Don’t be fooled by the smell of barbecue in the air, the popping lids of iced cold beer, and all the smiling people in trunks and bikinis riding bicycles. The source of their pleasure is a scorching gaseous star emitting cancerous UV rays that want to kill them. If anything, stage a revolt this summer: Stay indoors. Defy the sun by opening all the windows and finding a good book to read.
Sure, in this age of the e-reader, a whole library can be taken with you wherever you go, including to all those sunny outdoor places, but have you ever tried to get sand out of a Kindle? Me neither, but it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Plus, there are crowds to contend with. You’re better off in the comfort of your own home. Why throw rent away? The truth is, with the right reading material it won’t matter. Let books take you where you want to go. And why not start at the top with Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Sure it’s over six hundred pages of dense reading, but relax, you’ve got all summer! If you don’t read it now when will you ever? Plus, it’s an adventure story. Takes place on the high seas. Perfect for the season. And quit whining about difficult reading, you’re an adult now, time to put the Harry Potter down.
Okay, maybe you’ve just got something against whales (hmm…I’m telling you, you may want to check this book out!). Maybe, you get seasick easily, or I don’t know, something else, like it’s not quite the tale you’re looking for. (more…)
When David Foster Wallace told David Lipsky of Rolling Stone in 1996 that American poetry had gotten what it deserved and “would come awake again when poets started speaking to people who have to pay the rent,” he had obviously never been to Long Beach. And though it may be too late for Mr. Wallace, it’s certainly not for the rest of us because Long Beach poetry is making a comeback.
Although comeback is not exactly the right word, because it never really left—partly due to CSULB’s acclaimed MFA program that every year continues to keep a viable writing energy in the city. So why does it feel like a “literary scene” is resurging in Long Beach? Notice I put “literary” and “scene” in quotation marks as both seem too stuffy and pretentious to describe the poetry here, which is working class, edgy, and non-academic—not to mention the good people involved with this budding, eh, well, let’s just go with the word Long Beach veteran writer Donna Hilbert used to describe it, community.
I suppose much of this emerging “community” (though with writers, can this ever really exist?) has to do both with the sustainment of classic LB lit mags, like the excellent Pearl, founded in the 1970s, and the birth of a few new rising stars.
One of these rising stars is Beggars and Cheeseburgers, which is a spirited tabloid-style magazine that features classic Long Beach writers like Gerald Locklin, Joan Jobe Smith (editor and creator of Pearl), Fred Voss, and the previously mentioned Donna Hilbert, as well as a whole new generation of young writers both local and national.
Another is Re)verb magazine, which has been around since 2001—currently on issue 6—and has featured many of these same writers over the past few years. The magazine’s founder, Kevin Lee, seems to have also breathed new life into his publishing company with a name change (now Aortic Books), and two recently published works by Gerry Locklin, as well as plans for a poetry anthology about the “happiness and crappiness” of parenthood (now accepting submissions).
Then there are a few surrogates—writers, editors, and magazines that aren’t actually products of this city, but so closely linked they are considered to be.
One, of course, is Michael Hathaway, editor of the longstanding Chiron Review out of St. John, Kansas, who, over the years, has probably published the widest array of Long Beach writers alongside Pearl, not to mention made his own mark in the local LB literary magazines. Two of Chiron’s assistant editors are Gerald Locklin and Ray Zepeda, both professors (one emeritus) at Cal State, and at least two reasons Long Beach poetry has a reputation in the first place. Last year, the magazine also published a “punk issue” edited by another Long Beach writer, Sarah Daugherty, and featuring many local writers.
There’s also Spot Literary Magazine , which comes out of Arizona, but includes more poetry from this city than anywhere else in the country, and even holds semi-annual issue release parties at a Borders here in Long Beach.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce (corny inside Long Beach poetry joke-sorry, but please read Locklin’s poem “The Iceberg Theory” if you haven’t already). There are others too, both old and new, like the aforementioned Pearl, as well as San Pedro’s Lummox Press, World Parade Books, Burning Shore Press, and even an online and sometimes print magazine, Like Water Burning, in which you can enter a writing contest to have your words published on a coffee mug— just don’t make it poetry; their website claims, they are “deathly allergic” to it, but says nothing about what you can do with the mug once it’s yours. I’d recommend filling it with a healthy shot of Long Beach poetry.
If you’re interested in knowing more, you won’t want to miss this feast:
Clint Margrave has work forthcoming or most recently published in New York Quarterly, Pearl, 3AM, Chiron Review, as well as in the anthology At the Gate: Arrivals and Departures, published by Kings Estate Press. Currently, he teaches English and Creative Writing at Cal State University, Long Beach. Clint can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org