DO NOT DISTURB THE FLOWERS
Re: Doug Harvey's “Flower Power Games” [September 1723]. I don't know if you can imagine my surprise in reading that the Germinators had “broken up.” In fact, our monthly meetings have continued unabated since Ms. Faure's decision to excuse herself. In July, a group of us met at Ivette Soler and Jan Tumlir's residence, for a garden tour and clarification of Germinator involvement in other events. We decided that, in order to make sure that the club remains good fun, we would eliminate the pressure of other “Germinator-sponsored” projects. Although all Germinators may participate in any events that come our way, members are not obligated to participate. And we all agreed that Zazu's decision to make her Flower Show not a “Germinator” event was a good one.
I'm frankly puzzled that Doug Harvey did not choose to contact any Germinators for some perspective, although this would have made for a less dramatic article, and clearly that was more important for him. Regardless, I would like to extend an invitation to Harvey to attend the next Germinator meeting and make up his own mind about our continued existence. The fall gardens are nice, and the food is always good.
–Laura Cooper, Germinator
What a pity that Doug Harvey, whom I considered an intelligent art critic, chose not to interview any existing member of the Germinators before he wrote about their demise in “Flower Power Games.” If he had, he would've learned that the garden club is strong and healthy and holding monthly meetings. I was surprised at Harvey's tabloid-style regurgitation of gossip, and appalled at his insistence on characterizing the club as petty, small, mean-spirited and prima donnaish. That the Flower Show's curator, Zazu Faure, would then turn around and badmouth the artists that helped make the show a success speaks volumes about her character, and maybe gives some insight into the real cause of whatever drama did or did not happen vis-à-vis the Germinators.
–Ivette Soler, Germinator
MORE SENSITIVE PLANTS
I enjoyed Brendan Bernhard's “Perhaps These Are Not Poetic Times at All” [September 1723], a well-written, compassionate, clear-eyed look at this ancient but suffering art. The problem of the numbing indifference of consumer culture to poetry is the essential fact of life for any poet. On the other hand, from my perspective at least, once you stop wishing for cake, crumbs can taste pretty good. If a poet wants to have the name recognition of Allen Ginsberg, the press runs of Michael Crichton and the adulation afforded Michael Jordan, he or she is in the wrong business. There is, however, a very active subculture of poetry fetishists in Los Angeles and all across America these days, although it slips under the radar of newspapers, television, movies. Ten minutes ago, I pulled in off the freeway, charged and happy and feeling really electrified by a student poetry and fiction reading I attended at Whittier College, where I teach. That's where poetry lives these days — in 30 people coming out to listen to language turn into art, to the best of a human being distilled into a 60-second stream of words. It lives on a small scale, where it matters.
I know these are poetic times, because I exist. I am barely 20, feel deeply and am dominated by an intense worship of all beauty. Poetry is important. It conveys things we can rarely name or understand at all, things on the same level as God and religion. Such heroic and grandiose qualities for literature need to be reaffirmed in words as colorful as paintings and as loud as music. The beauty of the English language is so great as to approach sanctity. These are poetic times for sure.
–Devon Harlan, Pablo Capra
Kids banging on plastic tubs while rapping about the street is authentic. Perhaps they don't possess the Nobel-laureate vernacular; they do, however, in my humble-poetry-writing-heretofore-unpublished opinion, own the heart of poetry. As long as our youth question the “matrix,” and all people remember to love and fuck and wonder hard, there will be poetry.
Your article on poetry was a travesty. You are vile people with no concept of art, passion or revolution. Poetry is more important than you think, and to reject the art form as dead is no less than an act of hostility. What are you trying to do? Alienate poets and those who gain pleasure from poetry? If so, then this is war. If you want to tear us down, we're going to fuck you â up. You need to understand. We are for real. Don't take us for fools; you are the fools. You are scum. I am culture slut insurrected, and I AM VENGEANCE. Do you think poetry will lie down and die for scum? No. We will fight you to the last. Poetry is not dead; it's stronger than ever, and it's going to wipe out scum like you.
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.
My hope in 1996 was for a Reform-Green fusion with Nader. If Nader had wanted it, he could have had it. (I know this to be true from personal involvement, but it's a long story.) It can happen again with Beatty. The Reform Party is made up of people pissed off at trade deals that protect the wealthy, pissed at money controlling our electoral process, and who don't want government telling the women in our nation what they do with their bodies.
Harold wants Warren Beatty to run as a Democrat. But if he runs in the Democratic primaries, the dynamic creates the very nonsense that Harold winds up spinning. â Does Beatty hurt Gore — or Bradley? And, how much money does Beatty have to spend in primaries where even Dem activists are seduced by “lesser of evil” and “lemmings” arguments?
Better, dear Harold, for Beatty to run outside the two business-money-dominated parties altogether, and try for a fusion candidacy, i.e., Green-Reform, that will force the Debates Commission to let him into the fall 2000 debates. Then we'll really see a race with some issues.
Harold, as you and I continue to pray at the altar of the much-missed Michael Harrington, I beseech you: Don't pick on the Reform Party folks. They mean well, and they at least know what the real issues are in this country, compared to our friends who live in the mainstream of petty party politics.
–Mitchell J. Freedman
Re: Harold Meyerson's article “Memo to Warren” . . . Run, Warren, run! Harold Meyerson for V.P.!
Christine Pelisek, in her article “Dr. Kevorkian, Where Are You?” [OffBeat, September 39], states that when I was given the choice by the SPCA either to hospitalize or euthanize my cat Frida, I “refused” both options. That statement is incorrect. After being denied a second opinion, I agreed to have Frida hospitalized. The SPCA seized her anyway.
–Drew Simmons, D.C.
THE RSVP THAT GOT AWAY
I was really knocked out by Jonny Whiteside's music feature “Pink Champagne: Dewey Terry's Rock & Roll Party” [May 28June 3]. In my opinion, Don “Sugarcane” Harris and Dewey stole the show at Johnny Otis' Family Music Festival at Bonelli Park back in 1993. And yes, Dewey does have “a clean-shaven howitzer of a dome.” That was quite a contrast to all the hair those guys used to have. But they still look and sound wonderful. I only wish that they would record a new album! I also pray that “Sugarcane” overcomes his illness.
San Luis Obispo
PAY RAISES AND PERKS
Someone please give Greg Burk a pay raise for having the balls to write about the true L.A. hard-rock scene, an area other music critics seem to be scared as hell to even mention.
Love the sense of humor displayed in your Rockie Horoscope. Cheers, and sorry about Rockie's laptop. Buy her the latest, most expensive one, as she is well worth it.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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