About Us


Wanda Coleman 9.15.03

D.Light got it right, but I was kidding when I said tell 'em to stop. Might as well stop Hiphop culture (by the way, rap came before Hiphop, goes back generations, and a variation of it is found in every slavery-based Black society on earth). The beauty of putting something strong on the culture is that it takes on a life of its own. So no, I really don't want it to stop. Although it did throw me the first time I was invited to a podium and met not one, but two young poets doing what approximates my style--one a young Black woman out of Texas, and the other a young Fillipino lad out of Detroit. My brother called me two weeks ago bitching that Lori Parks was on PBS doing his sister, Wanda Coleman and why wasn't I getting proper recognition for it. I was amazed and pleased that it mattered to him. Jimmy Baca, Beck, Pat Payne, Sapphire and Quincy Troupe are among the few who have been gracious enough to acknowledge my influence, writing and performance. But there are some Big Name folks out there who've copped my licks and kept movin', and a lot more who--as D.Light said, don't even know they're doing me. I'm grateful to D.Light for being such a keen observer and setting the record straight.

Wanda Coleman/Los Angeles

Richard Beban & Kaaren Kitchell 9.1.03
Wanda kicked ass at this year's Idyllwild Festival, too, easily the most dynamic performer of the week.

And when we held a master class with her at our house last November, one student flew all the way in from Minneapolis to work with her.

In the parlance, Wanda rocks!

Richard Beban & Kaaren Kitchell
Playa Poets

D. Lite 8.31.03
Wanda Coleman, the Original

I have been writing poems since I was six years old. Now, well over thirty years. When I started writing, it never occurred to me to imitate anyone around me. My influences were my life, and my family and the world around me.

So, when I came to Da' Poetry Lounge two and a half years ago, I was staggered by the undeniable influence of the spoken word Poetess Wanda Coleman had on virtually all the young performing poets I saw on stage.

These talented performers, aged sixteen to their mid twenties, were speaking, snorting, spitting their poetry exactly the way that Wanda Coleman has been doing for the last twenty-five years.

They stole Wanda's unique phrasing, her dynamic vocal intonation, and emphasis. And even Wanda's style of breathing. And the sad thing is that ninety eight per cent of these young writers did not even know who Wanda Coleman is.

These poetic performers were imitating someone who was imitating someone who was imitating someone who was imitating Wanda Coleman.

When I actually met Wanda at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books two years ago, I asked her if she knew how many young people were ripping off her style of writing and performing. And Wanda just laughed.

I asked her what she would say to all the hundreds of young poets that I had seen over the last two and a half years at open mike poetry spots, who spoke, wrote, and sounded just like her.

And Wanda Coleman tilted her head back, smiled her big tooth smile, and said "You tell all these young people to stop. You tell them to stop imitating me. And to find their own voice and their own rhythms. And to write from their own lives. It will be better for them that way."

Wanda Coleman is a genuine original voice in the world of poetry. And her influence is staggering. She is truly the Godmother of today's open mike and slam poetry scene. Part gospel of the streets. Part confessor of unspeakable injustice, both personal and political. Wanda Coleman was rhythmic and hip hop in her spoken word performances, fifteen years before hip hop ever existed.

Her passion was an irresistible influence to anyone who ever saw her or listened to her records. The pulse of her emotions was concusive to both the heart and the head of anyone who heard her.

Wanda Coleman had a rhythm that young people could understand. Simple, penetrating, and a thrilling way of performing words, that longed to reach an audience that hadturned their backs to the soft core poetry of Rod Mc Kuen in the nineteen sixties, and the middle class wafflers of the status quo.

Miss Coleman was the bridge between Jack Kerouac and the Beat Poets and the Urban Ghetto children that looked for a voice to lead them.

But those displaced children either grew up or died. And what remained were two lost generations of disillusioned young people looking to find a voice to lead them. And a rhythm to give life to a new form of personal expression.

Then came Wanda Coleman. Big. Black. Loud. Personal. Political. And yearning to be heard. She was on television and in the Theatre. She was in the streets ripping and snorting her way into the common culture of the city of Los Angeles.

Then came hip hop. Then came rap. Then came spoken word. And then came slam poetry. And then came all the young performing poets who took what ever they could to reach an audience, that longed for their personal, intimate, everyday truths.

Television had let all these truth seekers down. So, these poets took Wanda Coleman's style of Gospel phrasing, and simple pauses, and taking big breaths before longpoetic bursts of personal revelations.

Do they know who Wanda Coleman is? No.

Are they aware of her influence on their every word and breath? No.

Does it matter?

When I asked Wanda Coleman, at the Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books what she thought about all these young performing poets imitating her style. She said " Tell them to stop. Tell them to find their own voices, their own truths. It will be much better for them that way."

To which I say Amen.

Little Jack 8.25.03
Jack McCarthy

I caught Jack McCarthy at Liquid Den tonight (okay last night by now). He was in great form. I haven't seen him for about two and a half or three years and he had me in stitches with "Catholics and Car Theves" once again. He also has some new work that is on a par with everything he does.

Murray was the co feature and he did "Cows On The Freeway" for me. He also did some new stuff.

The bar is a nice venue with shades of the Club Mesa (same kick ass kind of sound system and stage that is so high I almost coundn't get my fat ass up).

Lob is still loveable and willing to share some good words. I didn't keep track of the open readers but they were great also.

Long trip from Arvin but worth every mile.

Be well, my friends

Zack 8.17.03
Hi, I'm Zack. ::waves::

I'm friendlier then I seem if you've seen me on the mic. And I'm less friendly then I seem if you talk to me at a reading, I'm kinda fake there. (ex: "I like your stuff too"). Anyhow I chose to write this after reading Patrick's review of Unurban. I've been going to open mics for 5 years now on and off. My first open mic was at Border's in Torrance thrown by a local high school where I won a $10 gift certificate for the Resembelence of Bob Dylan award but something else happened. This kid went up to recite some 2pac and the mic was shut down on him. People were very upset and the kid was yelled at. I immediatly stood in a rebellious opposition to the masses (when I was 17 I had much more to prove to everybody then I do now). "Profainity isn't accepted, this is a privately owned, public book store where kid's shop" I don't know where there's this need to cover up our language, I consider profane language to be A.) a way of getting a reaction out of somebody and/or B.) a passionate form of communication that an individual feels is needed to communicate his/her message precisely. People think poets and songwriters are weaker because of profainity and they're entitled to that opinion, a part of me even agrees. HOWEVER to limit one's language is to make that person a servant to social convention. All art is judged by people as relative substance.

Besides the censorship, which really did bother me, I was happy that I was finally satisfied sharing my poems with a group of strangers who I didn't know. Come to 2000 I'm dating this girl who turns out to be the opposite of everything I thought she was, and her friends are going to the Coffee Cartel every tuesday at 8 where Larry Colker is the "host" at the "open mic night". I immediatly prepare some poems (a 3 poem limit at the time) and share everything personal I can at the time with an even more diverse group of strangers, which I have grown accustomed to since.... none the less stranger however. So that's close by, and my home. I've been reading and listening to poetry there for 3 years and I've read and heard some really awful shit and I've been witness to Buddy Wakefield and Rachel Kann as well as some other amazing "acts".

I love it and I want more, so first chance I get to go to something cool, I head out to the Knitting Factory's Alternit lounge where Rachel Kann ran Co-Lab-Oration. An open mic with a $5 cover where each poet/artist HAS to Collaborate with another, I found myself moved by violin, turntable, paint, words, movement, bass, guitar and drum. In a way I since haven't been able to witness. I plan on going to more (now that the venue has changed to a 21+ venue and I recently turned 21) www.inspirachel.com for more.

Then something else happened, two poets read at the Cartel one evening promoting their reading every Wed @ Unurban. I decided to go with friends, who deserted me for jack in the box. But I saw the first 14 acts and it was such a pretentious group of critical assholes that I have never returned. The guy (Tony, I think) that ran the reading was nice, but everybody else was trying really hard to be good as if good was something that you actually could be. And everybody thought that they were, but nobody else.

And I have this thing with myself where I hate people like me, because they suck. I hate most poets and I hate most poetry and much more. So MAYBE this group at unurban was just all like me. I've never been against people who have been against me though.

To end on a happy note, my buddy Chonk and I headed down to Cerritos because on poetix we saw that the borders over there was having an open read, and it was our last night together so we decided to rock a virgin venue.

Tim (the host, I think) told us all NO SWEARING. Which sucks, but I respect rules.... they're providing a mic and an audience and food and shit and at least they're telling us straight up that we can't curse, unlike the other Border's who left it as a suprize attack. Anyhow the reading was rad, I had a really good time, there was an urban group at a table who all had their strengths and it was just great vibes, I made some cash and left on a laugh. Chonk swore during his song, and claimed he didn't know but we all know he did.

That's all I want to write now.
John Casey has beef with me.
I hate Raindog.
and Unurban is my LEAST favorite venue in the entire state of california.
but LitRave is kick ass, I really like Frankie and Wayman and Chocolate O'Brien.
I also met the Exorcist one time on 3rd street in santa monica before I knew he was a poet.
go to Redondo Beach's Coffee Carte every Tuesday @ 8PM.
or not

Patrick Mooney 8.15.03
My take on the Unurban situation:

I will admit that because of school I do not spend very much time at the Unurban and usually get to the reading late; still I do go there when I have no class.

I understand that Tony has put a lot of effort and time into building the reading into the popular poetry spot that it is but I also know that recently certain developments have come to light that need to be addressed. Maybe not by the poetry community on the whole but by those directly involved in the reading at the Unurban. I know for a fact that David was told that he would not be welcome to read this week because of what he said on stage last week. I was told that several people where told that they could not read or talk about certain things on the stage although this is what I heard and so can't confirm this. I do know that on the night that David was told that he would not be allowed to read that Laura and Adam and David all spoke to Tony about it and Tony refused to let David read anyway. Personally I think that not letting David read was wrong and contradictory to what Tony says at the start of the night. I think that telling people to not read poems about any subject for any reason is a bad step down a slippery slope.

If anyone knows of an alternate place to read on Wednesdays I'll go there. It's not my place to tell anyone how to run their open mic but I was at the Unurban last Wednesday and the regulars where upset about the way Tony was running the open mic. Since Tony does not seem to want to reasoned with maybe it's time we started an alternate reading on Wednesdays in Santa Monica.

If Tony wants to have reasonable restrictions at the Unurban he should state them up front (like the Rapp and their no cursing rule due to the rules of the hostel) and just be honest about it. I think what has upset most people is that the restrictions seem to be arbitrary and secretive. Instead of just telling one girl not to read jesus poems they should just say right up front "No religious work"

I'm sure that all this will be settled soon and we can go back to our pursuit of the perfect Sofa King poem (someone needs to do a Sofa King Double Dactyl) In the mean time if anyone knows of a location that might be open to an open mic please let me know (paj_mooney@hotmail.com) and I'll contact them and see if I can start a new venue. The world can always use another poetry venue. Thanks for your time. Patrick Mooney

PS: Good Review Frankie!
(Redondo Poets Rule!)

Reggie Mandable 8.15.03
With all due respect to Ms. Drayus and her exuberance the situation at the Unurban may not be as rosy as she has painted it. There are poets that have been told that they can not read specific poems due to content. One of the poets that Ms. Drayus seemed impressed with, David, was after the reading told that he could not read the following week, once again due to the content of his poem. The two co-hosts that Ms. Drayus enjoyed so much have walked out of the reading until the censorship and banning issues have been addressed. I have taken the liberty of going to Poetix ( http://www.poetix.net/calendar.htm ) and found this listing of alternate Wednesday night readings:

Laissez Faire 6 pm (SBe)
Highland Grounds 7 pm (LA) $2
Workshop - Cafe Culture (LA) $3
World Stage 7:30 pm (LA) $3
Caffe Aroma 7:37 pm (LA)
Two Idiots Peddling Poetry - Ugly Mug 8 pm (OC)
Book Garden 8 pm (SD)
Other Side Coffeehouse 8 pm (SD)
AAA Electra 99 8:30 pm (OC)
Stevie's 9:30 pm (LA)

Which I would like to advise poets to go to instead of the Unurban until poets and readers are no longer told what they can read or are not excluded from the reading if they happen to tick Tony off.

Personally, I will be taking my poetry, and my business, elsewhere until the Unurban gets this straightened out.

Frankie Drayus 8.8.03
I went to the Unurban and all I got was this fabulous massage

I haven't been to the Unurban in a long while and saw a lot of new faces, including two new hosts to help out Tony. One of them, Adam, kicked off the evening w/ enthusiasm to spare and a wonderfully surreal sense of humor. The open mic list went a bit like this: Sleep or kiss. Laura in blue and out of control. Greg flexes his biceps and tells of Onan the Barbarian. (Wayman - you missed out on the Master Bator hard-won shaggy dog story.) Jack Shafer fresh in from Missouri - welcome back, Jack! Marie Lecrivain makes sure we know her tattoos are not of the bored housewives in Atwater variety. Alex (from the land of Jesus) watches remote controls spin in the toilet. Larry (who is not from Colombia) commands "Don't Do It to the Mama," (which I originally heard as "Mambo.") Frankie unhooks the slippery with an oyster girl. FrancEyE has us in stitches with "Why I Don't Write About Sex." Eric Haber, king of the one liners, turns out to be an Isabelle Eberhardt fan. We'll have to talk later about this. Tony reads a selection from Jack Shafer's book. Sephi has an emotional goodbye before leaving for Berkeley (ultimate, ultimate ultimate). Chris, who must be bucking for a spot on a slam team next year, melts us all with "She dreams of fishes..." Wow. Wow. Mike - lionesses of August. Kestrin reads naughty Shel Silverstein poems from PLAYBOY. Autumn wrote this piece in 5 minutes. Jim Bolt in red measures with everything from geiger counters to bathyscaphes - you'll have to ask HIM. Keenan may beat out our friend Onan for biggest biceps, which distract me from his "I Love You" poem. (missed next few poems due to conversation with Eric re Isabelle Eberhardt) Nigel is driven nuts. Kristin. Joey is in the mood to do it. Thanks Sabrina. Mike from Abbot's Habit just can't...find...the...words. Dave does fabulous freestyle about poetry whores. Nicholas (who has just given me the most FANTASTIC massage right here in my chair) speaks of torments and bliss. Manuel is fuckin' in love with this woman. Fuckin' turmoil. Fuckin' rejection. Fuckin' depressed. Not fuckin' bad, actually. Jack Shafer gives us another story to close. You can hear a pin drop. This and a cup of great coffee make for a nice evening. I'm going to have to start a coffee rating scale... "Help keep our stage alive. Feed the guitar." And if you're still reading this, perhaps you're ripe for the Unurban, Wednesdays, starting at some unspecified point between 7:30 pm and 8:00.

Laura Lionello 8.8.03
Tony did in fact ban a poet for one week because of his spoken word piece at last week's reading. Not only is this a violation of Un-Urban rules (three rules: no time limit, no critiquing another poet's work, and no restriction on language or content) it's an obvious violation of free speech rights. I was one of Tony's co-hosts but am no longer comfortable being associated with his reading.

Reggie Mandable 8.8.03
Dear LitRavers,
This is what I heard:
That Tony the host of the Unurban reading has banned a poet from reading because of comments made on the stage. Is this true?
Can we confirm this?

Marie Lecrivain & Rev. Dave 8.5.03
The ballad of Noam Chomsky and the cheese sandwich

Icon of the left:
In shock & awe I hunger
for a cheese sandwich.

A cheese sandwich, yes
I am with Noam on this thing
pills would be better.

Noam is right: cheese is
good but pills have no flavor
and I'd eat many!

Precious is time.
Pills are much faster by far
taste would be nice too!

Noam's sparse, yet spare time
should be put to the search for
cheesy-flavored pills.

Cheesy pills taste sour.
Some cheesy pills are people,
They leave a sour wake.

Noam is not a pill
Or cheesy icon, but he makes
A damned good sandwich!J J

Dave Nordling 8.5.03
The song of Rush Limbaugh and a bowl of soup

A response to The ballad of Noam Chomsky and the cheese sandwich.
by M. Lecrivain and Rev. D. Wheeler.

The symbol is sounding
Righteous work gets me hungry
The soup is bubbling.

I could use a bowl.
Rush is right after all this time
Good soup, steaming hot.

It's all left behind us
Warm and safe, waiting for soup
And few can taste it.

All the time is ours
The recipes were stolen
Take your time, savor

Much to spare, stir it
The work in the kitchens, done
Now only the chef eats

Slightly sweet and tangy
The devil gone to cold and dark
Banished without soup

Simmering slowly
All is here, as always was
Just see what comes up!

Wayman Barnes 8.4.03
Liquid Den

At long last! A poetry reading in a dark, seedy bar. This is the way it was meant to be, folks: me with a beer in my hand, listening to poetry and playing pool! Bliss.

No espresso machines spurting loudly, no students studying in the back, no yuppies asking, "what is that?" when they hear a poem. No, No, no. Instead it there is the pok-pok-pok of the balls ricocheting on the table, Larry Colker laughing as I lose again, and words, words, words of the poets going out to people who actually seem to get it.

Oh, yes, there is a host named Lob.

Support this venue! Or start one of your own just like it. Poetry, pool and beer - yes! This is a good thing. I likes. I likes a lot.

Lob: Twinkle; Poetry is Taxing; What are we doing?...; Cannabis Cloud
Rafael Moreno; Beauty is the curse; Your Voice Burns; "Maybe you should just kill yourself"; Eternity; For you to treasure and keep; Untitled
Larry Colker: Another Poem about Vandals; Vandal Sex; Work; Under the Big Top; Statue
Charlotte O'Brien: The Disclaimer; The Bar at Folies Bergere; Beta Fish; November's Crescent
June Melby (Feature #1); Orange Jellies in the Aquarium; "I have friends ... fish"; Ode to a Sand Dollar; "What is it about babies?"; "Egg on Face"; "Ick/Yum"; "Foreign Movie"; "Khki"; Cheese; "I contradict myself"; The Grapes of Wrap; Brown Paper Bags; Birds and Butterflies; Paramesia
Brendan Constantine (Feature #2): The Year Zero; The Second Poem; Poem at Vespers Forbidding Television; Unsung Cheese; Apocryphal Poems; Study of an Ant Dragging a _______ Moth; My Brother is a Booger; The Golden Library ...; Cartwheels; Psalm of my Mouth; American Political Form Poem; Wake
Elizabeth Iannaci: The Intruder; Lettuce; Staring at a Painting of a Window; From my Window; Fourth Floor Terrace; Eating Friday's Cornbread; Forgiveness; Elegy
Wayman Barnes: Corporate Coffee; The Saltiest Meat
Doc Punk: [Unfortunately, I was in the john. Missed the title]
Charles Ardinger: Poem #3; No2 Self Portrait; YOurs
Jessica: [Believe it or not, Jessica bailed.]
Yon: [Unfortunately, I went in search of Jessica to let her know that she was missing her turn and ended up, somehow, in my car. Apologies to any poets I may have missed.] Liquid Den Free Mondays 8:30(More like 9:15) 5061 Warner Ave Huntington Beach, CA