Tony Scribella: The Venice Beat Poets – The Great River Outside the Mainstream

By Hillary Kaye

Tony Scibella was both poet and painter. Growing up working class, all he could see ahead was dead end jobs in conventional postwar America, and he wondered where his true path lay. Following clues he got from the freedom and creativity he saw in jazz clubs and in the paintings of abstract expressionist and working class hero Franz Kline, he found it as an artist.

Tony got out of the army in 1952, briefly worked at an aircraft plant and attended SMCC before discovering Venice. There he also discovered Stuart Perkoff. Scibella encouraged his friend to paint and Perkoff taught Scibella to write down the words swirling in his imagination. The two of them along with Frank Rios roamed the Venice oceanfront sharing poetry making and camaraderie.

It was a different Venice then. It was a breathing space between real estate booms. No bike path, no skate rentals, no sunglass vendors, no upscale restaurants, no valet service, no Hollywood celebrities, no gentrification, no ego sized mansions lining the canals. Venice was as simple as a Taoist dream. It was sufficiently primitive enough to pass for a seedy border town for Orson Welles’ classic film Touch of Evil.

Scibella’s autobiography, The Kid In America, owes much to Joyce and Kerouac but in ways surpasses both in being more real than Kerouac and more spontaneous than Joyce. In it he says this about his new digs:

“…Venice was a summertown the locals rented rooms to vacationers from the city & then it closed in winter showed some snowcone life on weekends& drowsed u cd rent a whole house for 65$ …the people flee the city for the burbs forgetting the entire beach (bless em) a cheap pursuit of craft a place to do it described as a slum I never saw it thus: it is a bleedin paradise I reckoned salts on the sun oceanmotion gullquiet beach”

Scibella helped Stuart Perkoff open the Venice West Café. They all made the scene they were the scene, they lived it….used in it ….used it till they were part of its “bleedin.”

Always it was about making art….money a necessary evil was not easy to come by, as no one of them wanted to give their valuable time to it…everything was about the muse.


poetry is the game

who worked hardest
abt the poem
was supposed
to say yr heart
in all that
whirls abt u
u pluck
what u can eat only
not wasting
a syllable
u learned
to walk on
most of us
are punished
for hoping
too much

the gratitude
sung to her
is habitual
as the breath:
all u want
: u must
give it back
& a song
to her is this

Posted: Sat - December 1, 2007 at 07:13 PM