Monday, July 17, 2006
My day job is a reasonably stressful 80-hour per week gig as a market analyst. This little sabbatical - three weeks added to my usual vacation - is in some ways the longest break I've taken since 1977, the last time I was unemployed for any length of time, longer even than what I took for either of my eye surgeries or the birth of my twins. It took two weeks and two days for me to stop dreaming about work. Last night I dreamt instead about the sort of electoral work I used to do as a volunteer with the Democratic Socialists of America in San Francisco in the early 1980s. We lost a number of the battles at the time, but won the wars longterm. On Saturday I visited a friend in the City who has been able to rent in the same building now for over 20 years because of rent control.
Another friend gave me some of the programs from last fall's "Litquake" event, a commemoration of the Gallery Six reading in 1955 that kicked off the poetry reading scene in this country and debuted Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl." I was taken aback at just how few of the 250-plus readers involved in a week's worth of events there I would have ever considered going to hear in person, perhaps as few as ten. It definitely looked like some kind of detente between the remnants of the Beat Scene (now, save for an occasional original like Michael McClure, a thoroughly sentimental phenomenon of historical re-enactors who might as well be dressing up as Civil War soldiers on the weekend) and the local version of the trade publishers' pet projects. Since San Francisco has only a tenuous relationship to the trade scene, that side of the equation seemed especially random and pointless.
What did this have to do with the scene at the Gallery Six? If anything, it was an ironic copy of the very world to which the Beats proposed themselves as an alternative. As Pogo used to say, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
When I looked at the list, I tried to figure out just how many participants might be in Stephanie Young's new anthology, Bay Poetics? Less than five certainly, maybe less than two. If you want to see what is happening in the Bay Area, Bay Poetics is a much better place to turn.