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West Coast Writers Come to Campus May 5-9

CSULB’s English Department hosts a weeklong celebration of local literature when Long Beach Celebrates West Coast Writers arrives on campus May 5-9.

The Monday-Friday events sponsored by CSULB’s Department of English, the College of Liberal Arts, the Office of the President and the English Students Association will present speakers, presentations and roundtable discussions. Admission to all events except the culminating salute to the career of CSULB professor and poet Gerald Locklin is free.

On Monday, May 5, at 7 p.m. there will be a round table discussion of West Coast writers. Participants will include Los Angeles Times Book Editor David L. Ulin, novelist and critic Carolyn See (Golden Days, There Will Never Be Another You, Making a Literary Life), and CSULB English emeritus faculty member David Fine, (Imagining Los Angeles: A City in Fiction, San Francisco in Fiction), plus English faculty members Alan Rifkin (author of Signal Hill), George Hart, Bill Mohr and Stephen Cooper.  This event will be free and open to all.

On Thursday, May 8, at 7 p.m. there will be a multi-author reading and two-book launch on the occasion of English faculty member Gerry Locklin, who is retiring after more than 40 years of teaching at CSULB. World Parade Books will be bringing out Gerald L. Locklin: New and Selected Poems and Some for the Road, a festschrift featuring poems in Locklin’s honor by Gerald Haslam, Ron Koertge, Edward Field, Marilyn Johnson, Dave Alvin, Donna Hilbert, Ray Zepeda, Lyn Lifshin, Charles Webb and others, many of whom will be on hand to read their contributions. While the cost for this catered reception will be $30, there will be no limit on contributions to the new Gerald L. Locklin Scholarship for Students. 

“The event is a celebration of  just a few of the great things that CSULB’s English Department does,” said Stephen Cooper, project organizer, who joined the university in 1984. “We are taking this opportunity to celebrate West Coast writers and writing,” Cooper explained. “We are putting a public face on some of what we do here in the Department of English. I think one of the best-kept secrets both on and off campus is how much this department has to offer.”

Cooper also applauded the level of participation by CSULB’s English instructors. “This event represents one really compelling core sample of CSULB’s English faculty members,” he said, “emeritus, tenured, probationary and lecturer. Poet Bill Mohr is writing the definitive literary history of West Coast poetry. George Hart is our go-to person on the role of the Beats on the West Coast. Alan Rifkin, a graduate of our MFA Creative Writing program, is a novelist and free-lance journalist who has published extensively on West Coast literature. And emeritus professor David Fine has not only written the definitive history of the L.A. novel, he’s also an expert on San Francisco fiction, which means he covers the waterfront.” Cooper also will address the conference on novelist and screenwriter John Fante, about whom Cooper wrote Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante, named one of the Best Books of 2000 by the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

On Tuesday, May 6, at 7 p.m. in the campus’ Soroptimist House, graduating poets and fiction writers from CSULB’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing will read from their works. Friday, May 9, in the USU Beach Auditorium at 7 p.m. celebrates the publication of the department’s two literary journals, Rip Rap and Watermark.

“This year marks the second annual issue of Watermark, the English Department’s journal devoted to scholarly essays by students,” said Cooper. “Plus, the reading celebrates the latest issue of Rip Rap, CSULB’s once-a-year literary magazine featuring work by CSULB students in poetry, fiction and art.”

Cooper cheered the backing received by this year’s conference. “I’m especially pleased by the support of CSULB President F. King Alexander as well as the College of Liberal Arts,” said Cooper. “They have supported the event very generously, as has the English Student Association.”

The tribute to the retirement of Locklin will serve as the centerpiece of the weeklong conference. “Gerry is one of the most beloved figures in the history of CSULB’s English Department and this is one way of showing gratitude for the contributions of a faculty member who has really put his signature on what we do and who we are,” said Cooper. “We could not let him go without telling him how much we appreciate him.” 

Cooper encourages faculty, students, staff and the community to attend the weeklong celebration. “The Monday event seats 300 in The Pointe and is free to all,” he said. “The events on Tuesday and Friday are also free. It’s my hope that these events so interest the community that as a department we are encouraged to continue celebrating our many diverse interests. I hope it becomes an annual series that allows us to address the community we serve.”

More information is available by accessing the West Coast Writers Web site.