Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Stein and Krasilovsky will read from their new book "Shooting Women: Behind the Camera and Around the World" November 14.

Skylight Bookstore reading
Event date: 
Saturday, November 14, 2015 - 5:00pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Shooting Women takes readers around the world to explore the lives of camerawomen working in features, TV news, and documentaries. From first world pioneers like African American camerawoman Jessie Maple Patton who got her job only after suing the union - to China’s first camerawomen, who travelled with Mao – to rural India where poor women have learned camerawork as a means of empowerment, Shooting Women reveals a world of women working with courage and skill in a male-dominated field.
“In the end, although this book [does] … we sum up what this history has taught us about strategic options available to increase women’s role in the media behind the camera. Along with a history of women’s involvement in camerawork, we provide information on how the professional camerawomen got to be where they are and what advice they have for women who would like to work professionally behind the camera.”- Harriet Margolis 
Alexis Krasilovsky is the writer/director of the global documentary, Women Behind the Camera(http://womenbehindthecamera.com) and Professor in the Department of Cinema and Television Arts at California State University, Northridge.
The winner of the 2011 Joe Hill Award for labor poetry, Julia Stein, as book editor, has published Walking Through a River of Fir: 100 Years of Triangle Poetry and Every Day is an Act of Resistance: Selected Poetry of Carol Tarlen. Her fifth and most recent book of poetry is titled What Were They Like?

Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781783205066
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Intellect (UK) - November 15th, 2015

Who Has the Right to the City: MicroHistory of an Los Angeles neighborhood 1860-2015 Part II

After the Mexican-American War the Mexicans who owned the huge ranchos in Los Angeles soon lost their land.  Lawyer Henry Hancock got control of Rancho LaBrea's 4400 acres from the LaBrea tarpits to Hollywood. Other wealthy Anglos merchants and mine owners usually from northern California bought the huge ranchos from Mexicans in Los Angeles for very little money as the rancho landowners couldn't pay the huge legal fees the Anglos forced on them, and most were bankrupt. The terrible 1850s drought killed most of the cattle. Then the huge ranchos with little water were used to raise sheep but with a few exceptions. Senora Francisa Perez acquired title to 160 acres just south of the Hollywood Hills in 1869 under preemption law, which allows for squatter to buy up to 160 acres cheaply, and she built a house. In 1874 Colonel Eugenio Plummer acquired the land for Senora Perez, renaming the home Plummer House and had his farm in West Hollywood watered by a couple streams coming down from the hills. The Plummer family held onto at least part of his land until 1937 when they sold it to County of Los Angeles for $15,000, and the County built Plummer Park on the site.

After two railroads arrived in Los Angeles in the 1880s, railroads’ and land developers’ dominated the next two decades. Their national advertising attracted hordes of tourists. Anglo land promoters divided up part of the ranchos and tried to convince tourists to buy homes and small farms in L.A. Promoters also developed a trolley transit system. On Rancho LaBrea, Hancock had 20 Chinese laborers extract the tar from the tar pits LaBrea for sidewalks, road paving, and fuel in L.A. manufactures as well as shipped it to San Francisco by schooner for road paving. In the 1880s Hancock’s son G.A. Hancock subdivided part of Rancho LaBrea and sold land to A.F. Gilmore and his partner for two dairy farms as well as other parcels for small farms. Farms grew pea, beans, chilies, fruits, and vegetables to be sold to Los Angeles seven miles east.

By the mid-1890s after Gilmore and his partner divided their holdings, Gilmore took control of the large 256-acre ranch, its dairy herd and farmhands at the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue as well as Rancho LaBrea adobe which was renamed the Gilmore Adobe.  In 1900 when A. F. Gilmore drilled new water wells in order to expand his dairy herd, he struck oil. He quickly got rid of the cows and built a field of oil derricks.

North of Gilmore's oil field in the last decade of the 19th century land promoter Moses Sherman and his partners in the Los Angeles Pacific Railroad, started the town of Sherman (now West Hollywood) on a trolley line they had built. Sherman was the location of the railroad’s main shops, yards, and “car barns.” Many working class employees of the railroad settled there.  The Los Angeles Pacific Railroad became part of the Pacific Electric Railway, and in 1925 Sherman was renamed West Hollywood.

Back at the LaBrea tar pits, after Los Angeles geologist Orcutt in 1901 announced that the bones in the tar were fossils of extinct animals, Hancock allowed Orcutt and his fellow scientist F. M. Anderson to excavate.  The two scientists collected fossils from the tar pits from 1901-1905 when they discovered a layer of fossils that was extraordinarily rich, so Orcutt contacted J. C. Merriam, vertebrate paleontologist at UC Berkeley in 1905, about this rich find. From1905 to 1913 both U.S. and foreign institutions sent crews or individuals to dig at the tar pits and take the fossils out of the city, but zoology teacher at L.A. High School J.Z. Gilbert in 1907 brought students to dig there. Gilbert was the first to get local support from the Southern California Academy of Sciences and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for digging at “Academy Pit” in 1910, which served as the nucleus for the fossil collections of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.  By 1912 Merriam had enough money for the first large-scale University of California excavations at the tar pits that produced thousands of fossils.

Major G. A. Hancock, who still owned the land, gave the Los Angeles County the exclusive right to excavate from 1913-1915 to ensure that the fossils would remain in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Museum’s excavators dug 96 test sites over 23 acres at the tar pits, finding 8 major fossil-filled tar pits in these three years that yielded over 750,000 specimens of plants and animals which went to the Natural History Museum. In 1924 Captain George Allan Hancock gave the site of the LaBrea tar pits to the County of Los Angeles to be developed as a scientific monument, and large-scale diggings ceased. Anglos like G.Z. Gilbert, G.A.  Hancock and the County Board of Supervisors believed the city has a commons:  Hancock gave the city land for a park for the tar pits; Gilbert ensured the fossils remain in Los Angeles; and the county supervisors provided the money to excavate.

During first decades of the 20th century, oil and liquor helped generate the cash on the old Rancho LaBrea. Arthur Gilmore’s son Earl Gilmore turned the Gilmore Oil Company into one of the titan oil companies of Los Angeles important oil fields with a gas station for early auto travelers. Los Angele’s boundaries expanded by the 1920s surrounding the Gilmore land and adobe. By the 1920s West Hollywood, loosely regulated by the County of Los Angeles, was known as liquor-friendly during the Prohibition.  Since gambling was outlawed in the city of Los Angeles but not the County, West Hollywood along the Sunset Strip had casinos, night clubs, and restaurants illegally serving booze.  The L.A.P.D. couldn’t go into the unincorporated land of West Hollywood, and the country did little regulation. Movies was the 3rd industry developing.

In the 1920s when film studios were expanding into Hollywood proper, the farms from 3rd Street up to the Hollywood Hills were replaced by movie studios and homes when my parents’ house was built. On the flatland duplexes and modest 1-family houses were often bought by carpenters and plumbers, people with steady jobs at the nearby movie studios. Some of the renters were extras and would be actors who wanted to break into movies. Further up toward the hills larger houses bought by directors and set designers with mansions in the hills for the movie rich. Clearly the two largest industries in the 1920s—oil and Hollywood located on the old Rancho LaBrea--spurred builders to build houses for people working in these industries. 

By the early 1930s the Gilmore land was vacant except for the few remaining oil derricks. The city of Los Angeles let crude be pumped but limited the number of oil wells when entrepreneurs Fred Beck and Roger Dahlhjelm suggested to Earl Gilmore to build a "village" at the corner of 3rd and Fairfax where local farmers could sell their fresh fruits and vegetables. After Earl Gilmore agreed, a dozen farmers and few other merchants parked their trucks at the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue in July, 1934, selling their fresh produce from the back of the trucks. This farmer’s market continued up to the end of World War II. Farmer’s Market after World War II had fruit/vegetable stalls, grocery stalls and even a small grocery store, food stands, and Hollywood souvenir stands that attracted locals as well as tourists as L.A. developed its tourist industry.  

During the war, Los Angeles had a horrible housing shortage, but the New Deal Democrats believed in a commons:  that common people should have a right to a decent job and a home. The New Deal had supported unions, so a good percentage of Los Angeles white workers were unionized, particularly in Hollywood studios. Convinced by the veterans who marched for a bonus in the early 1930s, the New Deal Democrats also passed veterans benefits included low-cost V.A. mortgage loans and V.A. education benefits. During and after the war developers built many new apartments and acres of 1-story homes.   Unfortunately, most blacks and Latino workers weren’t unionized, Los Anegeles had housing segregation written into land deeds against non-Anglos, and banks discriminated against non-whites. But the New Deal, strongly believing that the homeless and should be housed and that housing should be decent, built public housing across the nation including L.A.—these public housing units did house blacks, Latinos, and whites.

During World War II Metropolitan Life Insurance decided to build Park La Brea apartments just north of the LaBrea tar pits, the largest housing development built west of the Mississippi. The architects, inspired by Le Corbusier, wanted to build innovative multifamily housing. They built eighteen 13-story towers and 31 2-story “garden apartment buildings” or 4,255 rental units with common green spaces of courtyard and trees. Other innovative housing projects such as the Village Green were built in L.A. during this period.  A little bit south of Park LaBrea in Baldwin Hills a group of architects built in 1941  85 2-story buildings with rentals on 62 acres in a gorgeous park with pedestrian walkways totally separated from roads for autos. Village Green is now a National Historical Landmark.

 Across Los Angeles many unionized workers like my dad and our neighbors could afford and bought decent homes in which they raised families: my dad was a postal worker, our neighbor was a carpenter at a Hollywood studio, and another an electrician.  After the World War II, Jewish immigrants and their children, many of whom lived in Boyle Heights, began searching for better housing, settling around Beverly/Fairfax Avenues which soon became The Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles in the late 1940s and 1950s when the land deeds of many parts of L.A. like Glendale forbade selling to Jews, Blacks, Latinos, Asians etc.

 Canter’s Bakery/Deli moved from Boyle Heights to Fairfax Avenue where the blocks were settled with kosher bakeries, religious gift shops, and a Silent Movie Theater. Synagogues were built on Beverly, Melrose, and LaBrea Avenues. Jewish refugees and also Holocaust survivors moved in, feeling safe in the neighborhood. My best friend who lived across the street had parents who were German Jewish refugees who got out of Germany luckily in 1939.  A friend of my brother’s was born in 1948 in a German refugee camp to two Holocaust survivors from Poland.

 I remember in our backyard a grape arbor, two avocado trees, and a tangerine tree. As a wee child I would sit under the grape arbor playing with my doll while my grandmother, who lived next door, had us all harvest grapes and then made grape jam and homemade bread but soon my parents tore down the grape arbor.  My uncle, who was drafted in the Hollywood regiment (yes, it existed) and fought in the Korean War as a machine gunner survived to come back home, and I’d sit next to him and his army buddies as they sunbathed in the back yard. My uncle would go to pay pool and drink beer at Barney’s Beanery, a roadhouse built on Santa Monica Blvd. that was part of Route 66 in the 1930s.

 We loved the avocados, which dropped to the earth and used to exchange them for apricots from the neighbors across the street that had an apricot tree in their backyard. My parents put in a large swing where two adults could sit and smaller swings and a slide for my brother and me. My parents held birthday parties for me there, with a round of kids gathered around the wooden table. My brother and I went to Fairfax High, which was 95 % Jewish and was known as academically fierce. The New Deal embodied in Governor Brown had built a wonderful free higher education system. Most of us went on to free local colleges, and some of us settled back in the old neighborhood.

 The Jews in Fairfax never campaigned against the area’s many gay bars, and many of them supported the civil rights movement and helped end housing segregation in the neighborhood from the 1950s on. My grandmother in the 1950s owned a house near Wilshire and LaBrea, an all-white neighborhood, and sold it to the first black family on the block. During the 1960s-1970s the civil rights movement got blacks and Latinos into unionized jobs in steel, auto and into city/county jobs, ended housing segregation in land deeds, and integrated the public schools in L.A. through busing—expanding the rights to the commons in L.A.

The city owning so much land around the tar pits, they built the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the 1961 next door to the LaBrea tar pits. When crews started digging in 1975 to build the Page Museum to house the many fossils from the LaBrea tar pits, the diggers discovered the biggest collection of fossils yet from the late Pleistocene era. The Page Museum now displays Ice Age fossils from 10,000 to 40,000 found in the asphalt deposits:  saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, camels, horses, and mammoths. Also the Page Museum began a spurt of museum building.  While the corners of Fairfax/Wilshire had department stores in the 1950s-1970s, the 1990s this stretch of Wilshire Boulevard became museum row with the Peterson Automotive Museum and the Craft Museum opening across from the Los Angeles County Art Museum, which expanded two city blocks as the city’s intellectual commons in these museums expanded.

In West Hollywood, the area had in the 1970s been friendly to gays with many gay bars while 5000-6000 Russian, mostly Jewish, emigrated in two waves:   1978-9 and 1988-92.  By the early 1980s West Hollywood as well as most of Los Angeles faced massive rental increases, particularly difficult for many gays and the aging Jewish population. The federal and local government had ceased to build public housing in the mid-1950s in L.A. and L.A. lacked any rent control. A coalition of gay rights leaders and Jewish seniors were successful in incorporating West Hollywood as its own city in 1984 (the new Russian emigres couldn’t vote in 1984). 

 The Coalition for Economic Survival (C.E.S.), organizing in 1984, got one of the strictest rent control laws in the California passed in West Hollywood as well as getting a weaker rent control law passed in the city of Los Angeles—again the idea of people have rights to the city prevailed. With the 2nd wave of Russian emigres in the early 1990s, West Hollywood, after New York, has the largest Russian-speaking community in the neighborhood, and Santa Monica Boulevard has bakeries, small grocery stores, and shops catering to the Russians.

During the late 1990s the Gilmore family partnered with developers, making plans for a huge shopping mall that would destroy the Farmer’s Market.  A public outcry convinced the Gilmores and their partners to scale down their plans, which they did, building in 2002 the hugely popular Grove shopping mall, and preserving the Farmer’s Market. As for the Gilmore Adobe, it still survives in 2015 but its palms and foliage hid it from the public flocking to Grove shopping mall, and the Gilmore Adobe is closed to the public. Luckily in the mid-1990s I attended a luncheon for the National Writers Union held in the adobe’s courtyard and got to tour the adobe itself. The adobe is now headquarters for the A.F. Gilmore Company, which owns and operates Farmer’s Market as well as the nearby Gilmore Bank.

          In 2006 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art began digging an underground parking lot on the western part of Hancock Park when the diggers discovered 16 new asphaltic fossil deposits including the nearly complete skeleton of a Columbian mammoth which they are now reconstructing. The LaBrea tar pits are now one of the world’s most famous fossil sites which have yielded over 3,000,000 Ice Age fossils.  
In the 1990s the federal government began tearing down the public housing nationally. Beginning in 2005 in L.A. the 1920s small, 1-story duplexes and single family dwellings have been torn down to build McMansions, huge 2-story houses from one end of the property line to the other which sell for $2-3 million. In 2015 Los Angeles again has a huge rental housing shortage with 3% vacancy, with too many people paying ½ their income for rent, leaving them unable to pay for health care, and with the very poor living in tenements, garages, or hot bedding—two more people sharing the same bed in shifts. Nearly all federal, state, and local programs to build or subsidize lower-priced housing have been abolished. Air BandB has encouraged many landlords to end long-term rentals for short term rentals to tourists.        

 No More McMansions, 1st organized in Beverly Grove neighborhood in 2005 on the very westside of the old Rancho LaBrea at LaCienega south of 3rd Street, has been leading a fightback against McMansions and gentrification.  Other neighborhoods joined Beverly Grove as the fight against McMansions has spread citywide, so by 2015 15 small neighborhoods now have temporary protection against McMansions. The legal protection is for neighborhoods which are either historical and/or zoned R-1 for single family dwellings.  Since many more neighborhoods including mine are zoned R-2 because we have duplexes so aren’t all single family dwellings, we have no legal protection against McMansions. From 2013-2015 old houses in my neighborhood are regularly torn down for McMansions and tenants evicted. The Community for Economic Survival is again organizing tenants city-wide against Ellis Act evictions, which allows landlords to evict the tenant and then raise the rental price to anything or tear down the building.

Housing planner Joan Ling estimates that L.A. loses 3,000 affordable housing units/per year yet only builds 1000 new rentals.  City planner Dick Platkin adds that other housing units are lost from mansionization, evictions, and gentrification to make a yearly loss of 5,000 units. Platkin argues that two immediate changes are needed to stop the increase in affordable housing:  immediate abolishment of the Ellis Act and a fix in the loopholes of the mansionifcation ordinance adopted by the L.A. City Council. Also Los Angeles rent control law, which only covers older buildings before 1978 could be changed to cover all rentals in the city, so now a serious debate has begun on how to have affordable housing.  Both Los Angeles city and county are allocating funds to build affordable housing, but the funds won’t have any impact until 2-5 years.

All the ethnicities living in Los Angeles—the Native Peoples, the Spanish, the Mexicans, and the Anglos—share a belief in the idea of the commons, or all the people living in a city have rights to the city. Which rights? In some areas like Napa Valley rents and property prices have gone so high that the workers who work in Napa can’t live there and are forced to drive 100-round trip daily to their jobs. They have lost the right to live in the city. The fight now in my neighborhood is the same as all across Los Angeles:   do all the people have the right to decent housing in the city? Or are tens of thousands going to be pushed out to the farthest suburbs, driving hours on overcrowded freeways to their jobs, with many people losing their right to live in the city?

          Goetz, Edward G. New Deal Ruins:  Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy. Cornell University Press. 

“Los Angeles,” United States history, http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h2503.html

Los Angeles Rent Control Made Simple, http://www.caltenantlaw.com/LARSO.htm

Weston, William. “La Brea Tar Pits:  An Introductory History (1769-1969).  Creative Research Society Quarterly Journal. 2002. http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/articles/38/38_4/LaBrea.htm

Who Has the Right to the City: A MicroHistory of A Los Angeles Neighborhood from 9,000 B.C. to 1860 Part I.

My parents and grandmother in 1950 bought a duplex for $11,000 a mile north of the LaBrea tar pits and just south of the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.  With rents and housing prices soaring in L.A. as well as other coastal cities, I sit underneath the tangerine tree in the backyard of my family’s house and meditate about who has the rights to the city? Take L.A. as an example.

 In 1914 excavators in the LaBrea tar pits in Los Angeles found the only prehistoric human remains:  a woman’s skull and partial skeleton. The excavators called her LaBrea woman, discovering she had died 9,000 years ago, and her skull structure is like that of the Chumash people who still live in their homeland Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. LaBrea Women was about 4 foot 8-10 inches tall and about 18-24 years old when her skull was fractured. Wear on her teeth indicated she lived on a diet of stone-ground meal. Two major Southern California Native peoples, the Chumash and Tongva, had as their staple food acorns which the women ground up into mush.  A broken grinding stone and the skeleton of a domestic dog were found buried hear her. Also a milling area was found near Azusa, California, in 2006 dating 8000 years old with arrow heads and stone slabs used to ground seeds but no human or animal bones.

 3,500 years ago the Tongva people, a Shoshean desert people who spoke the Uto-Aztecan language, migrated from the Nevada area to Los Angeles. The Chumash and then the Tongva are the finest boat builders among the California Native peoples, starting to use their tomol canoes 2,000 years ago. To makes these superb, large canoes, these two peoples used driftwood including found on the shore and used tar from the LaBrea tar pits to seal cracks between the boards. They also used the tar to waterproof their baskets and attached wooden handles to stone blades. They were excellent fisherman, even hunting whales, and with their large canoes which held up to 12 people and trading goods they visited the villages on the coastline and established villages on the islands off shore from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles.  By 500 a.d. the Tongva people lived in Los Angeles while the Chumash were just to the north on the coast.

For 2000 years the Tongva had no private property but considered their land a commons for all the Tongva for hunting animals, foraging for plants, and taking tar from the tar pits. Prosperity depended on the people having a commons. They walked their trails between their over 50 villages, including the trail from their village Yangna by the Los Angeles River (now downtown Los Angeles) to Kuvununga village/sacred site by the natural springs in West Los Angeles (now on the site of University High School near UCLA).

The first Spanish Sacred Expedition from Baja to Alta California camped by the Los Angeles River near Yangna Village on August 3, 1769. Father Juan Crespi, the diarist of the expedition, records that next day they broke camp, crossed the L.A. River, walked through a tangle of wild grapes and roses, and marveled at the black, loamy soil by the river. He said the Spanish enjoyed their stay at the Yangna Village so much that they planned to return and build a town there.  Marching west, Crespi described how they saw seven miles west “large marches of a certain substance like pitch” (the LaBrea Tar Pits) boiling and bubbling.

When the Spanish established the pueblo of Los Angeles in 1771, the Mexican government gave out free land, free tools, free animals, and money to anyone willing to settle in the new town, which forty-four settlers, Los Pobaldores, did starting Los Angeles in 1781. That same year the Spanish king, who declared he owned all the land of Alta California, set up a top-down feudal land structure. The king gave all the people in the pueblo the rights of the commons:   to right to graze cattle and sheep on the lands around my mother’s house as well as the right to take pitch from the tar pits.  The King also gave out some huge ranchos and set up Missions run by Franciscans, who were supposed to take care of the lands owned by the Native people. The Spanish soldiers forced the Tongva to move from their villages to the Missions, where thousands died. The woman shaman Toypurina at San Gabriel Mission in 1785 led a rebellion which was quickly put down.

After Mexico got its independence in 1821, the Mexican government secularized the Missions and sold them for very little as well as granted large ranchos usually to military leaders—the Tongva people completely lost any title to the land. In 1828 Mexico granted Rancho LaBrea, which was 4400 acres, to Antonio Jose Rose Rocha:  the land from between Robertson Boulevard on the west to Gower Street and the Cahuenga Pass on the east; and from Wilshire Boulevard on the south all the way to the Hollywood Hills on the north. Thus a small number of land barons owned huge ranchos, where Mexican foreman and Native American surfs took care of huge herds of cattle.

Antonio Rocha ran cattle on his Rancho LaBrea, but the contract to his land said that inhabitants of Los Angeles pueblo could take out from the tar pits as much brea (tar) as they needed to seal their roofs. The Mexicans believed in tar was part of a commons for all the people.  The Rancho LaBrea Adobe was built in 1852 at the corners of 3rd and Fairfax, with its original wood-and-clay brick ceiling still on the building. Just south of the Hollywood Hills the Mexican road, later known as Sunset Boulevard, connected the Pueblo of Los Angeles to the ranchos all the fifteen miles to the Pacific Coast.

After the Mexican-American War in 1848, Henry Hancock, a Harvard trained lawyer and land surveyor, arrived in Los Angles in 1850, starting his law office.  Mexican land grant owners had to prove their ownership of their ranchos by filing claims with the United States Land Commission and had to have their ranchos surveyed by a U.S. government land surveyor. Henry Hancock surveyed many of these ranchos for the government, and he worked with the Rocha family to help them prove their claim to Rancho LaBrea. The Rochas won their claim, but they like nearly all the rancheros went broke from the legal expenses, so in 1860 Jose Jorge Rocha deeded Rancho LaBrea to Henry Hancock.  Two Anglo geologists at this time found 20 acres of tar bubbling out of the ground. The Tongva people, having no written evidence to owning any land, had no land base—and still don’t have today.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Review or "A Higher Form of Politics: The Rise of a Poetry Scene, Los Angeles, 1950-1990".

How Poets Can Change a City’s Culture? by Julia Stein

 A Review or A Higher Form of Politics: The Rise of a Poetry Scene, Los Angeles, 1950-1990. Sophie Rachmuhl. Otis Books Seismicity Editions, 2015. 249 pp. $12.95 (included is CD of Innerscapes Ten Portraits of Los Angeles poets A Film by Sophie Rachmuhl).

As a child in 1950s Los Angeles, I studied modern dance at Lester Horton’s dance school in my Jewish neighborhood Fairfax. Horton, the first in the United States to integrate a modern dance company, had been fascinated by Los Angeles’ cultural diversity, collecting musical instruments from around the world he used in his dances he choreographed for his black, Jewish, Asian and white dancers. When I took classes, Horton had died and Alvin Ailey led the company. Our teacher had us at eight years old—both black and Jewish—write haiku and in December strike the piñata—my Los Angeles. After Ailey left for New York and international fame, the Horton Company closed down, but Bella Lewitzky carried on the Horton tradition, leading her Los Angele’s dance troupe to perform around the world.

 Sophie Rachmuhl in her literary history of Los Angeles poetry in the four decades after World War II constantly discusses what is LA poetry? To answer that question, she brilliantly borrows ideas from Los Angeles historian Mike Davis, old-fashioned U.S. literary history, and the French sociologist Bourdieu to examine how poets can change a city’s culture through “a higher form of politics.” She uses Mike Davis’s argument in City of Quartz that three times intellectuals had interventions to change Los Angeles’s culture: (1.) the “Boosters,” intellectuals at the turn of the 20th century working for developers to sell the city through a tourist culture; 2.) “debunkers” during the 1930s such as historian Carey McWilliams who debunked the Boosters’ mythology of fun in the sun; and 3.) “Communards,” the 1950s small groups of avant-garde such as assemblage visual artists as well as Ornette Coleman’s free jazz group who both created an autobiographical art about Los Angeles —and I’d add Horton dancers.

 Rachmuhl is very right to call three groups of L.A. poets communards who were making an intervention in the city’s culture: Black Arts poets in the 1960s; Chicano poets in the 1980s; and Venice poets of the 1950s. In describing Black Arts poets, the author fortunately describes the larger context of the1965 Watts Rebellion against an intensely segregated city and then the Watts Writers Workshop led by novelist Budd Schulberg. One wishes she’d add a bit more about Southcentral’s tradition of great jazz musicians—Eric Dolphy, Charlie Mingus, Buddy Collette, Frank Morgan, Don Cherry, Horace Tapscott, and Billy Higgins. Rachmuhl writes excellent portraits of three leading Black Arts poets: Kamau Daaood, master poet whose work celebrates LA’s wonderful black jazz artists or often is a poetry/jazz collaboration; Father Amde of the Watts Prophets, whose record Rapping Black in a White World was a forerunner of rap; and Wanda Coleman, whose autobiographical poems about growing up in Watts or being a black single mother/worker/poet have searing honesty.

 Rachmuhl also adroitly uses the insights of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to explain what communards such as the Black Arts poets need for a successful intervention: 1.) growth of an audience that gives poets financial support and legitimacy; 2.) “growth of a network of writers, poetry organizers, and bookstore owners;” and 3.) rival distribution and “recognition networks multiplied, vying for cultural legitimacy.” The author traces how the Watts Workshop writers did develop an audience through their many performances in jails to night clubs to auditoriums gaining a wide audience and were thought as the voice of black Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Quincy Troup in 1968 edited the anthology Watts Poets: A Book of New Poetry and Essays which was sold in bookstores, but most Watts poets rarely received legitimacy in white academia or in the grants/fellowship system or by the city’s cultural elites.

 Rachmuhl also has a wonderful section on the long-neglected Chicano/a poets in L.A in the 1980s, tracing their intervention through the production of their two literary magazines and an anthology that developed an East LA audience. She has a fine analysis of Victor Valle’s brilliant poem “Cuidad of Los Angeles” which rewrites the city’s history from the viewpoint of a Chicano. Rachmuhl has an excellent portrait of Manual (Manazar) Gamboa as a prison poet who then became head of Beyond Baroque, brilliantly editing Los Angeles first multi-racial magazine Obras, but was soon fired. Rachmuhl describes his terrific autobiographical poetry, his later networking the city’s artists and poets, and his pioneering writing workshops to thousands incarcerated in the prisons. The book also ably discusses Marisela Norte’s innovative bicultural poetry as well as Notre’s participation in the unique urban avant-garde Chicano scene in East LA including poets and visual artists who expressed both Chicano pride and angry alienation doing performance art, placas, plays, gallery exhibits, art books, and readings.  Rachmul’s analysis clarifies why with the lack in funding and hardship in getting recognition, key black and Chicano poets left town: Jayne Cortez, Quincy Troup, and Luis Rodriguez left..

 Rachmuhl’s third group of communards is the Venice Beat poets of the 1950s. Of the Venice beats only Stuart Perkoff published a book during the 1950s. Rachmuhl describes how Larry Lipton's successful prose book about Venice beats called The Holy Barbarians anointed poet Stuart Perkoff a poetry shaman and inspired a short mass media frenzy giving the Venice Beats a brief moment of  of fame. The author fails to recognize Venice beats in the 1950s were influential as rebel symbols but not as poets. Unfortunately, she ignores the more important poets who were in the Tom McGrath group. Rachmuhl’s misunderstanding of Los Angeles 1950s poetry is a result of her using the old-fashioned idea of a split in U.S. poetry between formalist conservative modernism dominated by New Critics and the innovators found in Donald Allen’s anthology New American Poetry.

 In the 1980s a remapping of 20th century U.S. poetry began with feminist critics Charlotte Nekola and Paula Rabinowitz in their anthology Writing Red: An Anthology of Women Writers 1930-1940 (1987) rediscovering 1930s women poets. Nekola and Rabinowitz argue that previously women poets had largely written small poems on domesticity, religion, and gender but during the 1930s both Whitman and the economic crises influenced women poets for the first time to write on big, new themes and even epic long poems such as Muriel Rukeyser’s Book of the Dead about a mine disaster. Next Cary Nelson’s brought out his breakthrough Repression and Recovery: Modern American Poetry and the Politics of Cultural Memory, 1910-1945 (1989). While the New Critics had attacked and discarded 1930s left poets, Nelson argued that they were important. Then Nelson’s anthology Modern American Poetry (2000) included for the first time all of U.S. 20th century poetry: left dissident white poets and black poets throughout the century, Chinese immigrant poets, apolitical modernists, 1940s Japanese-American haiku written in the concentration camps, and post-1960s multi-racial poets.

1930s/1940s radicals poets—Rexroth in San Francisco as well as  Larry Lipton, and Tom McGrath in Los Angeles-- inspired, publicized, and sometimes published young writers in the 1950s. While Venice Beats scarcely published during the 1950s, the Los Angeles poets' group centered around Tom McGrath did.
Edwin Rolfe’s poetry on the Spanish Civil War such as "Elegia," his great poem about the loss of Madrid, made him the major U.S. poet to write about the Spanish Civil War, and he wrote the country’s best anti-McCarthy poems in Los Angeles. After McGrath put out four books in the 1940s, he wrote in Los Angeles much of his wonderful epic Letter to an Imaginary Friend how Americans survived hard times with grace. A young rebel Jewish working woman, Naomi Replansky made a splash with her first book of poetry of a 1950s free woman in Ring Song (1952)  published with Scribners. Don Gordon, the only one to grow up in LA,  in his book Displaced Persons (1958) has themes apparent in his titles: “Nobody Hears You,” “The Investigation,” “The Silent,” “The Dissenter,” “The Deportee,” and “In the Gaunt Hour.” Rachmuhl’s idea of communards does fit the McGrath group's starting California Quarterly and their encouraging young poets to start Coastlines—the two important magazines publishing 1950s L.A. poetry. These poets’ intervention succeeded in Los Angeles as the magazines bravely created free space for L.A. culture.

 Rachmuhl omits two women poets/professors pre-1990 who did wonderful work. A crucial part of 1970s-1980s feminist poetry was academics’ research and publications rediscovering global women’s poetry—academics, of course, also did similar recovery work for Afro-American, Chicano, Asian American and Native American poetries. Ann Stanford, a Cal State Northridge professor, published the path breaking Women Poets in English (1973), an anthology of 1000 years of poetry as well as another book on Anne Bradstreet, first poet of the American colonies. Stanford was also a fine poet publishing eight poetry collections of poetry as well as a teacher of many young poets. Another omitted poet/professor Mitsuye Yamada wrote on her wartime internment in two brilliant books of poetry: Camp Notes and Other Poems (1976) and Desert Run: Poems and Stories (1989). The  third omitted poet is Sharon Doubiago, born and educated in L.A., but she has lived since her twenties outside the city. In her epic poem on love in the time of genocide titled Hard Country (1982), Dubiago wrote about her Southern California childhood and adolescence. She included for the first time in poetry the area’s history including Native history, geography, and literature by women on L.A. basing her poem on Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona, the first novel written about Southern California.

 Rachmul’s book does document that in the 1970s the Inner City Cultural Center, an African-American cultural center, pioneered as the city's first multi-ethnic arts space for theater and writing. The author unfortunately omits to follow the succeeding history of multi-racial communards joining together in an intervention in the literary culture in the 1980s. Many multi-racial poets thought that writing often autobiographical poetry about the city’s huge diversity of cultures and races was crucial to writing LA. Manazar’s firing from Beyond Baroque in 1980 spurred multi-ethnic poets to network reading spaces across the city from the Old Venice Jail to Manazar’s Galeria Ocaso in Silverlake, to Coleman/Straus’s show on KPFK radio, to East LA’s Café Cultural and many others.

 I joined Electrum magazine, determined to carry on the Horton/Ailey tradition, getting the magazine as much as multi-cultural poetry to carry on Manazar’s work of showcasing all of Southern California poetry. After John Crawford,  who grew up in Pasadena, who had a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University, and who published West End Press, put out my first book of poetry,  I worked as Associate Editor to John Crawford whose West End Press published a multi-racial group of California poets—Sharon Doubiago, William Oandasan, Nelly Wong, Wendy Rose, Michelle Clinton, Sesshu Foster, Naomi Quinonez, and Russell Leong.. Only Wong and Rose were not from Los Angeles. West End Press’s anthology Invocation LA: Urban Multi-Cultural Poets (1989) grew out of this decade’s work. Unfortunately, Crawford moved to New Mexico for a college teaching job and continued his press there.

 Rachmuhl also omits important Asian and Native American poets who were integral to L.A.’s 1980s poetry. Garrett Hongo grew up in Los Angeles, publishing three brilliant books of poetry: The Buddha Bandits down Highway 99 (1978), Yellow Light (1980), and The River of Heaven (1988), which was a Lamont Poetry Selection. In these books he writes some stunning autobiographical poems about his Asian Los Angeles.

Native American William Oandasan, a Yuki Indian from Round Valley in Northern California, published seven poetry books with poetry guiding us into Indian country. In Oandasan’s poem “Acoma” about the 1000 year-old Pueblo village in New Mexico he says, “For many distant travelers/the way to Acoma is merely/Interstate 40/ …But for those who still/travel the way of the four direction/The way to Acoma/Is Always the Way.” Oandasan edited the magazine A, a pioneering poetry magazine of Native poets. During the mid-1980s he worked as an editor at the Native American Studies Center at UCLA and organized at UCLA in 1984 a conference of Native American poets featuring Simon Ortiz, Wendy Rose, and Luci Tapahonso—poets who created innovative work that shook up national poetry. Nationally multi-racial poets had organized into the Before Columbus Book Foundation which in the 1980s had annual poetry awards, giving awards to William Oandasan’s Round Valley Songs and Invocation LA: Urban Multi-Cultural Poets.

 These poets’ intervention was a breakthrough in gaining an audience, publishing, and laying the groundwork for later L.A .multi-racial literature which kept growing for the next 25 years. Despite these omissions, Rachmuhl’s book is extremely valuable for showing how a French sociologist Bourdieu and Los Angeles historian Mike Davis can help us understand how poetry is “a higher form of politics.” Rachmuhl’s portraits of neglected African-American and Chicano poets are both masterful, but her biggest accomplishment is her beginning to analyze the ground-up poetry revolution wrought in LA that eventually became the city’s literature by 2015. Anyone interested in contemporary U.S. poetry should read this book, and future literary historians in focusing on more of L.A. neglected poets will certainly build on Rachmul’s work.

 Julia Stein published Under the Ladder to Heaven (1984), her first of five poetry books. She did the only interview with poet Tom McGrath on his career in 1950s Los Angeles (On the Bus, 1992).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Julia Stein on WBAI radio 99.5 NY April 2 10:30 PM EST 7:30 PM PCT

I’m on WBAI again This Wednesday. "Mary Ann Miller, Producer and Host "From The Women's Desk" Celebrates Poetry Month with Lorraine Currelley, Poet, and Founder/Director Poets Network & Exchange/New Yor k and Poet Julia Stein/Los Angeles Wednesday, April 2, 10:00-11:00 EST and 7:00-8:00 PM PST on WBAI New York 99.5 FM For Los Angeles/West Coast, the show can be heard online from 7:00-8:00. We poets will be on at 7:30 pm PST. Julia Stein will read from poems about Los Angeles, women , and a poem about her grandmother that reveals her fascination with the Triangle Fire. People on the West Coast can listen The show will be New York/Los Angeles poetry dialogue on radio—very rare as I don’t think it’s ever been done before. People outside New York can listen online to live broadcast below: http://www.wbai.org/playernew.html

Friday, March 07, 2014

Stein reading on WBAI radio as part of 3/8/14 International Women's Day Celebration

I'll be reading my writing 2:30 West Coast time (5:30 NY time) in the event below: March 8- WBAI radio 99.5 New York CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY, IN A CONVERGENCE OF SONG, STRUGGLE AND SOLIDARITY You can listen online to live broadcast: http://www.wbai.org/playernew.html TUNE IN THIS SATURDAY, MARCH 8TH FROM 3PM TO 10PM, AND JOIN US FOR A GATHERING OF WOMEN HOSTS AND COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS, PERFORMERS, ARTISTS, POETS AND STORYTELLERS New York, NY – International Women's Day 2014 on WBAI Radio is hosted this year by Mary Ann Miller, From The Women's Desk. **Opening Ceremony: Mary Ann Miller, Kathryn Davis, Lorraine Currelley of The Harlem Arts Fund, Writing For Peace and Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers, and Cynthia Parsons McDaniel presenting 'The Least Known Actress In The World.' **US Representative for New York's 12th congressional district Carolyn Maloney. In a phone conversation with Mary Ann Miller, to speak about her plans to re-introduce Equal Rights Amendment legislation. and many other women's voices.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Reading on radio WBAI on 3/8/14 for Internatnational Women's Day

I’ll be reading my writing on a live broadcast on WBAI radio from New York March 8 at 2:30 West Coast time (5:30 New York time) as part of International Women’s Day. I helped get some of the best women writers/novelists/poets—novelists Judy Juanita and Anya Achtenberg; poets Carol Dorf, Lynne Bronstein et all--who will be reading from around the country between 2 and 3:00 West Coast time (5:00 and 6:00 pm New York time) so check it out. WBAI will be broadcasting from 12:00-7:00 West Coast time (3:00 pm – 10:00 pm New York time) to celebrate International Women’s Day. You can listen to WBAI live on line at http://www.wbai.org/playernew.html

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

February 24, 2014 I’d like to thank Diane Lefer, for inviting me to take part in the Writing Process blog tour, where I’m asked by a writer, Diane in my case, to answer four questions about how and why I write, and then I ask other writers to continue writing on their blogs about their process: I’ve just enjoyed reading two of Diane Lefer wonderful novels—Nobody Wakes Up Pretty and The Fiery Alphabet—as well as her award-winning short story collection California Transit Lefer is one of the few fiction writers in the U.S. capturing our contemporary writing, and her work is tremendously exciting to read. After reading Nobody Wakes Up Pretty about the gentrification of a neighborhood the heroine is living in the upper west side of Manhattan, I became aware how exiled I feel when my Hollywood neighborhood is undergoing gentrification and was inspired to write a long poem. Diane blogs: http://dianelefer.wordpress.com/ 1) What am I working on? I just finished a novel about a young woman going to Berkeley in the 1960s showing her transformations from shy, bookish girl to getting arrested in a civil rights sit-in, going to jail. and falling in love. The novel is about first time falling in love during the Vietnam War and also getting pregnant when abortion was illegal. The novel is about transformations, love, politics—and the death of the first friend your age. I also just finished my sixth book of poetry about my brother and mother’s lives as well as my brother’s fourteen year struggle with Parkinson’s and my mother’s growing frailty in her eighties. The poems talk about how my brother is a great father despite his disease and how a family survives the ineptitude of a failing health care system. I’ve written 1/3 of a seventh book of poetry about life and love in 2013-2014 when my college get shot up, when grifters try high technological electronic stealing of one’s identity, and when one can feel exiled when living in a neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification. I’ve written my first sonnet, a love sonnet. 2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Many 1960s novels were written in the 1960s or soon after, but mine is written many decades later, so is more concerned with love than with anger. I also write in 3rd person, not first person, and accept my young naïve heroine does make mistakes but learns from her mistakes. Though she has a central conflict with her father, sometimes he is more right than she is. I grew up with a grandmother who loved Tolstoy and Dickens, she taught me to love them too. Though I have, of course, been influenced by early 20th century modernism, I am also inspired by the 19th century novelists like Tolstoy and Dickens who combine personal stories with writing about history or politics. My fifth and sixth books of poetry show the influence of my Whitman and Neruda as I wrote long poems. Most poets these days seems to write short lyrics, but I often have written longer narrative poems often in a chronological sequence as the whole book of poetry is a story in verse in my last three books. My fifth book of poems What Were They Like was inspired by Whitman’s Civil War poetry in “Drum Taps” poems, and I’m in the small minority of U.S. poets to write about the wars of the 21st century. While most poets in the U.S. just write personal lyric poetry, my new poems are not just personal lyrics but try to capture what life is like in 2014 exploring how the personal life is impacted by larger impersonal economic/technological structures. 3. Why do I write what I do? Often to celebrate the life of a person I loved. My first book of poetry was written after my grandmother’s death to celebrate her life and the lives of her remarkable generation of immigrants’ right before World War I. Carl Sandberg asked, “Who do you owe your freedom?” Often the poems try to answer that question, as I certainly owe my freedom to my grandparents, and I wish to rescue their lives from clichés and obscurity. As for the novel, I always wanted to write about the 1960s in order to celebrate the community I felt at Berkeley in the 1960s and which I miss now. Also I was fascinated by dance for decades, and I enjoyed having the heroine develop into a serious dancer/choreographer exploring a path I did not take. From my first book of poetry I’ve been concerned with Camus’s exhortation to neither be a victim nor an executioner (or a silent partner to an executioner). Also I have been inspired by Hannah Arendt’s ideas in Eichmann in Jerusalem that even average humans in evil times can act in ways to recreate a moral world and that the poems attempt to recreate that moral world. I think poetry as well as other arts like jazz or dance can create utopian possibilities to counterpoint to our reality and to imagine a free space in which to live. 4) How does your writing process work? Writing a novel is different than writing a book of poetry. When I’m teaching, and I have been teaching either part-time or full-time the last 24 years, I can write poems in spurts in the odd free hours during the week. Or I’d blogged every Friday morning during the years 2004-2007. Only when I’m pulling the book of poetry together do I make myself work day after day until I’m done. If I am not teaching and am working on a novel, I start work at 9 am, take a short break, then work until lunch, take a lunch break, then work until about 3:00. I like to stay with the characters in the novel almost as if I was living with them day after day. After I finish the manuscript—whether of poetry or fiction—I like to put it away for a while and do something else—chores, see people—totally forgetting about the writing, so when I go back I to the manuscript I can see the writing with new eyes. On March 3, 2014, Vicki Nikolaidis will participate on the Writing Process Blog tour. Vicki Nikolaidis grew up in Iowa but when she realized there were so many warmer places to live in the world, she started traveling. Now she lives on Crete, her dream of an island paradise. After studying writing in Crete, she recently submitted a novella titled Path to Transcendence to The Malahat Review 2014 Novella contest. The novella is the first in a series of three about two characters who have intersecting lives although one lives in the contemporary world and one is from the ancient Mediterranean world. She describes “using the novellas to invent an unknown ancient religion based on creation, not destruction.” She will be participating in Writing Process Blog Tour on March 3 on her blog on Red Room: http://redroom.com/member/vicki-nikolaidis/blog On March 10, 2014, poet Lyle Daggett will participate on the Writing Process Blog tour. Lyle Daggett has been writing poems for 45 years. He is the author of seven books of poems, most recently All Through the Night: New and Selected Poems (published 2013 by Red Dragonfly Press). His poetry is influenced by Whitman, Neruda, and Tom McGrath, and he is one of the few U.S. poets who can write a brilliant long Whitmanesque poem. He has worked for a living mostly sitting in cubicles, talking on the phone and typing on computers. His political activities began at age 14 when he gave a speech against the Vietnam War in his ninth grade English class. His blog is A Burning Patience: http://aburningpatience.blogspot.com/,

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Publication party, Julia Stein's 5th book of poetry and Lionel Rolfe's new memoir

Publication Party:  Julia Stein’s 5th book and Lionel Rolfe’s memoir

Skylight Bookstore 1818 No. Vermont  Los Angeles  Saturday March 30, 2013,  5:00  323-660-1175

Julia Stein’s poems in What Were They Like? look at lives—Iraqi lives, Afghan lives, and U.S. lives—caught up in the Iraq and Afghan. wars.  Her book is inspired by Whitman’s “Drum-Taps,” poems the Civil War.  At the end the Stein’s poems imagine peace and healing.  Stein writes as if Whitman met up with Sumerian myths by way of Hemingway.

What Were They Like?  is Julia Stein’s fifth book of poetry. From the feminist  poetry work of her first book Under the Ladder to Heaven (1984)  to  the love poems and poems about teaching in SouthCentral during the 1992 troubles in Walker Woman (2004), Stein’s poetry ranges from love lyric to explorations of war, peace,  women’s lives, and work.

Lionel Rolfe’s  THE MISADVENTURES OF ARI MENDELSOHN. is picaresque memoir by noted author and journalist.  Rolfe recounts the sexual and political travails of the irascible, blacklisted title character, a reporter still harboring his besieged idealistic belief in humanity's innate goodness and America's dubious potential for good amid a reality of avarice, pragmatism, cynicism, and materialism. 

Rolfe grew up in Los Angeles; his mother Yaltah was a concert pianist and the sister of the famed violinist-prodigy Yehudi Menuhin. His first book The Menuhins: A Family Odyssey, in 1978.   He has written Literary L.A., which is now the basis of a film titled Literary LA about Los Angeles writers.  In the early 90's Rolfe co-researched and co-wrote Bread and Hyacinths: The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles, on turn-of-the-century urban politics and the life of Socialist politician Job Harriman.  

 I’m doing readings for my new book “What Are They Like?” from S.F. to Los Angeles but if you can’t get to the readings
you can order Julia Stein’s books directly from CC.Marimbo by emailing or writing to us at our post office box.  “What Were They Like?” is $14.  C.C. Marimbo also has “Walking Through a River of Fire:
100 Years of Traingle Fire Poetry” edited by J. Stein for $12. And C.C. Marimbo has a website and has page for Triangle fire book and will shortly put up info on “What Were They Like?

P.O. Box 933 
Berkeley, CA 94701  U.S.A.      ccmarimbo@yahoo.com