February 2008 – Interview with Venice Poet Frank T. Rios, Part 2

Part 2 (see January Beachhead for Part 1)
By Hillary Kaye


Beachhead: Is there anything else about Philomene Long you’d like to share?

Frankie: When she did The Beats, An Existentialist Comedy, I was involved in that. She was always a strange bird. She was outside the tip, even though she was with Stuart [Perkoff]. When he died she went to John [Thomas] …well I think that relationship was the best relationship she could have, they had this connection, she started to see that the poem, that thing where she came from having been a nun, like she was in revelation too. She had that experience. John was very knowledgeable and was dedicated like Stuart. And I think that’s where she got her voice. So that was really good. And we got very close because me and John were close, well John was like my poetry sponsor. I’d go down to Venice to their pad and we’d talk about poetry and I’d take my work. So it was important. And then when John died I got very tight with Philomene and we carried it on.  

Beachhead: So you stayed in contact.

Frankie: Oh yeah. We were supposed to do this reading & collage show at Sponto Gallery.

Beachhead: That never came about?

Frankie: Oh yeah it did. We were supposed to do it together, we were talking, you know Frankie there’s really no one that I’d like to read with but you. Yeah that’s a great idea. Me too, I’m reading with nobody. We could do a collage show too. I was working on these collages. I had some already because I previously did collage shows and readings. I had some left, but I did about forty others for this reading . That Tuesday we were supposed to meet for lunch and talk about what we were going to do and kind of finalize it and she died that day or that night. Too weird, too sad. I had called her the night before. Yeah, okay I’ll see you tomorrow.  So she must have died during that night or that morning.

Beachhead: Do you want to talk about your writing?

Frankie: Sure. How I go about writing a poem. It’s still the same way. Usually I have the line, the opening line. And I’m receiving it. If it don’t come all out, if I get stuck, it don’t work. I’m good enough where I could —

Beachhead: Fiddle with it.

Frankie: Yeah I could make it right, but it’s not satisfying, it’s not really the way it should be. Everything I write has to come out clean, as I receive it. If I follow it and it has to do with trust. But usually it’s the opening line, unless of course I’m on a blow then one poem follows the other, then I don’t have to think about the opening line, you know what I mean.

Beachhead: Yes I do. I saw that you were very moved at the memorial for Philomene the other night. Is that why you left?

Frankie: Yeah. I left for the other one too, for Tony. 

Beachhead: Yes I noticed 

Frankie: Can’t handle it.

Beachhead: I understand.

Frankie: Can’t handle it, there are too many of them, the next one I’m going to do is for me. Shit. Well you know how it is. You can’t really dictate that stuff.

Beachhead: Right. How is your health?

Frankie: Very good  Very good 

Beachhead : That’s great. 

Frankie: With this new kidney, very good.

Beachhead: How many books have you written?

Frankie: I’ve written eleven books.

Beachhead: Are these books available?

Frankie: Some, here’s how it goes. You write a book, you get the money to publish it. You publish your book and then you do the reading. And you sell a bunch of books and you get some of the money back. And the rest you just give them out or sell them here or there, and that’s the way we always did it

Beachhead: Right, right, the life of a poet.

Frankie: Yeah you know what I mean.

Beachhead: Do you think about your mortality?

Frankie: No

Beachhead: Do you think about your poetry being read?

Frankie: Well yeah my poetry is read. 

Beachhead: Yes I know. What I mean is do you think about it going on after you, and people still knowing who you are and wanting —

Frankie: Some will, some won’t. That’s the way it is. What did Tony say, “There won’t be no parade for us”. (Frankie laughs)  So it’s all about right now, it’s all about what you do now, every time the chance comes up I present it and usually I get a very good response whenever I do a reading.

Beachhead: I thought your reading was beautiful the other night.

Frankie: Yeah, and the one I did at Sponto Gallery, with the collage show reading was excellent. The place was packed. And the people just loved it. Man they just start taking the collages off the wall. Cause I sell them real cheap so people can buy them, you know $25.00, $50.00 for the big ones. So they just went nuts. It was really cool. Yeah good stuff. 

Beachhead: This is a funny question, if you don’t want to answer, please feel free not to. Were there things you liked better about yourself when you were on dope? And are there things not being on dope that you like better about yourself now ? I’m trying —

Frankie: Yeah I did everything right to get here. And I’ve done everything right to stay. I was good at it.

Beachhead: So you enjoyed your time being —

Frankie: Well it wasn’t about joy. That’s who you are, that’s it. I did the best I could.

Beachhead: Right, I see.

Frankie: When I look at my old notebooks, I see across the page, pain and black, all the images of my mind, leaked out, the angel, the death, the metamorphosis, pages and pages and then blop the poem falls out.

Beachhead: The poem falls out?

Frankie: Yeah a perfect poem on the page. 

Beachhead: Right, okay.

Frankie: Dig, cause that’s the way,  The Perfect Poem, but the insanity of the drugs you dig, the mind into the dark side, the drug- life, in truth, the Lady is pissed at me.

Beachhead: Because?

Frankie: Because I’m using drugs and I’m fogging the mirror, I’m fogging the window, I’ve forgotten the poem. I’m fogging the flow I’m trying to write the poem. See you don’t write the poem, you receive it. It’s like way different. So now when I look at my notebooks, every page is clean.

Beachhead: And that’s because why, because you’re clean now?

Frankie: Yeah, because I’m clean.

Beachhead: So it’s just coming out clean. 

Frankie: Yeah, I don’t have to change anything. Once in a while when you transfer it, type it,  you might see oh if I take this line out the leap would emphasize the next image really good. See with craft you make that choice because now I’m into craft, not the poem.

Beachhead: Now you’re into craft, not the poem? 

Frankie: Yeah.

Beachhead: How’s that possible when your into receiving it?

Frankie: Craft is after you receive the poem. 

Beachhead: I thought craft is like when you perfect something.

Frankie: That’s what I’m doing. That’s the craft. Exactly. So there’s little stuff, oh I want to break it here, or this is the form, I see that the form it was written in, and I didn’t complete that, it broke itself somehow, because it’s automatic, your hand goes and sometimes you break the poem where you shouldn’t, so you do that. Sometimes you take the word, oh I need to emphasize that one. So that kind of craft thing.

Beachhead: Are you sorry you don’t live in Venice?

Frankie: Yes, I wish I did. See when I was living in Venice on Cabrillo next to “The Temple of Man.” I loved it,  I was clean, and walking and writing. I love Venice.

Beachhead: Who started “The Temple of Man”?

Frankie: Bob Alexander.

Beachhead: And what was he like?

Frankie: He was a character, an original, an original cut. He was with all those guys, David Meltzer, George Herms, Altoon, Artie Richard, the San Francisco tip, the jazz clubs. Then he had this vision of the temple, Art is Love is God, which is Wally Berman’s sound. And for the sentient being, the free being, the one outside the society, because the whole concept of it fit me perfect cause I never worked, voted, paid taxes

or drove a car. Till only a few years ago, five years ago, something like that. Seven years ago. So that was the whole idea, not to be involved with the society, but only in the creative act.

Beachhead: So are you political now would you say?

Frankie: No I listen to it, but I only voted once for Bill Clinton because his brother was a recovering addict so I thought oh man maybe he’ll do something for us. I don’t think he ever did anything, but that’s why I voted, once so far. The whole thing about the political thing is it’s all big business. They control the whole thing. You know 5 % of the people own 95 % of the world, and 95% of the people own 5% of the world. And they got it controlled. And our government is selling everything to China and they’re selling America. Everything’s from China. You can’t find American products. So the middle class is out and there’s going to be rich and poor, and that’s how they want it, and they control the whole thing.

Beachhead: I know. It’s horrible.

Frankie: Terrible.

Beachhead: Fascism.

Frankie: Yeah, America is going to be gone.

Beachhead: America is gone.

Frankie: Almost. There’s still pockets.

Beachhead: Do you ever think of leaving the country?

Frankie: No.

Beachhead: You’re here for the ride.

Frankie: Oh yeah. I only got ten or fifteen left. Eighty seven I’m probably out, Think I’m going to become independent or free.

Beachhead: Is there anything you’d like to cover in this article that I haven’t asked about?

Frankie: Well just the importance of Stuart Perkoff, Tony Scibella, Jimmy Morris, John Thomas, Philomene Long who kind of carried the torch there. Just the idea that she was present. And I just hope that that’s part of history, stays part of the history.

Beachhead: I’d like to get the library in Venice to carry all of the Venice West poets’ books. You go to the Venice library and there’s nothing there. I think it’s a disgrace that they aren’t there. Maybe there could be some kind of grant to do this or have something done.

Frankie: Well I’d like the history to be remembered whenever anything is happening they would be able to come up. Like being put in a library and that kind of stuff. I think we have a lot of the art work we’ve done through the years at UCLA. I think so. It’s always been a problem. We always talked about it. Larry Lake —

Beachhead: That’s so funny, I knew Larry Lake so many years ago. In fact Larry Lake and I did a poetry reading together twenty five years ago. Maybe twenty eight years ago now that I think about it. Is he still alive?

Frankie: No

Beachhead: What happened to him? 

Frankie: He stepped out of the tub and died of a heart attack. 

Beachhead: Where was he living?

Frankie: Denver. Now his kid, I just talked to him yesterday, he was going back to Denver for the holidays, he’ll be back the beginning of the year. He has the trunkload full of original copies of our work.

Beachhead: Of art work?

Frankie: Of all the poetry we’ve done through the years. Of course Marsha Getzler has the stash and I have some of it. But he has the original copies, untouched.

Beachhead: So what’s going to be done with them?

Frankie: He’s a writer, he loves poetry. He read at Tony’s thing, he’s good. He’s with us.

Beachhead: What’s his name?

Frankie: Yama Lake

Beachhead: I notice you have a book of Diane Di Prima? Did you know her? 

Frankie: Yeah she’s a heavyweight,  She’s done some great stuff. I was never that tight with her. Tony was tight with her. She loved Tony, they all loved Tony. All the girls loved Tony. 

Beachhead: Did the girls love Stuart?

Frankie: Yeah, they all loved Stuart too. I mean they loved me too, but different. I was more reserved. I was always looking for love.

Beachhead: So Diane Di Prima was crazy about Tony?

Frankie: Oh I’m sure they did it together, but they weren’t lovers or anything like that. Called free love.

Beachhead: Yeah that was going on at the time.

Frankie: Yeah I was in prison all those years anyway. From 61 to 68. 

Beachhead: You were in prison that long?

Frankie: Yeah, probably did about —

Beachhead: Where were you in prison?

Frankie: Federal joint. Terminal Island.

Beachhead: How did you handle your time?

Frankie: Oh I did good time.

Beachhead: What does that mean?

Frankie: It means I knew how to do time. I probably did eleven years all together.

Beachhead: So when you said you did good time you mean you read….

Frankie: Yeah read, wrote. I had a good tip, a good job, I knew how to jail.

Beachhead: And what gave you that kind of —

Frankie: Experience.

Beachhead: To be able to handle it in that kind of way.

Frankie: Going to jail. I’m a guy, stand up and all that. I got all the history, I got the credentials.

Beachhead: Right. But somebody can do time and go insane, and somebody can do time and really use it as a period of real growth and learning. You can do time in a lot of different ways.

Frankie: That’s right. Like when Stuart came he didn’t know how to do time.

Beachhead: So he was really suffering.

Frankie: Yeah when I got there I just took him under my wing and brought him into the tip and everything changed.

Beachhead: So you guys were there together?

Frankie: Yeah we walked the yard together for a long time.

Beachhead: That’s incredible.

Frankie: Yeah it was great. We had conversations that were unbelievable about poetry and the Lady Muse, what to read and all that stuff.

Yeah we had a nice trip. That was a good time.

Beachhead: Because you could really focus.

Frankie: Yeah there are people that really dig each other, and we guard each other’s backs. When it’s a Federal joint it’s a lot easier than if it’s a State. There aren’t too many gunsels. Guys that are trying to make a reputation. Everybody in a Federal joint got a heavy beef. And you know they were older and they were there just to do their time.

Beachhead: Where can people get your poetry? 

Frankie: You want to take some things to Beyond Baroque?

Beachhead: I’d be happy to do that.

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