Poetry for Southern California

 

Lawrence Schulz

 
      

In Memoriam: Lawrence Schulz

By G. Murray Thomas

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He constantly pushed the boundaries of his poetry and his performance. 

Southern California lost one of its great poetic voices over Christmas weekend. Orange County poet Lawrence Schulz passed away from complications during surgery. Larry, as I knew him, had been a powerful mainstay on the SoCal poetry scene for over 15 years. During that time he published four books, released a CD of “spoken songs”, and performed in almost every venue in town.

I first met Larry at System M Gallery, in Long Beach, in 1990. It was a heady time for poetry, full of a sense of discovery. What we were discovering was performance poetry, although we hadn’t heard anyone call it that yet. But we still knew it when we saw it, and we pushed each other to continually do it better. 

I remember telling Larry how one of his poems had inspired me, and he replied that it had actually been inspired by one of mine. That was the start of a long, creative friendship. 

When I started Orange Ocean Press, my poetry publishing venture, Larry was the first poet I approached to do a full-length book. The result, American Streets (with illustrations by Charles Ellik), is still a book I am quite proud of. 

It’s no exaggeration to say that Next... Magazine would not have existed without Larry. If only because he pushed me to do it, when my attention, and intentions, were elsewhere. But he saw the need for, and potential of, such a magazine, and made sure it became reality. 

Yes, Larry could push you. In his non-poet life, he was a salesman after all. But as much as he might push others, he pushed himself even more. He constantly pushed the boundaries of his poetry and his performance. 

He was a founding member of Pop the Trunc, a performance poetry troupe back when that was a revolutionary idea. They were performing what are now known, in slam parlance, as “group pieces,” long before that parlance even existed. 

Recently, he worked with guitarist Richard Lockhart (in The Schulz/Lockhart Project), which while not breaking any ground, was a fine example of what is possible in a poetry/music collaboration. His “spoken songs” (Larry’s own description) were so organic they sounded inevitable. 

Larry left a wealth of poetry. There are four books—American Streets, Say It Strong, Season of the River, and We Surf —the Spoken Songs CD, and numerous poems and short stories in various literary journals, anthologies and websites. Unluckily, because of the vagaries of poetry publishing, much of it is extremely difficult to track down. If you already own any of it, you know how lucky you are. If you don’t, you should search it out in used bookstores and websites (I’ve heard about copies of American Streets being offered on eBay). 

But as much as Larry’s poetry sticks with me, his belief in poetry sticks with me more. He believed in the potential of poetry, in all of its potentials. He believed it could both entertain and enlighten, could be both commercially viably and spiritually fulfilling. He believed we needed it. 

Let me close with the final stanza from his poem “The Night I Burned My Poems for Heat”: 

Sometimes I think the world would still
go on without one more poet, without one more poem.
And then there are times when I know
this earth would freeze up and die
without the beauty of words
and without you poets
who make the air, the fire, the water
    all possible.