full of vivid descriptions of lush images and rocking to soothing, lulling rhythms. View those moments when you yield to the ecstasy of reading poetry like those secretly stolen away to spend with a mistress or lover. In a city that reveres pleasure and beauty for their own sake, that eschews the ascetic in favor of the aesthetic, it seems only natural that poetry would find its home.
These days, anybody can scribble a few words on the back of an envelope, stand at the open mike at a local venue, read and get a round of applause. Everybody likes attention, so we have now ruddlerless hordes of people scribbling and reading, and nobody can say what's good and what's not. When audiences at open-mike readings learn the art of booing, like audiences at sporting events, you'll see both bigger audiences and, soon after, a quantum leap in quality.
Thanks for Brendan Bernhard's excellent piece on the increasing marginalization of poetry in America. He has proved, time and again, one of the most talented writers on your staff -- a diamond amid a passel of rubies. (Likewise Robert Lloyd.) Anyway, here's an idea: Instead of the Weekly passively bemoaning the fate of American poetry, how about doing something to change the situation? Put your money where your mouth is. Yes -- publish some poetry! Spearhead the renaissance! Dedicate a few column inches in each ish to poetry. One less insipid cartoon strip will hardly be noticed.
You did spotlight L.A. fiction a few weeks back (disappointingly, I feel compelled to add). How 'bout us poets?
Re: Sam Gideon Anson and David Cogan's cover story "Baca's Debacle" [September 2430]. I've been a reserve deputy with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department for 25 years and think that Lee Baca is the best sheriff I have served under. Your article cited unnamed deputy sources for much of your information. Since Baca has established a new cadre, many of Sherman Block's old buddies are unhappy that they no longer enjoy the privileges they once did. As far as federal sources go, they are not always shining examples of investigative intelligence. I think that the press should give Baca a chance and quit connecting him to suspected underworld characters who have neither been arrested nor charged by any agency. If you wish to investigate county corruption, I can think of several county officials who would merit a look.
I have no ax to grind nor any favors to repay. I got my promotion under Block.
DARK HORSES AND THEIR
Re: "Memo to Warren" [September 2430]. Harold Meyerson shouldn't have been so tough on the Reform Party, and here's why: If Beatty was for repeal, or at least renegotiation, of the NAFTA and the WTO/GATT, and stood foursquare against the MAI, all to make sure labor and environmental rights are secured on an international scale, he might win a Reform Party nomination. While he's running Reform, he could also approach the Greens, who, while they might feel a bit hardened since Ralph Nader refused to run a campaign for them in 1996, also might embrace a self-help type of fella with a progressive pedigree who is at least interested.