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In March of 1968, I arrived in Santa Monica from New York City. Soon after my arrival, I saw an ad in Open City about a poetry workshop at The Bridge, on Kenmore, in east Hollywood. I went there one night & read a poem; Joe Hansen wrote about that in Bachy 9. I thought the poetry that was read by maybe 10 of the 30 or so people seated on the floor in a circle was poetical not real by my standards. Several months later, an article appeared in the Santa Monica Outlook about the opening of Beyond Baroque, a literary center on West Washington in Venice. It announced that there would be poetry readings on Friday nights. I began attending the readings. On Feb. 26, 1969, the free Wednesday night poetry workshop began; I was one of the original members. The workshop was coordinated by Joseph Hansen & John Harris, who had both been at The Bridge. Why did the founder George Drury Smith name the literary center Beyond Baroque? The two answers he gave were, “It came to me in a dream” & “I wanted a name to take literature into the future.” He bought a building & created a central, gathering place for poetry in Los Angeles. The academies have always seemed to be on the perimeter, with the exception of the eminent poets Ann Stanford & Robert Peters. I attended the Wednesday night poetry workshop for six years, where I met Luis Campos, Francis Dean Smith, Dennis Holt, Bill Mohr, Michael C Ford, Wanda Coleman, Paul Brooks, PaulVangelisti, Tony Russo, Mark Rhodes, Jack Grapes, Kate Braverman. I had briefly spent time with Joe Hansen & John Harris at the Bridge. Leland Hickman, who had turned me onto poetry in 1966 in Manhattan, was living in Los Angeles & he saw my name on an ad for a poetry publication reading at Beyond Baroque & he came to it & began attending the workshop. In those days, many people came off the street to read. At times, there were thirty to fifty people in the class. Emersonian self-experience was a foundation for one’s poetry. Physical reality, conciseness, devotion to language, study, hard work, precision & transcending reality through the imagination, were stressed. Politics, ranting, fuzziness & e.e. cummings were laughed at. Live poets were emphasized, but the talk was always centered on the text. It was a literary class, not an acting class, not for people who wanted to be performers or stand-up comedians. One thing I liked about the workshop was that a person would read a poem & people in the circle would respond to the poem. The reader would listen & not respond, would not argue -- listen & move on to the next poet. I liked that -- reading a poem, listening to others’ responses, taking it all in & moving on. One of the great things, outside of reading your poems & getting responses, in the workshop was the presence of literary magazine editors: Bill Mohr/ Momentum; Michael C Ford/ Sunset Palms Hotel; the editors of the many Beyond Baroque lit. mag. manifestations; Bill & then Hickman/Bachy. You would read a poem & an editor would
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say, “I’d like to publish that in my magazine.” It was wonderful to get your poems published that way. “cowboy angel,” was the first long poem I wrote. I took the ms. to George Drury Smith in his apartment above the poetry center. He published its first 15 pages, along with colored illustrations, in Beyond Baroque 711, in 1971. I was thrilled. Jim Krusoe, Associate Editor of Newletters, Vice President of Beyond Baroque, published two of my poems, “THE EAGLES ARE AT MY WINDOW” & “WHAT WALT WENT BEFORE WHAT WALT WENT BEFORE WHAT,” in Newletters, in 1974. Newletters was “distributed free.” It had “a printing of 6,000.” The “Readings” included the Beyond Baroque Center listings: “Fri., June 28, 8:30 p.m., Michael C. Ford and Harry E. Northup. … Fri., July 19, 8:30 p.m., Paul Vangelisti and A.P. (Tony) Russo. … Sun., July 21, 4-p.m. in the Courtyard, Georgia Alwan’s poetry read by Ameen Alwan, accompanied by Georgia on the flute… Sun, Aug. 4,. 4 p.m., in the Courtyard, Alvaro Cardona-Hine, also performance of his Trio for Flutes (1974).” In the “Books” section, acg (Alexandra Garrett, I assume), wrote, “from Mt Alverno Press, The Jon Voight Poems, by Harry E. Northup, $4 … Square back, well printed. Expensive but worth it. A new and excellent poet, sharp and true with an uncommon voice. Those familiar with Santa Monica will get an extra charge of recognition. Those expecting conventional writing will be disappointed.” Alexandra Garrett was the number one volunteer in Beyond Baroque’s history. We all owe her a debt of gratitude. Here are a few of my personal memories of the early years of Beyond Baroque: Eleanor Zimmerman, who coordinated the Wed. night workshop several times, in response to a rhetorical poem, “Write about hamburgers.” A person read a poem about something he’d seen on TV & Ed Hall (?) said, “Don’t write about something on TV, because everyone already knows it.” Joe Hansen said of one of Lee Hickman’s poems, “That smelled of the lamp.” Joe’s remark made Lee furious. Friday night reading host, Jim Krusoe, after hearing a person read a long poem in the open reading, “I hope to hell I never hear another bad imitation of Gilgamesh.” There was a time in the early 1970s when so many people were coming to the workshop that Joe & John & others didn’t think that the most talented regular poets were getting enough attention, so they began a Monday night class that included Joe, John, Lee, Wanda, Francis Dean Smith, myself & a few others. It was called the Master Class. I
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was honored to be in it. Lee hated the name “Master Class.” One night, during a discussion of “open form” & “closed form,” Lee stood up & started walking back & forth in a very emotional state going on about “open form” in poetry. One of us gave Joe a ride home after the class & Joe was upset about Lee’s behaviour, thought Lee was out of control. My son Dylan, who was born in early 1969, went with me to many Wed. night workshops & Fri. night readings. By the time he was 16, he had been to as many or more poetry events than anyone his age. Many times, Francis would bring her daughter & I remember Luis Campos bringing his son. A new woman would walk into the workshop & Paul Brooks would write a love poem & hand it to her. The first weekend Holly Prado & I were together, in 1977, we went to see John Logan read at Beyond Baroque. After the reading, we went to Peter Levitt’s house to hang out with John Logan & our Beyond Baroque poet friends. The afternoon before the reading, we went to the Glendale library, got a book of John Logan’s poems, went to Holly’s home & read them. Here are a few descriptive impressions: John Harris -- solid earth integrity; Joseph Hansen -- precision rain syllable; Leland Hickman -- epic emotion drama; Kate Braverman -- sexual round vowels muscular; Bill Mohr -- precise honest organic; Luis Campos -- witty concise effervescence; Beyond Baroque -- home constant welcoming. The themes of youth & struggle, loss & place, were ever present. Poets, shoulder to shoulder, creating Los Angeles poetry’s second generation legacy. Looking back at Beyond Baroque after many years of writing poetry, it is the place itself that stands out -- a place of poetry readings, new poets & old ones, lyric poets, epic poets, protest poets, experimental poets; a place where the free Wednesday night poetry workshop still continues 41 years after it began; a place where the authentic act of composing poetry binds us together -- a mostly non-commerical act in Los Angeles, the most commercial city in America. I cherish & will always cherish the poets I met in the early years at Beyond Baroque. I have sat many times, during a poetry reading intermission, on the ledge west of the steps outside Beyond Baroque & looked up past a palm tree to the moon, felt the Pacific Ocean breeze. Harry Northup Sept. 15, 2010
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