Walking Marlowe the shop dog through the empty streets of Chinatown, I felt like I was strolling through an old, deserted studio backlot. The stories the facades could honestly tell; the stories we’ve crafted or negated around them also echo in the silence. I was struck by how beautiful our city is at rest and how the creativity of her denizens still radiate in the sunset despite the quarantine.
Marlowe and I are hunkered in our apartments above the closed bookstore. As a bookseller, of course there is no shortage of reading material to while away more than a few hours, but I’ve been drawn to our collection of L.A. poets.
With the critical help of poet people like Richard Modiano at Beyond Baroque and Nicelle Davis of Poetry Circus, I was able to contact 12 of L.A.’s top poets to create a socially distant podcast centered on our city. It’s about why we live here and why we would live nowhere else.
More importantly, I want to greatly encourage you to check with your local book dealer and order at least one of the works from the wonderful list of poets in the line-up. (As with all the suggestions in this column, A.G. Geiger does not necessarily carry the titles, and we are very pleased to support other bookstores.)
The poets involved in the project include our former City Poet Laureate, Luis J. Rodriquez as well as longtime poetry scene pillars such as Suzanne Lummis, Gail Wronsky, Laurel Ann Bogen, Susan Hayden (accompanied by John McDuffie), and the aforementioned Rich Modiano.
Poets and titles to enjoy:
Laurel Anne Bogen is the author of 11 books of poetry and short stories. She has been the literary curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, an instructor of poetry and performance for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program since 1990 and received the Outstanding Instructor of the Year in Creative Writing in 2008. laurelannbogen.com
Brendan Constantine is an ardent supporter of Southern California’s poetry communities and one of its most recognized poets. He has served as a teacher of poetry in local schools and colleges since 1995. His first collection, Letters to Guns, was released in February 2009 from Red Hen Press to wide acclaim. This was followed in 2011 by Birthday Girl With Possum, under the performance-based publisher Write Bloody, and established Constantine as a poet equally at home on the page and the stage. brendanconstantine.com
A Pushcart Prize nominee, Bill Cushing was named one of the Top Ten Poets of L.A. in 2017, and his work was featured in a collection of regional poets on Moon Tide Press. finishinglinepress.com
Nicelle Davis is a California poet, collaborator, and performance artist. Her poetry collections include The Walled Wife, In the Circus of You, and Becoming Judas all on Red Hen Press. Her poetry film collaborations with Cheryl Gross have been shown worldwide. nicelledavis.net
Susan Hayden is a poet, playwright, novelist and essayist. For over three decades, she has been a fixture in the Los Angeles spoken-word community. She is the Creator/Producer of the long-running series, Library Girl, now in its 11th year.
Candice Kelsey’s debut book of poetry Still I am Pushing is just out on Finishing Line Press. Her poetry has appeared in Poets Reading the News, Poet Lore, and others, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. twitter.com/candicekelsey1
Suzanne Lummis is a poet, influential teacher, arts organizer and impresario in Los Angeles. She is associated with the poem noir, as well as the sensibility of performance poetry for which she was a major exponent. Together with Sherman Pearl, founded The Los Angeles Poetry Festival. Since 1991, she has taught poetry workshops through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. suzannelummis.com
Ellen Maybe has performed all over the country, including Bumbershoot, the Poetry Project, the New School, South by Southwest, and Lollapalooza. She opened the MTV Spoken Wurd(sic) Tour in Los Angeles. Writer’s Digest named her one of ten poets to watch in the new millennium. Her work has been included in numerous anthologies. ellynmaybe.net
Richard Modiano is executive director of Beyond Baroque, which opened in 1968 and is one of the nation’s leading independent Literary Arts Centers and public spaces dedicated to expanding the public’s knowledge of poetry, literature and art through cultural events and community interaction. He’s a rank and file member of the Industrial Workers of the World and publisher of the Moon & Sun Review. lifeandlegends.com/richard-modiano
Luis J. Rodriquez is an American poet, novelist, journalist, critic, and columnist. He was the 2014 Los Angeles Poet Laureate. Rodriguez is recognized as a major figure in contemporary Chicano literature. His best-known work, Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award. Luis is actively engaged with Tia Chuchas’ Centro Cultural whose mission is to transform the community in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and beyond through ancestral knowledge, the arts, literacy and creative engagement. tiachucha.org
Lynne Thompson was the recipient of a Fellowship from the City of Los Angeles in 2015, she is the author of three poetry chapbooks as well as two full-length collections, Start With A Small Guitar and Beg No Pardon, winner of the Perugia Press Book Award. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Thompson is the Reviews & Essays Editor for the literary journal, Spillway. poetryfoundation.org/poets/lynne-thompson
Gail Wronsky is the author, coauthor, and translator of 12 books of poetry and prose, including the poetry collections Imperfect Pastorals , So Quick Bright Things, Poems for Infidels and Dying for Beauty She teaches poetry, poetry writing, and women’s literature at Loyola Marymount University. poetryfoundation.org/poets/gail-wronsky
As mentioned, you can get an audio sample of each of these poets in the “Love Letter to L.A.” special edition of the A.G.Geiger Presents podcast on most every platform.
Stay safe — and as always, please shop local: