Oral Histories

Interview of Mel Weisburd

Poet and essayist. Co-founder and editor of the literary journal Coastlines.
Interviews not in a series, part two
Biographical Note:
Poet and essayist. Co-founder and editor of the literary journal Coastlines.
Anderson, Susan D.
Weisburd, Mel
Persons Present:
Weisburd and Anderson.
Place Conducted:
Weisburd's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Susan D. Anderson, Curator, Collecting Los Angeles initiative.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Weisburd was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
4 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Full name and birth information--Family history--Parental background--Early childhood--Relationship with mother--Relationship with grandfather--Relationship with father--Relocation to father’s home--Religious background--Hebrew School--Anti-Semitism and discrimination in St. Paul, Minnesota--St. Paul in the 1930s--Siblings--Girlfriend, Rita, in St. Paul--Entertainment and recreational activities--Domestic activities as a foundation for later writing--Growing up during the Great Depression--Life with father and stepmother--Relocation to Los Angeles--Experiences with labor in Minnesota--Arrival in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles--Relocation to the West Adams area--Attendance at Dorsey High School--Dorsey as a Jewish high school--Creative writing teacher, Blanche Garrison, as an early inspiration for Weisburd’s interest in poetry--Humanizing technology--Interests in science and engineering--House on Potomac Avenue--Joining the army--Two academic quarters at Stanford--Early military career--Return to Los Angeles--House on Bronson--Attendance at UCLA--Experiences with college girlfriend, Stephanie--Early attempts at serious poetic composition--The MacGowan Theater--Nascent appreciation for classical music--The relationship between poetry and music--Shift from a science to an English major--Experience with English and writing courses at UCLA--The Viertel family--Winning the Shirle Robbins Poetry Prize--Getting published in Poet Lore magazine.
Post-graduation employment--Experiences working at the Los Angeles Air Pollution Control District--Pioneering in air pollution science and emissions control--Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s publication of Weisburd’s manual on air pollution--Weisburd’s work for the American Medical Association (AMA)--Move to Evanston, Illinois--Return to poetry writing--Chicago’s intellectual scene during the early 1960s--Attendance at Los Angeles State College--Thomas McGrath and his writing course--Stanley Kiesel and his work--Friendship with Gene Frumkin--McCarthyism at UCLA--Weisburd’s time as editor of Los Angeles State College’s student magazine, Statement--The publication of “The City That Outgrew Its Air”--The beginnings of Coastlines--Weisburd’s introduction to Gloria, his future wife--Gene Frumkin’s marriage--More on the Weisburds’ friendship with Frumkin--Tom McGrath and the House Committee on Un-American Activities--Alice and Tom McGrath separate--Tom McGrath in Fargo--Thomas McGrath, Jr.--Midwest poetry scene--McCarthyism, repression, and the surveillance of cultural movements--Los Angeles County’s consideration of a loyalty oath--Weisburd’s impressions of anti-Communist repression--More on Weisburd’s work for the AMA--Efforts to secure AMA support for the first Clean Air Act--Opposition to the passage of the Roberts bill from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
More on the origin of Coastlines--Foundational principles for the creation of Coastlines--Living at the Barding Dahl residence--Publishing the first issues of Coastlines--On meeting Edwin Rolfe--The California Quarterly magazine--The Salt of the Earth--Origin of the name Coastlines--Commercial distribution and public reception of the first issues of Coastlines--The magazine’s contribution to Los Angeles literary culture--Los Angeles as the “non-existent city”--Cover art for Coastlines--Writing an article about science fiction for a “literary magazine” --Competition with Lawrence Lipton--Weisburd’s attitude toward Ginsberg and other Beat poets--Beat culture and anti-government sentiments in contemporary society--More on the rivalry between the Beats and Coastlines--Weisburd experiments with lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)--Early examples of LSD usage and its impact on the Los Angeles literary scene of the late 1950s--The relationship between Coastlines and Pacifica Radio’s KPFK--The ‘62 antiwar issue of Coastlines--Weisburd’s unfinished novel, Firestorm--Contributors to Coastlines--Male domination in the U.S. literary culture of the 1950s--The challenges of publishing a literary magazine--Strain on personal relationships--Mel Weisburd and Gene Frumkin’s departure from Coastlines--Weisburd’s poetry class at the Catholic Adult Education Center--Other friends and correspondence--More reflections on the lifelong impact of his LSD experience--The termination of Coastlines--Final thoughts on the founding and the running of the magazine.