Re: Mission Dialogue Continues

March 24, 2010  |  By
Filed under: Field Notes

James Mitchell

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.”

3 Comments

  1. Francesca (F.S.) Rosa Says:

    As we pine over our lost San Francisco low rent Valhallas and neighborhoods , which in all their disordered messiness and chaos brought us the Beats, the Cockettes, Gay Loberation LONG before Stonewall, the Summer of Love and one of the strongest working classes in the country (as exemplified by Harry Bridges etc) and a very diverse populace –now getting less diverse all the time, the black population for instance, has plummeted from 11% in SF a few decades back to about 5% now– the young nerdlings have their own fish to fry and are fighting for open source networking, etc., and carry on the fight to stop gentrification of the web. And let’s not forget all those bicycles and compost bins! There’s no ‘there’ here for them because by the time they came of age that ‘there’ was GONE and we can’t expect them to mourn for a ‘there’ which in their experience was certainly neither ‘here’ nor ‘there’ since the real estate speculators had already gobbled it up. But pockets of resistance still exist! The Bohemians of San Francisco are still here, barricaded in our rent controlled apartments writing and painting and open sourcing away. It’s more like being a guerrilla fighter in the hills (4 flights up with no elevator) rather than the disorderly army dancing in the parks or taking over the docks likes it used to be… but Jim I will crawl over the Zephyr Realty barbed wire to chat about obscure pieces of blues music with you over a cup of coffee or herbal tea anytime! POETS TO THE BARRICADES!

  2. shome Says:

    Hi Dodie–really enjoying these posts. Looking forward to reading more, and I hope all is well.

  3. Chris Cobb Says:

    When I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts I found a collection of 78 rpm records someone was throwing away. There were about 3,000 of them and even though I didn’t really want/need them, I understood instinctively that it was an archive and as such should be given that respect at least. Over the past year I have become familiar with Bix Biederbecke, Billy Murray, Ada Jones, Sarah Martin, Edison Diamond Discs and a whole lot of other artists I had never heard of. Finding such a collection doesn’t happen every day but even as everything in the world seems to be changing, a lot of things stay the same.

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