By Brian Dunlap
I learned yesterday that Los Angeles poet Holly Prado died last week at age 81. I never met her, and the only poems of hers that I’ve read were those included in the L.A. poetry anthology Wide Awake, but of course I knew of her. In the course of compiling my webite’s list of weekly events I’d notice her name, usually as part of a reading at Beyond Baroque. She was one of the old guard and began publishing poems in the early 1970s. In compiling my list of local literary presses for Los Angeles I stumbled upon the press/publishing cooperative she co-founded with her husband, the poet and actor Harry Northrup in 1990.
L.A. Poet and Long Beach State professor Bill Mohr posted a nice remembrance of Holly Prado to his blog on Friday. At one point he says: “In one of her poems, Holly invoked the presence of poets both living and dead as our most cherished companions in the imaginative journey. ‘Why go on without such a family?’ The first time I read that line I was immediately struck with the full force of its pertinent acuity. Holly was one of the Great Aunts in the family of poetry, nourishing so many of us with her poems, her prose, and her wise teaching. Our family of poets, especially in Southern California, has suffered an enormous loss.”
Poet and UCLA Extension Writers’ Program instructor Laurel Ann Bogen posted her own words of remembrance to Facebook on Friday, saying in part: “Should you crave some reading material worth the time you spend reading it, I want to recommend any book that [Prado] has written…I looked up to her as someone who made it…Holly showed up when needed…There were years where I was in the hospital more than I was out of it. Holly,” even, “(Harry, Michael C. Ford) came to visit every day. They brought me poetry books to read. They talked to me from the heart and listened to mine.” She added that Holly Prado and Harry Northrup’s marriage was “[d]eep, true, long-time, profound.”
May Holly Prado’s work continue to keep her memory alive. The following is a book review by Sanora Bartels that I found on Prado’s book, oh Salt/oh Desiring Hand, published on The Original Los Angeles Writers Group website:
Holly Prado’s latest book of poetry Oh, Salt / Oh, Desiring Hand from Cahuenga Press takes its title from Part Two of the book and a line of her poem Herbs Oh Ancient Oh Tomorrow, a reminder of the forever and yet ephemeral nature of that which is the very thread of this book – this body we call life or more exact, this life we experience as a body. Not just any life though – not a life spent crimping and saving money for an imagined comfortable retirement, not a life of compromise – but rather, a life of daily choosing art, and, even then, it is perhaps not so much a choice as an imperative, and with it comes a trade-off – if this book is the result of that trade, then I thank the poet for her generosity.
I have praised Prado’s (and her husband Harry Northup’s) work in the past for its easy intimacy, its ability to invite me into her world with her husband, cats and neighbors. I also praised her previous book from one to the next for creating room at the fire for shared experience. This book takes both skill sets to new levels.
One of my favorite poems actually appears on the dedication page – Husband Murmuring is an ode to Northup and for the poetry they continue to share:
I hear “solar” I hear “arm” I hear my husband who’s
sitting on the bed in the bedroom reading his poetry
out loud to himself to all of us I hear poetry not as
what our culture hears as incomprehensible I hear
Harry’s soft voice reading himself how lucky we are
This soft reminder of what we hold, what we have held since a childhood of sounding out vowels is sustained throughout each section of the first half of this book. Having said that, I have to acknowledge that this is not a sentimental look back to halcyon days. Prado’s verse looks unflinchingly at self and aging and its inevitable losses. In the first section of the book My Career (2008-2009) I am struck by the very first poem – Single-string Lyre, in it we meet her young neighbor:
… She’s been away all night –
her lover’s house – and so
the world does lift itself again
in flight and sex; instinct making
its way home, unlocking its familiar door.
It is the recognition of spring on a chilly autumn day; autumn, the poet’s favorite season and with it come reminders of winter. Read Rest of Book Review Here