magazine was founded in 1974 by Joan Jobe Smith while she was an undergraduate
at California State University, Long Beach. The first two issues (#1 published
May 1974, #2 December 1974) were funded by the CSULB Honors Program and
distributed gratis. For want of being typeset and different, those issues
featured calligraphy by Smith and women only. Established poets Lyn Lifshin,
Ann Menebroker, Linda King, and Rochelle Holt were included, as well as
many university women poets, most notably Marilyn Johnson, who was not only
published for the first time, but would eventually become a co-editor of
Pearl. Almost accompanying them was Anaïs Nin who, pleased with
seeing Pearl's predominance of women writers and artists, promised
to submit some of her work. Too ill, however, with the cancer that would
take her life in 1977, she was never able to.
Also, according to his then-girlfriend, Linda King, a bemused Charles Bukowski, who was seldom excluded from any small press mag, let alone an upstart like Pearl, had threatened to submit his poetry using a feminine pseudonympoetry which certainly would have made a small press landmark of particularly absurd and humorous enormity. Along with a photo of him and Ms. King vis á vis upon a waterbed, Bukowski did appear in the third Pearl, a 500-run issue, published in April 1975, and funded by Smith, by then a CSULB graduate. Bukowski would have been featured in the fourth Pearl, projected to be a "male chauvinist pig" issue, but Smith ran out of money, the evil root of all abandoned, NEA-nixed dreams.
Twelve years later February, 1987, after years of talking about reprising the little mag, Pearl was finally resurrected from the deep dark sea of publishing limbo. Fortified this time with the editorial collaboration of Marilyn Johnson, who had since become a friend and colleague of Smith (both M.F.A. grads of the UC Irvine Writing Program), and poet Barbara Hauk (also a UCI grad), and armed with Johnson's IBM PC and artistic wizardry, Pearl has subsequently published over forty issues since its 1974 inception. Now funded by patrons, subscriptions, and the editors' personal penny-pinching, Pearl has showcased the work of Long Beach poets Gerald Locklin, Charles H. Webb, Catherine Lynn, Fred Voss, Richard E. Lee, Lisa Glatt, David Hernandez, Donna Hilbert, Melanie Martin, and Tamara Madison, as well as that of Los Angeles poets FrancEyE and Julia Stein, and Orange County poets Robert Peters and Lizbeth Parker, and Paul Kareem Tayyar. Pearl has also featured NEA recipients Helena María Viramontes, Ron Koertge, Richard Garcia, Rafael Zepeda, and Frank X. Gaspar (also a 1988 Pulitzer Prize nominee). Other poets and writers of note have been Billy Collins, Denise Duhamel, Charles Bukowski, Dorianne Laux, Jim Daniels, Allison Joseph, Edward Field, Nin Andrews, David Trinidad and Ed Ochester.
Pearl's three femme editors, with their three very different poetic points of view, try to make Pearl an eclectic publication, a place for lively, readable poetry and prose that speaks to real people about real life in direct, living language, profane or sublime.