Slouching Toward a Brief Literary History of Southern California
Carol Muske-Dukes is California’s current Poet Laureate, and wrote this essay (link below) on the literary history of southern California in 1997. She writes, “Few of us know the history of Los Angeles. Like most contemporary citizens, we are unaware of an urban past beyond recognition of a well-known landmark or two. In Los Angeles, even the landmarks are forgotten, torn down and built over.” It’s a common enough lament, but as she asserts, “It has been the task of poets to remember.”
She also quotes what was considered Californian lingua imperium by poets first striking out a regional identity in 1932: “desert, forest, ranger, mountains, fruit belt, earthquakes, apricots steaming in copper cauldrons, cable cars, oil derricks, vine grape odors hanging along the road.” Much has changed, but her essay traces a great history of letters, from Ina Coolbrith to Kenneth Rexroth, Bertolt Brecht to Robert Haas.