The irreverent, tweetable, ludicrous, painful, wondrous work of the L.A. punk poet—widely available for the first time.
In Punk Rock Is Cool for the End of the World, David Trinidad brings together a comprehensive selection of Ed Smith’s work: his published books; unpublished poems; excerpts from his extensive notebooks; photos and ephemera; and his timely “cry for civilization,” “Return to Lesbos”: put down that gun / stop electing Presidents.
Ed Smith blazed onto the Los Angeles poetry scene in the early 1980s from out of the hardcore punk scene. The charismatic, nerdy young man hit home with his funny/scary off-the-cuff-sounding poems, like “Fishing”: This is a good line. / This is a bad line. This is a fishing line.
Ed’s vibrant “gang” of writer and artist friends—among them Amy Gerstler, Dennis Cooper, Bob Flanagan, Mike Kelley, and David Trinidad—congregated at Beyond Baroque in Venice, on LA’s west side. They read and partied and performed together, and shared and published each others’ work.
Ed was more than bright and versatile: he worked as a math tutor, an animator, and a typesetter. In the mid-1990s, he fell in love with Japanese artist Mio Shirai; they married and moved to New York City. Despite productive years and joyful times, Ed was plagued by mood disorders and drug problems, and at the age of forty-eight, he took his own life.
Ed Smith’s poems speak to living in an increasingly dehumanizing consumer society and corrupt political system. This “punk Dorothy Parker” is more relevant than ever for our ADD, technology-distracted times.
“In the very early ‘80s Ed was intimidatingly skinny and gorgeous and as reckless and charismatic as that guy in The Libertines who got caught doing coke with Kate Moss, but very, very talented and massively intelligent, and even when he was a little too wild, he was always so kind and heartbreakingly sweet and smart. Saying he was our Rimbaud is way too lazy, but there was that. I thought of him as LA’s John Wieners. Ed’s poetry has Wieners’s deep melancholy and low-key, note-perfect lyricism, mixed with Ed’s strange, bright ideas and his dead-pan, startling sense of humor. I‘m one of the many people who misses his poetry a lot.” —Dennis Cooper
"Years ago my wife slept with Ed Smith and wrote him into her novel; we goggled, bemused by his ubiquity. It was a time when Ed was everywhere, or so it seemed, and his energy and taste for the zany and the outrageous fit right in with what we in San Francisco appreciated most about the heroic LA artists—Bob Flanagan, Mike Kelley, Amy Gerstler, Dennis Cooper, so many more. The present anthology is not only the best of Ed’s writing but contains in his notebooks the single greatest account of the genius brewing in the Southland at that moment. Hats off to David Trinidad for bringing it all back home—his exquisite care in selecting and contextualizing is the greatest gift he could have given his late friend." —Kevin Killian
"Sappho invented civilization, and Ed Smith made it punk."—Tony Trigilio
"Reflecting the heroic editorial efforts of David Trinidad, this collection of Ed Smith's poems and journals makes me nostalgic for a lost era; sad that this talented if troubled poet took his own life; glad that we included his work in The Best American Erotic Poems, and in total agreement with David Trinidad that Smith's poetry would have a salutary effect on a group of young writers, such as those attending a graduate writing program."—David Lehman