The 60 or so Los Angeles-based poets anthologized in "Poetry Loves Poetry" run the gamut of society, from the award-winning writer-performer to the housewife with talent and the bug to express. Many are friends of, or work for, the Beyond Baroque Foundation, a center for non-academic literary types in Venice. There is the homosexual circle and the women's clique, the funny guys and the obscure depressed--just about every angle you can think of.
Certain generalizations can be made. The L.A. "style" as presented by editor Bill Mohr is an oral, narrative poetry: It is written to be read aloud. On stage, performance artists--Wanda Coleman, Michael C. Ford, rock 'n' roll star Exene Cervenka, teacher Ron Koertge, actor Harry Northrup, can give their work real power. Unfortunately, on the printed page, minus the voice and the sound effects, and lacking, as most of these poems do, a regular, hard rhythm, the works sound flat and ephemeral.
There are exceptions. The selections from Dennis Cooper's "Tenderness of the Wolves" are as wonderful as is that entire book. David Trinidad has developed into a quiet, strong and nationally recognized storyteller. Nichola Manning, an Englishwoman living in Long Beach, proves an intriguing find. There are selections from Charles Bukowski's work, but both he and Kate Braverman, the original hot-house orchid, are represented by weak material.
Mohr's introduction is one of the best things in the book. In it, he describes how most of his poets immigrated to Los Angeles from other points and how geography and their own natures have kept them loners. He also notes the effects of the city's Mediterranean light on their style of writing.
A nice touch are the photographs of the poets (all but Bukowski) included in the back with their biographies.
"Poetry Loves Poetry" is apparently intended as a textbook of some kind, though it is disagreeable to find the poems rather than the pages numbered, and even more disagreeable to find the poets listed neither alphabetically nor chronologically, making easy reference difficult.
There are also a lot of very nasty typos degrading what is, in essence, a valuable primer to a hardy band of individualists. That their work seems as ephemeral as the speech they emulate may not be the failure it appears to be at first glance: The annoying flash of light, the casual comment forgotten the morning after--feelings these poems evoke--are certainly at the heart of Los Angeles. If art faithfully conveys its place and time, one can hardly ask more.