What moved you to write poetry?
From 1963-1968, I studied Method acting with Frank Corsaro in Manhattan. In Method acting, you learn to use yourself. You use sense memories to evoke emotion and you can also go back in your life to recreate private moments. Emotion is bound up in the senses — sense memories. You learn how to relax and how
to concentrate among other things. I was doing a scene with Leland Hickman. Hickman was a poet who had poetry published in the Hudson Review. We were rehearsing our scene downtown in his Greenwich Village apartment. This was in 1966. I looked around and noticed that he had one bookcase filled with nothing but poetry books. I had always gotten good grades in school: A’s in English and Theatre. I was president of the Honor Society. I always loved reading. Leland encouraged me to read poetry and begin writing my own. He gave me the Grove Press anthology, The New American Poetry, edited by Donald Allen. It covered poetry from 1945 to 1960 — the Beat Poets –Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Gregory Corso, and the Black Mountain Poets. When I read the anthology and saw these people writing from their own personal experiences, I realized you didn’t have to be an intellectual or a professor to write poetry, you could write from your own memories, from who you are. That was an important ingredient.
The other ingredient came when I was supposed to do two plays and a film that same year. All three fell through. As a result I had all this emotion inside me, so it had to come out. I was living in a three-and-a-half-room, fifth floor walk-up on 25th Street at Tenth Avenue. I wrote for a whole year every morning during the week. From eight till noon I would sit with this card table as my desk and type poems. So that’s what got me started writing poetry. It came out of emotion and the intersection of that anthology.
What brought you and Holly together?
In 1977, Lee Hickman kept telling me how great Feasts, by Holly Prado, was. It sounded inner and circular and too feminine for me. One day, I bought Feasts at Papa Bach, went home and read it and fell in love with Holly’s writing — it was precise and loving and lucid — she had so much warmth for women and community. I called her. We met. I fell in LOVE with her. Her poetry has depth, mystery, luminosity. She is my heart. We married.
Cahuenga Press was founded in 1989 in Los Angeles. Cahuenga Press is owned,financed and operated by its poet-members James Cushing, Phoebe MacAdams Ozuna, Harry E. Northup and Holly Prado Northup. Our common goal is to create fine books of poetry by poets whose work we admire and respect; to make poetry actual in the world in ways which honor both individual creative freedom and cooperative support.
Recently, we published our 18th poetry book, Pinocchio’s Revolution, by James Cushing, Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo, California, for 2009-2010. Jim, Holly, Phoebe and I have worked hard for the press and cooperated with each other. I love the poetry of Holly, Phoebe and Jim. Cahuenga Press (www.cahuengapress.com) is a blessing.
Could you talk about the form in your last published book, Red Snow Fence?
The front cover image of Red Snow Fence is an old wooden fence, bent and broken at places, still standing, an asymmetrical image with density and mystery. The red snow fence gathers, holds, provides shelter — it holds memory, work, youth, love, loss, learning. The first two-thirds of the book exist in real time, have real internal and external worlds; the last third comes out of inner images — images of the Midwest landscape, and “trans-parent wings with emerald,” “sunflower fire,” “burning above chalice,” “recluse of light,” are poem titles juxtaposed with “home” and “harvest,” which are also poem titles whose poems are inner visions out of time. Red Snow Fence has a transforming journey. The change came out of an emotional sickness, a sickness of the psyche, a vulnerability, a surrendering to the unconscious — these poems were written in the middle of the night. Direct from sleep to writing — no TV, no newspaper, no listening to people talk, no reading — just sitting patiently, and writing — each poem printed in a notebook, 2 pages each — typing up the poem in the morning. Being blessed by the Creative. Faithfully and patiently writing down the images. Red Snow Fence: a gathering of what has fallen. Writing poetry — getting an ascent out of the descent.