The Venice Beach Poets Monument
Viggo Mortensen – www.viggo-works.com/
Manazar Gamboa – www.lindadelmar.com/manazar.html
Jim Morrison – www.americanlegends.com/morrison/
Exene Cervenka – www.myspace.com/exenecervenka
Linda Albertano – http://lindajalbertano.com
Philomene Long – http://philomenelong.com
Ellyn Maybe – http://ellynmaybe.com/
Charles Bukowski – http://bukowski.net/
Tony Scibella – www.facebook.com/pages/Tony–Scibella/159051490785774
Frank T. Rios – http://www.myspace.com/venicebeats/
Taylor Mead – www.facebook.com/pages/Taylor–Mead/108328782527882
John Thomas – www.virtualvenice.info/poets/myphilomene.htm
Stuart Perkoff – www.virtualvenice.info/poets/perkoff.htm
Bob Flanagan – http://vv.arts.ucla.edu/terminals/flanagan/flanagan.html
Majid Naficy – www.iranian.com/mnaficy.html
Wanda Coleman – www.facebook.com/pages/Wanda–Coleman/113562381990868
Bruce Boyd – https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/poetrycenter/bundles/191188
Keith Antar Mason – www.myspace.com/486712071
The Venice Poet’s Wall(s) backstory
Mayor Richard Riordan finally dedicated the improved boardwalk on January 15, 2001. He cheered with the crowd of officials, performers, tourists and locals. In a brief speech, Riordan honored the diverse talents of one of Southern California’s most popular tourist destinations. “This is a place to come and wonder at the beauty and splendor of the City of Angels. This is Los Angeles,” the mayor proudly said.
In true Venice fashion, “Mad” Chad Taylor, the Chainsaw Juggler, used one of his roaring blades to cut the red wooden ribbon at the rededication. “The pavilion . . . was a dream of a previous generation,” Ellen Oppenheim, general manager of the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks declared. “Now it’s making way for the dreams of the next generation.”
Stained with the blood of poets
City which lies
Beneath the breasts of birds
Guarded by cats
Behind every corner
The Muse, Angel of Surprise
Poems out of pavement cracks.
Philomene Long had penned the verse several years earlier to express her love for five decades of Venice bohemianism. It became one of 18 verses by Venice poets, past and present, etched onto four concrete walls on the beach at the end of Windward Avenue. Other poets whose verses can be found at the beach include Linda Albertano, Charles Bukowski, Ellyn Maybe, John Thomas, Exene Cervenka, Wanda Coleman, Taylor Mead, Manazar Gamboa, Jim Morrison and Viggo Mortensen.
The poets’ wall is a perfect complement to the Venice community. Nearby is the psychedelic totem pole, the skate park and the remnants of the old Venice Pavilion, which now contains colorful, city-sanctioned graffiti art.
The final decoration, so to speak, was the installation of the massive steel sculpture “Declaration” by artist Mark di Suvero, from October 10 – November 25, 2001. Towering like a lighthouse composed of a pair of tilted triangles, this monument was described as either a beacon of playfulness, or as the “big masonic logo.” Originally intended to stay put for only 6 months, the sculpture is still there.
VIGGO PETER MORTENSEN, JR. aka Viggo Mortensen (born October 20, 1958) is an American-Danish actor, poet, musician, photographer and painter. He made his film debut in Peter Weir‘s 1985 thriller Witness, and has appeared in many notable films including Carlito’s Way (1993), G.I. Jane (1997), the epic film trilogy The Lord of the Rings (2001), Eastern Promises (2007, Appaloosa (2008) and the 2009 film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy‘s novel The Road.
Aside from acting, his other artistic pursuits include fine arts, photography, poetry, and music. In 2002, he founded the Perceval Press to publish the works of little-known artists and authors. Mortensen has a son, Henry Blake Mortensen (born January 28, 1988), with ex-wife Exene Cervenka, singer in the punk band X. Henry and Viggo have done public father/son poetry readings together as recently as April 2006, 3 Fools for April w/ Scott Wannberg (Beyond Baroque).
Mortensen was born in New York City.
With part of his earnings from The Lord of the Rings, Mortensen founded the Perceval Press publishing house — named for the knight (Sir Perceval) from the legend of King Arthur — to help other artists by publishing works that might not find a home in more traditional publishing venues. Perceval Press is also the home of Viggo’s many personal artistic projects in the area of fine arts, photography, poetry, song, and literature.
MANAZAR GAMBOA, (1934 – 2000) was a convict-turned-poet who devoted his life after prison to writing and sharing the liberating power of literature with others from troubled backgrounds. He was an important Los Angeles poet who began writing about the urban Chicano experience before it was fashionable, Gamboa led Beyond Baroque, the Venice literary center, in the late 1970s and was published in such respected magazines as the Chicago Review.
“He was a very important figure in opening up the poetry world in Los Angeles . . . to new voices, to overlooked ethnic and racial groups and styles,” said Frederick Dewey, Beyond Baroque’s former director. “He was a very underappreciated and under-recognized poet . . . who was dedicated to strengthening his community.”
Since 1989, Gamboa had been artistic director at the Homeland Neighborhood Cultural Center in Long Beach, where he directed theater and literary reading projects and led writing workshops for adults and children.
He also directed more than 2,500 writing workshops for youths in the Los Angeles County juvenile justice system and for inmates at state prisons in Chino and Frontera during 13 years with L.A. Theatre Works, a nonprofit in Venice.
“He pioneered and revolutionized the field of arts programming for incarcerated and probationary youth,” said Gale Cohen, director of the arts and children project at L.A. Theatre Works. “His true love was working with kids and the community.”
At Homeland, Gamboa worked with those hardened by street life to craft stories about their experiences. He always broke the ice by telling his own story.
“A lot of my writing has to do with my barrio, the people who live there, the effect of the loss on myself and trying to keep it alive,” he said in a documentary on his life, “Poetic License.”
Gamboa, whose ancestry was Apache, was the youngest of 12 children. He traveled the San Fernando and Central valleys as a youth, picking crops with his family.
The family settled in Chavez Ravine, a poor, hilly area north of downtown Los Angeles. As one of the first Latino students at Nightingale Junior High in Cypress Park, he rebelled against the prejudice he encountered by speaking only Spanish and subsequently spent most of his time in the principal’s office. He also began to sell marijuana and steal cars.
In 1954, when he was 20, he faced his first prison term. He would spend 17 of the next 23 years in prison. During that time, he saw his neighborhood destroyed in the late 1950s to make way for Dodger Stadium, leaving Gamboa with an anger about being uprooted that would never fade. He also became a heroin addict. In the early 1970s the woman he loved died of an overdose in his arms. After her death, he went on an armed robbery spree and wound up in prison again.
While at Soledad State Prison, he quit heroin, and he started to read anything he could get his hands on, from biographies to ancient history. What most fascinated him was poetry. He read Keats, Shelley, Coleridge and Blake because that was what was available in the prison library. One day someone gave him the complete works of Shakespeare. He was stymied by the bard’s Elizabethan English until luck brought him a copy of the Oxford Universal Dictionary. It was the key he needed to unlock the plays, and he guarded it like gold. “I would have fought King Kong for that book, it was like a miracle that it came to me.” He began to write and send his poems out for publication. On the 38th try, his work was accepted by a journal run by a University of Colorado professor.
In 1977, he was released from prison and entered the Los Angeles poetry scene. From 1977 to 1981 he worked for Beyond Baroque, where he started the first multicultural reading series and edited its magazine, Obras. From 1981 to 1983 he was a director of the L.A. Latino Writers Assn. and editor of its ChismeArte magazine. He began to hold writers workshops for recovering substance abusers and founded a performance group called AMA.
In the early 1980s he began to teach writing and literacy in prisons and court schools, always telling his students to write from the heart. “You need to tell your own story because if somebody else tells it, they’ll tell it wrong,” he said.
Among Gamboa’s most notable works was “Memories Around a Bulldozed Barrio,” an epic poem he turned into performance art.
“He wrote some of the most important poems of Chicano writers in California,” said Victor Valle, a former colleague of Gamboa in the L.A. Latino Writers Assn. who taught ethnic studies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Valle remembered Gamboa as a taskmaster of language who rejected the notion that barrio art lacked craft. That is one reason Valle considers Gamboa’s “Chicano Tank in the Old County Jail” an important poem.
It takes place in the segregated cells at the old Los Angeles jail in 1953. He described a makeshift jam session among prisoners with names like Chuta and Meno. He produced a poem about transformation and faith.
JAMES DOUGLAS MORRISON aka Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was an American lead singer and lyricist of the rock band The Doors, as well as a poet. He would often improvise poem passages while the band played live, which was his trademark. He is widely regarded, with his wild personality and performances, as one of the most iconic, charismatic and pioneering frontmen in rock music history.
James Douglas Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida. In 1947, Morrison, then four years old, allegedly witnessed a car accident in the desert, where a family of American Indians were injured and possibly killed. He referred to this incident in a spoken word performance on the song “Dawn’s Highway” from the album An American Prayer, and again in the songs “Peace Frog” and “Ghost Song.”
Morrison was inspired by the writings of philosophers and poets. He was influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, whose views on aesthetics, morality, and the Apollonian and Dionysian duality would appear in Jim’s conversation, poetry and songs. He read “Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks” (Parallel Lives). He also read the French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud, whose style would later influence the form of Jim’s short prose poems. Jim was also influenced by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Patchen, Michael McClure and Gregory Corso. Jim’s English teacher once commented, “I felt that Jim was the only one in the class who read Ulysses, and understood it.”
In January 1964, Morrison moved to Los Angeles, California, to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He attended Jack Hirschman‘s class on Antonin Artaud in the Comparative Literature program within the UCLA English Department. Artaud’s brand of surrealist theatre had a profound impact on Morrison’s dark poetic sensibility of cinematic theatricality.
Morrison completed his undergraduate degree at UCLA’s film school and the Theater Arts department of the College of Fine Arts in 1965. In an early display of rebellion, he refused to attend the graduation ceremony, his degree diploma being mailed to him. He made two films while attending UCLA. First Love, the first of these films, made with Morrison’s classmate and roommate Max Schwartz, was released to the public when it appeared in a documentary about the film Obscura. During these years, while living in Venice Beach, he became friends with writers at the Los Angeles Free Press. Morrison was an advocate of the underground newspaper until his death in 1971. He later conducted a lengthy and in-depth interview with Bob Chorush and Andy Kent, both working for the Free Press at the time (January 1971), and was planning on visiting the headquarters of the busy newspaper shortly before leaving for Paris.
In the Summer of 1965, after graduating from the UCLA, Morrison led a bohemian lifestyle in Venice Beach. Living on the rooftop of a building inhabited by his old UCLA cinematography friend Dennis Jakobs, he wrote the lyrics of many of the early songs the Doors would later perform live and record on albums, the most notable being “Moonlight Drive” and “Hello, I Love You”. According to Jakobs, he lived on canned beans and LSD daily for several months. Morrison and fellow UCLA student Ray Manzarek were the first two members of The Doors, forming the group during that same summer of 1965.
The Doors took their name from the title of Aldous Huxley‘s The Doors of Perception (a reference to the “unlocking” of “doors of perception” through psychedelic drug use).
In June 1966, Morrison and The Doors were the opening act at the Whisky a Go Go on the last week of the residency of Van Morrison‘s band Them. “Jim Morrison learned quickly from his near-namesake’s stagecraft, his apparent recklessness, his air of subdued menace, the way he would improvise poetry to a rock beat, even his habit of crouching down by the bass drum during instrumental breaks.” (from Riders On The Storm by John Densmore)
The Doors achieved national recognition after signing with Elektra Records in 1967. The single “Light My Fire” eventually reached number one on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Later, The Doors appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, a popular Sunday night variety series that had introduced The Beatles and Elvis Presley to the nation. Ed Sullivan requested two songs from The Doors for the show, “People Are Strange“, and “Light My Fire“. The censors insisted that they change the lyrics of “Light My Fire” from “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” to “Girl we couldn’t get much better”; this was reportedly due to what could be perceived as a reference to drugs in the original lyric. Giving assurances of compliance to Sullivan, Morrison then proceeded to sing the song with the original lyrics anyway. He later said that he had simply forgotten to make the change. This so infuriated Sullivan that he refused to shake their hands after their.
By the release of their second album, Strange Days, The Doors had become one of the most popular rock bands in the United States. Their blend of blues and rock tinged with psychedelia included a number of original songs and distinctive cover versions, such as their rendition of “Alabama Song“, from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill‘s operetta, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The band also performed a number of extended concept works, including the songs “The End“, “When the Music’s Over“, and “Celebration of the Lizard“.
In 1968, The Doors released their third studio album, Waiting for the Sun. Their fourth album, The Soft Parade, was released in 1969. It was the first album where the individual band members were given credit on the inner sleeve for the songs they had written.
By 1969, the formerly svelte singer gained weight, grew a beard, and began dressing more casually — abandoning the leather pants and concho belts for slacks, jeans and T-shirts. After this, Morrison started to show up for recording sessions inebriated. He was also frequently late for live performances. As a result, the band would play instrumental music or force Manzarek to take on the singing duties.
Following The Soft Parade, The Doors released the Morrison Hotel album. After a lengthy break the group reconvened in October 1970 to record their last album with Morrison, L.A. Woman.
Morrison self-published two volumes of his poetry in 1969, The Lords / Notes on Vision and The New Creatures. The Lords consists primarily of brief descriptions of places, people, events and Morrison’s thoughts on cinema. The New Creatures verses are more poetic in structure, feel and appearance. These two books were later combined into a single volume titled The Lords and The New Creatures. These were the only writings published during Morrison’s lifetime.
After his death, two volumes of Morrison’s poetry were published. The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison Volume 1 is titled Wilderness, and, upon its release in 1988, became an instant New York Times best seller. Volume 2, The American Night, released in 1990, was also a success.
Morrison recorded his own poetry in a professional sound studio on two separate occasions. The first was in March 1969 in Los Angeles and the second was on December 8, 1970. Some of the segments from the 1969 session were issued on the bootleg album The Lost Paris Tapes and were later used as part of the Doors’ An American Prayer album, released in 1978. The poetry recorded from the December 1970 session remains unreleased to this day.
Morrison’s meteoric life came to an end in a bathtub in Paris, France on July 3, 1971. His death at age twenty-seven included him in a phenomenon called the “27 Club”, along with Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Morrison’s friend Alan Wilson of Canned Heat and Kurt Cobain.
The poetry of Jim Morrison
An American Prayer
Riders on the Storm
CHRISTENE CERVENKA aka EXENE CERVENKA aka EXENE (born: February 1, 1956) is an American writer, musician and artist, most famous as the co-lead vocalist of the Los Angeles punk rock band X.
Born and raised in Chicago and Florida, Cervenka moved to Los Angeles in 1976. In 1977 she met musician John Doe at a poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque in Venice, California, and founded X. They released their debut album, Los Angeles, in 1980 and, over the next six years, five more critically acclaimed albums. She has continued her career with X as well as in solo performances and participation in bands such as The Knitters, Auntie Christ and The Original Sinners.
In 1982 Cervenka published her first in a series of four books, Adulterers Anonymous, in collaboration with artist Lydia Lunch. She has also performed and recorded solo work doing spoken word. In 1999, as Exene Cˇervenková, she appeared in the cult video Decoupage 2000: Return of the Goddess, along with guests Karen Black and the band L7. She gave a reading of her poem “They Must Be Angels”, and appeared in an interview skit with Decoupage 2000 hostess Summer Caprice.
In 2005, her journals and mixed media collages were exhibited in a one-person exhibition titled America the Beautiful at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. An expanded version of the exhibition traveled to DCKT Contemporary in New York in January 2006. The exhibition featured a selection of journals from the collection of approximately 100 that Cervenka has completed over the past 30+ years, as well as 18 collages. Cervenka appeared on the 2000 tribute album Stoned Immaculate: The Music of The Doors with Perry Farrell on the track “Children Of Night”.
Cervenka married John Doe in 1980; they divorced in 1985. She then met Viggo Mortensen in 1986 on the set of the comedy Salvation!, a parody of televangelism. Mortensen played her husband, Jerome. They married on July 8, 1987. On January 28, 1988, Cervenka gave birth to her only child, Henry Blake Mortensen. Mortensen and Cervenka separated in 1992, and were divorced in 1997.
Alone in Arizona http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU0yMcB8pzE
John Doe & Exene interview http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8gBv2T-iIc&feature=related
Linda J. Albertano
Linda J. Albertano (born 1952) is “a musician, a storyteller, a displayer of props, a comically-generated presence, a model of complex speaking methods, and a performance artist whose work has been presented in Europe as well as America.”
— Benjamin Weissman, Beyond Baroque
Albertano graduated from UCLA film school before studying performance with cultural icon Rachel Rosenthal and plunging headlong into inter-media performance. This she unleashed in such major venues as The LA Theater Center, UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall, The John Anson Ford Theater, Barnsdall Gallery, as well as San Francisco’s New Langton Arts and San Diego’s Sushi Gallery (among others). During the same period, she often found herself reading her bare text in the company of poets. She’s been featured frequently at Beyond Baroque, SPARC, LACE, Highways, and other literary/spoken word meccas. She’s read her work at literally hundreds of events, appearing in such diverse contexts as Sunday Services at The Church in Ocean Park, MTV’s The Cutting Edge, LA’s Blue-Line rapid-transit, various colleges and universities (including the U. of C. at Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Irvine) and an assortment of serious venues like Galeria Ocaso and The Lhasa Club, or rowdy rock’n’roll palaces like The Knitting Factory (LA and NY) and Club Lingerie. She’s delivered her text at the LA Poetry Festival, South by Southwest, Lollapalooza, WORD LA and ALLEN GINSBERG’S AMERICA (his memorial celebration), as well as places in Europe like London’s October Gallery and Edinburgh’s Edge. She was among five poets who represented Los Angeles in Amsterdam’s One World Poetry Festival, a ten-day multinational bash underwritten by the Dutch Government.
“A genuine avant-garde café style… a riveting performance of monologues.” — Harold Norse, Poetry Flash
While published in several anthologies including The LAICA Journal, Beyond Baroque’s Truth, Etc. and Invocation LA, as a spoken-word artist, Albertano can be heard on more than a dozen compilation albums documenting LA’x streetspeak. Radio Tokyo, English As A Second Language, Hollyword and the sizzling Disclosure with its wild variety of female voices number among them. She’s authored several full-length projects for radio and CD. Spanish is the Loving Tongue (KCRW), Goldminers, an iconoclastic neo-feminist comedy (KPFK) and Greatest Hits (High Performance). She was also commissioned by New America Radio with three other poets to develop a 90-minute piece, Redefining Democracy in America. Her spoken CD, Skin, recorded for New Alliance Records, was reviewed in the UK.
“Lush language and carefully chosen aural bites cultivate texture in a world seeping with heat and saturated with history…A commentary that entertains and educates as it inquires.” — Juile Taraska, The Wire
Albertano played a part in Alice Cooper’s revived tour The Nightmare Returns in the US, Canada, and Great Britain. By night she was his Evil Nurse and Executioner. But by day, she read poetry in her own Radio Tour of America in Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, and other US hotspots. She was recognized as “Best Female Performer Poet” by the LA Weekly (1989). Works include Pointed Sweethearts and Mercenary Children (1984), I ♥ Your Boyfriend (1984) and Linda J. Albertano Sells Out (1986). which were well reviewed by The LA Times, The LA Weekly, Artweek and High Performance Magazine.
The LA Theater Center selected her to write, direct, and perform an original, full-length inter-media and spoken-word piece, Joan of Compton, Joan of Arcadia — de facto apartheid in Los Angeles (1986), complete with a cast of poets and artists as well as a 30-member marching band she discovered in South-Central LA. Then on a public beach for the Santa Monica Arts Council, she wrote, directed and performed in Calisaladia — a condensed history of California (1990) with a large multi-cultural cast. In the 90’s, she ran a poetry series at Van Go’s Ear in Venice and read with groups like Word Women, LA Woman, and Divas 3. With Suzanna Lummis and Laurel Ann Bogen, she founded Nearly Fatal Women who have toured both coasts, returning often to their home at Beyond Baroque.
In the new millennium, Albertano renewed her love of world music and traveled twice to Conakry in Guinea, West Africa to study kora, bolon and n’goni (stringed calabash instruments) with the masters of ancient musical traditions, Prince Diabate, Djelimuso, Koyate and Amadou Bolon. Prince Diabate has been recognized as one of the greatest living virtuosos of the kora (West African harp). As a member of his band, Albertano has been seen in LA’s Sacred Music Festival at Royce Hall and The Madrid Theater as well as at The Getty Museum and in Global Strings at The California Plaza. Mean-while, she’s continued to read at familiar haunts and festivals and in new places like the Queen Mary and Angel’s Gate. In 2005 she was awarded a City of Los Angeles Certificate of Recognition as a Venice Poetry Diva. Currently, she reads annually for the Aquarium of the Pacific Poetry Cruise (an environmental tour of Long Beach Harbor) and cares for her elderly mother, who lives with her in a small apartment in Venice.
Linda Albertano & Prince Diabate
Philomene Long (Aug. 17, 1940 – Aug. 21, 2007) was born in New York City. She moved to San Diego, CA with her family where she attended the Academy of Our Lady of Peace high school. She then attended Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles, also earning a MFA at UCLA. She then studied to became a nun, but soon became enamored to the bohemian lifestyle and literally jumped the fence and moved to Venice, CA to write poetry and “walk the walk” in that haven of bohemian creativity. This was in the late 50’s. She eventually met Stuart Perkoff, Tony Scibella and Frankie Rios, members of the “inner circle” of poets in Venice.
Having written poems earlier, it was natural for her to continue her writing and find a home with the Venice poets. She became Stuart’s companion during the last part of his life.
After Stuart’s death, Philomene became involved with John Thomas, whom she later married. Over the years, Long worked tirelessly to promote both poetry and the Venice she had come to love. She was a passionate advocate for poets and Beyond Baroque and was the poet laureate of Venice, not just by action of the city council, but by the consent of people of Venice. She was also known as the Queen of Bohemia.
Long’s poetry drew upon her studies in both Zen (She studied with Maezumi Roshi for 21 years, until his death in 1995…Her book, American Zen Bones, is about this experience) and Catholic traditions. She also taught poetry and creative writing for 16 years at the UCLA Extension. “She was not only a poet but a teacher and mentor who carried forth the beat poetry tradition,” said S.A. Griffin.
She was author of numerous books, including The Queen of Bohemia (Lummox Press), American Zen Bones (Beyond Baroque Books), and with John Thomas, The Book of Sleep (Momentum Press), The Ghosts of Venice West and Bukowski in the Bathtub (Raven Press). Her Memoirs of a Nun on Fire appears in The Outlaw Bible of America Poetry (Thunders’ Mouth Press). She was also a filmmaker. Her works include The Beats: An Existential Comedy, with Allen Ginsburg and The California Missions with Martin Sheen.
Philomene Long’s poem on the Windward Plaza Poetry Wall:
Stained with the blood of poets
City which lies
Beneeath the breasts of birds
Guarded by cats
Behind every corner
The Muse, Angel of Surprise
Poems out of pavement cracks
John Thomas & Philomene Long last reading at Beyond Baroque – Art Inquiry Video
Philomene Long reads America
Philomene reads at Beyond Baroque, accompanied by David Amram
Further work at
ELLYN MAYBE was born July 10, 1964. She is the author of many books including The Cowardice of Amnesia, Walking Barefoot in the Glassblowers Museum and Praha and the Poet as well as the critically acclaimed poetry/music album, Rodeo for the Sheepish with poetry by Ellyn Maybe, music by Harlan Steinberger and singing by Tommy Jordan (The Ellyn Maybe Band which was formed in 2010 includes Harlan Steinberger, Robbie Fitzsimmons, Danny Moynahan, Tommy Jordan and Paul Bushnell), which was picked as one of the best CDs of 2009 by Bob Holman & Margery Snyder for About.com Guides. The Los Angeles based poet has performed her work all over the country, including the Los Angeles Times Book Fair, Bumbershoot, the Poetry Project, the New School, Taos Poetry Circus, South by Southwest, Lollapalooza, Albuquerque Poetry Festival and Seattle Poetry Festival. She has also read in Europe at the Bristol Poetry Festival, the Glastonbury Festival, both in the UK and venues in Ireland, on the BBC, and in poetry slams and readings in Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Stuttgart. She also performed at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France. She opened the MTV Spoken Wurd Tour in Los Angeles. In addition, she has also read at USC, UCLA, CSUN and Cal State Fullerton, among other colleges.
Writer’s Digest named her one of ten poets to watch in the new millennium. Her work has been included in many anthologies, including Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution, Poetry Slam, Another City: Writing From Los Angeles, Poetry Nation, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry and American Poetry: The Next Generation. She was on the 1998 and 1999 Venice Beach Slam teams. She was seen reading her work in Michael Radford’s film Dancing at the Blue Iguana.
“Reading Ellyn’s poems from the page is one thing but hearing her read them just the way she meant them to be heard is something else altogether. Ellyn has a great sense of humor and reads wonderfully. The musical accompaniment on the album is not mere background filler but a true collaborative effort between Ellyn and the musicians that really works. Ellyn is a very gifted writer and a true gem.” – Henry Rollins
“There is no bottom to Maybe’s inventiveness, to her adoption of Nirvana’s Oh well whatever never mind as an artistic tool, to a confidence that allows her to toss off a bedrock statement on the American character (“There are people / who know the cuckoo is the state bird / of most states of mind”) in a throwaway voice so that its humor hits you not as a joke but as an echo. There is nothing like this album except for the real life it maps.” –Greil Marcus
“I am struck by my inability to describe what you do in terms beautiful enough, original enough to do you justice. But it’s always been this way. Who has ever been able to say in other words what a song says? Maybe it’s why I like your poems so much, they say what can only be said in exactly the way you say it. The best way of turning someone on to you is to play you for them.” – Jackson Browne
Ellyn Maybe on You Tube
http://youtu.be/vw9muKkwsS4 City Streets
http://youtu.be/_YlS1YLlgW8 Sylvia Plath
http://youtu.be/_Mjf1EuJ37w There Were Two Girls Who Looked A lot the Same
http://HenHouseStudios.com Hen House Studios
Heinrich Karl Bukowski aka CHARLES BUKOWSKI; (August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994) was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books, almost all on Black Sparrow. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife.”
Bukowski was born Heinrich Karl Bukowski in Andernach, Germany. Due to the collapse of the German economy following the end of World War I, the family emigrated to the United States in 1923, when Bukowski was two, and initially settled in Baltimore, Maryland. The family settled in South Central Los Angeles in 1930, the city from which his father’s family originated. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, Bukowski attended Los Angeles City College for two years, taking courses in art, journalism and literature, before quitting at the start of World War II. He moved to New York to begin a career as a writer.
His writing career began at the age of 24 when his short story “Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip” was published in Story magazine. It continued until his death at age 73. His writing and personal antics have inspired countless spin-offs in more than forty languages from around the world. He is credited with starting the “meat” school of writing which explored the “art” of everyday experience. He became a reluctant muse to hundreds of poets through his alter-ego, Henry Chinaski, whose antics reflected a stylized version Bukowski’s life.
Bukowski married twice; once to Barbara Frye (for two years, 1957 to 1959), and to Linda Lee Beighle in 1985. He had a string of bad experiences with women, most notably Jane Cooney Baker. He had a daughter (Marina Loiuse Bukowski) with Frances Smith in 1964.
Though a notorious drunk most of his life, Bukowski’s powerful presence and influence as a writer is still felt today by literally millions of fans around the world.
A Last Shot On Two Good Horses http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUEKA6Nk8uw&feature=fvst
Bukowski Reads Bukowski http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiuEi0dGcIs&feature=related
Bukowski Reads ay Sweetwater
Tony Tony (left) with Frank Rios
TONY SCIBELLA aka Victor Bent is the author of Kid in America, his opus about his growing life as an artist in L.A. Post WW-II. He also wrote the classic, I’m Afraid There Will Be No Parades for Us, his last poetic will and testament. He was immortalized on the poet’s wall on Venice Beach because the sound and fury of his poetic life began with Stuart Z. Perkoff and Frank T. Rios on the beaches south of L.A., when Venice, CA was a bohemian place, a beat place, a nurturing place surrounded by sea magic. When, for a brief period of time, you could recite your poems in sympathetic coffee houses, when the muse was always available and in attendance. In conjunction with Bowery Press he published over 35 books & broadsides, under his own press: Black Ace he has lost the exact count. He edited the first 4 issues of Black Ace Book. Tony authored several small press chap books in the ensuing years . . Bare Trees and Two For Her, as well as Turning for Home. John Macker published a small book of his later work, Retirement Poems in 2006, a year after his death. An in-depth interview can be found with him in the Denver literary magazine, Moravagine 3, conducted by Macker in 1986. He was included in the Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. An un-reconstituted pulp fiction collector, he owned Black Ace Books in Denver in the 1980’s, which was a haven for Denver’s under/above ground literary and art scene. His books and collages were featured in the exhibit, “Mile High Underground” sponsored by the Colorado Historical Society, 2009. He was a friend and mentor to a generation of artists and wordslingers including Ed Ward, Steve Wilson, S.A. Griffin, John Dorsey, Kate Makkai, John Macker, Stuart Perkoff, Jim Fish, Larry Lake, Yama Lake and many others.
Tony (middle) with Jack Micheline (right)
Frank Rios reads poem about Tony Scibella on KCET
FRANK T. RIOS
FRANK T. RIOS aka Frankie Rios (born 1936) is the author of eleven books of poetry. One of the last Beat poets of Venice Beach still with us today, his reading presents a special opportunity to hear poetry that helped to shape a generation of American poets, novelists, songwriters and artists.
Frankie Rios was born in the Bronx in New York in 1936. Abandoned at birth, he spent his first two years in a Catholic orphanage and was then moved to a foster home. He did not speak until the age of 6. By the time he was 12, he had a serious drug addiction and was transferred to a recovery house. Under the guidance of a teacher there, he became interested in acting, and went on to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Later, Rios turned his attention to poetry. In 1956, he wrote “The Ball Poem,” a poem Rios says he “received,” rather than wrote.
Feeling as though he were being “guided,” Rios arrived in Venice, CA in 1959, and joined a community of Beat poets, prominent among them, the late poet-painter Stuart Perkoff and the late Tony Scibella. On a moonlit night in Topanga Canyon, in the company of his friends, Rios had a mystical experience in which he felt chosen by the Muse to receive poetry.
The poetry of Frankie Rios, as well as his life, is suffused with the mystical. His work is enigmatic, using religious terms paradoxically contained within a context of hard living, drug addition and trouble with the law. Sensuous and symbolic, Rios straddles the border of stark human realities with the mystery of divine possession, an experience of poetic inspiration that seems to rise anew from the ancient Greek tradition.
Rios edited Black Ace Book #5, and is working on his collected works. In 1992 he received the Joya C. Penobscot Award for excellence in verse & the furtherance of his craft. He also was the recipient of the Tombstone Award for poetry in 1988.
Frank Rios reads “Memoirs of a Street Poet” – Art Inquiry video
TAYLOR MEAD (born December 31, 1924) is an American writer, actor, and performer. Mead appeared in several of Andy Warhol‘s underground films including Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of and Taylor Mead’s Ass.
Born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Mead appeared in Ron Rice‘s beat classic The Flower Thief, film critic P. Adams Sitney called The Flower Thief “the purest expression of the Beat sensibility in cinema.”
In the mid 1970s, Gary Weis made some short films of Mead talking to his cat in the kitchen of his Ludlow Street apartment on the Lower East Side called “Taylor Mead’s Cat.” One film of Mead extemporizing on the virtues of constant television watching aired during the second season of Saturday Night Live.
Mead lives in New York City, and continues to perform and read poetry regularly at The Bowery Poetry Club. His latest book of poems is called A Simple Country Girl. He was the subject of a documentary entitled Excavating Taylor Mead, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2005. The film shows him engaging in his nightly habit of feeding stray cats in an East Village cemetery after bar-hopping, and features a cameo by Jim Jarmusch, in which Jarmusch explains that once, when Mead went to Europe, he enlisted Jarmusch’s brother to feed the cemetery cats in Mead’s absence. Mead appeared in the final segment of Jarmusch’s 2003 film Coffee and Cigarettes. He has been “a beloved icon of the downtown New York art scene since the 60s.”
Taylor Mead (right) with Dennis Hopper (left) in the Andy Warhol film Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of (1963) ©The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved.
Taylor Mead at the Bowery Poetry Club http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl11V7PI7JA
Taylor Mead and Viva in Warhol’s Nude Restaurant
JOHN THOMAS IDLET aka JOHN THOMAS (1930 – 2002) was born in Baltimore, MD. He attended Loyola College and described being “poisoned by Thomas Wolfe at an early age.” After school, he considered entering the priesthood, but instead served in the Air Force during the Korean War, working as cryptographer due to his very high IQ. After his discharge in 1954 (due in part to visits with Ezra Pound), he married, had children and worked as a taxi driver, psychiatric orderly and city worker, while writing never completed novels. Despite a hatred of computers, he later became a computer programmer. He required time off following a truck accident, in which he broke his ankle. During his convalescence, he began to write and grew a beard, which he refused to shave off when he returned to work. As a result he was fired from his job, and was forced to work mixing powders and cleaning vats in his wife’s lover’s paint factory. Having read Lawrence Lipton‘s book Holy Barbarians (1959), Thomas sold his books for $20, abandoned his family, and hitchhiked to California. A driver of a Cadillac picked him up outside Pittsburgh and took him to Beverley Hills. Thomas took a bus to Venice Beach, where he lived for the rest of his life.
At Venice Beach Thomas worked as the manager and chef of the Gas House, a project which aimed to provide free meals to poets and artists who were living rent-free at the Grand Hotel. Menus were planned based on the amount of money gathered in a gallon jar by tourists who had ogled the beatniks during the day. Ingenuity was needed, and Thomas used cheap fish, and “filet mignon”, which was actually horse meat bought from a local pet store.
Thomas was member of the Venice beats, a little-known group described as “an outlaw strain in Southern California letters”, by the historian John Arthur Maynard. The Venice beats were outsiders who rejected popular culture and fame, preferring lives of poverty and art. Thomas was a key founding member of the “Venice West Foot Stamping & Poem Eating Society”, which met at the Venice West Coffee House.
Thomas’ first collection of poems, Apologia was published in 1972 in a limited edition of 405 copies. Thirty of the copies numbered, signed, and “sealed” by the author, presumably so they could not be read. For most of the 1970s and early 1980s he stopped writing poetry altogether, and, instead “listen[ed] to the trees” and wrote a journal. Suffering from depression, he was adrift, the creative focus of his life, gone (along with the bohemian ideal). This changed when, in 1983, he met his last wife, Philomene Long, at a poetry reading. “Philomine resurrected me;” said Thomas. The couple was inseparable in his last years, and Thomas dedicated his final poems to her. Thomas published another collection of poetry, “Abandoned Latitudes” that same year. John’s poem “The Ghosts of the Poets” is engraved on the Westminster Ave. wall of the Venice boardwalk.
They lived together on the edge of American society, in an apartment at the Elleson (on Paloma in Venice) maintaining a lifestyle of “living poor” based on the ancient Zen recluse poets. “I would feel uncomfortable and irritable living any other way. I have Philomene, a pen, a pad, shirt and pants. If you start wanting more, it fills you up, leading to a poverty of the heart and mind.” Thomas was named Lummox of the Year by Lummox Press in 2001, which published his last collection, Feeding the Animal, before his death. Thomas had 6 books of poetry published and was working on several manuscripts, including a collection of Beat portraits, when he died in 2002. A CD of John reading love poems to Philomene was issued posthumously after his death. The Poetry and Prose of John Thomas was published by Raven Productions / Press in 2011.
John Thomas reads from “Feeding the Animal” with Philomene Long reading from “Cold Eye Burning at 3 AM” – Art Inquiry Video
John Thomas & Philomene Long last reading at Beyond Baroque – Art Inquiry Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxpsA8BDwr0
Philomene Long reads America
Books by John Thomas & Philomene Long
STUART Z. PERKOFF
STUART Z. PERKOFF – (Poet/Artist) 1930-1974
Perkoff was a central figure in the Beat Era period in Southern California. He influenced and encouraged many, including the poets profiled in Venice West and the LA Scene. It is fortunate that many of his readings were recorded and preserved. We have been able to use several of his poems from these audiotapes. He opened Venice West Café in 1958 and provided a place for the underground to read their poetry and exhibit their artwork. Writer Lawrence Lipton was so intrigued by the group that he wrote “The Holy Barbarians” which chronicled their exploits. Years later, John Maynard wrote “Venice West” which told more of the history of Stuart Perkoff and his poet pals, Tony Scibella and Frank Rios.
Biographically, Perkoff was the quintessential (one might even say the stereotypical) beatnik: a feckless, usually broke substance-user with benign intentions who nevertheless couldn’t fulfill responsibilities to much of anything other than his art; who served years in prison, got out at age 40, and didn’t make it to 44. Some have described him as a “lost soul” and a mad man. But, there can be no doubt of Perkoff‘s genius. Words were the straw he spun into gold and any walls within reach – his own, those of friends and the Venice West coffeehouse – were adorned with poems and quotations…
all words are holy
in the right mouths
and in the right ears
Like many a poet/artist in this chaotic time, Perkoff had a rich and often tumultuous emotional life. He was a draft resister and a heroin addict, who dared to drop acid in jail and other inimical settings; his idealism led him briefly to the Communist Party, the only political gang that seemed interested in helping the underdogs of a rapacious economic system. But he found them to be too dogmatic and eventually he evolved into a pacifist anarchist, with a philosophy that calls not for causing the revolution but for becoming the revolution. Perkoff was the exact type of local citizen the gentrifiers of Venice wanted to bury in the memory hole. But as Leonard Cohen has noted, “magic loves the hungry.” In addition to all this, he found time for love, marrying Suzan Blanchard, then Jana Baragan. He had a child with Susan Berman in Mexico, and ended up with Philomene Long, his last love.
It was Perkoff’s desire to bring like-minded members of the tribe “out of captivity in a corrupt empire and into a promised land of righteous living. In his case, it was…a promised land called Venice West.” Perkoff had a vision of Venice as a Shangri-La where people came to be healed or saved, albeit in strange ways. He was one of the prime movers responsible for forming the concept of Venice not only as a special place but as the place – the mecca, as so many have figuratively styled it; the center of the universe. Together with Tony Scibella and Frank Rios, Perkoff set out to create this oasis, at least for a little while.
Perkoff’s final day on earth was captured in a recorded conversation with Philomene Long (later Thomas). In a poem he once laid bare a revelation on the fear of death:
Now that it is seen to be a lie
I wonder that I ever believed it
Venice West and the LA Beat Scene – Poem at the end by Stuart Perkoff
Stuart reads at SFS 1958
BOB FLANAGAN (December 26, 1952 – January 4, 1996) was an American performance artist, comic, writer, poet, and musician.
He was born in New York City on December 26, 1952, and grew up in Glendale, California. At a young age he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a condition which would influence his art and ultimately claim his life. He studied literature at California State University, Long Beach and the University of California, Irvine. He moved to Los Angeles in 1976. In 1978, he published his first book, The Kid is the Man.
He also worked with the improv comedy group The Groundlings. While some of his performances were notable for acts of extreme masochism (on at least one occasion he hammered a nail through his penis, while cracking jokes), he also wrote humorous songs, many of them intended as much for children as adults.
He briefly appeared in Michael Tolkin‘s The New Age as one of the alternate lifestylers encountered by Peter Weller‘s character.
On January 4, 1996, he died of cystic fibrosis, aged 43.
He was the subject of the documentary SICK: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist(1997) a film by Kirby Dick, which films the final years of Bob’s life.
His latest posthumous piece by Sheree Rose entitled Bobaloon, was shown in Japan, featuring a 20 foot tall inflatable Flanagan complete with pierced penis, ball gag and straitjacket.
Fun to Be Dead
Super Cystic Fibrosis Song
MAJID NAFICY was born in Iran in 1952. He published poetry, criticism and an award-winning children’s book in Iran. During the 1970’s Dr. Naficy was politically active against the Shah’s regime. After the 1979 Revolution, as the new regime began to suppress the opposition, his first wife, Ezzat Tabaian and his brother Sa’id were amongst the many to be executed. He fled Iran in 1983, eventually settling in Los Angeles with his son Azad. He has since published six volumes of poetry in both English and Farsi, as well as numerous books of criticism. His most recent volume of poetry in English, Father and Son, was published in 2003 by Red Hen Press and his poem “I Don’t Want You Petroleum” appears in Sam Hamill’s Poets Against the War (Thunder’s Mouth Press / Nation Books, April 2003). He holds a doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of California in Los Angeles. His doctoral dissertation, Modernism and Idealogy in Persian Literature: A Return to Nature in the Poetry of Nima Yushij (University Press of America) was published in 1997. Dr. Naficy is also the co-editor of Daftarhaye Kanoon, a periodical in Farsi published by the Iranian Writer’s Association in Exile.
His poetry recollects the absences of his loved ones while summoning their history and life, establishing a suitable memorial for their journeys and presences. In “Handwriting,” Naficy writes: “You were born in a prison cell / never seen by your father / but I know you through every line of your letters / your sentences are as short as sighs / and enter my heart / as sharply as bullets.” “Handwriting” has been dedicated to the poet’s niece who was born in Tehran’s Evin prison; in so doing Naficy pays homage to a generation that was born under oppression and grew up with repressive restrictions. Naficy uses common human experiences to condemn tyranny and transcend political ideals. He writes, “Poets can and must use the power of their poetry to reflect the cruelty that human beings inflict upon one another, and to bring human hearts closer, distant from violence and injustice.”
Naficy draws elements from his life in Iran and creates new narratives in his new home, Los Angeles. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, a distinguished literary critic, writes, “As an expatriate poet, Naficy has managed to combine the history and life, sights and sounds of his surrounding in exile with remembrances of his homeland, particularly Esfahan, this in spite of the fact that he is legally unsighted. His concern for women, the disabled, and the disadvantaged has resulted in a steady stream of compositions, which reflect the poet’s will to work for social justice and effect positive change in class and gender relations.” Along with hundreds of poets worldwide, Naficy joined Poets Against War, a grassroots peace movement that uses poetry as a means to voice out opposition against war, oppression and tyranny. “Night” expresses the poet’s loneliness away from his homeland, while poignantly combining elements of his past and present life. “The Empty Place of Eddie,” holds at its throat, a voice that grieves human loss, regardless of gender, class or political affiliation.
A stanza from his poem, “Ah, Los Angeles!” is engraved on the Brooks Ave. wall in Venice, California. He writes, “My body lives in L.A, but my soul is still rummaging through the ruins of a lost revolution back in Iran.”
WANDA COLEMAN (birth name, Wanda Evans) (born November 13, 1946) is an American poet. She is known as “the L.A. Blueswoman,” and “the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles.” Coleman grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles during the 1960s. She attended California State University at Los Angeles. She has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, The NEA, and the California Arts Council (in fiction and in poetry). She was the first C.O.L.A. literary fellow (Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, 2003). Her many honors include an Emmy in Daytime Drama writing, The 1999 Lenore Marshall Prize (for “Bathwater Wine”), and a nomination for the 2001 National Book Awards (for “Mercurochrome”). She was a finalist for California poet laureate (2005).
She is an accomplished reader (with over 500 readings), performer and educator (having taught or lectured at UCLA Extension, Loyola Marymount University and CSULB). In addition to having been a controversial Staff Writer for the L.A. Times, Coleman also worked for the City of L.A. Cultural Affairs Dept. She is married to Austin Straus and has 3 children.
“Others often use the word ‘uncompromising’ to describe my work,” Coleman told Contemporary Poets. “I find that quite pleasing.” Coleman, who has claimed to be the most prolific African-American poet of all time, has written thousands of poems. The thread that ties all her work together is a refusal to accept racism in America; she writes about the shattered landscapes of African-American life that racism has left in its wake. Coleman’s long career has illustrated the difficulties African-American writers face in making an independent living, but she has left several strong impressions on the literary map, and she is no stranger to controversy. Coleman has 16 books, many published by Black Sparrow Press.
Wanda Coleman reads
A Poem by Wanda Coleman
KEITH ANTAR MASON
KEITH ANTAR MASON is a performance and theater artist, poet and writer whose stage and literary works have been presented extensively throughout the United States and Britain for over two decades, including the LIFT festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New World Theater, and the Walker Center for the Performing Arts among many venues. He was the artistic director of the Hittite Empire–a performance group whose work centered on the lives of black men and the contradictions they face living in America. He wrote and performed in several productions including Redefining Democracy in America: Episodes in Black & White (1991). Awards and honors include the Brody Arts Fund, Franklin Furnace, Art Matters, Harvard Book Award and the Barbara Mandingo Kelly Peace Award. Mason’s poems, stories and essays have been published in dozens of publications, including Black Theater: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora (Temple University Press), Beyond the Frontier: Afrikan-American Poetry for the 21st Century (Black Classic Press), Let’s Get It On: The Politics of Black Performance (Bay Press), and Pacific Review. He was a resident artist at Santa Monica’s 18th St. Arts Center. Mason has since gone underground and is rumored to be living somewhere in the Midwest.
Photo by Bill Margolis, Jim Morris (left) with Bruce Boyd (right).
BRUCE BOYD was born in San Francisco, CA in 1928. Little is known about him except that he is credited with being part of the San Francisco [Poetry] Renaissance of the late 50s (a group designated as the San Francisco Renaissance…These poets, who largely became known through oral performance in the Bay Area, include the following thirteen: Brother Antoninus (William Everson), Robin Blaser, Jack Spicer, James Broughton, Madeline Gleason, Helen Adam, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bruce Boyd, Kirby Doyle, Richard Duerden, Philip Lamantia, Ebbe Borregaard, and Lew Welch…from The New American poetry, 1945-1960 By Donald Merriam Allen). In 1958, Boyd met Stuart Perkoff at the Poetry Center of San Francisco while they were recording their poetry. This reading is archived at San Francisco State (see link below). Eventually, Boyd moved to Venice in the early 60s where he found a house on either Sherman Canal, or maybe Linnie canal—near Eastern canal. He had a tiny house simply and immaculately furnished in the Japanese manner. He had come to Venice to escape what he described as the confining provincialism of the San Francisco gay scene, then centered on Polk Street. He soon found himself a part of “a lively group of experimental poets” headquartered at Venice West Cafe, including Tony Scibella (who referred to him as “our Zen poet.”), Frank T. Rios and Stuart Perkoff, with whom he had a brief fling which ended badly for Bruce. He was crushed that it ended so abruptly. Soon after that he became disillusioned with the Venice scene and LA in general and moved back to the Bay Area. It is rumored that he read at Beyond Baroque in the 70s. It’s also rumored that he was published in the L.A. Free Press. There are 2 publishing credits for Boyd in the “Mendicant” (published in Autumn 1961- anthology published by Bill Margolis), a 3 part poem called “Beginning”, “Middle Part” & “Ending”; plus another poem called “Scratching”.
Little is known about him after 1970.
Bruce reads at SFS 1958