Jack Grapes catches one for the road.

Jack Grapes: Biography

Writer, Teacher, Actor

Jack and Josh Grapes

JACK GRAPES is an award-winning poet, playwright, actor, teacher, and the editor and publisher of ONTHEBUS, one of the top literary journals in the country. He has won several publishing grants and Fellowships in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts. He's also received nine Artist-in- Residence Grants from the California Arts Council to teach writing in various schools throughout Los Angeles. He is the author of 13 books of poetry, including Trees, Coffee, and the Eyes of Deer, and Breaking Down the Surface of the World. A spoken-word CD, Pretend, was recently issued by DePaul University. He is also author of a chapbook of poems and paintings titled and the running form, naked, Blake. His most recent publication is Lucky Finds, a boxed set of 50 cards that extend and parody the dynamic artistic productions of high-modernist poets such as Ezra Pound and Charles Olson.

In the L.A. Weekly's "Literary Guide to Los Angeles," his work was characterized as "operating somewhere in the middle ground between pop culture and philosophy." Writing in Poetry Flash, John Oliver Simon said, "When I talk to Mexican poets, I find myself thumbing my dog-eared copies of Jack Grapes's books to show what North American poetry can do at this moment." In the last few years, Jack's poems have appeared in five major national anthologies: Stand-Up Poetry (University Press, CSLB), The Maverick Poets (Gorilla Press), Grand Passion (Red Wind Books), Men of Our Time (University of Georgia Press), and Neuva Poesia de Los Angeles (Universidad de Guadalajara). Dennis Cooper considered Grapes's "updating of the Whitman ethic a unique usage of poetry, difficult to explain and equally hard to delineate, but the work's magic."

He was featured on the cover of the Directory of American Poets and Writers along with Robert Creeley, Tobias Wolff, Cathy Song, and Charles Baxter. Of his poetry, Sally Kalson in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "Grapes has been called an Everyman of poetry because his work cuts to the bone of basic human truth without the pretense that characterizes much of what passes for contemporary poetry." Reviewing Jack's most recent book, Lucky Finds, Matthew Specktor wrote in Poetry Flash (Fall, 2004): "Grapes covers a tremendous amount of ground in his poems--abstract and figurative, personal and philosophical, literary and historical--and he does it with wit and flair. To his immense credit, these moves do not seem half-digested; they seem, rather, the product of an original, omnivorous sensibility."

In 1989 he began editing and publishing ONTHEBUS, an international literary journal hailed by Esquire as "one of the top 20 journals in the country." The Los Angeles Times wrote: "The sheer unfettered and unpredictable range of poetry in ONTHEBUS is refreshing in an era of coteries, categories, and other curtailments of art's free spirit. In this willingness to bend, test, even offend literary tastes, ONTHEBUS is riskier and more challenging to the reader than most reviews today." In 1993 and 1995, Jack was awarded publishing grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. His goal to provide a broad view of poetry is reflected in the more than 2,000 California poets he's published in the last 20 issues of ONTHEBUS.

Jack Grapes
As actor and playwright, Jack co-wrote (with Allan Yasnyi) How Much Can a Grecian Urn? and wrote and starred in Circle of Will, a "bizarre metaphysical comedy" about the lost years of Will Shakespeare, which ran for several years in Los Angeles and won theater critic awards for Best Comedy and Best Performance. The Los Angeles Times called it "a play that goes way beyond mere entertainment; Grapes has created an intelligent piece of theater which peers into the very foundations of drama itself--it's one of the cleverest original works seen in a long time." He was recently featured in the USA movie Hef, and played the parts of Grass/Freddie in Don DeLillo's The Day Room at the Actor's Circle Theater in West Hollywood.

Over the last 30 years, he has taught over two thousand poets and writers, through both UCLA's Extension program and in privately-held classes. He has also taught poetry in over 100 Los Angeles schools, was Los Angeles Coordinator for California Poets-in-the-Schools, served on its Board of Directors, and was also a board member for PEN Center USA West.

In 1988 he founded the Los Angeles Poets & Writers Collective, which sponsors readings, publications, classes, seminars, and workshops. He is currently working on four books: a new volume of poetry, A Time to Sing and A Time to Dance; a creative writing handbook called Method Writing: The Craft of the Invisible Form; a critical study on Charles Bukowski titled The Tender Agonies of Charles Bukowski; and a multi-volume text-book/study-guide on the history of modern poetry from Homer to the present, tentatively titled Etherized Upon a Table.

Jack was born and raised in New Orleans, where he graduated from Tulane University with a BA in History and English and an MFA in Theater. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Lori, and their son, Joshua.

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