The Moment Fall 1990 

Fall 1990


 The Moment Fall 1989 

Fall 1989

The Moment Timothy Leary holding a copy of The Moment

The Moment Years

—Eric Lyden

The Moment, L.A. Arts Journal was founded in 1988. The sole intention of the original editors of this poetry and art rag was to bring the written word to a wider audience and create a forum for free expression. Influenced by Evergreen Review, The Free Press, The Realist, The Oracle and the early issues of Rolling Stone, The Moment took on a grassroots attitude and a loose look.

From 1988 until 1993, fourteen issues of this "randomly published journal" were given away or sold on consignment at independent bookstores in L.A., San Francisco and Washington D.C.. Charles Bukowski became a regular contributor of poetry and drawings. Other contributors included Sean Penn, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Hirschman, Neeli Cherkovski, Jack Micheline and Gerald Nicosia. Two interviews were done with Timothy Leary, which included some interesting spontaneous poetry. Interviews of Billy Burroughs, Paul Bowles and Edie Kerouac-Parker were reprinted. And poetry, drawings, pictures, stories and cartoons were printed from contributions all over the world.

As the magazine developed, regular contributions came from the local wordsmiths. The underground voices of Los Angeles and San Francisco sent us their heartfelf expressions. The project was always lively and always fun. Live the moment, ride the waves….live and learn.


Although the poetry boom of 1987 to 1997 remains endlessly memorable to those of us who were caught up in it, our noble failure may be lost to history permanently if it is not chronicled. Poetry readings, slams, and open-mikes sprang up all over the country; hundreds of small press zines emerged; National Poetry Day was created in 1994; National Poetry Month was founded in 1996; countless self-published chapbooks were bartered, sold or given away freely in bookstores, pre-Starbucks coffee shops and clubs that served as venues for the poets of the time. The poetry decade culminated in a National Poet Laureate, Maya Angelou, speaking at a Presidential inauguration, echoing Robert Frost's appearance with John F. Kennedy near the end of another noble, radical decade.

Bukowski died in 1994 and Ginsberg died in 1997, but this fervent time didn't necessarily die with these two icons. Many of the poets in L.A., San Francisco, New York and elsewhere, seeped into suburban life, rose to more respectable literary levels, or survived only long enough to witness the backlash of the neoconservative government regime.

The Moment Years: The Poetry Scene of 1987-1997 is a non-fiction narrative told from my perspective as founder and editor of The Moment, L.A. Arts Journal, which I published from 1987 to 1992 with Kevin Bartnof and Chris Behling. We started The Moment as a means of publishing our own works but soon attracted local poets, including the Carma Bums and the Ringling Sisters, John W. Hart III, who later became the official L.A. Dodger poet from 1989 to 1992 and created The Found Poetry of Lt. Col. Oliver North—shredded red, white and blue cover and all, which brought us all fifteen minutes of fame on MTV in 1980. Choice anecdotes in this memoir include:

  • developing a relationship with Bukowski and then pissing him off to the point that we received a literary beating worthy of a poem in itself
  • interviewing Timothy Leary two times at his Beverly Hills house and having him spontaneously compose poetry with us in awestruck witness
  • meeting Allen Ginsberg while tripping on LSD
  • negotiating with Sean Penn's lawyers to print three of his poems

But some of the most memorable experiences were not just with these celebrities, all of whom we published, but developing relationships with local poets, especially in L.A. and San Francisco. I will remark about the tons of self-absorbed rants passed off as poetry, especially from the numerous actor/poets of this time and especially at the L.A. open mike events. Bartnof, Behling and I, best friends until they too succumbed to the despair that overtook our land during the Bush Dynasty, tirelessly hand delivered the magazine, sold it on consignment to independent bookstores, and turned down an L.A. arts grant because our naïve idealism dictated we didn't sell out. Acting like rock-star clones, we "trashed" hotel rooms and attracted poetry groupies because Led Zeppelin did the same thing when we were impressionable high schoolers and we grew up thinking all American men secretly wanted to either be rock stars or athletic stars, and we sure weren't heading the way of the latter.

Recent publications support this genre of "zine memoirs." The "L.A. Times Book Review" of December 3, 2006 reviewed a book entitled Spy: The Funny Years, about the legendary satirical magazine published between 1986 and 1998. The opening line of this review reads, "Elegies for bygone cult magazines—once blazingly hip, now defunct or compromised—have come to make up their own genre." The "New York Times Book Review" of November 19, 2006 reviewed a book entitled I Read the News Today about underground and alternative publications from 1965 to 1975. Ironically, in early issues of The Moment we included quotes and unauthorized cutouts of ads and cartoons from The Realist, The Oracle and the Los Angeles Free Press, all counterculture zines of this period.

It may not seem that there is an established market for the poetry scene, but this book is a memoir, clearly one of the most popular current genres, from the perspective of three inspired, reckless, young poet/publishers who unabashedly fashioned themselves after rock and rollers, not just because those were their heroes, but because they wanted to dispel the belief that poets were all pompous, serious, stuffed shirts and that poetry journals had to look like books, gilded with one poem per page and no artwork. We didn't want to break the traditional literary rules to create a scene; the scene was emerging without us consciously being aware of its immensity, and we were in the midst of it as participants, creators and chroniclers. The recent success of Laurel Canyon and Hotel California indicate that people are very much attracted to the stories of the struggles, the rise, and the falls from the excesses of creative people.


The Moment



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