Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center
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George Drury Smith started publishing the magazine Beyond Baroque in 1968 from a storefront in Venice, which soon became a meeting place with workshops and space for readings, art, and music. Although 10,000 copies of the first issue were printed offset, subsequent issues were printed in-house using a four-color process. Later the magazines were printed on bound newsprint and distributed free. The workshops, over the years, have generated numerous writers, presses, and some of the leading poets in Los Angeles. The facilitators have included founders Joseph Hansen and John Harris, Leland Hickman, Bob Flanagan, John Thomas, Will Alexander, Jeff McDaniel, Philomene Long, Simone Forti, Sarah Maclay, liz gonzalez, and others. The Center’s first librarian was Exene Cervenka of the "X", which was formed when Exene and John Doe met at the Wednesday Night Poetry Workshop. Some of the LA artist Mike Kelley’s first performances were at the Center, and the cover of one of the Center’s early issues of Beyond Baroque, featuring an array of experimental filmmakers, was displayed in the Pompidou’s 2006 show on LA art. The Center's reading series, featuring over 200 writers a year, has included such names as John Ashbery; Amiri Baraka; Raymond Carver; Jerry Casale from the band Devo; Wanda Coleman; Ed Dorn; Allen Ginsberg; Leland Hickman; Philip Levine; Lewis MacAdams; Viggo Mortensen; Harry Northup, original member of the Wednesday night poetry workshop; Alice Notley; Graeme Revell, from the band SPK; Patti Smith; James Tate; V Vale, who formed a tabloid format zine focusing on various counterculture and underground topics named RE/Search Publications documenting punk subculture; and CK Williams, among thousands of others both famous and infamous.
Beyond Baroque archives and sells chapbooks, small press poetry and experimental fiction. An index of the chapbook archive is online. Center series include experimental music, film screenings, and visual art, including the Les Femmes Underground International Film Festival. Beyond Baroque has facilitated or organized festivals, including the citywide World Beyond Festivals, with the World Stage and other LA organizations, and the Beyond Text Festivals, with LACMA and others. Its yearly event with the LA Poetry Festival, the Younger Poets, has consistently presented the best emerging voices from around the Los Angeles region at the Downtown Central Library In addition to on-site work, the Center has curated and organized permanent public art projects highlighting Los Angeles poets, including the Poetry Walls on the Venice Boardwalk and the lobby of the Junipero Serra State Office Building downtown.
Publications that have come out of the Center, some originally through its typesetting facilities, include Momentum Press, edited by Bill Mohr; Little Caesar, edited by programs curator Dennis Cooper; a series edited by David Trinidad; the magazine FOREHEAD, edited by Benjamin Weissman; a readings curator; and more. The Center’s imprint was launched in 1998 by Fred Dewey and has published fourteen books, including works by Nancy Agabian, Ammiel Alcalay, April Durham, Simone Forti, Benjamin Hollander, Philomene Long, K. Curtis Lyle, Olive Martin, Majid Naficy, and Eve Wood, along with anthologies from both the Wednesday Workshop, the World Stage, and several magazines featuring challenging writing and art from around the country and the world, including the recent TRUTH ETC, with works by Ammiel Alcalay, Wanda Coleman, Christoph Dreager, Sesshu Foster, Jean-Luc Godard, Jack Hirschman, Yan Li, David Meltzer, Diane di Prima, and more.
The Center’s staff and board have historically included writers and artists, from the organization's founding by Smith, an experimental fiction writer, in 1968, through key programming figures, including Dennis Cooper, Manazar Gamboa, Amy Gerstler, Dennis Philips, Benjamin Weissman, Tosh Berman and the current director, Richard Modiano.
The Center is based near the beach in Los Angeles’s old Venice City Hall, built in 1906. It offers an extensive program of public readings, free workshops, a project room, bookstore, publications, and chapbook/small press archive.
Beyond Baroque Books
The Center launched its own imprint, Beyond Baroque Books, in 1998, dedicated to emerging, overlooked, out of print, and experimental writing, as well as the history and legacy of experimental and alternative writing, poetry, and the arts in Los Angeles.
- Beyond Baroque, Venice’s Unique Poetry Center By Harry E. Northup
- "Yan Li" (PDF). wmingart.com. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
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