Michael C. Ford, The Doors, and poetic musings about San Joaquin Valley
By Rose Albano-Risso
Nov. 29, 2010
The name Michael C. Ford will probably ring a bell to not just a few Manteca Unified School District students who were in elementary and high school during the mid-to-late 1980s. Those were the years when the award-winning spoken-word artist did stints as a poet-in-residence at Brock Elliott School, Manteca High and other campuses in the district.
Chances are, some of the students he taught probably still have in their possession today copies of an anthology of the youthful verses they penned in the classroom which was “published” at the end of their poetry lessons with the Grammy/Pulitzer Prize poet.
Ford was actually the resident poet for San Joaquin County area schools as well as language arts consultant for the California Poets-in-the-Schools program at the time, so he touched the lives of hundreds more would-be young poets than just those he mentored in the Manteca Unified School District.
Fast-forward to November 2010. Some 20 years after his poetic perambulations in The Family City, the poet, teacher, recording artist, critic and playwright who passed up a golden opportunity to become The Doors’ bass player to pursue his poetic muse, is back to his old haunts in the San Joaquin Valley – at least, poetically speaking. His latest book containing his musings on the bread basket of California is about to come out of the press around the end of the year. Photographic illustrations showing some scenes in the local area are expected to accompany this anthology.
Through the years, Ford has made appearances at various venues in San Joaquin County including a recognition dinner for the late Hollywood actress, Janet Leigh, under the auspices of the Stockton Arts Commission, and a more recent guest appearance last year in Stockton which, he was excited to say, was attended by retired Manteca High drama and English teacher Dorothy Mulvihill and her former student Erica, with whom he worked while being a poet-in-residence here. In honor of the late actress Janet Leigh, a former Stockton resident and an alumnus of the University of the Pacific, Ford wrote the poem, “A Landscape Entitled Janet Leigh.”
“If she could have lowered the San Joaquin Delta/Like a canvas on a slant towards downtown/Hollywood, she would have. In our own slanted/memory, we remember somebody’s Westwood/Village grandmother pointing at an apartment/building on the corner of Wilshire and Westholm,” reads part of his ode to the late actress.
Most recently, Ford has been involved in such poetic presentations as “Waiting for Jack” in Los Angeles, described by the L.A. Weekly as “a 90-minute, partly scripted, partly improvised re-creation of the historic 1955 Six Gallery poetry reading” featuring Doors drummer John Densmore. Ford is one of the producers of this “poetry theater event.”
He is also among the noted poets included in the L.A./Land of Poets group featuring online videos of 250+ poets performing at various Southern California venues. You can watch them in action at www.Poetry.LA.
Ford also continues to appear and lecture at various school campuses. Just last week, he was at Napa Community College.
He earned a Grammy nomination in 1986 with his debut spoken word vinyl titled, “Language Commando.” In 1998, his book of Selected Poems: Emergency Exits was honored by a Pulitzer Prize nomination.
As a playwright, Ford’s plays have been staged internationally. Currently in production is his screenplay version of a West Coast production of Blondes Don’t Bother to Knock.
He may have turned down a golden opportunity to play with The Doors, but Ford has continued his collaboration with Doors member John Densmore. The two recently wrote a piece together entitled “Drumming.” Ford described it as a depiction of drumming in the history of the United States. In the video, Ford recites the prose while Densmore “exemplies the reflected styles on his drum set.” You can watch the video by logging on to the web site of Hen House Studios which produced the videos, at www.henhousestudios.com.
In the meantime, while you’re watching his latest poetry-in-action project, you can wait for the publication of his latest poetry book about the San Joaquin Valley.
Tags: Article, Grammy, hen house studios, Janet Leigh, John Densmore, los angeles, Manteca Bulletin, Michael C Ford, music, Poet, poetry, San Joaquin, Six Gallery, Slam, spoken word, Stockton, The Beats, The Doors, Venice, Waiting for Jack