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I’ve ever read,” he states. “Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and Pete Farrelly man- aged to balance sparkling dialogue, often very funny scenes, a road movie and a so- ciopolitical cautionary tale in an inspired, dramatically satisfying true story about an unexpected friendship. They made a very difficult writing task look easy. I feel fortunate to be part of this movie.”
And Viggo has been paying special atten- tion to the craft of screenwriting himself lately, too. He’ll begin shopping an original screenplay he wrote, which he plans to direct and star in as well, this week at the American Film Market in Santa Monica. Is there any doubt someone will pick it up? It’s called Fall- ing and Mortensen describes it as “a father- son relationship, which I plan to turn into a movie this winter. We plan to start shooting in February, although we did some filming in August and October in order to have summer and autumn images for some of the story’s flashback scenes. The script was inspired by my memories of my father and mother, both of whom passed away during the past couple of years. It is a fictional story, though, and my recollections of them and of my childhood only served as initial inspiration to get me started with the writing.”
And how was that writing process differ- ent from poetry or prose? “It still calls for a certain amount of discipline in terms of structure and rhythm, like poetry and prose do,”hesays.“Butthereisalotmoredialogue in the screenplay. I enjoyed writing that, find- ing the individual voices of the characters.”
Speaking of individual voices, the Beyond Baroque gala honors another poet along with Mortensen. “Will Alexander is, in my opin- ion, a genius poet,” Modiano says. Alexander, a native Angeleno, has some three dozen books to his credit, from small presses to major publishers such as New Directions and City Lights Books. He received the American Book Award for Poetry in 2014, followed in 2016 by the Jackson Prize for Poetry. Modiano says, “He is our poet in residence and is receiving Beyond Baroque’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his brilliant body of work, not only as a poet but as an essayist, visual artist and playwright.”
Modiano recounts telling young poet Tongo Eisen-Martin that Alexander was Beyond Baroque’s poet in residence. “Tongo answered, ‘Will is the poet in residence of the cosmos.’ And if you know Will’s poetry,” Modiano says, y”ou know how apt that state- ment is.”
Images from Viggo’s photo book Ramas para un nido
and there — a wolf howling — and Thurston Moore added some feedback to a poem or two. We were very relaxed about it all but Perceval went out of the way to make the book sublime. It was a crazy undertaking.”
After 17 years, Perceval Press is still mak- ing its magic. There have been some very interesting new titles recently — including Viggo’s own 2017 projects in both books and CDs. And he promises there is more to come. “Yes,” he says, “along with titles by a variety of artists, I have continued to put out recordings I’ve made with Buckethead, Henry Morten- sen, D.J. Bonebrake and Travis Dickerson, as well as occasionally publishing my own photography and poetry. I had not put out a photo book for several years until the recent Ramas para un nido (Branches for a Nest). Lo que no se puede escribir will be my first bookofnewpoetrysince2009.”
I wonder if it’s fair to say that his time at Beyond Baroque — especially the mashup of literature, art, and music — was a direct in- spiration for Perceval? “Not that I am imme- diately conscious of,” he tells me, “although I guess my approach to editing and publishing was no doubt partly inspired by Bob Flana- gan’s example as a facilitator of spoken-word, as well as by the work of other artists I’ve been exposed to at Beyond Baroque. I’ve been interested in different artistic mediums — photography, poetry, painting and drawing, music — since I was a boy. Because Beyond Baroque’s doors have always been open to a wide range of artists, and it has actively encouraged an interdisciplinary approach, I suppose that the time I’ve spent learning there has only served to further inspire me to continue trying my hand at a variety of storytelling and documentary efforts.”
Reiner echoes those sentiments about the influence of Beyond Baroque. “That was at a point in L.A. history,” he says, “when there weren’t many small presses and it was excit- ing, that the only literary arts foundation was trying to fill this need for writers and readers. At the time, the books and programming presented ideas beyond what was offered elsewhere. As L.A. was struggling to become a world culture center, Beyond Baroque was at the vanguard, providing a roadmap for how culture can connect an institution to a community. Beyond Baroque was really the pioneer in so much of what came after and so much of what we see today.”
It seems we not only have Viggo in part to thank for Beyond Baroque, but we have Beyond Baroque to thank, in part, for Viggo.
“I always try to sneak away from my press dutIes to see art exhIbItIons. but when I can’t manage to do that, I’m happy
just takIng In the landscapes I’m lucky to see on our journeys.”
– Viggo Mortensen
Somehow, despite his jam-packed, Green Book–related press schedule, Mortensen will be able to attend the Beyond Baroque gala. “I’m very glad that I’ll be able to at- tend,”heconfirms.“Fiftyyearsisanimpor- tant milestone for a cultural meeting place that has encouraged and inspired so many fine writers. I look forward to seeing a num- ber of poets I’ve not heard from for a long time.” And of course, to see his son, Henry.
Among other things, Henry shares his par- ents’ and their community’s love of poetry books, and he’s involved with Perceval Press as well. So what is going on at the imprint these days? “We are hanging in there,” Viggo tells me, “now into our 17th year. Among our upcoming titles, I am especially look- ing forward to publishing a comprehensive collection of Kevin Power’s poetry. He was
Photos Courtesy of PerCeVal Press
one of the most discerning critical voices regarding North American poetry from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, and had a particular appreciation for the work of Robert Creeley and the Black Mountain College circle of writers. What is not as well known is that he was an extraordinary poet himself.”
Viggo still makes time to be hands-on in the publishing process, and artists who have worked with him in the past all tell the same story — he’s a perfectionist with a flair for dramatic beauty. Lindsay Brice, a photogra- pher and longtime friend of the whole Mor- tensen-Cervenka clan and beyond into the worlds of punk, fine art and counterculture, recalls the putting together of her Perceval Press book as a process of careful empathy for her art and for the prose as well.
“Viggo meticulously edited my Perceval book, Supernatural, and I’m pretty sure he does that personally on every Perceval book,” she says. “Supernatural includes the Flannery O’Connor story ‘A Temple of the HolyGhost.’Hescrutinizedeveryword,ev- ery punctuation, every space throughout the process all the way to last looks for final print- ing. He evaluates whether his knowledge of many languages affects his choices in spelling and syntax. He is a perfectionist publisher.”
Painter Georganne Deen also published one of the early titles of Perceval Press, along with Brice, Lola Schnabel, Rene Ricard and Mortensen himself. “The circumstances are sofuckingwildandhilarious,”Deensays,“I can’t repeat them! The book, Season of the Western Witch, was ridiculously elaborate and included a CD of music and spoken word. Viggo contributed some sounds here
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