I spent my childhood winters in the dirty snow lining the streets of Manhattan and my childhood summers in a New Jersey pine forest. A war baby of World War II, in my veins Irish-Catholic and English-Protestant blood mixed with Romanian-Austrian Jewish. One grandfather was a Republican, the other a Communist, and my parents were New Deal Democrats. I'm a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and New York City College (CCNY). In Mayan astrology I'm a Wukub (7) Ajpu; in Western astrology I'm a Virgo Grand Trine.
published fiction, poetry, essays and history in numerous
magazines and periodicals over the last three decades. I'm a board
member of PEN USA West and PEN Oakland, affiliated with International
PEN. I have worked in social justice movements all my adult life.
I've lived in California since 1971, and reside with my wife Jill in
Berkeley, where I also do custom
We have a grown daughter. I was a City of Berkeley planning
commissioner for 2-1/2 years. I am current chair
of West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies, an organization
that represents the industrial and arts community in West Berkeley.
I've been a member of the Berkeley Indigenous Peoples Day Committee
since it's inception in 1991, working on the annual pow wow.
This web site contains works I wrote over the last thirty plus years. I have certainly changed in this time, more than once, and I hope you have too. I no longer agree today with everything I say in some of these writings. But I feel that most of them have an integrity of their own, so I am presenting them pretty much as they were written. Please keep in mind William Blake's claims that The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom, and If a fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.
American Poets (Bilingual Press,
2005); Ancient, lyrics by
John Curl, music composed by Grammy nominee Tania Leon
Memoir: Memories of Drop City: The First Hippie Commune of the 1960s and the Summer of Love, (iUniverse, 2006).
Poetry : Scorched Birth (Beatitude Press, 2004); Columbus in the Bay of Pigs, (Homeward Press/Inkworks, 1988, 1991); Decade: The 1990s, (Mother's Hen, 1987); Tidal News, (Homeward Press, 1982); Cosmic Athletics, (Poetry for the People, 1980); Ride the Wind, (Poetry for the People, 1979); The San Franscisco General Strike, (Cloud House, 1978); Insurrection/Resurrection, (Working Peoples Artists, 1975, with photos by Ken Light and graphics by Bruce Kaiper); Commu 1 (1971); Change/ Tears (1967)
Print Media: Anthologies, Magazines & Periodicals: Oakland Out Loud, Words Upon The Waters, Central Park , Poetry USA, Transatlantic Review, Amerus, Third Rail, El Corno Emplumado, Blake Times, The Unrealist, Soup, What is Real?, Peace Or Perish, Left Curve, Sparks of Fire, Merlyn Gorky, Clay Drum, Love Lights, Pulse of the People, THE, Toward Revolutionary Art, Haight-Ashbury Literary Quarterly, Anthology of East Bay Poets, Foolkiller, Poetalk, Radical America, Indigenous Currents, The Circle, Ball, Grassroots, Co-op News, East Bay Express, Berkeley Action, Berkeley Literary Review, Outlet, Oxygen, Terrain, Grist, Challenge, InnerSpace, Quixote, Mile High Underground, Collective Directory, Poetry Flash, Grassroots, The Black Panther. (Representative selection)
Online Zines: Savoy, San Francisco Salvo, The Boa, Asphyxia, Aware, Curiosity's Escape, Downcast and Dejected on a Coloudy Day, Gopher, Idling, Psychozoan, Richmond Review, Real Poetic, Sparks, Butterfly Jubilee, Thunder Sandwich, Thought Monkeys, The Shallow End, think-ink.net. (Representative selection)
Videos: The Heights of Hungry Coyote, Star Rover Productions, 1990 ( Bay Area Cable Excellence Award, Best Docudrama of the Year, 2nd place); The Columbus Invasion, Collision Course Productions, 1991
Play: The Trial of Christopher
Columbus produced by The PEN Oakland Writers Theater, 2009; The
Conquest of America
performed by the Nature Theater of San Francisco, 1982.
Music: Ancient, music by Tania Leon,
lyrics from Ancient American Poets,
Weekly radio show: Poetry for the People, KPOO San Francisco, 1979-1980.
Poetry Tour: Poets of the Golden Gate Poetry Tour (sponsored by Cloud House), 1983.
All the People
"It is indeed inspiring, in the face of all the misguided praise of 'the market', to be reminded by John Curl's book of the noble history of cooperative work in the United States."
Howard Zinn, author of A Peoples History of the United States
“This new edition is greatly welcome, because we need a cooperative movement and spirit more than ever before. Curl surveys all, and explains much. New generations of readers will find this a fascinating account, and aging co-opers like myself will understand better what we did, what we tried to do, where we succeeded and where we failed. Get this book and read it, Curl will do you good.”
Paul Buhle, coeditor of Encyclopedia of the American Left, founding editor of Radical America (SDS).
of Drop City
“John Curl’s characters in Memories of Drop City aspire to be ‘100 years’ ahead of the rest of us, but Curl shows, through his highly crafted and brilliant novelistic memoir, that they often succumb to the same social flaws as the rest of us. This might be the most balanced novel or memoir yet published about the sixties.”
Ishmael Reed, National Book Awards nominee.
“With this compelling evocation and portrayal
of breathing people -- the young and not so young, straight and not so
straight, political and not so political, hip and not so hip -- John
Curl unpacks the boxed
lunch myth of America’s alternative lifestyle Sixties. Memories
of Drop City restores the day to day flavor of a deeply
fabled era still key to understanding the way we live (and don’t live)
Al Young, poet laureate of California
“I think Memories of Drop City is an extraordinary book which brings the Sixties back to life in vivid detail and conveys the spirit of the Sixties better than almost anything else I’ve read.”
Gerald Nicosia, author of Memory Babe
“Memories of Drop City captures the idealism of a generation of flower children who returned to the land seeking peace and by that act committing revolution against the military-industrial state. John Curl brings these idealists and their demonstrations against war – just as these same idealists to this day demonstrate against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars -- vibrantly to light in a revolution with a smile. Thanks, John.”
Floyd Salas, author of Tattoo the Wicked Cross
"Scorched Birth is a book of wonders."
Jack Hirschman, poet laureate of San Francisco
" A Master Poet who uses language in a remarkable, innovative way, he gives us information on contradictions in the evolving state of human consciousness."
Mary Rudge, poet laureate of Alameda, CA
"What is unique about John's work is the
technique he has developed to bridge the gap between poetry of the
heart and political rhetoric ... His is the wholistic vision of
Whitman, a hologram of fragments--each of which mirrors the inner
harmonies as they leap out at you, all like circuits wired to some
luminous inner board. In his strong impassioned voice, John's
staccato lines in Cosmic
Athletics hammer away at the
machinations of the corporate hyenas just as smoothly as they hammer
together a universe we could live in as brothers and sisters."
Art Goodtimes, Poetry Flash
"The procreative force, the cosmic
sensibility, the oracular insight Curl brings to the reader is
constantly astonishing. His poems in Insurrection/
Resurrection and Ride the
Wind help define and give rise to a
verse of the surreal poetarian vision of the left. Here unrealism
attempts to seize and transform imperialist reality. Curl writes like
the lead miner in a pit crew. As such, he is already a major young
poet on the people's side. There is not a thing to be bought; off in
his poems, there is only the amazement of truth."
Roger Taos, The Unrealist
"By replacing sentence structure with what
he calls "energy structure," Curl is able to create a greater
diversity of sources for inspiration and possibilities for
communication within the context of any given poem ... John Curl has
proven himself one of our most capable and talented messengers."
Fred Pietarinen, City Arts
"Pages of truth that brought sadness to my
heart. It will be hard for me to live each day without quoting from
in the Bay of
Dennis Banks, Cofounder of the American Indian Movement
"Columbus in the Bay
Pigs can help us
understand our past, so we can rebuild our communities and project
our future, respecting the diversity of people living on this
Nilo Cayuqueo, South and Meso-American Indian Information Center
"Columbus in the Bay
Pigs is a must reading in
the step beyond 1992. Those who do not wish to open wider the
Indigenous Circle of life will be washed away, into the past."
Antonio Gonzales, International Indian Treaty Council
"John Curl has provided one of the first and
finest contemporary contributions toward truth in history in a time
when reappraisal of this country's relationship to Indians is of
June LeGrand, Cherokee storyteller
the Bay of Pigs reminds me of
Galeano, which is among the highest praise I can give
Malcolm Margolin, author of The Ohlone Way
"I read History
of Work Cooperation in
America with great interest and
pleasure. John Curl merits the highest praise for documenting this
woefully neglected aspect of American life. Society is a vast
interlocking network of cooperative labor. The very existence of
mankind depends upon both the necessity and the social instinct of
Sam Dolgoff, author of The Anarchist Collectives
Palache Hall Library, St.Clements Church, Berkeley
John Curl is also Webmaster for
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY, the new Holiday