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"What a long strange journey it's been..."


Ten years ago, I was involved with When Words Collide, a fantastic concept, but an ill-advised operation.  I had worked as an advisor and public relations person for Chase Frank, a person who proved to be, at the very least, delusional.  To put it simply, she was just plain nuts.  I worked for her on this project, the much ballyhooed, Long Beach Poetry Festival.  I worked without pay for three, long months – with the understanding that I would be paid at the end of the festival. 

But it was not to be.  Chase screwed everyone involved.  And out of the chaos that ensued was born the Lummox Journal, though in those early days the Lummox was more a double sided rant against WWC.  As I remember it, the first two months featured highly critical reviews of the fiasco, as well as a listing of things I was selling in order to make the rent: my TV, my library (a “friend” of mine was more than happy to take advantage of my misfortune and relieve me of half my books for about $100) and my CD collection (which I sold half to Fingerprints down here in Long Beach).  These were dark days for me.  But, as is often the case, out of my anger came something else, something beautiful…this magazine that you hold in your hands. 

I can’t remember what the December issue was like, but somewhere around that time the idea that this could become something besides a therapeutic rant, was born.  I was running around with this guy named Jay Alamares at the time and I think it was his idea to start a mag where we could publish our own stuff without the usual BS we had encountered in the alternative/underground small press.  I think Jay was secretly hoping this would be like the magazine that Charles Bukowski and Doug Blazek had started back in the sixties (Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns).  Jay was a fantastic writer in those days and many saw him as the heir apparent to Bukowski.  He was also a real handful, in trouble most of the time.   

So in January of ’96, the first real Lummox was published.  It featured an interview with Linda Albertano, a performance artist who specializes in spoken word (she has most recently been performing with Laurel Ann Bogen and Suzanne Lummis as “Nearly Fatal Women”), a brief essay explaining what I hoped to accomplish with the LJ, some calendar items (readings, etc) and Jay’s first column called The Last Page.  I think I published a hundred copies and sold enough copies to pay for the issue.  I also began soliciting subscriptions because I knew the Lummox would have to pay for itself since neither Jay nor I had much income to begin with.    

During the first year, Lummox began to take shape.  It gradually became an interview oriented magazine which featured David Holmes – a young San Pedro artist (Feb.), Richard Stephens – a painter friend of mine (Mar.), Steve Abee – a writer/poet whom I had met via WWC (April), Gerald Locklin – a poet/educator who is still a respected member of the Bukowski faithful and a prolific poet (May), Arthur Rimbaud – a spoof interview with the famous dead French poet conducted by Jay (June), the first in a series of tributes to Charles Bukowski which featured an interview conducted by Michael Andrews, as well as a double sided broadside with the poetry of Gerald Locklin, Steve Abee, Scott Wannberg, myself, Jay Alamares and S. A. Griffin (Bukowski Remembered #1) (Aug.), Dren MacDonald – singer/songwriter/guitar player with one of my favorite bands at the time, Giant Ant Farm (Sept.), Haley Mitchell – poet/publisher of Shiela-na-gig, a poetry magazine out of San Diego (Oct.), Bill Shields – a poet who specialized in the horrors of the Viet Nam war (Nov. – I remember how impressed Jay was with Shields’ writing and how he thought this was so cool that we had an interview with him.  I often wonder how impressed Jay would be now, knowing that Shields lied about being in Nam.), and a tag team interview with Jay and myself (Dec.). 

It was mostly fun and games that first year; but I did manage to gain some 61 subscribers by year’s end; granted several were “family”, but still, an impressive start.  Several of these first subscribers are still on the roster! 

1997 saw further changes in design and format, thanks to the fabulous Mr. Yazoota.  Prior to the June issue, the Lummox had been a true ‘cut and paste’ affair, with me creating the masters by gluing the columns and artwork onto 11 by 17 inch pieces of paper…a primitive version of the “magazine” format of the last issue (May – August 2005).  In May of ’97, I was approached by a guy I knew through the band, Go Figure, by the name of Yazoota.  He suggested that he could change the look of the LJ for the better. At that point I had been doing the whole magazine “in house” and was skeptical about relinquishing control, but Yazoota convinced me to give him a shot; and brother, what a shot it was!  He created a mock issue using the January ’97 issue as a source.  The new version of Lummox was in digest form, with superimposed lettering and high-resolution photographs (all virtually impossible techniques for me to create back then).  It was tight and tasty…I would have been a fool to turn down his help. 

A little background on the generous Yazoota; he does layouts for a living. Thus he’s able to create this very professional looking magazine when his other projects at work slow down.  If you’re a gun enthusiast, you may have seen (without knowing it) some of his layouts in Guns and Ammo.  So, I think Yazoota is balancing his karma by doing the LJ. 

Another change in ’97 was that I began doing more interviews via mail and email.  I found that transcribing from tape recordings was very tedious (being a one-fingered typist and all) and sometimes the interviewee questioned the accuracy.  With a written questionnaire, there was no problem with accuracy.  It also put the onus on the person being interviewed to get it done (sometimes the logistics of getting together long enough to cover all the questions was not easy to arrange – playing phone tag, etc; I remember driving up to the Bay Area about this time last year to interview Gerry Nicosia, only to find that we could never seem to get together, and he knew I was making a special trip).

The second year of the Lummox Journal started with a bang with an interview with the poet Laurel Ann Bogen, who has been writing since the early 70s (Jan.); followed by Frank Moore, a performance artist and explorer of human sexuality, all the while being wheel chair bound, the victim of Cerebral Palsy (Feb.); Merilene M. Murphy, a local poet and political activist (Mar.); Mark Weber, poet/publisher of Zerx Press, out of Albuquerque, NM/jazz aficionado and radio personality (April); Local San Pedro painter, Toni Di Angelis (May); rockers, Leather Hymen, a band from L. A. (June); painter and teacher, Arzu Arda Kosar (July); the second Bukowski Remembered Issue featuring poets Gerald Locklin, S. A. Griffin, Scott Wannberg, Marshall Werner, Fred Voss, Laura Joy Lustig, Joan Jobe Smith (Aug.); the seminal and, as it turns out, life changing interview with Albuquerque poet Todd Moore (Sept.); Paul Krassner, political wag and writer who also published The Realist for over thirty years (Oct.); sex worker cum therapist from San Francisco, Carol Queen (Nov.); and finally a mock interview with one of my favorite singers, Billie Holiday, created song lyrics made famous by her (Dec.). 

Things were really rolling along by 1998.  I moved out of San Pedro and became a Long Beach resident.  I published the first Lummox Journal poetry anthology, DUFUS! (destined to later become an online poetry zine), and learned what a fiasco that can be.  It was an El Niño year, nearly as bad as the one we had this year.  Somewhere during the first months of the year Jay Alamares left for parts unknown, never to be seen again.  It was an odd mixture of sadness and relief.  

1998 started with an interview with the queen of small press poetry, Lyn Lifshin (Jan.); poet/actor/gad about town S. A. Griffin opined on the poetry scene, Bukowski and his role as a shaker and a mover (Feb.); Sacramento Poetry Center director, Luke Breit talked about the state of the arts (Mar.); the first of what would become an annual April All Poetry issue, was published (it had become necessary since I was receiving more poetry than I could print in each issue – 3 or 4 poems per); former L. A. Weekly columnist and writer Micheal Ventura turned in a pissy interview (May); the charming dancer and interim director of Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro, Kaesa Footracer (June); E.A. Lynch, a graphic artist exploring the realms of computer generated art (July); the third annual Bukowski Remembered Issue featuring poems and articles by myself, John Bennett, Lyn Lifshin, Catfish McDaris, Mike Meloan, Joan Jobe Smith, Fred Voss, John Gardiner, Gerald Locklin, Todd Moore, B. Z. Niditch, Scott Wannberg and the Buk, himself (Aug.); local painter Wade Hammond (Sept.); a double interview with Greg Pickens, the director of Artists Reaching Kids – ARK – and a fine local muralist, and Stephanie Serna, founder of ARK, performance artist and teacher at HOPE University (Oct.); Matthew Niblock, poet, singer/songwriter/musician and publisher of Blue Satellite Press (along with Amelie Frank) (Nov.); and another annual issue, the All Reviews #1, with suggestions of books to buy for the holidays (Dec.). 

1999 saw the beginning of the Little Red Book series (LRB for short), which still limps along with nearly fifty titles in the catalog.  Back then, I was publishing them about once a month (hell, I had a lot more energy in those days).  It also saw the beginning of the short-lived Lummox of the Year Award and the first time a woman didn’t start off the new year.  Scott Wannberg, a poet and scat/improv performer, who is a fixture at Dutton’s Books over in West L. A., became the first honoree.  He got a tee shirt and fifty copies of his LRB, Equal Opportunity Sledgehammer. His interview appeared in the January issue, along with essays by myself, Todd Moore and René Diedrich. Errol Miller, a widely published poet from Louisiana, was the Feburary interview, followed by an interview with the poetry/improv/performance group, the Carma Bums (S. A. Griffin, Scott Wannberg, Doug Knott, Mike Mollett and Mike Bruner) in March. The second All Poetry issue follows in April (National Poetry Month) and features poesy by some seventeen poets including Todd Moore, Bill Shields, Larry Jaffe, A. D. Winans, Scott Wannberg, Rick Smith, Laura J. Lustig.  May brought us Weba Garretson, a singer/songwriter and actress, followed by Charles Plymell, poet, essayist, and publisher of, amongst other things, ZAP Comix in June.  Then Bukowski chum and poet in his own right, Mr. San Francisco, A. D. Winans graced the pages in July.  August brought the fourth Bukowski Remembered Issue, which featured Yosana Akiko, myself, Johnnie Baker, Rene Diedrich, Ed Galing, Ed Jamieson, Jr., Gerry Locklin, Philomene Long, Errol Miller, Todd Moore, Jack Saunders, John Thomas, Scott Wannberg and A. D. Winans.  September brought New York poet Linda Lerner followed by found artist and sculptor and Long Beach artist, Rick Frausto in October.  November featured Kristi Martel, singer/songwriter and composer from the Bay Area.  The year ended with the second All Reviews Issue. 

The millennium arrived with much hoopla and kinda through me for a loop.  So for the first time in four years there was no interview in January.  However, the February interview with Tomata Du Plenty, Hollywood club-scene bad boy and painter got things jumping. Clive Matson, poet and writer’s workshop “Let the Crazy Child Write” operator segued nicely into the third All Poetry issue which featured 58 poets and was the biggest LJ to date!  In May, I revised an interview with Todd Moore (from ’97) because he was the Lummox of the Year 2000. June’s interview with B. Z. Niditch, poet/playwright and Jazz violinist was followed in July with cowboy singer and poet, Kell Robertson.  Kell was suggested by both Mark Weber and Todd Moore. He has two noteworthy collections of poetry (The Leveling wind and A Horse Called Desperation).  It was a very good suggestion.  In August, I published the last Bukowski Remembered issue.  I’d heard that Buk had hoped he would live until he was eighty, so it seemed only fitting to end the series then, on what would have been his eightieth birthday.  The issue featured some thirty contributors including Dave Church, Hugh Fox, francEyE, Gerry Locklin, John Macker, myself, Todd Moore, William Taylor, Jr., John Thomas, Scott Wannberg and A. D. Winans.  In September, Tony Moffeit, another poet suggested by Todd Moore provided an insight into his inner workings.  No interview in October, but essays by Joy Buckley and René Diedrich make for some interesting reading.  In November, a revised interview was published with Gerald Locklin, along with essays by Todd Moore and Jack Saunders, and political commentary by Scott Wannberg, Normal and Ed Galing. The third All Reviews Issue ends the year. 

2001 began innocently enough with the new trend (no interview), but contained a fascinating look at the life of Paul Bowles, writer, archivist and expatriate by Mark Terrell. It was serialized in four parts.  There were also essays by Tim Scannell and Doug Holder and a report on my participation in the Second International Bukowski Society Symposium (I actually gave a speech).  Poet Donna Cartelli had a two part interview spread over February and March (which included a great little essay by G. D. McFettridge, on his attempts to get published by various magazines and constantly being rejected for the bizarre reason that he sounded too Faulkneresque, when he had actually sent an excerpt from Faulkner!).  This was followed by the fourth All Poetry issue which featured an amazing 71 poets, the biggest single issue ever!  May introduced the next Lummox of the Year, John Thomas.  He’d been living in Venice (CA) since the 60s and had known many of the Venice Beats, including his life partner Philomene Long Thomas.  John said in his interview, “I haven’t been able to make a living writing.  Just a Life.  Which is the thing that matters.”  Ironically, John would be dead within a year.  He was a great man, and I miss him.  June brought the poet and teacher, Holly Prado, to light.  Her workshops on writing have been so helpful that her students recently put out a book of her poems as an homage to her effect on their lives.  Harry Northup followed in July, appropriate since Harry and Holly are married.  Both of these interviews were suggested by Scott Wannberg.  Harry is a soft-spoken writer who also has acted in some 28 films. Then in August as a sort of nod to Buk, a short fiction issue was published featuring stories by René Diedrich, John Macker, David Kerr, Philomene Long and Robert Caporale.  September, that bloody, awful month, featured an interview with Maggie Jaffe, poet and publisher of Cedar Hill Press.  It also contained an essay by Gerald Locklin and Charles Stetler about Ernest Hemingway.  It was a double issue as I was going to be out of town for most of the month on an epic road trip that would take me from Long Beach, CA to Port Angeles, WA and back and then on to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, NM.  Needless to say, I never made the second leg of the trip.  I was in Port Angeles when the towers fell and beat it back down here, as fast as I could.  I did write a great, long poem about that trip, called RoadKill.  It was a helluva trip. 

November featured an interview with poet and educator, Leslie Monsour, whom I had heard read somewhere earlier that year.  It also featured an essay by Robert Peters on the decline of a west coast ethic in the poetry scene.  The special part of the issue was the double sided broadside which featured  Scott Wannberg, Sean Bergeron, Leslie Monsour, John Macker, Adam Engel, John Knoll and myself laying down our words of sorrow and anger over 9/11.  This was followed by yet another All Reviews issue. 

2002 started with the, now, traditional no interview.  In February I republished the Laurel Ann Bogen interview from January ’97.  March saw a nice interview with Bretton B. Holmes, playwright/poet/writer conducted by subscriber Alex Thiltges.  This was followed by the fifth All Poetry issue.  May introduced Lummox readers to painter/poet Jazz Morgan from Farmington, NM.  June saw experimental jazz composer/musician, J. A. Deane explaining his craft (his “Solodino” CD is really excellent – available thru Mark Weber’s Zerx Records, ABQ, NM).  Jack Grapes turned in an angry response to my questions…He’s been involved with poetry workshops in Barnsdale Park (L. A.) since the 60s.  Then in August, the first All Fiction issue came out, featuring stories by writers. This was followed by an interview with L. A. poetry gadfly and provocateur, Larry Jaffe.  October brought an interview with Philomene Long Thomas conducted by Mary Sands (it was really excerpted from a longer interview).  No interview in November, but essays by Todd Moore, myself, Al Young and Steve Goldman, plus poems by T. R. Barnes, Adam Engle and George W. Shakespeare make for a full issue. And of course the All Reviews issue.  

2003 started with no interviews in January or February, but Todd Moore’s moving Tribute to William Packard (Jan.) and Laura Stamp’s The Business of Running a Successful Small Press (Feb.) certainly made up for it. This was followed by an interview with El Paso, TX poet and teacher, Lawrence Welsh in March and the All Poetry issue, featuring some 40 poets including Mark Weber, Francis LeMoine, Angela Consolo Mankiewicz, T. R. Barnes, Lorine Parks, G. Hagen Hill, Rebbeca Morrison and Leonard J. Cirino.  May-June was a double issue focusing on the book, Poets of the Non-Existent City – Los Angeles in the McCarthy Era, which featured an interview with Estelle Gershgoren Novak, who edited the book.  It featured several of the contributors from the book including Mel Weisburd’s essay THE COASTLINERS the Other Generation of the 50's and was basically an homage to Tom McGrath and these alternate voices to the L.A. Beat scene of the 50s and 60s.  July saw the reprint of the interview with Mark Weber (is there a pattern forming here?) and a conversation between Allen Ginsberg and Philomene Long Thomas. Actually, I felt that the LJ faithful needed to re-read these interviews.  In August, it was the second annual All Fiction issue, featuring Robert Caporale, Irene Horonas, Marc Olmsted, Joe Speer, Yvette Hatrak, Todd Jackson, Robert L. Penick, Suzi Kaplan, Frances LeMoine, Larry Tomoyasu, Lyn Lifshin and myself. September featured an interview with Lyn Lifshin conducted by Laura Stamps; while Nelson Gary and S. A. Griffin mused about invisible poetics and Todd Moore wrote about the price of fame. Then in October I finally got around to interviewing our veteran illustrator, Claudio Parentela.  The issue included lots of Claudio’s drawings and a crayon (which I hoped would inspire the readers to get creative – but the response was weak…oh well). Also Scott Wannberg’s poem, The Possibility of Life, helped make it a solid issue.  November featured an interview with author, poet and playwright, Dan Fante, as well as essays on compulsion by Ellaraine Lockie and Yvette Hatrak.  By December, I had decided to take the LJ to a bi-monthly, so to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new the issue featured only a calendar using a poem I wrote called In Haiku. 

2004 brought many new changes to the Lummox (including a move to my current location – oy so much stuff).  For one thing there were no interviews at all (it seemed I had run out of questions).  Todd Moore’s The Image of Lethal Desire and Jack & Adelle Foley’s essay The Oral put the emphasis on the power of poetic imagery. The Jan-Feb issue also introduced Ed’s Poetry Corner, edited by Ed Jamieson, Jr. our new poetry editor (thank you Ed!  I  had burned out on reading submissions) which featured Jason Van Blaricom, Erik La Prade, John Levin and Krikor Der Hohannesian.  S. A. Griffin’s ode to the late Tony Scibella, former Venice Beat, ended the issue.  Then the March-April issue featured the work of 37 poets including Cathy Barber, H. Lamar Thomas, A. D. Winans and William Morrison.  There were also several book reviews and a letter exchange between disgruntled editors.  May-June featured a moving poem by Gerry Nicosia honoring the passing of Allen Cohen, publisher of The Oracle magazine and the 9/11 poetry anthology, An Eye For an Eye, with Allen Lives.  There were also several reviews and a lengthy ramble by myself on the joys and hazards of poetry readings. Ed’s Poetry Corner ran for several pages!  We were getting the hang of this new format…July-August was special for two reasons: it was our 100th issue and it contained excerpts from the book, LAST CALL: The Legacy of Charles Bukowski, which Lummox Press published in August of 2004. The Sept-Oct issue featured Essays by Todd Moore and Bretton B. Holmes, some more great poetry and another lengthy ramble by yours truly.  Finally, the year was rounded out with essays by Bretton B. Holmes, Leonard J. Cirino and Todd Moore, along with another installment of Ed’ Poetry Corner.  The year ends with a desperate plea for funds/donations (an occasional necessity when subscriptions drop off).  The readership responded generously, thus saving the LJ from certain death.  

2005 started out with an update on the fundraising project (going well).  The issue featured an interview with Leonard J. Cirino conducted by Laura Stamps.  Cirino is a prolific poet and literary bad boy (having pissed off many people over the past thirty years or so), but Laura wanted to present his kinder side.  Essays by Charles Plymell, Bretton B. Holmes and Todd Moore (who weighed in on the merits of Kell Robertson’s new book, The Leveling Wind); Ed’s Poetry Corner and more musings from the old(er) Raindog.  The Mar-April All Poetry issue #8 began with Todd Moore’s essay The Fire and Velocity of the Word, a fitting way to start.  What followed was another great roundup of poetry by the likes of Ed Jamieson, Jr., Scott Wannberg, T. R. Barnes, Robert Roden, Victoria Locke and Douglas Blazek, to name a few.  The next issue combines May-June and July-August into a gigantic (in more ways than one) double issue.  This was necessary because in late June, someone managed to access the Lummox bank account and wipe it out!  It was so disheartening…to think I had just saved the LJ from financial ruin only to become the victim of ATM fraud!  I eventually got my money back, but by that time it didn’t make sense to publish two issues back to back.  So, Yazoota and I put our heads together and came up with the idea of returning to the old magazine-style format (a vision of things to come?).  This issue included stories by Chloe Noland, Doug Draime, Bretton B. Holmes, Yvette Hatrak  and myself.  It also featured two interviews, one with Aussie poet Glenn Cooper, the other with John Dorsey of Toledo, OH.  Essays by Todd Moore, Bretton B. Holmes Leonard J. Cirino and myself; along with poetry by Todd Moore, W. D. Ehrhart, Ellaraine Lockie, Stosh Machek and S. A. Griffin make this one of the best issues ever.  The Sept.-Oct issue featured an interview with Neeli Cherkovski, award winning poet, biographer and chum of SF and Venice Beats & Bukowski.  Todd Moore's All the Lethal Billys and Charles Plymel's A Matter of Life & Death: Pathotheism, part 2; this history of the Lummox Journal and some excellent poetry round out the issue. The year ends with an almost all reviews issue.


One thing that occurred that I never could have imagined was the number of people I would “meet” and become friends with, through this magazine.  For one, Todd Moore, who has become a true friend, a man who has taken me under his wing, as it were.  My friendship with Todd is a marker by which I will navigate my remaining years by…Todd has become a celestial icon, a north star, if you will.  And I would have never known about him if it weren’t for the interview I did with Mark Weber (April 1997).  I would later publish a collection of their works entitled Bombed in New Mexico. 

How that came about was I received a chapbook from Gerry Locklin (May 1996), whom I had met via a book I produced with Andrea Kowalski in 1994.  After Bukowski died, she and I came up with this idea to publish a book, LAST CALL: A LEGACY OF MADNESS, which would feature the works of several poets as a sort of homage to the man and Locklin was one of those poets.  I know he was suspicious of our motives, after all the guy had been around the block and knew what was up.  But our aims were pure and he could see that.  And LAST CALL was a very special book.  Andrea saw to that: hand stitched, special paper, a true labor of love.  We used the money we made from it to buy flowers for Buk’s grave for the first year (94-95).  It was a collective fan’s homage to a great writer, San Pedro style. 

Locklin’s chapbook featured himself and a guy named Mark Weber.  Weber would produce these chaps with half Gerry running one direction and half Weber running the other.  I think the book I received had Weber writing about Jazz and featuring photos of some guy named Vinny Golia, whom I later saw at a gig (a very under-attended gig) at Sacred Grounds in San Pedro.  I raced home and got the chapbook so I could ask Golia to sign it.  It’s amazing how the paths overlap!     

So I interviewed Weber and he mentioned this guy Todd Moore.  So, I interviewed Todd Moore, which appeared later in 1997.  And Moore began to send me essays on his creative process, which had become the stated reason for Lummox to exist.  I have never turned down a Todd Moore essay, because each one is, in my opinion, a fascinating view into the inner workings of an individual…and there are precious few individuals left in the Alt. Small Press.  Everything has become homogenized by that great media blender, fame.  Even the idea of the individual has become so polluted and tainted that it’s really difficult to see it clearly.  I feel blessed that Todd has graced the LJ with his thoughts and posey, because once he’s gone, there will be no one to take his place.  Perhaps the saddest thing, is the fact that I couldn’t provide him with a greater forum to reach the widest audience possible…but such is the life we live in. 

Over the past ten years, I’ve had the privilege of publishing thousands of poems by hundreds of poets.  Some have become my friends and some have not.  Be that as it may, I have always respected the POEM, even those written by less than friendly poets. I’ve also published numerous essays, all on the same topic: the POEM.  I just hope that if I am remembered for anything, that it will be this forum, the Lummox Journal, which will be recalled.  It represents the best ten years of my life.  Even though I have labored hard and long in relative obscurity, it’s my belief that someday this little magazine will be read by more than a few enlightened people.  The Lummox Journal is, after all, the best kept secret in Los Angeles…even in the surrounding environs.  It has been read in forty five states and in seven countries worldwide…Garnering nearly 200 subscribers at the height of its popularity.  While that may not seem like much, it’s my firm belief that it has been read by some of the best subscribers in the world.  I hope you have been one of the faithful few.  If so, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.   

RD Armstrong

After-thought: Thanks to the internet, I have been able to reach more than 15, 000 people with this current website...I reckon that over the past six years, articles and interviews from the Lummox Journal have been viewed by over 25, 000 people!  But I still prefer the print version (even with its inherent limitations).

Exploring the Creative Process since 1996