Is there such a thing as Los Angeles poetry? How do we assess a poem about a city as elusive of identity as Los Angeles? What features do poems about this unique urban landscape of diverse peoples and terrains have in common? Poetry Los Angeles is the first book to gather and analyze poems about sites as different as Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice beaches, the freeways, downtown, South Central and East L.A. Laurence Goldstein presents original commentary on six decades of poets who have contributed to the iconography and poetics of Los Angeles literature, including Elizabeth Alexander, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Dorothy Barresi, Victoria Chang, Wanda Coleman, Dana Gioia, Joy Harjo, James Harms, Robert Hass, Eloise Klein Healy, Garrett Hongo, Suzanne Lummis, Paul Monette, Harryette Mullen, Carol Muske-Dukes, Frederick Seidel, Gary Soto, Timothy Steele, Diane Wakoski, Derek Walcott, and Charles Harper Webb. Forty poems are reproduced in their entirety.
One chapter is devoted to Charles Bukowski, the celebrity face of the city’s poetry. Other chapters discuss the ways that poets explore “Interiors” and “Exteriors” throughout the cityscape. Goldstein also provides ample connections to the novels, films, art, and politics of Southern California. In clear prose, Poetry Los Angeles examines the strategies by which poets make significant places meaningful and memorable to readers of every region of the U.S. and elsewhere.
“This book reflects a keen imagination open to Los Angeles as one of the most fluid and dynamic chronotopes of contemporary urban life. Goldstein is a remarkable and astute reader of poetry, from rap lyrics to the ‘high culture’ poetry of Carol Muske-Dukes and Derek Walcott, and his finely tuned sentences intermingle astute cultural observation with a deft sense of dispassionate humor.”
—Bill Mohr, author of Hold-Outs: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance, 1948–1992
Cover illustration: Wayne Thiebaud, Urban Freeways, 1979. Art © Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
Laurence Goldstein is the author of The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History (1994), four books of poems, including A Room in California (2005), and seven edited or co-edited volumes of cultural commentary. His latest book explores both the city where he spent his first 22 years and a vibrant American tradition of topographical verse. Poetry Los Angeles sets the agenda for twenty-first century studies of urban poetry in general, and the literature of Los Angeles in particular.