Holly Prado Northup (1938-2019)
Holly Prado was a member of the LA literary community since the early 1970s. Prado's work, which combines the personal and the mythic with evocative intensity, has appeared in more than a hundred publications and a dozen anthologies, both nationally and internationally. Her thirteenth book, Weather, a Cahuenga Press book, was published in 2019. Her book, Esperanza: Poems for Orpheus (Cahuenga Press, 1998), has been highly praised, particularly in The Women's Review of Books (Wellesley College)—"Prado has, more than any other poet I know, the ability to capture and describe the relationship between interior and exterior worlds in a manner that is simultaneously grounded and filled with mystery," wrote Alison Townsend—, and The Chicago Review. Her previous books include poetry, prose-poetry, a novel, two novellas. She taught creative writing, privately, for forty-two years; she, also, taught poetry in the Master of Professional Writing Program at USC, for twenty years. She was awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles, in 2006, for her work in the literary community. Also, Prado was the recipient of the 2016 George Drury Smith Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry, presented annually by Beyond Baroque Literary Foundation in honor of its founder, George Drury Smith. The critic Robert Peters wrote, "Her writing is done, metaphorically speaking, with a unique, knife-sharp edge. Prado is both passionate and visionary." Holly Prado was living in the Motion Picture and Television Fund, Woodland Hills, Ca., with her husband, Harry E. Northup, a film actor and poet, at the time of her death. They were both founding members of Cahuenga Press, which has been publishing books of poetry since 1989.
(INTERLUDE: I'd left the family dinner to go outside. I loved my mother and father, the aunt, uncle and cousins gathered the dinner table, but suddenly I had to get away, shivering in the early spring Nebraska weather where patches of snow still lay on the ground, tryng to melt but having a hard time of it. I headed for the alley that separated our house and yard from the Saunders', directly across from us.
I walked looking down, watching my step, not sure where I was headed. Then, in the middle of the alley, lifting from a muddy pile of snow, I spotted a cluster of Bachelor Buttons. Their blue was a vivid purple-blue, surprising and beautiful in the steadily darker evening. I knelt in the snow to look at the flowers, their ruffled petals like fragile wings. Even at age ten, I understood the moment: nature's ascendence out of winter's dormancy.
This was proof of God, no doubt about it.
I told no one. My family and I shared a mild verson of Protestant Christianity, benign enough, but our Congregational Church never satisfied me. Divine revelation in a common flower would have made no sense in a religion of memorized prayer, solid good works. In college, I lost my religious faith completely. Our snowy alley had nothing to do with passing Latin Literature in Translation. On my small college campus, there was art, though: theater, painting, music, poetry. The arts seemed to me a world of Soul. How to join that world? I couldn't, I thought. I had no gifts large enough to offer Soul.
Ten years later, I fell from my Phi Beta Kappa rationality into emotional exhaustion. What gathered as despair became my gift to the Bachelor Buttons. To find my own religion, I had to live within my dream life, within my true love of writing, my pull toward myth, symbology, archetypes, alchemy, pre-historic origins. I didn't find the Answer but The Mystery, the Sustaining Mystery.
Bachelor Buttons are re-seeding annuals, returning every spring. Once, a long time after my vision in the alley, I wrote in a poem of mine, "I am returned to what I never left.")
From Weather, (Cahuenga Press, 2019)
The Tall, Upheaving One
the cypress that I pray to:
it can fly. nothing is a single
species. we're made of bark, then
avalanche. Orpheus can make us anything.
can make us god's open door. cypress
or oak or black: to be accepted there,
across the boundary, as when I leave the house
this morning, walking -- nothing painful
in my legs. I tell misunderstanding,
"this is our last year together," then,
I see, just up the street, that planets
are our bodies; their mouths slam through
my wrists. I was a child who practiced
jumping from the top of anything right
into the air. music was a swirl of vines
and vines that left my throat.
I'm calling. and I'm waiting.
and I'm called to.
this black, the pure unknown which finds its way
exactly like the song you can't get rid of,
the one I start with now and won't give up.
the god, obsessed with worship that is memorized,
abiding, until the prayer itself moves inside
one, converts these worlds of sliding rock to fragrance.
I'm calling and I'm calling and I'm called.
from Esperanza: Poems For Orpheus
(Cahuenga Press, 1998)
Who would think to make a purple, green and yellow cat of tin?
Somebody who sees the possibilities. Winter, celebration of the light,
the nothing-palpable. Stars. Solstice. Myth. But this is a neighborhood
where used cars wait on the street to be sold. Somebody needs cash,
not decoration. The sign in one car window reads, "Drives doog."
Somebody's English shifted "g" and "d" around, but spelling
is the least of this guy's worries. He needs the rent,
the food, presents for the holidays. Cat, clipped tin,
appealing in that way the Japanese call "wabi sabi," imperfection
as potential beauty. I look where I can for teachers.
Imperfection is the best one I can find these days. "Doog" and pounded tin
and my old body falling through the seasons -- willing to get even older than it is:
tinnier, cheaper, less and less. How can anyone avoid this lesson? Or the peacefulness
of looking to the street where all the cars are getting older, too.
Nobody's asking much, only enough to get along.
But three weeks after winter solstice, 6 AM, I get myself outside
to say good morning to the birds, the newspaper, to winter dark -- firm indigo.
The fullest moon we've seen this year stands treasure-gold above the street.
Its light illuminates the cats, their weaknesses -- the not-great-paint-jobs
and the cracked upholstery -- changes them to art. The line of cars a landscape
worthy of Cezanne. I'm rescued once agin by possibilities, the world's great
natural surprise. Why ask to live forever when tin and moon,
my ruined back and hip, a bunch of junky cars can offer
everything I need to learn? I'm happy. I'm working at my given job:
making a language from our misspelled world.
from Oh, Salt/ Oh, Desiring Hand
(Cahuenga Press, 2013)
Bread Worth Eating
when I came alive today
there was no one to forgive
not even my own courage
ten years to learn a craft and then
perhaps one useful bowl
from Specific Mysteries
(Cahuenga Press, 1990)