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George Hitchcock Memorial Poetry Reading & Art Show Saturday, Carnegie Oxnard

June 18, 2011

Today I am joining other area poets to celebrate the poetry and art of George Hitchcock at the Carnegie Museum in downtown Oxnard. The reading goes from 2-4pm; the show The Wounded Alphabet: A Life in Words and Art remembering the art of poet George Hitchcock from the Collection of Jackson Wheeler will be up for awhile (depicted is an example of George ‘s work).

I will be reading four of Hitchcock’s poems including “Lying Now in the New Grass” from his collection The Dolphin with the Revolver in His Teeth which organizer Jackson Wheeler kindly lent to me.

While a few of the participants met George, most knew him by reputation as the publisher of the influential literary journal of the 1960s, Kayak. The youtube video above shows the wonderfully colorful and imaginative covers over the years. The video shows all 64 covers of the legendary poetry journal Kayak, edited and published by George Hitchcock from 1964-1984. Video first shown at “Kayak at the Confluence: A Tribute to George Hitchcock” which took place March 18-19, 2011 in St. Louis. .Photo of George Hitchcock at his press by Jim Hair. Covers by a number of artists, including George Hitchcock, John Digby, Philip Kuznicki, Laura Beasoliel, Karen Rasco and others. Video by Liz Hughes Wiley.

I did know George personally, although not well. Hitchcock, who died September 4, 2010 at 96, was my first adviser at UC Santa Cruz.

When I went up the stairs at Porter College (College 5) for our first meeting in September 1985, I thought they had it all wrong. He was obviously some crazy poet type. And very theatrical, a performer.

At the time, I had just finished backpacking from Mexico to the California-Oregon border, with plans to continue to Canada. I was writing an environmental novel. In what ways was he a good match to advise me?

Only later, and after switching from Porter to Kresge College and advisers to Page Stegner (son of Wallace) and Al Young, did  I see the wisdom of their original choice of adviser to me.

I was an editor of my school newspapers, one who enjoyed the layout and design as well as the writing.  George published a beautiful hand-made magazine, which he wrote, edited, designed, and produced. Later in life, I published over 3 dozen broadsides in ArtLife, a publication in many ways similar to Kayak.

I sold and recited poetry at the Rennaissance Faires and performed in community college theater.  George too was a performer.

But I wasn’t a poet and had no interest in poetry. Then. Not until my final year in grad school did I start writing poetry, and then only under duress. I would never have guessed back then that I would become a performance poet or a published one, with a collection of my own of 315 experiment poetry coming out earlier this year.

I wonder how my life would have gone differently had I been more open to his role as advisor instead of jumping out of his “kayak.”

PS If you can’t make this afternoon readings but want some poetry with your art, attend the Arcade Poetry Series tonight with guest poets  Patty Seyburn & Gabrielle LeMay 7 pm in the Museum.

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