March 2008 – The Venice Beat Poets – The Great River Outside The Mainstream – Philomene Long

March 1, 2008

By Jim Smith

Philomene Long came late to the party, but she soon made up for lost time with her dynamic personality and soaring poetry. The Beat scene was a decade old when she arrived in Venice, but Long gave it new life and energy.
Readers of the Beachhead will know that her death last August resulted in an outpouring of articles and poems reflecting the great love and esteem in which she was held by our community.

She was born in another bohemian community, Greenwich Village, along with her identical twin Pegarty Long. After growing up in San Diego, she decided to become a Catholic nun and lived in a convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet for five years. 

After climbing over the convent wall one night, Long traveled extensively in Europe and had two children, Maureen and Patrick, before settling in Venice in 1968. Here she met Beat Poet Stuart Perkoff, and became his steady companion. When he died in 1974, she was at his bedside.

Long continued to write. Some of her books published over the years included The Queen of Bohemia, American Zen Bones, and with John Thomas, The Book of Sleep, The Ghosts of Venice West and Bukowski in the Bathtub. An excerpt from her unpublished novel, Memoirs of a Nun on Fire, appears in The Outlaw Bible of America Poetry. She also made films and acted, often collaborating with her sister, Filmmaker Pegarty Long. Her films include The Beats: An Existential Comedy, with Allen Ginsburg and The California Missions with Martin Sheen.

In 1974, Long began the study of Zen with Master Maezumi Roshi. She continued with him until his death in 1995. She later described herself as a Zen Catholic. Roshi gave Long her Zen name “Gyokuho” (fragrant jewel). He said, “Your fragrance will permeate the universe. But there is a reverse side to this as well – Don’t Be Stinky!” (American Zen Bones)

In 1983, she married Poet John Thomas (see February Beachhead, page 9). Long and Thomas were together until his death in 2002. They lived in the Ellison Apartments at Paloma Avenue and Speedway for many years. “Cold Ellison” became a theme of a number of Long’s poems.

In 2005, she was recognized as the Poet Laureate of Venice by the Los Angeles City Council. 

Long’s poetry combines a descriptive love of her community with a Zen sensibility that often takes her poems in directions that are both surprising and pleasurable to the reader. Jack Kerouac’s concept of beatitude also had a profound influence on Long. Kerouac said that “Beat” stemmed from beatitude, which he defined as “trying to love all life, trying to be utterly sincere with everyone, practicing endurance, kindness, cultivating joy of heart…”

Philomene Long is generally recognized as one of the major women poets of the Beat Generation. Even though the Beat milieu was dominated by men, many with inflated egos, she gave no quarter. It has been said that Long “filled up a room” when she entered, by virtue of the force of her personality. She was friends with Allan Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Charles Bukowski, Wanda Coleman, and with Venice poets Tony Scibella, Frank Rios, and others. 

At an inauguration ceremony for Councilmember Bill Rosendahl at Windward Plaza in 2005, Long was invited to read the poem she had written for the occasion (see Beachhead, August 2005). Much of the poem was a paean to the glory of Venice. When she read it at L.A. City Hall, to the City Council, at Rosendahl’s invitation, its celebration of Venichismo caused shock and consternation among the Los Angeles officials. 

Their reaction must have pleased Philomene, who once wrote: There is no comfort/In the poem./Expect to be seared/But to have entry.

•••••

Venice
Holy Ground
Stained with the blood of poets
City which lies
Beneath the breasts of birds
Guarded by cats
Behind every corner
The Muse, Angel of Surprise
Poems out of pavement cracks

–Philomene Long
Her poem, reproduced on the Venice Poetry Wall in Windward Plaza



March 2008 – Philomene Long’s Cold Ellison I

March 1, 2008
 “Cold Ellison,” the apartment building on Paloma Avenue where she and John Thomas lived, became a theme of a number of Long’s poems.
 Cold Ellison I
By Philomene Long

“Cold cliffs more beautiful
The deeper you enter
Yet no one travels this road”
Cold Mountain – Han Shan

In this old cold building
The Ellison
In this small dark room
I sit cross-legged
Upon an old stale mattress
The feathers are finally 
Leaving my pillow
To rejoin the birds of the air
At least once a month
The upstairs neighbor’s toilet overflows
Our ceiling bulges
The walls turn black and green
in this dripping room
All my clothes are torn
Our only guests
The ghosts, the mice
Only dust
Over dog-eared books 
And drifts of paper
Like dirty snow
My daughter stays away, says
“You were never a model
For a nine to five job.”
My son visits occasionally
Long enough to smile
And ask for an aspirin
In this cold room
The window is bricked up
The pipes leak
Puddles always on the kitchen floor
Never any rice in the pot
Once there was a view
A eucalyptus tree, a ghost gum
It was cut down in June
I, who once was proud 
That they called me
“The Queen of Bohemia”
Now blush, ashamed
“John!” I call
“I’m trying to bring myself
Out of something –
To nothing…
I’m going to pray
To embrace this poverty!”
“Pray to embrace silence
We already have poverty!” he says
“Hey. We’re doing pretty well
For a tired old man
And a crazy lady…
Tomorrow I’ll get you
A crown of rhinestones.
Do I give you enough?”
“John, to have you
For my companion
Through the glass centuries
Your diamond body
Calm, enormous land
This is the only center
That I seek.”
At night
The cockroaches come out
They walk across my neck
To get to Masami Teraoka’s print
“Zen Monk On A Blue Whale”
Hakuin contemplates death
They take refuge in the Buddha
Little insect eyes. Sad. Sad.
But too many. A thousand at least
So they must die
We’ll use the money from
Selling our books of poems
To purchase roach poison
There are no roads
From this cold Ellison
Better sit still
And quiet the ills
Of the mind
I sit high in this old building
Higher yet the sky passes slowly
The birds swirl
incautious, completely free
I climb the road
To cold, cold Ellison
The road that never ends
“Who can break the snares of the world
And sit with me
Among the white clouds?”

–from The Queen of Bohemia, Philomene Long, Lummox Press



March 2008 – Swami X Speaks

March 1, 2008
by X Swami X

I don’t want to alarm you because I know you already have your share of problems. Nevertheless, I must inform you that you are utilizing the wrong calendar, the one most everyone else is using.

This is not a joke. Next to George Bush being in the White House, this is the most serious, bizarre and dangerous situation imaginable. The world is in “lethal disharmony” due to our disharmonious way of observing and measuring time. Seriously contemplate this idea, for you have the opportunity to bring about world peace, not to mention peace within yourself.

Alright, you’re going to pass on that. How about this. Two or three years of frequent cell phone use will bring about brain cancer. You’re already hooked and you’re not buying that one either. Oh yeah, TV is bringing about mass insanity.

Try this. George Bush is a reptilian, controlled by an alien civilization, the Republican Party. Ha ha ha. I thought I’d just call the whole thing off.

I’m sure you’re doing fine, enjoying life, looking forward to the next one, being a good neighbor to those maniacs next door, and looking forward to your vacation, retirement, demise,and next incarnation.

I’m having a grand time, alertly and adventurously approaching Death, that Grinning Sweeper, more joyously each passing night and day.

I am going to and enjoying movies, more than live or almost live human beings. My problem with live human beings is that I can see how, with just a little readjustment, they could be so much happier and at peace. 

The Mayan calendar for one, meditation for another; being grateful for life itself is a good one; seeing the humor in everything that happens, and accepting everything that happens with the inner serenity that comes with daily meditation. 

Seducing a good looking neighbor, reading or writing a best seller, playing chess, gin, or crazy 8’s while under the influence of a powerful psychedelic with good looking naked neighbors around a pool full of friendly piranhas, or naked skate boarding in Beverly Hills on a quiet Sunday afternoon in a light invigorating rain…on December 21, 2012…while having a relevant, two-way conversation with God (or OWow) while on a powerful psychedelic with no police around, and naked, of course. 


March 2008 – Long Road To Lincoln Place

March 1, 2008
By Ingrid Mueller

We are children of the Universe. This was engrained in my mind as of age 10. Who knows where it came from? My search for that meaning continues almost feverishly.

After a Hamburg(er) Scientific High School for Girls adventure, ‘twas obvious: this ain’t my earthly path. A curiosity for the human condition was deepened by the passing of my father after 7 years of MS paralysis. I was 16, had to become my own daddy.

England’s north and international student community opened many minds to comparative religions, cultures, foods.

Paris’ population very probably included relatives of my mother’s grandmother who married into the East Prussian State in Kaiser Wilhelm’s times. 

My language studies were personal and intense in that City of Lights.

Barcelona was my very first paid job site as a trilingual secretary to the owner of a small Blanes/Costa Brava hotel.

San Francisco completely sucked me in in 1964 (go ahead, smile). Straight off the plane, a job on Market Street and a turn-of-the-century-apartment downtown allowed amazing revelations in my new, consciously selected country of an admired idea of human equality.

But a quickie Las Vegas wedding swept me onto the African continent where my engineer husband helped build corn and flour mills across the South African veldt, as this child of the universe innocently stubbed toes and knowingly insulted Johannesburg apartheid laws right and left in the late Sixties. It was the very best social and human injustice education for four years.

Back in WA State with two daughters and eventually ‘on our own’, the professional and financial opportunity to be transferred to L.A. was happily grabbed in 1976 – after all, downtown’s Bonaventure Hotel couldn’t open without moi, child of the universe!

Alas, our car accident in late 1977 at the corner of Wilshire & 17th in Santa Monica stopped a whole lot more than my corporate job and my daughters’ innocence. A decade later, this ‘empty nester’ discovered a new home off the beaten track, speak: busy Lincoln Boulevard, at the now historic 38 acre Lincoln Place Garden Apartment complex. 

And here I’ve lived and loved and anxiously tippy-toed and complied and organized and protested since 1988. I hope I’ve helped advance all Los Angelenos’ Renters’ Rights in the face of rampant overdevelopment, and rampant overpayment for a CEO (for example, $4.7M for Terry Considine/AIMCO in 2007). All of which undermines every person’s right to housing.

Let’s stay Los Angelenos. After all, Children of the Universe know a little…



March 2008 – Women Are The Light Of The World

March 1, 2008
Big Island, Hawai’i – Today my friend Ardas taught a kundalini yoga class to a new momma with her three-moon new daughter. I attended to feel the vibes and fill out the class. We chanted and breathed really well.

It was a delight to feel the bond between baby Io’lani, (named for the hawaiian word for hawk), and her young mama. Baby smiled, gurgled, and, between breast-feeding seemingly chanted along. 

We sang “I am the Light of the Soul. I am Bountiful. I am Beautiful. I am Bliss. I am. I am.” I would like to pass this affirmation on to all women to remind themselves we must never take ourselves for granted, we are loved and we most certainly are bliss! Well, on a good day! Aloha!!! 

– Erica Snowlake


March 2008 – Results of The February Beachhead Poll

March 1, 2008
February’s poll was a no-brainer for Venetians. Do you support or oppose the proposed 31-story tower on Lincoln Blvd? An overwhelming 86% said they oppose it, while only 6% support it.
Some of your comments included:
–Tell the developers to go back where they came from. Don’t block our view of the ocean..
–what are they, nuts?
–This is Venice, NOT Miami.
–WHO makes the $$- APPROVING these “affordable” “artist” 30ft+ CONDO’s …WHERE is the SKY? cough hack
–this type of structure has no good purpose in Venice
–traffic!!

••••••••

NEW Beachhead Poll

Fences: The City Ordinance limits a property’s front fence to 3.5 feet.
___ I Support the Ordinance
___ I Oppose the Ordinance
___ Unsure or Don’t Care
___ Comments:

To Vote, clip & mail, or go to: http://www.freevenice.org.
Poll ends March 25


March 2008 – Chain Stores Be Gone

March 1, 2008
A Venice free of chain stores came one step closer to reality, Feb. 20, thanks to the tireless efforts of Venice Unchained.
A City Planning Department meeting on the subject was held at Westminster Auditorium at the urging of Councilmember Bill Rosendahl. The 50-plus Venetians in attendance supported the plan to ban “formula retail stores” (wherein every store looks alike, aka chain stores). 

Discussion at the meeting included how much of Venice should be covered by the proposed ordinance, and how it should be structured. A Planning Department staff member has been assigned to shepherd the initiative through the maze of city bureaucracy.

Many Venetians have been advocating a chain store ordinance since 2004, and the Neighborhood Council passed a resolution in support. However, it is due largely to the efforts of Venice Unchained that this dream may become a reality. Contact them for more information at http://www.VeniceUnchained.org


March 2008 – Poetry

March 1, 2008
• The Vatican Rag – Marvin Klotz
• Tell Me Again – Mary Getlein
• Greedy Night – Lynette
• Hope Is Hip – S.A. Griffin
• Praise for a lost Woman – hillary kaye
• Applause – Paula Ross
• After the rain – Jim Smith

————

 The Vatican Rag
Headline: “Vatican toughens rules on sainthood” 
By Marvin Klotz 

Some headlines grab you by the throat,
Some by more primal parts.
But this one knocked me for a loop–
(Brash theocratic arts).
The last pope’s liberality
Created quite a stir.
He canonized five hundred saints–
(The most to date–by far!).
But worse than that, he bent the rules–
Cut short review time spent.
Beatified a host of folks
(Most, just in time for Lent).
Mother Teresa, all in all,
Was J. C.’s humble student;
But Pius Twelfth’s grim Concordat
(Dismissed as merely prudent!)
Creates some questions for this church.
The Fathers must take pause,
And delve more deeply, search the lives
Of new intercessors.
Sainthood is rare, and should be so.
So let’s slow down a bit.
Or risk a heaven SRO,
With no place left to sit.
And that might sour older saints,
Turn situations odd–
I wouldn’t want disgruntled help
Petitioning my god!
 
••••••

Tell Me Again

By Mary Getlein

Things that are no more-
can’t get them back-
all the trees that are cut down
all the people that were cut down-
what would you do with them if they were here
piled up trees and piled up people-
we can’t worship the dead
we can only take notice and appreciate them
for what they gave us
Just like the trees-
just take notice of how beautiful they are
how beautiful the sun going down-
it’s beautiful when someone dies
just as it’s beautiful when someone is born
The tide goes in and out, in and out,
follows the path of the moon
the planets are round
rocketing through space, always moving, always changing
A tear falls then another one-
every day someone is crying, someone is laughing
Trees are cut up for firewood!
Who is more important? The woman or the tree?
The spirit within the tree or the spirit within the woman?
A woman give birth and then takes the child away
Everyone is mad at her
the tree is gone, the woman is gone, the child is gone
Where did they go?
Somewhere they are welcome…
not on this planet
Women are born with an x on their back!
Women are murdered every day by husbands, lovers, 
brothers, sons, fathers, friends, strangers, no one, everyone
Women are murdered by people who do not even know them
Women are murdered for being pretty or not pretty enough
Women’s spirits are murdered for being pretty or not pretty enough
Women are murdered for being raped or having sex freely
Women are murdered for having cosmetic surgery
Women are murdered for having “fat” surgery-
for being too fat- gotta have surgery to deal with it
Women are murdered by the media-
Media murders women day after day after day
Media murders women for being bad mothers
Media murders women who kill their children and themselves
A man can kill but not a woman
Somehow it’s worse when a woman does it
A woman kills for the same reason as a man!
frustration, anger, mayhem, drugs, alcohol, a lousy childhood
too much rap music
too much media
no community, no nurturing, no loving, no one there for her
she murders her children so no one else will hurt them
she murders herself so no one else will hurt her
yes, there is a limit to hurt- death
death is the final end to hurt
being homeless used to mean
“freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”
living in a place can be like a jail sentence
you have to live there because you can’t afford to move out
Landlord is just a title!
it doesn’t mean “king”, even though they might think so
“king” of all he owns-
his tenants live in fear of what he’s going to do next
I live in America
I live in America
I live in America
I turn on a tap and hot water comes out
I don’t have to gather fire wood in the Dafur, to make
a fire and boil water.
I don’t have to be afraid of being raped, when I go
out to get fire wood to make a fire.
I still am afraid of the dark, here in America
How many women end up in someone’s fire pit,
with the guy saying: she did it to herself,
all I did was burn the body?
How many times must a woman be called “BITCH”!
to her face before she gets it!
This country is not ready for her?
This shit just keeps going on and on and on
The princess women don’t get treated like this?
only the poor? The rich women get killed too,
by their husband, boyfriends, etc. etc.
tell me again why you won’t vote for a woman
tell me again about a woman who acts like a man
tell me again about a woman unleashing her anger
tell me again how hormonal women are
tell me again that a woman just can’t do a
man’s job-
What was that job again?
dropping bombs on children?
shipping jobs to other countries?
cutting off benefits to poor, elderly, children, mentally ill,
homeless services?
sending back $800 this time, to people who file for taxes,
in an effort to “boost the economy”?
Look around
see all the homeless living in the street?
they are not invisible- they are here, in front of you-
how do you think they got this way?
is this a joke to you?
This is the direct result of some man being in office.
with trickle – down cruelty!
It’s another government trick to fool us!
doing one thing while telling us it’s another-
killing is killing, bro-
That’s how this country really makes money-
even if it means killing its own citizens-
at a war, or at home, on the street.
tell me again why you won’t vote for a woman.

••••••

Greedy Night

By Lynette

One more,
Grotesque screaming faces
pressed against a rain-streaked car window,
Teenage vultures descend upon another Pop-culture carcass…
What do you want from me?!
A thousand hands clawing at clothes and flesh,
A simple song,
My suit of regulation black leather,
My disheveled hair,
My money,
My body,
…everything!
On stage
staring at the manic tapestry
of writhing and flailing pubescent bodies,
Bright lights blind the tired performer,
Seduced by commercial demand
I am your shallow, sexual robot…
Every city a ravenous, undulating crowd,
Caressing a plastic idol,
Searching for a secret, 
In my pocket
precious, furious jewels,
Folded scraps of paper,
This is me…

Will you listen to my words?
Can you feel my private 

••••••

Hope Is Hip

By S.A. Griffin

first of ‘08 and already
history has been
and is
being made
no need to spell it out here
but this ranks right up there with
first flight
penicillin
moveable type or 
“Mr. Watson, come here.
I need you.”
first time since the 60’s were assassinated
that there’s been anything like genuine hope
sparkling in the drinking water
humans, wear your vulnerable skin
to the hungry dance
where dreamers
jump to such a song
sounding on the bones of
this nations’s 
weary jukebox
a place where somebody with an open heart
knows the future on a first name basis
and all last laughs are
on the house

••••••

Praise for a lost Woman

By hillary kaye

A life covered
in the blood of betrayal
A cremation of dreams
A fire pit
of loss
A woman’s
life
the life of the soul
emmeshed
in sorrow and joy
She gives birth and nurtures
and still is slandered
by a world enthralled with
its own destruction
And yet she loves the very things
that hate her
and is buried by the
same blood as her sons

••••••

Applause
(5 from The Haiku Series)

By Paula Ross

Chet Baker
Bare bones of a boy
Raspy whispers tear a heart
Naked horn/stinging

Sarah Vaughan
Sounds of liquid gold
Flowing from her heaven place
As we chant…DIVA

Miles Davis
Gravel voiced guru
Painting rainbow trumpet strokes
Cosmic Chameleon

Betty Carter
Listen in the night…
Far away/Beyond Birdland
Shaman woman scats

Dizzy Gillespie
Oh, ancient father
There are secrets in those cheeks
Tilted toward the sky

(Paula Ross, Venice artist and poet died Dec. 19 – see last month’s Beachhead for details. A memorial for her is being planned.)

•••••

After the rain

By Jim Smith

After the rain
the gulls were flying low
over the boardwalk.
I turned to see
if Philomene was near.
For days the air
had been thick and sweet
like a fragrant jewel.
I thought of you.
Is this how the dead
communicate with the living?
Philomene, our rain maker.
Poems floating in the air.


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