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Daniel Yaryan: California Poets Part 6, Five Poems

Daniel Yaryan (photo by Robert Fischer)

October 18th, 2023

Californian Poets: Part VI

Daniel Yaryan

Five Poems

Vanishing in the Camera Obscura at 3

Stop-motion skeleton choreography the death dance somewhere over the colorblind rainbow running its course hidden by pale sky fortress shimmer, floating palace place of origin: Roy Roger’s horse Trigger and Lone Ranger’s Silver both Cosmic Renegades born in tinker tanks belonging to interstellar Geppetto Poor here, poor there… in the space between determined to careen the tangible fairgrounds the giant’s elbow room in God’s country to gallop upon the happy planetary trails where voices speak in Honky Tonk about A.I. stallions, mares, future-talk a good steed is needed to ride through the charcoal forest and navigate noche obscure del alma unsuspecting, it creeps up daylight disappearance twilight tumbles, night falls devoid upswing, no parental eyes streetlights redirect shadow gates boulevard is broken, not the dreams spoken in night breath trances spells of invisibility lining tinted window of an outdoor world arcane thicket exterior surrounding the tiny busted Zenith T.V. antenna surgically removed power cord scissored, umbilical cord snip snip dialed in, tuned out Mister Ed advises none the neighs and nostril whoa-Nelly yahs snort retorts to soul grabs grumbling grips refusing to yield to the dark night peak creaking on the edge of 3 the long goodbye strikes again bleak a.m. 3:01 deed done.

—Previously published by Drifter Zine in the Nocturnal Enlightenment anthology.

Escape Artist Senryu

weather forecaster becomes phantom sorcerer controlling downfall

the sky king cometh ushering apocalypse Into the quagmire

gutter drop rain fall scattered spikes of life and death weather is to blame

temps hot and cold beware lukewarm fence dwellers dry rot live molders

horizon haven last bastion of dream freedom embrace lands beyond

Raven Sorcerer

the raven sees all an unselfish sorcerer marooned on Earth

bird brain absorbing breakthroughs beyond trash bin trails beady eyes burrowed

in immense beauty surviving traces of life and signals of death

this dry wide expanse this sore throat gasping to caw ax blade looms above

brink ledge hears terror unreasonable demands restlessness echoes

From Bodega Bay to Point Lobos and Tor House eyes search to be free

from the vacant beasts with corrupt, lurking minds dead set to destroy

all-seeing raven casting an unbeknownst spell be gone futile ways

fade away vile words listen, reason, be mindful vigilant for peace

cease dreadful stirring bark of night and frightful day abandon the abuse

all things extinct return all beings dreary turn bright evergreen vision

winged overseer not a fantasy maker or a pipe dreamer

filtered noise static layers of decay and doom banished and bygone

a soulful cadence dance of branches devoid fire slipstream of healing

Beyond Central Coast Poet: In Memory of Poet Jim Russo (1948-2021)

Russo was central of the coast Integral Never a landlocked poet Creator of a dedicated poetry show… a wordsmith’s satellite Detecting global poets Sharing their verse and his own works A ringleader of the Sky Bolt Circus Plugging in electricity Surfing the frequencies Lighting up faces with 1,447 days of unique poetics Introducing spoken word sensations Into streaming screens from city to city Throughout the world map Documenting every sound, word, vision As an extension of life given to every poet Who is heard and read and remembered Beyond the grave And believe me, I’ll never forget how “kids ruled” with eternal grins, looking up from the grass of your bohemian Heaven Love from the bottom of my heart as father and son shall reunite and write and speak again about celestial freedom collosal waves and wide-open mics forever

—Previously published in the Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts Omnibus

Living in the Land of the Dead Senryu

being dead baby now that’s drag time when alive with lone ranger’s pulse

how many, count ’em? dream of picking up pieces of the down and out?

dead bones dead bones end down existential wormhole screams from the deep well

fear it dear its here hearse ride betwixt life and death reverse rubberneck

not Munster make-up Cronenberg body horror crash burn skid away

undertakers sulk at the living funeral Romero’s fogged specs


November 7th, 2023

California Poets Interview Series:

Daniel Yaryan, Poet, Publisher, Poetry Promoter

interviewed by David Garyan

DG: Let’s begin with your background, which doesn’t follow the typical BA-MFA-poetry prof-creative writing chair paradigm. Sci-Fi, comics books, and cinema are influences. Motorcycles are influences. In 1938, your grandfather, Big Ray Yaryan, started the Ghost Riders Motorcycle Club in the San Fernando Valley. You’re a former print journalist and advertising exec. So much going on here—and that’s only a part of it. Can you speak about how you discovered poetry, and your aesthetic has changed over the years in relation to all the new influences you encountered?

DY: In the late ‘70s, my brother and sister both managed two different local United Artists Theatres in downtown Santa Cruz, with unlimited free movie passes. This led to my lifelong interest in films and the affect they would have on my writing in the future. By age 8, I saw Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha; and by age 9, I watched David Lynch’s Eraserhead—both films are poetry. What I learned is that poetry is something that’s part of your internal wiring— you either possess it or you don’t and it comes out without commanding it out of the genie’s lamp. As Orson Welles put it, “a film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.”

As a kid, I created my own comic storyboards, which I wrote and illustrated. I also set many of my comics to audio recordings—taped for dialogue and characterization, which I gave to my father as gifts. I was an avid collector of comic books and learned to read them at 4 years-old, with the prompting of my much older brother, Charles, who was 16 at the time.

Later, when I was in high school, I played football for the Santa Cruz High Cardinals until receiving an injury that took me out of the game. The injury was a moment of destiny that convinced me to quit the team and join the school newspaper, The Trident, where I learned to gather stories and write them with panache to land articles on the front page. This continued further in college as I became the youngest editor-in-chief in the history of The Voice at Cabrillo. This set a course that brought me into the life of a quote-unquote “newspaper man” as both journalist and, a decade later, advertising executive at the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. I was a freelance writer for a decade and landed a job as a Senior Editor at Daily News Los Angeles before shifting gears into advertising.

My earliest significant writing influence was poet William Everson. I saw Everson read his poetry in different Santa Cruz venues when I was in high school and was startled and amazed by his stage presence and high-caliber poetics. He was dressed in a buckskin vest, wearing a bear claw necklace and had a flowing white beard and long hair—very Whitmanesque. He really looked like a frontiersman who had distanced himself from preppy 1980s America. Although his body shook severely from Parkinson’s Disease, his mind and his poems were sturdy and stood out from anything else I’d ever heard. It contrasted greatly with the otherwise precious drivel served up in academics at the time (and even now for that matter). I later met Everson in the early 1990s at Native Images in Santa Cruz, the studio of fine artist and master printer Daniel Owen Stolpe. I was there interviewing Everson for an article for Good Times magazine. Thereafter, I became friends with Everson and Stolpe. I made many trips up the coast to visit “Bill” at his cabin in Swanton, just 15 miles north of Santa Cruz. Through him, my interest in more avant-garde writers took fruition and I learned where he came from and the types of writers and poets who influenced him – Robinson Jeffers, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin Kenneth Patchen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth and the San Francisco Renaissance which Everson was a part of when he was known as the “Beat Friar” Brother Antoninus. I retraced his steps and discovered many greats who were his contemporaries.

Another influence on my writing was my grandfather, Big Ray Yaryan, founder of the aforementioned Ghosts Riders MC. Almost a decade after his death, in 1996, I researched Big Ray’s history as a pioneering motorcyclist of the 1930s, delving into family documentation and interviews to write his story. I wrote a long essay turned article for a Harley-Davidson trade magazine Thunder Press, which metamorphosed into a separate, narrative post-Beat poem. Big Ray the Ghost Rider didn’t write but haunted me to write differently and with greater verve.

DG: Wanda Coleman, the late, monumental LA poet said this of you: “one of a new generation of poetry mavens.” When did you meet her and what are aspects of her work you admire the most?

DY: I met Wanda Coleman in the early 2000s after hearing her read at a church on Los Feliz and later corresponded with her via Facebook. I immediately considered her a poetic champion of unrivalled performance abilities. When I read her poems, I heard her actual voice. This is a rare superpower that only about a handful of poets possess with an indelible lifeforce shining through the words on the page, channeling their speaking voice into your mind. Wanda Coleman was a glowing example of this level of expression. Others who come to mind, possessing this valuable trait, include Ellyn Maybe, Avotcja, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Q.R. Hand, Michael C Ford and a select few.

DG: In 2012, you were instrumental in reviving the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, which hadn’t been held since 1981. Names like Michael C. Ford, S.A. Griffin, Jack Hirschman, and Coleman herself appeared. Mike Sonksen wrote a comprehensive article describing the happenings, with videos of the performances. I’d like, however, to focus on the behind-the-scenes effort, which is often forgotten. What was it like organizing the event? What were the challenges, rewards, and is there anyone who deserves a special mention for the help they provided?

DY: In 1994, when my brother and I published an independent newspaper in Santa Cruz called The Real World Press (RWP), we had planned to revive the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival as a fundraiser, including half the proceeds going to William Everson’s medical fund. There was a poetry section in the RWP called Footsteps of the Wind—a title named by Everson. The revival plan did not work out because of the intense amount of work involved with resurrecting something big like the original festival. The plan was left on the backburner until 2011 when I was motivated to follow through with this original goal with the momentum of the Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts series I created. I was also inspired by the original director of the 1981 festival, novelist Jerry Kamstra, who I became friends with. What I learned from The Real World Press days and any other worthwhile project or task I’ve ever been involved with is that having meetings to put together something has always been a waste of time because no one in the meetings follows through with anything. From my experience, meetings are talk without action. I chose to produce Poetry Festival Santa Cruz at the Cocoanut Grove on 2/12/12 on my own. If I needed help with anything, I would just call up individuals and ask them directly. I gathered sponsors and conducted fundraisers in my community to get the jets off the tarmac, so to speak. One of the fundraisers I did was a monthly series of Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts readings at the Santa Cruz Art League with the guidance of my friend T. Mike Walker (novelist of Voices from the Bottom of The World—A Police Journal published in 1969 by Grove Press).

Also, I talked to my friend, photographer/filmmaker Christopher Felver, about bringing his documentary on Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Santa Cruz and bringing Ferlinghetti himself to the historic Del Mar Theatre (from my early cinema upbringing) for a Q&A. I asked Mayor Coonerty to declare October 18, 2011 Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day, which was actualized. The result was the special appearance of Ferlinghetti at the Santa Cruz film premiere of Felver’s documentary. I also partnered with Nickelodeon Theatres who operated the Del Mar at that time, culminating in the largest fundraiser I had for Poetry Festival Santa Cruz with over 500 people in attendance, selling out the Del Mar’s Grand Auditorium. I spent a solid year organizing the festival and bringing poets from all over the map to Santa Cruz. There’s so much that went into it, so I’m just barely scratching the surface.

DG: Apart from the event in Santa Cruz, Sonksen has also called you “one of the West Coast’s most active promoters of poetry.” Your traveling poetry show “Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts” goes between LA and San Francisco. How did the pandemic affect the enterprise and what does the future hold for it?

DY: When I moved to Los Angeles from Santa Cruz in 2018, I had already started having the “Sparring Artists Salon” at the Kamstra Sparring Archive (aka “Sparchive”) in Toluca Lake—the last of which took place in February, 2020 on the cusp of the onset of the Coronavirus, which stopped everything everywhere from March 2020 onward into the pandemic. On the night of Friday the 13th of November, 2020, I held the outdoor Mystic Boxing Commission Festival of Sound & Vision at the Valley Relics Museum at the Van Nuys Airport (Los Angeles County). It was the only poetry festival in Los Angeles in 2020 and brought brave, masked poets to the microphone with the backdrop of the neon sign wonderland of the museum’s open airplane hangar behind us. Mystic Boxing Commission in my parent company for Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts and umbrella for most of my creative projects. In 2022, I had two “Spars” —one in Van Nuys at the Tracy Witt Poetry Garden and one at Elena Secota’s Rapp Saloon venue in Santa Monica. Those two readings were launch parties for the Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts Omnibus, which was ten years in-the-making. I also appeared with my friend Michael C Ford on Harry Northup’s show Harry’s Poetry Hour promoting the Omnibus, which is known as “The Michael C Ford Edition.” Many people since the onset of the global pandemic found comfort in the YouTube shows and Zoom meetings, which I have yet to fully embrace because I still feel the need for the communal experience, the storytelling by the campfire experience as opposed to being trapped in the “world of Tron,” as I’d call it. The September 23, 2023 launch of the Sparring Artists anthology of Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts at the Beyond Baroque literary/arts center in Venice, California, was a monumental moment in the series which had us leaping back into the slipstream of what Sparring was all about. The Beatnik Ghosts can not be conjured from computer monitors and cell phones, so it was a refreshing, mad dash back into the mystic boxing ring for the “Sparring Artists.”

DG: In 2022, you released an anthology, Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts Omnibus: Deluxe Edition, Volume 1, a monumental effort comprising 266 contributors totaling 608 pages. The mention of “Volume 1” hints at exactly that: There is a second volume in the works?

DY: I believe nothing really happens without documenting it. The Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts Omnibus is the most complete chronicling of a multi-media poetry series that I’m aware of. The thing with SWBG is it is comprised of the live, in-person series and a published anthology series—both of which have creative individuals from all over the U.S. and even internationally participating. Yet, the lion’s share of participants have been from the West Coast and predominantly California. My goal is to break out of California and take Sparring on a road adventure like my forerunners The Carma Bums—S.A. Griffin, Mike Molett, Michael Lane Bruner, the late Doug Knott and the late Scott Wannberg—those guys are my heroes. Like them, I want to travel across America and organize shows. They were different because they were a unique performance troupe, a merry band of poets. However, I want to build a footprint for Sparring that traverses every state if possible and eventually take it overseas. After the coast-to-coast plan takes affect, Volume 2 of the Sparring With Beatnik Ghosts Omnibus will materialize.

DG: Let’s talk more generally about the Beat Generation. It seems, despite the cultural movements and struggles for liberation in the ‘50s and ‘60s, young people today are more lost than ever, caught in the vicious cycle of economic uncertainty that gives them no social mobility. At the same time, social media-fueled obsession with stuff and instant gratification has further exacerbated the existential crisis of not just the youth, but also those who lived through those decades. What are some poems from that generation you turn to for guidance and clarity?

Any poem from The Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and any poem from Bob Kaufman’s Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness is meaningful in the way that Beat poet Diane di Prima expressed it best, “The only war that matters is the war on the imagination.”

DG: Many have called you a disciple of Brother Antoninus, or William Everson, dubbed “the beat friar,” whom you met in 1993. Can you talk about that meeting and why Everson ended up becoming such a huge influence?

DY: I am a disciple of Brother Antoninus (aka William Everson) as one of his biggest fans. After meeting Bill Everson through Stolpe, I would go to visit with Bill at his cabin in Swanton, north of Santa Cruz off the coast. My poetry has never emulated his poetic style, mostly because I really do my own thing, but he left a powerful impression on me. His work follows in the tradition of Robinson Jeffers as it relates to human flaws in relation to nature on a higher pedestal. I hold Everson in the highest regard—above all poets really—truly a master. One of his best books is Hazards of Holiness, which I strongly recommend. Another fantastic Everson book is Archetype West.

One of my highest honors was being a pallbearer at Everson’s funeral in 1994. I published a tribute to him after his death in the Robinson Jeffers Newsletter for California State University Long Beach. The special journal edition was called William Everson: Remembrances and Tributes (Editor Robert Brophy, Spring 1995) and the subsequent printing was Western American Literature, Volume 30, where I was published along with Denise Levertov, Gary Snyder, Diane Wakoski, Philip Whalen and other writers paying homage to Everson.

DG: If you had to exchange poems with one author—he/she becomes the author of yours, and you become the author of his/hers, which poem of yours would you give up and what poem would you take?

DY: I would trade my poem “The Blacksmith Knows” for Los Angeles poet Nelson Gary’s “Vulture Eye,” featured in his upcoming book Pharmacy Psalms and Half-Life Hymns for Nothing.

DG: What are you reading and/or working on at the moment?

DY: Besides designing/producing two books for other people, I’m also working on publishing my next yet-untitled book of “Cosmic Pulp.” It’s a form of poetry that harkens back to science fiction, hard-boiled noir and fantasy-based themes and narratives found in short-story magazines printed before the mid-20th-century. The illustrated pulp magazines of the bygone era published unrestricted first-draft content unaffiliated with mainstream concerns and mores. The distinction of Cosmic Pulp is its poetic form and outward, other-worldly contemplation in its content matter. The term “Cosmic Pulp” was coined by my friend Nelson Gary. He credits me for having the first full volume of Cosmic Pulp poetry published with Sorcerers: Through Dimensions Infinite In 2020 (my poetry combined with artwork by fantasy artist Fitz in an ekphrastic collaboration).

I discovered a kindred spirit in poetry with Nelson Gary. His approach to writing poetry as a spiritual action from the author as opposed to a managed response from the reader is our common bond. Our outsider poetry challenges a new tide of literary culture seemingly devoted to a fabricated consignment to readers. We aim to circumvent such à la mode poetics dictated by the tastemakers of the status quo.

Author Bio:

Daniel Yaryan is the poet-author of the illustrated volume Sorcerers: Through Dimensions Infinite, a collaboration with fantasy artist Fitz. The illuminated, large-format book is considered the first full volume of “cosmic pulp poetry,” according to poet Nelson Gary, who coined the phrase. Yaryan is the creator of the Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts series, the founder of Mystic Boxing Commission, and the curator of the Kamstra Sparchive. He is editor of the Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts Omnibus and the upcoming Sparring Artists anthology. His books are available at


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