The L.A. Poetry Scene

In his brief, condescending and exasperatingly contradictory review of “Poetry Loves Poetry” (The Book Review, Aug. 17), James Bartruff has done a disservice not only to the poets anthologized in that work but also to the L.A. poetry scene as a whole. As an article by Nancy Shiffrin in the Feb. 23 Calendar section pointed out, the L.A. poetry scene is lively and growing. Los Angeles has become the home of a large number of interesting and important voices, many of whom are represented in “Poetry Loves Poetry.”

One learns from the review, however, next to nothing about this hotbed of excellence. Instead, we get a cavalcade of put-downs and faint praise. The fact that one of the poets is a “housewife with talent and a bug to express” is about as relevant to the quality of her work as the fact that T. S. Eliot was a bank clerk was to his.

Bartruff also overgeneralizes in order to make a point, lumping, for instance, artists as different as Wanda Coleman and Ron Koertge under the derogatory rubric of performance artist. Perhaps most important, he minimizes the power of the open style advocated by most of the poets in the anthology, and ignores the subtlety, range, and power inherent in the narrative voice.

Of course, one may quibble with the editor about certain choices; the work, for instance, is short on local black, Latino, and Asian poets, but that is not to minimize its importance. “Poetry Loves Poetry” is an excellent and entertaining introduction to Los Angeles’ contemporary poets.