It’s with great sadness that Sarer and I found out that Christopher Mulrooney died suddenly in Los Angeles on July 23rd 2015. We had agreed to publish a pamphlet by Christopher, reservation, this month, and were finalising some minor details prior to going to print. Though we had not met Christopher in person, from the email correspondance we exchanged with him in the planning and preparation to publish reservation, and further correspondance with his long-term partner, artist Heather Lowe, we neverthless were very saddened by this news.
Christopher Joseph Mulrooney was born in Athens, Georgia on June 9th, 1956. As a young boy he traveled back and forth from Georgia to California.
After his parents had divorced, he stayed in Georgia with his mother and later came to stay with his father who began an accountant business in California. I first met Christopher at Santa Monica High School in California. He was exceptionally brilliant, read everything, frequented plays, concerts, museums, and had a fine sharp wit. During the seventies he was steeped in music. He played the French horn and piano. He loved Schoenberg, Webern, and Boulez, among a million other composers. He also began composing his own music. Some years later (mid eighties) he set a piece of music to one of Samuel Beckett’s poems—I believe it was from “Ill Seen, Ill Said”—He had sent it to Beckett asking for permission to use his words. Beckett wrote back: “Permission Granted.”
He lived in Long Beach and attended the state college there for awhile in the late seventies, but I lost touch with him around that time. I would guess his writing started to become more important in the eighties after he had traveled to Europe on an inheritance from his father, who had died rather young. He had been to Oxford and that experience left quite an impression on him. When I met up with him later in the late eighties, after some hardship, we moved to L.A. Here he began his work, writing all day and every day. He wrote poetry, plays, and some prose at this time. He was also very active in corresponding through any means he could to voice his opinion about Los Angeles culture. He cared deeply for this city. He fought long and hard through the demise of what was once a unique culture of great architecture, musical life, visual art and film making. It is important to note that his work reflects this long history and although it encompasses more than one city or idea, sometimes the reference can be very specific. I read a review of one of his poems once where the reader made a remark that perhaps Mulrooney was using an automatic or chance method to compose the work, in which case he was upset that he had bothered to spend so much time analyzing it. But Mulrooney spent hours perfecting his craft. Analysis can only be rewarding. Delving deeper into his work reveals the true nature of his art. The references are all there, which he could so easily cull from memory, and his musical wit and genius binds his art to perfection. A reader who is well read will catch these references. Someone who has not had an education may still appreciate the sound, rhythm and humor.
For a time he was the main editor of LOS, a small hard copy magazine in the late eighties that eventually became an online magazine. He accepted very few poets. On the other hand, Mulrooney fought hard for great artists who had gone unnoticed for one reason or another. For example, he studied films that might have very few mentions or bad reviews and he would bring to light their importance in film history. He loved film and he would work ideas out with me, retelling a story (He was a great storyteller and oh, the long set up for jokes—he kept me laughing) or making associations to earlier films. He loved the language, the world of film. In the nineties he took an interest in photography and entered some of his pictures in local shows. He was also an excellent translator, in particular, of French poetry. At his desk the most tattered books lay beside his desk: dictionaries in French, English and German, Borges “The Book of Sand”, John Keats “The Complete Poems”, William Wordsworth, “The Prelude”, Harold Pinter, “Poem and Prose”, “Poésies de Paul Valéry”, Verlaine:“Oeuvres poétiques complètes”, François Truffaut “The Films in My Life”, “Godard on Godard”, “The Whitman Reader” an Ruy Blas “Victor Hugo.” In 2002 he once made a list of the greatest American poets: Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Carl Sandburg, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, T.S Eliot and Walt Whitman. I know Mallarmé, Nabokov,René Char, Browning, and Beckett were also dear to his heart. But, there were so many…
He wrote excellent art critiques, as well. As soon as we returned from a good art gallery opening or museum show, he would set to work writing about it. He was never without his pen and tablet.
I also want to mention that Mulrooney and I shared a love for nature. We walked a lot in these last years at Griffith Park, Echo Lake Park and Silverlake Reservoir. He knew the names of many flora and fauna. When we took walks, he would stop to show me something beautiful every five minutes or so. His eye was so keen.
The ruin of Los Angeles, he said, was making him sick. Beauty being torn asunder right and left made him physically ill. He was in so much pain these last two years, but his work continued to flourish. His work was published in many journals both university journals and small rags and at least ten published books of his own work. I am still working on making a catalog or list of all that he has produced and published which is voluminous, to say the least. If it was published correctly, he was pleased no matter what the status of the publication. If they loused it up, he was a terror for the day! The day before he died there were three pages full of writings in his most recent black and white composition notebook.
Heather Lowe, August 4th 2015
Heather kindy passed on these photograph’s of Christopher.
Christopher Mulrooney (1956-2015) is the author of Notebook and Sheaves (PublishAmerica), Circk (w/artist Heather Lowe), toy balloons (Another New Calligraphy), Tongues (translations of Arcos, Baudelaire, Apollinaire, Breton, Char, Cocteau, Jarry, Trakl, Stravinsky, Vildrac, Alisjahbana, Kafka, Brecht & many more), Grimaldi (FowlPox Press), Ut, alarm (Shirt Pocket Press), Rimbaud (Finishing Line Press), ordeal, supergrooviness (Lost Angelene) and Buson orders leggings (Dink Press).
There’s a lot more of his writing (inc. plays, criticism, translation & poetry) on his website here.
reservation by Christopher Mulrooney (1956-2015) will be published by Hesterglock Press in August 2015.