February 20, 2014
Poet SCOTT WANNBERG (1953–2011) worked for over twenty years as a bookseller and book buyer at Dutton’s in Brentwood, Calif., where his advice was much sought-after. Not only a passionate advocate for books that he believed in, he had extraordinary insight into what a specific person might want — or need — to read. (He was also beloved by customers’ dogs.) Although he was a profoundly kind, generous, and warm person, Wannberg’s poetry — collected in Nomads of Oblivion and other books, including his last, Strange Movie Full of Death — exposed a darker side of him. For example, this excerpt from “Agony River”:
Agony River just called collect
promises to flow to the front door in a few hours
Strange faces from ongoing confusion
only make the decision that much harder
Pull the plug or mop the bleeding deck one last time
in hope it will never show up again
Pain aches for you and it calls me over and
wants to know the secret of reaching you
A member of the traveling poetry troupe The Carma Bums throughout the ’90s, Wannberg’s spirit was at the heart of the Los Angeles poetry scene during that era and the ’80s; he was also a staple at Venice, Calif.’s literary space Beyond Baroque. He died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 58.
READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Blank Generation (1944–53) and the Original Generation X (1954–63).