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Charlotte O'Brien 3.11.05
Dear Lance,

About your one man show Broken Hearts and sad Country Songs:

I feel compelled to write this letter as a concerned third party. Lets say an innocent bystander. Lets say an audience member who was moved to tears by your piece. It must have had a profound effect on me as I've been thinking about it constantly ever since and this is what I want to say:

I think there is a strong possibility that you have let the woman of your dreams slip through your fingers and haven't even realized. I feel such an overwhelming urge to tell you this. It has been playing so heavily on my mind (jumping to the forefront at times when I really wasn't thinking about you or Broken hearts or Sad Country Songs) that I believe there could be some strange psychic force driving me to say it. This is what I want to say:

Run to her, sing her one of you heartfelt renditions of a Sad Country Song. Tell her you're sorry. Tell her that you finally “get it” that you can't imagine growing old on the porch without her. Grovel, do everything and anything within your power to win her back. Know that you've been blind. That there might be plenty of fish in the sea but that maybe, just maybe you swam away from your perfect fish.

Despite my psychic urges, I say this to you because I think guys are innately dumb when it comes to love. If you're toddling along in a relationship and that person turns out to be your absolute best friend. You know, your B.S. monitor, then for fuck's sake hold on to them. It's not always like that in a relationship and God knows everyone needs someone to call them on their B.S. ( Weren't you around to hear Husbands 101?! Didn't you read High Fidelity? )

Basically as an audience member I agreed that the first three relationships were due their final scene. I too felt your relief when they ended. But after listening to you talk about relationship #4, it was frankly hard to listen to you talk about the last girl. It seemed as though there was so much left unresolved before her. Perhaps this simply boils down to you being too post modern in your delivery and me as an audience member being old fashioned and needing more closure. But I still say those people (the ones you have “that” connection with) only come along in a blue moon and you have to catch the moment and know when to hold on to it. In your case I'd say, when to run after it.
Wishing you all the luck and love and luck in love in the world,

Charlotte x

Wayman Barnes 1.19.05
Bits & Pieces of Me, Me, Me!

Lance Anderson is one of those guys who can make anyone enthused about anything. His energy and excitement is contagious. So when he called me at work and told me that he wanted to do something “experimental” with the next Bits & Pieces show, I was like yeah! Count me in.

To my surprise the “experiment” was having me be the host.

Me? Experimental? I didn't get it. I'd hosted shows before. It would be a snap.

When I told my girlfriend about it she said, “Is Lance crazy?! Has he ever seen you host?”

“No. He thought it would be ‘experimental',” I replied.

“'Experimental', yeah. You will end up insulting everyone. You always do.”

“What? I don't insult people. That is called being funny. People like that.”

“Only people who like assholes.”

An asshole? Me? Hmmph. She just didn't understand what hosting was all about. The host is supposed to go up there and say stuff to cleanse the audience's palette before the next reader. We are the saltine cracker. The sorbet.

And some of us are funnier than others, so we say stuff that gets a laugh. Maybe it is at the poets expense sometimes, but they should understand. After all, there is an audience there that needs to be entertained. Yeah?

Still, for the week before the show, hosting weighed heavily on my mind. I wondered what Lance was expecting of me that would be considered “experimental.” And would the audience think I was an asshole? It was troubling.

I went to several readings to see how those hosts handled things. And without exception I was introduced as “strange,” “the weird world of …,” and, my personal favorite, “that quirky guy …”. It made me wonder what people really thought about me. Was Lance expecting me to be a weirdo?

Well, if that is what he wanted then that is what he'd get.


And that is what he got. I opened up with the rambling monologue that you've just read. And, exactly like my girlfriend said would happen, I insulted everyone. Not intentionally, of course. I was just being funny.

Bits & Pieces
3rd Friday, 9pm
Coffee Fix
12508 Moorpark St.
(West of Whitsett St.)
Studio City

Wayman Barnes 10.20.04
Story Fest 2004

Four Nights! Fourteen Different Shows! Two Stages! Two Hundred and Eighty-four Cups of Coffee! And a Good Time Had by All!

I attended the last year's fest and had been impressed, but this year was, Wow!, above and beyond my expectations. The damn thing just keeps getting bigger and bigger. SRO for nearly every show. I personally had to stand behind the counter with the barista.

Unlike the normal Wednesday night Story Salon where you have to bring a different story each week, this was a “Best Of” for the year with each show having a different theme, eg., “My Rude Awakening,” “Date Hard,” “Crimes & Misdemeanors,” “Nude! Nude! Nude!,” “90 Second Stories,” “Dead End Jobs,” “Laugh Lines,” “Broken Hearts & Sad Country Songs,” “But This Time It Was Different,” “Vinyl Memories,” “Epiphanies & Revelations,” and “All is Vanity.”

I always find it interesting how varied the stories on any given theme can be. And I always go home mulling over something I've heard (I sometimes think everyone is telling his or her story just for me. So I can eventually get my own shit together.) And isn't that the point of going to something like this?

So all you writers out there alone in your room pecking away at your little stories (yes, you), do yourself a favor and come out and visit the Story Salon this upcoming Wednesday. You'll be pleased to find that there is a whole community of people just like you (yes, you).

And the deserts are primo!

Story Salon
Wednesday 8pm
Coffee Fix
12508 Moorpark St.
(West of Whitsett St.)
Studio City

Wayman Barnes 8.16.04
10 things you missed at the Skirball reading

1. The reading of Roy K. Johnston's new book, The System is Broken, by the author, Roy K. Johnston, and the four featured poets: Milo Martin, Brian Townsley, Charlotte O'Brien, and Michael C. Ford.

2. A representative of the City of Los Angeles was on hand to give the author, Roy K. Johnston, an honorarium – not something one sees at most poetry readings.

3. The host, Tobias Deehan, read a piece by the highly anti-Semitic poet, T.S. Eliot. This might have been an okay thing to do at any other venue, but at the Skirball Cultural Center the choice seemed … odd.

4. The same goes for declaring that the next reader is dead when you introduce them.

5. Milo Martin would not start his poem until the audience agreed that “we are all one organism.”

6. Brian Townsley performed a piece from Roy K. Johnston's book that he said was reminiscent of his own work Suspicious? Me thinks maybe.

7. Charlotte O'Brien read a poem about my shoulder blades.

8. Michael C. Ford refused to read from The System is Broken like everyone else and rambled on about baseball or something.

9. Roy K. Johnston finished off by performing from his book himself. He was very good, although he read too quickly. He explained that he was hungry and that was why.

10. There was a reception afterwards with some exceptional finger foods. I almost got in terrible trouble with a five year old when I confused 7-up with some white wine. Whoops.

Lyric 11.1.04

I got all this clang and all this clamor
It got me standin on a street corner with a sign that says
I'll work for peace
I got all this clang and all this clamor
It got me standin on a street corner with a sign that says
I'll work for peace
Where has my mind gone y'all
Probably shoved into a box under lock and key
My mind is being held prisoner by my heart
My mind is being held prisoner by my heart
And my heart keeps itself behind a closed door.
Leaving me to be the victim of all my heart choices no in put from my mind
So I say to you, where has my mind gone yall.
I miss my spirit and my logic and my logistics of peace that sometimes gives
my heart a rest
And resting and nesting to find that perfect sense of harmony to lead me to
the next fixation, or argument, or discussion that gets me to cussin and
sayin things that I don't mean and then I then I don't make any sense
because I have no sense of what the hell is goin on and I say to you
Where the Fuck has my mind gone y'all
And you'll have to excuse my language cuz I am
I am feelin a little sick in the head with absence of my mind and I feel like I want to cry with all this shattering emotion at the same time I don't feel right I am feeling these pains, remnants of a person that is sadistic or like skitzsofrenic statistic that cant spell and dwells with all this crazy talk of the difference between heart and mind. And in my mind I am sane...
I am Feelin a little sadistic much like a skitsophreenic statistic that can't
spell and can't tell what's up when its actually down.
and I am sane here in my body and this old soul and these bloodshot eyes
need sleep to keep this spiritless body going on t in this humdrum of a day
that keeps me think about nothing that is worth my time.
But I spend all my time thinking,
Were has my mind gone y'all?
My mind is beggin my heart to set me free from this love that keeps me
wondering and trying to find that happy medium.
Well my mind knows that "a happy medium" does not exist.
My mind knows that I should not wonder if this love is right for me
My mind is elsewhere and I am left to suffer on with this emancipated heart
that has no boundaries and falls in love constantly
My mind is struggling to sit my heart down and have a talk
Just me my mind and my heart.
If we could all get on the same page then we could make some sense of this
catastrophe that is me but wasn't me before my heart took control of
My mind does not like to be ignored.
I am talking about my mind and this heart like their people
Where has my mind gone y'all
I got all this clang and all this clamor
It got me standin on a street corner with a sign that says
I'll work for peace
I got all this clang and all this clamor
It got me standin on a street corner with a sign that says
I'll work for peace.

JC 10.3.04
That Retirement Thing

So, yeah, about that retirement thing.

No, I'm not really retired. If I was, I'd be wearing lime green pants, collecting a pension, and driving slowly in the left lane just to piss you off. The truth of my disappearance from LitRave is far more prosaic: I haven't been involved in the poetry "scene" (oh, how I hate that word) for a couple of months now. Work has certainly done its part to interfere -- in fact, my laptop is sitting on my desk right now, reminding me that I can't go to bed tonight until I finish a presentation for tomorrow. The main culprit over the last few weeks has been illness, however. I've been coughing so much that my neighbors are now convinced that a trained seal lives next door. Of course, they aren't that far off. The only differences between me and a trained seal these days: trained seals don't hang out in cubicles, and I can't balance a beach ball on my nose for shit. The good news is that anthrax would have killed me within seven days, so I have to recover at some point, right?

But this site is supposed to be about poetry, so I suppose I ought to mention it at least once or twice. Even though I haven't been going to readings, I've been keeping track of the usual websites to hear what's going on in the "scene." (Instead of quotation marks, there really ought to be an HTML tag which exists to mark up clichéd, stupid descriptions.) Space and time don't permit me to go off at length about how I feel about what I'm reading, but if I manage to survive this small dose of Ebola that I've been fighting all month, buy me a couple of beers and ask me for my unvarnished opinion. (I mean, columns about the Los Angeles poetry [scene] ought to be divided roughly 50-50 between "spoken word" and "underground hip-hop" because that's all that really is going on in Los Angeles, dig? Word to your mother and all my peoples.)

Of course, hearsay isn't admissible in court, and it has no place on LitRave either, so I ought to share some eyewitness testimony instead. I dragged myself out of bed long enough to catch Brendan Constantine's book release party at The Ugly Mug in Orange for his latest effort, Zombie Dovecote . Seeing Brendan perform is a small miracle in a couple of important ways. First, Zombie Dovecote is one of those books which belongs on the shelf at [Borders | Barnes & Noble | your favorite independent bookstore] next to all the other "name" authors that we are supposed to worship, or something, and it's a treat to hear the author of such work perform in person. Second, "perform" is the right word to use for Brendan onstage -- he infuses each line with barely controlled energy and explains the sometimes skewed, sometimes poignant backstory to his work. Third, I don't think it's possible to see Brendan do poetry and not come away with ideas -- or at the very least, inspiration to write and perform better . Finally, he's in that rare category of talented people who seem to be geniunely glad for whatever success and attention comes their way. It's wonderful to know that there are still people out there interested in teaching, encouraging, and celebrating poetry for its own sake -- not as part of some attempt to gain "standing" on some mythical poetry leaderboard.

Anyway, the point of that was not to polish Brendan's ass to a high degree of luster. The point was to mention that Zombie Dovecote is excellent and that you would enjoy hearing him read. Fortunately for you, he has a couple of features coming up in the near future. I hear there is another webpage which has a calendar for that kind of thing, but I'm not going to link to it. Why? Hmmm. So go hear him read, buy his book, and although what you choose to do with his ass is up to you, you might want to get his permission first.

Although I haven't been warming chairs at coffeehouses lately, I have been reading a lot lately, mostly in 20-minute chunks over lunch. It's not the ideal way to digest (pun regretted) James Tate, but really, what is a good way to digest James Tate? Maybe it's the fact that I'm reading and chewing simultaneously, but I have no idea what the fuck is going on in Worshipful Company Of Fletchers . But enough about my personal problems. If anyone cares what I've been carrying around lately, here goes:

A Green Light , Matthew Rohrer
Ghost Girl , Amy Gerstler
Sad Little Breathing Machine , Matthea Harvey
Worshipful Company Of Fletchers , James Tate
Things Are Happening , Joshua Beckman
Invisible Bride , Tony Tost
Among The Musk Ox People , Mary Ruefle
Unrelated Individuals Forming A Group Waiting To Cross , Mark Yakich
Great American Prose Poems: From Poe To The Present , David Lehman (editor)

And, of course, the latest issues of Fence , Swink , Ploughshares , and Poetry , although Poetry is really starting to piss me off.

A brief word about the first book on the list: A Green Light , Matthew Rohrer's most recent collection, is currently tied with Bob Hicok's Insomnia Diary as my favorite new book of poetry this year. "MK ULTRA" is the highlight of the book for me, although "The Great Submarine Race," "We Never Should Have Stopped At Pussy Island," and "Ski Lift To Death!" are also excellent. (Note that this paragraph is not to be mistaken for a review. This paragraph is enjoyment. However, you may find that this enjoyment has as much actual content as some reviews you have read, minus the hyperbole and the authentic-sounding descriptives by people of supposed authority. You may prefer reviews to enjoyment, or you may not. But this is not a review.)

Since my laptop is still reminding me about my workload, I'll wrap this column up here. Of course, just because I wrote something for LitRave doesn't mean that I'm going to start showing up at readings. (Then again, I have to admit that a guy needs to see a nice pair of breasts every once in a while, and the word on the street is that poetry readings have the best racks in town. Go figure!) Still, you may see me here and there, so stop by, say hi, and buy me a couple of drinks so you can hear me bitch about other poetry sites. Also, don't forget to send it your poetry, perspectives, and event reviews to this site.