GV6 THE ODYSSEY
by Pat Hartman
I was a Venice virgin
one night to a poetry event at Beyond Baroque, back when it was on West
Washington Boulevard. Wasn't that a great introduction to Venice? It
was Alice through the looking-glass, a whole different world, and this
movie reminds me of the excitement and novelty of that long-ago arrival
in an unknown country. What a piece of work is GV6
THE ODYSSEY !
Filmed in the intimate settings of the poets'
own homes, or in natural surroundings, interview segments alternate
with the reading of shorter or longer bits of poetry. There are lots
of interesting, quite agreeable visual effects. The whole thing has
an amazing unity, considering all the different places where it was
shot. Bob Bryan and everyone else involved in the production did a hellacious
Of course, I'd be crazy about anything with Wanda
Coleman in it. What I like best about GV6, in fact,
is that it's packed with Venice poets. Coleman has been on the scene
since the Beat days, and her poem "His Old Flame, Lady Venice"
is definitive. There's photographer Rod Bradley - check out his business
card from the early 80s, with the motto "Neither master
nor slave." Luis Campos joined the original Venice Poetry Workshop
in 1969. Steve Goldman has run Venice Poetry Readings in the New Library
and the Old Jail. Jim Natal and Jeanette Clough do the HyperPoets reading
series at the Rose Café.
Most or all of the other 31 poets represented
here also have Venice connections of some kind, showing up time after
time at Beyond Baroque and other venerable venues, leading workshops,
publishing in the Free Venice Beachhead, and so on. The bearded
witch of Ocean Park, francEye, is known as the female Charles Bukowski.
Lynne Thompson is a self-described "recovering attorney,"
and Marie Lecrivain is "writer in residence at her apartment."
For the most fascinating reader in the group, I'd have to pick Chungmi
The comments of the poets are grouped together
by theme, suggesting that they were asked to elaborate on at least some
of the same questions, but no questions are ever heard. The comments
are made in such a way that knowing the questions is unnecessary. It's
a technique you have to have tried yourself in order to realize how
much skill went into the editing.
You can tell that one of the suggested topics
was the relationship between poetry and dreams, and another, teaching
the young. Several of these poets teach at the college level, others
are or have been involved with introducing elementary school children
to poetry. Steve Goldman speaks of the need to "evoke poetry from
the kids, not to teach it." Wanda Coleman addresses young poets
with some very interesting thoughts.
Brendan Constantine, who comes from a theatrical
family, talks about how his father asked him the equivalent of "What
are you going to be when you grow up?" Momentarily relieved to
find that his son had no ambition to be an actor, the father was instantly
dismayed when the answer proved to be "poet." How had young
Brendan managed to hit upon the one career more hopeless than acting,
where even the successful are bums, and the unsuccessful are something
This movie and its accompanying extras make up
a motherlode of quotable remarks and observations. I notice this in
particular because I collect quotations and present them organized by topic. Here's an
example of my kind of quotation, from Shahe Mankerian:
"The minute that we have the notion that
there is such a thing as taboo, I think the writer is obligated, and
I underline that word obligated, to write about those issues."
Johnny Masuda, whose work is described as "not
for the faint of heart," writes about stuff like being raped as
a child. His demeanor can be offputting. "Johnny's the guy that
you don't want to come knocking at your door at midnight, because he's
not bringing good news." Still, he has nice eyes.