Dossier: Ed Smith

Ed Smith, Venice, California, 1980. Photo by Skip Arnold.

Ed Smith, Venice, California, 1980. Photo by Skip Arnold.

Notebook Excerpts


Today I went to Disneyland and took acid.  I had fun palling around w/Johnny, Rosetta & Pam.

Also today I realized I could actually do something with my writing.

10/26/80   (Sunday)

Friday night I went out with Sandy.  First we got drunk.  I had previously decided not to drink that night, but it seemed like such a cool thing to do after Sandy kept suggesting I join her.  Then we went to Baces Hall.  It seemed real hard core.  Sandy got us past the door w/her press pass.  They usually don’t let guests in, but they are especially impressed by the press at these particular sort of affairs (as Sandy informed me).  She grabbed my hand (and occasionally my arm) and we manouvered (sp?) amongst the punks and punkettes like the seasoned pros we were.

1st stop: the men’s room (for both of us).

We saw a couple of bands and we bought a beer.

We looked for a backstage area and settled somewhere on stage.  No one ever questioned us as we were moving about.

I saw Charlie [Quintana] from The Plugz there and we waved at each other. He was the only familiar face there other than Ms. Nila.  I don’t even know him that well.  And I’m too lazy to look up his last name.

We were leaning against the back wall of the stage as Black Flag began their set.  The stage was both small and cramped.  We stood on chairs amongst some other band’s equipment tucked away behind the bass amp. We bought a couple of more beers from some guy out of his suitcase.  I mentioned to Sandy that I saw a couple of policemen in the doorway.  The place was so crowded people were actually climbing the walls for a place to be.  I knew they were policemen and not security guards even tho they were blurry.

Before I finished my sentence to Sandy, there were two more cops.  I filled her in.  We started to climb off the chairs we were standing on.  The band may have stopped playing.  By the time we were off the chairs the police had come in and formed a line of policemen advancing through the hall leaving behind them an odd sort of emptiness.  They had the place about 2/3 emptied.

They got to the front of the stage before we did.  They stood there as real men and as stone-faced as possible.

One of them grabbed me by the shirt and yanked me off the stage.  I guess I wasn’t moving fast enough for them. Sandy panicked a little seeing me sprawled on the floor and started waving her press pass around to protect us. She said “He’s okay, he’s okay” and one of the cops responded that he knew.  We exited through the door suggested to us by the men in blue and walked out into a very enclosed parking lot.  Sandy pointed out we had to go over the fence.  It looked easy enough to me but I guess Sandy’s not really used to climbing fences.

I shoved her up the fence and climbed over myself.  She was still struggling at the top of the fence.  Me and this other guy standing around helped her off.  The light shone down from the helicopter.

I grabbed Sandy and we made our way through the “riot.”  It was very exciting.  I was happy through it all.  I was trying to get Sandy to move faster.  For some reason she wanted to stop at the red light, but the intersection was so choked with people I didn’t see any problem with being hit by a car. I pushed her into the crosswalk and started toward her car.  When we were halfway across the street, the mass of people in the intersection turned in our direction and RAN as if their safety depended on it.

At this point we noticed the flares.  The police had closed off the entire area to outside traffic.  We left w/out finding out what was actually going on.

From there we went to see Nervous Gender at Vex and then to some party that had previously ended and we got in a bit of a hassle w/some “people” there.

From there we went to my apartment.  We each had a drink and listened to some quiet music.  I started hustling Sandy to hear me play [my guitar]. At one point she expressed a fear that she would lose herself to me, explaining that her heart was already “half” mine.  Well, anyway, I forced her into moving into my bedroom saying that I just wanted to play one piece for her.  She lay down on the bed with her hands clasped behind her neck and her legs open.

I tried to play.  It didn’t work very well.  My fingers seemed so clumsy.  She seemed to be positively affected by it, anyway.

I played awhile longer and she fell asleep.

After awhile I walked back into the bedroom.  She said hi.

After a few words were exchanged, she told me to lay down “here,” next to her.

It was very nice sleeping w/someone I am that fond of.

[Written across top of page:]  Punk rock is cool for the end of the world.


10 Reasons why Darby may have killed himself:

1. It was a mistake.
2. He was a jerk.
3. He was mad at the world.
4. He thought he was worthless.
5. He thought he had to prove something.
6. He was a fag.
7. He hated the world.
8. He hated his friends.
9. He was lonely.
10. He hated himself.

He would do anything to get attention.  Perhaps he was afraid of being called (or thought of) as just another guy.  He even went to the Rainbow with a Mohawk.

When he came by the office about three weeks ago, he was dressed “normally.” He was even wearing jogging shoes.

You wanna know something about suicide?  It happens all the fucking time.

Is that what he had in mind?  To show the world a suicide?

[Written in margin:] 12/5/82  “Darby Crash” means “I want to kill myself”

[Darby Crash, punk rock vocalist and songwriter, co-founder of the band The Germs, committed suicide on December 7, 1980.]


You never knew me on the playground.
You knew me on the playground.
You don’t know me on the playground.
You may have seen me on the playground.
You remember me from the playground.
I was king of the playground, feller.


Time by myself
Time with others
Time by myself
Time with others
Time by myself
Time with others


It’s Friday, except I think it may possibly be Saturday already and oh yeah. Well, last weekend I did my first official poetry reading

(I would never do this
This isn’t me
You’d never catch me
     being words on paper
Being written down
Being in a position
     where I could always
     be come back to and

(on Saturday) and my second official poetry reading (on Sunday) also.  Scratch “official,” insert “public.”

I was hoping to read at the Beyond Baroque open readings on Sunday, so I began my preparations on Saturday.  I got out some of my computer paper left over from earlier days and copied a poem for my reading on its own sheet of computer paper

(“Where can decent people go to live?”)

I finished a couple of them right there at the kitchen table

(Quote from a cool author whose name presently escapes me: “Some writers turn to drink, well I’m turning to audiences.”  Okay, so maybe it’s not an exact quote.  Well, anyway, my reaction: Why not both).

I got ten poems altogether for my reading.  I read through them a bunch of times and, quite frankly, I was very pleased.

Somewhere along the line I noticed that the Pasadena Poets were having a “First Occasional Poetry Celebration” which featured two poets as well as open readings. Aha!  My chance!

Well, anyway, it was at the Pacific Asia museum on Los Robles.  There was a beautiful garden/courtyard with a very tasteful fish pond and a woman playing some Bach stuff on flute.

I paid my $2.50 admission in nickels, dimes and pennies.

The featured poets went first.  The first guy was simply awful, a real college English professor at that

(The voice inside of me
Speaks on endlessly
In a dreamy monotone
On and on
Never giving away any emotion
In the midst of my head)

The second poet was actually quite good, I thought (Eloise Klein Healy). Perhaps her language stood out amongst the academia

Oh yeah oh yeah

You know, there were women there who had been wearing nylons for a long time.

After the intermission; then, the open reading.

A cute short m.c.

I had signed up second.  I had five glasses of wine on an empty stomach.  I wasn’t called second.  Their friends got to read oh yeah.

Finally, something about Robert Frost followed by “and tonight we have with us Ed Smith.”

A very nice podium with a microphone and I was pissed oh yeah I wanted to gun down all the assholes there I wanted to let them know I thought they were literary jerks and wimps (all the open reading poets, 8 or 9, so far, had been, in my opinion, real fuckin’ bad).  I read thru my stuff.  They laughed at the title of my Erica Jong poem.  I think they applauded every poem except for the one about pissing and bleeding, but I think the only reason they applauded “Sometimes Fucking Seems So Alien” was coz I read it last.

Next night, Beyond Baroque and Thai [stick] instead of alcohol.  Much sleazier environment and much more intimidating and impressive.  The gangs had been in the bathroom.  Real poets wandering around.  People self-conscious and signing up.  In the ballpark of 30 poets of varying descriptions.  Mostly turn out boring oh well.  Still, a lot of talent and, Ms. [Pam] Kehrer informs me, many distinguished names oh yeah.

TBC   ahhh

Photo booth strip: Ed Smith and Mary Emerzian, circa 1981

Photo booth strip: Ed Smith and Mary Emerzian, circa 1981


Well, anyway, more on my poetical adventures.  At the Beyond Baroque reading, I was the first poet (ha-ha!) to read for the second half.  The poet to end the 1st half was the closest to moi.  He tried to copy my image and mentioned both his father and jerking-off (I hate that term applied to masturbation).  Still, I didn’t think he was that good.  As a matter of fact, I thought he was taking baby steps in the right direction, rather than charging right in (like at best I try to).

I got up to read.  I was much more self-conscious than the previous eve for two main reasons: (a) I felt like there were more real poets about and (b) I was on grass as opposed to being drunk.  When I read my voice was loud and nasal and I was afraid to look at the audience.

I read “Please” first.  You know, the one I wrote especially to open readings with.  I finished the poem and began to go on to the next (“Some Examples of Ways . . .”).  The audience paused for a moment & then started laughing.  I guess it took a moment for it to hit ’em (or perhaps to work up the nerve to laugh).  I was trying to read the title to the 2nd poem, but they were laughing.  I tried to clear my throat a couple of times and that really tickled ’em.

It was different from the previous evening.  They laughed intermittently thru “Some Examples . . .”  Next, I believe, was “An Open Letter [to Erica Jong]” which they really flipped over.  They really seemed to go crazy over my one-word conjunctive lines (just hanging on my words, waiting to see what I was gonna do).  When I finished they burst into a truly genuine-sounding, congratulatory, admiration-type, spontaneous applause.  I suspected it would go over well, but this was too much.

They laughed a lot throughout my reading.  Memorable laughs followed the title of “Fantasyworld,” followed “An Open Letter . . .” as well as “My job gets so boring / I beat off under the desk” and “Like getting shot?”  They applauded after that, but partly because Ms. [Mary] Emerzian led them.  It was hard to get thru the poem properly coz they were laughing so much.  I wouldn’t pause for them.  I was, after all, reading poetry, not doing stand-up comedy.  The last memorable laugh came at the “waving ‘hello’ on the freeway” line from “Sometimes Fucking . . .”, but they did laugh quite a bit thru it all.

After finishing, I said “thank you,” my only comment that wasn’t a poem and walked down.  Their applause at the end, especially compared to many boring jerks, including Michael Lehrer, following me didn’t seem too enthusiastic (it stopped fast). Maybe they thought I was a jerk or maybe I drained them.  Pam was practically in tears from laughing so much.

As we filed out following da show, we passed by Dennis Cooper, da guy in charge there who Michael warned me would love my stuff coz I did it better than him and would try to pick me up afterwards to boot (but not w/Mary around, I thought).  As I passed him he said
     “garble garble terrific.”
     “Huh?” I countered.
     “Your poems were terrific.”
     “Oh.  Thank you.”
     “Here.  Write down your address for me.”  He had a piece of paper.  “I want to send you a copy of a literary magazine I edit; it’s called Little Caesar.”  He cont’d, “If you like it, perhaps you would consider submitting some material.”

I gave him my address & phone #, asked his name (which I thought was “Hooper” as opposed to “Cooper”) and took off.

Oh boy, somebody wants to publish me.

Later on, Mary & Michael were surprised to learn what had happened. Pam already knew.

The following Thurs I was running out to get my ride to go to the Outlaw Cinema Festival (tonight, or rather that night: Heat Bad ), when I  [passage unfinished]

It’s easy to write.  It’s usually harder to get someone to pay attention (but not that hard).


I don’t read much “poetry.”

I won’t read poetry unless it grabs me and pulls me along.  Otherwise, it’s too much work and I’d rather be doing something else.

I do like to go to readings.

I’ll usually go if someone tells me.  I like having poems read to me.  At its best, it makes me feel like a kid again.

Otherwise, I’ll just go to sleep, right there.  And that makes me feel like a kid, too.


I had a great adventure with Melissa last Friday.  I won’t go into too many details, but it was fun.  We went and saw Twisted Roots open for Iggy at the Palladium. Then we went to the Cathay [de Grande]. Then some guy punched Melissa in the face.

Oh well.


To YOU in the future
let me say hi I’m Ed Smith
of a previous future


So here I am on the bus again.  Last night I went to the “Venice Invades Cal Arts” reading at Cal Arts.  It was great.  Mary & I rode w/Jack [Skelley] and Amy [Gerstler].  We got drunk.  It was a beer party.  Amy had some Vodka.  She might come over Saturday & bring some Champagne.  Dennis said not to worry about me giving a reading.  Everybody seems to be an editor.  Bob [Flanagan] was not depressed this time.  Sheree [Rose] took a picture of Mary and me afterwards yeah.  Today I got on the bus earlier so it’s filling up faster.  I’ll write more later.

Ed Smith and Mary Emerzian, December 3, 1981. Photo by Sheree Rose.

Ed Smith and Mary Emerzian, December 3, 1981. Photo by Sheree Rose.

Punk Rock Is Cool for the End of the World: Poems and Notebooks of Ed Smith, edited by David Trinidad, is forthcoming from Turtle Point Press in the spring of 2019.