Jesse Goodman has been producing benefit concerts for the Henry Miller Memorial Library since he brought Patti Smith there in 2004. The past few years he has been bringing poets in as the opening acts of these shows, which as you can imagine, pleases us here in the Republik of poets to no end. This year he is bringing in legendary San Francisco poet, David Meltzer to open for Pink Martini in this year’s benefit on December 8th at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey, California. Get your tickets baby, they’re going fast . . . So, to honor Jesse’s mad genius we are featuring his story as well as poems by David Meltzer and his wife, the poet Julie Rogers. Scroll down for his story, but first: the poets. Enjoy.
Art’s desire to get it all said
to all who thought him dead
in the joint & beside the point
Art’s struggle to sing it all
through jazz warfare & tell
everything he knew in brass
speed rap stir crazy utopia
of muscle chops push it in your face
rough unrelenting grace
fierce Art pitbull clamps down
pulls edges out in time to break through
scream knotty beauty
toe to toe w/ any joe
who thinks they know better
Art tattoos blue needles into moonlight skin
junk light makes mirror perfect
Art’s smoke aches out of wounds
L.A. Art burritos & bebop
black guacamole serge zoots
Central Avenue cat copping
Art at Club Alabam
in Lee Young’s band
all the chicks & the hatcheck chick
have big eyes for Art’s horn
DAVID MELTZER began his literary career during the Beat heyday and is considered a prominent figure in the San Francisco/Beat Renaissance. He came to prominence as the youngest poet to have his work included in the anthology, The New American Poetry 1945 – 1960, edited by Donald Allen. He is the author of many volumes of poetry including Arrows: Selected Poetry 1957 – 1992, No Eyes: Lester Young, Beat Thing, and David’s Copy. He has also published fiction and essays, and has edited numerous anthologies and collections of interviews such as Reading Jazz, Writing Jazz, and San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets. His most recent book of poetry, When I Was A Poet, is 60 in the Pocket Poet’s Series published by City Lights. In 2012 David was nominated for the Northern California Book Award in Poetry. This year, City Lights reissued a special edition of his poetry guide, ‘Two-Way Mirror – A Poetry Notebook’, with a new introduction and an updated addendum. In April, with his wife, poet Julie Rogers, and saxophonist Zan Stewart, released the CD, ‘Two Tone Poetry & Jazz’. Diane di Prima, former SF Poet Laureate says of him, “David Meltzer is a hidden adept, one of the secret treasures on our planet. Great poet, musician, comic; mystic unsurpassed, performer with few peers.” David Meltzer is also known for his inspiring and witty teaching style, and has taught in San Francisco and elsewhere for four decades.
Witness for Rodney King
Beaten under by the clubs of his protectors
he’s down for the count
on asphalt not meant to hold his blood
and he can’t get away
his scars are monuments to ignorance
his tears are dark water
left running in the city
filling toilets, filling swimming pools
flooding gutters with our trash and the homeless
his screams are the sirens of Los Angeles
forcing the traffic back: heart attacks
suicide attempts, maybe a kid on crack
taking a fast ride
through overgrowth that won’t stop
his family grieving, wanting revenge
while the TV shows a cremation of dreams
smoldering rage rising like smoke
from neighborhoods burning at dawn.
Witness the bashing of Mr. King
on an instant replay
while a jury argues his pain.
Someone said he fought back.
I saw a man struggle to stand on his own.
Julie Rogers entered the Bay Area poetry scene during the 1970’s. Her poems were first included in a San Francisco anthology in 1980, and she later published five chapbooks. She has read her work on public radio and television and at many venues in California and Oregon, and more recently in New York City. Decades of involvement in the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism have influenced her writings, and in 2007, Vimala published her Buddhist hospice manual, Instructions for the Transitional State, with which she has begun a non-profit educational program. Her poetry has been featured in various journals and anthologies such as Beatitude – Golden Anniversary 1959 – 2009, Poetry Flash, Sparring with Beatnik Poets, Big Scream, The Cafe Review, World of Change, and others. In 2012, Wild Ocean Press published her first selected collection of poetry spanning thirty years of work, House Of The Unexpected. Omerta Publications released her newest chapbook, Street Warp, in 2013. She recently released the CD, ‘Two-Tone Poetry & Jazz’, recorded with her husband, poet David Meltzer, and saxophonist Zan Stewart. Currently, she teaches creative writing privately, and performs solo and with her husband. Poet Michael McClure has said of her work, “Few poems are written as close to the heart — no extra words, just soul meanings…”
Jesse Goodman’s Story:
This story begins on Independence Day, at the turn of the Millennium, having just moved to San Francisco a day or two before the 4th. My very first mission having moved to the West Coast was to head South on Highway 1 to Big Sur. I had longed to go to this most special of places, that in my mind I knew would be pure magic. I’m not even sure when Big Sur entered my consciousnesses, but if it was good enough for ‘The Beats’ I was certain I’d find something special there.
I had been camping, hiking, and exploring both the little nooks and the grandeur of the area when the 4th of July came round. I had heard that Baba Oluntuji was performing at the Esalen Institute. Given how I was vibe’ing with the flow of Big Sur, I headed to Esalen, fully believing that despite being sold out, I’d find my way in.
Just as quickly as I arrived at Esalen, I was rejected (as to be expected). I hopped in my car and headed North back to the campground. I was feeling badly about not having had the chance to see the Nigerian drumming legend. Then in an instant, as I passed the Henry Miller Library (HML), I suddenly and without thought parked my car next to The Library’s gates. There was a palpable feeling that something exciting was about to happen. It was here that I found the cultural beating heart of Big Sur.
The Library was in preparation mode, with a troupe of artists from Prague along with their organizer extraordinaire, Maya Cain. A tall charismatic Swede, Magnus Toren (Executive Director of HML), who somehow appeared as if he had been birthed from The Library’s grounds, was everywhere. It was clear this was no ordinary spot. In this place of overwhelming beauty with its lofty trees and vast ocean, The Library is the intersection of Big Sur’s spiritual grandeur and human creativity.
July 4th, 2000 began my relationship with HML & Big Sur. Fast forward several trips and I am spending the evening in Magnus & Mary-Lou’s cozy cabin on Partington Ridge (Miller’s Ridge) along with my partner, Max. We are drinking wine under the stars, and the talk moves to “how cool it would be” if Patti Smith could perform a benefit for HML. I said, not knowing how I’d accomplish this, “YES YES YES” !! I said “Yes” because in Big Sur anything is truly possible.
Patti did perform, on August 22nd, 2004, in what became the 1st Annual Henry Miller Library Benefit. Against all odds, she agreed to perform for the little Library off Highway 1. What an honor!
Not more than a moment had passed after Patti’s encore when Magnus turned to me and asked with a cheeky grin, “So, who are ya bringing next year”? The thought that this might be the first of an annual benefit hadn’t even crossed my mind, but with those words uttered, a new challenge emerged.
Who could I invite to the same place that inspired Henry Miller, gave birth to HML, and has attracted adventurers & artists for as long as there has been a Big Sur?
Eleven years have passed since Patti’s performance. I think back to having never seen Baba Oluntuji and the moment another path was forged. Over the years audiences have enjoyed intimate performances by Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Marianne Faitfull, Rufus Wainwright as well as other artists who have been a part of HML’s annual benefit.
As long as Big Sur exists, as long as HML exists, artists and audiences alike will come to inspire & be inspired. The magic will continue.