Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 6.24.03
How to Love this World
Love is a kind of flourishing, blooming, opening up to the universe. And literature has been flourishing in Sitka for the past 20 years. This month, the Sitka Symposium celebrates its 20th anniversary. Organized by The Island Institute, Sitka Symposium brings writers from across the United States to this quaint town in Southeast Alaska for a week of discussion panels, workshops, and readings. The unifying theme for this year's Symposium is “How to Love This World.”
This year, the Symposium runs from the 22nd to the 28th of June, and features Vernita Herdman, Stephanie Mills, David Lee, and Scott Russell Sanders on the faculty, and special celebration guests: John Daniel, Kathleen Moore, Linda Hogan, Gary Holthaus, Don Snow, John Keeble, Rina Swentzel, and Sitka's own Richard Nelson. Last night, two of the faculty members presented a marvelous reading at the Sitka Lutheran Church. Both Stephanie Mills and David Lee read from their new books, giving Sitkans a sneak preview.
Carolyn Servid, one of the Symposium founders and the author of “Of the Landscape and Longing” (a book about Sitka, nature's majesty, people, and emotions), opened the evening by introducing the readers to the audience. Stephanie Mills read first, and delighted us with excerpts from her new non-fiction book “Epicurean Simplicity.” In this book, she describes pleasures of the 20th century country life in the Upper Midwest, still deeply conscious of how even her austere life and harmless living affects (and pollutes) nature. She states that “her life is threatening her way of life” and tackles the opposition between ecology and progress as she describes her bicycling adventures in a sweetly humorous way. She follows changes in nature as a backdrop for human drama, only to reaffirm that “nature heals.” However, her concern for earth's ecology is epicurean, for she is also concerned about simple pleasures of life among nature's diversity and unity. Mills ultimately concludes that delight in and respect for the least thing is the solution for healing the earth and loving this world.
The second reader of the evening was poet David Lee, a modern-day bard, author of 15 books of poetry, poet laureate from Utah, whose work explores the issue of what it means to be human. He read from his brand new book of poetry, “So Quietly The Earth,” which will be coming out of print next spring. This collection of poems differs from Lee's previous work in the way that it is a book of elegiac geography poems for the dying planet. It opens and closes with a requiem, and the remaining poems are divided into 4 sections, according to the 4 major elements: earth, air, water, and fire. In his poetry, Lee uses nature as a mirror to human emotions. His poems are soft, ethereal, and deeply spiritual. He raises the ordinary to the level of extraordinary, almost supernatural. Through seeing nature as “a world of gods at play,” he explores his faith like a topographic map. As he talks about mountains, desert, rain, sun, and air, Lee affirms that we as humans must take responsibility for our acts against the nature. In addition, his impeccable delivery magnifies the importance of this message to the point where audience members are not satisfied with only enjoying the poetry, but also want to do something positive for preserving the nature's beauty Lee talks about.
So, if you too happen to be concerned about the majesty that surrounds us, go do something nice for Mother Earth, and on the way back, pick up “Epicurean Simplicity” by Stephanie Mills and “So Quietly The Earth” by David Lee at the bookstore. And if you are interested in learning more about Sitka Symposium, visit The Island Institute website at www.islandinstitutealaska.org .
(This review is brought to you by the numbers 4, 2, and 3 -- in that order -- the letter M, and Frankie Drayus, who gave me a wonderful pep talk the other night. By the way -- the Ezra Pound quote, "Literature is news which stays news," is apparently from Chapter 8 of a book called ABC of Reading published in 1934. So there. And they say the Internet rots your brain.)
Sometimes, I am reminded of how connected we truly are. If you stay in one place long enough, you can see almost any part of life unfolding in front of you. At the Redondo Poets reading on Tuesday night, I felt like a Spirograph: pen in hand, recording the myriad cycles happening all at once.
Patrick Mooney was the featured reader on this night, and he kept things moving through a briskly-paced set. Some poems were shocking, some were funny -- and some pieces, like his parody of "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock," might fit into both of those categories equally well. (I was afraid that I might have to stick up for good ol' Tommy Stearns' honor, but the piece was damn funny. I carried around a book of Eliot's selected works in high school the way that people who are scared of vampires carry garlic. I have no idea what I was trying to keep away.) Set list: "Have You Anything To Say In Your Defense" (Cesar Vallejo), "The Confession," "There Just Aren't Enough Poems Written About Cadillacs," "That's Why I Started All Those Fires," "Sin Written With A Very Black Pen," a tanka about spankings (again -- funny? shocking?), "Good Night, Uncle Walt, Wherever You Are," "Your Kiss Has Turned To Ash In My Mouth," "Me So Horny By J. Alf Pruf," "Programming," "Lingua Franca" (a favorite of mine), something else (can't read my own notes), "Leave Love Alone (Test Poem, First Draft)," "Avalon."
There were plenty of other stories, though. Friendship: A significant portion of the Santa Monica poetry crowd came out to support him, including Reverend Dave, Doug, Mike, Laura, Angel, Marie, and Dave. Tragedy struck again: James, a sometime reader and frequent attendee at the venue, passed away earlier in the week -- Kevin The Poet and Jenny read poems in memoriam. (The reading has lost two other regulars in recent years.) Poets returned: Travis Chamberlain, a regular before heading off to UCI, was in the house and read two strong poems. Poets debuted: Rafael and Chris Briggs both read their work for the first time ever. Hero worship: Among the poems read at the open mic from writers not present were "Death Fugue" by Paul Celan, "Love Song, I And Thou" by Alan Dugan, "Gelding The Lily" by Sarah Hodge, "Cruel" by David Hernandez, "Fixation" by Ron Padgett, "Pastoral" by Kenneth Patchen.
And what else? Nails, lots of nails. "Children's verse in an alternative universe." (said by Jim Doane re: something called "The Bad Poem" by cutie Carly.) Found poems. Lost poems. A new convertible. Much pimpage. Something recorded in my notes as "freaky bondage performance shit." And Wanda, who didn't have to read first this time.
Readers: Craig Anderson, Rafael, Kevin The Poet, Zack Wolk, Marie Lecrivain, Dave Nordling, Rachel Moore, Larry Colker, Patrick Mooney, Wanda Van Hoy Smith, John Casey, Chris, Kim Cochran, Chris Briggs, Travis Chamberlain, Angel Perales, MC Bruce, Dave, Laura, Mike, Doug, Reverend Dave, Jenny, Celeste, Carly, Jim Doane.
Upcoming features: June Frickin' Melby on July 8. Eloise Klein Healy on July 29.
Wayman Barnes 6.20.03
The Harry Potter LitRave
Yes, yes, yes it's true! We waited in line and bought the book when it went on sale at midnight. That's how cool we are. phbbt!
Jeremy Stephens 6.19.03
POETS @ THE JOLLY PRESENTS AMELIE FRANK
Okay, for those of you not checked into a mental institution, a 28-day program, or forever in a replay of the last 24-hours of your life, you missed an awesome night at the Jolly Roger in Laguna Beach. Amelie Frank read selected works from "Doing Time on Planet Billy Bob" and "Bird Interpretations" (both of which, I now own, yeah!), including a few new pieces as well. I should point out "Bird Interpretations" is a collaboration between Amelie Frank and Michael Paul, another great poet, who (PLUG PLUG PLUG) has a feature with Mike Sprake at the Gypsy's Den in Costa Mesa, Tuesday, July 1, which you should not miss, unless above stated conditions have been met.
It always feels like a family gathering in the back room of the Jolly Roger; good food, good conversation, and of course, good poetry. After a great (if not lengthy) introduction poem/lecture by John Gardiner, Amelie got right to it. The back-up band of dishwashing and busboys did little for the overall mood, but hey, they tried. She read a series of rather depressing works, while explaining that she's really a romantic optimist (I believe you Amelie!). The most striking piece, for me, was the "love song of Muhammad Otah", where Ms. Frank took on the voice of one of the 9-11 terrorists. It was very disturbing, but very good, with a line like "abrupt appointments with the sidewalk." On a lighter note, both the "riceboy pantoon" (dedicated to the Honda-mod geeks) and "love at first sight" showed me the wonderful sense of humor riding on the coattails of all her poems, even the dark pieces.
Definitely would recommend that you (as in Ustedes) check out any future reading by the talented Ms. Frank. AMELIE FRANK
what really happened
2711 W. Hallameda
4th page toward immortality
the war (by Scott Weinland)
love song of Muhammad Otah
love at first sight
Frankie Drayus 6.18.03
Anthony Lee and the Amazing Technicolor Cobalt
I just had the nicest, good vibe-y evening at The Cobalt, which is not what I expected when I learned that 1) all my VCP co-directors were in other countries or otherwise unavailable and 2) Rick Lupert, our fearless host and the reason a Cobalt reading even EXISTS, would also not be there. Rumors say he was in an airplane heading east, but they are so far unconfirmed. Conditions 1 & 2 meant that I was thrust into the position of co-hosting w/ Cobalt regular Justin Winston. (Justin, you MAH-velous. Thanks for running back and forth to the stage a zillion times and being so thoughtful in so many ways.) The open reading was eclectic and included a shy but brave girl named Emily Condit who had never stood up in front of people anywhere before, and chose tonight to sing a song she had just written. Our feature, Anthony Lee, gave us a great set which took us into dangerous cars with dangerous possibilities, over to the Holy Land, back to his childhood with questions about virginity, and up to the present - a whirlwind tour in 20-ish minutes. Other highlights included Reuben, who just returned from spending two years in Saudi Arabia, Justin Winston's poet parody poem, and Maxwell-Just-Maxwell, who managed to rhyme "bring us" with "cunnilingus." I tell you, Wayman Barnes, you really should have been there...) The room was so relaxed and happy, instead of the angst I have come to expect from the Valley. Something must have been in the air, or the coffee. Perhaps it was the all-night Krispy Kreme I passed on my way to the freeway (yet another reason to go to The Cobalt). At any rate, check out The Cobalt. Jerry Quickley will feature for Rick's series on July 1st. And the next Valley Contemporary Poets feature is John Casey on July 22nd. We miss you, Rick. Fly home safely.
Dave Nordling 6.18.03
"Dave does the Unurban"
I did the ol' Unurban last night. Not a bad gig. Tony and his co-hosts, always putting on a class act. Several new people presenting as well as a smorgasboard of Santa Monica regulars. March started off in the beginning of the evening. Angel Perales did his "Flying Scorpion" piece. Marie Lecrivain did a surprise reprisal (for the last time?) of her "Sexy Librarian" piece. Manuel, whom I don't see very often, was in top form. Mike did an excellent job with his special cocktail of blasphemous humor in his spoken word. We also had a new-comer who I guess hailed from San Diego. Great work. Talked about meeting a girl in a bar. Slick presentation, body poses, a full show for all to hear and see. Erik Haber did his one-liner fusillade which is great for a barrage of laughs. Sorry, I didn't bother to get an entire listing of performers, I was too busy enjoying the poetry.
More people should try the Unurban on Wednesday nights, 7:30pm, 33rd and Pico, in good ol' S&M (santa moniker)
as far as the "sofa king" poems...
tell John Casey, "I am sofa king" is less about spiritual meaning than it is about something that is .... well.... it is really pointless.
Everyone's invited to share in my absurd vision of a one-couch world. Not one couch for everyone, just everyone shall have at least one couch. "I am sofa king" is your title. Being 31 and somewhat un-stodgy, I don't get it either ...and I was there. Perhaps the six-pack of Miller had something to do with it?
Slobotsky better get off his ass and write his "sofa king" poem! He's just as culpable as Deborah.
NO IDIOTS PEDDLING POETRY
Yes, the title of the reading is USUALLY "Two Idiots Peddling Poetry." On this occasion, though, the reading found itself down two Idiots, as co-hosts Ben Trigg and Steve Ramirez were both on travel. No worries, though -- Michael Paul and Jeremy Stephens filled in capably as hosts/sound engineers. Plus, any host who reads a Tony Hoagland poem ("Cry Me A River") as part of the proceedings is OK in my book.
Although completely exhausted, I HAD to make the drive down to Orange to see the return of OC legend Derrick Brown. Derrick, on tour for 3-4 months supporting his new book, I'm Easier Said Than Done, just returned to the area for a few more shows before focusing on his band, John Wilkes Kissing Booth. His set focused on material from the new book ("Cheap Rent," "Last Night In Paris"), although he managed to throw in an old favorite ("Pussycat Interstellar Naked Hotrod Mofo Ladybug Lustblaster!") and a brand-new piece ("Today Is The Day I Come Alive") as well.
In typical Mug fashion, however, Derrick wasn't the ONLY feature on Wednesday -- sharing the stage was the poetry of Joel Chmara (his touring partner from Chicago) and the music of Wayne Everett. Joel's performance was very entertaining -- he kicked things off with an [AHEM] interesting version of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" with Derrick on scratch/beatbox/synth/gadgety-thing, then went right into his opening poem about wanting to have been a rock star. (TELL me about it. My brother NEVER let me sing in any of his high school bands. I think I still have what it takes, though. But first I need to find a shower with seating for 30,000 people.) His closing piece was a funny audience participation number which reenacted the "final clapping scene from your favorite 1980s movie." (I really connected with that piece -- I look like Teen Wolf when my 5 o'clock shadow kicks in.)
As mentioned, I was exhausted and planned to leave at the break, so I only got to see a handful of the open mic readers. I suppose this is a good opportunity for a brief tangent about poetic etiquette. The way I've always seen it, if you READ at an event and leave early, you are being rude. If you are the FEATURE at an event and you leave early, you are being INCREDIBLY rude. If you are just an audience member, though, any departure time is fair game. Any thoughts from those of you out there about this topic? (Yes, I know that there are always exceptions to any rule of etiquette. But I have a chip on my shoulder in general about this topic.)
Anyway, back to the reading: Leading off things was a member of the Las Vegas Slam Team, Andy Hall. I don't know what to say about his poem "Mack The Nugget" except to advise Andy to lay off the Chicken McStubs with the sweet-and-sour sauce until those urges to write poems on those topics subside. Hope Alvarado read "Everything" from one of her chapbooks. Jim Doane dropped two strong poems (for the strong-stomached): "Praying Never Got Him Close Enough To The Answer" and "Confessions Of A Sperm Suffering Survivor Guilt." Jaimes Palacio read a just-written (I mean, JUST written -- like, ten minutes prior to reading it) poem for Derrick Brown called, strangely enough, "Poem For Derrick Brown." There were a lot of faces in the standing-room-only crowd that I would have liked to see read: Mindy Nettifee, Rives, Carrie Seitzinger, others I'm probably forgetting after the fact. Someone ELSE is going to have to tell you about them, though.
On a personal note, it was great to see Derrick again. As those of you who have read my bio page probably know, he is largely responsible for the fact that I got into poetry in the first place. The first reading I ever found by accident was one where Derrick was featured. I bought copies of The Joy Motel and Hostile Pentecostal, took them home, read each several times, and asked myself: "What do I have to say that this guy hasn't said already?" (I'm still working on an answer.)
Upcoming features: I already knew about Greg Austin and Jason McBeath on June 25. But when I was looking at the upcoming features on the Two Idiots website, a couple of names jumped out and slapped me across the face. JEFFREY McDANIEL ON JULY 9. Be there. Seriously. (I almost put that sentence in between a pair of HTML BLINK tags to get your attention, even though anyone who actually uses that markup is going straight to hell. THAT is how important it is.) And, on July 23, there is this poet named June Melby that people say good things about. Yeah, I think I'll be going to see her too. [SIGH]
Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 6.17.03
squirrel away my love,
save it for a rainy day,
or hang it up like lantern
in the sky
where the clouds come from.
lower my hemlock branch
into the salty sea,
come to spawn.
Like Raven's daughter,
I can steal stars
and the sun,
trade them in an instant
for a sip
of your moonlight.
Quench my thirst like rain
molten lava cools.
Cup me in your hands
like volcanic stones
Squirrel away your love
when the rain comes
(Copyright J.Andjelkovic 2003)
Marie Lecrivain & Angel Perales 6.9.03
the unhappy hour -
Benefit for the Scutter GLBT Youth In Arts Scholarship Fund
The Parlor Club, 7702 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood (4 blocks east of Fairfax).
June 1, 2003
7 pm, $3 donation
(proceeds go to the Scutter GLBT Youth In Arts Scholarship Fund, for more details go to www.scutterfest.com ).
Drink recommendation: Martini with three olives and Absolute Vodka.
There is so much poetry/spoken word in Los Angeles.
Some of it is actually doing some good, like the unhappy hour reading series at the Parlor Club in West Hollywood, hosted by Shawna Kenney. This past Sunday the unhappy hour hosted a benefit reading for the Scutter GLBT Youth in Arts Scholarship Fund.
We went to The Parlor Club expecting it to be a gothic poetry reading. (Note, when you go to the Parlor, do not wear a leather vest a la WeHo fashion trend 1996). The Parlor is furnished with Gothic trappings (red walls and curious sofas) and ambiance (black lights and Bauhaus blaring from the speakers), but the reading was off the hook--- a coterie of authors from San Francisco who kept the audience riveted and entertained.
Jennifer Blowdryer, author of White Trash Debutante, and advice columnist, opened the show. Her poem, "All About Eve," (much like the film with the same name), was an insightful, yet witty piece about escaping your ego by trying on different personalities the way a woman tries on different clothes for a date. She finished with great list poem entitled "Things That Will Age You," (i.e., stress, work, paying taxes).
I was much admiring Blowdryer's off-the-shoulder black and white striped top, and was going to ask where I could get one, but then, Alvin Orloff, author of "So I Married An Earthling," was announced by special co-host Clint Catalyst, as "Have you ever watched a porno movie, and halfway through you saw someone you knew? Well, that's what happened when I was watching "Super------."
As Orloff bounded onto the stage, I wondered if everyone was trying to a) imagine the package underneath the clothes, b) the reverse of 'A."
Previous career choice aside, Orloff read selections from his upcoming novel Into the Gutter, the adventures of a young, inexperienced gay boy named Jeremy, and his developing relationship with a dysfunctional punk god named Colin. Woven into the story are the ghosts of Jeremy's grandmother and communist aunt, representing the opposite sides of consciousness on how Jeremy deals with his plans for Colin and the escape from what he calls his "Bastille of virginity."
Next up was Michelle Tea, author of Valencia and The Chelsea Whistle, a tale of a young, rebellious girl plagued by the inmates and wardens of the Catholic school she is forced to attend with her outcast friends, who declare their rebellion in true eighties punk style and action. Tea descriptions of the cheerleader with the "leopard-print camel toe," her heroine's efforts to get the flu from an brief kiss with Joan Jett, and the coups her friends scored against the homophobic establishment were worth hearing. I would recommend Chelsea for those who want to step back into their John Hughes days and relive the glorious pitfalls of youth. My friend was enraptured with what he described as Tea's "gorgeous titillating lesbian prose" and her pixyish frame swaying in a sea of black & white polka dots. To each his own, I suppose.
Next onstage was Michael Bernstein Sycamore, author of Pulling Taffy, who told us he was the only person in Los Angeles who'd been turned away from two nightclubs for carrying Tupperware in his backpack. Taffy is a series of stories about a young gay man from the Boston area who falls into a series of dangerous situations and how he reacts to the different forms of bigotry he is subjected to by lovers and strangers. One story, entitled "Falling in Love With Frances," explored the sexual relationship the young man and a straight artist who was captivated by the novelty of f---ing "a gay boy who things he is a '70's lesbian feminist." Very funny and poignant writing.
Rounding out the evening was the great white dyke, Linda Breedlove, author of Godspeed and lead singer of band Tribe 8 (great web site, her life is better than fiction, if you don't believe me go to www.tribe8.com). She introduced herself in her alter ego "Jim," and shared some of his philosophies on speed, babes and body modification, this being the most memorable---somehow the decision to get a lip ring is tied into the memory of a kiss she received from Richard Nixon as a small child….go figure. Felt like stand-up, and while Breedlove didn't read from her novel, she was the highlight of the evening.
The next reading and benefit will be on Sunday, June 15, at 7 pm, with Los Angeles based artists James St James (author of Disco Bloodbath), Clint Catalyst (author of Cottonmouth Kisses), Bert Williams (author of Girl Walking Backwards), and performance artists Gitane Demone (Christian Death), Jillian Lauren and Trinidad. This is for a worthy cause, and definitely not to be missed. Scutterfest will be having a spoken-word and art festival on July 3-6, where the scholarship will be awarded to a lucky recipient.
Rev Dave 6.6.03
Rev. Dave Wheeler, co-host
Feature: Julie Bemiss
Open Mic (6 minutes)/ Poetry Feature (20 minutes)
Sign ups at 7:30, reading from 8 PM to whenever.
Some poets can muster up mere angst, and make themselves be heard, but Julie Bemiss is the exception to that rule. Her performance and poetry evoke images of universal pain with humor in the face of it.
Julie is both courageous and honest. She bisects her torso with a piece of broken glass, grabs the ragged edges and pulls! It is a glorious thing to behold. If you are ever in her presence, ask her to share a piece or two of her work. It will make you appreciate the very air that she breathes.
Her performance at the Rapp Saloon was magnificent, bitter-sweet, frenetic and unbelievably fun! The highlight of her feature was the poem, "I Lay Myself At The Feet of Sinead,"a soulful devotional praising the evolution of the Irish priestess/pop icon/modern day goddess. If you weren't there, you missed one of the best poetic performances of this year.
Next feature: 06/13/03 - Judy Prescott.
Charlotte O'Brien 6.6.03
The grade 10 English honors class of Thousand Oaks high school decided that poetry was stuffy and boring and were sick of learning about old dead guys. Thus the assignment was to find a poet still alive and have that poet come to speak (or wax poetically) in their classroom.
I was so flattered and delighted to have been found. Here I was, alive and being recognized as a poet … and I guess, local and I suppose one of the only accessible, contactable local alive poets the Thousand Oaks students could find as four of them ended up contacting me. Which really, was even more flattering, especially as “Letter to My Daughter” seemed to be a favorite amongst them. Here were kids whose parents were separated, relating to my work and perhaps seeing their parent's perspective on it for the first time. Perhaps not, who knows? But they dug me, so I went with bells on.
It was fun seeing how they determined the difference between academic poetry that follows rules and guidelines and spoken word poetry, which really speaks in the vernacular. Then we tried to talk a bit about Walt, master of the vernacular and tried to decide if spoken word poetry would be the academic poetry of the future (gulp). But we didn't get very far because they didn't know who Walt was and had only got up to European 19-20 Century poets (hence their distain for old dead guys) so we abandoned that conversation. I stuck on my Bridget Gray CD for them to listen to “Letter to Hip Hop” which was much more interesting due to the use of words such as “bitch” and “Ho” which don't usually get spoke in tenth grade classrooms but was passed off as poetry of the vernacular (?) or … the future (Aaaaaauuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).