BOOKS FROM EARLIER TIMES:
Twenty-five years ago, around this time of year, the two biggest collections of my poetry to date were published: ATTITUDE and HOLLYWOOD MAGIC.
I basked in the glow of their reality in my life and in the life of the world, as I saw it then.
And though there are those who even today tell me one of those two books is their favorite of all of mine, and there were those then who said it as well, the fact that neither drew any attention in the form of reviews, even in the alternative press, contributed to an already developing sense of disillusionment with the literary scene and led to my not publishing another book for over a decade—fifteen years to be exact.
But with the perspective of age and a lot more living, I’ve come to appreciate all of it, and especially be grateful for the lovely opportunities I’ve been given in my life to share my creative energy.
So, I thought I’d show you (with the help of a friend’s scanner, gotta get me one of those) what those two books looked like, especially HOLLYWOOD MAGIC since it’s pretty scarce these days.
The publication of these two books was only the second time I used any images of myself on the covers, or anywhere else, in any of my books (there’d been almost twenty by then). I chose the photos and the colors for the covers, pink and gray, because they were my favorite colors in the 1950s. I had a “charcoal gray” suit that I wore a “charcoal gray” shirt and a pink knitted tie with, the kind that had a straight edge at the bottom. I thought I was cool when I wore that to the only eighth-grade graduation party I was invited to.
HOLLYWOOD MAGIC was published by the then L. A. poet Dennis Cooper’s Little Casear press. He took my suggestion for the front and back cover. The photo by rock’n’roll photographer Lynn Goldsmith was taken with one of those motorized still cameras that the pros started using back then, so she could catch my hands mid finger popping.
ATTITUDE was published by Hanging Loose Press, run by a poets collective that included Bob Hershon, Dick Lourie and the late Ron Shreiber. They didn’t take all my suggestions for the cover. Alex Katz agreed to let them use a portrait he painted of me back then as part of a series he did of New York poets. The pink and gray I again suggested were present, but not the way I imagined them (as on HOLLYWOOD MAGIC).
The photo on the back was taken by Edie Baskin, who was the photographer for Saturday Night Live back then, in its early years. She also did a lot of rock-n-roll photographs. I was introduced to her by my then loft mate and love, composer Rain Worthington, whose day job was printing Edie’s photographs for the TV show every week in a darkroom in the loft we shared in “Tribeca” (when it still was sparsely populated with artists and dancers and etc. living there mostly illegally) often coloring them by hand in that way that made them so distinct at the opening of the show. She also sometimes shot the show when Edie was out of town.
I had just turned forty and moved to L. A. when these two big books came out, and I stepped on a few toes in my enthusiasm and appreciation of what seemed like such good fortune at the time, behaving like I thought it was my destiny. Until I became disappointed at the lack of any reviews for them, although there were a few mentions of how I had “sold out” to Hollywood here and there in the alternative press.
From the perspective of twenty-five years later, I’m delighted that these great ladies chose to photograph me gratis and let me use the result of their work on my books and elsewhere, and that the publishers were willing to publish these two big collections of poetry and prose, and grateful that I had that moment in the ring light, if not the spot light, of attention from people I cared about and admired for their own work, as well as readers I didn’t know but was happy to have, and still am.
Life sure is a trip, ain’t it?