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Author of the Month: Bill Mohr

Published: May 15, 2012

Hold-Outs: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance, 1948-1992

Bill Mohr, associate professor, English

Published in 2011 by the University of Iowa Press, Hold-Outs details what Mohr describes as a “West Coast poetry renaissance.” Mohr, the founder of now defunct Momentum Press and a poet himself, offers a multi-generational account of the role of the poet-editor-publisher in Los Angeles. Revealed here are the personalities (including Stuart Perkoff, Wanda Coleman, Leland Hickman, Paul Vangelisti, Don Gordon, Suzanne Lummis, John Thomas, Ron Koertge and Charles Bukowski), the institutions, the publications and the informal poetry groups that encouraged poetry to be written, performed, published and acknowledged. Mohr details the actual printing and distribution processes as they evolved over five decades and recalls his own painstaking efforts to publish an issue of his journal using a typesetting machine that required physically shifting fonts. “Trying to produce narrow columns of type on a machine on which one could not see the columns made me feel like an airplane pilot without radar on a foggy night,” he said. Rediscovered figures in the poetry renaissance included editor Grover Jacoby Jr. who was the editor of two national quarterly journals of poetry: Variegation: a Quarterly of Rhyme (L.A.-1946-1956) and Recurrence: a Quarterly of Rhyme (L.A., 1950-1956). One of the big surprises of his research was the poetry of Gordon (1902-89), who made his name as a passionate and outspoken political poet called before the Un-American Activities Committee. Mohr’s poems and prose have appeared in a dozen anthologies and his writing has been translated into Japanese, Spanish and Italian. He was a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute in 1997 and has served on the board of directors of Beyond Baroque based in Venice, Calif. His previous book from 2006 was Bittersweet Kaleidoscope preceded in 1982 by his first book Hidden Proofs. He is the author of five collections of poetry, including his own spoken-word poetry CD titled “Vehemence.” Mohr edited two classic anthologies of L.A. poets, The Streets Inside (1978) and Poetry Loves Poetry (1985). He earned his B.A. from UCLA in 1970 and his M.A. (2000) and Ph.D. (2004) from UC San Diego and then served as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University from 2005-06. The Long Beach resident joined the university in 2006.

Author of the Month: William Mohr