Poet, activist, and publisher, James Mitchell has posted a smart and bracing response to my Mission School post of two weeks ago on his own blog, Plainfeather. Mitchell has lived in San Francisco since the late 50s and has seen the edges of the Beat Movement, danced through the Summer of Love, and took to the streets during the gay lib movement. Editor of the early gay literary magazine, Sebastian’s Quill, he later co-founded the preeminent Bay Area literary arts organization, Small Press Traffic, still going strong 36 years later. Along with Francesca Rosa, he’s the publisher of avant-garde, yet populist, press Ithuriel’s Spear. Check out his intriguing overview of the repeated rise and fall of various San Francisco political/arts movements, and the city’s rapidly changing demographics.
“The years of yuppification have all but put an end to low-rent neighborhoods and cheap places to eat, the essential requirement for artist scenes and popular culture movements in America since jazz music was born a century ago. As poets retreat from the streets to the’ impenetrable cleanliness’ of college classrooms, digitization fills local cafes with laptop zombies and young nerdlings chatting online to remote locations. People are now everywhere but here. Or as Gertrude Stein might put it, there’s no here here. It seems to have disappeared in a cloud of electrons. Certainly there’s hardly anyone left to chat with about obscure pieces of blues music over a cup of coffee or herbal tea.”