April 2008 – The Venice Beat Poets – The Great River Outside The Mainstream – James Ryan Morris

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By Shanna Moore 

Winter of 1959 and the boardwalk was bare, riding my bicycle along the boardwalk from Santa Monica down the coast. I’d stop at the Carousel, a gay bar on the Venice boardwalk where all the dudes and dudettes did a line dance…I loved joining in. One day this guy with the eyes of the ocean was sitting on a table watching me dance…our eyes met and never moved away, this poet taking me in as I was digging those eyes. Later we talked and walked, my bicycle between us, from Venice to Santa Monica. He just blew in from New York, this man of many words; I had a suitcase full of poetry I had written and never showed anyone and I wanted to show him.

This was only the beginning; we were constantly together and finally he hocked his typewriter and rented the whole basement of what is now the Morrison, just kitty corner from the Gas House where I worked as the art director. We lived in the basement, Tony Scibella, and Bruce Boyd Jimmy and myself. We rented four apartments, two were water-logged at high tide; 20 dollars a month, what a deal. 

the rhythm
of the beat poetry
wail of a soprano sax

Billie Holliday was Jimmy’s muse – he wrote for her, he wrote of her, he dried her tears and set them to paper; the lady, the inhumanity of the men in her life, man and the system and their wars, the blues . Jimmy blew bare fist to bone but softly, he cared. Tony was softer still and Stu bellowed it out. The Venice West, the other end of the tram ride, had more poetry… fingers snappin’ instead of applause…one hand clapping… so the establishment wouldn’t shut us down..The words a warning – would they listen?

the first drumming
echoes across
the sands of time

Jimmy wrote a story for Hollywood of Billie but they weren’t ready for such stark reality. Instead the story Diana Ross played was so far from what he knew and saw. He lived in her neighborhood, he new her blues, he felt her pain, he lived for Billie Holiday and it was her essence that traveled the cobblestone breezeway, her song. He wrote the blues, blowing ever so soft the fragrance of a white gardenia.
We were all destined to meet, the Lady brought us there, to cry out to each other, the poets with their ax’s honed, their words like acid rain, their humanity showing…break/straight.. ah yes ringside with the off the wall poets and the lady. Man and the system and their wars..the blues and reaching for the stars..touching the face of god..all part of the movement..these poets of Venice set out to change.. …Jimmy blew

Lawrence Lipton
sold us out
the tourists came

We exploded into the minds of many. They came wanting to see these bards of protest, huarache’s flappin’ on the cobblestone breezeway. Tourists who rode the tram pay a dime see the freaks. From the Gas House to the Venice West they rode, we laughed at them and walked, our dimes were for a cup of coffee and a table to sit and write.

bare self to bone
in search
of the answers

I’ve planted a Koa tree in your honor, oh Venice poets,
on the top of the mountain in Hawaii next to madam Pele
“The Poet Tree”
where sun and mist live
and the tradewinds blow.
I hang poetry on the limbs
and sometimes they blow away
words on the wind.

I always said the eyes have it, your eyes and the fetch of a wave. You said, “it’s the legs, baby, riding through my dreams”..what a winter of love and no one but us on the boardwalk, the poets waitin’ on the pome…a few locals and the surf and sand…

so many words
inspired by the lady
dance through the pages of time
the “Lady” walked with us…
held our hands
sang with us.
The Venice Beat Poets
–The Great River Outside the Mainstream –
JAMES RYAN MORRIS
By Shanna Moore
Winter of 1959 and the boardwalk was bare, riding my bicycle along the boardwalk from Santa Monica down the coast. I’d stop at the Carousel, a gay bar on the Venice boardwalk where all the dudes and dudettes did a line dance…I loved joining in. One day this guy with the eyes of the ocean was sitting on a table watching me dance…our eyes met and never moved away, this poet taking me in as I was digging those eyes. Later we talked and walked, my bicycle between us, from Venice to Santa Monica. He just blew in from New York, this man of many words; I had a suitcase full of poetry I had written and never showed anyone and I wanted to show him.
This was only the beginning; we were constantly together and finally he hocked his typewriter and rented the whole basement of what is now the Morrison, just kitty corner from the Gas House where I worked as the art director. We lived in the basement, Tony Scibella, and Bruce Boyd Jimmy and myself. We rented four apartments, two were water-logged at high tide; 20 dollars a month, what a deal.

the rhythm
of the beat poetry
wail of a soprano sax

Billie Holliday was Jimmy’s muse – he wrote for her, he wrote of her, he dried her tears and set them to paper; the lady, the inhumanity of the men in her life, man and the system and their wars, the blues . Jimmy blew bare fist to bone but softly, he cared. Tony was softer still and Stu bellowed it out. The Venice West, the other end of the tram ride, had more poetry… fingers snappin’ instead of applause…one hand clapping… so the establishment wouldn’t shut us down..The words a warning – would they listen?

the first drumming
echoes across
the sands of time

Jimmy wrote a story for Hollywood of Billie but they weren’t ready for such stark reality. Instead the story Diana Ross played was so far from what he knew and saw. He lived in her neighborhood, he new her blues, he felt her pain, he lived for Billie Holiday and it was her essence that traveled the cobblestone breezeway, her song. He wrote the blues, blowing ever so soft the fragrance of a white gardenia.
We were all destined to meet, the Lady brought us there, to cry out to each other, the poets with their ax’s honed, their words like acid rain, their humanity showing…break/straight.. ah yes ringside with the off the wall poets and the lady. Man and the system and their wars..the blues and reaching for the stars..touching the face of god..all part of the movement..these poets of Venice set out to change.. …Jimmy blew

Lawrence Lipton
sold us out
the tourists came

We exploded into the minds of many. They came wanting to see these bards of protest, huarache’s flappin’ on the cobblestone breezeway. Tourists who rode the tram pay a dime see the freaks. From the Gas House to the Venice West they rode, we laughed at them and walked, our dimes were for a cup of coffee and a table to sit and write.

bare self to bone
in search
of the answers

I’ve planted a Koa tree in your honor, oh Venice poets,
on the top of the mountain in Hawaii next to madam Pele
“The Poet Tree”
where sun and mist live
and the tradewinds blow.
I hang poetry on the limbs
and sometimes they blow away
words on the wind.

I always said the eyes have it, your eyes and the fetch of a wave. You said, “it’s the legs, baby, riding through my dreams”..what a winter of love and no one but us on the boardwalk, the poets waitin’ on the pome…a few locals and the surf and sand…

so many words
inspired by the lady
dance through the pages of time
the “Lady” walked with us…
held our hands
sang with us.

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